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for the murders. An inquiry was, of course, ordered, but
it came to nothing. Neither did Mr. Redmond and his
colleagues take any steps to bring the Government to a proper
realization of the crime that had been committed, in spite of
the fact that it was by virtue of their votes that the Liberals
held office. It became more and more obvious that the views
of the Sinn Feiners, who held that the British Liberals and
the British Tories were alike enemies of the Irish people,
were further confirmed by the events of each succeeding day.
First, the Home Rule Bill, on its introduction, was a very
much weaker measure than had been expected; then it had
weakened little by little by concessions to Sir Edward Carson
and his Volunteers, and the partition of the country had
been virtually agreed on. Then the Ulster Volunteers had
been allowed to arm and become an efficient fighting force,
while the Irish Volunteers had been prevented from securing
arms, and every effort had been made by the Government,



THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916 97

assisted by Mr. Redmond, to disband the organization.
Lastly, the Ulster Volunteers had been allowed to land arms
since the proclamation of the Arms Act, while the Irish
Volunteers had been intercepted by the military, who, in
revenge for their disappointment, had massacred and wounded
Irish men and women and children in the very center of
Dublin.

In conjunction with all of this, the appeal was being con-
stantly made by Mr. Redmond and the British Government
to forget old sores, to let the history of the past be buried for
all time, to permit the centuries of murder, pillage, and out-
rage committed by the British on the Irish to be consigned to
the limbo of forgotten miseries, to renounce every ideal of
National liberty, and to accept instead a pitiable sop of paro-
chial legislation, which even many of its supporters declared
would prove unworkable in practice and to which, such as
it was, a string was attached. Even while the declarations
of eternal friendship and lasting brotherhood were being ex-
changed between the Irish Parliamentary Party and the
leaders of the British Government, the officials of that gov-
ernment were doing everything that lay in their power to
promote new hatreds and revive the old.

Yet, while apparent harmony reigned in Westminster, and
the Irish members and their British brethren fraternized on
the Terrace of the Parliament House over their strawberries
and cream, the Irish people, the Irish Volunteers and the
relatives of those who had been killed and wounded in the
massacre were looking at matters from a very different angle.
Even those who had previously scouted the idea that a
betrayal was contemplated now began to wonder what could
be at the back of all these ominous incidents, and what events
in the future they might portend. Men went around with
anger in their hearts and grim resolve in their minds. Vol-
unteers who had hitherto clung to the Parliamentary Party
went over to those whose doctrines had been best expressed
in the landing of the rifles at Howth. The split between the
two sections became wider and more pronounced, and it was



98 HISTORY OF THE SINN FEIN MOVEMENT

not long before there were two distinct organizations, one
under the control of Mr. Redmond, known as the National
Volunteers, and the other led by men of various organizations,
who believed that a final resort to physical force was inevi-
table, known as the Irish Volunteers. From the time of the
outrage on Bachelor's Walk, defections from the ranks of the
National Volunteers to the Irish Volunteers continued in an
ever-increasing stream. At the time when Mr. Redmond had
forced his nominees on the Provisional Committee, there were
over 166,000 men in the Irish National Volunteers. Within a
few weeks of that action more than 3000 of these had broken
away from the Parliamentarians to form the Irish Volunteers,
and their strength continued to grow week by week, while
that of the National Volunteers decreased correspondingly.
Professor Eoin MacNeill, who had presided at the inaugural
meeting in November, 1913, was the recognized leader of the
Irish Volunteers, while Mr. Redmond was supposed to be the
leader of the others.

