22 FEBRUARY 1890, Page 13




SIR,—You have done good service by emphasising (in the Spectator of February 15th), in the light of the Commissioners' Report, the weighty question suggested by Sir H. James in his late remarkable speech at Bury, viz. :—Is there, or is there not, any good reason to suppose that if Ireland obtains Home- rule, the new Irish Legislature and Administration will be -controlled by moderate and sober-minded men ?"

A large number of well-meaning Gladstonians justify their support of Mr. Gladstone's policy by persuading themselves that once the present struggle has been ended by a Nationalist triumph, the extreme men who have led the hosts to victory will be set aside, and their places permanently occupied by leaders of moderate and reasonable type.

I have never seen suggested a scintilla of evidence to warrant such an expectation beyond the supposed analogy of -other revolutions. But the question remains, from whence amongst Irish Home-rulers is the preponderating element of moderation to come P There are in Ireland from three to three and a quarter millions of Nationalists. Of these, one million Are illiterate, and therefore dependent for political faith and guidance on what they hear from the agitator and the priest. Whatever else may be said of the merits and virtues of these victims of educational neglect, it seems to be hardly safe to hope for the appearance of intelligent and moderate leadership from their ranks. We are therefore shut up to seek for it amongst the remain- ing two or two and a quarter millions. But these are the men of whom, or of the vast majority of whom, the heroes are those politicians whose names the Commissioners have scheduled as implicated in treasonable and criminal con- spiracies of the gravest character. Is Sir H. James, therefore, not more than justified in his conclusion, that any change in the tone of the leadership of the Irish Nationalist Party will only be towards more marked degrees of violence and in- tolerance.

It has always passed my comprehension how men calling themselves Liberals, and claiming to be the exclusive in- heritors of Liberal traditions, could have brought themselves to propose or defend such a reactionary measure as the transfer of the control of the civil interests of one and a half millions of Irish loyalists (half of whom are scattered in hopeless minorities outside North-East Ulster), from the Imperial Par- liament of the realm to a Dublin Parliament dominated by an intolerant local majority. In view of the Commissioners' description of the principles and aims of the leaders of that majority, the proposal is not merely reactionary; it is criminal.