These notable words were spoken by Viscount Grey of Falloden in the debate in the House of Lords on the Partition Bill on 24th November 1920. A more remarkable vindication of All-for-Ireland principles and a more utter condemnation of the egregious folly of our opponents it is not possible to imagine, coming especially from so clear and calm-minded a statesman as the former Liberal Foreign Secretary. The root principles upon which Mr OBrien and his friends proceeded from the start were that success was to be had by making an Irish settlement depend, in the first place, upon the co-operation of a million of our Protestant countrymen, and next by enlisting the co-operation of both British parties, instead of making the Irish Question the exclusive possession of one English Party. These two principles are now universally acknowledged to be the wise ones, yet when we were urging them in the Home Rule debates we could find no support from the Liberal-Irish cohorts, and although we sedulously devoted ourselves to urging a non-party programme and the conciliation of the Protestant minority - about which all parties are now agreed - we only received vilification and calumny for our portion.
Great play is being made by distinguished converts within the past few years of Dominion Rule as if they were the discoverers of this blessed panacea for Irelands ills, but it is proper to recall that the All-for-Ireland Party specifically proposed Dominion Home Rule in a letter to Mr Asquith in 1911 as the wisest of all solutions. Scant attention was paid to our recommendation then and it is not even remembered for us by the protagonists of a later time. In all our efforts to conciliate Ulster and to allay the alarms it undoubtedly felt owing to the growth and aggressiveness of the Catholic Order of Orangeism, we never received encouragement or support from the Government or the Irish Party. On the contrary, they denounced as treason to Ireland the proposal made by us that for an experimental term of five years the Ulster Party, which would remain in the Imperial Parliament, should have the right of appeal as against any Irish Bill of which they did not approve, the decision to be given within one month. This, we held, would have been a more effectual safeguard than any proposed since to satisfy Irish Unionists that legislative oppression would have been impossible.
Other proposals of a representation in the Irish Parliament proportioned to their numbers and of guarantees against the establishment of any Tammany system of spoils in favour of the secret sectarian association were also submitted. But all our overtures for a peace based on reasonable concessions were repudiated by the official Party and contemptuously rejected by them and we were held up to public obloquy as proposing to subject Ireland to the veto of fourteen Orangemen.
In the early stages of the opposition to Home Rule, curiously enough Sir Edward Carson did not count as a figure of any particular power or malignancy. True, he had his early period of notoriety in Ireland when he acted as a Crown Prosecutor under the Crimes Act. But when he transferred his legal and political ambition to England it is alleged that he was for a season a member of the National Liberal Club and was thus entitled to be ranked as a Liberal in politics. Whether through conviction or otherwise, his allegiance appears to have been promptly and permanently transferred to the Unionist Party, but even then he was in no sense regarded as an Ulster Member - he is himself a Southern Irishman by birth - and in the House of Commons comported himself as a good Unionist, holding office as such. It was only when the Irish Party set their faces sternly against any concessions to Ulster that Sir Edward Carson stepped into the breach and came to the front as the duly elected leader of the Ulster Party. It is the sheerest nonsense and pure ignorance of the facts to say that Sir Edward Carson created the Ulster difficulty. It was created by the statesmen and politicians who, in the words of Viscount Grey, did not sufficiently realise the absolute necessity of taking into consideration the feeling of Ulster. When the full history of this period is written, and when documents at present confidential are available, I believe it will be shown that if the concessions and safeguards suggested by the All-for-Ireland Party had been offered by the Government or the Irish Party in the earlier stages of the Home Rule controversy they would have been, in the main, acceptable to Ulster Unionist opinion. I well remember Mr (now Mr Justice) Moore declaring, from his place on the Ulster benches:
Where we preached all reasonable concession and conciliation our opponents proclaimed that Ulster must submit itself unconditionally to the law and that it must content itself in the knowledge that minorities must suffer. And all this while the Board of Erin Hibernians were consolidating their position as the ascendant authority in Irish life, from whom the Protestant minority might not, without some reason, in looking back on their own bad past, expect that it would be taken out of them when the Catholics got into power. Thus in very real fear and terror of their disabilities under an Irish Parliament, which would be elected and dominated by a secret sectarian organisation, they entered into the famous Ulster Covenant and solemnly swore to resist Home Rule and to raise a Volunteer Army for the purpose of giving force and effect to their resistance. The visit of Mr Winston Churchill to Belfast early in 1912 to address a Nationalist meeting there was an aggravation of the situation and there was a time during his progress through the city when his motor car was in imminent danger of being upset and when it was surrounded by a howling and enraged mob of Orangemen, who shouted the fiercest curses and threats at him. As a result of this experience Mr Churchill was never afterwards a very enthusiastic supporter of what came to be called the coercion of Ulster.
Meanwhile Mr Churchills most ill-advised visit, from the point of view of political tactics, was just the thing required to raise all the worst elements of Orangeism and to give its best fillip to the signing of the Covenant, which proceeded apace, not only in Ulster, but in Great Britain, even to the extent that the army was said to be honey-combed with sworn Covenanters, contrary to all the rules and doctrines of military law and discipline. And in due course, in reply to the challenge of Mr Churchills visit the leader of the Unionist Party, Mr Bonar Law, visited Balmoral, near Belfast, and reviewed from 80,000 to 100,000 Ulster Volunteers, who marched past him in military order, and saluted. Sir Edward Carson made the meeting repeat after him the pledge: We will never in any circumstances submit to Home Rule.
