15 MAY 1886, Page 7


SIR HENRY JAMES at least did not make his objections to the Irish Government Bill bear_chiefly on detail. He pressed with singular and singularly vivid force the two main features of the Bill,—(l), that it either givex Ireland the power of making laws which our British Parliament cannot repeal, however profoundly it may disapprove them, or sanctions a see-saw between the Irish and British Legislatures of the most intolerably irritating kind ; and (2), that it excludes Ireland completely from that external independence which is com- monly coveted as the most fascinating of the rights of nations, and that it cannot, therefore, be even reasonably expected to provide anything of the nature of a final solution of the diffi- culty. On both points Sir Henry James dilated with even more than his usual power. When he pointed out that the unity of a Kingdom depends not on the identity of the laws manufactured,—the unity, that is, of the manufactured article,—but on the identity of the manufacturing power, and illustrated his case by saying that if we should have, as we may have, a separate law for the Sunday opening of places of enter- tainment in every separate county of Great Britain, we should still have the same Parliamentary source and authority for all those different laws, he made the House appreciate keenly the difference between the national unity which we have now, and the national duality which this Bill,—if, at least, it answers its purpose,—must introduce. As it is, Parliament can adapt the laws which govern Ireland to the needs of Ireland, and, indeed, has long entered earnestly on the task of attempting so to adapt them. Parliament well knows that if the manu- facturers of laws do their duty, the Irish laws,—the articles manufactured by Parliament intended for consumption in Ireland,—ought not to be identical with the English or Scotch laws. But to deprive the Parliament at Westminster of all power to redress the injuries of Irishmen, even when it perceives them to be injuries,—to delegate that power absolutely to a body for whose justice and sagacity the Parliament at Westminster can take no guarantee,—is a step so revolutionary, that it is impossible even to-conceive the unity of the Kingdom in any true sense surviving it. How can that Kingdom be really one in which flagrant injustice done in one part of it cannot even be effectually censured, much less redressed, in another part ? Sir Henry James referred only to .a case in which the Westminster Parliament might conceivably be invited to redress the confiscation of a Galway estate belonging to the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Mitchell Henry), and asked how that could in any sense be a united Kingdom in which it would be impossible for the Parliament of Westminster to deal effectually with a grave act of injustice of that kind committed in Ireland. But he might equally well have put the case the other way. Suppose a British Parliament, actuated by feelings such as have lately predominated in 'France, to propose an act of grave injustice to Roman Catholic educational institutions in England, to suppress Stonyhurst or Oscott, or to break up Cardinal Newman's Oratory at Birmingham, Ireland, of course, -would be on fire from end to end at such a policy.

Yet there would be no Constitutional mode at all in which

the political feeling of Ireland, could help the Roman Catholic interests thus insulted in England. Is it possible to assert that there is any substantial " unity " at all between two States, neither of which could interfere constitutionally to preserve the other from committing injustice ? Unquestionably, Sir Henry James established his point that either the " unity " of the two Kingdoms would be extinguished with the passing of this Bill, or that if a power is really to be retained at West- minster to repeal Acts of the Irish Legislature, Ireland would be cheated of what she demands, and a thousand new sources of anger would be introduced. Besides, even in that case there would be no true unity, as even in that case Irishmen would have no political power whatever to prevent or remedy injustice to their compatriots or co-religionists in Great Britain. Sir Henry James's demonstration that the proposed measure abso- lutely breaks to pieces the unity of the United Kingdom, seems

'to us irrefragable.

But his second great point was almost as important, and has been far less commonly dwelt upon. Let Irishmen say -what they will, let them believe what they will in their ,•eagerness for autonomy, certainly nothing is more plain than that the aspirations of their friends and party have hitherto been directed to something much beyond the present concession of local antomony on local matters. They have been directed, as Sir Henry James justly said, to the making of a nation. So clear is this, that

Mr. Parnell interrupted Sir Henry to assert that the nation does not want making, that it is already made. Yes ; but nothing is clearer than that its being already made is not enough for Mr. Parnell and his friends. They want to assert that nationality, to feel it, to display it in acts, to handle it, to air it before the world, to enjoy it. Well, does this proposal give them the opportunity of doing so ? To a certain very limited extent, no doubt it does, but only so far that the appetite will assuredly grow by what it feeds on. Very soon the aspirations of the true Nationalists of other days will reappear. They will want to figure as a nation not only at home, but abroad. They will fret at having no foreign policy of their own, no Army and Navy of their own, no European status of their own, no glory of their own. This always was at the heart of the Repeal movement, and it is at the heart of the Nationalists' movement still, though in the eagerness to get the first great step, no doubt many of the Nationalist leaders honestly suppose that what Mr. Gladstone offers would content them. We do not in the least believe that to be possible. Mr. Parnell has himself recorded the absolute inability of any Irish leader to place limits to the career of the Irish nation in its longing for an independent life. He is quite right. Neither he nor any one can answer for the future, especially in the case of a nation which so rapidly exchanges the attitude of satisfaction at what it has achieved for dissatisfaction at what it has not achieved. The simple truth of the matter is that Mr. Gladstone, in ministering to the eager desire of Ireland for a separate life, is feeding the very passion which must drive her into a renewal of the recent agitation for a further stage of national development, at some very early day indeed, if this stage should be secured. We gladly believe that when the desire for Separation is denied by the Irish leaders of to-day, they are speaking quite frankly and honestly. But they cannot answer to-day for what even they themselves may feel to-morrow, and still less can they answer for what their sons and grandsons will feel on a much more distant to-morrow. Nor is it human nature to rest satisfied with gaining but one step in any direction in which it is obvious that there is far more satisfaction to be gained of exactly the same kind to that obtained already, by the simple plan of renewing the efforts already made. It seems to us, we confess, simply idle to hope that if we grant Ireland a separate Legislature for home affairs, she will not develop almost immediately a desire to have a national policy of her own in other affairs also, and will not take the necessary steps to gratify that passion.

In our belief, it would have been wise to do all in our power to gratify Irish national feeling in any direction in which Scotch national feeling, or Welsh national feeling, or English national feeling is at present gratified,—that is, by permitting and encouraging all the pride of race and language and history which so naturally attach to distinct traditions. But we were led, we contend, on a dangerous and misleading path, when it was attempted to gratify the desire for a separate political embodiment of Irish national pride. That is a path which must lead either to complete Separation, or else to a system of Federation which will involve the greatest and most dangerous revolution in our Constitution and history of which we have any record since the time of the Norman Conquest.