Anonymous.

Is Ulster Right? online

. (page 10 of 17)
Online LibraryAnonymousIs Ulster Right? → online text (page 10 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


means of his paper - the _Irish World_ - he collected vast sums for the
Parliamentary party. In this paper he strongly advocated the use of
dynamite as a blessed agent which should be availed of by the Irish
people in their holy war; and elaborated a scheme for setting fire to
London in fifty places on a windy night. After D. Curley and J. Brady
had been hanged for the murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr.
Burke, he collected money for a testimonial to them as heroes, and
prayed that God would send Ireland more men with hearts like that of
J. Brady. Mr. Redmond has recently described him as "the grand old
veteran, who through his newspaper has done more for the last thirty
or forty years for Ireland than almost any man alive"; Mr. T.P.
O'Connor has congratulated him on the great work he is doing for
Ireland; and Mr. Devlin has eulogized him for "the brilliancy in the
exposition of the principles inculcated in our programme."

By 1880 the union between the Dynamite party in America (which bore
many names, such as the Fenian Society, the Irish Revolutionary
Brotherhood, the Invincibles, the Clan-na-gael, and the Physical
Force party, but was essentially the same movement throughout), the
constitutional agitators for Home Rule in Parliament, and the Land
Leaguers in Ireland, was complete. It was but natural that it should
be so, for their objects were the same, though their methods differed
according to circumstances. The American party (according to their own
statements) desired the achievement of a National Parliament so as
to give them a footing on Irish soil - to give them the agencies and
instrumentalities for a Government _de facto_ at the very commencement
of the Irish struggle - to give them the plant of an armed revolution.
Hence they gladly contributed large sums for the Parliamentary Fund.
Parnell, the leader of the Parliamentary party, stated that a true
revolutionary movement should partake of a constitutional and
an illegal character; it should be both an open and a secret
organization, using the constitution for its own purpose and also
taking advantage of the secret combination; and (as the judges at the
Parnell Commission reported) the Land League was established with the
intention of bringing about the independence of Ireland as a separate
nation.

In the preceding autumn the agitation against the payment of rent had
begun; and persons of ordinary intelligence could see that a fresh
outbreak of anarchy was imminent. But Gladstone, when coming into
power in March 1880, assumed that air of easy optimism which his
successors in more recent times have imitated; and publicly stated
that there was in Ireland an absence of crime and outrage and a
general sense of comfort and satisfaction such as had been unknown
in the previous history of the country. His Chief Secretary, Forster,
however, had not been long in Ireland before he realized that this
was the dream of a madman; and that the Government must either act or
abdicate in favour of anarchy; but the Cabinet refused to support him.
Before the end of the year the Government had practically abdicated,
and the rule of the Land League was the only form of Government in
force in a large part of the country. The name of the unfortunate
Captain Boycott will be for ever associated with the means the League
employed to enforce their orders. What those means were, was explained
by Gladstone himself: -

"What is meant by boycotting? In the first place it is
combined intimidation. In the second place, it is combined
intimidation made use of for the purpose of destroying the
private liberties of choice by fear of ruin and starvation. In
the third place, that which stands in the rear of boycotting
and by which alone boycotting can in the long run be made
thoroughly effective is the murder which is not to be
denounced."

And a few years later - 1886 - the Official Report of the Cowper
Commission stated it more fully: -

"The people are more afraid of boycotting, which depends for
its success on the probability of outrage, than they are of
the judgments of the Courts of Justice. The unwritten law in
some districts is supreme. We deem it right to call attention
to the terrible ordeal that a boycotted person has to undergo,
which was by several witnesses graphically described during
the progress of our enquiry. The existence of a boycotted
person becomes a burden to him, as none in town or village are
allowed, under a similar penalty to themselves, to supply him
or his family with the necessaries of life. He is not allowed
to dispose of the produce of his farm. Instances have been
brought before us in which his attendance at divine service
was prohibited, in which his cattle have been, some killed,
some barbarously mutilated; in which all his servants and
labourers were ordered and obliged to leave him; in which the
most ordinary necessaries of life and even medical comforts,
had to be procured from long distances; in which no one
would attend the funeral, or dig a grave for, a member of a
boycotted person's family; and in which his children have been
forced to discontinue attendance at the National School of the
district."

