THE year 1868 marks the beginning of a series of agitations and reform movements which indicated a desire, on the part of many Englishmen, most of them Protestants, to relieve Ireland of some of the intolerable burdens and outrages to which reference has been made in these pages.
In the course of a Parliamentary discussion on the condition of Ireland, Mr. W. E. Gladstone, a member of the Opposition (the Derby-Disraeli ministry being in power), declared that in his opinion the Irish Churchthat is, the English Church in Irelandmust cease to exist. As Mr. Gladstone was known to be a devout member of the English Church, his statement made a profound impression upon both parties. Mr. Disraeli made haste to announce that he should resist with all his powerwhich meant all the power of the governmentany proposition having for its purpose the over-throw of the English Church in Ireland. Hebrew though he was by birth, and only a generation or two removed from the religion of his race, he was politically a believer in the Church as a co-ordinate branch of the government.
There are times in the history of the world when a single word fitly spoken seems to hasten the coming of a crisis. In the course of his early remarks on the subject of the English Church in Ireland, Mr. Gladstone used the word “disestablishment” ; it was loudly cheered by the Liberal members, most of whom were Protestants, and from that moment “dis-establishment” became a war-cry which ceased only when victory had been gained.
The government brought forward, through Lord Mayo, Chief Secretary for Ireland, a counter-plan, which came to be called “levelling-up,” and which consisted in a proposition to place all denominations in Ireland under government control, and to extend to the State Church, the Catholic Church, and the Dissenters, an equal degree of consideration, patronage and support. In a Parliamentary body, consisting principally of Protestants, many of whom were members of dissenting sects, it was supposed that this plan would secure a majority of the votes; for Dissenters were quite as indignant as Catholics at being obliged to con-tribute largely to the support of a Church to which they were opposed.
But Mr. Gladstone was neither dismayed nor perplexed by the government’s proposition. He admitted that to attain religious equality in Ireland would be difficult, and he did not hesitate to name the many details that would require delicate readjustment should his proposed effort be made; but he placed himself on the statesmanlike ground of the necessity of promoting Irish loyalty to the legal union with Great Britain, and he declared that it was useless to expect this loyalty until Ireland’s causes of dissatisfaction were removed. Finally, he made the following appeal to the nobler sentiments of his fellow-members and fellow-countrymen:
“If we are prudent men, I hope we shall endeavor as far as in us lies to make some provision for a contingent, a doubtful and probably a dangerous future. If we be chivalrous men, I trust we shall be able to wipe away all those stains which the civilized world has for ages seen, or seemed to see, on the shield of England in her treatment of Ireland. If we be compassionate men, I hope we shall now, once for all, listen to the tale of woe which comes from her, and the reality of which, if not its justice; is testified by the continuous migration of her people; that we shall endeavor to
” `Raze out the written troubles from her brain, Pluck from her memory the rooted sorrow.’
But above all, if we be just men, we shall go forward in the name of truth and right, bearing this in mindthat when the case is proved and the hour is come, justice delayed is justice denied.”
The government reply, made through Mr. Disraeli, was entirely characteristic of the speaker himself and of the Conservative party ; for it was a shifty plea for delay, on the ground that the subject was of appalling magnitude and had been suddenly introduced at the beginning of a new administration (Disraeli having just succeeded Lord Derby, who was nevertheless of his own party). He pleaded that the Liberal course was unfair; he declared that he person-ally was in favor of religious endowments, some of which might be devised for the Catholic Church in Ireland; but as he neglected to propose any such endowments, he left his party without any plan but that of sullen opposition.
Mr. Gladstone then made haste to offer three resolutions, which, viewed in the light of their results, seem remarkably temperate in tone. They were as follows :
First : That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary that the Established Church in Ireland should cease to exist as an establishment, due regard being had to all personal interests and to all individual rights of property.
Secondly : That, subject to the foregoing considerations, it is expedient to prevent the creation of new personal interests by the exercise of any public patronage, and to confine the operations of the ecclesiastical commissioners of Ireland to objects of immediate necessity, or involving individual rights, pending the final decision of Parliament.
Thirdly: That a humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that with a view to the purposes aforesaid her Majesty will be graciously pleased to place at the disposal of Parliament her interest in the temporalities, in arch-bishoprics, bishoprics, and other ecclesiastical dignities and benefices in Ireland and in the custody thereof.
To give the Conservatives something definite upon which to vote, Mr. Disraeli put forward Lord Stanley, who announced that he would move the following resolution : “That this House, while admitting that considerable modifications in the temporalities of the United Church in Ireland may, after pending inquiry, appear to be expedient, is of the opinion that any proposition tending to the disestablishment or disendowment of that Church might be reserved for the decision of a new Parliament.”
Then followed a series of remarkable speeches, most of which were made by Mr. Gladstone and other Liberals. The proceedings scarcely reached the dignity of a debate, for while the Liberals argued the Conservatives merely asserted. To the statement that the Established Church was doing missionary work, by converting Catholics from an erroneous faith, Mr. Gladstone offered statistics proving that at the past rate of progress it would take at least two thousand years to convert Ireland to Protestantism. He deprecated haste, saying “what we had and have to do is to consider well and deeply before we take the first step in an engagement such as this, but having entered into the controversy, there and then to acquit ourselves like men, and to use every effort to remove what still remains of the scandals and calamities in the relations which exist between England and Ireland, and to make our best efforts at least to fill up with the cement of human concord the noble fabric of the British empire.”
