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him. Mr. Forster adbered to it; and the storm which had been gathering burst upon him, and raged throughout nearly the wbole of the sitting of August 23. The man who called John Dillon a coward must have forgotten who his father was; the man who called such a speech as his an incitement to crime declared war against Ireland.
Next day there was a debate on Home Rule, Mr. Parnell moving that the rejection of the Disturbance Bill had supplied one more proof of the necessity of a radical change in the Parliamentary relations between England and Ireland. In opposing this motion, Mr. Forster made a statement which drew down upon him great wrath from another quarter of the political heavens. The Government, he said, were determined to maintain the law in Ireland. If they did not find the existing powers of the law equal to the maintenance of order, they would have to call Parliament together and ask for increased powers. He did not believe such a course would be necessary. But, he added, “ if they should find, what during the past two or three weeks they had not found, and which he trusted they would not find, that the landlords of Ireland were to any great extent making use of their powers so as to force the Government to support them in the exercise of injustice, they would certainly accompany any request for special powers with some sort of a Bill which should prevent them from being obliged to support injustice. He thought that the Irish people, notwithstanding the history of centuries, might have sufficient hope and confidence and trust to allow the Government one year at least in which to try and solve the most difficult problem before them.” Mr. Forster was sorely taken to task for this “ treasonable concession, as it was called, to Irish clamour. His implied description of the existing law as unjust was denounced as an incitement to the Irish people to break it. He declared, in reply to these taunts, that his language was being “intentionally misrepresented.” The Government were quite resolved to enforce the law; but if they had to ask for increased powers, they would accompany the coercive measure with a measure for the removal of what they believed to be injustice.
Thus this incident passed off, but another crisis was presently brought on by a threat from Mr. Parnell, that if the Government did not give satisfactory assurances as to their intentions next session, he and his followers would obstruct the passing of the Irish Estimates. In response to this, Lord Hartington said that the time had come for plain speaking ; the Government had no further concessions to make, and nothing to add to their previous assurances. It had been said that a majority of Liberal peers had opposed the Disturbance Bill in the House of Lords, and that this fact was evidence of the unfairness with which English politicians regarded Irish affairs. Their unsympathetic spirit, Lord Hartington bluntly said, would not be amended if Irish members obstructed public business.
This reply was considered eminently unsatisfactory, and there were rumours that, when the Irish Estimates came on, obstruction would be resorted to on a scale hitherto unheard of. The rumours proved to be well founded. When the House went into Committee on the Irish Estimates, on Thursday, the 26th, the Constabulary vote was violently opposed, and by speeches on alternate motions for reporting progress and for the Speaker to leave the Chair, the
use was kept sitting throughout the night, and did not rise till ten minutes to one on Friday afternoon. The Government had to consent to the postponement of the Constabulary vote, which was finally got rid of, after another debate, on August 30.
Yet another hitch occurred, in consequence of the rejection of another Irish Bill by the House of Lords. Much indignation was expressed by the members of that House at the lateness of the period at which measures came to them from the Commons. There was no time, it was complained, for the proper consideration of them; the Upper Chamber was insulted, treated with contempt, practically told that it was a nonentity, in being asked to pass measures in such circumstances. The Lords were only prevented by the judicious advice of Lord Beaconsfield from marking their sense of displeasure by rejecting the Ground Game Bill. At Lord Redesdale's instigation, they seized upon a humble victim, an Irish Registration of Voters Bill, intended to put the law of registration on the same footing in Ireland as in England. This Bill was presented on September 1, and, in a thin House, summarily rejected, in spite of the pleading of the Ministerial peers.
This disturbed for a moment the understanding on which matters were proceeding smoothly in the Commons between the Government and the Irish members. Mr. Parnell proposed that the main clause of the measure should be “tacked” to the Appropriation Bill. The Government declined. Then he proposed that the main clause should be sent up again to the House of Lords, as a separate Bill. To this also the Government objected, on the ground that the measure was not urgent. But, in response to one of Mr. Parnell's proposals, Mr. Forster made a speech about the conduct of the House of Lords which was accepted as some consolation by the Irish members for the rejection of the Registration Bill. “ If such a course were often taken,” he said, would make it very difficult for the two Houses to go on," and the Commons 66 might think that some change in the constitution of the House of Lords was desirable or might be necessary.” With reference to the complaint made by Lord Redesdale of want of time, Mr. Forster said that “this was one of the matters which especially noblesse oblige, and that the House of Lords ought not to allege the argument of personal inconvenience to prevent Bills sent up from that House at any time of the session being thoroughly considered. They could not forget --at any rate the country could not forget—these two facts : first, that the Commons were the bardest worked law-makers in the
world; and second that, on the other hand, probably there was no assembly of law-makers with so much power and so little personal labour as the House of Lords. They must also not forget the fact that they were the representatives of the people, and that the power which the Lords had was simply owing to an accident of birth.”
This Radical speech from a Minister of the Crown was naturally made the subject of much comment abroad as well as at home. The echoes of it had not died away when Parliament was prorogued on Tuesday, September 7.
CHAPTER IV. Discussion of Foreign Policy—The State of Ireland—The Revolutionary Brother
hood—The Land League-Anti-landlord meetings and speeches, Mr. Parnell at Epnis- The murder of Lord Mountmorres - Cabinet Council-- The Dulcigno Crisis-Growth of the Land League agitation-Excitement and discussion of Government policy in England-- Prosecution of Land Leaguers-- Mr. Gladstone at Lord Mayor's Banquet--The Boycott episode—“ Boycotting” as a political instrument—The Land League in Ulster - The Government on its defence.
