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THE ELEMENTS OF THE PROBLEM. It was not only to support the principle of Home Rule for Ireland that I followed in some detail the growth of the Liberal principle of government as applied to outlying portions of the British Empire. The historical circumstances which moulded the form of each individual Colonial Constitution, the Constitutions themselves, and the modifications they have subsequently undergone, supply a mass of material rich in interest and instruction for the makers of an Irish Constitution. Nor is the analogy academical. Ireland is at this moment under a form of government unique, so far as I know, in the whole world, but resembling more closely than anything else that of a British Crown Colony where the Executive is outside popular control, and the Legislature is only partially within it ; with this additional and crowning inconvenience, that the Irish Crown Colony can obstruct the business of the Mother Country. What we have to do is to liberate Great Britain and to give Ireland a rational Constitution—not pedantically adhering to any colonial model, but recognizing that, however closely her past history resembles that of a Colony, Ireland, by her geographical position, has a closer community of interest with Great Britain than that of any Colony.
Three main difficulties have to be contended with : first, that the system to be overthrown is so ancient, and the prejudice against Home Rule so inveterate ; second, the Irish are not agreed upon any constructive scheme ; third, the confusion in the popular mind between “ Federal ” and other systems of Home Rule.
With regard to the first of these obstacles, we have got to make a big national effort to take a sensible and dispassionate view of the whole problem. We must cease to regard Ireland as an insubordinate captive, as a "possession ” to be exploited for profit, or as a child to be humoured and spoiled. All this is vieux jeu. It belongs to an utterly discredited form of socalled Imperialism, which might more fitly be called Little Englandism, masquerading in the showy trappings of Bismarckian philosophy. We have gone too far in the “dismemberment” of our historic Empire, and near enough to the dismemberment of what remains, to apply this worn-out metaphor to the process of making Ireland politically free.
In Ireland we must build on trust, or we build on sand.
Let us firmly grasp these principles, or we shall fail. They may be carried to the extreme point. If it were for Ireland's moral and material good to become an independent nation, it would be Great Britain's interest to encourage her to secede and assume the position of a small State like Belgium, whose independence in our own interests we guarantee. Since nobody of sense, in or out of Ireland supposes that her interest lies in that direction, we need not consider the point; but it is just as well to bear in mind that a prosperous and friendly neighbour on a footing of independence is better than a discontented and backward neighbour on a footing of dependence. The corollary is this—that any restrictions or limitations upon the subordinate Irish Government and Parliament which are not scientifically designed to secure the easy working of the whole Imperial machinery, but are the outcome of suspicion and distrust, will serve only to aggravate existing evils. When the supreme object of a Home Rule measure is to create a sense of responsibility in the people to whom it is extended, what could be more perversely unwise than to accompany the gift with a declaration of the incompetence of the people to exercise responsibility, and with restraints designed to prevent them from proving the contrary ?
Centuries of experience have not yet secured general acceptation for this simple principle. In this domain of thought the
tenacity of error is marvellous, even if we make full allowance for the disturbing effect on men's minds of India and other coloured dependencies where despotic, or semi-despotic, systems are in vogue. Since the expansion of England began in the seventeenth century, it cannot be said that the principle of trusting white races to manage their own affairs has ever received the express and conscious sanction of a united British people. It has been repeatedly repudiated by Governments in the most categorical terms, and repudiated sometimes to the point of bloodshed. In other cases it has met with lazy retrospective acquiescence on the discovery that powers surreptitiously obtained or granted without formal legislation had not been abused. The Australian Acts of 1850 and 1855 were the first approach to a spontaneous application of the full principle ; but even then many statesmen were not fully alive to the consequences of their action, while there was no public interest, and very little Parliamentary interest, in the fate of these remote dependencies. The fully developed modern doctrine of comradeship with the great self-governing Dominions, a doctrine which we may date from the accession of Mr. Chamberlain to Colonial Secretaryship in 1895, was not the natural outcome of a belief in self-government, but a sudden and effusive acceptation of its matured results in certain definite cases. Irish Home Rule itself had, in the preceding decade, twice been rejected by the nation. With the first opportunity, after 1895, of testing belief in the principle, namely, in the Transvaal Constitution of 1905, the Government failed. Finally, in 1906, when, to redeem that failure, for the first time in the whole history of the Empire a Cabinet spontaneously and unreservedly declared its full belief in the principle, and translated that belief into law, the whole of the Opposition, representing nearly half the electorate, washed their hands of the policy, and, if the constitutional means had existed, would, admittedly, have defeated it, as they had defeated the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893. The change of national opinion has, I believe, been considerable ; but the circumstances remain ominous for the dispassionate discussion of the Irish Constitution. Patriotic people can only do their best to ensure that the grant of Home Rule shall not be nullified by restrictions and limitations which, if they are designed merely
to appease opposition, are destined to create friction and discontent.
