« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
when he died he had but begun to do his work. His future was plainly marked. Already he had come through the distractions of imitation to a style at once delightedly personal and in the deepest and richest traditions of English lyric poetry. It is, perhaps, strange that his Irish nature should have sung its homeland in a manner that is, it seems to me, not Irish at all, but so it is. He was coming, in a few songs had come, to mastery in the succession of Wyatt and Herrick and Marvell and the lyrical Wordsworth and Matthew Arnold, and such later poets as Mr. Davies and Mr. Hodgson. And across his gentle maturing, with no providence of beauty won beyond the common achievement of poets thus young, death came violently, with no healing, against nature. His own September of the year came in his life before spring had well gone :
'Still are the meadowlands, and still
Ripens the upland corn,
And over the brown gradual hill
'The voices of the dear unknown,
'My song forsakes me like the birds
I hear the music of the words
THE GOVERNMENT OF ENGLAND
1. The Government of England. By DAVID DUNCAN WALLACE. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1917.
2. Report of the War Cabinet for the Year 1917. Cd. 9005. 1918. 3. How to Settle the Irish Question. By G. BERNARD SHAW. Constable. 1917.
'N a recent pamphlet Mr. George Bernard Shaw suggests that the way to settle the Irish Question is to give Home Rule to England. Whether that suggestion completely meets the situation is a matter on which both Irish Nationalists and Ulster Loyalists would have a good deal to say. But, at any rate, Mr. Shaw's proposition contains this amount of truth, that the question of the government of Ireland also involves the question of the government of England. Vaguely this is realized by most of the English, Scottish, and Welsh advocates of Home Rule for Ireland, who intermittently proclaim their enthusiasm for some federal constitution for the United Kingdom. It is noticeable, however, that most of these British politicians demand federalism primarily because they think it would settle the Irish problem, not because they have seriously considered the merits of federalism from the point of view of England, or even of Scotland or Wales. In their mouths federalism is little more than a phrase employed for the purpose of avoiding the hard facts of the real Irish problem. From this point of view it is waste of time to deal at length with federalism. The Irish problem is essentially a question of nationality. It arises from a fundamental antipathy between those inhabitants of Ireland who wish to build up an independent Irish nation, and other inhabitants of Ireland whose nation is the United Kingdom. No form of federalism can reconcile these opposing views. To offer Ireland the position of an American State in a federal constitution for the United Kingdom is to mock at Irish Nationalists. They demand that Ireland shall be a nation, and Massachusetts is not a nation, nor even Colorado. The
only nation for the whole American people-except the hyphenated-is the United States. Equally hopeless is a federal scheme based on what is called Dominion status. The more moderate-or the less frank-of the Irish Nationalists have put forward this demand with the idea of conciliating British Imperialists, while at the same time securing the essential object at which all Irish Nationalists aim-Ireland a Nation. The Dominion of Canada looks upon herself as a nation; so does Australia, and so in course of time perhaps will South Africa. But to concede this position to the whole of Ireland would be to trample under foot the national sentiment of north-east Ulster. The Protestants of Ulster, though they have been settled for three hundred years or more in Ireland, have never forgotten their English and Scottish descent. Their hearts are with Great Britain, and their pro-British national feeling is at least as much entitled to respect as the anti-British national feeling of the southern Irish. Ulster refuses to be annexed to an Irish nation, whether it calls itself a Dominion or an Independent Republic.
Therefore, in considering the question of federalism it is best to begin by dismissing altogether from our minds the Irish problem, for the two questions have nothing whatever to do with one another except for purposes of political camouflage. Nor, with all respect to Scotland and Wales, does their attitude towards federalism, whatever that attitude may really be, constitute a finally determining factor. The population of Scotland at the last census was 4,761,000, of Ireland, 4,390,000, and of Wales, 2,032,000; the population of England was 34,038,000. The disproportion of relative wealth and of relative commercial and industrial activity is at least as great, perhaps even greater. For the organization and control of great world enterprises are centralized in England to a far greater extent than in any other portion of the kingdom. These enterprises are not due to Englishmen alone. Many of the most successful enterprises launched from England owe their inception, their upbuilding, and their continued success to Scotsmen, who have come south for their own and for England's gain. Quite an appreciable fraction of the whole population of England is Scottish in origin, and to that fraction England owes a debt which is not measured by numbers only.
The contribution of Wales to the population of England is also considerable, and though Welshmen do not stand out so pre-eminently as Scotsmen in the world of commerce, Wales has at any rate supplied England with one Prime Minister.
Ireland, too, has helped to feed-in a double sense-the population of England, and has given us many men who have made their homes here and have helped to make the name of England famous throughout the world.
This composite character of the population of England emphasizes the importance of the inference that numbers alone suggest; for Scotsmen and Welshmen and Irishmen are personally concerned in the government of England to a far greater extent than Englishmen in the government of Scotland or Wales or Ireland. It is seldom that Englishmen permanently migrate to other portions of the kingdom; the reverse movement is immense and persistent.
These considerations suffice to justify the proposition that if we are to frame a new constitution for the United Kingdom it is with the government of England that we have to begin.
Hitherto, English people have on the whole been contented with their government. It has been evolved with a good deal of friction and some fighting, but it has been evolved by themselves, and its various theoretical defects have been obviated by the spirit of compromise, which is one of the most valuable characteristics of the English people. As regards the general merits of the English constitution it is worth while to quote the opinion of a recent American writer, Professor Duncan Wallace, who has summarized both with insight and with balance the main features of our system of government :
Perhaps the most valuable of the distinctly English contributions to modern civilization is popular constitutional free government. Even nations antagonistic to the English in other respects have copied their free institutions and practical political principles to such an extent that we may say that the larger the degree of freedom which a nation enjoys, the more closely will we find that its government has been modelled after that of England.'*
That may be accepted as a just tribute to the merits of our
* 'Government of England,' p. 3.
constitution for the purposes which it was intended to serve. Whether the same constitution will suffice for the duties now being thrust upon the State is altogether another question. The machinery of our constitution is still based on Victorian designs; it is being called upon to perform functions which no Victorian statesman ever contemplated. It will be sufficient here to quote the words of a man who for a long period was one of the most prominent members of the Liberal party. Speaking at Oxford in 1873, Sir William Harcourt said:
'Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this-that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world.'
Since Sir William Harcourt laid down these propositions a large part of the country, and especially that section which still calls itself the Liberal Party, has travelled so far that the word liberty has almost come to mean exactly what he said it did not mean. People talk to-day, apparently without any sense of incongruity, as if liberty from the constitutional point of view meant the multiplication of electors and of elections. Perfect constitutional liberty will be attainedso at least these modern Liberals imply-when every person, male or female, is entitled to vote for one or more parliaments and a plethora of local administrative bodies. It is further assumed, or more often expressly stated, that these parliaments and local bodies are all to be busy doing things, and as the action of every governing body is in one form or another coercive action, it follows that what is now called constitutional liberty really means an elaborate organization for giving everybody an equal opportunity of sharing in the frequent coercion of everybody else.
This habitual inversion of the meaning of the word liberty VOL. 228. NO. 465.