The Unionist Party was now solidly and assertively on the side of Ulster in its opposition to Home Rule. They held a demonstration at Blenheim on 27th July 1912, when some three thousand delegates from political associations, invited by the Duke of Marlborough, were present. Mr Bonar Law described the Liberal Ministry as a revolutionary committee which had seized by fraud on despotic power, and declared that the Unionist Party would use whatever means seemed likely to be most effective. He made the declaration that Ireland was two nations, a theory which, strangely enough, Mr Lloyd George, as Coalition Premier, advocated eight years later. He went on to say that the Ulster people would submit to no ascendancy and he could imagine no lengths of resistance to which they might go in which he would not be ready to support them and in which they would not be supported by the overwhelming majority of the British people.
In Parliament a few weeks later Mr Asquith described Mr Bonar Laws speech as a declaration of war against Constitutional Government, but the Ulstermen went on calmly making their preparations for levying war and Sir Edward Carson and his friends coolly delivered speeches which reeked of sedition and treason against the State. Sir Edward Carson declared (27th July 1912): We will shortly challenge the Government. They shall us if they like it is treason. We are prepared to take the consequences. And again he said (1st October 1912): The Attorney-General says that my doctrines and the course I am taking lead to anarchy. Does he not think I know that? And that fine exemplar of constitutional law, Mr F.E. Smith (now Lord Chancellor of England) said: Supposing the Government gave such an order the consequences can only be described in the words of Mr Bonar Law when he said: If they did so it would not be a matter of argument but the population of London would lynch you on the lamp-posts. Ulster scarcely needed these incitements to encourage it in its definite purpose of armed resistance to Home Rule. It began to organise and discipline its army of Volunteers under able military leaders who subsequently demonstrated their capacity in no uncertain fashion, under the tests of actual warfare on many fields of battle. With the knowledge we now possess it seems scarcely believable that Mr Redmond and his friends should have professed to treat what was happening in Ulster as a gigantic game of bluff. They joked pleasantly over the drilling of the Ulster Volunteers with wooden guns, and they only asked that the Government should Let the police and soldiers stand aside and make a ring and you will hear no more of the wooden gunmen. Ribaldry and gibes of this sort in the face of open and avowed treason was but a poor substitute for that firm statesmanship which should have grappled with the Ulster difficulty in either of two ways - to come to terms with it or, in the alternative, beat all unruly opposition to the ground.
Mr Asquith is blamed because he did not put the law in operation against Sir Edward Carson, proclaim his illegal organisation of Volunteers and deal with him and his friends as a people seditious and disaffected towards the State, who, by their acts and conduct, had invited and merited the traitors doom. But Mr Devlin declared not long after in Parliament that the reason why Mr Asquith did not move was because he and his friends would not allow him. Whence this extraordinary tenderness for the man who was thwarting and defying them at every point, it is not possible to say. No doubt the Ministry knew themselves in the wrong in that they had not considered the position of Ulster and had not attempted to legislate for their just fears. It is beyond question that there were conditions upon which the consent of Ulster could have been secured. If, these conditions being offered, this consent was unreasonably withheld, then the Government would have been absolutely justified in throttling Sir Edward Carsons preparations for rebellion before they had gained any ground or effective shape. But the weakness of the Liberal-Irish position was that they would not bring themselves to admit that the All-for-Ireland policy of Conciliation and a settlement by Conference and Consent was right.
Meanwhile, with a weak Irish administration in charge of Mr Birrell as Chief Secretary - most amiable of litterateurs, but most imbecile of politicians - the Ulster opposition was allowed to harden into potential violence and civil war. Engagements between the Orangemen and the Hibernians began to form a sort of political amusement in the north of Ireland. The cries of religious and race hatred were allowed to devour the sweeter gospel of reconciliation and the recognition of a common country and that communion of right and interest between all classes and creeds which was the evangel of Wolfe Tone and other northern Protestant patriots in sublimer days. Matters were drifting from bad to worse under the fatal weakness and irresolution of the Government. So little fear had Sir Edward Carson of any penal consequences to himself that he declared, on the 7th September 1913:
And he was right! It did not interfere. And the Ulster Volunteers began to provide themselves with arms and ammunition and to organise themselves for actual war conditions. There were no more feeble jokes about wooden guns and making a free ring - as if it were to be only an ordinary pugilistic encounter and of no account. In 1913 the Ulster Volunteer Force was said to be well armed and probably better drilled than the northern regiments at the outbreak of the American War of Secession.
Official nationalism was, though it knew it not, passing through the gates of disaster. It was still able to maintain its hold on the old stagers who were grafted on to it for various reasons, and the Board of Erin was still able to count on the fidelity of those who believed in the secret sign and watchword as the avenue to place and preferment.
