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power of England is independent of the Act, and, in the second place, the offences charged against members of Parliament and others' are offences which have nothing in the world to do with the Act of Union, but are alleged offences against the law which would undoubtedly have been held to be offences in like circumstances before the passing of that Act, though, indeed, they would probably have been dealt with in a more summary manner. If his words mean anything, they mean that British rule in Ireland is the rule of an 'alien power,' or, as he has elsewhere termed it,' a foreign Executive,' !6 and I confess that to my mind it is difficult to reconcile the use of such language with loyal allegiance to the sovereign of Great Britain and Ireland.
As a matter of fact, the Act of Union gave to Ireland much more than it took away. It advanced her, in Lord Clare's words, to the proud station of an integral and governing member of the greatest empire in the world ; ' it gave her a share (which, as events have turned out, is a larger share than she is entitled to) in the management of the affairs of the whole empire, and it promoted Irish representatives from the position of members of a subordinate legislature with restricted powers, into that of entire equality with the other members of the Imperial Parliament. It is perfectly trueand deeply to be regretted—that Catholic emancipation was denied to Ireland for twenty-nine years after the Union. But the causes which brought this about would have equally existed if the Act of Union had not passed, and it is absurd to argue that because these causes prevented emancipation after the Union, and because those who carried the measure were disappointed in their hopes that it would bring about this act of justice at an earlier period, therefore the Union is to be condemned, and it is to be assumed that the Irish Protestant Parliament would have been able and willing to overcome prejudices which so long prevailed in the Parliament of Great Britain, and that such a course would have received the necessary sanction of the Crown. Neither is it fair to overlook the fact that a very large body of the Catholics in Ireland were warm supporters of the Union. It is a needless insult, alike to the Catholics and to the British Government, to speak of the anticipations of emancipation dangled before the eyes of the people by the men who afterwards pleaded, and who must have known beforehand, the rooted determination of George the Third to grant nothing of the kind.'17
As regards the Government, the evidence is certainly against the previous knowledge so readily assumed by Mr. Gladstone, whilst it was only natural that the Catholics should have hailed the prospect of getting rid of the Parliament which was the standing representation of the hated Protestant ascendency from which they had endured so much. 16 Speech to an Irish deputation at Hawarden, 1886. 17 Plain Speaking, p. 11.
Mr. Gladstone tells us that the Act of Union has never received such an assent of the community as is necessary in order to invest it with moral authority.' And here arises a question with regard to Mr. Gladstone's proposition that the people of Ireland are a community. Their title,' he tells us, stood, not only upon the witness of ages, but on the Act of the British Parliament in 1783.' As no Act of Parliament could create a community, I am a little doubtful of Mr. Gladstone's meaning, and I am very anxious not to misrepresent it. The Act of 1783 gave Ireland an independent Parliament, subject to the proviso that any Act which that Parliament might pass required the assent of the Sovereign under the Great Seal of England, and that no Parliament could be held without licence under the Great Seal of Great Britain. This Parliament, moreover, had no power over the executive administration. So far as the Parliament thus established could be said to represent the Irish community, it ceased in law to exist when the same Parliament which created it decreed its cessation with its own concurrence. I own that I cannot see how the position of the people of Ireland as a community' was affected by the creation
6 or cessation of this Parliament. The witness of ages' is rather an ambiguous phrase; but if it is called in support of the theory of Ireland having ever had a national'and independent Parliament of her own, I can only say that there is overwhelming proof that, previously to 1783, she never possessed any Parliament save that which represented British rule and the interests of British settlers. But as regards the community, apart from the Parliament, the argument, so far as the passing of the Union is concerned, stands thus. The community was very largely Catholic; the Catholics were, beyond all doubt, divided upon the question, and large numbers of them supporters of the Union; and it is not enough to say that many of these supporters were afterwards dissatisfied because the recognition of their just claims was delayed.
But the truth must not be conceded that the demand which Mr. Gladstone makes for Ireland to-day-or rather for that portion of Ireland which he has specially taken under his protection—is one which recognises in Ireland not only a community, but a nation, with equal national rights and claims to those of the people of England and Scotland. I desire to speak with the greatest respect of the Irish people. Their wit, their courage, their eloquence, the fidelity with which they have adhered to their old religion, in spite of much temptation to desert it—these are only some of the characteristics which are admirable in the Irish race. But historical truth compels the observation that, as Sir John Davies, writing in 1612, tells us that the descendants of English colonists even at that time outnumbered the ancient natives, so in 1889 this is still more true, and the intermixture of races bas been such that the inhabitants
of Ireland cannot really claim a separate nationality from ourselves.
Let us look at the point to which Mr. Gladstone would bring us. If the Irish community' or nation' has never given a moral assent to the Act of Union,' if the ninety years during which it has existed are to count for nothing, and if the legitimate consequence is that the community' has a right to regard that Act as one without moral authority,' what is our position as regards the Irish Parliament ?
