SINN FEIN IN AUSTRALIA. [To Tux Enrroa or THE "Sesersroa."3
Sra,—AustraTia's second refusal of conscription is due to a variety of causes which may be generally summed up as disloyalty,
ignorance, eelfiehnees, cowardice, and sentimentalism. The Roman Catholic Church threw its immense influence into the "No " scale. The universally acknowledged leader of that Church in Australia, Archbishop Mannix, was the most conspicuous figure on the anti-conscriptionist side, and for some weeks before Referen- dum-day devoted much of his time and energy to denouncing the proposals of the Government, making the while the most bitter personal attacks upon Mr. Hughes. Archbishop Mannix's utterances no doubt had the effect of consolidating the Irish vote against the " Win-the-War " Party. More than once he denounced the war as a " sordid trade war," and he often insisted that Australia had " done enough, and more than enough," for the Empire. In a community like ours, divided by the strife of parties, a body so highly organized as the Roman Catholic Church contrives to hold in its hands the balance of power, and without disguise offers itself to the highest bidder. Dr. Mania occupies a singular position in the Commonwealth. He is the idol of the Irish Roman Catholics of Australia. But he has also gathered round him large numbers of Socialists and Trade Unionists of various religions denominations. He has a very forceful per- sonality, and handles with exceptional skill the huge audiences attracted by his eloquence and boldness. Many who reprobate his violent diatribes against English " tyranny" and " bigotry " still cannot refuse to admire his courage and candour. He sig- nalized his arrival in Australia by a remarkable speech in which he claimed for his Church that it was justified in employing physical coercion in the treatment of heretics. This claim, an astounding one to make publicly in a British community in the twentieth century, was to many twhen it appeared in the Mel- bourne morning papers of October 13th, 1913) a startling revelation of the attitude of the Church of Rome towards those outside her pale. The claim was challenged at once by many even of the class that usually concerns itself little with religious controversy; but Archbishop Mannix has never swerved from his position. He would not even discuss it, and the Roman Catholic Press applauded him for refusing to allow himself "to be drawn." His openly avowed sympathy with Sinn Fein has won him the support of every disloyal faction in the community, and it is safe to say that no other man in the Commonwealth at present commands equal influence with the proletariat. To Dr. Mannix more than to any other person is due the defeat of conscription. Some prominent lay members of the Roman Catholic Church, such as Mr. Justice Heydon and Mr. Justice Duffy of the High Court of Australia, made public protest against his anti-British outbursts; but, strong in the support of the rank-and-file of his co-religlonists, he has felt himself able to treat the protests of the cultured few with indifference.
It would be most unfair to Australia to regard the whole of the " No" voters as tainted with disloyalty; but it is certainly true that that body included the whole of the Sinn Fein vote, amounting to many tens of thousands, the Socialists, the pro-Germans, the I.W.W.'s, and the shirkers. The woman vote, it is thought, favoured the "Noes." Among the less educated women the appeal was very commonly heard, " Can you dare to give a vote that will send another woman's son to his death ? "
The campaign was carried on by the " Noes " with intense vigour. It was evident that they had at their disposal abundance of money, wherever it came from. No expense was spared in advertising and organization. For example, some weeks before Referendum-day every " taxi" in Melbourne, it was found, had been secured for the day 'by the "Noes." Their pictorial posters were also more effective than anything produced on the conscrip- tionists' side. One telling appeal was made by a picture of a figure of Liberty with the legend, " I am the hope of all the world. . . . . Enslave me not. Vote No." Organized Labour generally voted " No." But there can be little doubt that the strongest factos in producing the result, which so many of us deplore, was the Roman Catholic Irish vote.—I am, Sir, &c., ALEX. Lasses.
Warden's Ledge, Trinity College, University of Melbourne, January 22nd.
[We have been compelled to reduce our correspondent's letter.— En. Spectator.]