conviction that great principles, permanent truths
of human nature, lie at the bottom of all sound politics,
and ought to be boldly and consistently applied, even
when temporary difficulties surround their application.
Such a principle is the belief in the power of freedom
and self-government to cure the faults of a nation,
in the tendency of responsibility to teach wisdom,
and to make men see that justice and order are the
surest sources of prosperity. Such a principle
is the perception that national hatreds do not live
on of themselves, but will expire when oppression
has ceased, as a fire burns out without fuel.
Such a principle is the recognition of the force of
national sentiment, and of the duty of allowing it
all the satisfaction that is compatible with the maintenance
of imperial unity. Such, again, is the appreciation
of those natural economic laws which show that nations,
when disturbing passions have ceased, follow their
own permanent interests, and that an island which
finds its chief market in England and draws its capital
from England will prefer a connection with England
to the poverty and insignificance of isolation.
It is the honour of Mr. Gladstone to have built his
policy of conciliation upon principles like these,
as upon a rock; and already the good effects are seen
in the new friendliness which has arisen between the
English masses and the people of Ireland, and in the
better temper with which, despite the acrimony of some
prominent politicians, the relations of the two peoples
are discussed. When one looks round the horizon
it is still far from clear; nor can we say from which
quarter fair weather will arrive. But the air
is fresher, and the clouds are breaking overhead.
* * * *
What has happened since the above paragraphs were
written, ten months ago, has confirmed more quickly
and completely than the writer expected the forecasts
they contain. Home Rule is no longer a word of
terror, even to those English and Scotch voters who
were opposed to it in July, 1886. Most sensible
men in the Tory and Dissentient Liberal camps have
come to see that it is inevitable; and, while they
continue to resist it for the sake of what is called
consistency, or because they do not yet see in what
form it is to be granted, they are disposed to regard
its speedy arrival as the best method of retreat from
an indefensible position.
The repressive policy which the present Ministry are
attempting in Ireland—for in the face of
their failures one cannot say that they are carrying
out any policy—is rendering Coercion Acts
more and more detested by the English people.
The actualities of Ireland, the social condition of
her peasantry, the unwisdom of the dominant caste,
the incompetence of the bureaucracy which affects
to rule her, are being, by the full accounts we now
receive, brought home to the mind of England and Scotland
as they never were before, and produce their appropriate
effect upon the heart and conscience of the people.
The recognition by the Liberal party of the rights
of Ireland, the visits of English Liberals to Ireland,
the work done by Irishmen in English constituencies,
are creating a feeling of unity and reciprocal interest
between the masses of the people on both sides of the
Channel without example in the seven hundred years
that have passed since Strongbow’s landing.