« PreviousContinue »
tion of Irishmen to the great practical question which they must then solve—if, above all, I have done anything which may accustom them to think of the attainment of national independence as a matter that is to be achieved in peaceful relations with the English crown and nation-and as a right that is to be demanded, not by any section or faction of the Irish people, but with the united voice of all creeds and classes of the nation.
I would be both unjust and ungrateful if I did not take the opportunity of acknowledging the fairness, and, I must say, the generosity of the criticism which has been bestowed upon this tract by many of the English journals which have most strongly combated the proposal it contains. It is by full and free discussion, in which national opinions and even .national prejudices are treated with respect on both sides, that national animosities can be disarmed. If Irishmen and Englishmen discuss their international relations in a spirit of mutual forbearance and good will, there is no difficulty in arriving at an amicable and cordial adjustment of differences, which—if exasperated by insult and contempt of Irish feeling and sentiment—will one day or other find a very different solution.
I. B. DUBLIN, November 2nd, 1870.
At a Meeting of the Home Government Association, held on the 6th of October, 1870, The Right Honourable the LORD Mayor in the
Chair, It was proposed by the Rev. J. A. Galbraith, F.T.C.D., and seconded by John Martin, Esq., of Kilbroney, and unanimously
RESOLVED—" That we feel it of great importance that public opinion should be directed to the practical consideration of the manner in which a Federal Union of the two countries may be carried out, and that, while we believe that this Association ought not to commit itself in the present state of the question to the details of any plan, we think it right to direct the attention of the public to the plan of such a Union proposed in the recent publication of Mr. Butt, as furnishing a proof that it is practicable to carry out such a Union in accordance with the general principles of the Association without interfering with the principles of the Constitution or the integrity of the Union of the countries."
THE QUESTION STATED. I VENTURE in the following pages to submit to the people both of England and Ireland, a clear and distinct proposal for a new arrangement of the relations of the two countries, as a substitute for that entered into at the commencement of the present century.
I do so under a deep conviction that the time is come when it is essential to the interests of both countries that there should be a re-adjustment or modification of the Union arrangements. I believe that a very large proportion of the Irish people are willing to accept such a Federal Union between the countries as would give an Irish Parliament control over all the domestic affairs of Ireland, while an Imperial Parliament still preserved the unity and integrity of the United Kingdom as a great power among the nations of the world. The present state of feeling in Ireland offers to Irish patriots at least a hope of uniting all classes and Creeds of Irishmen in a national effort to win self-government for their country. It offers to England an opportunity of conciliating the Irish people without making concessions
which would involve revolutionary changes or endanger the stability of the Empire. It may be that these hopes are to be disappointed. That opportunity may be neglected. If it be so, I will not, therefore, despair of the cause of Ireland or Ireland's nationality—a cause as indestructible as the mountains of her land, or as the ocean which surrounds it. But I am persuaded that never again will there be such an open for the peaceful solution of questions which will one day or other find their settlement, no matter by what means.
It is in the earnest hope that these pages may contribute something to effect a union of Irishmen in seeking for a moderate and peaceful settlement of our relations with England that I venture on a task from which every personal consideration would keep me aloof. In undertaking to sketch out the outline of a Federal Constitution between the two countries, I know well the difficulties that must be encountered. Experience has, even in my own case, abundantly verified to me the wisdom of Edmund Burke's warning against the rashness of those who propose legislative measures except from the seat of authority. It is difficult for any private individual to frame details which very often require information which unaided individual resources can rarely command. Upon such a question as that of the relations between England and Ireland, any person who proposes anything like a detailed settlement is sure to arouse prejudices and to offend crotchets; he exposes his plans to criticism which of necessity descends into cavils, and he runs the additional risk of wounding feelings of national honour and pride if he suggests a settlement which falls short of the expectation of those who have cherished—it may be exaggerated—notions of Ireland's position.
Nevertheless I believe it is : essential to the cause of “ Federalism” that some practical design of a Federal Constitution should be offered for the consideration of the public.