The Government of Ireland Bill was merrily pursuing its three years course through Parliament - passed by the House of Commons and rejected by the House of Lords after the usual farce and formality of debates which had very little reality in them. What counted was that Ulster was in arms and determined to resist and that the Home Rule Government had proved themselves incapable either of conceding or of resisting. Other things began to count also in Ireland. The young manhood of Nationalist Ireland, seeing the liberties of their country menaced by force, decided to organise themselves into a corps of Irish Volunteers to defend these liberties from wanton aggression. The Transport Workers Strike in Dublin, in 1913, under Mr James Larkin, also showed the existence of a powerful body of organised opinion, which cared little for ordinary political methods and which was clearly disaffected to the Party leaders. Forces were being loosed that had long been held in check by the power of the place-hunting and sectarian constitutional movement asserting and enforcing its authority, through unscrupulous methods already described, to speak and act on behalf of the people. If Sir Edward Carson had risen to power through open and flagrant defiance of all constituted right and authority, there were others who were not slow to copy his methods. The Irish Party may denounce him in Parliament as a disloyal subject of the Crown, but there were young Nationalists in Southern Ireland, aye, even in Rebel Cork, who sincerely raised cheers for him because he had shown them, as they believed, the better way to save Ireland. The Government could not make one law for the North and another for the South. If it allowed the Orangemen to drill and arm it could not well interfere with the Nationalists if they took a leaf out of their book and proceeded to act in like manner. And thus are the destinies of people and the fate of nations decided. In preparing for civil war Sir Edward Carson gave that spur of encouragement to Germany that it just needed to rush it into a world war. And for how much else he is responsible in Ireland every faithful student of current history knows!
Sinn Fein - Its Original Meaning and Purpose
Sinn Fein, as a political organisation, did not exist until 1905, but the originator of it, Mr Arthur Griffith, had established in Dublin, in 1899, a weekly paper called The United Irishman. This was the title of the paper which John Mitchell had founded to advocate the policy of the Young Irelanders and was, therefore, supposed to favour to some extent a movement along those lines. Its appeal was mainly to the young and intellectual and to those extremists who were out of harmony with the moderate demands of the Parliamentary Party. Its first editorial gave an index to its teachings and aims. There exists, it declared, has existed for centuries and will continue to exist in Ireland a conviction hostile to the subjection or dependence of the fortunes of this country to the necessities of any other; we intend to voice that conviction. We bear no ill-will to any section of the Irish political body, whether its flag be green or orange, which holds that tortuous paths are the safest for Irishmen to tread; but knowing we are governed by a nation which religiously adheres to the good old rule, the simple plan, that those may take who have the power and those may keep who can, we, with all respect for our friends who love the devious ways, are convinced that an occasional exhibition of the naked truth will not shock the modesty of Irishmen and that a return to the straight road will not lead us to political destruction.... In these later days we have been diligently taught that, by the law of God, of Nature and of Nations, we are rightfully entitled to the establishment in Dublin of a legislative assembly, with an expunging angel watching over its actions from the Viceregal Lodge. We do not deprecate the institution of any such body, but we do assert that the whole duty of an Irishman is not comprised in utilising all the forces of his nature to procure its inception. It continued: With the present-day movements outside politics we are in more or less sympathy, and it particularly specified the Financial Reformers and the Gaelic League, adding, however: We would regret any insistence on a knowledge of Gaelic as a test of patriotism. Finally it said: Lest there might be any doubt in any mind, we will say that we accept the Nationalism of 98, 48 and 67 as the true Nationalism, and Grattans cry Live Ireland. Perish the Empire as the watchword of patriotism. Thus its creed was the absolute independence of Ireland, and though it did not advocate the methods of armed revolution, it opened its columns to those Nationalists who did. It preached particularly the doctrine of self-reliance and independence. It attached more importance to moral qualities than to mere political action. It was free in its criticism of persons or parties who it considered were setting up false standards for the guidance of the people. It derided the policy of the Irish Party as half-bluster and half-whine, and when Mr Redmond spoke rhetorically of wringing from whatever Government may be in power the full measure of a nations rights, it bluntly told him he was talking arrant humbug. It made the development of Irish industries one of the foremost objects of its advocacy. It courageously attacked the Catholic clergy for the faults it saw, or thought it saw, in them. They were told they took no effective steps to arrest emigration - that they next to the British Government were responsible for the depopulation of the country; that they failed to encourage Irish trade and manufactures and that they made life dull and unendurable for the people. And so on and so forth it continued its criticisms with remarkable candour and consistency.
It came early into conflict with the Castle authorities on account of its vigorous propaganda against recruiting for the army and it published the text of an anti-recruiting pamphlet for the distribution of which prosecutions were instituted. It was found difficult, however, to obtain convictions against those who distributed these pamphlets, and even in Belfast a jury refused to bring in a conviction on this charge at the instance of the Crown. The United Irishman was seized by the authorities and only got an excellent advertisement into the bargain.
