25 JUNE 1892, Page 6


THE Duke of Devonshire, in his powerful speech at Bath on Wednesday, made one point which it is of the greatest importance for the electorate all over the King- dom to consider, not merely with care but with deep anxiety. The decision of the people will determine not only whether Ireland is to have Home-rule or not, but if it decides in the affirmative, what sort of provision is to be made for overcoming the passive resistance of the richest and sturdiest portion of Ireland, and subjecting it to the legisla- tion and administration of the Irish Government in Dublin. As the Duke puts it, it will be simply impossible to constitute a Legislature and a Government dependent on it, to make laws which are to be ignored, and to administer laws with a force so feeble, that it not only may be, but certainly will be, defied. "What sort of Government," he asked, referring to the Government which would have been established by the Bill of 1886, " is this,—a Government which is to have the power of making the law, a Govern- ment on which is to be cast the responsibility of adminis- tering the law, but a Government to which you do not give the control of a single soldier or a single armed police- man to enforce its authority ?" There is no such Government in the United States, where each State is at liberty to employ any power needful to maintain the authority of the State. And there could be no such Government in Ireland. More especially after Ulster has declared the resolve which she has declared, no statesman who proposed to give Home-rule to Ireland could possibly avoid providing in some way against the certainty that the Government will be an impotent Government, if preparation is not made for encountering and overcoming her resistance. Mr. Gladstone may either alter his original proposal by giving the Irish Parliament the command of an adequate military force, or he may commit the Imperial Government to boar down the opposition of Ulster, though in that case he could only answer for himself, and even then might find that though he had a majority adequate' to carry Home-rule, he had not a majority adequate for putting it in force against a grave and resolute resistance of the North. But all this will have to be most seri- ously considered by the electors, both in England and Ireland. If the Irish Party have any head, they will at once raise their demands in consequence of this Ulster demonstration. They will insist on Mr. Gladstone's not bringing them into a position in which they-would be a ludicrous spectacle to angels and to men. They will say that they ought to be provided with a force adequate for an emergency which can now be foreseen, and that they must not be exposed to a humiliating checkmate so soon as they attempt to exert the new powers which are to be given to them. But whether they make this demand or not, Mr. Gladstone must certainly face the question of how to deal with a recalcitrant Ulster. If he deals boldly with it,—as from his point of view he ought to do,—the electors will know exactly what they are voting for, that they are either voting power to the Healys, Dillons, O'Connors, and so forth, to beat down the resistance of Ulster, or that they are pledging their own British Government to undertake that work for the Healys, Dillons, and O'Connors who cannot be trusted to undertake it for themselves. We do not know which alternative is the more odious, probably the former, though it at least avoids the open confession of that profound distrust for the new State which the selection of the latter alternative involves. But it is obvious that if the new Ireland is not to be the laughing-stock of mankind, one of these alternatives is inevitable. Now what we want to enforce on our readers is the great responsibility which those voters will incur who vote for either alternative, or worse still, vote for ignoring the difficulty altogether, and leaving the Gladstonians to solve the problem as they best can so soon as the difficulty occurs, which is another way of voting for the ostrich policy of hiding your head in the sand in order that you may not see the approach of danger. The Duke of Devonshire's speech ought to make every Glad- stonian weigh well what he is about. Either he will vote for arming an unscrupulous Government, with whom terrorism boycotting, and breach of contract have been the favourite munitions of political war, with a military force by which they may, at all events, hope to overbear those Ulster citizens whose only sin is their too great loyalty to Great Britain ; or they will vote for committing the British Government to the odious task of shooting down their loyal fellow-citizens for committing the same sin ; or, finally, they will vote for evading the whole difficulty till it bursts upon them unprepared. Can a more serious political responsi- bility be conceived ? Yet it should be the responsibility uppermost in the mind of every Gladstonian who is contem- plating the restoration of Mr. Gladstone to power. He ought not to contemplate setting up a nominal power in Ireland which cannot enforce respect to its own laws, for that is to make the Irish Party ridiculous. He ought not to contemplate the evasion of the difficulty by mere procrastination, for that is simply a mode of re- solving to be unprepared for one of the most difficult situations in our political history. If he is a true Gladstonian, he ought to be fully prepared either to give the Irish Party themselves the power of riding rough- shod over Ulster, or to give them a promise which they are quite sure they could redeem, that Great Britain will ride rough-shod over Ulster, for them. Will they vote for any one of these three alternatives ? If not, they will be doing very wrong in giving Mr. Gladstone a majority at all. If they are prepared for any of these three courses, they are rash men, whose probable moral retrospect a year or two hence we cannot envy them, but they will at least realise what they are about to do, and not be making a leap in the dark which is about fifty times as dangerous as the late Lord Derby's celebrated leap into household suffrage. A leap into civil war with open eyes is grave enough ; a leap in the dark which may end in civil war is graver still, because it is as cowardly as it is rash.