Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/329

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

with some reluctance as president of the local government board, and (Sir) George Trevelyan, who was secretary for Scotland, soon resigned (26 March). Gladstone, in his address to his constituents, reiterated the necessity of preserving imperial unity, but urged at the same time that no half measures would suffice, and that, in dealing with Ireland, they must go to the source and seat of mischief.

On 8 April Gladstone brought in his home rule bill. He began by observing that, in the opinion of the cabinet, the question of home rule was closely connected with the question of the land, and that, but for the fear of overloading the measure, he would have dealt with them both at the same time. As it was, a land bill would almost immediately follow. He protested that he had no intention of repealing the union. He proposed to create a legislative body, which would sit in Dublin, for dealing with affairs exclusively Irish. The Irish representative peers would cease to sit in the House of Lords, and the Irish members would cease to sit in the House of Commons. Ireland would tax herself in all branches of taxation except customs and excise. The balance of customs and excise duties, after the discharge of Ireland's obligations to the British government, would be paid into the Irish exchequer. Certain powers would be reserved to the imperial parliament, affecting the crown, the army, the navy, and foreign or colonial relations. The Irish legislature would be expressly prohibited from endowing any religious body. In that legislature there would be two orders. The first order would consist of the twenty-eight representative peers, and seventy-five other members elected every ten years on a property franchise of 200l. a year. This body would have the right of delaying, but not of ultimately defeating, bills passed by the other and more strictly elective order. The second order would consist of the 103 Irish members now sitting at Westminster, and 101 others elected in the same way. The viceroy would hold office permanently, and the disability of catholics for the viceroyalty would be removed. The present judges would have the right of retiring on full pensions, and all civil servants in Ireland would have the same right after two years. The royal Irish constabulary, so long as it existed, would remain under imperial control, and one third of its cost would be supplied from the imperial exchequer. To the general expenditure of the United Kingdom Ireland would contribute a proportion of one in twenty-six. At the conclusion of his speech Gladstone referred to the complete success of home rule in the British colonies, and drew from that fact the inference that it would be equally successful in Ireland. The next day Mr. Chamberlain rose to explain the reasons for his resignation. But his speech was interrupted by Gladstone, when he attempted to deal with his objections to the land bill, which had not yet been introduced, and was known only to the cabinet. This was the first public altercation between Mr. Chamberlain and his former chief. The debate lasted till 13 April, when Gladstone replied. He then said that the exclusion of the Irish members, to which Mr. Chamberlain and other speakers had especially objected, as infringing the principle of no taxation without representation, was not vital to the bill. Meeting the argument that the country had given the government no 'mandate' for home rule, he retorted that there was equally no mandate for coercion. He maintained that his plan held the field, and that, though it had many enemies, it had no rival.

The bill was then read a first time without a division, and on 16 April Gladstone introduced the land purchase bill. This he described as the second portion of the ministerial scheme, and necessary for the maintenance of social order. England, he said, was responsible for the power of the Irish landlords, and for the mischief which some of them had done. It was therefore incumbent upon parliament to give them an opportunity of withdrawing from the country if they did not like home rule. Accordingly, those of them who desired it would be bought out. The Irish legislature would set up a state authority to be the instrument of purchase, and the requisite sum would be advanced through a three per cent. stock. All agricultural landlords would have the option of selling their estates, of which the occupiers would become the proprietors. But a tenant whose annual rent was less than 4l. would not be compelled to buy, and in the congested districts the proprietor would be the state authority. The terms would be twenty years' purchase on judicial rents. Where no judicial rents had been fixed, the prices would be settled by the land court. The amount of the stock to be immediately issued would be 5,000,000l., but it was possible that that sum might ultimately be more than doubled. The interest was to be collected by the state authority, and paid into the treasury through a receiver-general, who would be a British, not an Irish, officer. This bill also was read a first time without a division; but it went no further.