[Footnote 68: Representative Government, p. 295.]
BY JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
For half a century or more no question of English domestic politics has excited so much interest outside England as that question of resettling her relations with Ireland, which was fought over in the last Parliament, and still confronts the Parliament that has lately been elected. Apart from its dramatic interest, apart from its influence on the fortune of parties, and its effect on the imperial position of Great Britain, it involves so many large principles of statesmanship, and raises so many delicate points of constitutional law, as to deserve the study of philosophical thinkers no less than of practical politicians in every free country.
The circumstances which led to the introduction of the Government of Ireland Bill, in April, 1886, are familiar to Americans as well as Englishmen. Ever since the crowns and parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland were united, in A.D. 1800, there has been in Ireland a party which protested against that union as fraudulently obtained and inexpedient in itself. For many years this party, led by Daniel O’Connell, maintained an agitation for Repeal. After his death a more extreme section, which sought the complete independence of Ireland, raised the insurrection of 1848, and subsequently, under the guidance of other hands, formed the Fenian conspiracy, whose projected insurrection was nipped in the bud in 1867, though the conspiracy continued to menace the Government and the tranquillity of the island. In 1872 the Home Rule party was formed, demanding, not the Repeal of the Union, but the creation of an Irish Legislature, and the agitation, conducted in Parliament in a more systematic and persistent way than heretofore, took also a legitimate constitutional form. To this demand English and Scotch opinion was at first almost unanimously opposed. At the General Election of 1880, which, however, turned mainly on the foreign policy of Lord Beaconsfield’s Government, not more than three or four members were returned by constituencies in Great Britain who professed to consider Home Rule as even an open question. All through the Parliament, which sat from 1880 till 1885, the Nationalist party, led by Mr. Parnell, and including at first less than half, ultimately about half, of the Irish members, was in constant and generally bitter opposition to the Government of Mr. Gladstone. But during these five years a steady, although silent and often unconscious, process of change was passing in the minds of English and Scotch members, especially Liberal members, due to their growing sense of the mistakes which Parliament committed in handling Irish questions, and of the hopelessness of the efforts which the Executive was making to pacify the country on the old methods. The adoption of a Home Rule policy by one of the great