Other strong speeches in favor of disestablishment were made by John Bright, by religion a Quaker, and by Mr. Lowe, a member of the English Church. Mr. Lowe declared that the Established Church in Ireland was “a body of death . . . a thing monstrous, lagging superfluous on the stage.” Mr. Bright said that the English Church in Ireland was a failure, if its mission had been to convert Catholics, for under it the Catholics had become more Romanist than ever; indeed, they were the most intensely Romanist of all the Catholics of Europe. The general effect of the maintenance of the Established Church in Ireland had been to foster anarchy to such an extent that force was now required to subdue it. Even Lord Cranborne, now the Marquis of Salisbury, roundly denounced the government’s pro-posed substitute for the Gladstone resolutions, and declared the government’s method in the matter was intolerable, unworthy and degrading.
When finally a vote was ordered, Lord Stanley’s amendment was defeated by about sixty votes, and the consideration of the Gladstone resolutions was ordered by a majority of fifty-six.
According to precedents, the ministry should have resigned at once; but Mr. Disraeli was loth to go out of power, and he was supported by the whole body of English bigots, for to these it seemed that the foundations of religion were being undermined. Thus upheld, Mr. Disraeli attempted to negotiate with some of the Catholic prelates in Ireland, to the honor of whom it must be said that they declined to be parties to any attempt at temporizing. The Conservatives also endeavored to create public feeling against the Gladstone resolutions by insinuating that Mr. Gladstone himself had long been at heart a Roman Catholic, and that he had entered into confidential relations with the Pope.
One by one the Gladstone resolutions were passed by the House. On the last day of July Parliament was prorogued, and the two parties prepared for the general election that was to be held in the autumn. Never had a political campaign been distinguished by greater activity on both sides, but the English sense of fair play had become thoroughly aroused; as the prominent workers on the Liberal side were all Protestants, there was no ground for religious suspicion on the side of the Conservatives; yet there was general amazement throughout the nation and unspeakable joy in Ireland when the election returns showed a Liberal majority of more than one. hundred. The Disraeli ministry at once resigned, Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister, and in his cabinet were Mr. Bright, Mr. Lowe, and other champions of disestablishment.
Although defeated, the Conservatives did not cease fighting. Whether through machinations of the retiring Cabinet or merely because of apprehensions born of ignorance, and the hatred inseparable from bigotry and arrogance in spiritual matters, “the old order in England was shaken to its profoundest depths,” says a Protestant biographer (Ridpath) of Gladstone. “There was an outcry on every hand. The organs of the Church (English), both men and newspapers, were vociferous in their denunciations. Resolutions were passed; public assemblies were harangued; synods debated, and high ecclesiastics stooped to vituperation. All the bottles of clerical wrath were poured out on those who had challenged the further existence of the Church Establishment in Ireland. One said that such a proposition was an offence against Almighty God. A bishop declared it to have been framed in a spirit of inveterate hostility to the Church. The Earl of Carrick thought it the greatest national sin that ever was committed. An archdeacon told his hearers to trust in God and keep their powder dry. Another of the same rank denounced the great national sin. One doctor of divinity was not able to utter his detestation of the ungodly, wicked and abominable measure. Still another wanted the queen to prevent the destruction of the Church, even if she had to jeopard her crown in doing it. To all this tirade of ecclesiastical bitterness the political speakers and newspapers added other bitterness of their own. The name of the waters was Marah! Orangemen of Ireland were as furious as the most furious of all the army. They said that the Liberal ministry was a cabinet of brigands. Mr. Gladstone was a traitor to his queen, his country, and his God, and so the anathemas rolled on in ever-increasing volume.”
The new Parliament met in February, 1869, and the first important bill brought before it was that of Mr. Gladstone for the disestablishment and disendowment of the- Irish Church. So full, and necessarily, was this bill with details that Mr. Gladstone’s explanation of it consumed three hours, although Mr. Disraeli, leader of the Opposition, declared that the speech did not contain a single superfluous word. The speaker declared that the government would not propose half-way measures; its purpose was to take action that should be final and complete. The bill provided for the appointment of a new ecclesiastical commission, to which all the properties of the Irish Church were to be intrusted, subject to all equitable life interests already held by individuals. From these properties the bishops and clergy should receive annuities. Irish bishops should no longer sit in the House of Lords, to assist in the political governing of Ireland.
Opposition to the bill was unexpectedly mild in quality ; between the masterly manner in which the bill had been prepared, and the enormous majorities by which the country had favored disestablishment, the Conservatives were constrained to see that the contest was one in which defeat was a foregone conclusion, and therefore to be accepted with the least possible sign of anger or other excitement. The bill finally passed the House by a majority slightly in excess of what had been expected, for six Conservatives voted for it, while only three Liberals voted against it. In the House of Lords it was passed by a majority of thirty-three, although all of the bishops but onethe Bishop of St. Davids, better known as Dr. Thirlwall the historianwere against it. The present Marquis of Salisbury voted for the bill, largely through impatience with the incapacity his own party had displayed by not itself taking the matter in hand.
