Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was

the Unionist Party was soon in full operation. Nearly every member of the Cabinet spoke at one or more of the meetings in support of the Moderate candidates. The party newspapers, from the Times onwards, blew the party trumpet. The machinery was all there. What was wanting was the spirit in the people, which alone could make its use effective. Numbers were thoroughly disheartened and discouraged by the loss of the School Board election, and still more by the intrigues which led to its loss. The lack of local candidates was an evidence of local apathy; and there was local apathy because local unity had been broken up. Hence, to those who did not know these things, the result of the election came as a great surprise. The casual onlooker expected a Moderate victory. What he saw disaster and defeat. Out of 118 elected members the Moderate Party secured the return of only 48. If these numbers be reduced by one half, there being two members for each division, except the City, they will make the comparison with those of the School Board election more striking. Out of 59 Councillors the Moderate Party gained 24. Out of 55 School Board Members the three sections of the Moderate Party gained 22. It is obvious that when the electorate is disheartened by one disaster, the combined efforts of party leaders, press, and machinery do not count for much in averting a further disaster.

There is fortunately some breathing space left in which to retrace the steps which have already been so disastrous before their effect is measured at a Parliamentary election. If a general election were now imminent, the Unionist supremacy in the Parliamentary representation of London would be in grave peril. An indication of this has already been given in the case of the Stepney election. The loss of that Unionist seat in a few days after the County Council election emphasises the existence of that intimate dependence between municipal and Parliamentary contests in London which has been traced in this Review. Nor is London experience in this matter unique. Recently at Plymouth local disunion in local concerns was followed by Unionist defeat at a Parliamentary contest, and the series was completed by a more marked defeat at the ensuing School Board election. It is impossible to play fast and loose in these matters. The Liberal Party makes no such mistake. And the Conservative Party can ill afford to be less teachable than its rivals.

Certain considerations arising out of the state of affairs commented upon in this article deserve to be especially noted. Whilst it is true that the rival municipal parties are in the main identical with the rival political parties, it by no means follows that the leaders of the latter are qualified to determine the policy which should be pursued upon municipal bodies. When a political party is true to its principles in the State it is not difficult for the same party in the municipal sphere to act within the same limits. But any attempt to force a municipal party to break pledges publicly given must lead to the most disastrous consequences. From the lowest of all points of view-namely, whether the thing will pay--the breach of local pledges shakes confidence in a local party in a way in which the breach of Parliamentary pledges does not appear to affect a Parliamentary party. "The best men’ of the locality in this respect have more to lose than the professional politician.'

Moreover, the public service rendered by party action is not that of securing the election merely of a combination of persons. It is to secure the triumph of certain principles of action. Conservative voters are not drawn to the poll by such assurances, for example, as that a Conservative Government legalised 'picketing ;' nor are Conservatives willing to take much trouble in voting so as to secure excellent terms for monopolists. By the natural direction of their guiding principles they have a regard for institutions whose affairs they administer, which prohibits them from assenting to proposals destructive of those institutions. They do not think that local service is a fit subject for public raillery, or that that mode of treatment is likely to allure the best men’ to undertake local work. But whilst these things are done in the name of the Conservative Party, apathy will continue. The results of apathy are noticed in the reports of Radical organisations as 'indications of an improved state of public feeling.' What will be said if apathy becomes alienation ?

JOSEPH R. DIGGLE.

THE CENTENARY OF '98

IRELAND will shortly be the scene of a striking and pathetic demonstration. From almost every part of the world Irishmen will this year return to their native land, as representatives of the fifteen millions of their race abroad, to share in this demonstration. It will be the celebration of the Centenary of the Insurrection of '98. That insurrection ended in disaster and defeat, in untold loss of life and in the extinction of the Irish Parliament, yet Irishmen of all shades of Nationalist opinion, divided as they are into many sections upon the politics of the day, are uniting as one man to celebrate its centenary.

What is the explanation of this strange phenomenon ? Does it betoken an abandonment of constitutional and a return to revolutionary methods ? Does it typify the survival of a century-old and inextinguishable race hatred between the Kelt and the Saxon? or is it merely an interesting historical celebration of the same nature as the recent Wallace demonstration in Scotland, and of no actual political significance or importance whatever ? It is not easy to give a concise answer to these questions. To deny the political significance of this celebration would be absurd. It will be undoubtedly a great demonstration of the ingrained hatred of British rule which, with the masses of the people, is as strong a motive power to-day as it was one hundred years ago. Its intensity will be increased by the temporary breakdown of Parliamentary and Constitutional methods which have followed inevitably from the abandonment and destruction of Mr. Parnell, and it will be an evidence that, if only the means were at hand, Irishmen would not be loth again to take up the weapons of revolution to forward their ends. This much the demonstration will certainly mean, and if it succeeds in destroying the idea that because Ireland to-day is peaceful and crimeless therefore she has abandoned the national struggle it will have served a useful end.