This was the ordinary form of Government as conducted by the
Nationalists; and any attempt to interfere with it and to enforce the
milder laws of England, is now denounced as "coercion."

In 1881 Gladstone carried another and a more far-reaching Land Act. To
put it shortly, it may be said that all agricultural land (except that
held by leaseholders, who were brought in under the Act of 1887)
was handed over to the occupiers for ever (with free power of sale),
subject only to the payment of rent - the rent not being that which the
tenants had agreed to pay, but that which a Land Court decided to Be
a "fair rent." This was to last for fifteen years, at the end of which
time the tenant might again claim to have a fair rent fixed, and so
_ad infinitum_. The Land Court in most cases cut down the rent by
about 20 or 25 per cent.; and at the end of fifteen years did the
same again. As tithes (which had been secularized but not abolished),
mortgages and family charges remained unchanged, the result was that
a large proportion of landlords were absolutely ruined; in very many
cases those who appear as owners now have no beneficial interest in
their estates.

In examining the Act calmly, one must observe in the first place that
it was a wholesale confiscation of property. Not of course one
that involved the cruelty of confiscations of previous ages, but a
confiscation all the same. For if A. bought a farm in the Incumbered
Estates Court, with a Parliamentary title, and let it to B. for twenty
years at a rent of £100; and the Act gave B. the right of occupying it
for ever subject to the payment of £50 a year, and selling it for any
price he liked, that can only mean the transfer of property from A. to
B. Secondly, the Act encouraged bad farming; for a tenant knew that
if his land got into a slovenly state - with drains stopped up, fences
broken down, and weeds growing everywhere - the result would be that
the rent would be reduced by the Commissioners at the end of the
fifteen years; as the Commissioners did not go into the question of
whose the fault was, but merely took estimates as to what should be
the rent of the land in its actual condition. That farms were in many
instances intentionally allowed to go to decay with this object, has
been proved; and this pressed hard on the labouring class, as less
employment was given. Thirdly, although the remission of debt may
bring prosperity for a time, it may be doubted whether it will
permanently benefit the country; for it will be noticed that the
attempt to fix prices arbitrarily applied only to the letting and
hiring and not to other transactions. To give a typical instance of
what has occurred in many cases: a tenant held land at a rent of £1.
15s. 0d. per acre; he took the landlord into Court, swore that the
land could not bear such a rent, and had it reduced to £1. 5s. 0d.;
thereupon he sold it for £20 an acre; and so the present occupier had
to pay £1. 5s. 0d. to the nominal landlord, and the interest on the
purchase-money (about £1 per acre) to a mortgagee; in fact, he has
to pay a larger sum annually than any previous tenant did; and this
payment is "rent" in the economic sense though it is paid not to a
resident landlord but to a distant mortgagee. In other words, rent
was increased, and absenteeism became general. Fourthly, it sowed
the seeds for future trouble; for it was the temporary union of two
antagonistic principles. On the one hand it was said that "the man who
tills the land should own it," and therefore rent was an unjust
tax (in fact it was seriously argued that men of English and Scotch
descent who had hired farms in the nineteenth century had a moral
right to keep them for ever rent free because tribal tenure had
prevailed amongst the Celts who occupied the country many hundreds of
years before); on the other it was said that the land belonged to the
people of Ireland as a whole and not to any individuals. If that is
so, what right has one man to a large farm when there are hundreds of
others in a neighbouring town who have no land at all? The passing of
the Land Acts of 1881 and 1887 made it inevitable that sooner or later
a fresh agitation would be commenced by "landless men." And fifthly,
when an excitable, uneducated people realize that lawlessness and
outrages will be rewarded by an Act remitting debts and breaking
contracts, they are not likely in future to limit their operations
to land, but will apply the same maxims to other contracts. The
demoralizing of character is a fact to be taken into consideration.

