MR. GLADSTONE ON IRISH POLICY.
LIME diversity of the elements which go to make up that• • strange conglomerate the British Empire has long been a common-place with historical and political writers. It is
and with much truth, that the individuality which Mr. Mill tells us is one of the essentials of social well-being can exist nowhere in such vigour as in these kingdoms, where so many races and religions have in turn borne sway, and where Celt and Saxon, Protestant and Catholic, still dwell side by side. But while we rejoice in this acknowledged diversity of national character, as a nation we refuse, illogically enough, to accept its most obvious consequences. Thanks to the Em- pire which has grown around us, till it threatens to crush us with its unwieldy weight, we are called upon to deal, as governors, with almost every variety of the human species, and with all we fall into the same blunder. With a conser- vatism the more blinded because we have professed LiberaL ism all the time, we have consistently ignored the possi- bility that the political and social scheme which has worked so well in England may be less suitable to the Celt or the Hindu. More than this, we have endeavoured to force every community with which we have come in contact as rulers into the Anglo-Saxon type ; we have thereby checked all natural growth and spontaneity of culture ; and the result, however we look at it, has been ignominious failure to do anything except sit calmly at the top. An unreasoning attachment to English institutions and a desire to thrust them upon other people as absolutely the best, has involved us from time to time in very serious difficulties, and nowhere more conspicu- ously than in Ireland. a.
Irish politicians have been frequently and bitterly re- proached with their narrowness of view, their eagerness upon all questions peculiarly Irish, and their apathy upon questions of Imperial moment. This defect is an irresistible consequence of the " Anglo-Saxondom's idee " which we have alluded to above. When the English Legislature refuses its sympathy with measures which are really desired by the Irish people, because these measures do not square with our English " per- fection of reason," it behoves the representatives of Ireland to be the more zealous in agitating for such changes, and the temptation to do nothing else too often prevails. Hence has ensued a very deplorable state of things, a complete separation of interests between England and Ireland, which has been more detrimental to the best interests of both countries than foreign or domestic war, than pestilence or famine. The coining session of. Parliament promises to be the most event- ful for Ireland of any since 1829. We trust that in any reforms which may be attempted, especial care will be taken to avoid any repetition of this fault of trying to cast distinct communities in the English mould. We have good hope that this will be the case, for at the very commencement of the session the foremost statesman of the time has briefly yet clearly pointed out the true policy. The debate upon the O'Donoghue's amendment to the Address was in many respects remarkable. The amendment was in itself a fair one, but its form seemed to give a mitigated approbation to Fenianism, and some expressions of its supporters were particularly injudicious. The grave and statesmanlike reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer really conceded the impor- tant portion of the motion, but it did more. It desig- nated a line of conduct which, if pursued honestly, will effectually heal many of the evils which perplex our states- men. There are, says Mr. Gladstone, two kinds of ques- tions which engage the attention of the Government and Legislature of the British nation. Of the one class are those which equally affect all the component parts of the Empire, and which are therefore to be decided upon principles com- mon to the whole Empire ; such are questions of foreign policy, of war and peace, of commerce, such, above all, are questions of finance. To the other class belong all questions "in regard to which, in England, in Scotland, in Ireland, that interest which is English, Scotch, or Irish predominates over that which is common." It is when we proceed to deal with these latter that the chief difficulty arises. Unless we take heed to examine and consider with care the history of the particular question and feelings of the people with regard to it, unless, in fact, we place ourselves mentally in the position of the community for which we are legislating, we never can hope to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the problem. It is a curious and by no means a comforting fact, that our national tendency towards forcing our institutions upon other people has rather increased than diminished with the progress of our own political liberties. Possibly this latter circum- stance has made us prouder than ever of " our glorious con- stitution." At all events, there was a period when English • statesmen clearly perceived that what Englishmen loved and honoured might be, and was, an object of hatred and con- tempt with men. of a different race and training. Upon this principle notably England' acted towards Scotland. The Act of Union recognized and accepted certain radical differences between the two nations. Hence, and from no other cause, its success. No attempt was made to render the smaller nation an exact copy of the larger. The political scheme indeed was reduced to a stable and homogeneous whole, b.at religion and society were left to a healthy and spontaneous growth. Scotland consequently, after a few spasmodic and fruitless struggles on behalf of the Stuarts, in which, be it remembered, a large minority of the English people joined or sympathized, settled down in a steady career of prosperity. She has now developed into a wealthy and contented nation, united to England by the strongest ties, bound to her as "not like to like, but like in difference," and the political unity is the firmer for this social diversity. Such have been the results, attested. by history, of a Scotch policy resembling that which Mr. Gladstone has pointed out as the true Irish policy. In Ireland hitherto we have acted upon a principle exactly opposite, and wo have now to deal with exactly opposite results. We have sown the wind of inapplicable theories, and we are now reaping the whirlwind of social disorganization. Our land tenure, the growth under very peculiar circumstances of a Saxon nation, our State Church, a still more abnormal product, have been forced in succession upon a Celtic people, which has not unnaturally fiercely rejected them. Tearing the mistletoe from the oak, we have endeavoured to fix it among the branches of the chestnut. When our thoughtless transplantation fails, have we no other duty but to inveigh against the barrenness of the Union ? Just such