For the last two and twenty years, at first a few and now a goodly company of rural reformers with whom I have been associated, and on whose behalf I write, have been steadily working out a complete scheme of rural development, their formula being better farming, better business, better living. Sir H. Plunkett, letter to the Times, December, 1911.
Ireland would prefer rags and poverty rather than surrender her national spirit.
Mr. John Redmond, speech at Buffalo, September 27, 1910.
It should never be forgotten that the maintenance of the legislative Union between Ireland and Great Britain is defended by Unionists no less in the interests of Ireland than in that of the United Kingdom and of the Empire. That the ills from which Ireland has admittedly suffered in the past, and for which she still suffers, though in diminished measure, in the present, are economic and social rather than political, is a fundamental tenet of Unionism. Unionists also believe that economic and social conditions in Ireland can be more effectively dealt with under the existing political constitution than under any form of Home Rule. Ireland is a poor country, and needs the financial resources which only the Imperial Parliament can provide. She is, moreover, a country divided into hostile camps marked by strong racial and religious differences. As Sir George Trevelyan long ago pointed out, there is not one Ireland, there are two Irelands; and only so far as Ireland
p.226continues an integral part of a large whole can the antagonism between the two elements be prevented from forming a dangerous obstacle to all real progress.
Nationalist politicians, of course, diagnose the situation very differently. Apply suitable remedial measures, say the Unionists, to the social and economic conditions of the country, and it is not unreasonable to hope that political discontent or, in other words, the demand for Home Rule will gradually die away of itself. Give us Home Rule, say the Nationalists, and all other things will be added to us.
The main object of the present paper is to give a bird's eye view of Unionist policy in relation to rural development in Ireland during the eventful years 18851905. It does not pretend to deal with the larger issue raised between Unionism and Nationalism; but incidentally, it will be found to throw some interesting side lights upon it.
The Irish Question in its most essential aspect is a Farmers' Question. The difficulties which it presents have their deepest roots in an unsatisfactory system of land tenure, excessive sub-division of holdings, tend antiquated methods of agricultural economy.
Mr. Gladstone endeavoured to deal with the system of land tenure in the two important Acts of 1870 and 1881; but the system of dual ownership which those Acts set up introduced, perhaps, as many evils as they removed. It became more and more evident that the only effectual remedy lay in the complete transference of the ownership of the land from the landlord to the occupying tenant. The successful application of this remedy with anything like fairness to both sides absolutely demanded the use of State credit on a large scale. The plan actually adopted in a succession of Land Acts passed by Unionist Governments, beginning with the Ashbourne Act of 1885, and ending with the Wyndham Act of 1903, is broadly speaking as follows: The State purchases the interest of the landlord outright and vests the ownership in the occupying tenant subject to a fixed payment for a definite term of years.
These annual payments are not in the nature of rent: they represent a low rate of interest on the purchase money, plus such contribution to a sinking fund as will repay the principal in the term of years for which the annual payments are to run. The practical effect of this arrangement is that the occupier becomes the owner of his holding, subject to a terminable annual payment to the State of a sum less in amount than the rent he has had to pay heretofore.
The successful working of the scheme obviously depends on the credit of the State, in other words, its power of borrowing at a low rate of interest. In this respect the Imperial Government has an immense advantage over any possible Home Rule Government: indeed, it is doubtful whether any Home Rule Government could have attempted this great reform without wholesale confiscation of the landlords' property. Here then in Land Purchase and the abolition of dual ownership, we have one of the twin pillars on which, on its constructive side, the Irish policy of the Unionist party rests. But to solve the problem of rural Ireland which, as I have said, is the Irish problem more is required than the conversion of the occupying tenant into a peasant proprietor. The sense of ownership may be counted on to do much; but it will not make it possible for a family to live in decent comfort on an insufficient holding; neither will it enable the small farmer to compete with those foreign rivals who have at their command improved methods of production, improved methods of marketing their produce, facilities for obtaining capital adequate to their needs, and all the many advantages which superior education and organised co-operation bring in their train.
Looking back today, the wide field that in these directions was open to the beneficent action of the State, and to the equally beneficent action of voluntary associations, seems evident and obvious. It was by no means so evident or obvious twenty years ago. At that time the traditional policy of laisser faire had still a powerful hold over men's minds, and to abandon it even in the case of rural
p.228Ireland was a veritable new departure in statesmanship. The idea of establishing a voluntary association to promote agricultural co-operation was even more remote; and, as will be seen in the sequel, it was to the insight and devoted persistence of a single individual that its successful realization has been ultimately due.
So far as State action was concerned, a beginning was naturally made with the poorest parts of the country. Mr. Arthur Balfour led the way with two important measures. One of these was the construction of light railways in the most backward tracts on the western seaboard. These railways were constructed at the public expense, but worked by existing railway companies, and linked up with existing railway systems. The benefits conferred on those parts of the country through which they passed have been great and lasting.
