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lethargic Catholics and engulfed Parliament. In a tempest of enthusiasm Grattan's Declaration of Independence was carried unanimously in the Irish House of Commons on April 16, 1782, and a month later received legal confirmation in England at the hands of the same Whig Government and Parliament which broke off hostilities with America, and in the same session.
America took her own road and worked out her own magnificent destiny. Most of us now honour Washington and the citizen troops he led. We say they fought, as Hampden and their English forefathers fought, for a sublime ideal, freedom, and that they were chips of the old block. But let not distance delude us into supposing that they were without the full measure of human weakness, or that they did not suffer considerable, perhaps permanent, harm from the ten years of smothered revolt and lawless agitation, followed by the seven years of open war which preceded their victory. Washington's genius carried them safely through the ordeal of the war, and the still more exacting ordeal of political reconstruction after the war, but it is well known how nearly he and his staunchest supporters failed. The Revolution, like all revolutions, brought out all the bad as well as all the good in human nature. Bad laws always deteriorate a people ; they breed a contempt for law which coercion only aggravates, and which survives the establishment of good laws. As I have already indicated, the dislike and the systematic evasion by smuggling of the trade laws during the long period when the revolt was incubating harmed American character, and probably sowed the seed of future corruption and dissension. However true that may be, it is certainly true that the American rebels showed no more heroism or self-sacrifice than the average Englishman or Irishman in any other part of the world might have been expected to show under similar conditions. Historians and politicians, to whom legal authority always seems sacrosanct and agitation against it a popular vice, who mistake cause and effect so far as to derive freedom from character, instead of character from freedom, can make, and have made, the conventional case against Home Rule for the Americans as plausibly as the same case has, at various times, been made against Home Rule for Canada, South Africa, and Ireland. Since all white men are
fundamentally alike in their faults as well as in their virtues, there is always abundant material for an indictment on the ground of bad character. The Americans of the revolutionary war, together with much fortitude, integrity, and public spirit, showed without doubt a good deal of levity, self-seeking, vindictiveness, and incompetence; and whoever chooses to amass, magnify, and isolate evidences of their guilt can demonstrate their unfitness for self-government just as well as he can demonstrate the same proposition in the case of Ireland. Mr. J. W. Fortescue, the learned and entertaining historian of the British Army, has done the former task as well as it can be done. He denounces the whole Colony of Massachusetts men of his own national stock—as the pestilent offspring of an“ irreconcilable faction,” which had originally left England deeply imbued with the doctrines of Republicanism. Having gained, and by lying and subterfuge retained, some measure of independence, they sank from depth to depth of meanness and turpitude. They struggled for no high principle, and refused to be taxed from England, simply because they were too contemptibly stingy and unpatriotic to pay a shilling a head towards the maintenance of the Imperial Army. It is always the "mob,” the “ruffians," the “rabble," of Boston who carry out the reprisals against the royal coercion, and, like the Irish peasants of the nineteenth century, they are always the half-blind, half-criminal tools of unscrupulous “ agitators. It has been, and remains, an obsession with the partisans of law over liberty all the world over that the fettered community, wherever it may be and however composed, does not really want liberty, but that the majority of its sober citizens are dragged into an artificial agitation by mercenary scribes and sham patriots—a view which is always somewhat difficult to reconcile, as students of American and Irish history are aware, not only with the facts of prolonged and tenacious resistance, but with the other view, equally necessary to the argument for law, that the whole community is sinfully unfit for liberty ; and Mr. Fortescue falls into the usual maze of self-contradiction and obscurity when he tries to give an intelligible account of a war which lasted seven long and weary years, and yet was “factitious," initiated by an hysterical rabble, stimulated and sustained by the basest and pettiest motives, and which, he
