They spoke of Ireland, and expressed the hope that the Conservative Party would do nothing to hinder that great settlement which has done so much to increase American respect for England.
“We recognize over here,” said one, “that the Liberal Party, in going to the rescue of Belgium, sacrificed some of its greatest ideals on the altar of national righteousness. War must have been a bitter draught for Lloyd George. Your social programme will be checked for many years. But if the Conservatives attempt to spoil the Irish settlement, that will be worse than anything else. It will mean confusion for you at home and loss of reputation abroad.”
I spoke of what I had heard on this subject from Irish-Americans, and they confirmed everything recorded in my former article. The three great things, outside of increasing opportunities for intercourse, which have drawn modern America toward England, they told me, are the social legislation of the Liberal Party, the triumph of home rule, and England’s keeping her word to Belgium. By these three things, I was assured, the old animosities against England have been destroyed, and a spirit of enthusiasm for English ideals has been born among Americans.
I should like to say that, while many American women love England for the beauty and repose of her social life, and most eloquently base their affection on the assertion that blood is thicker than water, the men of America are sometimes inclined, and not unnaturally, to disapprove of this pleasing sentimentalism. I now begin to perceive that the men of America are not jealous of England’s social life, but anxious to put their friendship on a more substantial foundation.
Liberalism not only uplifts democracy; it establishes England in the affection of all vital democracies. If the Conservatives, so liberal and charming in their private lives, combine with the Liberals after this hideous war to reconstruct our national life and to consolidate the empire, how great will be the harvest reaped by our children!
It is in the high and lofty name of civilization that the American people are anxious to make friends with the people of Great Britain. We have both got something to live for greater than patriotism and imperialism, greater because it includes them both.
Until I came to America I had not the least idea of the depth of hatred which has existed among Irish-Americans toward England. Nothing that I ever encountered in Ireland itself is comparable with this transatlantic fury of unforgiving hate.
An Irishman who had held very high office in America, a well-educated, a kindly, and a judicious man, told me that when war with Germany was in the air he could not prevent himself from hailing this opportunity for declaring his hatred, his undying hatred, of England. His father had suffered frightfully in the great famine; every story he ever heard at his mother’s knee was a story of English tyranny, English brutality, English rapacity; England, for him, stood at the rack centre, the lustful and bestial slave driver, the cruel and merciless extortioner.