Mr. Balfour's second contribution to Irish rural development was the creation of the Congested Districts Board in 1891. The congested districts embraced the most poverty-stricken areas in the western counties, and the business of the Board was to devise and apply, within those districts, schemes for the amelioration of the social and economic condition of the population comprised in them. For this purpose, the Board was invested with very wide powers of a paternal character, and an annual income of upwards of 40,000 was placed at their free disposal, a sum which has been largely increased by subsequent Acts.
The experiment was an absolutely novel one, but no one who is able to compare the improved condition of the congested districts today with the state of things that prevailed twenty years ago can doubt that it has been amply justified by results.
Every phase of the life of the Irish peasant along the whole of the western seaboard has been made brighter and more hopeful by the beneficent operations of the Board. Its activities have been manifold, including the purchase and improvement of estates prior to re-sale to the tenants;
p.229the re-arrangement and enlargement of holdings; the improvement of stock; the provision of pure seeds and high class manures; practical demonstration of various kinds, all educational in character; drainage; the construction of roads; improvement in the sanitary conditions of the people's dwellings; assistance to provide proper accommodation for the livestock of the farm, which too frequently were housed with the people themselves; the development of sea fisheries; the encouragement of many kinds of home industries for women and girls; the quarrying of granite; the making of kelp; the promotion of co-operative credit; and many other schemes which had practical regard to the needs of the people, and have contributed in a variety of ways to raise the standard of comfort of the inhabitants of these impoverished areas.
It will be noticed that among the other activities of the Congested Districts Board, I have specially mentioned the work of promoting co-operative credit by means of village banks managed on the Raffeisen system. The actual work of organising these co-operative banking associations has not been carried out directly by the Board, but through the agency of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (generally known by the shorter title of the I.A.O.S.), to which the Board has for many years past paid a small subsidy which might well have been on a more generous scale, having regard to the immense advantages which co-operation is capable of conferring on the small farmer.
The I.A.O.S. is a voluntary association of a strictly non-political character. Business, not politics, has been its principle of action; and partly, perhaps, for this very reason it may claim to have contributed more than any other single agency towards the prosperity of rural Ireland. To its work I now turn.
The movement which the I.A.O.S. represents was started by Sir Horace Plunkett, and he has remained the most prominent figure in it ever since. Sir Horace Plunkett bears an honoured name wherever the rural problem is seriously studied; but, like other prophets, he has received perhaps less honour in his own country than elsewhere. At all events, in the task to which he has devoted his life he has had to encounter the tacit, and indeed at times the open opposition, of powerful sections of Nationalist opinion. Happily he belongs to the stamp of men whom no obstacles can discourage, and who find in the work itself their sufficient reward.
Sir Horace Plunkett's leading idea was a simple one and has become today almost a commonplace. He compared the backward state of agriculture in Ireland with the great advance that had been made in various continental countries, where the natural conditions were not dissimilar to those of Ireland, and asked himself the secret of the difference. That secret he found in the word organization and he set himself to organize. The establishment of co-operative creameries seemed to afford the most hopeful opening, and it was to this that Sir Horace Plunkett and a few personal friends, in the year 1889, directed their earliest missionary efforts. The difficulties to be overcome were at first very great. My own diary, writes Sir Horace, records attendance at fifty meetings before a single society had resulted therefrom. It was weary work for a long time. These gatherings were miserable affairs compared with those which greeted our political speakers.
The experiences58 of another of the little band of devoted workers, Mr. R. A. Anderson, now Secretary of the I.A.O.S. throw an interesting light upon the nature of some of the obstacles which the new movement had to encounter.
It was hard and thankless work. There was the apathy of the people, and the active opposition of the Press and the politicians. It would be hard to say now whether the abuse of the Conservative Cork Constitution, or that of the Nationalist Eagle of Skibbereen, was the louder. We were killing the calves, we were forcing the young women to emigrate, we were destroying the industry. Mr. Plunkett was described as a monster in human shape, and was abjured to cease his hellish work. I was described as his man Friday, and as Roughrider Anderson. Once when I thought I had planted a creamery within the town of Rathkeale, my cooperative apple-cart was upset by a local solicitor, who, having elicited the fact that our movement recognised neither political nor religious differences so that the Unionist-Protestant cow was as dear to us as her Nationalist-Catholic sister gravely informed me that our programme would not suit Rathkeale. Rathkeale, said he pompously, is a Nationalist townNationalist to the backboneand every pound of butter made in this creamery must be made on Nationalist principles, or it shan't be made at all. This sentiment was applauded loudly, and the proceedings terminated.
