24 APRIL 1880, Page 13



SIR,—There is not at the present moment any question iu the internal politics of this realm so important as the question of

the Irish demands. In so far as these are summarised in the demand for Home-rule, the Liberal party as well as the Con- servative has declared, by its principal representatives, that such a demand is inadmissible ; nor can there be any mistake as to the plainness and (as far as intention goes) absolute finality of this answer. And on the basis of its finality the following remarks are written. Yet there could not be a greater mistake than to suppose that such an answer puts an end to the special claim of Ireland on our attention at this moment. Justice and our highest interests alike require us to do our best to satisfy whatever may be legitimate in the feelings that prompt a demand which, in itself, we have determined to reject. If the external unity of Great Britain and Ireland is an essential in our practical politics, their internal harmony ought not to be esteemed of less value, especially at a time when the foreign relations of the United Kingdom are of unusual difficulty and importance.

What, then, are the principal aims that have operated in producing the demand for Home-rule P They are, perhaps, the following :—First, the sentimental, but far from valueless, feeling for Ireland as an object of attachment for its own sake, a "fatherland," which no Irishman could wish to see absorbed in any empire, however great. It may, I think, be believed that this feeling is not necessarily adverse to the continuance of one, united, imperial rule for Great Britain and Ireland. It must, indeed, be confessed that forbearance on both sides is necessary to render them compatible; and such forbearance it is to be hoped that Englishmen, on their side, will exercise. Secondly, the desire that the government of Ireland shall be carried on in accordance with Irish ideas of justice. Unfortunately, it is exactly in their ideas of justice that the great difference lies between Irishmen and Englishmen, and hence the very reason that impels Irishmen to seek Home-rule, acts upon Englishmen with equal force against it. Very few Englishmen

(and certainly I am not one of such) would be prepared to charge the English nation and the Parliament of this realm with habitual want of equity. Still, in respect of the most important of Irish questions—the relations between landlord and tenant— we may most of us admit a good deal of ignorance as to facts ; we cannot think without regret of the great comparative poverty of the sister-island, nor are we unaware that true principles may be applied harshly, and in a way that would not be possible were real public attention brought to bear on them. On another question—that of education in Ireland—the influence of the Church of Rome enters in as an element ; and where this is concerned, it is impossible to say that Englishmen are always fair. The Church of Rome is at once one of the most powerful organisations in the world, and is at the same time highly adverse in many respects to that freedom of thought and action, and spontaneity of feeling which we justly consider as the most valuable acquirement of modern civilisation. This being the case, the instinct of Englishmen is to put that Church out of the question altogether ; to frame a scheme of education which in itself is good and reasonable enough, and call upon Irishmen to be con- tent with it, and to accept it. The Irish, on the other hand, will have no scheme of education in the management of which the Roman Catholic clergy shall not have a share. Is it ipso facto undesirable for Parliament to recognise and assist such a scheme P I cannot think that such a question can be decided on abstract principle. Of course, if it is to be admitted that the whole world is absolutely without means of judging of the effects of religious teaching, I will not say but that absolute distrust ought to be shown towards it. And it is true that the influence of reli- gious education, and especially of Roman Catholic religious edu- cation, is a subject hard to see all round, hard to form thorough- going decisions upon. Still, I think we may see that the faults of the Roman Catholic"religion are rather those of internal re- pression than of external offence; that the root of its error is the distrust towards the outer world which it inspires in its

• adherents. If so, distrust will never be overcome by reciprocal distrust on the other side. Parliament, of course, could not favour Roman Catholic education as such. But if the Irish prefer schemes of education in which the Roman Catholic clergy shall practically, though not formally, have a chief share, I think that a certain sanction given to such a scheme by Parlia- ment would not in the end be detrimental, either to the nation, or to the cause of freedom.

But besides the patriotic sentiment for Ireland, and the de- sire for Irish ideas of justice to be practically recognised, there is a third and very powerful moving impulse of the demand for Home-rule. There is no doubt that ordinary Irish questions are rather unduly removed from the cognisance and interest of Englishmen, even where there is no difference of principle between English and Irish. This results partly from the inter- vention of the sea between the two Islands, partly from the difference of race, still more from the difference of religion. We hear of things happening in Meath, or Tipperary, or Mayo, dimly and uniuquiringly. There is something which stops the instantaneous current of sympathy when we read of such events, unless they are of exceptional magnitude. In fact, I am afraid it is true that to get their proper share of attention in Parlia- ment, Irishmen have to make themselves troublesome, and the attention then given is not sympathetic. The evil here indi- cated is one for which it is not easy to suggest adequate remedies. This, however, may be said,—that when any disad- vantageous point in our social or political state is duly borne in mind, is not allowed to lapse into oblivion, or repelled from our unwilling ears as a hostile and hateful phenomenon, but is corrected, from time to time, as occasion serves, then a healing influence spontaneously sets in ; the natural feelings of justice within us supply a compensation to the disadvantages which any part of the political body, without our fault, is obliged to undergo.

To such a general reflection we must perforce recur in the case of Ireland, as in many other cases of disadvantage or mis- fortune to individuals, classes, or peoples. It is, however, hypo- critical to expect the healing influences of nature and gradual growth, if we do not at the same time amend all the particulars which it is within our power to amend. I wish, therefore, very briefly (as I fear that I have already trespassed too much on your space), to indicate those classes of reforms which will tend to promote the general knowledge of Irish affairs, and the sound judgment of all members of the community upon them. These are, first, the equalisation of the Irish franchise, parliamentary and municipal, with the English and Scotch franchise. I find it difficult to think that so natural a change can be opposed by valid argument. A Parliament of the United Kingdom is not likely to be misled by the peculiar passions of Irishmen.. Secondly, the reform of our own Parliamentary procedure, and the elimination from it of various encumbrances (as suggested by Mr. Wilson in the current number of the Nineteenth Century). Thirdly, the extension and organisation of local administration._ This is already an object of reformers in England (as is witnessed by the Bills of recent years for the establishment of County Boards). It is still more important for Ireland.—I am, Sir, &c.,.

J. R. M.