I am far from implying that restrictions are bad things in themselves. All Constitutions, whether the sole work of the men who are to live under them, like that of the United States, or the gift of a Sovereign State to a dependency, or the joint work of a Sovereign and a dependent State, contain restrictions designed for the common good. The criterion of their value is the measure of consent they meet with from those who have to live under and work the Constitution, and it is that circumstance which makes it urgent that Irish opinion should be evoked upon their future Constitution, and that the Irish Nationalist party should think out its own scheme of Home Rule. The Constitution of the United States contains many self-imposed restrictions upon the powers both of the Central and the State Governments, in the interest of minorities; and nobody accuses the Americans of having insulted themselves.
It will be no slur on Ireland, for example, if the most elaborate safeguards against the oppression of the Protestant minority are inserted in the Bill, provided that Nationalist Ireland, recognizing the fears of the minority, spontaneously recommends, or, at any rate, freely consents to their insertion -a consent which could not, of course, be expected if their tendency was to derange the functions of Government or cripple the Legislature.
On the other hand, it would be a slur on Ireland which she would justly resent, besides being a highly impolitic step, to deny to the Irish Executive an important power, such, for example, as the control of its own police.
It is a grave difficulty that there is no public opinion in Ireland as to the form of the Irish Constitution. That is an almost inevitable result of political conditions past and present. Violent intestinal antagonisms are not favourable to constructive thought. The best men of a country, working in harmony, are needed to devise a good Constitution, and if any Irishman could succeed in convening a Conference like
that which created the South African Union, he would be famous and honoured for ever in the annals of the future Ireland. That Conference, we must remember, was itself the result of the grants of Home Rule two years previously, and these grants in their turn were greatly facilitated by the co-operation of Britons and Dutchmen.* Canada, in 1840, is a warning of the errors made in constructing a Constitution without such co-operation. Eventually it had to be torn up and refashioned. The best way of avoiding any such error in Ireland's case is to expel the spirit of distrust which animated the framers of the Canadian Union Act of 1840.
So much for the spirit in which we should approach the problem, and I pass to the consideration of the problem itself. What is to be the framework of Home Rule? I take it for granted that there must, in the broad sense, be responsible government, that is to say, an Irish Legislature, with an Irish Cabinet responsible to that Legislature, and, through the Lord-Lieutenant, to the Crown. So much is common ground with nearly all advocates of Home Rule, for I take it that there is no question of reverting to anything in the nature of the abortive Irish Council Bill of 1907.7 But agreement upon responsible government does not carry us far enough. What are to be the relations between the subordinate Irish Parliament and Government, and the Imperial Parliament and Government ?
We immediately feel the need of a scientific nomenclature. In popular parlance, two possible types of Home Rule are recognized—“Federal” and “Colonial.” Both, of course, may be “ Colonial,” because there are Colonial Federations as well as Colonial Unitary States. But, nomenclature apart, the two possible types of Irish Home Rule correspond to two
* See p. 140.
+ The Bill set up a Council of eighty-two elected and twenty-four nominated members, with the Under-Secretary as an ex-officio member. So far it resembled the abortive Transvaal Constitution of 1905 (see p. 130), but the Irish Council was only to be given control of certain specified Departments, and was financed by a fixed Imperial grant. It was to have no power of legislation or taxation, and was under the complete control of the LordLieutenant.