Profoundly conservative, he had no welcome for novel points of view. I cannot put it more strongly than by saying that he was more apparently aware of the qualities which made T.M. Kettle difficult to handle in his team than of those which made that brilliant personality an ornament and a force in our party. A more serious aspect of this conservatism was the separation which it produced between him and the newer Ireland. He welcomed the Gaelic League and disliked Sinn Fein, but undervalued both as forces: he was never really in touch with either of them. Ideally speaking, he ought to have seen to it that his party, which represented mainly the standpoint of Parnell’s day, was kept in sympathy with the new Young Ireland.
But from the point of view of those who shared his outlook—and they were the vast majority, in Ireland and in the party—Redmond’s essential limitation, as a leader, was that he lacked the magnetic qualities which produce idolatry and blind allegiance. What his followers gave him was admiration, liking and profound respect. No less than this was strictly due to his high standard of honour, his scorn of all personal pettiness, his control of temper. In twelve years I heard many complaints of the manner in which things were managed in the party: I scarcely ever remember to have heard anyone complain of him. He was always spoken of as “The Chairman”; no one attributed to him sole responsibility; and he was the last on whom any man desired to lay a fault.
Yet when it came, as it often did, to a question of weighing advices one against the other, there was no mistake how men’s opinions inclined. He had taught his party by experience to have almost implicit confidence in his judgment; and by this earned confidence he led and he ruled.
THE HOME RULE BILL OF 1912
The year 1912, in which the straight fight on Home Rule was to begin, opened stormily. Mr. Churchill was announced to speak under the auspices of the Ulster Liberal Association in the Ulster Hall at Belfast. It was the hall in which his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had used the famous phrase “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.” Belfast was determined that the son should not unsay what the father had said in this consecrated building; it would be, as an Ulster member put it in the House of Commons, “a profanation.” On this first round, Ulster won; Mr. Churchill spoke at Belfast, but not in the Ulster Hall. There were angry demonstrations against him; his person had to be strongly protected and he went away from the meeting by back streets. It was noticeable that no such precautions were needed for Redmond, who attended the meeting and walked quite unmolested through the crowd. The British electorate, as a whole, was somewhat scandalized by the exhibition of so violent a temper; but the education of the British electorate was only beginning.