In the confusion so engendered it may be useful to consider in some detail the different proposals which have been or may be made under the name of Home Rule, their special qualities and dangers, and the results to which they may severally lead.
A proposal to give to Ireland full “responsible” government, without any other limitations than such as are imposed on our self-governing Colonies, would find few supporters in this country. Under such a constitution an Irish Government would have power to forbid or restrict recruiting for the Imperial forces in Ireland, and to raise and train a force of its own. It might establish or subsidise a religion, make education wholly denominational, levy customs duties on imports from Great Britain and give fiscal advantages to a foreign power, confiscate or transfer property without payment, and deprive individuals of nationality, franchise, liberty, or life without process of law. However improbable some of these contingencies may appear, it is right on a matter of so much moment to consider possibilities and not probabilities only. Such powers as these could not without serious risk be conceded to any part of the kingdom, and in the case of Ireland there would be a special danger in granting them to a popularly elected body.
In the first place, the national safety would be involved. Englishmen were at one time too fond of saying that the great Colonies might, if they chose, sever the link which binds them to the Mother Country. Happily, in their case, no such catastrophe need now be considered. But it would be folly to shut our eyes to the fact that to many Irishmen national independence appears to be the only goal worth striving for. If the concession of full responsible government should be followed (at whatever interval) by an assertion of complete independence, we may assume that Great Britain would follow the example of Federal America and re-establish the Union by force of arms, but at how great a cost! Those who deny the possibility of a serious movement towards separation would do well to remember Mr. Gladstone’s reference to the position of Norway and Sweden, then united under one crown:—