Meanwhile the wordy warfare continued across the channel,
the people in Ireland turning more and more to their own
country for a settlement of the question and leaving the
politicians to make the best they could out of the muddle.
When the British Parliament opened on February 10, 1913,
the Irish question was the leading topic of the day. The
Home Rule Bill came up for its first reading on its third and
supposedly final trip through Parliament, and was passed by
a substantial majority. On the occasion of the Second Read-
ing, on March 9, Premier Asquith made his suggestion that
various sections of the Province of Ulster be excluded from
the scope of the Bill. His proposals raised a storm of protest
throughout Ireland, the reasons advanced against this latest
concession to the Carsonites being threefold: first, the senti-
mental objection that Ireland was Irish from the center to the
four seas, and that any partition was a violation of the natural
rights of the people; second, the grave injustice of expecting
Ireland to support two governments; third, to cut off a por-
tion of the northern province would be but to accentuate and



AND THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916 99

make permanent the artificial division that had been created
by the Tory Party and fostered by England for centuries pre-
viously with the object of driving a wedge between the North
and the South. Mr. Redmond accepted the proposals; Sir
Edward Carson refused to accept the Bill, even thus amended.

Briefly, the proposals were that a poll of the Parliamentary
electors should be taken in the counties of Ulster, and that
any county in which a majority of the voters so desired might
be excluded from the operation of the Home Rule Act for a
period of six years from the date of the first sitting of the
Irish Parliament. Each county so excluded would retain its
representation in the United Kingdom House of Commons.
This would allow time for at least two general elections in the
United Kingdom, and five or six years' experience of the
Dublin Parliament, before Ulster could be asked to submit to
Irish Home Rule; and then its inclusion would take place
only with the full and mature consent of the British electorate.
As the Nationalists had a majority in six of the eleven coun-
ties (the cities of Belfast and Derry being counted as counties
for the purposes of the vote), the Unionists could count only
on securing the exclusion of five counties in all. The per-
centage of Nationalists in Tyrone was 55, in Cavan 81^, in
Monaghan 74 1-, in Donegal 78 T V, in Fermanagh 56, and in
Derry 56. The Unionists, therefore, could at the most count
only on gaining the exclusion of the counties of Antrim, Down,
and Armagh and in the cities of Londonderry and Belfast.
As Belfast is situated in County Antrim, and the Tory major-
ity in the City of Londonderry would probably be more
than neutralized by the Nationalist plurality in the country
districts, an attempt was evidently made to slur over the
fact that six of the nine counties in Ulster were Nationalist.
There was even some doubt as to the ability of the Tories to
gain a clear majority in all of these districts, as many of the
Presbyterians would certainly vote for Home Rule.

It is very probable that one of the chief objections to the
scheme entertained by the Unionists was that it would very
probably show to the world that they were supported only



100 HISTORY OF THE SINN FEIN MOVEMENT

by a very small section of the country, whereas it was always
their contention that they represented the entire province of
Ulster. Outside possibly one-sixth of the territory of that
Province, Ulster was Nationalist, and the Tories were too well
aware of the fact to evince any enthusiasm for the proposed
vote. What they asked for was the permanent exclusion from
the scope of the Home Rule Act of the entire Province, and
that was more than Premier Asquith was willing to concede
at that time. Asquith promised that he would embody his
proposals in an Amending Bill, to be introduced as soon as the
opportunity arose.

Following this attempt at a patchwork compromise, the
Curragh "mutiny" threw the Tories into an ecstasy of delight,
their leading newspapers openly espousing the cause of the
officers who had refused to entrain for the north of Ireland
when ordered to do so by the Government. The Liberals
went ahead as though nothing had happened, the Home Rule
Bill passing its second reading by a vote of 356 to 276 on
April 6. The third and final reading was then passed on May
25, the vote being 351 to 274, a majority for the bill of 77,
and nothing remained but the Royal Assent to place the
measure on the Statute Book.

On June 23 Lord Crew r e, on behalf of the Premier, intro-
duced in the House of Lords the Amending Bill. This pro-
vided that if, within three months after the passing of the
Amending Bill, not less than one-tenth of the Parliamentary
electors in any county in Ulster should so petition, a poll
would be taken on the question of temporary exclusion. If a
majority of the votes cast favored exclusion, the Home Rule
Act would not apply to that county until the expiration of
six years, beginning on the day of the first meeting of the
Irish Parliament, and then only when this extended applica-
tion of the Act was ratified by the British Parliament. The
House of Lords, however, so radically amended the Amending
Bill before according it a third reading on July 14, that no
expectation could be entertained of its acceptance by the
Commons. Then, for four days, July 21-24, the leaders



AND THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916 101

met together in secret conference in Buckingham Palace in a
final endeavor to settle the vexed question. The conference
proved a failure, and on July 26 the military murders on
Bachelor's Walk blasted the last hopes of peace. To render
the situation even more critical, the fact leaked out that two
days previously, on July 24, the Ulster Volunteers, in defiance
of the Arms Act and under the very eyes of the police and
the military, had successfully landed a consignment of 25,000
Mauser rifles and a million rounds of ammunition at Larne
in County Antrim.

