Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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of Mr. Parnell's followers were journalists. Journalists unfor-
tunately seldom amass large fortunes, but the occupation is
not considered cUshonourable, and the journalists who belonged
to the Irish party were sufficiently intelligent to be able to
obtain their livelihood by their pens. Mr. T. P. O'Connor, for
example, was a young Irishman who had come to London, and
was making his way in English journalism. He was a strong
Radical, and had written an exceedingly able, if exceed-
ingly one-sided, ' Life of Lord Beaconsfield.' Mr. Sexton, who
was destined to prove himself one of the foremost debaters
in the House of Commons, began life in the employment
of the Waterford and Limerick Hail way Company. When
he was some twenty years of age he became a writer for
the Nation, a newspaper which had upheld through long years
and under disheartening conditions the traditions of National-
ism which had made it famous in 1848. He had been a writer
for the Nation for some years when the General Election came.
Mr. Sexton, like most young Irish journalists who ever wrote
for the Nation, had taken the keenest interest in Irish politics.
He was sent to Sligo to oppose Colonel King Harman, an in-
fluential landlord and nominal Home Ruler. So great was the
popular feeling for the growing Nationalist party that the
almost unknown young writer with the eloquent tongue was
returned by a triumphant majority over the wealthy landlord,
his opponent, who had come to regard a seat for Sligo as an item
of his personal property. Mr. T. D. Sullivan was another Irish
journalist, the owner of the Nation, eminent in Ireland, and not
only in Ireland, as a true poet of the people. Mr. Healy was
not returned to Parliament at the General Election. He did not

u 2


enter the House of Commons until November 1880, but lie may
fairly be described with the party which he was so soon to join,
and of which he was already a valuable adherent. Mr. Healy
came to England at sixteen years of age, a poor young man, with
his way to make in the Avorld. Almost self-educated, he had
taught himself, beside French and German, Pitman's shorthand,
and through his knowledge of phonography he obtained a situ-
ation as shorthand clerk in the office of the superintendent
of the North-Eastern Railway at Newcastle. Later on he
came to London as the confidential clerk of a floorcloth manu-
factory, and as the weekly correspondent of the Xation. In
this Ciipacity he made the acquaintance of Mr. Parnell, whom
he accompanied on his American tour in 1879. From that
time Mr. Ilealy became one of the most prominent of thej-oung
men who were working for the Nationalist cause. He was soon
to become one of the most prominent and the most important
of the Irish Parliamentary party. Mr. James O'Kelly was a
journalist who had been a soldier and a special correspondent in
all parts of the world. He served in the Foreign Legion of the
French army against the Arabs at Oran, under Maximilian in
Mexico, and had narrowly escaped being shot by the Spaniards
in Cuba. After accompanying the Emperor of Brazil on his
tour through America, and following the fortunes of the Avar w-ith
the Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, Mr. O'Kelly came to England,
and at once took an active part in the Home Rule movement
then inaugurated by Mr. Butt. Another journalist, one of
the most able among the Irish members, was Mr. E. D. Gray,
the proprietor of the FreemarCs Journal, probably the most
valuable newspaper property in Ireland.

Those who were not journalists in the Irish party w'cre
generally what is called well-to-do. Mr. Dillon had inherited
property from his father. jNIr. Biggar had retired from a very
successful connection with the North of Ireland bacon trade.
Mr. Richard Power w-as a country gentleman of position ; so
was Mr. Mulhallen Marum ; so was Mr. Redmond ; so was
Mr. Metge. Mr. Arthur O'Connor had been in the War
Office for many laborious years, and had retired upon a


pension. Dr, Commins was a successful Liverpool lawyer.
Mr. John Barry was a prospei"Ous business man; so was Mr.
Dawson. Mr. Leamy was a solicitor of independent means.
Colonel Nolan was an artillery officer of distinction.

One of the most remarkable figures in the ranks of the
Irish party was Colonel The O'Gorman Mahon, whose hand-
some white-haired head and tall form made him conspicuous
in the Plonse. The O'Gorman Mahon had played a prominent
part in Irish politics long before most of his present colleagues
were born. He had brought O'Connell forward at tlie time
of the Clare election. He had been in Parliament some fifty
yeai's before his connection with Mr. Parnell's party. The in-
tervening half-century he had spent in all parts of the world,
soldiering, sailoring, travelling, enjoying adventure for its own
sake. He had taken a considerable share in making the
history of one of the South American republics. Rumour said
of him that at one time he was not merely Loi-d High Admiral
of its fleet and Generalissimo of its army, but actually Arch-
bishop of its Church. This latter statement,, however, must be
regarded as the merest exaggeiation. He was in Pailiament
again from 1847 to 1852 ; he came in for the third time in 1879.
His friends were fond of rallying him on his supposed antiquity,
but there was no young man in the Irish party, or indeed in
the House of Commons, who carried his head more erect,
walked with a firmer step, or showed less evidence of the weight
of years than The O'Gorman Mahon.

