It is remarkable that with all the iniquities of the present régime in Ireland there has not been one single incident to stir English feeling to its depths and produce that sentiment of indignation and sympathy which is the motive force essential to the early attainment of the Home Rule policy. Mr. Michael Davitt some time ago complained that Mr. Gladstone had not treated the Irish question as he did the Bulgarian. The answer is obvious: Ireland is not Bulgaria. To the sane Englishman Mitchelstown is not Batak; the Irish constabulary are not Bashi-Bazouks, nor Irish magistrates Turkish pashas. Mr. Gladstone, indeed, attempted to “Bulgarianise at Nottingham in 1887: his attempt went perilously near to the ludicrous.

The evictions at Glenbeigh probably moved English sentiment more largely than any other recent event in Ireland, but the plan of campaign, the greatest tactical error of the Irish movement, generally regarded by the prejudiced or uninformed as of dubious morality, impressed the English mind with the idea that the Irish tenant was, after all, very capable of protecting himself against the exactions of his landlord. Again, it has unfortunately so fallen out that the most tragic and painful incidents have always had a dash of the comic or the ridiculous; so the outrage at Mitchelstown was clouded by the grotesque extravagances of the coroner's inquest and the anticlimax of Colonel Dopping. Indignation at the imprisonment of Mr. O'Brien was counteracted by merriment over the story of his stolen breeches and the smuggled suit of Irish frieze. The Government have indeed been fortunate in their administration of coercion; they have nerer once dangerously outraged public opinion.

That the Home Rule movement does not arouse enthusiasm among the masses is abundantly testified by the failure of public meeting and the equivocal results of by-elections. In spite of the unprecedented efforts of Home Rule propagandists, save when under the adventitious attraction of a popular speaker, meetings are sparsely attended, and audiences are generally cold and often apathetic. Nor indeed does the present or prospective condition of Ireland predicate any large or rapid extension of English interest in Irish politics. There can be no doubt that the land legislation has created a material change for the better in the condition of the Irish tenant. The decrease in the number of pending evictions from an estimate of something like 40,000 in 1881 to an estimate the most extreme of 10,000 in 1888, the reduction of rental since 1881 by approximately no less than 20 per cent. throughout the country, the assimilation, by means of trades-unionist organisations, of the financial relations of landlord and tenant to those of employer and employed, the improved values of agricultural produce, have transformed Irish agitation from an agrarian warfare in which politics played a subor

dinate part into a political movement which finds its most potent ally in what remains of agrarian discontent.

He is not a bold prophet who would venture to predict that the arena of Irish agitation will henceforth in the main be confined within the walls of Parliament. Of course this view is passionately repudiated by Mr. Parnell and his colleagues; they insist that the national movement has as deep an influence over the minds of Irishmen as in the days of Emmett and Wolfe Tone. It may be that it has, but Irish nationalism never produced such widespread, lasting, and violent agitation as did the birth of the Land League in the summer of 1879. “The Fenians,' said John Devoy, one of the founders of the Land League, in the autumn of 1879, “saw only a green flag, but the men of to-day have discovered there is such a thing as the land.'

That the Home Rule movement will eventually triumph few can doubt, even if it depended upon nothing more than eighty-five Irish members. For the present there is an armed truce within the walls of Parliament. Mr. Parnell accepts the assurances of the Liberal party; he puts his followers on their best behaviour; he is content to await the result of the general election, but if that election fail to result in favour of Home Rule the old tactics of obstruction will be resumed. As was boasted of the past, as is threatened of the future, Parliamentary government will be rendered ineffectual and ridiculous. The only alternative to Home Rule under such conditions would be the reduction of the kingdom of Ireland to the status of a Crown colony. None but the wildest Unionist conceives that this is within the range of practical politics. Therefore for the success of Home Rule we must in the main look to the sense of weariness and hopelessness of the English people.

If, therefore, Home Rule fail to secure the speedy return of the Liberal party to power, in what direction are we to look? Perhaps, indeed, to the spell of that great name which kindles popular enthusiasm as no other since the days when England was enthralled by the generous patriotism and glowing eloquence of that 'trumpet of sedition,' as George the Second quaintly termed the great commoner;' but it is not, to say the least, a satisfactory position that the success of a cause should be dependent upon the glamour that surrounds a statesman.

Apart, then, from the powerful personality of Mr. Gladstone, the exclusion of the Liberal party from power seems likely to be indefinitely prolonged-unless, indeed, the leaders adequately recognise the transformation of the old into the new Liberalism, and adapt their policy to the requirements of the people.