Thus it was that every attempt made by the politicians to
settle the Irish question ended in failure. One concession after
another in connection with a bill that even in its original
form was studiously weak and mean, had not placated the
British Tories or the Ulstermen who allowed themselves to be
led by them. Conference had also failed. It appeared that
nothing could avert trouble, and, in the midst of it all, the
British soldiers had committed a dastardly, brutal, and cow-
ardly crime upon unoffending civilians. It seemed that the
shadow of Home Rule, won by the Irish Parliamentary
Party after so many years of effort and after so many millions
of dollars had been voluntarily contributed by the Irish
people throughout the world, was certain to go into effect
and that with it the country was to be torn by fratricidal
strife to serve the interests and the bigotry of a few British
landlords. It was at this period that the Tories chose to play
the last card they possessed.

From about the time of Queen Anne the King's Veto had
been one of the least interesting curios of the Constitutional
Museum in Britain. There was a time when the British
monarch had the power to veto, of his own will, any Act of
Parliament that did not exactly meet with his approval. For
centuries that power had been a dead letter, and the position
of the monarch had been reduced to that of a laced and uni-
formed figure-head, ornamental perhaps but useless. The
British monarch was not allowed to make a speech which was
not written for him by his Prime Minister, and, in the case



102 HISTORY OF THE SINN FEIN MOVEMENT

of King George V, the Royal Person was especially well taken
care of by his Cabinet. According to the established rule
of British political procedure, even the name of the King could
not be mentioned in the same breath as a party issue, it
being the tradition that the King owed allegiance to no party,
but did as he was told and collected his salary. As to George
V attempting to exercise a Royal Veto over an Act which
had been passed three times by the elected House of Commons,
such a suggestion would have been considered insane.

The Unionist leaders, however, very seriously proposed
that, as they had been beaten by the Government and the
electorate in every effort to secure the defeat of the Home
Rule Bill, King George should refuse to sign it. That the
greatest pressure was brought to bear on the unfortunate
figure-head is certain. It has already been pointed out that
the power behind the opposition to the Home Rule Bill was
mainly the aristocracy, who drew a handsome sum in rentals
annually from Ireland, and who feared that some of this
might be cut off if the Irish people had anything to say in
the control of their own affairs. In addition to being the
crowned head of the British Empire, King George was also a
human being, with frailties somewhat above the average^
He moved in aristocratic circles, and, when the aristocrats'
began to point out to him the awful prospect they fancied
confronted them, and mentioned that he had the power to
prevent the calamity, the King was naturally moved. That
this emotion was accentuated, rather than relieved, when
mention was actually made of the possibility of a boycott of
his Court by the Lords and Ladies of the land, is also a reason-
able supposition. In any case, the fact remains that the King
postponed signing the Act on the day appointed, thereby con-
firming the last lingering doubts of the Irish people that
trouble of the worst kind was at hand.

Throughout the country the bitterest resentment was
expressed; the men flocked to the banner of the Irish Volun-
teers, the leaders of whom seemed to be the only ones who
had the real national interests of the nation at heart. Red-



AND THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916 103

mond had agreed to the partition of the country; Carson
was breathing fire and brimstone, and his men were well
drilled and well armed; the policy of "No Rifles" had been
carried to the fullest extreme by the Parliamentarian leaders
of the rapidly dwindling National Volunteers; the Liberals
had gone to the limit of concessions with Carson, and had
allowed the Curragh mutineers and the murderers of the
King's Own Scottish Borderers to go unpunished; and finally
King George had decided that he could not at the time place
his royal signature at the foot of the poor measure of self-
government that had escaped the muddle and mismanage-
ment of two years of talk. There seemed nothing left that
offered hope but the policy of the men who had never com-
promised; who had always been on the side of Ireland a
Nation, One and Indivisible; who had never acknowledged
the right of an alien people to make laws for the Irish, and
who were now prepared to oppose force with force.

