out more than one constitutional struggle. Sir John Young, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1861 to 1867, was severely admonished by the Home Government for permitting his Prime Minister, Sir Charles Cowper, to swamp the Senate with his nominees, and it was not until 1889 that Sir Henry Parkes was able to establish the principle and practice which now prevail.

But of Colonial precedents the one most applicable to the case of Ireland would seem to be that of the Canadian Dominion. The Canadian Senate was set up with high hopes. The number of Senators is virtually limited, and they are nominated for life by the Governor-General, of course on the advice of his responsible advisers. It was hoped and intended that the Senate should possess something of the glamour which attached to the historic House of Lords, that it should contain men of independent judgment, superior to the baser party considerations, that it should afford some protection against hasty and ill-considered legislation, that it should circumvent unscrupulous party stratagems, and, above all, that it should give representation to provincial interests. It must be confessed that in all respects the Canadian Senate has disappointed the hopes of the framers of the Constitution. From first to last it has been manipulated to subserve the interests of the Executive of the day. Sir John Macdonald is said during his long tenure of power to have appointed to the Senate one Liberal. Sir Wilfrid Laurier is believed to have bettered his example, and to have proved himself guiltless of even this degree of weakness towards political opponents. And this is the instrument upon which Mr. Asquith relies to safeguard the interests of the minority in Ireland. A more palpably illusory guarantee was never surely devised by a responsible statesman.

The proposed constitution of the Lower House presents no feature of special interest, and we may pass at once to a consideration of the powers with which the Legislature is to be endorsed. These are defined not by enumeration, but by restriction. The distinction is important, for the Irish Parliament must be presumed to possess all such powers as are not specifically reserved. As in the Bill of 1893, the Irish Parliament is forbidden to deal with matters touching the Crown, a Regency, or the Lord-Lieutenant, with peace or war, the Army and Navy, treaties and foreign relations, treason, dignities and honours, and the amendment of the Constituent Act. Nor is it to deal with the Land Purchase Acts, the due fulfilment of which is to remain as an obligation of the Imperial Parliament. Over the Irish Constabulary, on the other hand, it is to have entire control after the lapse of six years. Old-age pensions and the obligations incurred under the Insurance Act of 1911 are to remain as charges upon the Imperial Exchequer, unless the Irish Parliament should

elect to take them over, after having given twelve months' notice of their intention to do so. Similarly, the Post Office Savings Bank may be taken over on six months' notice, but not during the next ten years. Various other restrictions as to education, corporations, and interference with the rights of property, included in the Bill of 1893, are dropped in that of 1912, but the religious safeguards are repeated and extended. Clause 3 of the new Bill runs :

In the exercise of their power to make laws under this Act the Irish Parliament shall not make a law so as either directly or indirectly to establish or endow any religion [so far it repeats the provision of 1893], or prohibit the free exercise thereof, or to give a preference, privilege or advantage, or impose any disability or disadvantage, on account of religious belief or religious or ecclesiastical status, or to make any religious belief or religious ceremony a condition of the validity of any marriage. The reference to recent papal decrees is, of course, too obvious to require comment.

Such are the restrictions upon the legislative competence of the statutory Parliament which it is proposed to set up in Ireland.

The financial arrangements are extraordinarily intricate. The Imperial Parliament will continue to tax the whole of the United Kingdom, but the Irish Parliament will have the power within its territorial limitations to reduce or discontinue any Imperial tax. It will also possess extensive fiscal powers of its own. It will have entire control of the Post Office and the Excise, and partial control over Customs. All taxes, however, whether imposed by the Imperial or by the Irish Parliament, are to be collected by Imperial authorities and paid into the Imperial Exchequer. As regards Customs, the Irish Parliament may not impose a duty on any articles not dutiable under the schedule of the United Kingdom, but it may increase the amount of any duty by a sum not in excess of 10 per cent. on the yield. Within the same limit it may increase income-tax and estate duties, but will have no power to alter stamp duties, which are to remain uniform throughout the United Kingdom. Of any increase Ireland will get the advantage through the operation of what is to be known as The Transferred Sum'; and, conversely, any diminution or discontinuance will be effected at its own expense. For the whole of the Imperial taxes collected in Ireland will be returned to Ireland in The Transferred Sum,' with a substantial addition.

[ocr errors]

In 1886 Mr. Gladstone reckoned that Ireland was contributing 3,500,000l. a year to the Imperial revenue, and he fixed her future contribution on that basis. Before the 1893 Bill appeared, Ireland's contribution had sensibly diminished, and in the second

It does not appear to have been noticed that this is a crafty device to solve the difficulty of Ulster, or rather to create a dilemma from which Ulster cannot


edition of Home Rule it was deemed equitable that the sum to be henceforth contributed should be 2,250,000l. Twenty years later the tables are turned. Ireland, despite a marked increase in internal prosperity, has ceased to be an Imperial asset, and has become an Imperial liability. Consequently, Mr. Asquith has decreed that henceforward Ireland shall contribute nothing at all. On the contrary, she is to receive from Imperial sources a subsidy of 2,000,000l. a year at least. It is estimated that under existing arrangements Ireland receives from the Imperial Exchequer 1,500,000l. a year more than she pays into it. To this 'deficit' Mr. Asquith proposes to add an extra half-million, to give the New Ireland a fair financial start.

