Page:EB1911 - Volume 14.djvu/818

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FROM ANGLO-NORMAN INVASION]
785
IRELAND

which was lost by 30 votes. A general election followed in July, and 74 Liberal Unionists were returned, forming with the Conservatives a Unionist party, which outnumbered Gladstonians and Parnellites together by over a hundred. Gladstone resigned, and Lord Salisbury became prime minister, with Lord Londonderry as lord-lieutenant and Sir M. Hicks-Beach (afterwards Lord St Aldwyn) as chief secretary.

The political stroke having failed, agrarianism again occupied the ground. The “plan of campaign” was started, against Parnell’s wishes, towards the end of 1886. The gist of this movement was that tenants should offer what The “Plan of Campaign.” they were pleased to consider a fair rent, and if it was refused, should pay the money into the hands of a committee. In March 1887 Sir M. Hicks-Beach resigned on account of illness, and Mr Arthur Balfour (q.v.) became chief secretary. The attempt to govern Ireland under what was called “the ordinary law” was necessarily abandoned, and a perpetual Crimes Act was passed which enabled the lord-lieutenant to proclaim disturbed districts and dangerous associations, and substituted trial by magistrates for trial by jury in the case of certain acts of violence. In August the National League was suppressed by proclamation. The conservative instincts of the Vatican were alarmed by the lawless state of Ireland, and an eminent ecclesiastic, Monsignor Persico, arrived in the late summer on a special commission of inquiry. He made no secret of his belief that the establishment of an occupying proprietary was the only lasting cure, but the attitude of the clergy became gradually more moderate. The government passed a bill giving leaseholders the benefit of the act of 1881, and prescribing a temporary reduction upon judicial rents already fixed. This last provision was open to many great and obvious objections, but was more or less justified by the fall in prices which had taken place since 1881.

The steady administration of the Crimes Act by Mr Balfour gradually quieted the country. Parnell had now gained the bulk of the Liberal party, including Lord Spencer (in spite of all that he had said and done) and Sir G. Trevelyan (in spite of his Hawick speech). In the circumstances the best chance for Home Rule was not to stir the land question. Cecil Rhodes, hoping to help imperial federation, gave Parnell £10,000 for the cause. In September 1887 a riot arising out of the “plan of campaign” took place at Mitchelstown. The police fired, and two lives were lost, Mr Henry Labouchere and Mr (afterwards Sir John) Brunner, both members of parliament, being present at the time. The coroner’s jury brought in a verdict against the police, but that was a matter of course, and the government ignored it. A telegram sent by Gladstone a little later, ending with the words “remember Mitchelstown,” created a good deal of feeling, but it did the Home Rulers no good. In October Mr Chamberlain visited Ulster, where he was received with enthusiasm, and delivered several stirring Unionist speeches. In November Lord Hartington and Mr Goschen were in Dublin, and addressed a great loyalist meeting there.

In July 1888 an act was passed appointing a commission, consisting of Sir James Hannen, Mr Justice Day and Mr Justice A. L. Smith, to inquire into certain charges made by The Times against Parnell and his party. What Parnell Commission. caused most excitement was the publication by The Times on the 15th of May 1887 of a facsimile letter purporting to have been written by Parnell on the 15th of May 1882, nine days after the Phoenix Park murders. The writer of this letter suggested that his open condemnation of the murders had been a matter of expediency, and that Burke deserved his fate. Parnell at once declared that this was a forgery, but he did nothing more at the time. Other alleged incriminating letters followed. The case of O’Donnell v. Walter, tried before the Lord Chief Justice of England in July 1888, brought matters to a head, and the special commission followed. The proceedings were necessarily of enormous length, and the commissioners did not report until the 13th of February 1890, but the question of the letters was decided just twelve months earlier, Richard Pigott, who shot himself at Madrid, having confessed to the forgeries. A few days later, on the 8th of March 1889, Parnell was entertained at dinner by the Eighty Club, Lords Spencer and Rosebery being present; and he was well received on English platforms when he chose to appear. Yet the special commission shed a flood of light on the agrarian and Nationalist movement in Ireland. Eight members of parliament were pronounced by name to have conspired for the total political separation of the two islands. The whole party were proved to have disseminated newspapers tending to incite to sedition and the commission of crime, to have abstained from denouncing the system of intimidation, and to have compensated persons injured in committing crime. (See Parnell.)

The conduct of the agrarian war had in the meantime almost passed from Parnell’s hands. The “plan of campaign” was not his work, still less its latest and most remarkable exploit. To punish Mr Smith-Barry (afterwards New Tipperary. Lord Barrymore) for his exertions in favour of a brother landlord, his tenants in Tipperary were ordered to give up their holdings. A sum of £50,000 was collected to build “New Tipperary,” and the fine shops and flourishing concerns in the town were deserted to avoid paying small ground-rents. The same course was pursued with the farmers, some of whom had large capitals invested. Mr William O’Brien presided at the inaugural dinner on the 12th of April, and some English M.P.’s were present, but his chief supporter throughout was Father Humphreys. Parnell was invited, but neither came nor answered. No shopkeeper nor farmer had any quarrel with his landlord. “Heretofore,” a tenant wrote in The Times in the following December, “people were boycotted for taking farms; I am boycotted for not giving up mine, which I have held for twenty-five years. A neighbour of mine, an Englishman, is undergoing the same treatment, and we alone. We are the only Protestant tenants on the Cashel estate. The remainder of the tenants, about thirty, are clearing everything off their land, and say they will allow themselves to be evicted.” In the end the attack on Mr Smith-Barry completely failed, and he took back his misguided tenants. But the town of Tipperary has not recovered its old prosperity.

The principal Irish measure passed in 1891 was Mr Balfour’s Purchase Act, to extend and modify the operation of the Ashbourne acts. £30,000,000 were provided to convert tenants into proprietors, the instalments paid being Land purchase. again available, so that all the tenanted land in Ireland might ultimately be passed through if desired. The land itself in one shape or another formed the security, and guaranteed stock was issued which the holder might exchange for consols. The 40th clause of the Land Act of 1896 greatly stimulated the creation of occupying owners in the case of over-incumbered estates, but solvent landlords were not in a hurry to sell. The interests of the tenant were so carefully guarded that the prices obtainable were ruinous to the vendor unless he had other resources. The security of the treasury was also so jealously scrutinized that even the price which the tenant might be willing to pay was often disallowed. Thus the Land Commission really fixed the price of all property, and the last vestige of free contract was obliterated. Compulsory purchase became a popular cry, especially in Ulster. Owners, however, could not with any pretence of justice be forced to sell at ruinous prices, nor tenants be forced to give more than they thought fair. If the state, for purposes of its own, insisted upon expropriating all landlords, it was bound to find the difference, or to enter upon a course of undisguised confiscation. The Purchase Act was not the only one relied on by Mr Balfour. The Light Railways Act, passed by him in 1890, did much to open up some of the poorest parts of the west, and the temporary scarcity of that year was dealt with by relief works.

An action begun by Parnell against The Times was settled by the payment of a substantial sum. The Nationalist leader seemed to stand higher than ever, but the writ in the divorce proceedings, brought by Captain O’Shea against his wife, with Parnell’s downfall. the Irish leader as co-respondent, was hanging over him. To