At first there seemed no reason to expect any seiious dis-
union between the Irish members and the Liberal party. In
the previous Parliament the Irish members and the Radical
members had been thrown into frequent alliance ; during the
General Election the bonds of sympathy between the English
Radicals and the Irish people seemed to have been strength-
ened. 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 mani-
fested friendly sentiments towards 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 favourable 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 Secretaryship 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 towards

From the earliest days of the session, however, it was
obvious that there would be but little possibility of the Govern-
ment and the Irish Mountain working together. 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. Exceptional coercive legislation of all
kinds had succeeded, accompanied, and overlapped each other
with regular persistency since the beginning of the century.
Now the Government were going to make the bold experiment
of trying to rule Ireland without the assistance of coercive and
exceptional law. The Queen's Speech, however, contained only
one other reference to Ii-eland, in a promise that a measure
would be introduced for the extension of the Irish borough
franchise. This was in itself an important promise. The
Irish borough franchise was very much higher than in
England ; was based upon the old principle which still exists
both in English and Irish counties. In England every house-
holder in a borough has a right to vote, no matter what the
value of the dwelling he occupies. Any place in which he and
his family live, any lodging, any room separately held, gives
him the right to record his vote. In Ireland, on the contrary,
a house must have a certain value, must have a certain rental,
before its owner is allowed the privilege of voting. No house
in an Irish borough under the rate of 4Z. a year rental carries
with it a qualification to vote. In England and Ireland alike
there is a standard of value which has to be reached before
an occupier has the privilege of voting. This condition of


things the advocates of the new Reform Bill propose to
change. 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 463 families in 1877
to 980 in 1878, to 1,238 in 1879 ; and they were still on the
increase, as was shown at the end of 1880, when it was
found that 2,110 families were evicted.

An amendment to the Address was at once brought for-
ward 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 r-eplied, admitting the neces-
sity for some legislation, but declaring that there would
not be time for the introduction of any such measure that
session. Then the Irish membei's asked for some temporary
measure to pi^event the evictions which were undoubtedly
rapidly on the increase, and appeals were made to the Govern-
ment not to lend landlords military aid in cari-yiug out evic-
tions; but the Chief Secretary answered that while tlie law
existed it was necessary to carry it out, and he couid only
appeal to both sides to be moderate. Matters slowly drifted on
in this way for a short time, the Secret Service Vote and the
Ii-ish Relief Bill affording opportunities of sharp debates, in the
course of Avhich Mr. Forster more than once expressed his
belief that the improved condition of Ireland would obviate the
necessity for many of the old-fashioned methods of managing
the country.

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. This Bill authorised county court


judges in Ireland till the end of 1881 to allow compensation to
tenants evicted for non-payment of rent in cases where failure
of crops had caused insolvency. This was explained by Mr.
Forster as a mere extension of the Act of 1870, by making
the eviction for non-payment of rent in cases where tenants
were really unable to pay a disturbance within the meaning of
that Act. 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. At the same time he
admitted that the rate of evictions for the year had already
more than doubled the annual average rate previously
to 1877.

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 generated — as famine and hunger have always
genei-ated — a 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 upon the cattle
and horses of landowners and land agents, cattle had been
killed, horses houglied, and sheep mutilated. These offences
were always committed at night, and their perpetrators were
seldom discovered. 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 re-
membered 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 r-edress, and longing for
revenge. It was diiEcult to get these poor peasants to believe in
the good intentions of the Government at any time, and unfor-
tunatelyjust then thegood intentions of the Government were not
very actively displayed. The Compensation for Disturbance Bill
was carried in the Commons after long debates in which the Irish