Eventually, however, the zeal of the preachers, coupled with the economic soundness of the doctrine, prevailed over all difficulties. By 1894 the movement had outgrown the individual activities of the founders, and the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society was established in Dublin in order to promote and direct its further progress. That progress has been rapid and continuous, and today the co-operative societies connected with the I.A.O.S. number nearly 1000, with an annual turnover of upwards of 2.5 millions. They extend over the length and breadth of the land, and include creameries, agricultural societies (whose main business is the purchase of seeds and manure for distribution to the members), credit societies (village banks), poultry keepers' societies (for the marketing of eggs), flax societies, industries societies, as well as other societies of a miscellaneous character.
In 1892 the Liberal Party came into power. During their three years' tenure of office a Home Rule Bill was introduced and passed through the House of Commons, but
p.232little or nothing was attempted by the Government for the economic regeneration of the country.
The Unionist Party came back with a large majority in 1896, and the attention of the new Irish Government, in which the post of Lord Lieutenant was held by Lord Cadogan and that of Chief Secretary by the present writer, was from the first directed to the condition of the Irish farmer. The session of 1896 was largely devoted to the passing of a Bill for amending the Land Acts, and for further facilitating the conversion of occupying tenants into owners of their holdings. Time, however, was also found for a new Light Railways Act, under the provision of which railway communication has been opened up at the expense of the State in the poorest parts of north-west Ireland.
It was in the following year that the first attempt was made to establish an Irish Department of Agriculture. The Bill was not carried beyond a first reading, because it was ultimately decided that a Local Government Act should have precedence of it. But the project was only put aside for a time, and it was always looked upon by me as an integral part of our legislative programme. In framing the Bill of 1897, and also the later Bill of 1899, which passed into law, we received the greatest assistance from the labours of a body known as the Recess Committee, concerning which a few words must now be said.
To be the founder of agricultural co-operation in Ireland was Sir Horace Plunkett's first great achievement; the bringing together of the Recess Committee was his second. He conceived the idea of inviting a number of the most prominent men in Ireland, irrespective of religious or political differences, to join in an inquiry into the means by which the Government could best promote the development of the agricultural and industrial resources of Ireland. This idea he propounded in an open letter published in August, 1895. The proposal was a bold one how bold
p.233no one unacquainted with Ireland will easily realise. Amongst Nationalist politicians the majority fought shy of it. Mr. Justin McCarthy, the leader of the party, could only see in Sir Horace's letter the expression of a belief that if your policy could be successfully carried out, the Irish people would cease to desire Home Rule. I do not feel, he added, that I could possibly take part in any organisation which had for its object the seeking of a substitute for that which I believe to be Ireland's greatest needHome Rule . Fortunately, then as now, the Irish party was divided into two camps, and Mr. Redmond, at the head of a small minority of Independents, was at liberty to take a different line. I am unwilling, he wrote, to take the responsibility of declining to aid in any effort to promote useful legislation in Ireland.
Ultimately, Sir Horace Plunkett's strong personality, his manifest singleness of purpose, and the intrinsic merits of his proposal carried the day, A committee, truly representative of all that was best in Irish life, was brought together, and commissioners were despatched to the Continent to report upon those systems of State aid linked with voluntary organisation which appeared to have revolutionised agriculture in countries not otherwise more favoured than Ireland itself. A large mass of most valuable information was collected. In less than a year the committee reported. The substance of the recommendation was That a Department of Government should be specially created, with a minister directly responsible to Parliament at its head. The Central Body was to be assisted by a Consultative Council representative of the interests concerned. The Department was to be adequately endowed from the Imperial Treasury, and was to administer State aid to agriculture and industries in Ireland upon principles which were fully described.
Ireland in the New Century. , p. 220.
With the general policy of these recommendations the Irish Government were in hearty sympathy, and the Bill of
p.2341897, already referred to, was a first attempt to give effect to it. But in the absence of popularly elected local authorises an important part of the machinery for carrying out the proposals was wanting.
A reform of local government in Ireland had long been given a place in the Unionist programme, but the magnitude of the undertaking and the pressure of other business had hitherto stood in its way. It was now decided to take up this task in earnest, on the understanding that other measures relating to Ireland should be postponed in the meantime. The Irish Local Government Bill was accordingly introduced and passed in the following session (1898).
Of this Act, which involved not merely the creation of new popular Authorities, but also an entire rearrangement of local taxation, and some important changes in the system of poor relief, I will only say here that it must be counted as another of the great remedial measures which Ireland owes to the Unionist Party, and which it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to carry out in a satisfactory manner without assistance on a generous scale from the ample resources of the Imperial Exchequer.