Meanwhile an organisation of Irishmen who shared the views of the paper was being gradually evolved, and in 1900 the first steps were taken in the foundation of Cumann na n Gaedhal. Its objects were to advance the cause of Irelands national independence by (1) cultivating a fraternal spirit amongst Irishmen; (2) diffusing knowledge of Irelands resources and supporting Irish industries; (3) the study and teaching of Irish history, literature, language, music and art; (4) the assiduous cultivation and encouragement of Irish games, pastimes and characteristics; (5) the discountenancing of anything tending towards the Anglicisation of Ireland; (6) the physical and intellectual training of the young; (7) the development of an Irish foreign policy; (8) extending to each other friendly advice and aid, socially and politically; (9) the nationalisation of public boards. It was felt, however, that the ends of Cumann na n Gaedhal were remote and that something more was needed to bring the new policy into more intimate connection with political facts. This was supplied by Mr A. Griffith when he outlined, in October, 1902, what came to be known afterwards as the Hungarian policy. This policy was, in effect, a demand that the members of the Irish Parliamentary should abstain from attendance at Westminster, which was declared to be useless, degrading and demoralising, and should adopt the policy of the Hungarian Deputies of 1861 and, refusing to attend the British Parliament or to recognise its right to legislate for Ireland, remain at home to help in promoting Irelands interests and to aid in guarding its national rights.
A pamphlet by Mr Griffith, entitled The Resurrection of Hungary, was prepared and published, which expounded the details of the new policy. Mr R.M. Henry, in his admirable book, The Evolution of Sinn Fein (to which I express my indebtedness for much of what appears in this chapter), tells us that the pamphlet, as a piece of propaganda, was a failure, and produced no immediate or widespread response. Mr Henry also takes exception to the fact of Mr Griffith putting forward the Hungarian policy as an original idea. It had, he writes, been advocated and to a certain extent practised in Ireland long before the Hungarian Deputies adopted it, and he quotes matter to show that Thomas Davis was the real author of the policy of Parliamentary abstention and wonders why the credit was not given to the Irishman instead of the Hungarian Franz Deák.
The claim of Mr Griffith at this stage was that the independence of Ireland was to be based not upon force but upon law and the constitution of 1782: His claim was not a Republic, but a national constitution under an Irish Crown (Mr R.M. Henry). Finally Sinn Fein, which, literally translated, means Ourselves, was formally inaugurated at a meeting held in Dublin on 28th November 1905, under the chairmanship of Mr Edward Martyn and was defined as: National self-development through the recognition of the rights and duties of citizenship on the part of the individual and by the aid and support of all movements originating from within Ireland, instinct with national tradition and not looking outside Ireland for the accomplishment of their aims.
Sinn Fein had now formally constituted itself into a distinct Party, with a definite policy of its own, and The United Irishman ceasing to exist, a new organ was established, called Sinn Fein. But though Mr Griffith may found a Party, he was not so fortunate in getting followers. The Parliamentarians had not yet begun to make that mess of their position which they did so lamentably later. That self-reliant spirit was not abroad which came when a manlier generation arose to take their stand for Ireland.
Canon Hannay paints a peculiarly unpleasant picture of the state of Ireland at this time. Never, he writes, in her history was Ireland less inclined to self-reliance. The soul of the country was debauched with doles and charities. An English statesman might quite truthfully have boasted that Ireland would eat out of his hand. The only thing which troubled most of us was that the hand, whether we licked it or snarled at it, was never full enough. The idea of self-help was intensely unpleasant, and as for self-sacrifice! The note of exclamation sufficiently conveys the writers meaning.
The Sinn Fein organisation as a national movement made very little progress and exercised no considerable influence in affairs. But its principles undoubtedly spread, particularly among the more earnest and enthusiastic young men in the towns. The one Parliamentary election it contested - that of North Leitrim, where the sitting member, Mr C.J. Dolan, resigned, declared himself a convert to the new movement and offered himself for re-election - proved a costly failure. It established a daily edition of Sinn Fein, but this also had no success and had to be dropped. For some following years Sinn Fein could be said merely to exist as a name and nothing more. The country had dangled before it the project of the triumph of Parliamentarianism and it discouraged all criticism of the Party, no matter how just, honest or well-intended. In April 1910, Sinn Fein announced, on behalf of its Party, that Mr John Redmond, having now the chance of a lifetime to obtain Home Rule, will be given a free hand, without a word said to embarrass him. Sinn Fein took no part in the elections of 1910. This, says Mr Henry, was not purely an act of self-sacrifice. In fact, Sinn Fein was never at so low an ebb. Its attitude towards the Home Rule, which now seemed inevitable, was stated as follows:
From now onward until 1914 the Sinn Fein Movement was practically moribund and its name was scarcely heard of. When it appeared again as an active force it was not the old Sinn Fein Movement that was there. As Canon Hannay justly remarks: It cannot be said with any accuracy that Sinn Fein won Ireland. Ireland took over Sinn Fein. Indeed, Ireland took over very little of Sinn Fein except the name. And this is the literal truth.
Labour Becomes a Power in Irish Life
In the chapter on Labour in Dublin Connolly himself thus refers to the Dublin Strike and what it meant:
Here we get some measure of the man and of his creed. To the part he played in the Easter Week Rebellion I must refer in its own proper place. That the Dublin Strike and its consequences had a profound effect on later events, this quotation from Æ will show. In a famous open letter to the employers he declared:
The men whose manhood you have broken will loathe you and will be always brooding and scheming to strike a fresh blow. The children will be taught to curse you. The infant being moulded in the womb will have breathed into its starved body the vitality of hate. It is not they - it is you who are blind Samsons pulling down the pillars of the social order.
