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I HAVE now completed, I fear at too great length and with too much detail, the task I have proposed to myself, of sketching the outline of a Federal Constitution such as I believe would be of advantage both to England and Ireland to adopt. I earnestly appeal to Englishmen to consider if there be anything in that proposal which it is inconsistent with the honour or the welfare of their country to accept. No thoughtful Englishman can be satisfied with the present state of the relations between the two countries. Every right-minded Englishman must feel himself reproached by the condition to which, under English government, Ireland is reduced. Every far-seeing Englishman, no matter what confidence he has in the resources and greatness of his country, must know that while Ireland is discontented Ireland must be a source, at all events, of weakness to the British Crown. All attempts that have been hitherto made to solve the Irish difficulty have failed. Is it not time to try the experiment of letting us endeavour to manage it ourselves? Why should not the self-government which has made Canada contented and loyal be equally successful in Ireland in attaining the same results? Why should not the same free system upon which Englishmen pride themselves in their own country produce in Ireland the fruits of order, and happiness, and peace ? These are questions which Englishmen must ask themselves. Of one thing they may be assured, that no measure ever can or will satisfy the Irish nation while they are deprived of the
right of managing their own affairs. Englishmen never would rest 'content if their laws were made and their government administered by another nation. England would never rest or be at peace if the country were governed by Ireland, by Scotland, or by France.
To my own countrymen I submit this proposal as that which offers us at all events the best prospect of obtaining that self-government without which Ireland can never be at peace.
I have endeavoured to place before them, as fully as these pages would admit, the relative advantages of the position which Ireland would occupy under a Federal Constitution, and under the system which was in existence before the Union was passed. I have not attempted to conceal my own belief that under Federalism Ireland would make a much nearer approach to independence than she would if we could simply restore the Constitution of 1782.
But this is not the only consideration that must influence our judgment. In all political questions we must take into account the practicability of any scheme, and the difficulties that may attend it. By a very large number, both of Englishmen and Irishmen, a simple Repeal of the Union is regarded as involving, as an almost necessary consequence, the separation of the two countries. Whether this conviction be well founded or not, it is one which has taken a deep hold upon the minds of many in both countries, who would be willing to see established in Ireland any system of self-government which would not be inconsistent with the unity of the Empire. Against any proposal for a mere Repeal of the Act of Union, unaccompanied by any provision to secure the future unity of the empire, England would struggle to the very last. For such a proposal we would not obtain the support of many
of the most influential classes of our own countrymen. I am not one of those who say that therefore it could never be carried. But when? and how? Any man who reflects
calmly on these things will, I believe, come to the conclusion that even if abstractedly he would prefer a simple return to the Constitution of 1782—if we could obtain our own Parliament, with such powers as I propose, retaining still our right to be represented in the Imperial Parliament it would be unwise indeed to refuse this merely for the remote chances of simple Repeal, with all the delays, the uncertainties, and the perils which must intervene before that project can be realized. But, in truth, it is an inaccuracy to say that a Federal Constitution is not “Repeal.” If we establish a Federal Constitution we must, of course, repeal the Act of Union. In repealing it we abrogate all the provisions which gave Englishmen the practical power of legislating on Irish affairs. We restore the independence and the constitution of 1782. We protect and we perfect them by a Federal Union, which gives Ireland a voice in the Imperial administration, and secures unity and power to that administration itself. We adopt a measure which ought to have followed as a necessary consequence of the Constitution established by Grattan and the Volunteers.
No man can say that any political arrangement will endure for ever.
In the changes of dynasties and nations--in the unceasing progress of human affairs—the best formed combinations are broken, and institutions that seem the most durable crumble away under the mouldering hand of time, and the action of the mighty current in which human thoughts and passions are for ever rushing on. No one could guarantee an eternal Union of the two countries, even upon the basis of mutual interest and mutual equality which a Federal Constitution would recognize. Among the unseen eventualities of the far off future, the hour of separation might come. But if it did come it would come for Ireland not in the form of a revolution in which the whole fabric of society would be shaken. It would come for Ireland guided and controlled
by deliberative assemblies in which the manhood and the wisdom of the country would take counsel, in which the voice of the nation would be heard, and by which, in any hour of danger, our country would be guided in the paths of national dignity, and, therefore, in those of moderation and order.
It may be that some Irishmen of extreme opinions may be dissatisfied with the proposed plan because it does not suggest any radical changes in the constitution. Complaints have been made even of the Federal resolutions because they recognized the continuance of an hereditary House of Lords. But surely a very little thought will satisfy any one that if we are to unite in making the demand for self-government it must be by meeting on the common ground of taking things as they are. If each person were to insist on inserting in our plans any particular views of his own, there is an end of unity in our struggle. We engage in a dispute about our constitution, not in a demand for a nation's rights. If I felt myself at liberty to propose changes there are several which I would recommend, some in what would be termed a Conservative direction, others in that which would very reasonably be termed Democratic. I would wish, for instance, to see some provision in which some seats should be at the disposal of the ministers of the Crown. I would earnestly desire to see a restoration of the old constitutional rights of our citizens in great towns, by the means of guilds of trades in which every man who followed a trade or a handicraft should be enrolled and have a vote. I would have wished to see the reform of the representation of the people both of England and Ireland effected upon principles like these. But it has not been so done. I must take matters as they are. All that a demand for selfgovernment means is this, that we should transfer the constitution as it is to Ireland. The advocates of progress lose nothing by this. They will be exactly in the same position as they are now. The friends of the conservation of existing institutions are not damaged. They will have all the means of maintaining them that they have now. If the demands of our national life require the expansion or change of our institutions, these things will be effected by the growth of opinion, and the spread of intelligence. We cannot make our institutions, any more than our Federal Constitution, binding on all time.
I admit at once that if there be a part of the plan in which there is a temptation to propose new constitutional provisions it is in relation to the upper legislative chamber. It is not without doubt and reflection that I have proposed the plan which these pages contain. But I am perfectly and entirely persuaded that even in respect of this it would be unwise to propose any new principle. I do not regard the exclusion of non-resident peers and the institution of life peerages as innovations constituting any departure from this rule. They are not inconsistent with the principle of an hereditary chamber, and both are necessities springing practically from the position in which Ireland and the Irish peerage are placed.
Even if these reasons did not exist, I cannot help thinking that we would do unwisely if we were to deprive our Irish Parliament of the dignity which, in the present state of feeling, the presence of an hereditary peerage confers. An Irish upper chamber framed upon any of the Colonial models, would be always looked down upon as an assembly inferior to the English House of Peers. By giving to the Queen the power of conferring life peerages we could combine with the dignity of an hereditary chamber the energy and the popularity of an elective one.
But these very considerations suggest to me an appeal to that class of our countrymen who have hitherto stood aloof from all movements intended to promote the cause of Irish nationality. I believe it is of the utmost importance to the