The way was now open for the measure to which I had looked forward from the first moment of my going to Ireland, and which was to constitute the final abandonment of the old laissez faire policy in connection with Irish agriculture and industries. Great care and labour were devoted to the framing of the new Bill, and I was in constant touch throughout with members of the Recess Committee. It contained clauses dealing with urban as well as rural industries, but these lie outside my present subject, and I shall not refer to them further here.
p.235On the side of rural development the Bill embodied a novel experiment in the art of government novel at all events in British or Irish experience, though something like it had already been tried with conspicuous success various countries on the Continent. It was the continental example which had inspired the Report of the Recess Committee, and it was the recommendations of the Recess Committee which in their turn suggested the main features of the Bill of 1899.
There was indeed one body in Ireland whose functions corresponded in some degree with those of the Authority it was now proposed to set up. This body was the Congested Districts Board; and it might be said with some approximation to the truth that the object we had in view was to do for the rest of Ireland, mutatis mutandis, what the Congested Districts Board was intended to do for the poverty-stricken districts of the West. But there was this very important difference. The operations of the Congested Districts Board were carried out, and necessarily carried out, on strictly paternal lines; the dominant note in the new departure was to be the encouragement of self-help. This difference carried with it an equally important difference in the constitution and methods of the administering Authority.
Out of a total endowment of £166,000 a year, a sum of over £100,000 was placed at the disposal of the Department to be applied to the purposes of agriculture and other rural industries. These purposes are defined in the Act as including the aiding, improving, and developing of agriculture, horticulture, forestry, dairying, the breeding of horses, cattle, and other livestock and poultry, home and cottage industries, the preparation and cultivation of flax, inland fisheries, and any industries immediately connected with and subservient to any of the said matters, and any instruction relating thereto, and the facilitating of the carriage and distribution of produce,
This part of the Endowment Fund was, in short, a grant to the Department to be applied to what may be described
p.236as rural development in the widest sense of the term. As to the methods, little or no restriction was imposed upon the scope of its powers and in the expenditure of the money it was to be as free from Treasury control as the Congested Districts Board itself.
On the other hand, the Congested Districts Board was not only free from Treasury control, it was free from any control whatever. It was an unpaid Board, and it could spend its money where it pleased and how it pleased, and there was nobody to say it nay. True, its members were appointed by Government, and the Chief Secretary was ex-officio a member of the Board; but he had no greater authority given to him than any of his colleagues, and in case of any difference of opinion the decision was that of the majority of the Board. No singe member of the Board could be held responsible for any of its acts; and accordingly, although the vote for the Board came annually before Parliament, of real Parliamentary responsibility there was none.
Such an arrangement was not without its disadvantages even as regards the Congested Districts Board itself: its adoption in the case of the Authority to be created under the Agriculture and Industries Bill would have been open to yet greater objection.
A further point was this. The Congested Districts Board was an unpaid body. An unpaid body consisting of busy men cannot be in perpetual session. The Congested Districts Board, as a matter of fact, met only once a month and in the intervals of its meeting there was no one with full authority to act on its behalf.
The problem, then, in connection with the expenditure of the Endowment Fund was to provide for its administration by an efficient and promptly-acting executive, responsible to Parliament on the one hand, and on the other hand brought by the very nature of its administrative machinery into the closest possible touch with the new local Authorities, as well as with the voluntary organisations which were now springing up all over the country.
In order to satisfy these requirements, the Bill provided that the control of the Endowment Fund should be vested not in a Board attached to the new Department, but in the Department itself; that is to say, in a Minister appointed by the Government of the day. The Chief Secretary was to be the titular head of the Department, but it was not intended that he should intervene in its ordinary administrative business. The real working head was to be the Vice-President, a new Minister with direct responsibility to Parliament. So far as related to certain powers and duties transferred from existing departments of the Irish Government, and similar to the powers and duties of the English Board of Agriculture, the new Minister was to have complete executive authority. But as regards the administration of the Endowment Fund, a different arrangement was proposedan arrangement without precedent, so far as I know, in any previous legislation in this country.
In order to bring the Department into close touch with local bodies, the Bill attached to it a Council of Agriculture and an Agricultural Board. One-third of the members of each of these bodies were to be nominated by the Department, and the intention was that in making these nominations due regard should be had to the representation of voluntary organisations. The remaining two-thirds were to be elected in the case of the Council of Agriculture by the newly created County Councils, in the case of the Agricultural Board by the Council of Agriculture, divided for this purpose into four Provincial Committees. In addition to the functions of an electoral college thus entrusted to its four provincial committees, the business of the Council of Agriculture as a whole was to meet together, at least once a year, for the discussion of questions of general interest in connection with the provisions of the Act; but its powers were only advisory. The Board, on the other hand, was more than an advisory body: for it was given a veto on any expenditure of money out of the Agricultural Endowment Fund. The application of the Endowment Fund was thus made
p.238dependent on the concurrence of the Agricultural Board and of the minister in charge of the Department an entirely novel plan which, although it might clearly result in a deadlock as regards any particular application of money from the fund, has nevertheless, I believe, worked extremely well, and answered the purpose for which it was devised of reconciling ministerial and executive responsibility with a reasonable power of control given to local bodies.
