MR. GLADSTONE'S SPEECH OF TUESDAY.
DR G B. CLARK, who on Tuesday proposed Home- rule for Scotland, did not make a good speech, even from his own ultra-parochial point of view ; but he let fall incidentally a most happy expression which explains, we think, much of the tendency of the moment in Ireland, as well as Scotland and Wales, towards wild Federal schemes. " I want," said the Member for Caithness, with an ex- quisite simplicity, " to have all the benefits of the Union without any of its disadvantages." Is not that what we all want in every relation of life, and all fail to obtain, from the loftiest philanthropist down to that hero of the American humorist who wished " to be a boy again, and be a father too"? A latent wish for an impossible perfection, a vague discontent with evils as inevitable as occasional fogs in London, a thirst for an Utopia which we shall never reach, is at the bottom of half the schemes of the moment, when, under an impulse which now and then seizes us all, men are over-conscious of the drawbacks to their privileges, and long for a quiet country-side all brimming with life ; for great cities which shall not be overcrowded ; for Parliaments which shall represent all, yet not be overworked; for Churches which shall always be free, yet never divided ; for water, in short, pure, plentiful, and cheap, yet without its quality of wetness. We share most cordially in Dr. Clank's aspirations, and wish we unhappy English, who just now have few rights and no favours, could have "all the advantages of Union and none of its disadvantages "- imagine the luxury of a Session with no Irish questions, and no Dr. Clark !—but we shall not obtain that wish any more than we shall obtain a House of Commons without visionaries within its walls, and in that certainty we prefer to discuss propositions more nearly approaching to the practical.
The interest of the debate of Tuesday does not consist in the speeches either of the mover or seconder of the pro- posal for Scotch Home-rule, Mr. Hunter being as discur- sive as Dr. Clark was parochial, but in Mr. Gladstone's declaration of opinion, and Mr. Balfour's reply. The Liberal leader has never approached so near to a general assent to Federalism. While opposing the motion as inopportune, and refusing to overshadow all other Scotch reforms by such a broad proposal as immediate Home-rule, Mr. Gladstone laid down with a definiteness which admits of no mistake, a principle leading directly to a Federal Constitution as the proximate ideal. He asserted in the strongest language the right of representatives to make any demand they pleased. So soon, he said, as Scot- land makes a deliberate demand for Home-rule, England cannot look her in the face and deny her request. " I hold that Scotland and Ireland are precisely equal in the face of England with respect to their moral and political right to urge on the Imperial Parliament such claims as they may consider arise out of the interests and demands of those respective countries. They are precisely equal in this right, so that if I am to supjfose the case in which Scotland unanimously, or by a clearly preponderating voice, were to make this demand, I have the strongest con- viction that if it were made in the manner I have described as the clear and deliberate declaration of Scottish opinion, Parliament would accede to it. It is quite true that the country in 1886 denied that right on the part of Ireland, and the Parliament elected in 1886, whatever the opinion of the country may now be—a subject into which I shall not now enter—still continues to deny the claim of Ireland. But a similar claim coming from Scotland never would be denied." It is hardly possible for words to be clearer. Mr. Gladstone would grant Home-rule on the demand of Scotland as matter of right, and without reference to English opposition, or, so far as we can see, to any results—one, indeed, excepted—which might follow from so vast a change. The demand of itself has an inherent validity, and cannot be rightfully rejected. He does, indeed, premise that the demand shall not impair " the unity of the Empire or the authority of the Imperial Parlia- ment ;" but as we know that he has himself proposed to give Ireland a separate Parliament and a separate Execu- tive, that reserve is at most only a proviso against the avowed dismemberment of the United Kingdom. We do not ourselves perceive how the reserve can be defended, for if it is the right of Scotland to govern herself independently in local affairs, it is also her right to govern herself inde- pendently in those affairs, such as war, commerce, and taxa- tion, which involve local consequences ; but accepting Mr. Gladstone's theory, it points directly to Federalism as the substitute for Unity. There can be no reason, except her weakness, for refusing to Wales what is granted to Scotland, or for denying to any part of England, say, for example, London or East Anglia, if it desires it, what is granted to other sections of the United Kingdom. The only possible outcome of that theory, if partition is rejected, is a Federal Constitution ; and it is to that vast change, involving a com- plete melting down and recasting of our entire national life, that the concession of Home-rule to Ireland directly leads. This is what Unionists have always affirmed, and this is what Mr. Gladstone now openly admits. His only reason for not granting Home-rule to Scotland—that is, a Parliament of her own and an Executive responsible to that Parliament—is that the majority of her people have not yet made the demand. When they do, it must be granted, without reference to the opinions of the other Kingdoms whose safety and prosperity and moral respon- sibility must be so directly involved. The part is to dispose of its own destiny and of much of the destiny of the whole, without the whole having any right to interpose its veto. England has no right, if we understand Mr. Gladstone's thought, even to defend the Act of Union as a contract or a treaty, but must at once submit, however unwillingly, to its radical modification at the demand of the weaker party. Each of the three Kingdoms at the least has a right to the exclusive control of its own affairs, and if England chooses to enact that no Irishman or Scotchman shall reside or hold office in England, she will be entirely within her right.