The Irish people were slow to believe in the sincerity of the Liberal promises, and slower still to believe that the disestablishment bill had passed, and that they were no longer to be compelled to maintain materially a Church with which they were spiritually at enmity. Only when they were assured by their own priests that the good news was really true did they begin to believe that their troubles were to end. If a people as proud, arrogant, and self-satisfied as the English could concede so much, from motives of honor, or policy, or both, why might not all of Ireland’s remaining grievances be redressed?
“In 1873 a new national movement began to make itself felt : this was the Home Rule movement. It had been gradually formed since 1870 by one or two leading Irishmen, who thought the time was ripe for a new constitutional effort. Chief among them was Mr. Isaac Butt, a Protest-ant, an eminent lawyer, and an earnest politician. The movement spread rapidly, and took a firm hold of the popular mind. After the general election of 1874, some sixty Irish members were returned who had stood before their constituencies as Home Rulers. The Home Rule demand is clear and simple enough; it asks for Ireland a separate government still allied with the imperial government, on the principles which regulate the alliance between the United States of America. The proposed Irish Parliament in College Green would bear just the same relation to the Parliament at Westminster that the Legislature and Senate of every American State bear to the head authority of the Congress in the Capitol at Washington. All that relates to local business it was proposed to delegate to the Irish Assembly ; all questions of imperial policy were still to be left to the imperial government. There was nothing very startling, very daringly innovating, in the scheme. In most of the dependencies of Great Britain, Home Rule systems of some kind were already established. In Canada, in the Australasian colonies, the principle might be seen at work upon a large scale; upon a small scale it was to be studied nearer home in the neighboring island of Man. At first the Home Rule party was not very active. Mr. Butt used to have a regular Home Rule debate once every session, when he and his followers stated their views, and a division was taken and the Home Rulers were of course defeated. Yet, while the English House of Commons was steadily rejecting year after year the demand made for Home Rule by a large majority of the Irish members, it was affording a strong argument in favor of some system of local government, by consistently outvoting every proposition brought forward by the bulk of the Irish members relating to Irish questions. Mr. Butt and his followers had proved the force of the desire for some sort of national government in Ireland, but the strength of the movement they had created now called for stronger leaders.
“A new man was coming into Irish political life who was destined to be the most remarkable Irish leader since O’Connell. Mr. Charles Stuart Parnell, who entered the House of Commons in 1875 as member for Meath, was a descendant of the English poet Parnell, and of the two Parnells, father and son, John and Henry, who stood by Grattan to the last in the struggle against the Union. He was a grand-nephew of Sir Henry Parnell, the first Lord Congleton, the advanced reformer and friend of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne. He was a Protestant and a member of the Protestant Synod. Mr. Parnell set himself to form a party of Irishmen in the House of Commons, who should be absolutely independent of any English political party, and who would go their own way with only the cause of Ireland to influence them. Mr. Parnell had all the qualities that go to make a good political leader, and he succeeded in his purpose. The more advanced men in and out of Parliament began to look upon him as the real representative of the popular voice. In 1878 Mr. Butt died. The leadership of the Irish Parliamentary party was given to Mr. William Shaw, member for Cork County, an able, intelligent man, who proved himself in many ways a good leader. In quieter times his authority might have remained unquestioned, but these were unquiet times. The decorous and demure attitude of the early Home Rule party was to be changed into a more aggressive action, and Mr. Parnell was the champion of the change. It was soon obvious that he was the real leader recognized by the majority of the Irish Home Rule members, and by the country behind them.
“Mr. Parnell and his following have been bitterly denounced for pursuing an obstructive policy. They are often written about as if they had invented obstruction; as if obstruction of the most audacious kind had never been practiced in the House of Commons before Mr. Parnell entered it. It may perhaps be admitted that the Irish members made more use of obstruction than had been done before their time. The times undoubtedly were unquiet; the policy, which was called in England obstructive and in Ireland active, was obviously popular with the vast majority of the Irish people. The land question, too, was coming up again, and in a stronger form than ever. Mr. Butt, not very long before his death, had warned the House of Commons that the old land war was going to break out anew, and he was laughed at for his vivid fancy by the English press, and by English public opinion; but he proved a true prophet. Mr. Parnell had carefully studied the condition of the Irish tenant, and he saw that the Land Act of 1870 was not the last word of legislation on his behalf. Mr. Parnell was at first an ardent advocate of what came to be known as the Three F’sFair Rent, Fixity of Tenure, and Free Sale. But the Three F’s were soon to be put aside in favor of more advanced ideas. Outside Parliament a strenuous and earnest man was preparing to inaugurate the greatest land agitation ever seen in Ireland. Mr. Michael Davitt was the son of an evicted tenant. When he grew to be a young man he joined the Fenians, and in 1870, on the evidence of an informer, he was arrested and sentenced to fifteen years’ penal servitude; seven years later he was let out on ticket-of-leave. In his long imprisonment he had thought deeply upon the political and social condition of Ireland and the best means of improving it. When he came out he had abandoned his dreams of armed rebellion, and he went in for constitutional agitation to reform the Irish land system. The land system needed reforming; the condition of the ten-ant was only humanly endurable in years of good harvest. The three years from 1876 to 1879 were years of successive bad harvests. Mr. Davitt had been in America, planning out a land organization, and had returned to Ireland to carry out his plan. Land meetings were held in many parts of Ireland, and in October Mr. Parnell, Mr. Davitt, Mr. Patrick Egan, and Mr. Thomas Brennan, founded the Irish National Land League, the most powerful political organization that had been formed in Ireland since the Union. The objects of the Land League were the abolition of the existing landlord system and the introduction of peasant proprietorship.”J. H. McCarthy, “Outline of Irish History.”
