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Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Morley would result in the maintenance of law and order by the creation of a lawabiding national character in Ireland; that the sovereignty of Parliament would not be thereby infringed from a constitutional point of view; that the effective power of the Queen's Government over that island would be strengthened; and the unity of the three kingdoms and of the Empire made more real and lasting.
Whether, having regard to the religious differences which exist in Ireland, and the economic state of the country, the interests of the minority were sufficiently protected by the Bill of Mr. Gladstone, is a question which is not directly connected with the inquiry that has been pursued in these pages, and which requires independent investigation. As to the fears entertained, or at any rate expressed, that the establishment of an Irish Parliament would lead to oppression of Protestants, it may be very confidently stated that the restrictions imposed by the 4th section of the rejected Bill on the Irish legislative body were quite sufficient to prevent any persecution of Protestants or the undue favouring of Catholics by any statute that could stand the trial of its validity in a court of justice. But, in fact, so far as one can see, the apprehensions of Catholic ascendancy in any improper sense are baseless. *
* See Canon MacColl's forcible remarks on this point, “ Reasons for Home Rule,” 3rd edition, p. 68.
It would take me too far from the main subject of this essay even to touch on the means that should be taken to protect landowners from any measures as to real property which might be passed by the proposed Irish Parliament, and which might prejudicially affect those now interested in the land of Ireland. In considering the draft of the Bill, it must be remembered that the Land Bill formed an integral part of the Government scheme. Assuming that this measure is dropped, it would no doubt be only just to limit the powers of the Irish legislative body in dealing with the law of real property. It must, however, be remembered that the best security for property is to be found in the enforcement of law with the general consent of the community. It has been pointed out also that there is nothing to show that the Irish people have been or are actuated by any socialistic impulses; on the other hand, everything seems to show a passionate attachment on their part to the principle of private property in land. The agitation in Ireland has been due not so much to hostility to the existing law of real property as a system, as to the deep conviction of the Irish people that the landlords have no just or moral title to the profits of the land, and for the explanation of this conviction we must go back to those effects of the English conquest to which attention has been drawn above.
That so generous a measure of Home Rule as was offered by the Cabinet of Mr. Gladstone should have at once commended itself to the country, was hardly to be expected; but even now in the hour of disappointment the Prime Minister and his colleagues have the satisfaction of feeling that the time is not far distant when it will be recognised by all parties that the true solution of the long-standing Irish difficulty lies in the adoption of some such scheme of government as they have suggested. The causes of Irish disorder are too deep-rooted to be removed by any measure for the extension of mere local government. No plan that does not meet the reasonable claims of Irish nationality will suffice to appease the existing discontent, and it was the peculiar merit of Mr. Gladstone's Bill that it amply recognised this necessity.
The only course logically consistent with a denial of the demands of the national party is a policy of resolute coercion. We may again resort to oppressive laws and armed force. If we do, we shall doubtless obtain a superficial triumph; but victory will be purchased at too great a cost, for its inevitable consequence will be that every Irishman of spirit will quit his native land to find a new home beyond the seas, and bequeath to his children a legacy of hate and a hope of vengeance; while there will be left behind only a soulless remnant from whose dull eyes the lively light of Celtic genius will have gone for ever.
The policy of conciliation is based on an extension of the confidence already reposed by the Constitution in the Irish people
on the belief that they have the same capacities for self-restraint and development that other races possess, and the conviction that they will, when the national spirit is fairly met, learn to subordinate their own interests to the common good of the whole Empire. No doubt this confidence may be misplaced; the hopes we form may be disappointed. “In nature's infinite book of secrecy” we can read but little, and what we have learnt does not enable us to predict with certainty the consequences of any political action. We can only guide our conduct in the affairs of the State by inferences drawn from our knowledge of human nature and the lessons of history; and most assuredly, when tried by these inferences, a patient, large-hearted, and generous policy towards Ireland is more likely to succeed than to fail, more likely to cement than to dissolve the Union. “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great Empire and little minds go ill together."