It is well that the country should understand from the lips of the Liberal leader himself the consequences which may flow from the grant of Home-rule. Englishmen are too apt to think of that measure as if it stood by itself, and as if the principle once conceded, they would lose nothing except a right to continue an attempt, the attempt to legislate for Ireland, in which they do not as yet con- gratulate themselves upon their past success. It is good for them to see that if they concede self-government to Ireland for Mr. Gladstone's reasons, they must also con- cede it to Scotland and Wales, and, indeed, to any section of the three Kingdoms which may be keenly desirous of managing for itself. We have, however, argued that so often, that we would rather ask, as practical politicians, whether there is any danger of Mr. Gladstone's con- tingency,—viz., a general demand from Scotland for a separate Parliament. Mr. Hunter says there is, and that it will come up at the very next election; but Mr. Balfour says there is not, and we would fain hope and believe that he is right, and not the Member for Aberdeen. There is certainly no a priori reason for Mr. Hunter's belief. The Scotch have no wrongs to plead against the English, and do not even profess to hate them. There is no radical difference of creed to divide them, no passionate opinion about tenure, no class in Scotland maintained there in Scotch opinion as an English garrison. The English who visit Scotland go there to enrich, not to despoil her, and Englishmen neither seek nor obtain offices in Scotland. The people keep their own law—the Roman law— which they adopted for themselves, and to which they say they are attached, and no innovation to which they object is ever forced upon them by foreign votes. The dynasty is their - own dynasty, as Scotch in the origin of its claim as any family in Scotland; and as to the history of the relations between the countries, Scotchmen make it the subject of never-ending and quite pardonable exultation. If there is any humiliation on either side, it is certainly not Scotland, which ended the long struggle by seating her dynasty upon the English throne, that has been humiliated. The reason for discontent, if there is any, must be a practical one ; and to what does it amount ? That, owing entirely to the obviousness of Ireland, and the resistance of Irish Members to progress in Parliament, Scottish business is either neglected or unduly delayed. So is English business to an even greater degree, and for the same reason. Both countries are enduring for the moment a paralysis of Parliament; but it does not injure one more than the other,—indeed, it injures Scotland least, for Scotchmen are not eager for those con- stant modifications in the regular laws to which English- men are so prone. Scotchmen can wait as well as we until this tyranny be overpast ; and we find it difficult to believe that the most sensible people in Europe will, merely out of impatience at the slow progress of legis- lation, renounce a Union which, if it " terminated the freedom, terminated also the poverty" of their country, and of which Mr. Balfour as truthfully as eloquently says :—" The Union found Scotland poor, despised, and oppressed among the nations of Europe. Great as has been the progress in England since 1707, it has been abso- lutely insignificant, trivial, and contemptible compared with the improvement that Scotland has made in every- thing which makes a nation great. Are you really going to lay sacrilegious hands on institutions which work so well? I speak as a Scotsman, and I say that if I found or believed that the Union between England and Scotland had destroyed anything which is valuable or characteristic in our national life, I should feel sorely tempted to vote with the hon. Member. But it has not been so, and the whole history of Scotland proves that it has not been so. We have not been overshadowed by the larger nation. We have not had our national life crushed by the life of England. We have not suffered in any essential particular of our civilisa- tion from its being attached to the civilisation of the neighbouring country. We have, on the contrary, gained the inestimable privilege of feeling ourselves citizens of one great country, and of taking our full share in the manage- ment of this great Empire." If there is any practical ground of complaint, Parliament is ready at once to remove it, as was shown by the reception of the proposal to localise Scotch Private-Bill business ; while as to the single sentimental grievance alleged in the debate, the most accurate of living historians denies that it exists. Dr. Clark makes bitter complaint that the glory of Scotland is hidden by the use of the word " English," but Mr. Freeman complains, and truly, that under the influence of Scottish pride, the use of that grand old word is dis- appearing, and that before long our only national adjective will be the one on which Scotchmen insist, the less historic " British." We find it hard, we confess, to believe that Scotchmen are about to be moved on the most serious of all political questions by the Irish example, and intend to risk the destruction of an Empire in which they occupy the position, if not of the dominant, at least of the most successful caste. It was a keen observer as well as a graceful wit who told young Englishmen that to succeed in England, the first and most effective qualification was to be born north of the Tweed.