Americans who accepted unquestioningly the Irish news reprinted from English newspapers were wrong in their estimates of the quality of Parnell’s following. Says McCarthy, from whom we have just quoted :
“The new Irish party which followed the lead of Mr. Parnell has been often represented by the humorist as a sort of Falstaffian `ragged regiment.’ From dint of repetition this has come to be almost an article of faith in some quarters. Yet it is curiously without foundation. A large proportion of Mr. Parnell’s followers were journalists. Those who were not journalists in the Irish party were generally what is called well-to-do. . . . At first there seemed no reason to expect any serious disunion between the Irish members and the Liberal party. The Irish vote in England had been given to the Liberal cause. The Liberal speakers and statesmen, without committing themselves to any definite line of policy, had manifested friendly sentiments toward Ireland; and though indeed nothing was said which could be construed into a recognition of the Home Rule claim, still the new ministry was known to contain men favorable to that claim. The Irish members hoped for much from the new government; and., on the other hand, the new government expected to find. cordial allies in all sections of the Irish party.
“The appointment of Mr. Forster to the Irish Secretary-ship was regarded by many Irishmen, especially those allied to Mr. Shaw and his following, as a marked sign of the good intentions of the government toward Ireland. The queen’s speech announced that the Peace Preservation Act would not be renewed. This was a very important announcement. Since the Union, Ireland had hardly been governed by the ordinary law for a single year. . . . Now the government was going to make the bold experiment of trying to rule Ire-land without the assistance of coercive and exceptional law. The queen’s speech, however, contained only one other reference to Ireland, in a promise that a measure would be introduced for the extension of the Irish borough franchise. This was in itself an important promise. But extension of the borough franchise did not seem to the Irish members in 1880 the most important form that legislation for Ireland could take just then. The country was greatly depressed by its recent suffering; the number of evictions was beginning to rise enormously. The Irish members thought that the government should have made some promise to consider the land question, and above all should have done something to stay the alarming increase of evictions. Evictions had increased from four hundred and sixty-three families in 1877 to nine hundred and eighty in 1878, and to one thousand two hundred and thirty-eight in 1879; and they were still on the increase, as was shown at the end of 1880, when it was found that two thousand one hundred and ten families were evicted. An amendment to the Address was at once brought forward by the Irish party, and debated at some length. The Irish party called for some immediate legislation on behalf of the land question. Mr. Forster replied, admitting the necessity for some legislation, but declaring that there would not be time for the introduction of any such measure that session. Then the Irish members asked for some temporary measure to prevent the evictions, but the Chief Secretary answered that while the law existed it was necessary to carry it out, and he could only appeal to both sides to be moderate.
“Matters slowly drifted on in this way for a short time. Evictions steadily increased, and Mr. O’Connor Power brought in a bill for the purpose of staying evictions. Then the government, while refusing to accept the Irish measure, brought in a Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which adopted some of the Irish suggestions. On Friday, June 25, the second reading of the bill was moved by Mr. Forster, who denied that it was a concession to the anti-rent agitation, and strongly denounced the outrages which were taking place in Ireland. . . . This was the point at which difference between the Irish party and the government first became marked. The increase of evictions in Ireland, following as it did upon the widespread misery caused by the failure of the harvests and the partial famine, had generatedas famine and hunger have always generateda certain amount of lawlessness. Evictions were occasionally resisted with violence; here and there outrages were committed upon bailiffs, process-servers, and agents. In different places, too, injuries had been inflicted on the cattle and horses of landowners and land agents. There is no need, there should be no attempt, to justify these crimes. But, while condemning all acts of violence, whether upon man or beast, it must be remembered that these acts were committed by ignorant peasants of the lowest class, maddened by hunger, want, and eviction, driven to despair by the sufferings of their wives and children, convinced of the utter hopelessness of redress, and longing for revenge. . . . The Compensation for Disturbance Bill was carried in the Commons after long debates in which the Irish party strove to make its principles stronger. It was sent up to the Lords, where it was rejected on Tuesday, August 3, by a majority of two hundred and thirty-one. The government answered the appeals of Irish members by refusing to take any steps to make the Lords retract their decision, or to introduce any similar measure that session. From that point the agitation and struggle of the past four years (188084) may be said to date.”
