This early visit to the great transmarine dominions, and the ties which he formed there, left a marked impression on John Redmond’s mind, which was reinforced by other visits in later years, and by all the growing associations that linked him to life and politics in the dominions. Redmond knew vastly more, and in truth cared vastly more, about the British Empire than most Imperialists. His affection was not based on any inherited prejudice, nor inspired by a mere geographical idea. He was attracted to that which he had seen and handled, in whose making he had watched so many of his fellow-countrymen fruitfully and honourably busy. He felt acutely that the Empire belonged to Irish Nationalists at least as much as to English Tories. America also was familiar to him, and he had every cause to be grateful to the United States; but his interest in the dominions was of a different kind. He felt himself a partner in their glories, and by this feeling he was linked in sympathy to a great many elements in British life that were otherwise uncongenial to him—and was, on the other hand, divided in sympathy from some who in Irish politics were his staunch supporters. He could never understand the psychology of the Little Englander. “If I were an Englishman,” he once said to me, “I should be the greatest Imperialist living.” From first to last his attitude was that which is indicated by a passage of his speech on Mr. Gladstone’s first Home Rule Bill:
“As a Nationalist, I may say I do not regard as entirely palatable the idea that for ever and a day Ireland’s voice should be excluded from the councils of an Empire which the genius and valour of her sons have done so much to build up and of which she is to remain a part."
To follow in detail Redmond’s career under Parnell’s leadership would be beyond the scope of this book. Less conspicuous in Parliament than such lieutenants of “the Chief” as Mr. Sexton, Mr. Dillon and Mr. Healy, John Redmond acted as one of the party whips and was in much demand outside Parliament as a platform speaker. In August 1886 he was once more sent overseas to attend the Convention of the Irish Race at Chicago. He had to tell his hearers of victory and of repulse.
“When you last assembled in Convention, two years ago, the Irish party in Parliament did not number more than forty; to-day we hold five-sixths of the Irish seats, and speak in the name of five-sixths of the Irish people in Ireland. Two years ago we had arrayed against us all English political parties and every English statesman; to-day we have on our side one of the great English political parties, which, though its past traditions in Ireland have been evil, still represents the party of progress in England, and the greatest statesman of the day, who has staked his all upon winning for Ireland her national rights. Two years ago England had in truth, in Mitchel’s phrase,