« VorigeDoorgaan »
constitutional relations between Great Britain and Ireland. For the sake of brevity they may be set forth summarily thus :
(1) Complete separation;
(4) Extended local government. As to the first. little need be said. Separation would imply, of course, not merely the repeal of the legislative union cemented a century ago, but the complete renunciation of the authority of the Crown over a portion of its dominions which have formed an integral part of the inheritance of our kings since the Angevin ' conquest' of the twelfth century. That conquest, as Sir John Davies pointed out exactly three hundred years ago,' was, indeed, singularly incomplete and illusory. The Plantagenets were far more concerned as to the retention of their possessions in France than the consolidation of their 'conquest' in Ireland. Nevertheless, Ireland has formed part of the dominion of the English Crown for nearly eight hundred years, and 'separation' would involve a sensible curtailment of its 'regality.' It may be said that there is no demand for separation. It is not so said by the leader of the Irish party. 'There has always been, and there is to-day, a certain section of Irishmen who would like to see separation from this country. They were once a very large section, but now they are a very small section.' So spake Mr. John Redmond in.the First Reading Debate on the 11th of April. But for my immediate purpose it matters not whether the section of Irish separatists is large or small. The point is that the fundamental argument upon which from the first 'Home Rule has rested is that it is proposed in deference to the persistent and sustained demand of the Irish 'nation.' Mr. Asquith him. self puts in the forefront of his argument the ' deliberate constitutional demands of the vast majority of the nation, repeated and ratified, time after time, during the best part of the lifetime of a generation.' But this argument, in the mouth of a 'limited' Home Ruler, proves too much. If justice compels attention to the demand-provided it be sufficiently strong and persistentfor 'Home Rule,' how can it remain deaf to a demand, similarly urged, for separation? If Irish nationality is to be caressed when it asks modestly for a modicum of legislative independence, how can it be coerced when it roughly and rudely demands a separation of the Crowns? More than that. The 'nationality' argument
· Discoverie of the True Causes why Ireland was never Entirely Subdued and Brought under Obedience of the Crown of England until the Beginning of His Majesty's Happy Reign (1612). Sir John Davies was Attorney-General for Ireland under James the First, and his little book is full of ripe wisdom and instruction for those who desire to understand the historical relations of England and Ireland.
itself is obviously available to a 'separatist, but not to a 'Home Ruler.' No generous mind-more especially if generosity be combined with historical information can be insensible to the appeal on behalf of ‘nationalities.' But the argument is doubleedged. To the advocates of the ' nationality' principle no part of the great European settlement of 1815 was more distasteful than the extinction of the independence of the Republic of Genoa. Nowadays there is not a ' nationalist' in Europe who is not inspired to rhapsody by the story of Italian unity. Yet where would united Italy be had Europe listened to the laments of the Genoese nationalists of 1815? The truth is that the ' nationality' of the part must often be sacrificed to the nationality of the whole. This is, indeed, the outstanding lesson taught by a survey of the nationality' movement of the nineteenth century. It has tended in the main, not to destruction, but to edification; to unification, not to disintegration. It is a potent weapon, therefore, in the armoury of the Unionist; it may be a convincing argument on the lips of a separatist; the one person to whom it is not available is the advocate of the half measure conveniently described as 'Home Rule.'? It is, however, only right, before going further, to point out that the Bill now before Parliament is, on paper, less separatist in principle than were Mr. Gladstone's proposals in 1886, or even in 1893. According to the first Home Rule Bill there was to be no Irish representation at Westminster. Nor was the reason far to seek. No English Liberal would have looked at Home Rule in 1886, except as a means of ridding the House of Commons of the Irish 'nuisance.' But even Mr. Gladstone was subsequently convinced that to propose exclusion was an inevitable step towards complete separation. Consequently in the Bill of 1893 no less than eighty Irish members were retained at Westminster, but the Irish representatives, whether in the House of Lords or in the House of Commons, were not to be entitled to deliberate or vote' on any question exclusively affecting Great Britain 'or some part thereof.' The inconvenience of this 'in and out' arrangement was so palpable that the proposal was subsequently dropped, and Irish members were to be left free to deliberate and vote on all questions. It may be taken as a wel. come indication of the growth of the federal idea that there is no suggestion, either in Mr. Asquith's speech or in his Bill, of total exclusion ; but it has yet to be proved that there is any real guarantee either here or elsewhere against an inherent and ineradicable tendency towards separation.
A second alternative is 'self-government' on the Colonial model. And if the principle of nationalism is irresistibly attrac
? This argument was put by Mr. A. V. Dicey in 1886 with unanswerable force. Cf. England's Case against Home Rule, e.g. pp. 18, 70.
tive to the emotional politician, the idea of Colonial self-government is not less attractive to men of a more sober and more reflective turn of mind. The argument from Colonial experience is very simple and, up to a point, very convincing. The more freedom you bestow upon your Colonies, the more you let them
manage their own affairs,' the more loyal do they become to the British Crown, the more firm is their allegiance to the Imperial connexion. It is undeniably and most happily true that the great Dominions are increasingly devoted to the Crown and the Empire. It is also true that we have gone far towards realising the ideal of Burke, and that the ties which bind the Colonies and the Mother-land, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron.' It is true, again, that before the concession of responsible government the two Canadas were seething with disaffection and discontent, and that since 1840 they have increased alike in prosperity and in contentment. But there is another side to Colonial experience, a side which is peculiarly and persistently ignored. Self-government is confined to the Canadian Dominion, Newfoundland, South Africa, the Australian Commonwealth and New Zealand. These represent only a part, though undeniably the most important part, of the Colonial system. There are other colonies which have been endowed with representative institutions, but without responsible' Executives, and there are many more which, as Crown Colonies, are governed directly from Whitehall. The 'Dominions,' it is true, have advanced from grace to grace. But what of the rest? In many
In many of them it is notorious that representative institutions have proved a failure, and in some it has been found necessary to withdraw the concession, and to restore Crown Colony administration. But even if we ignore all contrary experience and concentrate attention upon the unquestioned success of 'self-government' in the great Dominions, what help and guidance does such experience afford to those who would remodel the government of Ireland ?