Early in 1881, the government armed itself with new powers for suppressing the increased lawlessness which showed itself in Ireland, and for resisting the systematic policy of intimidation which the Nationalists appeared to have planned by the passage of a measure known as the Coercion Bill. This was followed, in April, by the introduction of a Land Bill, intended to redress the most conspicuous Irish grievance by establishing an authoritative tribunal for the determination of rents, and by aiding and facilitating the purchase of small holdings by the peasants. The Land Bill became law in August; but it failed to satisfy the demands of the Land League or to produce a more orderly state of feeling in Ireland. Severe proceedings were then decided upon by the government. The Prime Minis-ter, during his visit to Leeds in the first week of October, had used language which could bear only one meaning. The question, he said, had come to be simply this, “whether law or lawlessness must rule in Ireland” ; the Irish people must not be deprived of the means of taking advantage of the Land Act by force or fear of force. He warned the party of disorder that “the resources of civilization were not yet exhausted.” A few days later Mr. Gladstone, speaking at the Guildhall, amid enthusiastic cheers, was able to announce that the long-delayed blow had fallen. Mr. Parnell was arrested in Dublin under the Coercion Act, and his arrest was followed by those of Mr. Sexton, Mr. Dillon, Mr. O’Kelly, and other prominent leaders of the agitation. The warnings of the government had been met at first with derision and defiance, and the earlier arrests were furiously denounced; but the energy and persistence of the government soon began to make an impression. A Parthian shot was fired in the issue of a manifesto, purporting to be signed, not only by the “suspects” in Kilmainham, but also by Michael Davitt (from Portland Prison), which adjured the tenantry to pay no rent whatever until the government had done penance for its tyranny and released the victims of British despotism. This open incitement to defiance of legal authority and repudiation of legal right was instantly met by the Irish Executive in a resolute spirit. On the 20th of October a proclamation was issued declaring the League to be “an illegal and criminal association, intent on destroying the obligation of contracts and subverting law,” and announcing that its operations would thenceforward be forcibly suppressed, and those taking part in them held responsible.
Says Pimblett, in his “English Political History” : “In the month of April (1882) Mr. Parnell was released from Kilmainham on parole urgent business demanding his presence in Paris. This parole the Irish National leader faithfully kept. Whether the sweets of liberty had special charms for Mr. Parnell does not appear; but certain it is that after his return to Kilmainham, the member for Cork wrote to Captain O’Shea, one of the Irish members, and in-directly to the government, intimating that if the question of arrears could be introduced in Parliament by way of relieving the tenants of holdings and lessening greatly the number of evictions in the country for non-payment of rent, and providing the purchase clauses of the Land Bill were discussed, steps might be taken to lessen the number of out-rages. The government had the intimation conveyed to them, in short, which gave to their minds the conviction that Messrs. Parnell, Dillon, and O’Kelly, once released, and having in view the reforms indicated to them, would range themselves on the side of law and order in Ireland. Without any contract with the three members the release of Messrs. Parnell, Dillon, and O’ Kelly was ordered, after they had been confined for a period bordering on three months. Michael Davitt had been released likewise, and had been elected for Meath; but the seat was declared vacant again, owing to the conditions of his ticket-of-leave not permitting his return. Much has been said, and much has been written, with regard to the release of the three Irish M.P.’s. The `Kilmainham Treaty’ has been a term of scorn addressed to Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues. As a fact there was no Kilmainham Treaty. Mr. Forster (the Secretary for Ireland) resigned because he did not think it right to share the responsibility of the release of Messrs. Parnell, Dillon, and O’Kelly. The government had detained the queen’s subjects in prison without trial for the purpose of preventing crime, not for punishment, Mr. Fors-ter said in vindication. Mr. Forster contended that the unwritten law, as promulgated by them, had worked the ruin and the injury of the queen’s subjects by instructions of one kind and anotherbiddings carried out to such a degree that no power on earth could have allowed it to continue without becoming a government not merely in name, but in shame. Mr. Forster would have given the question of the release of the three consideration, if they had pledged themselves not to set their law up against the law of the land, or if Ireland had been quiet, or if there had been an accession of fresh powers on behalf of the government; but these conditions were wanting. What Mr. Forster desired was an avowal of a change of purpose.”
Mr. Forster, Chief Secretary for Ireland, resigned in April, 1882, and was succeeded by Lord Frederick Cavendish, brother of the Marquis of Hartington and son of the Duke of Devonshire. Earl Spencer at the same time be-came Viceroy, in place of Lord Cowper, resigned. On the night of Friday, May 5th, Earl Spencer and Lord Frederick Cavendish crossed over to Ireland, and arrived in Dublin on the following day. The official entry was made in the morning, when the reception accorded by the populace to the new officials was described. as having been very fairly favorable. Events seemed to have taken an entirely prosperous turn, and it was hoped that at last the long winter of Irish discontent had come to an end. On Sunday morning there spread through the United Kingdom the intelligence that the insane hatred of English rule had been the cause of a crime, even more brutal and unprovoked than any of the numerous outrages that had. during the last three years, sullied the annale of Ireland. Lord Frederick Cavendish, having taken the oaths at the Castle, took a car about half-past seven in order to drive to the Viceregal Lodge. On the way he met Mr. Burke, the Permanent Under-Secretary, who, though his life had been repeatedly threatened, was walking along, according to his usual custom, without any police escort. Lord Frederick dismissed his car, and walked with him through Phoenix Park. There, in broad daylight, and in the middle of a public recreation ground, crowded with people, they were surrounded and murdered. More than one spectator witnessed what they imagined to be a drunken brawl, saw six men struggling together, and four of them drive off outside a car, painted red, which had been waiting for them the while, the car-man sitting still and never turning his head. The bodies of the two officials were first discovered by two shop-boys on bicycles, who had previously passed them alive. Lord Frederick Cavendish had six wounds, and Mr. Burke eleven, dealt evidently with daggers used by men of considerable strength. Lord Spencer himself had witnessed the struggle from the windows of the Viceregal Lodge, and thinking that some pickpockets had been at work sent a servant to make inquiries. A reward of ten thousand pounds, together with full pardon to any one who was not one of the actual murderers, was promptly offered, but for many long months the telegrams from Dublin closed with the significant information”No definite clew in the hands of the police.” All parties in Ireland at once united to express their horror and detestation at this crime.
