When the debate on amnesty was concluded, there came a climax to that system of obstruction in which the Tories and the Unionists indulged during the first fortnight; and there was indication of the growing exasperation of the Ministerial and the Irish members. Midnight had struck; and Mr. Balfour, on the part of the Tories, had the face to declare that it was impossible, at such a late hour, to do justice to the next amendment. As the next amendment dealt with the Gweedore prisoners, and as the House has heard of little else but the Gweedore prisoners for the last fortnight, the majority received this announcement with a fierce outburst of impatience, the Irish Bench especially being delighted at the opportunity of paying back to Mr. Balfour some of the insults he had poured on them so freely during his six years of power. Meantime, the Liberal temper had been roused to still more feverish heat by the splendid news from Halifax, followed by the even more unexpectedly good tidings from Walsall; and there was a determination to stand no nonsense. But Obstruction was determined to go on, and when it was two o’clock in the morning Sir William Harcourt declared that he would not persevere further. There arose a fierce shout of disappointment from his supporters and from the Irishry; but Sir William beamed pleasantly, and the majority submitted to the tyranny of the minority. And thus debating impracticable proposals, barely listening to long speeches, doing absolutely nothing, the days succeeded each other; and legislators who wanted work, longed for the steady and mechanical regularity of their well-ordered offices, their vast factories, their sanely-conducted communications with all parts of the world, to which English genius, sense, and industry have brought the goods of England. The contrast between the Englishman at business and at politics is exasperating, woeful, tragic.
The home rule Bill.
[Sidenote: I remember.]
When I saw Mr. Gladstone take his seat in the House of Commons on February 13th, I was irresistibly reminded of two scenes in my memory. One took place in Cork some twelve years ago. Mr. Parnell had made his entry into the city, and the occasion was one of a triumph such as an Emperor might have envied. The streets were impassable with crowds; every window had its full contingent; the people had got on the roofs. It almost seemed, as one of Mr. Parnell’s friends and supporters declared, as if every brick were a human face. Men shouted themselves hoarse; young women waved their handkerchiefs till their arms must have ached; old women rushed down before the horses of the great Leader’s carriage, and kissed the dust over which he passed. And, then, when it was all over, Mr. Parnell had to sit in a small room, listening to the complaints and most inconvenient cross-questionings of an extremely pragmatical supporter,