« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Parnell, he saw Mr. Justin McCarthy and Mr. Sexton; and being unable to compose matters-presumably in connection with New Tipperary-Mr. Dillon was called into council. The protracted negotiations which ensued were most unfairly commented upon by the English press, Gladstonian as well as Unionist. It was forgotten that more than anyone else Mr. W. O'Brien was responsible for the creation of "New Tipperary," and that he had pledged himself that no harm should come to those who had left the old town. The Paris bankers of the National League, with whom were deposited the funds needed for the support of the evicted tenants, refused to pay the money in their hands to either faction. Mr. Parnell's position was consequently a strong one, and there was good reason for Mr. O'Brien's temporising. His efforts were, however, of no avail. Mr. Parnell remained obdurate. He refused to resign the nominal leadership of a party which no longer followed him, and he as distinctly declined to allow the Paris funds to be expended by others than himself.
Public attention, moreover, was for a moment called away from the Irish imbroglio by the attitude assumed by the United States on the Behring Sea fisheries, and of France on the Newfoundland fisheries. In the former case Lord Salisbury had offered to refer the matter in dispute to arbitration; but the desire to make political capital out of the process known as "twisting the lion's tail" induced Mr. Blaine to haggle over the terms of reference, although forced by public opinion to assent to arbitration "in principle." He insisted upon memoranda in the secret archives of the State Department, which showed that between Mr. Secretary Adams and the Russian minister who had arranged the cession of Alaska to the United States there existed a note defining the construction which Russia placed upon the mare clausum in the treaty. On the part of the British Government it was contended that whatever rights Mr. Blaine might think had been sold by Russia, nations could not convey more than they possessed, and that a defect in the seller's title was a defect also in the buyer's. The part, therefore, for primary arbitration was not what had been ceded to the United States, but what Russia had a right to cede. As the object of both nations ostensibly was to provide some effective protection for the seal fisheries in the Behring Sea, it seemed strange to impartial observers in both countries that the difficulties at arriving at an understanding should be so many and so great; but underlying the general idea of protecting the seals was that of protecting a trade in which Canada and Great Britain desired to share, whilst the United States Government was as desirous to establish a monopoly for its own citizens. By an appeal to the Washington Law Courts, Sir Julian Paunceforte hoped to place the chief points at issue on a legal basis which even the most prejudiced politicians would be obliged to accept. The
Supreme Court of the United States was, therefore, asked to annul the decision given in 1887 by the district Court of Alaska in the case of the Canadian schooner W. P. Sayward, and to issue a general writ of prohibition to the Alaska Court forbidding it to condemn vessels taken in the " open sea." In accordance with instructions from Lord Salisbury, the counsel in defence of the British case was to argue: (1) That the three-mile limit applied to the Behring Sea; (2) that Russia exercised the power of excluding from the Behring Sea, not by right, but by general consent; (3) that this qualified right was not conveyed to the United States, whose rights as defined by the treaty of cession referred only to continental Alaska, its islands and adjacent waters.
Almost simultaneously the long-standing dispute with regard to the French fishing rights off the coasts of Newfoundland was pushed to the front on the rumour that the modus vivendi agreed upon by France and England was to be renewed for another year. Threats of throwing off the "British yoke" were uttered by Colonial politicians of all shades, anti-British leagues were formed in every township, and American agents hinted that, in joining the Union, Newfoundlanders would find that moral and material assistance to realise their aims which was refused by the British Government. Diplomatic reasons availed to hinder the premature publication of the correspondence which took place between the English and French Governments, and during the consequent delay the French fishermen continued to exercise their undoubted rights. Rumours were at one time spread that M. Ribot would be willing to waive the French rights, or at least so much of them as involved a temporary location of French fishermen on the Newfoundland coast, in exchange for a cession of territory on the west coast of Africa-our colony of the Gambia, for instance-together with a modification of the Colonial Bait Act. It was, however, thought more probable that the only terms likely to content the French Minister involved the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt; and in the actual state of European politics Lord Salisbury judged it more prudent to run the risk of offending the Newfoundlanders than to raise once more in an aggravated form the Egyptian question.