Finally, with a view to stimulating local effort and the spirit of self-help, a provision was inserted in the Bill to which I attached the greatest importance. Power was given to the Council of any county or of any urban district, or to two or more public bodies jointly, to appoint committees composed partly of members of the Local bodies and partly of co-opted persons, for the purpose of carrying out such of the Department's schemes as were of local rather than of general interest. But in such cases, it was laid down that the Department shall not, in the absence of any special considerations, apply or approve of the application of money . . . to schemes in respect of which aid is not given out of money provided by local authorities, or from other local sources.
To meet this requirement, the local authorities were given the power of raising a limited rate for the purposes of the Act.
That the Act of 1899 has in the main answered the expectations formed of it by those who were responsible for its introduction there can, I think, be no doubt. The Act itself, as well as the methods of administration adopted in carrying out its provisions, have been the subject of a full inquiry by a Departmental Committee which reported in 1907. Their report must be regarded as on the whole eminently favourable. In one point only has any important change been recommended. The Committee suggest that the post of Vice-President of the Department should not be held by a Minister with a seat in Parliament, nor yet by a
p.239regular civil servant, but should be an office sui generis tenable for five years with power of reappointment. No effect has so far been given to this proposal by legislation.
In this brief sketch of the measures passed by Unionist Governments since 1886 with the object of promoting the material prosperity of Ireland, many points of interest have been necessarily omitted; but what has been said will suffice to show how baseless is the assertion, so frequently urged as an argument for Home Rule, that the Imperial Parliament is incapable of legislating successfully for Irish wants.59 Nothing could be more futile than to represent Irish problems, and especially the problems of Irish rural life, as so unique that only a Parliament sitting in Dublin can hope to solve them satisfactorily. As a matter of fact, the rural question in Ireland is, in most of its essential features, very similar to the rural question in other
p.240countries, of which Denmark is perhaps the best example; and the methods which have been successful there are already proving successful here. Single ownership of the land by the cultivator; State aid, encouraging and supplementing co-operation and self-help; co-operation and self-help providing suitable opportunities for the fruitful application of State aidthese are the principles by which Unionist legislation for Ireland has been guided, and they are the principles which any wise legislation must follow, whether it emanate from an Irish or from the Imperial Parliament. Indeed, if there is anything unique in the Irish case, it is the deep division of sentiment inherited from the unhappy history of the country and reinforced by those differences of race and creed to which I have already alluded as making two Irelands out of one. But the remedy for this is not to cut Ireland adrift and leave the two sections to fight it out alone, but rather to maintain the existing constitution as the best guarantee that the balance will be held even between them.
Sir Horace Plunkett has well summed up the real needs of rural Ireland in the formula better farming, better business, better living. He has himself done more than any other single man to bring the desired improvement about. I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself his disciple, and in the measures for which I was responsible during my time in Ireland, I ever kept the practical objects for which he has striven steadily in view. In a speech which I made shortly after taking office I used the phrase killing Home Rule with kindness. This phrase has been repeatedly quoted since, as if it had been a formal declaration on the part of the incoming Irish Government that to kill Home Rule was the Alpha and the Omega of their policy. What I really said was that we intended to promote measures having for their object an increase in the material prosperity of the country; that if we could thereby kill Home Rule with kindness, so much the better; but that the policy stood on its own merits, irrespective of any ulterior consequences.
In my view that is the only true attitude for a Unionist Government to take up. But in our efforts to improve material conditions and to remove grievances, how small is the encouragement or help that we have received from leaders of the Nationalist Party! Their aim, said Goldwin Smith long ago, has always been to create a Nationalist feeling, which would end in political separation, not the redress of particular wrongs and grievances, or the introduction of practical improvements. I should imagine that there has seldom, if ever, been an important political party which has exhibited so little constructive ability as the Irish Parliamentarians. Their own legislative proposals during the last thirty years have been a negligible quantity; and I think I am justified in saying that there is not one of the great measures passed by Unionist Governments since 1886 which has not been either opposed by the accredited leaders of the Party, or, at best, received with carping and futile, rather than helpful, criticism. I must personally acknowledge and I do so gladly that I received useful assistance and valuable criticism from the Messrs. Healy in conducting the Local Government Bill through the House of Commons; and credit must also be given to Mr. John Redmond for the part he took in aiding to bring together the Recess Committee. But the Messrs. Healy have always acted independently; and Mr. John Redmond was, at the time referred to, leader of only a small minority of the Irish Nationalists. The feeling of the majority, and certainly of the leaders of the majority, was reflected, as we have seen, in the refusal of Cllr. Justin McCarthy to have anything to do with the movement.