The poet oftentimes has the vision to see in clear outline what the politician and the Pharisee cannot even glimpse.
At any rate this may be asserted, that from the year of the Dublin Strike dates the uprise of Labour in Ireland. Connolly became a martyr for his principles, whilst Larkin has been hunted from one end of the world to the other because of his doctrines, undoubtedly of an extremely revolutionary character. But able men have arisen to continue the work they inaugurated and Labour in Ireland has now formally insisted on its right to be a political Party as well as a social organisation. It no longer circumscribes its aspirations to purely industrial issues and social concerns, but it takes its place on the stage of larger happenings and events and is like to play a great part in the moulding of the Ireland that will arise when the old vicious systems and forms are shattered for evermore.
Chapter XXIII: Carson, Ulster and Other Considerations
In the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Mr Henry tells us, all sections of Sinn Fein, as well as the Labour Party, saw a menace to any prospect of an accommodation with Ulster. This strictly sectarian society, as sectarian and often as violent in its methods as the Orange Lodges, evoked their determined hostility.
This narrowing down, wrote Irish Freedom (the organ of Mr P. H. Pearse and his friends), of Nationalism to the members of one creed is the most fatal thing that has taken place in Irish politics since the days of the Popes Brass Band, and the Ancient Order was further referred to as a job-getting and job-cornering organisation, as a silent, practical riveting of sectarianism on the nation. The Irish Worker was equally emphatic. Were it not for the existence of the Board of Erin the Orange Society would have long since ceased to exist. To Brother Devlin and not to Brother Carson is mainly due the progress of the Covenanter Movement in Ulster.
Though no doubt in Ireland religion exercises a considerable influence, it is nevertheless a mistake to think that it was purely a question of religion with those redoubtable Northern Unionists whom Sir Edward Carson led. They attached more importance to their political rights and independent commercial position, which they believed to be endangered; corruption in matters of administration was what they were most in dread of. The Irish Party used to point proudly to the number of Protestants who had been elected as members of their Party. The reply of Ulster was that they owed their election to their accommodating spirit in accepting the Parliamentary policy and not because of their rigid adherence to Protestant principles.
Then came the Lame gun-running expedition, when the Fanny sailed across from Hamburg, under the noses of English destroyers and men-of-war, and, it is said, with the knowledge and connivance of the officers commanding them, safely landed 50,000 German rifles and several million rounds of ammunition, which were distributed within twenty-four hours to the Covenanters throughout the Province. It is clear that at this time extensive negotiations were going on between Germany and the Ulster extremists. The Ulster Provisional Government were leaving nothing to chance. History is entitled to know the full story of all that happened at this most fateful period - what discussions took place between the Ulster leaders and the Kaiser, how far Sir Edward Carson was implicated in these matters and how real and positive is his responsibility for the world war that ensued. And it should be borne in mind that these seditious traffickings with a foreign state were going on at a time when there was no Sinn Fein army in existence, and that the man who first showed a readiness not alone to invoke German aid but actually to avail himself of it, was not any Southern Nationalist rebel leader but Sir Edward Carson, the leader and, as he was called, the Uncrowned King of Ulster. When critics condemn the Nationalists of the South for their alleged communications with Germany, let them not, in all fairness, forget Sir Edward Carson was the man who first showed the way. To whom then - if guilt there be - does the greater guilt belong? When the news of this audacious gun-running expedition was published, Ireland waited breathless to know what was going to happen. Warships were posted on the Ulster coast, ostensibly to stop further gun-running, and the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that in view of this grave and unprecedented outrage the Government would take appropriate steps without delay to vindicate the authority of the law.
But in view of what The Westminster Gazette termed the abject surrender to the Army of the Government over the Curragh incident, when officers were declared to have refused to serve against Ulster, not much in the way of stern measures was to be expected now. The Government on the occasion of the Curragh incident had declared: His Majestys Government must retain their right to use all the forces of the Crown in Ireland or elsewhere to maintain law and order and to support the civil power in the ordinary execution of its duty. But they have no intention whatever of taking advantage of this right to crush political opposition to the policy or principles of the Home Rule Bill.
As Mr Balfour was not slow in pointing out, this statement made it impossible to coerce Ulster. The officers who had refused to obey orders, including General Gough, were in effect patted on the back, told they were splendid fellows, and that they would not be asked to march against Ulster. It was the same thing over again in the case of the Fanny exploit, Sir Edward Carson unblushingly improving the occasion by laying stress on the weakening of Great Britains position abroad that followed as a consequence of his own acts. The Irish Party leaders, who had a few months before still persisted in describing the Ulster preparations as a masquerade and a sham, were now in a state of funk and panic. They found the solid ground they thought they had stood on rapidly slipping from under them. There was to be no prosecution of the Ulster leaders, no proclamation of their organisation, nothing to compel them to surrender the arms they had so brazenly and illegally imported.
