THE RIVAL VOLUNTEER FORCES
The first stir of a new movement in Nationalist Ireland outside the old political lines came from Labour—from Irish Labour, as yet unorganized and terribly in need of organization. On August 26, 1913, a strike in Dublin began under the leadership of Mr. Larkin. It had all the violence and disorder which is characteristic of economic struggles where Labour has not yet learned to develop its strength; it opened new cleavages at this moment when national union was most necessary: it was fought with the passion of despair by workers whose scale of pay and living was a disgrace to civilization; and after five months it was not settled but scotched, leaving dark embers of revolutionary hate scattered through the capital of Ireland.
One incident showed some of the consequences ready to spring, even in England itself, from the action taken in Ulster. Mr. Larkin at the end of October 1913 was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for sedition and inciting to disturbance. A fierce outcry ran through the Labour world in Great Britain; by-elections were in progress, and Government was angrily challenged with having one law for the rich and another for the poor, one law for Labour and another for the Unionist party. To this pressure Government yielded, and Mr. Larkin was liberated after a few days in jail.
But in Ireland more formidable symptoms soon made themselves manifest. Captain J.R. White, son of Sir George White, the defender of Ladysmith, was a soldier by hereditary instinct and had won the Distinguished Service Order in South Africa. But some strain in his composition answered to other calls, and upon Tolstoyan grounds he ceased to be a soldier, without ceasing to be a natural leader of men. His first public appearance was at a meeting in London in support of Home Rule addressed by a number of prominent persons who were not Roman Catholics. But his interests were plainly not so much Nationalist as broadly humanitarian; freedom for the individual soul rather than for the nation was his object: and he suddenly enrolled himself among Mr. Larkin’s allies. His proposal was outlined to a great assembly of the strikers gathered in front of Liberty Hall: Mr. Larkin set it out. They must no longer be “content to assemble in hopeless haphazard crowds” but must “agree to bring themselves under the influences of an ordered and sympathetic discipline.” “Labour in its own defence must begin to train itself to act with disciplined courage and with organized and concentrated force. How could they accomplish this? By taking a leaf out of the book of Carson. If Carson had permission to train his braves of the North to fight against the aspirations of the Irish people, then it was legitimate and fair for Labour to organize in the same militant way to preserve their rights and to ensure that if they were attacked they would be able to give a very satisfactory account of themselves.”