However, the Act was passed; and if Gladstone really imagined that
it would satisfy the Nationalist party he must have been grievously
disappointed. During 1881, 4,439 agrarian outrages were recorded. The
Government declared the Land League to be illegal, and lodged some of
the leaders in gaol. Thereupon Ford, carrying out the plan laid down
by Lalor in 1848, issued his famous "No Rent" proclamation. It was not
generally acted upon; but his party continued active, and in May 1882
Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke (the Chief and Under Secretary)
were murdered in the Phoenix Park. This led to the passing of the
Crimes Prevention Act, by which the detectives were enabled to secure
evidence against the conspirators, many of whom (as is usual in Irish
history) turned Queen's evidence. The Act was worked with firmness;
and outrages, which had numbered 2,507 during the first half of 1882,
fell to 836 in the latter half, to 834 in 1883, and to 774 in 1884.

In the autumn of 1885, Gladstone, expecting to return to power at
the ensuing election, besought the electors to give him a majority
independent of the Irish vote. In this he failed; and thereupon took
place the "Great Surrender." He suddenly discovered that everything
he had said and done up to that time had been wrong; that boycotting,
under the name of "exclusive dealing," was perfectly justifiable;
that the refusal to pay rent was just the same as a strike of workmen
(ignoring the obvious facts that when workmen strike they cease both
to give their labour and to receive pay, whereas the gist of the "No
Rent" movement was that tenants, whilst ceasing to pay, should retain
possession of the farms they have hired; and that a strike arises from
a dispute between employers and employed - usually about rates of pay
or length of hours; whereas Ford's edict that no rent was to be paid
was issued not in consequence of anything that individual landlords
had done, but because Gladstone had put the leaders of the Land League
in gaol); that the men whom he had previously denounced as "marching
through rapine to the dismemberment of the Empire" were heroes who
deserved to be placed in charge of the government of the country; and
introduced his first Home Rule Bill. Some of his followers went with
him; others refused. His life-long ally, John Bright, said: "I cannot
trust the peace and interests of Ireland, north and south, to the
Irish Parliamentary party, to whom the Government now propose to
make a general surrender. My six years' experience of them, of their
language in the House of Commons and their deeds in Ireland, makes it
impossible for me to consent to hand over to them the property and
the rights of five millions of the Queen's subjects, our
fellow-countrymen, in Ireland. At least two millions of them are as
loyal as the population of your town, and I will be no party to a
measure which will thrust them from the generosity and justice of the
United and Imperial Parliament."

The Bill was rejected; at the general election which ensued the people
of England declared against the measure; Gladstone resigned, and Lord
Salisbury became Prime Minister.




CHAPTER XI.

THE UNIONIST GOVERNMENT OF 1886.


The Unionists, on returning to power in 1886, fully realized the
difficulty of the problem with which they were faced. The Nationalists
held a great Convention at Chicago, at which they resolved to make
use of the Land League not merely for the purpose of exterminating
landlords but as a means for promoting universal disorder and so
bringing about a paralysis of the law. As J. Redmond stated at the
Convention: "I assert that the government of Ireland by England is an
impossibility, and I believe it to be our duty to make it so." And, as
he afterwards explained in Ireland, he considered that if the Tories
were able to carry on the government with the ordinary law, the
cause of Home Rule might be set back for a generation; but if the
Nationalists could succeed in making such government impossible, and
the Tories were obliged to have recourse to coercion, the people
of Great Britain would turn them out of office, and Gladstone would
return to power and carry Home Rule. (This avowed determination on the
part of the Nationalists to reduce the country to anarchy should be
borne in mind when people now express their horror at the Ulstermen
being guilty of such conduct as breaking the law.) With this object,
the Nationalists in 1887 organized the "Plan of Campaign," which
was in fact an elaboration of the "No Rent" manifesto of 1881, and
a scheme for carrying out, step by step, the programme laid down by
Lalor in 1848. One of Lalor's adherents had been a young priest named
Croke. By 1887 he had become Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel. He
had considered the "No Rent" manifesto inopportune; but now formally
sanctioned the "Plan of Campaign," and in a violent letter urged that
it should be extended to a general refusal to pay taxes. The Plan
was also approved by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and the
leaders of the Nationalist movement in Ireland and America, such as
J. Dillon and Ford; but Parnell seemed doubtful, and in England the
_Daily News_ denounced it.