Early in 1887, the English people, always suspicious of the Irish, were shocked by the appearance, in the “Times,” of a letter in fac-simile, implying that Mr. Parnell himself was privy to the Phoenix Park murders. “After many bitter debates in Parliament, a commission was appointed (1888), consisting of three judges, to inquire not only into the authenticity of this and other letters attributed to several persons as their authors, but into the whole course of conduct pursued by many of the Irish members of Parliament, in reference to the previous agitation in Ireland and their connection with an extreme faction in America, who tried to intimidate this country by dastardly attempts to blow up our public buildings on several occasions between the years 1884 and 1887. The court sat from the winter months of 1888 until the summer of the following year, and examined dozens of witnesses, including Mr. Parnell and most of the other accused members, as well as dozens of the Irish peasantry who could give evidence as to outrages in their several districts. One of the witnesses, a mean and discarded Dublin journalist named Pigott, turned out to be the forger of the letters; and, having fled from the avenging hand of justice to Madrid, there put an end to his life by means of a revolver. Meantime, the interest in the investigation had flagged, and the report of the commission, which deeply implicated many of the Irish members as to their connection with the Fenian Society previous to their entrance to Parliament, on their own acknowledgment, fell rather flat on the public ear, wearied out in reiteration of Irish crime from the introduction of the Land League until the attempt to blow up London Bridge by American filibusters (1886). The unfortunate man Pigott had sold his forged letters to the over credulous `Times’ newspaper at a fabulous price; and even experts in handwriting, so dexterously had they been. manipulated, were ready- to testify in open court to the genuineness of the letters before the tragic end of their luckless author left not a particle of doubt as to their origin. “R. Johnston, “Short History of the Queen’s Reign.”
The following comprehensive review of the Nationalist movement is from the pen of Prof. James Bryce, himself a member of Parliament, and author of “The American Commonwealth” : “All through the Parliament which sat from 1880 to 1885, the Nationalists’ party, led by Mr. Parnell, and including at first less than half, ultimately about half, of the Irish members, was in constant and generally bitter opposition to the government of Mr. Gladstone. But during these five years a steady, though silent and often unconscious, process of change was passing in the minds of English and Scotch members, especially Liberal members, clue to their growing sense of the mistakes which Parliament committed in handling Irish questions, and of the hopelessness of the efforts which the executive was making to pacify the country on the old methods. First, they came to feel that the present system was indefensible. Then, while still disliking the notion of an Irish Legislature, they began to think it deserved consideration. Next they admitted, though usually in confidence to one another, that although Home Rule might be a bad solution, it was a probable one, toward which events pointed. Last of all, and not till 1884, they asked themselves whether, after all, it would be a bad solution, provided a workable scheme could be found. But as no workable scheme had been proposed, they still kept their views, perhaps unwisely, to themselves, and although the language held at the general election of 1885 showed a great advance in the direction of favoring Irish self-government, beyond the attitude of 1880, it was still vague and hesitating, and could the more easily remain so because the constituencies had not (strange as it may now seem) realized the supreme importance of the Irish question. Few questions were put to candidates on the subject, for both candidates and electors wished to avoid it. It was disagreeable; it was perplexing; so they agreed to leave it on one side.
“But when the results of the Irish elections showed, in December, 1885, an overwhelming majority in favor of the Home Rule party, and when they showed, also, that this party held the balance of power in Parliament, no one could longer ignore the urgency of the issue. There took place what chemists call a precipitation of substance held in solution. Public opinion on the Irish question had been in a fluid state. It now began to crystallize, and the advocates and opponents of Irish self-government fell asunder into two masses, which soon solidified. This process was hastened by the fact that Mr. Gladstone’s view, the indications of which, given by himself some months before, had been largely overlooked, now became generally understood. . . . In the spring of 1886 the question could be no longer evaded or postponed. It was necessary to choose between two courses: the refusal of the demand for self-government, coupled with the introduction of a severe .Coercion bill, or the concession of it by the introduction of a Home Rule bill. . . . How the Government of- Ireland Bill was brought into the House of Commons on April 8, amid circumstances of curiosity and excitement unparalleled since 1832; how, after debates of almost unprecedented length, it was defeated in June, by a majority of thirty; how the policy it embodied was brought before the country at the general election, and failed to win approval; how the Liberal party has been rent in twain upon the question; how Mr. Gladstone resigned, and has been succeeded by a Tory ministry, which the dissentient Liberals, who condemn Home Rule, are now supportingall this is well known. But the causes of the disaster may not be equally understood.