And then, like a bolt out of a clear sky, Great Britain
became involved in war with Germany.



CHAPTER XVI

UNDER WHICH FLAG?

FOR a decade and a half there had been talk of war
between Great Britain and Germany. During the
second Boer war the question of possible German
intervention on behalf of the two South African Republics
had been persistent, and the grimmest threats were circulated
in England as to the fate that awaited Germany if anything
of the kind was attempted. During the Liberal administra-
tion which followed, and which was still in office when war
was declared, the Unionist newspapers were never weary of
attacking the Government on the ground that they were
cutting down the naval and military estimates at a time when
every day brought nearer the outbreak of war with the Ger-
man Empire. During the "silly season," when the papers
were short of "copy," scare stories became a popular pastime,
retailing the most startling stories of midnight visits of Ger-
man Zeppelins over the coastal towns of England; and
German plots and German plans for the sudden descent on
the ''tight little island" were being discovered at the rate
of at least one per week. In spite of all this, the Liberal
Government professed the most absolute contempt for the
machinations of the Kaiser, declaring that, whenever Germany
wanted war, the British Empire was ready to accept the
challenge. Meanwhile, the policy initiated under Edward VII
was continued by Sir Edward Grey, and Germany was en-
circled by a ring of enemies united in defensive and offen-
sive alliances so that the German Government could watch
the steady progress of a plot for the eventual destruction of
their country and its interests.

It is not within the province of this history to apportion
the blame for, or to trace the causes of, the world-wide



THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916 105

conflict which burst into flame towards the end of July and
in the opening days of August, 1914. The question of impor-
tance here is the part that Ireland played in that conflict.
Immediately on the outbreak of the war, the claim was made
on Ireland that she should bear her share in the war, that she
should send her sons to the army, and should do her utmost
in crushing the enemies of the British Empire. That she
did not respond to this call, there is not the slightest doubt,
and it is but fitting that the pros and cons of the case be now
taken into consideration.

In the first place, what were the arguments advanced by
the British to induce the Irish to take up arms against
Germany? It was stated that the Irish should spring to
arms in defense of the Empire, because Ireland was an integral
part of that Empire; that the fortunes of Ireland were inti-
mately bound up with those of the British Empire, and that,
with the downfall of that Empire, Ireland also would be
trampled into the dust. "Defend the Mother Country,"
was the appeal; 'the Germans are your enemies as much as
they are our enemies; the Irish are the finest fighters in the
world, and now is the time to show your valor." A common
race, a common cause, a common community of interests -
all of these were urged as reasons why Ireland should forget
her age-long grievances and throw herself heart and soul into
the conflict.

There were other arguments advanced. It was stated that
Ireland, as a matter of gratitude for the passing of the Home
Rule Bill, owed to England every man that could shoulder a
musket. The superhuman efforts made by the Liberals to
redress the grievances of Ireland, which have been detailed
in previous chapters, the steadfast manner in which they had
fought the battle for the Irish against the forces of the
Unionists - - these and a thousand other matters were brought
into the limelight, and added to the appeal made by the
Empire to the little impoverished nation of four and a half
million souls, that lay across the Irish Channel.

And then there were other reasons. It was stated that



106 HISTORY OF THE SINN FEIN MOVEMENT

the Germans, if they should conquer England, would make
slaves of the Irish, would make them speak German, and
would absorb them into her terrible military machine, which
would crush out all the fine spirit of nationality that had
been so distinguishing a feature of the Irish character for
centuries past. Unmentionable atrocities of the Germans in
their advance through Belgium were pointed to also the
outrages committed upon harmless priests and nuns, the
shelling of Catholic churches, and much more to the same
effect. There were so many sound and wholesome argu-
ments, said the British apologists, why Ireland should kill all
the Germans in sight, that no reasonable Irishman had any
alternative but to don the British khaki and place himself at
the disposal of His Majesty the King. In view of all this,
it might seem surprising that the Irish failed to respond.
What were their reasons?