However, the Unionist Government had decided on their policy, which
they were determined to carry through. The main items of their
programme were (1) To enforce the law; (2) To facilitate land
purchase; (3) To develop the industries of the country; and (4) To
extend local government. It is well to examine these in detail, so as
to arrive at a just estimate of the two rival policies.

(i) The Crimes Prevention Act passed by Gladstone in 1882 had lapsed,
having been limited to a period of three years. Mr. Balfour (who had
become Chief Secretary) was of opinion that the continual passing of
temporary measures was a mistake (as some one has said, it was like
a man burning his umbrella every fine day and then complaining of the
expense of buying so many new ones), as was shown by the fact that the
Irish Parliament had passed fifty-four of such Acts in the seventeen
years of its independent existence. He therefore, in spite of vehement
opposition from the combined forces of the English Radicals and
the Irish Nationalists, carried the Crimes Act of 1887, which was
a permanent measure, to be put in force in disturbed districts by
proclamation when necessary. This was the famous "Coercion Act"
which has been the subject of so much violent denunciation. But in
considering the matter, one must ask, What Government has there ever
been in the world that did not employ force in the carrying out of the
law? It is true that in the early days of New Zealand Mr. Busby was
sent out as a Commissioner with no means of enforcing his orders;
but the only result was that he was laughed at by the natives as "a
man-of-war without guns"; and no one can say that the scheme was a
success. In fact, how can a law be a law unless it is enforced? The
Act does not make anything a crime that was not a crime before; it
merely provides a shorter form of procedure when a district is so
completely terrorized by an illegal association that injured persons
dare not make complaints, witnesses dare not give evidence, and juries
dare not convict. This, as we have seen, had been the case in parts
of Ireland at the beginning of the rebellion of 1798; and the
Nationalists, who claimed to be the modern representatives of the
rebels of that time, had succeeded in bringing about the same state of
things. In some of its most stringent provisions the Act is a copy of
the Police Act permanently in force in London; yet ordinary residents
in the Metropolis do not seem to groan much under its tyranny, nor do
the Radicals propose to repeal it.

And certainly the Act has worked satisfactorily from the point of
view of those who desire to see the country in a state of peace and
prosperity, though disastrously in the opinion of those who aim at
making government impossible. Between July, 1887, when the Act came
into force, and the end of the year, 628 persons were prosecuted, of
whom 378 were convicted and 37 held to bail. In 1888 there were 1,475
prosecutions, 907 convictions, and 175 persons required to find bail.
By 1891 (the last full year of Unionist Government) crime had sunk so
rapidly that in that year there were only 243 persons prosecuted,
of whom 105 were convicted, and 81 held to bail. In 1901 (when the
Unionists were again in power) there were 29 prosecutions and 22
convictions. In 1902 there was a revival of crime; the Act was again
brought into operation, with much the same result as before - there
were 157 prosecutions, 104 convictions, and 17 persons were held to
bail. In 1903 there were 3 prosecutions and 3 convictions.

(2) _Land Purchase_. The Unionist Government considered that the dual
ownership set up by the Act of 1881 would be a constant source of
trouble, and that its working could not be for the benefit of the
country. They believed that the best solution of the land question
would be a system of purchase whereby the occupiers would become
owners. This of course was entirely opposed to the wishes of the
Nationalists; for if the land question was settled, the motive power
which was to carry separation with it, would be gone.

