One last word as to Consistency. We learnt in the Parliament of 1880 many facts about Ireland we had not known before; we felt the force and bearing of other facts previously accepted on hearsay, but not realized. We saw the Irish problem change from what it had been in 1880 into the new phase which stood apparent at the end of 1885, Coercion abandoned by its former advocates, Self-government demanded by the nation. Were we to disregard all these new facts, ignore all these new conditions, and cling to old ideas, some of which we perceived to be mistaken, while others, still true in themselves, were out-weighed by arguments of far wider import? We did not so estimate our duty. We foresaw the taunts of foes and the reproaches of friends. But we resolved to give effect to the opinions we slowly, painfully, even reluctantly formed, opinions all the stronger because not suddenly adopted, and founded upon evidence whose strength no one can appreciate till he has studied the causes of Irish discontent in Irish history, and been forced (as we were) to face in Parliament the practical difficulties of the government of Ireland by the British House of Commons.
[Footnote 3: I may mention here another fact whose significance impressed some among us. Parliament, which usually sinned in not doing for Ireland what Ireland asked, occasionally passed bills for Ireland which were regarded as setting very bad precedents for England. By some bargain between the Irish Office and the Nationalist members, measures were put through which may have been right as respects Ireland, but which embodied principles mischievous as respects Great Britain. We felt that if it was necessary to enact such statutes, it would be better that they should proceed from an Irish Legislature rather than from the Imperial Parliament, which might be embarrassed by its own acts when asked to extend the same principles to England. The Labourers’ Act of July, 1885, is the most conspicuous example.]
[Footnote 4: At Easter, 1885, I met a number of leading Ulster Liberals in Belfast, told them that Home Rule was certainly coming, and urged them to prepare some plan under which any special interests they conceived the Protestant part of Ulster to have, would be effectually safe-guarded. They were startled, and at first discomposed, but presently told me I was mistaken; to which I could only reply that time would show, and perhaps sooner then even English Liberals expected.]