Why was not Carson arrested at this crisis, as he surely ought to have been by any Government which respected its constitutional forms and authority, not to speak of its dignity? Captain Wedgwood Benn having in the Parliamentary Session of 1919 taunted Sir Edward Carson with his threat that if Ulster was coerced he intended to break every law that was possible, there followed this interchange:
Well may Mr Devlin take all the credit that is due to him for preventing Sir Edward Carsons arrest, considering that he and his Order had been mainly the cause of bringing Carson to the verge of rebellion, but that gentleman himself seems to have a different opinion about it if we are to put any credence in the following extract from Colonel Repingtons Diary of the First World War, under date 19th November 1915:
Note the scandalous implication here! What does it amount to? That Sir Edward Carson went to Buckingham Palace, held the threat of civil war over the King, and intimidated His Majesty into using his exalted office to screen the Orange leader and his chief advisers from prosecution! If it does not bear this meaning, what other can it bear? And what are we to think of its relation to constitutional authority and right usage?
But this is not the only occasion on which Sir Edward Carson shows up in Colonel Repingtons pages. Under date 19th October 1916:
We have not got that story yet. When it is published it would be an advantage if we could also have the full account of the circumstances under which Baron von Kuhlman went over to Ireland to prospect as to the imminence of civil war, who it was he saw in Ulster, what arrangements and interviews he had with the Ulster Volunteers and their leaders, who were the other prominent people he met there and, above all, how the Fannys cargo of German rifles was arranged and paid for? Surely these are questions vital to an understanding of the extent of Sir Edward Carsons culpability for the outbreak of war.
I quote this to show it was not the All-for-Irelanders alone who saw that the Board of Erin was the real stumbling-block in the way of a national settlement. And now when matters were to be put to the test the Government showed a monstrous culpability. It does not avail them to say that the Irish Party had been guilty of treachery to Ireland, that it misled the Ministry as to the extent and depth of Ulsters irreconcilability, and that it had betrayed its own supporters by reposing a childish faith in Liberal promises. The Government must bear their own responsibility for allowing Sir Edward Carson and the Ulster Covenanters to defy and thwart them at every point, for permitting what amounted to a mutiny in the army, for ordering the Channel Fleet and the soldiers to Ulster to put these grave matters to the test even if the red blood should flow, and then withdrawing them again, for issuing a proclamation forbidding the importation of arms and allowing the Covenanters to spit at it in mockery, and finally for admitting, in the famous Army Order I have quoted, the Right of Rebellion as part of the constitutional machinery of the State.
The gigantic game of bluff - as the Ulster preparations were termed - had won outright. The political gamesters, who would not surrender an inch to Ulster when it could be negotiated with, were now willing to surrender everything, including the principle of an indivisible Irish nationhood. Conversations between the various leaders went on during the early months of 1914 to arrange a compromise and a settlement, the gigantic crime of Partition as a substitute for Irish Freedom was traitorously perpetrated by Irelands own representatives and by the so-called Home Rule Government, and Ireland woke up one fine morning to find that the Home Rule Act even when on the Statute Book might as well not be there - all the bonfires that were lighted in Ireland to hail its enactment nothwithstanding - that Dark Rosaleen, the mother that they loved so well, was to be brutally dismembered, and that A Nation Once Again was to mean, in the words of Sir Horace Plunkett: Half Home Rule for three-quarters of Ireland. The Prime Minister had proposed the partition of Ireland - three-fourths to go to the Nationalists and one-fourth to the Orangemen - and the Irish Party had accepted the proposal, nay, more, they summoned a Conference of Northern Nationalists and compelled them to pass a resolution, strongly against their inclination, in favour of the proposal, under threat of the resignation of Messrs Redmond, Dillon and Devlin if the resolution were not adopted.
An Amending Bill was immediately introduced into Parliament (23rd June 1914), which provided for the exclusion of such Ulster counties as might avail themselves of it. This measure was transformed by the House of Lords so as permanently to exclude the whole of Ulster from the operations of the Home Rule Act.
By people forgetful of the facts, it is sometimes supposed that the Partition was agreed to by the Irish Party under the pressure of war conditions. This is not so. The Party have not even this poor excuse to justify their betrayal, which was the culminating point in the steep declivity of their downfall. The All-for-Ireland Party resisted with all the strength at their command the violation of Irelands national unity. We spoke against it, voted against it, did all we could to rouse the conscience of the people as to its unparalleled iniquity. But though a proposal more offensive to every instinct of national feeling could not be submitted, the Irish Party determined to see the thing through - they seemed anxious to catch at any straw that would save them from an irretrievable doom. On account of the deadlock between the Lords and Commons on the question of exclusion, and with a view to the adjustment of differences, it was announced that the King had summoned a Conference of two representatives from each Party - eight in all - to meet at Buckingham Palace. It is believed that this Conference was initiated by His Majesty but taken with the knowledge and consent of the Ministry. Messrs Redmond and Dillon represented the Irish Party, and thus the man (Mr Dillon) who had been for ten years denouncing any Conference with his own countrymen went blithely into a Conference at Buckingham Palace, where the only issue to be discussed was as to whether Sir Edward Carson should have four or six counties for his kingdom in the North. On this point the Conference for the moment disagreed, but nothing can ever undo the fact that a body of Irishmen claiming to be Nationalists had not only ignobly agreed to the Partition of their native land but, after twelve months for deliberation, agreed to surrender six counties, instead of four, to the Covenanters. And the time came when it was remembered for them in an Ireland which had worthier concepts of Nationality than partition and plunder.