Mr. Dillon in particular has shown a disposition to regard minor political grievances, and even poverty and discontent, as so much fuel wherewith to stoke the lagging engine of Home Rule. Remedial measures short of Home Rule seem to take in his eyes the character of attempts to deprive the Irish Party of so many valuable assets. Nor is this spirit of tacit or open hostility confined to acts of the legislature. Of all the social and economic
p.242movements in Ireland during the recent years, the spread of agricultural co-operation has been without doubt among the greatest and the most beneficial. It has never found a friend in Mr. Dillon. In the movement itself and in the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, founded expressly to promote it, he can only see a cunning device of the enemy to undermine Nationalism. In this matter Mr. Dillon's attitude is also the official attitude of the Irish Party. Thus Mr. Redmond (now reconciled with Mr. Dillon and become leader of the main body of Nationalists), in a letter to Mr. Patrick Ford, dated October 4, 1904, does not scruple to say of Sir Horace Plunkett's truly patriotic work; I myself, indeed, at one time entertained some belief in the good intentions of Sir Horace Plunkett and his friends, but recent events have entirely undeceived me; and Sir Horace Plunkett's recent book, full as it is of undisguised contempt for the Irish race, makes it plain to me that the real object of the movement in question is to undermine the National Party and divert the minds of our people from Home Rule, which is the only thing that can ever lead to a real revival of Irish industries.
Those who have read Sir H. Plunkett's Ireland in the New Century will hardly know which most to wonder at in these words, the extraordinary misdescription of the whole spirit of his book, or the total failure to realise the absolute necessity to Irish farming of a movement which not only has its counterpart all over the Continent of Europe, but has since inspired similar action in the United States, in India, and quite recently in Great Britain as well.
Nationalist hostility to the I.A.O.S. has not been confined to words. When the Agriculture and Technical Instruction Bill was passing through the House of Commons, Mr. Dillon endeavoured to secure an undertaking from me that public moneys should not be employed to subsidise the work of the Society. I naturally refused to give any such
p.243undertaking.60 I had followed the efforts of the Society very closely; I was deeply impressed with the value of the results which it had accomplished; but its field of activity was limited by the narrowness of its resources. In my opinion, a subsidy to the Society from the Endowment Fund of the Department would be a useful and proper application of public money. At the same time I pointed out that if the Agricultural Board, which in the main represented the popularly-elected local authorities, thought differently, they had a power of veto and could use it in this case.
Sir Horace Plunkett held the position of Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction from 1899 to 1907, and during his tenure of office, as I had always expected and intended, there was close co-operation between the Department and the I.A.O.S. During that period a sum amounting in all to less than £30,000 was paid by the Department to the I.A.O.S., of which more than half was for technical instruction, while the balance represented contributions to the work of co-operative organisation.61
When Sir Horace Plunkett was replaced by Mr. T. W. Russell, the pressure of the Irish Parliamentary Party immediately began to make itself felt. The new vice-president informed the Council of Agriculture that he had made up his mind to withdraw the subsidy, but he undertook to continue a diminishing grant for three years, £3000 for the first year, £2000 for the second year, and £1000 for the third. The I.A.O.S. were not seriously opposed to the gradual withdrawal of the subsidy, the loss of which they hoped to be able to cover in course of time by increased voluntary subscriptions.
The opposition of the Nationalist Party was, however, not yet exhausted. In the Freeman's Journal of January 21, 1908, there appeared a letter from Mr. John Redmond enclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. T. W. Rolleston to a correspondent at St. Louis. Mr. Rolleston accompanied his letter with a copy of a speech by Sir Horace Plunkett. In his letter he remarked plainly upon the antagonism displayed by the Irish Nationalists to the co-operative movement. Although Sir Horace Plunkett declared that he had nothing whatever to do with the letter, the Irish Parliamentarians professed to find in it abundant proof of an intention to destroy Nationalism. That correspondence, said Mr. T. W. Russell, 62 compelled me to take action. Mr. John Redmond made it imperative upon me by his letter I mean a public letter to the Press and as so much was involved, I took the precaution of convening a special meeting of the Agricultural Board. The Board decided that the subsidy should be withdrawn at the end of the year 1908.
The last act in this drama of hostility to Sir Horace Plunkett and all his works is still in the course of being played. Under the provisions of the Development Fund Act of 1909, the Development Commissioners were empowered to make advances for the organisation of co-operation, either to a Government Department or through a Government Department to a voluntary association not trading for profit. During the Report stage of the Development Fund Bill, Mr. Dillon tried to get a ruling from the Solicitor-General that the I.A.O.S. would be excluded from receiving grants from the fund, thus repeating the manoeuvre which he had already unsuccessfully attempted in connection with the Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Bill of 1899.
