TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE MEETING OF PARLIAMENT.
THE attitude taken both by the new Government and by the Leader of the Opposition on Thursday was, on the whole, fairly satisfactory to impartial observers. There is one element in the policy of the Government on which we shall have presently to comment, which awakens in us a good deal of alarm,—we refer to the Local Government policy promised for next year ; but with that exception, no one can deny that Lord Salisbury is taking up a line of action as firm and dignified as in these days of weak and vacillating policy we have any reasonable ground to expect. He is hopeful,—not, we think, altogether on insufficient grounds,—that after the explicit declarations of attachment to the Legislative Union made by the constituencies of Great Britain, the enforce- ment of the ordinary law in Ireland, under firm guidance, will become easier than it has been for many years back, and he is not unnaturally anxious to maintain that law if he can without asking for exceptional measures for Ireland. The mission of Sir Redvers Buller will probably succeed in putting down the exceptional outrages in Kerry, Clare, and parts of Cork and Limerick, without any new powers. And though that cannot very well affect the great evil of all,—the evil of boycotting, and, worse still, the passive submission of so large a part of the population to the mandates of the National League,—it is, of course, -just possible that under the new circumstances of the case the natural impatience which the tyranny of the League has provoked may show itself, and that by that means, without any fresh departure, the authority of the law may be restored. We are not, we confess, extremely sanguine on this head. Nor do we regard with as much confi- dence as we should like to regard, Lord Randolph Churchill's promise to come to Parliament for fresh help in case he should find the struggle to enforce law in Ireland an impossible one. Lord Randolph is, of all Parliamentary leaders, the one most likely to appreciate at their highest the annoyances of a harassing Opposition, and to estimate the duty of protecting unoffending Irishmen in the possession of their rights at the lowest. It is very easy to promise in August what improves the general effect of a speech. But it is not so easy to fulfil that promise in November, only because the Government are not so successful as they were willing to anticipate, and because they want fresh powers which could only be granted on their own confession of failure. We have no wish at all in itself for an autumn Session. We quite agree that Parlia- ment wants rest, that Ireland wants rest, and that the public mind wants rest. But then, more than all, Ireland wants rest from the National League, and we feel very little hope that it will have that rest without a more serious struggle for it than the Government seem at all anxious to enter upon. We shall hardly, we think, hear any more of that firm deter- mination to come to Parliament for larger powers which Lord Randolph promises in case of need, till next February ; and even then, unless the winter in Ireland be a very evil one, we should be much surprised if the Government ventures to put this determination in the front of the battle. They are so afraid of having the word Coercion' cast in their teeth, that they will do their best, we fear, to make their policy plausible rather than sound. However, this inference of ours may do them injustice ; or, what is rather more likely, circumstances may so far work in their favour, that they may not be severely tried. With a good harvest,—if the harvest be well secured, —with no immediate prospect of disturbing the Government's tenure of power,—with a strong hand on the Constabulary,— and with some promise of an artificial stimulus to traffic and to certain sickly industries which the Irish are not hardy enough to build up without Government aid, it is possible, no doubt, that a revolt may take place against the National League which the Government will only have to foster and protect. We only hope it may be so. We do not entertain much doubt that if events go badly,—unless, indeed, they go very badly indeed,—Lord Randolph will not find it at all convenient to interpret his promise to Parliament to come to it for fresh aid as soon as he needs it, in any very stringent or literal spirit.
As to the Commission of Inquiry into the alleged inability of certain of the tenants to pay even the judicial rents, as to the extent of combinations against the payment of rent, and as to the prevalence of the desire for the purchase of freeholds, and as to the other Commission of Inquiry into the possibility of stimulating new industries in Ireland,—we can, of course,
only say, that there is, intrinsically, no possible objection to them. Nay, we quite admit that they may bring more facts to light about which we are still ignorant. But so long as we act so feebly in Ireland on the light we have, we must say that the demand for more light is not, in our mind, the first need. We want more resolve before more light can be useful to us ; and we cannot help thinking that these Commissions furnish more excuses for post- poning the fulfilment of what we ought to do than they furnish opportunities for doing our work better. We do not cavil with the Commissions. All we ask is that the Govern- ment shall not make the Commissions an excuse for a feeble and tardy administration of existing obligations. It is quite possible that both Commissions may be of use if the Govern- ment is firm, and does not postpone needlessly its decisions on pending questions till the Commissions shall have reported. It is certain that they will be pure mischiefs if they do furnish the Government with reasons for putting off till to-morrow what should be done, and done with decision, to-day. The derisive laughter with which the Parnellite Party met the announcement of these Commissions was, of course, in great measure a party manoeuvre. But doubtless the Parnellites also saw in them what there is too much reason to fear,—signs of irresolution, evidence of a wish to buy off the hard necessity of making up official minds,—which of course they would desire to see in them. It must be the business of the Govern- ment, if they would really make their name respected in history, to disappoint these cynical hopes.
And now we come to the really positive and anxious point in the policy of the Government,—the announcement of a Local Government Bill for all three Kingdoms which shall present as far as possible the features " equality, similarity, and simultaneity " in all three Kingdoms. We do not deny at all the extreme disadvantage of withholding from Ireland, ex- cept for the most pressing reasons, what is offered to England and Scotland; bat, as Lord Carnarvon said in the House of Lords on Thursday," I have heard a great deal lately as to the value of giving identical institutions to England and Ireland. It is a very large question. But I must say it is true only up to a certain point. Ireland does not want the same institutions. Ireland cannot bear them, and to force them on her may not only be useless, but harmful." From one who has given in so strong an adhesion as Lord Carnarvon gave on June 10th last to some modified form of Home-rule, that is very impressive language, and though Lord Carnarvon might apply it in one way and we in another, it strikes us that it is applicable to this concession of powers of local self-government which the Administration are so much bent on giving on precisely equal terms, and at precisely the same time, to all three Kingdoms. We do not know, of course, what Lord Randolph Churchill contemplates. But we cannot suppress the fear that either what is to be given to England and Scotland will be very gravely curtailed for fear of giving to Ireland what would put Mr. Parnell's followers in command of the situation, or that the extension to Ireland of what has been given to England and Scotland will actually put Mr. Parnell's friends in command of the situation. In seems to us to be of very little use to refuse a Parliament to Ireland, if we are to give the Irish the means of doing as much mischief as a Parlia- ment could do, without even attenuating the desire to do that mischief. We have not often agreed with Mr. John Morley on the subject of Irish policy, but we have so far agreed with him that we have fully recognised the great danger of granting to Ireland powers of self-government in the little, while refusing powers of self-government in greater things. We must warn the Government very seriously that in their proposed policy they are in danger of conceding in the worst form what they are ostentatiously refusing to con- cede in any form. The promise of " equality, similarity, and simultaneity " in regard to local government in the Three Kingdoms fills us with dismay. It is like allowing the water to enter separately every one of the compartments of a ship built in compartments, and then boasting that you have not admitted the water into the whole ship at all. Here is the great danger of the Government. They are going to hold out vehemently against Mr. Parnell on the grand scale, but are contemplating a measure which, if they are not very careful, will give him complete possession, bit by bit, of every county and parish in Ireland. Parnellism rampant in every com- mune might, indeed, prove to be even more omnipotent than Parnellism enthroned on College Green. At all events, it is an odd way of keeping Parnellism out of College Green to install it in every commune.