Chapter XXIV: Formation of Irish Volunteers and Outbreak of War
The movement was publicly inaugurated at a meeting held in the Rotunda, Dublin, on 25th November 1913, the leading spirits in the organisation being Captain White, D.S.O., and Sir Roger Casement, a Northern Protestant who, knighted by England for his consular and diplomatic services, was later to meet the death penalty at her hands for his loyalty to his own country. The new body drew its supporters from Parliamentarians, Sinn Feiners, Republicans and every other class of Irish Nationalist. The manifesto it issued stated: The object proposed for the Irish Volunteers is to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland. Their duties will be defensive and protective and they will not attempt either aggression or domination. Their ranks are open to all able-bodied Irishmen without distinction of creed, politics, or social grade. And then it appealed in the name of national unity, of national dignity, of national and individual liberty, of manly citizenship to our countrymen to recognise and accept without hesitation the opportunity that has been granted to them to join the ranks of the Irish Volunteers and to make the movement now begun not unworthy of the historic title which it has adopted. The president of the Volunteers was Professor John MacNeill, who had borne an honourable and distinguished part in the Gaelic League Revival. They declared they had nothing to fear from the Ulster Volunteers nor the Ulster Volunteers from them. They acknowledged that the Northern body had opened the way for a National Volunteer movement, but whilst at first they were willing to cheer Sir Edward Carson because he had shown them the way to arm, it was not long before they recognised that whilst extending courtesy to Ulster, their supreme duty was the defence of Irish liberty. For this they drilled and armed in quiet but firm determination. When Partition became part of the policy of the Irish Party, Mr Redmond and his friends had many warnings that the Irish Volunteers were not in existence to support the mutilation of Ireland. They proclaimed their intention originally of placing themselves at the disposal of an Irish Parliament, but not of the kind contemplated by the Home Rule Bill. The Irish Party saw in the Volunteers a formidable menace to their power, if not to their continued existence. They must either control them or suppress them. Mr Redmond demanded the right to nominate a committee of twenty-five true-blue supporters of his own policy. The Volunteer Committee had either to declare war on Mr Redmond or submit to his demand. They submitted. The Government, who were supposed to have instigated and inspired Mr Redmonds demand, were satisfied. The reconstituted Committee called the new body the National Volunteers.
But though the Redmondites got control of the Committee they did not succeed in curbing the spirit of the Volunteers. And besides there was in Dublin an independent body of Volunteers entitled the Citizen Army, under the control of Messrs Connolly and Larkin. This was purely drawn from the workers of the metropolis and was fiercely antagonistic to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which The Irish Worker declared to be the foulest growth that ever cursed this land, and again as a gang of place-hunters and political thugs.
It appears Mr Redmonds nominees gave little assistance in arming the Volunteers, but the original members of the Committee got arms on their own responsibility and, imitating the exploit of the Fanny, they ran a cargo of rifles into Howth. The forces of the Crown, which winked at the Larne gun-running, made themselves active at Howth. The Volunteers were intercepted on their way back by a military force, but succeeded in getting away with their rifles. The soldiers, on returning to Dublin, irritated at their failure to get the arms and provoked by a jeering crowd, fired on them, killing three (including one woman) and wounding thirty-two. It was, writes Mr Robert Lynd, Sir Edward Carson and Mr Bonar Law who introduced the bloody rule of the revolver into modern Ireland and the first victims were the Dublin citizens shot down in Bachelors Walk on the eve of the war.
Hardly had the echoes of the Dublin street firing died down before the thunders of war were heard on the Continent. Germany had temporarily cut through the entanglements of the Irish situation, and from the island drama across the Irish Sea the thoughts of all flew to the world tragedy that was commencing with an entire continent for a battlefield.
If the situation created by the war had been properly handled, it could, with the exercise of a little tact and management and, it may be, with the application of a certain pressure upon Ulster, have been turned to magnificent account for the settlement of Irelands difficulties and disagreements. The Home Rule Bill had not yet passed into law. Anything was possible in regard to it. Again, however - and with the utmost regret it must be set down - the wrong turning was taken.
Confronted with a common peril, all British parties drew together in a united effort to support the war. The Irish Party had to declare themselves. Mr Redmond spoke in Parliament with restraint and qualification, but he made a sensation, at which probably nobody was more surprised than himself, when he said that the Government might withdraw all her troops from Ireland; her coasts would be defended by her armed sons and the National Volunteers would gladly co-operate with those of Ulster in doing so. Mr Redmond might have bargained for the immediate enactment of Home Rule or he might have remained neutral. Instead he gave a half-hearted offer of service at home, to defend the shores of Ireland, and forthwith Sir Edward Grey proclaimed, with an applauding Empire to support him, that Ireland was the one bright spot. Yes, but at what a cost to Ireland herself! It is a fallacy, widely believed in, that Mr Redmond proposed a definite war policy. He did not. He did not at first promise a single recruit for the front. He did not put England upon her honour even to grant full self-government in return for Irish service. Admitted that the Home Rule Act was on the Statute Book; but it was accompanied by a Suspensory Bill postponing its operation, and the Government likewise gave a guarantee that an Amending Bill would be introduced to make the measure acceptable to Ulster according to the bargain agreed to by the Irish Party surrendering the Six Counties to Carson.