It may be said that at the Birmingham Conference last year a declaration of policy was made that met with the unanimous approval of the assembled delegates, who were representative of the various Liberal associations throughout the country. To this suggestion it may effectively be retorted that the policy so declared was not the outcome of the deliberations of that conference, or of any other assembly of Liberals of a representative character, but was apparently the offspring of the official or Parliamentary committee that meets in Parliament Street, Westminster; secondly, that policy was not-nor, indeed, permitted to be—debated, the resolutions being moved and spoken to by speakers selected by the same agency, and amendments practically excluded. In short, the resolutions of that conference meant little, if any, more than that the reforms suggested were in themselves acceptable, but were no indication that the conference which may or may not have been thoroughly representative of Liberal opinion-accepted that policy as a complete, or by any means an adequate, programme of political and social reform.

Welsh disestablishment, taxation of ground rents, abolition of primogeniture and entail are all valuable reforms, but are not calculated to kindle the enthusiasm of English artisans and labourers. Vague generalities as to land law reform and improved sanitation are common to both parties, and convey little meaning to those who are seeking solution of the great problem how to live.

The masses of this country—the agricultural labourer, with his scanty wage and laborious life; the miner, in darkness and danger hewing out his brief existence; the factory hand, sacrificing his manhood in the reeking mill-each and all feel that they have wants, and for those wants there is to be found a possible satisfaction ; each and all of them know that the life for them and for the children around their knees' promises to be a joyless and unlovely pilgrimage. It is true they are as yet inarticulate ; but with the statesman rests the responsibility to devise and formulate those reforms by which, without violence to persons or shock to the principles of public morality, there may be compassed for our people a wider diffusion of physical comfort, and thus a loftier standard of national morality. This is the new Liberalism.

It may be said that this is tantamount to inviting the leaders of the Liberal party to embark upon projects of a socialistic character. It is rarely worth while contending about terminology; but, with our system of land-ownership almost alone among European nations unreformed; with our mineral wealth in rapid process of exhaustion, the monopoly of private owners with vast resources diverted from the charitable uses to which they were destined and appropriated to narrow or sordid purposes; with the insanitary condition of our urban population and its concomitants of vice, disease, and poverty; with the heavy burthen of taxation pressing with unequal weight upon the poorer classes—there is surely a wide field for legislative activity, without violating the traditions of English statecraft.

When the English electorate perceive that an honest and tem

[ocr errors]

perate effort is being made to deal with these, or some of these, grievances, then, but not until then, they will rally to that party or that statesman who may first show the way; but it is contrary to the teaching of history, it demands too much from human nature, that the stolid Saxon should follow with Celtic ardour the green flag of Home Rule, even although its bearer be the most illustrious statesman of the age.



There was an atmosphere in itself a spell, and which, after all, has more to do with human happiness than all the accidents of fortune, and all the arts of government.—Lord Beaconsfield.

Of all the general conditions which influence the well-being of man, there is none which is so important as the condition of the atmosphere which surrounds him; by no other channel is he so open to attack, to no other attack is he so incapable of adequate defence.

Our worst aërial enemies are silent, unseen, inexorable. I had almost said they are no respecters of persons, but if I were to say so I should be in danger of conveying a false impression ; for it is indeed most remarkable how insensible some persons are to these subtle influences. And it is greatly owing to this fact that mankind remained so long in ignorance of the nature of these atmospheric dangers. Men were mystified by what they saw, and it seemed to them as though a mysterious intelligent agency, a malign spirit, hovered over them, unseen, but active, touching, with baneful finger, certain predestined victims.

But in the production of many vital phenomena the contributing causes are multiple and complex, and the absence of one of these may render the others inoperative.

In order that seed may germinate, an appropriate soil and other conditions are needed. It is to the presence, or absence, of these contributing causes, in varying degrees in different persons, that we justly refer the extraordinary sensitiveness, or the equally extraordinary want of sensitiveness, of various persons to the influence of morbid atmospheric agencies.

But if the atmosphere surrounding us is occasionally fraught with dangers and laden with mischief, does it not also often bring with it a beneficent, health-giving influence ? For its evil effects are we not often ourselves responsible? By our ignorance, or by our indifference and carelessness, do we not often corrupt the "pure air of heaven,' and make it a danger when it should be a delight ?

Apart, however, from actual contamination with the germs of disease or terrestrial impurities, the atmosphere at different times and in different places presents varying physical states which exercise

« ForrigeFortsett »