“First, and most obvious, although not most important, was the weight of authority arrayed against the scheme. . . . The two most eminent leaders cf the moderate Liberal, or, as it is often called, Whig, party, Lord Hartington and Mr. Goschen, both declared against the bill, and put forth all their oratory and influence against it. At the opposite extremity of the party, Mr. John Bright, the veteran and honored leader of the Radicals, and Mr. Chamberlain, the younger and latterly more active and prominent chief of that large section, took up the same position of hostility. Scarcely less important was the attitude of the social magnates of the Liberal party all over the country. . . . As, at the preceding general election, in December, 1885, the Liberals had obtained a majority of less than a hundred over the Tories, a defection such as this was quite enough to involve their defeat. Probably the name of Mr. Bright alone turned the issue in some twenty constituencies, which might otherwise have cast a Home Rule vote. The mention of this cause, however, throws us back on the further question, Why was there such a weight of authority against the scheme proposed by Mr. Gladstone? How came so many of his former colleagues, friends, supporters, to differ and depart from him on this occasion? Besides some circumstances attending the production of the bill, . . . which told heavily against it, there were three feelings which worked upon men’s minds, disposing them to reject it. The first of these was dislike and fear of the Irish Nationalist members. In the previous House of Commons this party had been uniformly and bitterly hostile to the Liberal government. Measures intended for the good of Ireland, like the Land Act of 1881, had been ungraciously received, treated as con-cessions extorted, for which no thanks were dueinadequate concessions, which must be made the starting-point for fresh demands. Obstruction had been freely practiced to defeat not only bills restraining the liberty of the subject in Ire-land, but many other measures. Some members of the Irish party, apparently with the approval of the rest, had systematically sought to delay all English and Scotch legislation, and, in fact, to bring the work of Parliament to a dead stop. . . . There could be no doubt as to the hostility which they, still less as to that which their fellow-countrymen in the United States, had expressed toward England, for they had openly wished success to Russia while war seemed impending with her, and the so-called Mandi of the Soudan was vociferously cheered at many a Nationalist meeting.
“To many Englishmen, the proposal to create an Irish Parliament seemed nothing more nor less than a proposal to hand over to these men the government of Ireland, with all the opportunities thence, arising to oppress the opposite party in Ireland and to worry England herself. It was all very well to urge that the tactics which the Nationalists had pursued when their object was to extort Home Rule would be dropped, because superfluous, when Home Rule had been granted; or to point out that an Irish Parliament would probably contain different men from those who had been sent to Westminster as Mr. Parnell’s nominees. Neither of these arguments could overcome the suspicious antipathy which many Englishmen felt. . . . The internal condition of Ireland supplied more substantial grounds for alarm. . . . Three-fourths of the people are Roman Catholics, one-fourth Protestants, and this Protestant fourth subdivided into bodies not fond of one another, who have little community of sentiment. Besides the Scottish colony in Ulster, many English families have settled here and there through the country. They have been regarded as intruders by the aboriginal Celtic population, and many of them, although hundreds of years may have passed since they came, still look on themselves as rather English than Irish. . . . Many people in England assumed that an Irish Parliament would be under the control of the tenants and the humbler class generally, and would therefore be hostile to the landlords. They went further, and made the much bolder assumption that as such a Parliament would be chosen by electors, most of whom were Roman Catholics, it would be under the control of the Catholic priesthood, and hostile to Protestants. Thus they supposed that the grant of self-government to Ireland would mean the abandonment of the upper and wealthier class, the landlords and the Protestants, to the tender mercies of their enemies. . . . The fact stood out that in Ireland two hostile factions had been contending for the last sixty years, and that the gift of self-government might enable one of them to tyrannize over the other. True, that party was the majority, and, according to the principles of democratic government, therefore entitled to prevail. But it is one thing to admit a principle and an-other to consent to its application. The minority had the sympathy of the upper classes in England, because the minority contained the landlords. It had the sympathy of a large part of the middle class, because it contained the Protestants. There was another anticipation, another forecast of evils to follow, which told most of all upon English opinion. This was the notion that Home Rule was only a stage in the road to the complete separation of the two islands.” In this frank statement lies the explanation of all of Ireland’s wrongs; England cannot bear to lose any territory over which she has ever exercised control.
When Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister again, in 1886, he promptly introduced a Home Rule bill and a Land bill, the latter providing for buying out the Irish landlords. Perhaps one or other of these bills might have become a law had it alone been proposed, but the suggestion at one and the same time of two measures so radical frightened the more timid of the Liberals. The House voted against Mr. Gladstone’s measures, although by a very small majority. A general election followed, and the enemies of Ireland were victorious (by the ridiculously small majority of eighty thou-sand in the entire United Kingdom), and Mr. Gladstone went again into retirement.
After a Rent bill, proposed in 1886 by Mr. Parnell, was defeated, the Irish leaders devised, for the relief of Irish suffering, a measure which became famous under the name of “The Plan of Campaign,” the full text of which is too long to reproduce in these pages. In brief, the tenants were to meet by estates. The priest was to be asked to take the chair, or some tenant remarkable for firmness of character. A committee was to be appointed, consisting of the chair-man and six other members, to be called the managing committee. This committee was to gather a, half year’s rent from the tenants. Every one of the tenants was to pledge himself : first, to abide by the decision of the majority; secondly, to hold no communication with the landlord or his agents, except in the presence of the body of the tenantry; and, thirdly, to accept no settlement which was not given to every tenant on the estate. “On the gale day,” went on the Plan, “the tenantry should proceed to the rent-office in a body. If the agent refuses to see them in a body, they should on no account confer with him individually, but depute the chairman to act as their spokesman, and acquaint him of the reduction which they require. If the agent re-fused the half-year’s rent with the reduction which the ten-ants thought fair and proper, then the half-year’s rent was to be handed to the managing committee, and placed at the disposal of this committee absolutely for the purpose of con-ducting the fight. No money was to be spent in law costs. When the landlord agreed to settle, the law costs were to be deducted from the rent.”