The discussion of foreign affairs had occupied a very small portion of Parliamentary time during the session, though the development of Mr. Gladstone's policy in the East was closely watched. Sir Charles Dilke was plied with questions, and his answers were much admired for their compactness and discretion. The course of events in the East is narrated in another part of the “ Register.” The challenges that the action of the Government received in Parliament were fitful, sporadic and unauthoritative ; and the statement contained in the Queen's Speech at the close of the session might have been stereotyped as the defence of the Government in the undetermined state of affairs :-“ Unfortunate delays had taken place in the settlement of the Eastern Question, but for the attainment of the objects in view the Government continued to place reliance on the fact that the Concert of Europe had been steadily maintained in regard to the Eastern Question, and that the Powers who signed the Treaty of Berlin were pressing on the Sublime Porte, with all the authority which belonged to their united action, the measures which in their belief were best calculated to ensure tranquillity in the East.”
There was probably a general feeling throughout the country that there had been enough for a time of discussion of foreign policy, though the opponents of the Ministry in the press continued to denounce the Concert of Europe as a “hollow sham,” and to deride the attempt to extort the complete fulfilment of the Treaty of Berlin by such an instrument as "a pretentious farce.” There was no heart even in the discussion of Indian policy, thongh there were not wanting exciting events to give it stimulation, Upon the great question of Afghanistan the general public had
settled down into an attitude of indifference as regarded details, and a conviction that we ought to withdraw as much and as speedily as possibly. The frightful disaster to General Burrows's force at Khoosk-i-Nakud, news of which reached England on August 28, banished indifference as to facts, and reawakened for a little while energetic discussion of policy. News from Candahar was for some weeks eagerly looked for, till Sir Frederick Roberts's rapid march from Cabul and dispersion of Ayoob Khan's beleaguering force removed all anxiety. The first result of our reverse was to strengthen the conviction that Candahar ought not to be retained, though the contrary was argued in many leading articles and many letters to the Times and other newspapers. Lord Hartington made a statement on Indian finance on August 17, but he was unable then to give any decisive information on the two questions which had been most keenly discussed—what share of the Afghan War expenses was to be borne by the Imperial Exchequer, and how the blunder in the estimates originated ? For the answer to these questions also people generally were content to wait. On the subject of South Africa discussions on the breakdown of the Confederation scheme, on the retention of the Transvaal, and the probable effect of the disarmament of the Basutos were followed with languid attention. The interest in these questions was very soon reawakened by events detailed elsewhere, but at the close of the session the foreboders of difficulty were in the position of Cassandra.
But while there was this lack of interest in the discussion of foreign policy, there was no lack of interest in what was happening abroad. The interest in events was all the keener that men generally had exhausted argument, and were looking to events for the justification of their respective opinions. When Parliament rose, there were two subjects that dwarfed all others in the public eye, and one was a foreign subject—the progress making by the European Powers with their diplomatic notes and their naval demonstration in effecting the surrender of Dulcigno to the Montenegrins.
The other was the state of Ireland. A sensation was caused about the middle of August by the publication in the New York Herald of what purported to be an account of the constitution, strength, and objects of the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, alleged to be a widely ramified and strictly organised secret society, having for its aim the liberation of Ireland from English rule, and the establishment of an Irish Republic. It had been known before that in America greenback notes were issued payable by the Irish Republic, and they were said to be taken up in considerable numbers by servant girls and other enthusiasts, but the general impression was that this was simply a shameless fraud. But might it not have a political object ?' The New York Herald's account of the Brotherhood was most circumstantial, including extracts from their constitution and byelaws, and an estimate of their
strength, which was said to number 36,000 in Ireland itself, and 11,500 in England and Scotland. An outrage in Sheffield about the same time, where an Irishman was shot, and though in imminent peril of his life stedfastly refused to reveal who were his assailants, pointed to the existence of some secret organisation; but people generally were incredulous as to how much was fact and how much fiction in the New York Herald's circumstantial description.
One thing alleged about this Brotherhood was that it was hostile to the Land League, as not going far enough in its purposes. It was said that members of the Brotherhood were reprimanded, degraded, and expelled for giving countenance to the Land League, and trying to use their organisation in its favour. Whether in connection with the Revolutionary Brotherhood or not, there were many signs at its meetings that many Irishmen objected to its method of constitutional agitation, and expected little good from it. Thus the curious anomaly was presented that there was in Ireland an open organisation pledged to an agitation which in England was considered dangerous and revolutionary, while there was alleged to exist a secret organisation hostile to this as being too limited in its aims, and too timid in its methods, and there was no doubt whatever that hostility on that ground existed, whether secretly organised for more desperate purposes or not.
Indeed, the orators of the Land League traded on this feeling of hostility to its professed aims and methods. With very few exceptions they spoke only of constitutional agitation, of moral demonstration, as the means by which they were to extort from England the concession of their claims, but hints were frequently thrown out that physical force stood ready or would have to be got ready in the background. An utterance by Mr. M. Boyton, the secretary of the Land League, at a meeting held at Cahir, Tipperary, on September 19, may be taken as an example of these inflammatory innuendoes. “ Ireland to-day,” he said, “needs a united army to achieve her place among the nations. We want the obsolete cavalry of Repeal, we want, perhaps, the artillery of Home Rule, we want the rank and file of the Land League ; ay, and who knows but we may want his brother engineer, who with patient dint is working till the day comes when we shall give him the signal to fire the citadel.”
The abolition of landlordism, the abolition of an occupying proprietary, the substitution of such a proprietary in the soil as would procure permanently to the industrious occupier the peaceable possession of his home and the fruits of his industry—these were various expressions of the aims of the Land League at the monster demonstrations held every Sunday in different parts of the country. Nominally their programme was what came to be known as the “ three F's," “ fixity of tenure, fair rent, and free sale"--free sale, that is to say, of the tenant's interest; but the unmeasured language of excited orators went beyond this demand,