as this has been our conduct towards Ireland. At one period indeed there was a hope that a better policy would prevail. Pitt encouraged Ireland to expect religious equality and a permanent settlement of the tenure, the two great objects of her desires. But the storms of the French Revolution came on, and transformed the most far- seeing of. English statesmen into a panicstricken and incapable War Minister. The Union was passed without any effort to legislate upon Irish questions ; even the Catholic claims were postponed, to be discussed under auspices far less propitious in. 1829. After the Reform Bill, again, a golden opportunity offered itself to the Liberal party. The Irish members, led by O'Connell, were willing to adopt Liberalism as their creed, pro- vided Irish questions were fairly dealt with. Disaffection would almost have ceased to exist had this compact been observed, for Catholic Ireland would have followed as one man the policy of her great Tribune. That the compact was not observed, that O'Connell quitted the Liberal ranks and flung himself into the fatal agitation for repeal,—one of the greatest misfortunes which has befallen the reforming cause in the present century,—is due chiefly to the indiscreet violence of one who was at that time a Whig statesman—the present Earl of Derby. " Stanley's sarcasm " effected more than its immediate object ; it drove O'Connell from the Whig alliance, and delayed by thirty years at least the settlement of Irish questions. The Repeal agitation was fruitful of evil, of various and indeed opposite kinds. It seated Ultramontanism firmly in the hearts of the people, and it bred a discontent of English rule which, long since rejecting the half-measures of the Repealers, has become a cry for national independence. This latter element has furnished the material for the insur- rectionary movements of 1848 and of the present year, which differ, however, in this, that "Young Irelandism" in 1818 took its ideas and form from the Socialist Republicanism of France,, while Fenianism rather essays to mimic American institutions. But beside these sad fruits of private indiscretion, there is another not less obvious and even more embarrassing. Nothing cripples so effectually the energies of our Legislature as the apathy of a large portion of the Irish members upon any but Irish questions. They are neither Conservatives nor Liberals, and this they boast of—but Irish ; what would be the result if a similar principle were to guide the conduct of the Scotch members ?
The only effectual method of remedying this serious defect is that pointed out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, to spoil the trade of the political agitator by settling these Irish questions once for all upon an Irish basis. It behoves us, then, to inquire what are these questions, and what the basis upon wh!ch Irish feeling desires that they should be settled ? We may assume fairly that the wishes of Catholic Ireland are represented by the resolutions of the Conference held some time since in Dublin. From these -resolutions we gather that there are really but four questions upon which the public mind in Ireland is eager to be satisfied. These are the land question, the Church question, the Education question, and the question of Government aid to national improvement. First and most important is the land ques- tion. The system of land tenure, which has been so fruitful of misery in Ireland, is that system of tenancy regulated by competition which has worked fairly enough in this country. But the Irish, like all Celtic races, have a far deeper attach- ment to the soil than is to be found among a Teutonic people. They believe—and we dare not call their belief unfounded— that the cultivator has an inherent ownership in the soil which he tills. The old feeling of clanship has left this one idea, that the landlord is only a copartner with his tenants in the ownership. An eviction therefore is looked on by the Celt as a moral wrong. Hence the unhappy frequency of agrarian crime. The system of tenancy-at-will, again, which is almost universal in Ireland, prevents the expenditure of capital to any considerable amount upon a soil the best fitted perhaps in the world to profit by it. The population of the country is flowing in a steady stream across the Atlantic, and is there feeding the flame of hatred to England. What means are to be adopted to amend this condition of affairs ? The supporters of Tenant Right offer suggestions seemingly very inadequate to affect a permanent change,—the abolition of the law of distress and compulsory compensation to the tenant for beneficial improvements. These measures are just in themselves, but give so small a measure of real good that agitation for them is scarcely worth the trouble. There is but one measure that would go to the root of the evil—the measure which Pitt contemplated for Ireland—the measure by which Stein fixed the land system of Prussia on a secure basis—the measure which nearly twenty years ago Mr. Mill urged as the only means of regenerating the Irish people- " a valuation and a perpetuity." The change of the rent into a rent-charge may seem to a Parliament of landowners a revolutionary measure, but be it remembered that the choice lies only between such a peaceful revolution and a revolution of a quite other sort. " When the inhabitants of a country," wrote Mr. Mill, in 1847, "quit the country en masse because the government will not make it a place fit for them to live in, the government is judged and condemned." This is a warning of one kind ; Fenianism is a warning of another. So far of the land question. With respect to the Irish Church, again, it is the English notion of property which alone interferes with its abolition. But the rights of a corporation, after individual interests are duly considered, are clearly dif- ferent in kind from all other rights of property. If the public interest requires it, the property of a corporation may, with far more justice than in the case of any private person, be taken by the State ; but in its turn the State is bound to apply such property to purposes as nearly as possible the same as those which it was originally meant to fulfil. The Church question, we have little doubt, will be settled finally during this decade, as will also the Education question. The de- mand for Government assistance in measures of improvement is so entirely a matter of detail that we need scarcely touch upon it, though Mr. Gladstone has hinted that he intends to be liberal. In fact, if all these questions are treated,—as we have a deep conviction Mr. Gladstone will endeavour to treat them,—as Irish questions, and with a view to Irish interests and feelings, we see nothing further—we use Mr. Mill's words —" to keep apart two races perhaps the most fitted of any two in the world to be the completing counterpart of one another."