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Chief Secretary for Ireland, was obliged, in common honesty, to testify to the justice of the Plan of Campaign, to admit that Irish rents were too high, that many landlords were voluntarily making great reductions, and that the Land Commissioners were making great reductions.
In 1887 the people of Ireland learned that nothing definite was to be expected from the promises of the Conservatives and Unionists that there should be extension of local self-government. Ireland was soon in a ferment of dissatisfaction, and Mr. Balfour, the new Chief Secretary, noting this, introduced the most savage, brutal coercion act that Parliament had seen in a century. Some of its provisions could not be endured even by the most malignant of the Tories, but the bill as passed was an insult to Ireland and a disgrace to England. It was put in practice at once, and the first victim of its malice was the National League, which was “proclaimed” a dangerous association, and its members be-came liable to imprisonment. Arrests followed rapidly, some of the prisoners being Irish members of Parliament. These gentlemen were actually cast into prison cells, compelled to don convict’s garb and to do menial service! Mr. Gladstone declared it to be “a shameful, an inhuman, and a brutal proceeding,” and laid the blame upon the Liberals, who by refusing to vote for Home Rule had made the coercion act possible.
To add to the misfortunes of the Irish at this ‘particular moment, Mr. Parnell fell in public estimation through a private sin which was contrary to the laws of God and man, and Mr. Gladstone insisted on his resigning the leadership of the Irish Nationalists. Mr. Parnell refused, and the English Liberals, as a body, parted company with the Irish Home Rule party. Several efforts were made by the Conservatives to pacify the Irish people by promises of legislation in the direction of reform, and some highly elaborate bills were introduced, but they came to no more than the Irish had expected; for on all of them was the print of the cloven hoof of Mr. Balfoura man who believed that the Irish were a subject race, and should be kept in subjection.
Immediately after the opening of the Parliamentary session of 1893 Mr. Gladstone, again Prime Minister, offered a bill providing for Home Rule in Ireland, and this measure remained the leading subject of political interest in the United Kingdom until it was finally disposed of. The bill itself was very long, its framers having endeavored to give proper attention to every detail that long previous agitation of the general subject had suggested. Provision was made for a legislative body, to consist of two housesa Council, or Upper House, and an Assemblyto make laws on all matters pertaining exclusively to Ireland, such laws to receive the approval of the Crown, through the Lord Lieutenant, before becoming operative. The legislature was not to have power to restrict personal or religious liberty, nor with-out due process of law to disturb personal or corporate rights in property. The Council was to be elected for eight years and not to be subject to dissolution; the Assembly to be elected for five years and be subject to dissolution in the same manner as the British House of Commons. All appropriation and tax bills were to originate in the Assembly. Ireland was still to be represented in the imperial Parliament, and the existing qualifications of electors were not to be changed. There was to be a Judiciary Committee of the Council, which should have power to construe and determine the law, the duties of this body being somewhat analogous to those of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the political position of Ireland toward the remainder of the empire was to be very like that of a State of the American Union toward the general government. The customs revenues were to go to the imperial treasury, but the excise, postal revenues, the income taxes, stamp duties and license fees were to go into the Irish treasury, and with these the proposed government was to maintain the constabulary, postal, internal revenue and civil administration expenses.
It soon became evident that a very large minority of the Commons would not consent to this or any other measure of Home Rule. Obstructive tactics were resorted to on every possible occasion, and when finally the ministry insisted on the closing of the debate there were some disgraceful personal altercations on the floor of the House. The bill was finally passed by a full vote of the government party, but when it reached the Lords it was defeated by a vote of about ten to onea vote which renewed popular protest against the House of Lords as a bit of obstructive machinery which was not in sympathy with the great body of the people and should therefore be abolished as a legislative body.
When Mr. Gladstone retired from the Ministry and from political leadership (in 1894), Lord Rosebery became Prime Minister. In announcing his policy he made a sensible and statesmanlike statement regarding Home Rule, saying that he viewed it not from Ireland’s standpoint alone, for the subject had to him a triple aspect. He believed Ireland never would be contented until Home Rule was granted, that the nation had not merely to satisfy the people in Ire-land, but for the continuity of pleasant relations with England’s cousins across the Atlantic there should be an Irish policy that would satisfy members of the Irish race, and that the maintenance of the nation required decentralization, so that an overburdened Parliament could attend properly to its general duties.
Since that time, however, nothing has been done to encourage Ireland’s hopes, nor does the present condition of the Liberals promise action in the near future. As to the Conservatives, it is entirely unlikely that they will ever depart from their traditional policy of opposing change of any kind. Fortunately, however, nothing has been done in re-cent years to give new annoyance to the Irish people and thus to provoke new insurrections, nor have there been in Ireland any factional differences that could weaken the patriotic bands which have held the Irish people together ever since the Home Rule movement began. Because of the willingness and wish of millions of Englishmen that Ire-land shall be treated at least as fairly as Canada or any other British colony, it would seem that the time should not be long distant when Ireland’s last disabilities shall be removed and her people shall enjoy the civil and religious freedom for which they have so long suffered, hoped and fought.