Mr. Gladstone would hardly seek to restore that Parliament as it existed at the time of its abolition. This would, of course, be impossible, and indeed he tells us that the eighty-five Nationalist members of Parliament have frankly agreed, since 1886, to accept the Act of Union on condition of its being modified by the erection of a statutory Parliament for the transaction of the internal affairs of Ireland.'18 Then let us see at what point we are landed. It will not do to say that you are to erect' a statutory Parliament in Dublin because there is such a pressure of work upon the Imperial Parliament in London that Irish business is neglected or badly done, although this is a strong argument for an extension of local government, and doubtless must be dealt with. We are to give Ireland this Parliament because the Irish community' is supposed to condemn the manner and matter of the Act of Union, and eightyfive 'Nationalist’ members are willing to accept this modification or compromise. But what right have those members or anybody else to compromise a national right? If it is as a community—or nation —that Ireland demands a separate Parliament, and if that demand is based upon her right to take her place among the nations of the world' (which has hitherto been the constant contention of the
Nationalist leaders'), then undoubtedly the concession made upon such grounds must carry us much further. In this point of view we have no right to make conditions. The national Parliament of Ireland must be as free and unrestricted as that of Great Britain, and every argument which Mr. Gladstone uses to justify the resistance of Irishmen to the Act of Union would be employed with equal force to justify the further claim for complete equality between the Parliaments. Would such equality be compatible with the safety and integrity of the Empire ?
Writing to the Duke of Portland in January 1799, Lord Cornwallis says, “The question of union was brought forward upon the principle that two independent legislatures had a tendency to separate, that the independent legislatures of Ireland and England had shown that tendency, and that the effects of it were felt in divisions at home and attempts of invasion from abroad.' 19 The real simple truth is that the experiment of separate Parliaments was 18 Plain Speaking, p. 11.
19 Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 54.
tried from 1783 to 1800 and signally failed. Mr. Gladstone attempts to minimise the importance of the differences between the Parliaments of London and Dublin, and indeed seems to imply that the British and not the Irish Parliament was to blame in two of the most important of these. This was not the opinion of the late Sir Robert Peel, who, in his great speech in 1834, pointed out that within six years from the establishment of what is called the independence of the Irish Parliament, the foreign relations of the two countries, the commercial intercourse of the two countries, the sovereign exercise of authority in the two countries, were the subjects of litigation and dispute,' and emphatically declared that the history of Ireland herself, between the year 1782 and the period of the Union, is pregnant with evidence fatal to the re-establishment of the system under which her affairs were then administered-conclusive as to the fact, that under such a system the connection between the two countries is in perpetual danger.' 20 And yet be it remembered that the Irish Parliament which existed between 1782 and 1800 was a Parliament principally returned by men who were supposed to be favourable to British interests and whose representatives belonged to the dominant religion. The Parliament which Mr. Gladstone would create would of course be of a very different character. Religious differences might, and it may be hoped, would, not interfere with the work of legislation; but, apart from this question altogether, let any man ask himself whether the opinions expressed and votes given at Westminster by the members of the so-called “Irish Party' are such as to render it in any way probable that their legislation would be such as could be endorsed and supported by the Parliament of Great Britain. Judging only from the proceedings of the few last years in the House of Commons, and taking into account the not inconsiderable portion of Irishmen who deprecate the prospect of being placed in the hands of a socalled “Nationalist’ Parliament, it is hardly possible to doubt that the Imperial Parliament would very soon be called upon to interfere with its statutory rival, and the difficulty of such interference would be considerable if the position of the latter had been recognised as based upon 'national rights,' and the 'moral support' of the Irish community' could be invoked against the alien power' of Great Britain. On the other hand, of what has Ireland to complain in her present position ? Has her influence been smaller than her position has warranted during the last sixty years ? For a considerable period (especially between 1835–41) the Irish members held the balance of power, and Lord Melbourne's Government depended for its existence upon the support of Mr. O'Connell. In still later times, the value of the support of Irish members has been recognised by both political parties, although until a recent period both have united in the patriotic refusal to grant Irish demands which
20 Speech of Sir R. Peel in the House of Commons on the 25th of April, 1834.
appeared inconsistent with the general interests of the Empire. Has
Mr. Gladstone must be admitted to stand on strong ground when
We are told, however, by Mr. Gladstone that in consenting to a statutory Parliament' the Irishman foregoes his claim for the re-establishment of his imperial independence by the repeal of the Union, and he renounces his title to the use of any other than Parliamentary methods for obtaining the limited conception of Home Rule, although if the Act of Union is void of moral authority he would be justified in employing against it any methods whatever not in themVOL. XXVI.No. 150.