In politics, as in nature, beneficent powers work quietly, while destructive agencies sweep across the world with noise and tumult. The fruit tree grows in silence; the tempest which uproots it shakes the earth to its centre. The gradual evolution of society in the development of art, the softening of manners, the equalization of justice, the respect for law, the purity of morals, which are its results and correlatives, comes about as silently as the growth of the tree; but the wars which desolate nations, and the revolutions which destroy in a few months the work of many centuries, are as tumultuous as the tempest and as boisterous as the storm.
In Ireland at the present moment this rule holds good with surprising accuracy. Where the tranquilizing effect of Lord Ashbourne’s Act attracts but little attention outside its own immediate sphere, the Plan of Campaign has everywhere been accompanied with murder, boycotting, outrage, and the loud cries of those who, playing at bowls, have to put up with rubbers. Where men who have retained their sense of manly honesty and commercial justice, buy their lands in peace, without asking the world to witness the transaction—those tenants who, having for years refused to pay a reduced rent or any portion of arrears, are at last evicted from the land they do not care to hold as honest men should, make the political welkin ring with their complaints, and call on the nation at large to avenge their wrongs. And the analogy holds good all through. The Irish tenant yearns to possess the land he farms. Lord Ashbourne’s Act enables him to do this by the benign way of peace, fairness, and self-respect. The Plan of Campaign, on the other hand, teaches him the destructive methods of dishonesty and violence. The one is a legal, quiet, and equitable arrangement, without personal bitterness, without hysterical shrieking, without wrong-doing to any one. The other is an offence against the common interests of society, and a breach of the law accompanied by crimes against humanity. The one is silent and beneficent; the other noisy, uprooting, and malevolent. But as the powers of growth and development are, in the long run, superior to those of destruction—else all would have gone by the board ages ago—the good done by Lord Ashbourne’s Act will be a living force in the national history when the evil wrought by the Plan of Campaign is dead and done with.
By Lord Ashbourne’s Act the Irish tenant can buy his farm at (an average of) seventeen years’ purchase. He borrows the purchase money from the Government, paying it back on easy terms, so that in forty-nine years he becomes the absolute owner of the property—paying meantime in interest and gradual diminution of the principal, less than the present rent. The landlord has about L68 for every L100 he used to have in rent. This Act is quietly revolutionizing Ireland, redeeming it from