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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84



This brings this narrative up to the middle of last year, 1885. when the Crimes Act, being only a three years' measure, lapsed; and, owing to parliamentary troubles, was allowed to go unrenewed. A new element was introduced into Irish politics at this time, by the formation of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, of which something has been said in the opening pages. Although the platform of the Union has now been broadened and strengthened by the addition of several planks; it was originally started in April, 1885, with the specific object of testing the strength of the Parnellites at the polls, in the course of the General Election which then threatened. A new and popular franchise had been created by the Reform Act of the then ministry, and the Parnellites loudly boasted they would "sweep Ireland." And it was to bring out the truth in regard to this that the Union was first formed. But it was no easy task which those who established the Loyal and Patriotic Union set themselves to do. Loyalty there was in Ireland, but it was undoubtedly loyalty under cover; and where it had been hitherto manifested it found expression in different camps. For six years previously the Loyalists of Ireland had unquestionably been foolish; for, for that period they had remained apart, clinging to the old traditions of party, and, in some cases, of creed; being therefore weakened because of the absence of unity. And other difficulties of a different character had also to be overcome. Classes were disunited too. I he landed interest stood apart from the commercial interest, and although the latter were ready to admit that the interests of both were bound up together; still considerations of prudence and tear held them back from openly espousing an unpopular cause—for the landed interest was unpopular because it was, as Mr. Parnell himself explained, the corner-stone of British rule in the country. And still yet another barrier to unity remained in the case of Ulster, the northern page 31 province of Ireland, Ulster was distinctly Protestant in its religious view, as opposed to the Roman Catholic sentiment of the South and West; it was also distinctly Orange in its religious bias; and because of its being, by reason of these circumstances, very little tinged with the "Nationalism" of the time, it held aloof from the Union movement for a little time. But ultimately all became welded together, and for the first time in Irish history there was a combined Loyalist party fronting the party of Disintegration.

The elections of 1885 were fought out in Ireland with results which were not by any means unsatisfactory. The boast of the Parnellites that the South and West were "solid" with them, received a check; and it was plainly demonstrated that, even with the practice of the most cruel intimidation and coercion, the Parnellite party could only get 227,019 electors to cast their votes for them, out of the 364,767 which formed the register of the contested constituencies. This applied only to three southern provinces, to which efforts of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union were at this time confined; but when the Ulster returns were included, the case for the Unionists was wonderfully strengthened; and when all the voters were added together, it was shown that only 295,269, out of the total Electorate of 585,715, voted for the "Separatists," or little more than one-half. The abstentions, however, did not affect the return of the Parnellite Members of Parliament for three-fourths of the Irish constituencies.

When the elections had concluded, the platform of the Union was considerably broadened; and arrangements were at once made for developing the work outside Ireland. Offices were opened in London for the supplying of information on Irish affairs; and efforts were immediately set on foot to educate public opinion in England and Scotland, both by the holding of public meetings and the distribution of literature. In holding public meetings the Union but followed the ordinary course of stirring public opinion : in opening a special Press Bureau, however, rather a novelty was introduced in respect to Ireland; but the success which attended the venture fully realised the hopes which were entertained regarding it. It may be of interest to mention at this point, as indicating the amount of the work accomplished in this direction, that up to the present date there have been circulated from the offices of the Union, over page 32 10,000,000 of leaflets, 459,000 pamphlets, and 143,200 posters, all of which have been distributed broadcast over the face of the United Kingdom.

While the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union were working in this way, the Parnellites were by no means idle in the matter of fostering the discontent, which they brought to life in the earlier days of the conspiracy. It has not been thought advisable to weigh down this summary of history, with quotations from speeches of a similar character, delivered right through the campaign which the agitators carried on; but some little space may well be taken up here, with a few excerpts from the speeches delivered at this period, indicating as they do, the continuance of the same desires and intentions with them. For instance, Mr. W. H. Redmond, M.P., one of the brothers who visited Australia for the League [in order to escape punishment], speaking in the Mouse of Commons during the discussion on the Reform Bill and addressing the Ministry of the day said : "You need not think that it (the Reform Bill) will have the effect of staying the agitation of a Separatist character which exists in Ireland, for if you give us this Bill, or twenty more Bills of the same description, we will never cease from that agitation until we fully obtain our object." Mr. Sexton, M.P., was of opinion that "the people of Ireland had learned that they must fight the Government, foot to foot, and that they must pursue a policy of retaliation and give back blow for blow; while Mr. T.D. Sullivan, M.P., glorying in his lawlessness, told a gathering of peasants in the County Carlow, that "The trouble in Egypt (cheers for the Mahdi) was less perilous to the existence of the Government at this moment than the trouble with Ireland. The trouble with Russia (cheers for Komaroff) was less perilous; and for his own part he was glad to say that our own little island was the greatest trouble the English had (cheers). They had been told the Government was likely to go to smash over this question. Well, the sooner the better (cheers). At all events, he thought the Irish Party could promise this, that if the Crimes Act, or any substantial portion of it, was to be renewed, it would not be until after a hard fight for it."

Nor was the Leader [Mr. Parnell] himself behindhand, for speaking at Arklow, County Wicklow, in the month of August, 1885, Mr. Parnell said : "I firmly believe in, perhaps a few months, certainly page 33 not longer than a few years, we will bring back to you, to your soil, and to the people of Ireland, the right to govern Ireland at home, and to banish English misrule for ever."