party strove to make its principles stronger, while the Opposition
denounced it as a flagrant infringement of the rights of property.
It was sent up to the Lords, where it was rejected on Tuesday,
August 3, by a majority of 231. 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 strug-
gles of the past four years may be said to date. It is impossible
to estimate how much suffering misjlit have been avoided if the
Government had taken a firmer line with the House of Loids
in August 1880. The House of Lords is never a serious oppo-
nent to the will of a powerful and popular Ministry ; and if it
had once been shown that the Government were determined to
carry some measure for the relief of evicted tenants, it would
have soon ceased to make any stand against it. But though
the Government, through the mouth of Mr. Forster, had ad-
mitted the alarming increase of evictions and the agitated con-
dition of the country, they refused to take any further steps
just then. They promised, indeed, to bring in some compre-
hensive measure next session, and they appointed a committee
to inquire into the condition of the agricultiu-al population of
Ireland. On this commission they absolutely refused, in spite
of the earnest entreaties of the Irish members, to give any place
to any representative of the tenant farmer's cause. This was a
curious illustration of the Irish policy of the Government
during the early part of its rule. Though the Irish members
who followed Mr. Parnell might surely have been regarded as
expressing at least the feelings of a vei'y large section of the
Ii'ish people, their wishes were as little regarded as if they had
1 epresented nothing. It seems difficult to believe that during
the whole of Mr. Forster's occupation of the Irish Secretaryship
he never once consulted any member of the Parnellite party on
any part of his Irish policy; never asked their advice or even
their opinion on any Irish affairs whatever. It is still stranger
that he pursued almost the same principle with regard to the
Irish members who sat on his own side of the House — moderate
men like Mr. Shaw and Major Nolan.


The speeches of the Land League leaders became more and
more hostile to the Government, At a meeting in Kildare in
August Mr. John Dillon made a speech in which he advised
Boycotting, called upon the young farmers of Ireland to defend
evicted Leaguers threatened with eviction. He looked forward
to the time when there would be 300,000 men enrolled in the
ranks of the Land League ; and when that time came, if the
landlords still refused justice, the word would be given for a
general strike all over the country against rent, and then * all
the armies in England would not levy rent in that country.'
On Tuesday, August 17, Sir Walter Barttelot called the atten-
tion of the Chief Secretary to this speech. Mr. Forster de-
scribed it as wicked and cowardly ; but, while he declined to
prosecute Mr. Dillon for it, he announced that the Government
were watching the Land League speeches very carefully. Mr.
Dillon immediately came across fi'om Ireland to reply to the
Chief Secretary's attack. Mr. Dillon was one of the most re-
markable men in the National movement. He was the son of
John Dillon, the Young Irelander and rebel of 1848, whom Sir
Charles Gavan Duffy describes as ' tall and strikingly handsome,
with eyes like a thoughtful woman's, and the clear oHve com-
plexion and stately bearing of a Spanish nobleman.' When the
* Young Ireland ' rising failed, John Dillon the elder escaped to
France, and afterwards to America, and in later years he came
back to Ireland, and was elected to Parliament for the county of
Tipperary. He earned an honourable distinction in the House
of Commons, where his great aim was to strengthen the alliance
between the Irish members and the English Eadicals, and he
won the cordial admii'ation of Mr, John Bi^ight. Mr. Bright
has paid eloquent tribute to the memory of John Dillon in a
speech which he delivered in Dublin at a banquet which Mr.
Dillon had organised to Mr. Bright. Mr. Dillon was to have
presided at the banquet, but he died suddenly a few days before
it took place. * I venture to say,' said Mr. Bright, ' that his
sad and sudden removal is a great loss to Ireland. I believe
amongst all her worthy sons Ireland has had no worthier and
no nobler son than John Blake Dillon.' Mr. Dillon, the son,


was a mncli more extreme man than bis fatliei\ He did not
display the sympathy with English Radicalism which his father
felt, and he appeared to have little or no belief in Parliamentary
action. He was quite a young man, and had been elected for the
county of Tipperary at the General Election while absent him-
self in America.

Mr. Dillon rose in the House of Commons on Monday,
August 23, and moved the adjournment of the House in order
to reply to Mr. Forster's attack upon him. The manner of his
speech was no less remarkable than its matter — quiet, perfectly
self-possessed. With a low, passionless voice and unmoved
face Mr. Dillon met the charges against him. He professed
his absolute indifference as to what the Irish Secretary
might choose to call him ; but he denied that his speech was
wicked in advising the farmers of Ireland to resist an unjust
law. He laid at Mr. Forster's door the difficulties and the pos-
sible bloodshed that might be caused by the increasing evictions
and the unjust covirse the Government was pursuing. Mr.
Forster replied by analysing the Kildare speech, and repeating
his former charges. He accused Mr. Dillon of advising his
hearers not to pay their rents, whether they could afford to or
not ; he charged him with something like sympathy with the
mutilation of animals, because, instead of denouncing the
houghing of horses and cattle that had taken place, he had said
that if Mayo landlords put cattle on the lands from which they
could get no rent, the cattle would not prosper very much. He
quoted sentences from Mr. Dillon's speech, that ' those in
Parliament faithful to the cause of the people could paralyse the
hands of the Government, and prevent them from passing such
laws as would throw men into prison for organising themselves.
In Parliament they could obstruct, and outside of it they could
set the people free to drill and organise themselves ; ' and that
* they would show that every man in Ireland had a right to a
rifle if he liked to have a rifle.' A long and bitter debate fol-
lowed, in which Irish, Liberal, and Conservative members took
part. The Irish members, in almost every case, appealed to the
Government even now to do something for the tenants : the


