“The people of this country will be very loth to condemn those whose only disloyalty it will be to have been excessive in their loyalty to the King. Do not suppose that the people of this country will call those ‘rebels’ whose only form of rebellion is to insist on remaining under the Imperial Parliament."
Of course, men like Sir Edward Carson, Lord Londonderry, Mr. Thomas Sinclair, and other Ulster leaders were too far-seeing not to realise that the course they were taking would expose them to the accusation of having set a bad example which others without the same grounds of justification might follow in very different circumstances. But this was a risk they had to shoulder, as have all who are not prepared to subscribe to the dogma of Passive Obedience without limit. They accepted it as the less of two evils. But there was something humorous in the pretence put forward in 1916 and afterwards that the violence to which the adherents of Sinn Fein had recourse was merely copying Ulster. As if Irish Nationalism in its extreme form required precedent for insurrection! Even the leader of “Constitutional Nationalism” himself had traced his political pedigree to convicted rebels like Tone and Emmet, and since the date of those heroes there had been at least two armed risings in Ireland against the British Crown and Government. If the taunt flung at Ulstermen had been that they had at last thrown overboard law and order and had stolen the Nationalist policy of active resistance, there would at least have been superficial plausibility in it. But when it was suggested or implied that the Ulster example was actually responsible in any degree whatever for violent outbreaks in the other provinces, a supercilious smile was the only possible retort from the lips of representatives of Ulster.
But what caused them some perplexity was the disposition manifested in certain quarters in England to look upon the two parties in Ireland in regard to “rebellion” as “six of one and half a dozen of the other.” It has always, unhappily, been characteristic of a certain type of Englishman to see no difference between the friends and the enemies of his country, and, if he has a preference at all, to give it to the latter.