That Ireland was an integral portion of the British Empire,
that there was a common bond of sympathy and nationhood
between Ireland and England, was denied, and denied in a
manner that left no room for doubt. The appeal in this
regard fell on deaf ears. The Milesian Gael had nothing in
common with the Anglo-Saxon-Danish-Norman-Dutch Eng-
lishman. In culture, civilization, religion, language, moral
and ethical codes, there were no ties between Irish and
English. The only ethnological relationship between the two
peoples was the fact that both were members of the genus
Aomo, and the actions of the British in Ireland had at times
made it appear as if the British held even this relationship
in some considerable doubt. The keenly imaginative, poeti-
cal, vivacious Irishman had nothing in common with the
phlegmatic, commercialized, and dull-witted Englishman. The
appeal to racial relationship, therefore, was in vain.

That the Germans were common enemies of Ireland as well
as of the British Empire, was another argument that needed
little to explode it. Of all the peoples of the earth, the
English were the only nation with whom the Irish had been
at war. The French had always been friendly to Ireland;



AND THE IRISH REBELLION OF 1916 107

of the Russians the Irish knew only that they had bitterly
and brutally oppressed the Poles and the Jews; of the Ger-
mans they knew that they were pioneers in literature, science,
art, and the study of social welfare; of the British they knew
that they had oppressed the Irish for seven hundred years.
There were more bonds of sympathy between the Irish and
the Germans than between the Irish and the British. The
Germans had done much to encourage the revival of the
Irish language; Professor Kuno Meyer, a German, was one
of the most learned Gaelic scholars in the world. Many
Irish parents sent their children to German educational
establishments; few of them were sent to the colleges and
universities of England. The British had been the hereditary
enemies of the Irish race, while the Germans had always been
sympathetic, at least on the surface, to the cause of Irish
freedom.

As to the forgetting of Irish grievances, this was an appeal
that was becoming tiresome in its monotony. Before Ireland
could be asked to forgive and forget, some evidence of Eng-
land's regret for the outrages committed and of her desire
to make restitution should certainly be forthcoming. The
fact that the officers responsible for the Massacre of Bachelor's
Walk had gone unpunished proved that England refused to
acknowledge herself at fault. 'The leopard cannot change
its spots," said the Irish people, "and England is still the
mother of murders and outrages to-day, as she was in the
days that have passed." It was one thing to forgive the in-
juries of the past; it was another to forgive unrepented
murders which still reddened the stones of the streets of
Dublin. The Irish might be generous almost to a fault, and
unmindful of their own interests, but their passions were warm
and not to be subdued by the weak excuses of a bully in
distress, and it was in this light that the Irish looked upon
Great Britain.

That the Liberals had stood steadfast to their determination
to pass the so-called Home Rule Bill might be admitted with
some qualifications; that the Empire had thereby earned the



108 HISTORY OF THE SINN FEIN MOVEMENT

gratitude of the Irish people was a typical specimen of the
Englishman's lack of humor. Ireland asked for justice, not
for favors. The Home Rule Bill, as has been amply demon-
strated, was a half-hearted measure at the best, designed
mainly as a payment for the support Mr. Redmond and
his colleagues had given the Liberals in the House of Com-
mons. By no stretch of the imagination could it be termed
a just or final settlement of Ireland's demands to manage her
own affairs. That Ireland owed a debt of gratitude to
England for this measure was never even seriously con-
sidered in Ireland. What had Britain done to repay the
Irish for the years of misery that had followed the British
occupation centuries before? What had the Empire done to
repay Ireland for thousands of murdered sons and daughters,
for fertile fields devastated and homesteads rendered desolate?
What had the Empire done to repay Ireland for her wrecked
industries, for her martyred patriots, for her population cut
in half in fifty years? Surely Ireland owed no debt of grati-
tude to Britain for the Home Rule Bill that had been reduced



Online LibraryFrancis P JonesHistory of the Sinn Fein movement and the Irish Rebellion of 1916 → online text (page 10 of 38)