Although either of these questions might at any moment have led to serious complications, public opinion showed but little nervousness. There was a general conviction that Lord Salisbury would, whilst making all reasonable concessions on minor points, firmly maintain British rights, and that he would quietly but firmly make it understood that there was a limit to the traditional policy of peace at any price which had in the eyes of foreign statesmen inspired the English Foreign Office for so many years.
Home politics, however, were again brought to the front by the meeting at Newcastle-on-Tyne, when Mr. John Morley
was to break the silence which had fallen upon the Liberal party since the disruption of the Irish party. Mr. Gladstone, indeed, had written a letter to the Liberal candidate for Hartlepool, in which he said that "the Irish party has vindicated itself by putting an end to the leadership of Mr. Parnell, and has left me to pursue, as heretofore, the duty of denouncing the principle of unequal laws, and the odious system of coercion, not for crime, but for combination apart from crime." Beyond this vague threat his letter gave no clue to the intentions of the party, and one of his most distinguished followers, Mr. Asquith, Q.C., addressing the Manchester Reform Club (Jan. 8), had strongly urged the necessity of giving some outline of the Irish programme before a general appeal was made to the constituencies. Speaking for himself, he distinctly declared that to give Ireland Home Rule without putting the police entirely under the local Irish control, and without giving the Irish Legislature full power to deal with the land question as it pleased, would be absurd. Only by giving the "largest, amplest, and most generous powers to the Irish Legislature, consistent with the maintenance of Imperial unity," could they put a final end to the question which had so long agitated and disturbed the country." In earlier days Mr. John Morley also had expressed himself very strongly in favour of the settlement of the land question by the Imperial Parliament, and it was therefore important to see how far his opinions had been modified by recent events. In addressing his constituents (Jan. 13) Mr. Morley boldly faced the situation. Nothing, he said, was to be gained by denying that the movement so rapidly advancing to success two months before had since met with a check. Still, those of their opponents who thought Home Rule was dead were a little too precipitate. If he said nothing about what had been going on the last two or three weeks at Boulogne it was because he could not incur the tremendous responsibility of letting a word fall to aggravate the present situation. It was not because he had no opinion on those transactions. As to the urgency of the crisis, every man had made up his mind whether it would have been possible to continue the prosecution of the Home Rule cause if the late leader of the Irish party had remained where he was. After taking full time for deliberation, after giving full time for spontaneous action, the English leader and champion of the Home Rule cause had had no choice save to communicate to Mr. Parnell at the earliest moment at which there was access to him, and so that there should be the utmost care of avoiding every dictatorial, every censorious word-to communicate to him the plain and the palpable truth that a prosecution of the Home Rule cause in Great Britain, unless there was a change of leadership, was a hopeless task.
Turning to certain statements made by Mr. Parnell in a speech at Limerick, in which he had challenged Mr. Gladstone.
to produce the memorandum of the Hawarden conversation, Mr. Morley said: "I have direct authority to say that after reading. that speech Mr. Gladstone maintains that not a single proposal was made at Hawarden-that is to say, that no proposition was. mentioned-to which assent was asked. Mr. Parnell had acted as a warm friend of the Bill of 1886, and he had in 1889, when this interview took place, the confidence of eighty-five Irish members. So Mr. Gladstone properly and naturally named to him various suggestions, and why? In order to improve his own knowledge of the field within which the ex-Ministers might confer with one another upon those suggestions with the assent of the Irish members. I have Mr. Gladstone's direct authority to state that neither the constabulary nor the magistracy were mentioned; and it was not proposed to hand over the judiciary to the British Government either for ten years or for any other period. Mr. Parnell's own account of the Hawarden interview down to January, 1890-I would say down to June, 1890-in public and, as I take it, in private, is a sufficient vindication for Mr. Gladstone, if Mr. Gladstone needs any vindication. Now I am charged with concerting a plot with Mr. Gladstone toundermine the independence of the Irish party-to get Mr. Parnell to assent to a sham Home Rule Bill by bribing him with the office of Chief Secretary."
