29 OCTOBER 1910, Page 4



ONE of the most curious things about the sudden plunge that a certain number of Unionists, including the able editor of the Observer and the writer in the Times who calls himself " Pacificus," have taken in the direction of Federal Home-rule is that they seem to have altogether forgotten what are the true foundations of Unionism. Unionists did not take up the cause of maintaining the Legis- lative Union and the integrity of the United Kingdom out of a whim. Again, they did not adopt it as what might be termed a piece of pure Conservatism,---because it existed, and they were anxious not to disturb the status quo unless compelled to do so. Still less did they adopt their prin- ciples and their policy out of any antagonism to Ireland or the Irish people, or because they thought that the Nationalists had asked for repeal under its various aliases in a disagreeable way, or had backed up their demands by action of a kind which made it imperative to teach them the lesson that nothing could be gained by the tactics of menace. The Unionist policy, whether right or wrong, is based upon considerations very different from any of these. Hence true Unionists are left abso- lutely cold when they are urged to consider whether it is not time to show a warmer and more genial spirit towards Nationalists, whether it would not be for the good of the nation to find a solution of the Irish problem, and. so forth. They are asked, in fact, to give up a high and mighty line which it is alleged has been adopted. rather out of annoyance with the Irish than on any sure founda- tions of essential policy. Of course we ought to do our very best to conciliate Ireland, and of course we should not let any matter of pride or punctilio come for a moment between the inhabitants of Ireland and of the larger island. To represent the problem as one of abnormal naughti- ness on the one side, and perhaps justifiable anger and annoyance on the other, is utterly to misread it. If the New Federalists would only take the trouble to recall why Unionism was adopted and why it was maintained, they would be in a far better position than they now are to understand why some of us at any rate are determined, if we can, to withstand the political disintegration of these islands. Let us then recall why we are Unionists.

To begin with, we are Unionists for the same reasons that statesmen on both sides of the Scottish border were Unionists in the days of Queen Anne, and for the reasons that made Pitt and the statesmen of his day, even in the crisis of the great struggle with France, feel that it was absolutely necessary for the welfare of the British people to unite these islands in an incorporating Union. They felt that considerations of geography and of history, as well as the mixed population of Ireland, made it essential to the welfare of each and all that these islands should become a single political unit bouna together by an indissoluble link,—an incorporation of the kind by which our ancestors gradually welded the little kingdoms of England into a whole, and formed something more than a State based on treaty and compact, such as Switzerland, or, again, a union in which the Crown was the sole nexus, like the Empire of the Hapsburgs. They recognised that the paramount instinct of national self-preservation made it impossible for Ireland to be independent of her greater neighbour, and that, since she was too large and important to be dependent in the sense that the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependent, the only way of justice and safety was, as we have said, an incorporating Union. The peoples of the two islands are compelled to live together in the same house, and that being so, the indissoluble tie of political marriage is the only honourable solution. The Union was not conceived in arrogance, or in a spirit of domination or of hatred to Ireland, or from any selfish wish for exploitation on the part of England and Scotland, but in the spirit of the wisest and deepest statesmanship. These statesmen foresaw that we must either tread the path of closer union, or else the path which would lead to a separation such as has taken place of late between Norway and Sweden, a condition which must expose both islands to the risk of foreign interference, with all the consequences so disastrous to our liberty and our independence.

But even if this essential reason for carrying out the Union could be said to have passed away and to be no more needed, there are other grounds on which the Unionist faith is based only a degree less important. The Unionists in England and Scotland recognise that the existence of the two Irelands, of the. Celtic Ireland and the Teutonic Ireland, of the Roman Catholic Ireland and the Protestant Ireland, of the Ireland with loyalist traditions and the Ireland with traditions of rebellion and revolt, must render separation a national tragedy. The Union is the cause of stability, of law and order in Ireland, and prevents recourse to civil war. Again, the Union makes it possible to heal the wounds and scars which the unhappy history of Ireland has left upon the island, wounds and scars that still smart. A great part of the Irish people are on the material side far more backward than the inhabitants of the rest of the United Kingdom, but the incorporating Union makes it possible for the backward parts of Ireland to be helped out of the material resources of the larger island, and helped in a way which does no injury to the national pride of the Irish. In an incorporating Union the richer parts of the political unit are rightly called upon to help the poorer, and to maintain a standard of civilisation throughout the land which could not be maintained if the poorer portions were left to stew in their own juice. Cornwall or Wiltshire or Dorsetshire or Sutherland- shire or Argyllshire must choose between bankruptcy or the abandonment of a great deal that we call civilisation if they did not in one form or another get help from the rest of the nation to which they belong. The same principle applies to Ireland as a whole. The Union means a union of moral and economic forces under which one part helps the other part, and the stronger aids in bearing the burden of the weaker. That this is not mere rhetoric is proved by the history of Ireland since the -Union, and especially by the history of the last twenty-five years. The Unionist Party have shown that they made no empty boast when they declared that they could and would. give Ireland everything which she could rightly and justly ask from a. national Parliament, and give it her in more generous measure than she could have given it herself. Note how these words have been made good. While the Liberal Party were also Unionists, as they were till 1885, they had, though, as we see now, on somewhat clumsy and faulty lines, begun to work out a solution of the Irish land question, and they had dealt with the grievance of the establishment of a Protestant Church, though unfortunately they dealt with it, not by the con- current endowment of the Roman Church, but by a policy of secularisation. When, however, the Liberals repudiated Unionism, and only one party in the State was left to support the policy of the incorporating Union, the Unionists, as we have said, consciously adopted the policy of giving Ireland everything she could rightly claim from a Home-rule Government. To begin with, they have given Ireland that first essential of good govern- ment, law and order, and that in spite of the tendency towards civil war which arose from the agrarian discontent and from the passionate antagonism between the two sections of the Irish people which we have described above. Thanks to the Union, Ireland has made immense progress in the solution of both these problems without the horrors of civil war, and Irishmen have been prevented from tearing each other to pieces. The Union has not only proved the form of government which divides Ireland least, but it has saved her from the horrors of social anarchy.