In accordance with this provision, the three Agricultural Organisation Societies for England, Scotland, and Ireland, each applied for a grant in aid. The applications were
p.245referred in due course for report to the Government Departments concerned that is to say, to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries for the English and Scottish applications, and to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for that from the I.A.O.S. The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries reported favourably, and the British and Scottish Organisation Societies are to have their grant. But the I.A.O.S. had to reckon with Mr. T. W. Russell, behind whom stood Mr. Dillon and the politicians. The report of the Irish Department on the Irish application was adverse, but the Commissioners do not appear to have found the reasons given convincing. Much delay ensued, but, ten months after the application was sent in, the matter was submitted to the Council of Agriculture.
The machinery of the United Irish League was brought into action to influence the votes of this body. Mr. Russell delivered an impassioned harangue, and eventually the Council was induced to endorse his action by a majority of 47 to 33.
Any grant in aid of agricultural co-operation is to be administered, if Mr. Russell has his way, not by the society which has already been instrumental in establishing nearly a thousand co-operative associations in Ireland, and has served as a model on which the corresponding English and Scottish Organisation Societies, now in the enjoyment of a State subsidy, have been founded, but by the Department, which has hitherto had no experience whatever of such work. Moreover, the co-operation promoted by the Department is to be non-competitive, by which I suppose is meant, that it is not to affect any existing trading interest. It is safe to say that agricultural co-operation, which has no effect upon any trading interest, will have very little effect upon the farmers' interests either. So far as I know, the Development Commissioners have not decided what course to take in this strange situation. It may be that Ireland will lose the grant altogether; but in any case I can well believe that they must hesitate to reverse the
p.246policy already approved for England and Scotland, and in the face of all experience commit the work of organising agricultural co-operation to a State Department rather than to a voluntary association possessing such a record as the I.A.O.S. has placed to its credit.
If now we ask what are the grounds of the hostility of the Nationalist Party to the most hopeful Irish movement of recent years, the answer appears to be twofold. The first is economic, or purports to be economic: the second is frankly political.
1. Co-operation, it is urged, injures the middleman and the small trader.
To encourage farmers to do well and economically for themselves what is now done indifferently and expensively for them by the middleman, must of course act injuriously on some existing interests. This is not disputed. But the change is absolutely necessary for the regeneration of rural Ireland, and this objection cannot be allowed to stand in the way. Looked at in its broader and more enduring aspects, co-operation is bound to stimulate and improve general trade by increasing the spending power of the farmers. The Chambers of Commerce of Dublin and Belfast have not been slow to perceive this, and have warmly endorsed the Society's application for a grant from the Development Commissioners.
2. The political objection to the movement, so far as it takes the definite form of charging the I.A.O.S. with being a propagandist body aiming under the mask of economic reform at the covert spread of Unionist opinions, will not stand a moment's examination. There is not a particle of evidence in support of such a charge, and the presumption against it is overwhelming. To mix political propagandist with organisation would be the certain ruin of the movement. The Committee of the I.A.O.S. consists of men of all shades of political faith. These men could never have joined hands except on the basis that politics should be rigidly excluded from the work of the Society. The members of the co-operative societies founded by the
p.247I.A.O.S. number nearly 100,000. Probably at least three fourths of these are Nationalists.
In order, however, that all doubt on the subject might be finally removed, the I.A.O.S. issued a circular to all its societies, in which the following question was directly put: Has the I.A.O.S., as a body, or the Committee acting for it, done, in your opinion, any act in the interest of any political party, or any act calculated to offend the political principles of any section of your members?
The answers received have been published and form very interesting reading. Not a single society, of the many hundreds that have replied from all parts of Ireland, has been found to assert that politics have ever been mentioned by the agents of the parent association.
The hostility of the politicians to the co-operative movement rests, it is safe to surmise, upon some other foundation than these flimsy charges against the I.A.O.S.
In itself the movement is vital to the prosperity of rural Ireland. The disfavour shown to it arises from apprehensions respecting its indirect bearing upon the great issue between Unionism and Nationalism. Home Rulers who oppose the co-operative movement find themselves in this dilemma: either they hold that nothing in the way of material improvement could affect the demand for Home Rule, or else they are really afraid lest better farming, better business, and better living should weaken the attractions of their own political nostrum. In the former case, they are left without a shadow of justification for their attitude towards the I.A.O.S.; in the latter, they tacitly admit that the interests of the farming classes must suffer in order that the cause of Home Rule may be promoted.