After discussing at some length the fitness of the Irish for self-government, which he recognised to the fullest extent, Mr. Morley turned first to the police question. In 1886 he said "what we proposed, and what we provided for, was the creation. of a civil force under the control of local authorities; and Mr. Gladstone expressly said that we had no desire to exempt the police of Ireland from the control of the Irish legislative body. If a community is not fit to have control of its own police it is certainly not fit to have Home Rule at all. But until the Irish Parliament had organised a civil police, the Lord Lieutenant was to retain control of the present armed and semimilitary police as a temporary and transitory measure-first, to make sure of the observance of certain engagements made by the Imperial Government with the Royal Irish Constabulary; and, secondly, to bridge over the interregnum before the Irish Government had settled the question of its own police in towns and counties. The whole story of the arrangement for the police told by Mr. Parnell at Limerick was remarkably inaccurate.. The views of 1886 were sound, subject to reasonable amendments. in committee; and, so far as I know, no unreasonable amendments were at that time proposed."
On the land question Mr. Morley was even more outspoken.. "I think it would be safest and best, in the interests of the Irish legislative body itself, that the land question should be solved at Westminster concurrently with the establishment of a Legislature in Ireland. Of course, if the British constituencies determine
that the land question is not to be dealt with at Westminster, it will then have to be dealt with by an Irish legislative body; but I for one shall deplore that decision. I think it will be not a creditable decision to England. I do not think it will be a prosperous decision for Ireland. But Mr. Chamberlain's question is put at rather a curious time. Where are we on the land question at this moment? The Government have brought in a Land Bill, and in many of its methods and details I think the Bill is about the very worst Bill that was ever introduced into the British House of Commons. But at any rate it will provide a fund that ought to carry us a long way towards dealing with that portion of the land question in which I have always thought that the chief danger for the Irish legislative body lay."
After once more declaring that Home Rule was not a mere pious opinion, but was a practicable and opportune proposal, and was certainly not to be dropped, Mr. Morley concluded: "All depends upon Ireland. It is for Irishmen to choose. If they are true to themselves we will never betray them. The hour may be dark, and the signs perplexing; but it is the dark hour that tests the mettle of which men are made. Let us watch; let us hope. Questions arise to every nation (and this is one) which are not to be settled by counting at the moment a minority or a majority. We will not draw it back. For myself, win or lose, I will fight it out. When the obscuring smoke of the present strife in Ireland has rolled away, let Irishmen know that they will see the beacon of friendship and sympathy still burning clear on the English shore."
The outcome of this speech-or rather manifesto-was to show that Mr. Chamberlain and those who thought with him that "Home Rule is as dead as Queen Anne" were mistaken, and that the Gladstonian leaders still considered it the best rallying cry for their partisans in the three kingdoms. The election in Kilkenny, moreover, had already shown that Mr. Parnell's power was on the wane in his own country; and if the English Dissenters and Scotch Presbyterians did not take fright at the idea of an alliance with the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland, Home Rule offered the best hope of carrying the party back to power. On one point Mr. Morley had preserved an ominous silence. He made no allusion to the retention of Irish members at Westminster in reduced numbers, and although Mr. Gladstone had eagerly contradicted the first statement by Mr. Parnell that they were to be reduced to thirty-two, both he and Mr. Morley were silent with regard to the amended number, thirty-four. Yet on this point would necessarily turn the whole principle of the continued representation of Ireland at West
With Mr. Morley's speech at Newcastle the floodgates of platform oratory were opened. Sir George Trevelyan (Jan. 14), after vigorously denouncing his former associates the Liberal