Next, Unionist policy has set in motion machinery which has already half solved, and will, if it is allowed free play, entirely solve, the agrarian problem in the only way suitable to Ireland,—that is, by the creation of a peasant proprietary. By the use of the credit of the United Kingdom as a whole Ireland has been able to do what a native Parliament could never have accomplished. Without injustice or confiscation, the soil of Ireland is passing into the hands of the peasantry. At the same time, internal development and amelioration have been proceeding at a rate which, for economic reasons, could not have been attained without the Union. The Congested Districts Board has been of immense help to Ireland, and has made possible the noble work which has been done by Sir Horace Plunkett and his colleagues for the betterment of the agricultural industry in Ireland, not merely in the congested districts, but throughout the island. Meantime Ireland has been en- dowed with a University with a Roman Catholic atmosphere, sphere, and in spite, strangely enough, of the opposition of Nonconformist advocates of Home-rule, has received the kind of University with which a Home-rule Parlia- ment might have been expected to endow Ireland, though we may take leave to doubt whether it is likely, or even possible, that a Home-rule Parliament would have been able to find the necessary money. To sum up : Unionist policy has not been in any sense a policy of negation, or a policy of sullen indifference to Ireland, or, again, of irritation caused by the provocations of Irish disloyalists. It has been a policy of which the conscious impulse has been the welfare of Ireland as an integral portion of the United Kingdom. Unionists have not, as it were, put Ireland into a prison-cell because of her tiresome_ irregularities, and there for- gotten her, as the New Federalists would seem to suggest. Their policy has been a beneficent policy. We are now suddenly asked to abandon the true Unionist policy, to forget or ignore the grounds on which it was adopted, and in a moment of pessimism or pique, or, worse perhaps, at the bidding of party exigencies, to adopt a totally different policy. Against this monstrous perver- sion of the true Unionist policy we protest, and mean to protest. We are not, if we can help it, going to agree to a reversal of all that we have been attempt- ing to do during the last twenty-five years. What makes the proposal especially foolish and immoral is that the Unionist policy of resolute government, coupled with a policy of beneficence and amelioration, is unquestionably succeeding. Ireland was never more prosperous than she is to-day, and there were never better signs that her people are settling down, we will not say into conscious acceptance of the Union as the best thing for Ireland, but certainly into an unconscious acceptance. Here is a significant fact. Though the statistics show that the people of Ireland are far better off materially than they were, the advocates of separation find it increasingly difficult to raise money in Ireland for their cause. In truth, they are now almost wholly dependent upon the subscriptions of Irishmen in America and the Colonies,— subscriptions founded upon sentiment and a remembrance of what Ireland was fifty years ago rather than on the know- ledge of what she is now. In a, word, just at the moment when the Unionist policy is succeeding in Ireland, and when there is every sign that if it were wisely, temperately, and steadily applied for another twenty years it would win its full reward, we are asked to abandon it and to launch out upon the untried policy of Federalism,—Federalism which must either prove to be Home-rule under an alias, and therefore bring about the destruction of the Union, or else involve a fantastic and unnecessary alteration in our scheme of local government. We, at any rate, did not adopt the Unionist policy accidentally or vindictively, but because we believed it was best for Ireland and for the United Kingdom, and we are not going to abandon it in order to help Mr. Asquith and the Liberal Government out of the Constitutional difficulty into which they have got themselves by their rash and ill-considered, policy of single-Chamber government.

The nation, then, has{ two ideals before it,—the ideal of co-operation between all the peoples of these islands, Scotch and Welsh, English and Irish, under which, through a union of forces, they will help each other in the work of development ; and the ideal of disintegration and separation, under which those peoples shall be placed once more in that condition of segregation from which the various Unions affecting Wales, Scotland, and Ireland freed them. If the people of the United Kingdom abandon the policy of the union of forces, and of incorporating Unions, and are mad enough to choose the so-called Federal policy, of one thing we are certain,— they will find that Federalism can never be anything but a half-way house. They will have to choose either the path which will lead back, though with many obstacles and difficulties, to an incorporating Union, or else the path which, as in the case of Norway and Sweden, has led to complete separation.