With nothing to rely upon but the published report of the Prime Minister's introductory statement, it is hazardous to enter upon any detailed examination of the financial proposals." This much, however, may be said. It is obvious that the proposed financial arrangements will be and must be subjected to the closest scrutiny. They are, on the face of them, wholly incongruous with the underlying and permeating principle of the Bill. As regards legislation and administration Ireland is to be placed virtually in the position of a 'responsible' colony. It is true that there are certain restrictions upon the competence of the Legislature and the Executive which would be resented by a self-governing' dominion; but, speaking broadly, that is the position in which, should this Bill become law, Ireland will be placed. In two respects, however, she is to enjoy privileges which are denied to the greatest and most loyal of the Over-sea Dominions. One is as regards representation in the Imperial Parliament; the other is in regard to finance.

That the obligations created under the Land Purchase Acts should remain unaffected by the Bill is a point of obvious political expediency, not to say of political honour. It may be a violation of political logic; but it is better to violate logic than to imperil the validity of contracts or to play havoc with national credit. But why, if Ireland is to be entrusted with the responsibilities of self-government, she should be relieved of the charges incidental to the payment of her own old-age pensions and the working of a scheme of national insurance, it is not easy to understand. The sentimentalist may exhort us to err on the side of generosity, to make abundant reparation for past wrongs, and so forth. But it is not unimportant to remember that such reparation can be made, and such generosity exercised, only at the expense of the existing taxpayers of Great Britain; that the strain

• Neither Mr. Samuel's speech, despite its admiral lucidity, nor the Bill itself, as now published, add anything material.

imposed upon them is already severe, and may become intolerable; and that if a constitutional and financial readjustment is to be effected, the give must not be all on the one side and the take on the other. Responsibilities are inseparable from rights. If self-government is to be conceded as a 'right,' the 'right' can be enjoyed only at the cost of financial responsibility. But such truisms need not be laboured: the essential objection to the financial arrangements, considered from the point of view of the constitutional jurist, is that they are contradictory to the political principle on which the whole scheme is founded. Constitutional independence and financial dependence cannot permanently coexist. So long as Ireland remains in all respects an integral portion of the United Kingdom it may equitably claim to enjoy the financial advantage incidental to such a political connexion; if it prefers to sever, wholly or partially, that connexion, it must be prepared to shoulder its own financial burden.

That the severance is far from complete I am ready and anxious to admit; that the Asquith Constitution is not conceived consistently on the lines of Colonial self-government is one of the points on which I desire to insist; and I shall have something further to say as to the continued representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament. But a word must first be interposed as to the position and powers of the Executive which the Bill proposes to set up.

Colonial self-government, as I have already pointed out, implies not merely virtual legislative independence, but also the existence of an Executive responsible to the local Legislature. This was a truth which only gradually dawned upon the intelligence of the home Government. The lack of a responsible Executive was one of the more obvious rocks upon which the 'Grattan Constitution' foundered in the last years of the eighteenth century. Under the constitutional arrangement of 1782 Ireland enjoyed complete legislative autonomy, but that autonomy was vitiated, if not cancelled, by the presence of corruption and by the absence of a responsible Executive. A similar defect brought to grief the system devised by Pitt in 1791 for the government of the two Canadas. Many causes-ecclesiastical, fiscal, racial-contributed to the discontent which blazed out into rebellion in 1837, but at the root of them was the constitutional problem: the difficulty of working representative institutions without an Executive responsible thereto. Lord Durham correctly diagnosed the disease, and in his famous Report prescribed the appropriate remedy. 'The Governor,' he wrote, 'should be instructed that he must carry on his government by heads of departments in whom the united Legislature shall repose confidence; and that he must look

for no support from home in any contest with the Legislature except on points involving strictly Imperial interests.' In a word, the Cabinet system was to be introduced into the Canadian Constitution. This was done, and the principle of Colonial' selfgovernment' was once for all established.

Mr. Asquith proposes, in similar fashion, to set up an Executive in Ireland responsible to the local Legislature. But the Executive is to be subject to precisely the same limitations as those imposed upon the Dublin Parliament. The Legislature and the Executive are to be coterminous in authority. On this point the Prime Minister is precise:

I wish to make it perfectly clear that as far as the Executive in Ireland is concerned the area of its authority will be coextensive with the legislative power of the Parliament, neither greater nor less. Whatever matters are, for the time being, within the legislative competence of the Irish Parliament will be for administrative purposes within the ambit of the Irish Executive; what is outside will remain under the control and subject to the administration of the Imperial Executive.

The language is obviously chosen with meticulous accuracy, and the point indicated deserves the closest scrutiny.

[ocr errors]

Lord Durham, Lord Grey and Lord John Russell, the fathers of Colonial self-government, were frankly contemplating the imminence of Colonial independence. To ripen these communities [the Colonies] to the earliest possible maturity, social, political, commercial, to qualify them by all the appliances within the reach of the parent State for present self-government and eventual independence, is now the universally admitted aim of our Colonial policy.' (The italics are mine.) Thus wrote Mr. Arthur Mills in his Colonial Constitutions in 1856. No one who is acquainted with the facts will question the accuracy of his generalisation. 'Eventual independence' was regarded as the inevitable goal of the constitutional evolution of the greater Colonies. I shall be reminded that not one of them has reached it, or desired to reach it; and I shall be told that the timely concession of selfgovernment, instead of precipitating separation, has averted all desire for it. Be it admitted. What is the inevitable inference? That the same concession to Ireland will produce the same results. The concession, however, is not the same, nor are the circumstances identical. Geography would vitiate the analogy, even if Mr. Asquith attempted to sustain it; but he does not. The nearest of the self-governing Colonies is roughly 3000 miles away at the time when 'self-government' was conceded communication was cumbrous and infrequent. The home Government, in the 'forties, threw the reins on the back of the Colonial team and bade them find their own way home. They found it. Would they have found it if the concession had been less complete :

« VorigeDoorgaan »