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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.
Discussion of Foreign Policy- The State of Ireland—The Revolutionary Brother
hood— The Land League-Anti-landlord meetings and speeches-Mr. Parnell at Ennis-- 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, though 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,
and laid down the more sweeping principle that the soil should belong to the cultivator. How the transference of the soil from existing owners was to be effected was seldom explained. The cautious speakers who affirmed that they wanted to interfere with no man's rights, and that the rights of the landlord were to be respected, were the exception rather than the rule.
The Land League set its face against the Land Commission, appointed by the Government to inquire into the facts of the land system in Ireland. It was denounced as a mere pretext for delay. T'he names of the members, it was said--the Earl of Bessborough, Baron Dowse, the O'Connor Don, Mr. Kavanagh, and Mr. Shawwere sufficient evidence that the commission was a mockery There was no representative of the tenant-farmer upon it. The Land League warned the farmers of Ireland against going before it to give evidence. Mr. P. J. Smyth, in an eloquent letter, deprecated this advice as suicidal, and implored the farmers not to be guided by it. He was warmly denounced in consequence at many a meeting as a traitor.
The rising of Parliament set free various Irish members to join in the campaign. Great meetings were held, for which the local railways ran special trains, and orators gave their audiences special value for the distances they had come to hear. Enthusiastic addresses of thanks and congratulation to Mr. Parnell as the leader of the movement were voted at many of these meetings. Mr. Parnell himself made his first speech, after the rising of Parliament, at Ennis, and its tenor, amidst the prevailing excitement, was looked forward to with some curiosity. He said he did not wish to coerce the farmers one way or other with regard to giving evidence before the Land Commission. For himself, he believed that it was intended to whittle down the demands of the Irish farmers, to ascertain the very least that they would accept. What would be said, he asked, if farmers went in large numbers to give evidence ? That they had accepted the Commission, and would be bound by its report, and the Government would have an excuse for putting off legislation till they had read the report and the evidence. Touching on the question of evictions, Mr. Parnell next asked what was to be done with a tenant bidding for a farm from which another tenant had been evicted ? A voice answered, “ Shoot him!”--but Mr. Parnell said there was a more Christian and charitable way, namely, shunning in the street, in the shop, in the market-place, even in the place of worship, “as if he were the leper of old.” Little attention was paid at the time outside Ireland to this advice, which had, indeed, for a year past been frequently heard from the mouths of Mr. Parnell and his fellowagitators. Nobody expected that anything practical would come of it. Nobody recognised in it the conception of a new and most powerful weapon, an original addition to the armoury of discontented masses. Reasoning from ordinary notions of race, the most Celtic of Celtic peoples, and therefore the most subject to blind hysterics, and the most incapable of steady combination, could hardly have been expected to give effect to an advice which demanded . for its fulfilment wide organisation and rigid discipline. The realisation of the idea in the system of “Boycotting” was probably as much a surprise to the agitators as to the rest of the world.
More attention was attracted at the time by the peroration of Mr. Parnell's speech at Ennis. This was strongly condemned by the English press as a veiled incitement to outrage. “We have been accused," he said, “ of preaching Communistic doctrines when we told the people not to pay an unjust rent, and the following out of that advice in a few of the Irish counties had shown the English Government the necessity for a radical alteration in the land laws. But how would they like it if we told the people some day or other not to pay any rent until this question is settled. We have not told them that yet, and I suppose it may never be necessary
for us to speak in that way. I suppose the question will be settled peaceably, fairly, and justly to all parties. If it should not be settled, we cannot continue to allow this millstone to hang round the neck of our country, throttling its industry, and preventing its progress. It will be for the consideration of wiser heads than mine whether, if the landlords continue obdurate, and refuse all just concessions, we shall not be obliged to tell the people of Ireland to strike against rent until this question has been settled. And if the five hundred thousand tenant-farmers of Ireland struck against the ten thousand landlords, I should like to see where they would get police and soldiers enough to make them pay.”
Mr. Parnell defined his purposes more explicitly at a meeting of the Land League on the 28th, with reference to a letter in which Mr. O'Shaughnessy, a moderate Home Ruler, asked to be admitted a member of the League. Mr. O'Shaughnessy had hitherto held aloof, objecting as he said to the compulsory expropriation of landlords. But now, on being given to understand that this doctrine could be held with a difference, he was desirous of joining, only in doing so he expressly stated the understanding on which he joined-—" peace and goodwill to all landlords willing to give their tenants secure and inviolable tenure at a fair rent; compulsory expropriation of all who refused to make this concession.” Mr. Parnell admitted that this was fair, though he objected to the League's committing itself to the details of a land settlement at
6 What was wanted,” he said, was the will on the part of the English people to settle the land question, and the object of the agitation was to produce this will. Once minded to settle the question, once convinced that a settlement could not be evaded or postponed, they would settle it. He would not bind himself down to any particular mode, but he agreed that an arrangement by which the landlord should be converted into a fixed rent-charger, or by which the tenant, after paying a fixed annual sum for thirty-five years, should at the end of that time become absolute owner, would be a fair arrangement. And their