Some efforts in the direction of Land Purchase had been made in 1870
(at the instance of Mr. Bright) and in 1881; but nothing was done on
a large scale until 1885, when the "Ashbourne Act" was passed;
and various further steps were taken by the Unionist Government,
culminating in the great "Wyndham Act" of 1903. By the earlier Acts,
73,858 tenants became owners; by the Wyndham Act, 253,625. As the
total number of agricultural tenants of Ireland amounted to slightly
under 600,000, it will be seen that more than half of them have now
purchased their holdings. To explain the general principles of the
Act, it is sufficient to say that when the landlord and tenants of
an estate agree to a sale, the Government advance the money, and
the tenant purchasers undertake to repay it by annual instalments
extending over a period of 68 years. As these annual payments must be
less than the existing rent as fixed by the Land Court under the Act
of 1881, the purchasing tenant has no ground for complaint; and though
the income of the landlord is reduced by the sale, he is freed from
further anxiety; and besides, the Government give a bonus to the
vendor from Imperial funds. It will be seen at once that the scheme
would have been impossible under Home Rule; for the English Government
had by the end of March 1911, agreed to advance the enormous sum of
nearly £118,000,000; an amount which no Irish Government could have
raised except at such an exorbitant rate of interest that it would
have been out of the question. On the other hand, England has become
the creditor of the new Irish landowners for this vast amount; and
in the event of Separation a serious difficulty may arise as to its
repayment.

It may interest readers in the Colonies to learn that the Government
thoughtfully passed a Registration of Titles Act in 1891; so that the
Irish purchasers under the various Land Acts have the benefits which
were first introduced in Australia by Sir Robert Torrens.

The Act of 1903 had the cordial support of a small minority of
Nationalists; but to the majority it was gall and wormwood. Hence Mr.
Birrell, when he became Chief Secretary, threw every obstacle he could
into the way of its working; and in 1909 he passed a new measure,
under which land purchase has practically ceased.

(3)_The development of the Industries of the Country_. That has of
course taken various forms, of which only a few can be mentioned here.
By the Light Railways (for which the country has to thank Mr. Balfour
himself) remote and hitherto inaccessible districts have been brought
into touch with the rest of the world; and by an expenditure of
£2,106,000 the railway mileage of Ireland has been increased from
2,643 miles in 1890 to 3,391 in 1906. Then it is hardly too much to
say that the Labourers' Cottages Act, and the grants made under it,
have transformed the face of the country.

By this Act, District Councils are enabled, in localities where
accommodation for labourers is insufficient, to take land compulsorily
and erect cottages, the money advanced by the Government for the
purpose being gradually repaid by the ratepayers. The wretched hovels
which were the disgrace of Ireland from the dawn of history until a
period within living memory, have almost disappeared; and comfortable,
sanitary and pleasing dwellings have taken their place.

Even this excellent Act, however, is now used by the Nationalists to
further their own objects. One instance may suffice. In 1907 a farmer
fell under the ban of the League and was ordered to be boycotted. The
District Council found that one occupant of a "Labourer's Cottage"
disregarded the order and continued to work for the boycotted farmer.
They promptly evicted him. What would be said in England if a Tory
landlord evicted a cottager for working for a Radical farmer?

But even more important than these measures has been the establishment
of the Department of Agriculture. The success of this has been due to
the ability, energy and unselfishness of Sir Horace Plunkett. The main
object of the Department was to instruct the farming classes in the
most effective methods of agriculture and the industries connected
with it. This by itself would have been a great work; but Sir Horace
has also founded the Irish Agricultural Organization Society, to
encourage co-operative organization amongst farmers, based on
the principle of mutual help; and the success of this, worked in
conjunction with the Department, has been marvellous. More than nine
hundred local societies have been established, for the promotion of
industries such as dairying and poultry farming; co-operative credit
banks have been formed, based on what is known in Germany as the
Raffeisen system. The turnover of these societies in 1908 amounted
to more than £2,250,000. Agricultural Organization Societies, in
imitation of the Irish one, have been formed in England and Scotland;
and so far did its fame reach that the Americans sent over an agent to
enquire into its working.

Of course it is unfair to attribute the prosperity or the decline of
a country to any one measure; and more than that, it is only by taking
into consideration a number of circumstances and a long term of years
that we can decide whether prosperity is real or merely transitory.
But that Ireland increased in prosperity under the influence of
the Unionist Government, cannot be denied; indeed Mr. Redmond, when
shepherding the Eighty Club (an English Radical Society) through
Ireland in 1911, did not deny the prosperity of the country, and could


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAnonymousIs Ulster Right? → online text (page 10 of 17)