MR. PARNELL'S PROGRAMME.
MR. PARNELL is becoming More satisfied with his own position, or, in other words, he thinks that his chances of leading the unbroken Home-rule Party are becoming brighter. We judge this not so much from his reception in most parts of Ireland—though it is becoming clear that the population of the cities and a large section of the peasantry are strongly in his favour--but from a certain change in his own demeanour. He has lost his air of desperation, he has put off or suppressed the bravo, and he speaks once more as a leader who at all events intends the world to accept him as a statesman. The difference in the tone of his speeches at Kilkenny and at Tralee is as great as the difference between Professor Stuart and, say, Mr. Whitbread. At Kilkenny, his only ideas were to praise himself as the heaven-appointed leader, to appeal to Irish gratitude, and to blackguard his oppo- nents—our readers must pardon the word, for there really is no other—and he seemed as empty of plan or purpose as the most harebrained of the seceders. He was consumed, apparently, with rage, and, with his back to the wall, was intent only on killing all who came within reach of his sword, or rather, bludgeon. At Tralee, he was comparatively quiet, hurled few nick- names about, though he did describe Mr. McCarthy's men as "these trembling or vacillating politicians," and laid before his countrymen what is really a definite and may prove an attractive programme. It is to settle the agrarian question, so far as regards the tenants, who, be it re- membered, are the large majority, by strongly supporting, and if possible greatly enlarging, Mr. Balfour's Land- purchase Bill ; to soothe the labourers by securing for each of them an allotment and a cottage, to be held under an elective local authority ; and then, by a steady and merci- less use of the eighty-six votes, reduced once more to dis- cipline under his leadership, to compel the English Liberals, Nonconformists and all, to choose between re-cementing the alliance with him on the basis of a bigger Home-rule Bill —a Colonial Bill, in fact—or submitting to a permanent exclusion from power. The courage and precision with which this programme is put forward and described are, in view of Mr. Parnell's recent vague and exhausted speeches, positively surprising. They recall his utterances when he was nearly leader, but before his ascendency was finally secured. He does not mince matters in the slightest degree. He knows quite well, and mentions, that the English Radicals detest the idea of buying out landlords, at all events with English money ; that the men of Mr. Healy's opinions want to refuse them all chance of " escape ;" and that reasonable Home-rulers are apprehensive lest, if the agrarian trouble is settled, Home-rule should be forgotten. He replies to them all by a calm assertion of his individual judgment. "They," he said, "do not want to have the Land question settled by a system of Land-purchase. / do. I say, settle it ; make the tenant-farmers owners of their holdings upon equitable terms, and in my judgment you will have removed one of the two great impediments to Home-rule." He knows also that if he regains his power, there must be long delays before Home-rule is granted, that Mr. Gladstone will not submit to be beaten in that fashion, that the Nonconformists will be furious, and that, in fact, Home-rule will be postponed for years ; and he boldly faces that contingency. He is young enough, he says, to fight for another fifteen years, and he will fight ; and as to the British Liberals,—" It is admitted no party can govern Ireland without coercion. That is admitted ; and do the Liberals mean to tell me they are going to turn their back on their pledges, and to attempt to govern Ireland by coercion from Westminster ? Let them try ; but before they try they have got to get into power. They tried to get into power without us in 1885, and they failed, and it was not until they failed that they became converted to Home-rule ; and if this weary old road is to be trodden again by us, we will make them tread it too." The meaning of these two utterances is patent even to the least experienced. Mr. Parnell has detected the truth which we have so long tried to enforce,—that the Irish farmers are content with the Purchase proposals ; that they do not at heart expect to get the land. for nothing ; and that, so long as they may but be freeholders, and therefore exempt from the possibility of eviction, they will shoulder even heavy burdens with complacency ; and, strong in that conviction, he defies the extremists, and risks the serious charge of being himself upon the land- lords' side. Mr. Healy may call him an Orangeman if he likes ; he knows what the tenants want and think it possible to obtain. He will vote for the Purchase Bill, and ask the Gladstonians how they like seeing their opponents in possession of a two-thirds majority. He believes they will not be able to bear it ; that the prospect of a long exclusion from power will be intolerable to them ; and that, as they condoned his offences in urging the use of boycotting as a weapon, so, if they find him indispensable, they will condone also his private breaches of morality. They have broken a good many Commandments at his bidding, and they shall break one more. lie will, in short, assist the Tories to secure .a freehold tenure, and compel the Liberals to assist him in securing Colonial Home-rule.