contends, was " the work of a small but energetic and wellorganized minority towards which the mass of the people, when not directly hostile, was mainly indifferent.” Happily, Mr. Fortescue's candour as an historian of facts gives us the clue to this strange tangle. We find no evidence that the sober loyalist majority who sustain one side of his argument, and whom we should expect to find crushing the revolt with ease in co-operation with the British regular troops, were, in fact, a majority, nor that they were either better or worse men, or more or less ardent patriots, than the mutinous minority, or the British regular soldiers themselves. Their loyalty, like the disloyalty of the other side, is sometimes interested and evanescent, more often sincere and tenacious ; they are given to desertion, like Washington's troops, like Lee's and Grant's troops nearly a century later, like the Boer troops and like all Volunteer levies, which have somehow to combine war with the duty of keeping their homes and business afloat. We find, too, that a counter-current of desertion flows from the British, and still more from the German, regulars, also a natural enough phenomenon in what was virtually a civil war for liberty ; so that “General Greene was often heard to say that at the close of the war he fought the enemy with British soldiers, and that the British fought him with those of America." And then Mr. Fortescue, ignoring the British side of the case, exultingly quotes against the Americans “the cynical Benedict Arnold, who knew his countrymen," and who said: “Money will go farther than arms in America." Yet Arnold, whose opinion of his countrymen Mr. Fortescue accepts as correct and conclusive, was himself, not a plain deserter, but a perjured military traitor of the most despicable kind. We may conclude, perhaps, after taking a broad view of the whole Revolution, that Washington not only knew his countrymen, who were Mr. Fortescue's countrymen, better than Arnold, but was a better representative of their dominant characteristics. *
Mr. Fortescue is peculiar in the violence of his prepossession, and we know the source of that prepossession, a passionate love of the British Army, which does him great honour, while it distorts his political vision. I should not refer at such
History of the British Army,” vol. iii.
length to his view of the American War were it not that, whenever a concrete case of Home Rule comes up for discussion, his philosophy is apt to become the typical and predominant philosophy. Historical sense seems to vanish, and the same savage racial bias supervenes, whether the unruly people concerned are absolutely consanguineous, closely related, or of foreign nationality. Instead of a general acceptance of the ascertained truth that men thrive and coalesce under selfgovernment and sink into deterioration and division under coercion, we get the same pharisaical assumption of superiority in the dominant people, the same attribution of sordid and ugly motives to the leaders of an unruly people, the same vague idealization of the loyalist minority, the same fixed hallucination that the majority does not want what by all the constitutional means in its power it says it wants, and the correspondingly fatal tendency to gauge the intensity of a conviction solely by the amount of physical violence it evokes, while making that very violence an argument for the depravity of those who use it, and a pretext for denying them self-government.
All this is terribly true in the case of Ireland, and when I next revert to the American continent, the reader will observe that the same ideas were entertained towards Canada, the only white Colony left to the British Empire after the loss of the thirteen States.
We left Ireland in 1782 apparently in possession of a triumph as great as that of America, though won without bloodshed and without the least tincture of sedition ; for the Volunteers of 1782 were as loyal to the Crown as the most ardent American royalists. In the light of political ideas developed at a much later period, we know that the American Colonies might have remained within the Empire, even if their utmost claims had been granted. Had the idea of responsible government been understood, it would have been realized that their exclusive control of taxation and legislation was not inconsistent with Imperial Union, but essential to it. Grattan and his Irish friends, ignorant of the true solution, honestly thought, in the intoxication of the moment, that they had solved the problem so disastrously bungled for America. The facts of ethnology and geography seemed to have been recognized. Ireland and England, united by a Crown which both reverenced, stood together, like Britain and the Dominions of to-day, as sister nations, with the old irritating servitude swept away, and the bonds of natural affection and natural interest substituted. That the close proximity of the two nations, however marked the contrast between their natural characteristics, made these bonds far more necessary and valuable than in the case of America, stood to reason, and, again, the fact was recognized in Anglo-Irish relations. America had fought rather than submit to a forced contribution to Imperial funds. Nobody in Ireland, in or out of Parliament, had ever objected in principle to an indirect voluntary contribution in troops, and now that the American War was ended, non-Parliamentary objections to one particular application of the principle had no further substance. Nor, as was shortly to be shown in the reception