Colonial self-government, as the term is now understood, involves five principles :
(1) The legal supremacy of the King in Parliament;
It will be obvious to any jurist that the above statement is popular rather than scientific, and many people may be startled by the inclusion of the fifth principle. But can any sane person deny that the right of secession is implicit in the existing constitutional connexion between the Mother-land and the daughter Dominions? I am not for an instant suggesting
that the right is likely to be exercised : its existence is, perhaps, the best guarantee against such an untoward development. But does anyone suppose that if the Canadian Dominion were deliberately to demand independence, the demand would be forcibly resisted by the electors of the United Kingdom? It is true that the King in Parliament has a legal right to amend or to annul the existing Constitution of the Canadian Dominion or the Australian Commonwealth : is it conceivable that the right should be exercised except at the request of the Colonies concerned? That the Imperial Parliament.does exercise the right to legislate for the Empire, and does in this way secure objects which are common to the Empire as a whole, but are beyond the competence of any single Colonial Legislature, is true.' It intervenes, also, to validate doubtful Acts passed by Colonial Legislatures. · Nevertheless, the legislative tie is 'light as air,' and it could be severed, if not without sorrow and inconvenience, at least without recourse to revolution.
What help, then, does the Colonial analogy afford to the sanguine 'Home Ruler'? Is Ireland to be endowed with virtual legislative independence? Can the Irish 'nationalist 'be satisfied with anything less? Will the English Home Ruler concede so much? Is the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament to be merely nominal? 'We maintain in this Bill, unimpaired, beyond the reach of challenge or of question, the supremacy, absolute and sovereign, of the Imperial Parliament.' Such was Mr. Asquith's answer on the 11th of April. Is Ireland to enjoy fiscal independence? The curiously complicated financial arrangements are a sufficient answer to this interrogation. Is Ireland to have a right, either implicit or avowed, to sever the connexion at her sole will and pleasure? To state the question is to anticipate the answer.
Such inquiries, however, may be deemed too technical and too minute. They appear to ignore the broad and popular contention that 'Home Rule' has satisfied the Colonies, and may be relied upon to assuage the secular bitterness between Great Britain and Ireland. What possible danger, it is asked, can there be in adding just one more Home Rule Parliament to the twenty-eight Home Rule Parliaments already existing in the Empire'? Let me point out, in passing, that the term ‘Home Rule' is an extraordinarily convenient cloak for confusions of thought and inexactitudes of expression. It is utilised to describe at once the virtually independent Parliament of the Dominion of Canada and the entirely subordinate Parliaments of Quebec and the other Canadian Provinces. Is the Dublin
• A long series of Acts relating to merchant shipping affords a good example of this. Cf. on this subject, Keith : Responsible Government in the Dominions,
pp. 3, 176-221.
Parliament to be modelled upon that of New Zealand, or upon that of Ontario?' Is the Irish Executive to correspond, in its functions and its powers, to that of the Australian Commonwealth or to that of the Isle of Man? Is the Lord-Lieutenant to be a Constitutional Sovereign, or a member of the British Executive, or an autocratic Governor? To these questions I have seen no real or consistent answer. The powers enjoyed by the Dublin Parliament are to be delegated'; the Imperial Parliament is to possess overriding legislative authority, and its supremacy is to remain unimpaired; so far, 'Home Rule' is presented in the guise of Canadian provincialism. But, on the other hand, it is to satisfy national aspirations, to do for Ireland what the concession of independence' has done for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The simple truth is that the
Home Ruler' has never really defined his terms, still less has he emancipated himself from the intellectual tyranny of imperfect analogies. Half the wrong conclusions at which mankind arrives,' said Lord Palmerston,' are reached by the abuse of metaphors.' More than half the confusions in which political thought is involved are due, it may be added, to reliance upon analogies. No Home Ruler who lays claim to intellectual or political honesty is entitled to recommend his prescription on the strength of the argument from Colonial analogies, without clearly defining to himself and to others what precisely he understands, on the one hand by Colonial self-government, on the other by Irish Home Rule.
The Home Ruler has, however, before him a third alternative. He may proclaim himself to be a 'federalist.' If there is allurement to many minds in the Colonial analogy, there is still more in the federal idea. Federalism has proved itself to be a prevalent principle in politics during the last half-century; it has solved many awkward problems, and has gone far to reconcile many conflicting claims. The United States of America', the Canadian Dominion, the Swiss Republic, the German Empire and the Australian Commonwealth, to say nothing of several South American republics, bear testimony to the applicability of the principle to widely differing circumstances. That the prescription has proved in many cases efficacious is undeniable. But as I have recently pointed out in this Review,5 ' federalism'has invariably represented a centripetal and not a centrifugal development; it has meant not the break-up of a unitary constitution but the bringing closer together of political units previously independent or, at any rate, distinct; it has implied, on the part of the
• I propounded these questions in much more detail in the Nineteenth Century and After for November 1911. I have not seen an answer, nor do I find one in Mr. Asquith's speech of the 11th of April.
5 November 1911,