It is a definite programme, and a statesmanlike one, if we misdescribe statesmanship as the capacity for securing political ends ; and we can easily imagine that Mr. Parnell does not fully perceive where its weak points are. He probably believes that, although the Catholic Church will not, indeed cannot, again support him openly, it will, in the event of the people declaring in his favour, ostensibly and for a short period abstain from politics, as it has done on several occasions in America, and in particular when the fight raged around the lawfulness of slavery. He remembers the original reluctance of that Church to adopt him, and how it was overcome ; he recalls his triumph in the sharp struggle with the Papacy, when Leo XIII. made one of the few mistakes of his Pontificate ; and he thinks, therefore, that if he can only induce the laity to re-elect him, the opposition of the clergy will not matter. It is with this object that he describes and exaggerates Protestant feeling as one of the obstacles to Home-rule, and with sinister adroitness calls upon all who wish him well, to show by disregarding the opinion of the priesthood that Protestants need not stand in fear of clerical dictation. That is the cleverest paragraph in his Tralee speech, and for aught we know, the speaker's view of the situation in this respect may prove to be correct. The attitude of Irish Catholics towards their Church is, we confess, to us an almost insoluble perplexity. They believe and tremble, but they do not obey. On a dozen occasions recently they have disregarded the clearest teaching, and that upon questions which they themselves acknowledge to be clearly questions of morals, and therefore within the Church's province ; and yet every now and then they will affirm, as they did at Kilkenny, that the only safe guidance is that of the Episcopate, which, again, they permanently regard with a certain reverence and affection. Their decision this time will probably be influenced by their opinions about Purchase, which in- volves, as they think, their whole future ; and Mr. Parnell, with that weapon in his hand, may have judged their actions rightly. If so, he will have little difficulty in Ireland, and may yet, in spite of all that has passed, re- appear as the elected chief of the whole Irish Party, entitled, as he has this week coolly claimed to be entitled, to re- quest their attendance in the House when Parliamentary business begins. It is only with his English opponents that he has then to reckon, and here he may be guilty of a fatal mistake. lie has never quite comprehended the English people, a fact patent in his occasional resort to veiled threats, and his strange and cynical admission that he had deliberately deceived the House of Commons ; and he does not understand how hard they are to drive when their moral sense inclines them to go the other way. He probably thinks, as he invariably says, that as regards the verdict in the Divorce Court, they are a pack of hypocrites who will not only give up their principles under adequate pressure, but have no principles to give up. He believes that the prospect of expulsion from power will be too great a strain on their morality, and forgets entirely that they are not fanatic Home-rulers, and will find it far easier to give Home-rule to the winds, or, as they would put it, to postpone Home-rule to happier times, than to stretch their consciences. Dis- burdened of Home-rule, the Liberals will be just where they have always been, with this difference, that to secure strong government they must either win large majorities, or must agree with their opponents that the Home-rule vote must not be counted as a reason for resignation, the plan already adopted in France, where Ministers say they will only go when the majority of Republican Deputies is against them. Mr. Parnell despises his opponents too much, and may be betrayed, as men so often are, 13y his own scorn ; but this, at all events, is his programme, and by the clear- ness and audacity with which he puts it forth, we may measure the degree to which his own hopes have revived. There is a bravo in his skin, but he manifests himself in that character only when he is near despair. When things look fairly well, he can think clearly, and reveal his pur- poses beyond the possibility of mistake ; can pardon his less hated enemies, taking Mr. O'Brien, for example, to his bosom in patronising friendship; and can suffer the crowd to hiss his hated enemies, like Mr. Healy, without caring to increase their antipathy even by a word. Once reseated in his chair of authority, he will probably only smile contempt even for Sir William Harcourt, to whom he promised at Tralee, " if fighting should ever begin," such a flagellation.