At the same time this celebration, in addition to its actual relation to the realities of the existing situation, will in one sense be essentially an historical one. There is no chapter in the sad history of Ireland which is for Irishmen so full of 'glorious pride and sorrow' as that which tells of '98. The Rising ended in failure, but it was the failure of brave men fighting against overwhelming odds for a sacred cause. The men who led the rebels live as heroes and martyrs in the hearts of the people, and the universal feeling is not merely that no one need · fear to speak of '98,' but that Irishmen have good reason to be proud of its memories and to celebrate its centenary.

I fear, to Englishmen generally, the story of '98 presents quite another picture, and I feel sure that the coming demonstrations wil? be pointed to in England as the celebration of a rising of Catholic against Protestant, unprovoked in any way by those in authority and marked all through by deeds of brutality perpetrated by the people. In other words, I fear Cruikshank's woodcuts are for the most part accepted by Englishmen as truthful pictures of '98. To men whose knowledge of the events is of this character, the forthcoming celebration must necessarily be a cause of offence and scandal, and how many are there who can truthfully say their knowledge of the history of '98 is complete or drawn from impartial sources ?

The insurrection which Irishmen will this year celebrate was far different; it was one as to which they claim :

(1) That it was planned by Pitt in order to facilitate the passing of the Union ;

(2) That it was rendered inevitable by the withdrawal of Lord Fitzwilliam ;

(3) That it was provoked, in the words of Lord Castlereagh himself, by measures being taken to secure its premature outbreak;'

(4) That such measures included the wholesale murder and torture of the people, and the devastation of the country at the instance of the Ascendency faction ;

(5) That the deeds of outrage by the people, though they cannot. be palliated, were yet acts of retaliation and were much exceeded in atrocity by the systematic barbarity of the soldiery;

(6) That the commanders of the rebel army did their best to restrain their troops, while the only English commander who denounced outrage before September 1798 was at once deprived of his command; and

(7) That the rising was in no sense of the word a Catholic one.

If Irishmen are right in this view of the history of '98, no one can do other than respect them for honouring the memory and celebrating the centenary of the rising.

It is possible, I think, in a very brief space to prove from the writings of English Protestant historians and English statesmen of the day, every one of the claims advanced by Ireland in relation to '98.

Mr. Pitt's Irish policy was clearly defined before the year 1794. He had arrived at the conclusion, which to-day seems plain enough to every one who is acquainted with the facts, that the government of Ireland by the methods which were then in force could not continue. The great danger against which he desired to guard was separation from England, and separation he regarded, and rightly so, as absolutely inevitable unless one of two courses was adopted. Either Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform should be granted and disaffection thereby disarmed, or the very existence of Ireland as a nation should be destroyed and a Legislative Union established. It seemed for one brief moment as if the first and more generous policy had received his sanction; but it soon became evident that his apparent adoption of a policy of conciliation was in reality part of the plan formed for the accomplishment of his designs. He knew well that in quiet times the proposal of a Legislative Union would be met with a storm of popular indignation, but after the suppression of an unsuccessful rebellion it would be different. He saw

sectarian hatred gradually softening; he knew that the union of Irishmen of different creeds would be fatal to his scheme. After a rebellion, in which probably Catholic would be pitted against Protestant, he anticipated that the latter would be glad to rush into the arms of England for protection, and would accept the Union, while the former, regarding the obtaining of Emancipation from an exasperated and terrified Protestant faction as no longer possible, would also consent to a Union, in the hope of obtaining their rights from an Imperial Parliament. This is the accusation Ireland makes against Mr. Pitt: that he planned an insurrection in order to suppress it; that he allowed the people to be goaded into rebellion and then used that rebellion as a means of intensifying hatred between men of different religions in the same land ; that he widened and deepened the chasm between the mass of people and the dominant class; and that he did all this in order to smooth the way for the carrying the Legislative Union. Surely terrible indictment! Upon what evidence does it rest ?

Mr. Lecky, in his Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, says:

It is probable that he [Pitt] was already looking forward to the Union. The steady object of his later Irish policy was to corrupt and degrade, in order that he ultimately might destroy, the Legislature of the country. Had Parliament been a mirror of the national will, had the Catholics been brought within the pale of the Constitution, his policy would have been defeated. By raising the hopes of the Catholics almost to certainty and then dashing them to the ground, by taking this step at the very moment when the inflammatory spirit engendered by the Revolution bad begun to spread among the people, Pitt sowed in Ireland the seeds of discord and bloodshed, of religious animosities and social disorganisation, which paralysed the energies of the country, and rendered possible the success of his machinations.

The Rebellion of 1798, with all the accumulated misery it entailed, was the direct and predicted consequence of his policy. Having suffered Lord Fitzwilliam to amuse the Irish people by the prospect of Emancipation, he blighted their hopes by recalling him,... and thus produced the Rebellion, .

The same charge is preferred against Pitt by Sir Jonah Barrington

а

« AnteriorContinuar »