The Ulster Party, on the other hand, were determined to extract the last ounce of advantage they could out of the situation. They made no promises and gave no guarantees until they knew where they stood. When it was seen, after the war had been for a month running its untoward course against the Allies, that they had nothing to fear from Home Rule, they told the Ulster Volunteers they were free to enlist.
The official organ of Sinn Fein and The Irish Worker were against any Irish offer of service, but the bulk of Nationalist opinion undoubtedly favoured the Allied course on the broad grounds of its justice and righteousness. Mr William OBrien sought to unite all Irish parties on a definite war policy. He held the view that however legitimate would have been the policy of compelling England to fulfil her pledges by holding sternly aloof in her hour of necessity, the policy of frank and instant friendship on condition of that fulfilment would have been greatly the more effectual to make Home Rule a necessity that could not be parried, as well as to start it under every condition of cordiality all round.
But Mr Redmond and his friends missed the tide of the war opportunity as they missed all other tides. They were neither one thing nor the other. Mr Redmond spoke in Ireland in halting and hesitating fashion, publicly asking the National Volunteers to stay at home, and again made half-hearted speeches in favour of recruiting. Mr Redmonds supporters in Cork were not, however, as politically obtuse as he appeared to be, or perhaps as his associations with Mr Dillon compelled him to be. Through the writer they asked Mr OBrien to set forth a plan of united action. Mr OBrien did so in a memorandum which suggested that Mr Redmond should take the initiative in inviting a Conference with the Irish Unionists to devise a programme of common action for the double purpose of drawing up an agreement for Home Rule on a basis beyond cavil in the matter of generosity to the Irish Unionists, and, on the strength of this agreement, undertaking a joint campaign to raise an Irish Army Corps, with its reserves, which was Mr Asquiths own measure of Irelands just contribution. Mr OBrien was in a position to assure Mr Redmond, and did in fact assure him, that if he took the initiative in summoning this Conference, he would have the ready co-operation of some of the most eminent Irish Unionists who followed Lord Midleton three years afterwards. To this Memorandum Mr OBrien never received any reply, and I have reason to believe that all the reply received by Mr Redmonds own supporters in Cork, who submitted the Memorandum to him with an expression of their own approval of its terms, was a mere formal acknowledgment.
I am confident that Mr Redmonds own judgment favoured this proposal, as it did the policy of Conference and Conciliation in 1909, but that he was overborne by the other bosses, who had him completely at their mercy and who had not the wisdom to see that this gave them a glorious and honourable way out of their manifold difficulties.
There were, meanwhile, differences at the headquarters of the National Volunteers over Mr Redmonds offer of their services for the defence of the shores of Ireland, which was made without their knowledge or consent. They, however, passed a resolution declaring the complete readiness of the Irish Volunteers to take joint action with the Ulster Volunteer Force for the defence of Ireland. The Prime Minister promised in Parliament that the Secretary for War would do everything in his power after consultation with gentlemen in Ireland, to arrange for the full equipment and organisation of the Irish Volunteers. But the War Office had other views in the matter, and though a scheme was drawn up by General Sir Arthur Paget, Commanding the Forces in Ireland, by which the War Office may be supplied from the Irish Volunteers with a force for the defence of Ireland, this scheme was immediately rejected by the War Office authorities who, in their efforts to gain Irish recruits - and I write with perfect knowledge of the facts - were guilty of every imaginable blunder and every possible insult to Irish sentiment and Irish ideals.
The Ulster Volunteers, on the other hand, were allowed to retain their own officers and their own tests of admission, and were taken over, holus-bolus, as they stood; were trained in camps of their own, had their own banners, were kept compactly together and were recognised in every way as a distinct unit of Army organisation. All of these privileges were insolently refused to the Nationalists of the South - they were for a time employed in the paltry duty of minding bridges, but they were withdrawn from even this humiliating performance after a short period.
Meanwhile an Irish Division was called for to be composed of Southern Nationalists, and with the Government guarantee that it would be manned by Irishmen and officered by Irishmen. I had my own strong and earnest conviction about the war and the justice and righteousness of the Allied cause. I felt, if service was offered at all, it should not be confined to defence of the shores of Ireland, but should be given abroad where, under battle conditions, the actual issue between right and wrong would be decided. I made my own offer of service in November 1914, and all the claim I make was that I was actuated by one desire and one only - to advance, humbly as may be, in myself the cause of Irish freedom. For the rest, I served and I suffered, and I sacrificed, and if the results were not all that we intended let this credit at least be given to those of us who joined up then, that we enlisted for worthy and honourable motives and that we sought, and sought alone, the ultimate good of Ireland in doing so. Mr Redmonds family bore their own honourable and distinguished part in The Irish Brigade, as it came to be known, and Major Willie Redmond, when he died on the field of France, offered his life as surely for Ireland as any man who ever died for Irish liberty.
Faith was not kept with The Irish Brigade in either the manning or the officering of it by Irishmen, and the time came when, through failure of reserves, it was Irish more in name than in anything else, and when the gaps caused by casualties had to be filled by English recruits. A disgusted and disappointed country turned its thoughts away from constitutional channels; and the betrayals of Irelands hopes, and dignity and honour, which had gone on during the years, were fast leading to their natural and inevitable Nemesis.