THE BILL IN COMMITTEE.
[Sidenote: The first fence.]
Yes, there was something intoxicating to an Irish Nationalist—after all his weary years of waiting—in seeing the House of Commons engaged in Committee on the Bill which is to restore the freedom of Ireland. And as I looked across the House on May 8th, with every seat occupied—with galleries crowded—with that air of tense excitement which betokens the solemn and portentous occasion—there rose to my brain something of the exaltation of passion’s first hour. The Unionists might rage—the Tories might obstruct—faction might bellow its throat hoarse—Orangemen swear that they would die rather than see Home Rule—for all that, nobody could get over this great fact, of which I saw the palpable evidence at that solemn and historic hour.
But if for a few brief moments one was inclined to abandon oneself to the intoxication of this great hour, there was plenty to bring one very quickly back to solid earth, and to the sense of the long, dreary, and thorny road which Home Rule has yet to traverse.
Time after time Mr. Chamberlain gets up to continue the obstructive debate. Gravelled for matter, he clutches any topic as a means of lengthening the thin chain of his discourse. Mr. Redmond—the Parnellite leader—happens to be for a few moments out of the House. Here at once, and with eager welcome, Mr. Chamberlain seizes upon this fact to string a few sentences together—something after this fashion:—“I observe that the hon. and learned member for Waterford is not in his place. This is very remarkable. Indeed, I may go further and say that this is a most sinister fact. For we all know what the hon. and learned gentleman has said with regard to the kind of Parliamentary supremacy which alone he will accept. Well, now we are discussing this very point of the Imperial supremacy, and the hon. and learned gentleman is not in his place. I repeat, Mr. Mellor, it is a very remarkable, a very significant, a very sinister, and instructive fact!” And so on and so on.
[Sidenote: The stony silence of the Irishry.]
This kind of speech had another object—it was to provoke Mr. Redmond into a speech. For it was all the same to the Obstructives who spoke—provided only there was a speech. For, first, the speech of the Irish or the Liberal member consumed so much time in itself—and then one speech justified another; and thus the speech by the Irishman, or the Liberal, would give an excellent excuse for another series of harangues by the Obstructives. And this brings me to describe one of the portents of the present House of Commons which has excited a great deal of attention and a great deal of unfeigned admiration. As speakers of eloquence—as Obstructives—as Parliamentarians of exhaustless resources—as gladiators, tireless, brave, and cool—and, again, as stormy Parliamentary petrels—fierce,