Liberals replied, justifying the action of the Government. The
next day, Tuesday, the 24th, another Irish debate arose on a
motion of ]Mr. Parnell's on the Parliamentary relations of Eng-
land and Ireland. On the following Thursday, in Committee of
Supply, another Irish debate arose on the vote for the Irish con-
stabulaiy estimates. This was in many ways a memorable debate.
It was from the defence Mr, Forster made in this debate of the
use of buckshot as ammunition for the Ii'ish constabulary that
the nickname of ' Buckshot ' arose, which will, in all probability,
be associated with his name as long as his name may be remem-
bered. Furthermore, this debate was the first of several famous
all-night sittings which mark at intervals the career of the
administration. The debate had begun on Thursday afternoon ;
it was protracted all through Thursday night and over Friday
morning, and only came to an end shortly before 1 p.m. on the
Friday, when the Government consented to an adjournment of
the debate until the following INIonday. On the Monday, after
further debate from the Irish members, the vote was finally
carried. The Irish case against the constabulary was in some
measure recognised by Mr. Forster, who stated that, although
it was quite impossible then for the Executive to consent to the
general disarmament of the constabulary force, yet her Majesty's
Government felt bound not to rest until they had placed Ireland
in such a position as no longer to need the presence of this
armed force. In some of Mr. Forster's speeches there were
menacing allusions to the possibility of the revival of the aban-
doned coercive measures; but, on the other hand, Mr. Forster
declined to promise to urge the calling of a winter session in
case the evictions increased, in order to deal with the question.
On September 7 the House was prorogued.

The rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill
and the inaction of the Government gave fresh impulse to the
agitation in Ireland. Evicting landlords, encouraged by the
failure of the Government measure, swelled the list of evictions ;
and, on the other hand, all landlords, good and bad alike, became
the objects of popular antipathy. The Land League leaders,
members of Parliament and others, advised the tenants' passive


resistance of eviction and non-payment of rent, in the hope that,
by a sort of general strike on the part of the tenantry, evictions
might be delayed until the following session saw the intro-
duction of the promised Ministerial measure. In fact, the Land
Lcajrue advised the tenants to form a sort of tenant trades
union, for resisting not merely evictions, but the exactions of
what they considered an unjust amount of rent above Griffith's

Griffith's valuation played such an important part in the
politics of this time, and was so frequently alluded to, that it
may be well to give some idea of what it was. The valuation
of Ireland was undertaken in 1830 on the recommendation of
a select committee of the House of Commons in 1824. To
ensure uniform valuation an Act was passed in 1836 requu'ing
all valuations of land to be based on a fixed scale of agricultural
produce contained in the Act, The valuators w^ere instructed
to act in the same manner as if employed by a principal land-
lord dealing with a solvent tenant. The average valuation
proved to be about twenty-five per cent, under the gross rental
of the country. In 1844 a select committee of the House of
Commons was appointed to reconsider the question, and an Act
passed in 1846 changed the principle of valuation from a
relative valuation of town lands based on a fixed scale of
agricultural produce to a tenement valuation for poor law
rating to be made ' upon an estimate of the net annual value
.... of the rent, for which, one year with another, the same
might in its actual state be reasonably expected to let from
year to year.' The two valuations gave substantially the same
results. In 1852 another Valuation Act was passed, returning
to the former principle of valuation by a fixed scale of agii-
cultural produce ; but Sir Eichard Griffith's evidence in 1809
shows the valuation employed was a ' live-and-let-live valuation,
according to the state of prices, for five years previous to ' the
time of valuation.

Griffith's valuation was indeed but a rough and ready way
of estimating the value of land. In many cases it was really
above the worth of the land ; in other cases it was below it.


Still it was a reasonable basis enough, certainly far more
reasonable than the rates of the rack-rents. The Land Leagiie
speakers condemned all rents above Griffith's valuation — only,
it must be remembered, in the period of probation while the
Government was preparing its Laud measure — and under their
direction a practical strike was oi-ganised against the landlords

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 10 of 38)