Unionists are in no such difficulty. Our policy is clear and consistent. Improvement in the social and economic condition of the people must be our first object. It is an end to be pursued for its own sake, whatever the indirect consequences may be. But the indirect consequences need
p.248cause us no anxiety. Increased material prosperity, and the contentment which inevitably accompanies it, whatever their other effects may be, are not likely to strengthen the demand for constitutional changes. Successful resistance to Home Rule at the present crisis may well mean the saving of the Union for good and all.
The case for resisting all attempts at impairing the Union between Great Britain and Ireland can be made unimpeachable without reference to the Irish Land Question. It would be our duty to defend the Union as a bulwark of national safety, an instalment of Imperial consolidation, and a protection to the freedom of minorities in Ireland, even if it could be shown that agriculture, the chief industry of Ireland, had little to gain under the Union and nothing to lose under Home Rule. Fortunately, this cannot be alleged except by those who shut their eyes to the results of State-aided Land Purchase in Ireland, and refuse to consider the consequences of tampering with the mainspring of that beneficent operation: I mean the credit of a joint exchequer under one Parliament for both countries. England's Case against Home Rule coincides with Ireland's need for retaining the prosperity that has come to her, after long waiting, under, and because of, the Union. It is, therefore, fitting that a place should be found in this book for a brief account of what Irish agriculture may hope from the Union and must fear from Home Rule.
The history of Irish Agriculture until recent years differed from the history of English Agriculture at many points, and always to the marked disadvantage of Ireland. Dynastic and religious controversies whichif we except the suppression of monasteries and the exile of a few Jacobites left English countrysides untouched, in Ireland carried with them the confiscation of vast territories and the desolating influence of Penal Laws. Changes in economic theory
p.250contributed even more sharply to the decay of Irish enterprise. When England favoured Protection Irish industry was handicapped out of manufactures. When England adopted Free Trade Irish agriculture, on which the hopes of Ireland had perforce been fixed, suffered in a greater degree. The doctrine of laisser faire wrought little but wrong when applied by absentee buyers of bankrupt estates to tracts hardly susceptible of development by capital, amid a peasantry wedded to continuity of tenure, and justified in that tradition by the fact that they and their forbears had executed nearly all the improvements on their holdings. Most of the nation were restricted to agriculture under conditions that spelt failure, and imposed exile as the penalty for failure, since other avenues to competence were closed. The climax of misfortune was reached a generation after the triumph of Free Trade. Ireland, being almost wholly an agricultural country, suffered as a whole, whereas England, an industrial country, suffered only in districts from the collapse of agricultural prices in 1879. That catastrophe in rural life precipitated Mr. Gladstone's Land Law Act (Ireland), 1881. Being precluded by his political tenets from protecting Irish agriculture against foreign competition, or assisting it with the resources of the State, Mr. Gladstone aimed at alleviating the distress due to the decadence of a national industry by defining with meticulous nicety the respective shares which the two parties engaged in agriculturelandlord and tenantwere to derive from its dwindling returns. He believed that the proportion of diminishing profits due to the landlord, because of the inherent capabilities of his property, and to the tenant because of his own and his predecessors' exertions, could be thoroughly determined by a few leading cases in the Land Court; and, further, that landlords and tenants throughout Ireland would conform to such guidance as these decisions might afford. In this anticipation he ignored the vital function of agriculture in Irish life, and the effect which the growing stringency of agricultural conditions would have on a population that loved the land and rejoiced in litigation.
p.251He created dual-ownership throughout Ireland, and this led, as Lord Dufferin and other far-seeing statesmen had foretold, to the land being starved of both capital and industry. Irish agriculture was brought to the brink of ruin. The misery of those involved in that pass was exploited to engineer an attack on the fabric of social order, and the lawlessness so engendered was adduced as an argument for dissolving the Union under which such tragedies could occur.
The leaders of the Conservative Party, when confronted with this situation, determined that their duty, in accordance with the spirit of the Act of Union, demanded some use of the resources of a joint exchequer for ministration to the peculiar needs of Ireland. They decided that the credit of the State should be employed to effect the abolition of dual-ownership by converting the occupiers of Irish farms into owners of the soil. Let it be granted that this policy had been advocated by John Bright and enshrined in the Land Law Acts of 1870 and 1881. It must be added that these pious intentions remained a dead letter until adequate machinery for giving them effect was provided by the Land Purchase Acts, commonly called the Ashbourne Acts, of 1885 and 1889. The method pursued was as follows. Any individual landlord could agree with any individual tenant on the price which he would accept for the extinction of his interest in that tenant's holding. The State facilitated the transaction by advancing that amount to the landlord in cash whenever the holding offered sufficient security, and accepting from the tenant an undertaking to pay an instalment of £4 a year for every £100 advanced over a period of forty-nine years. The instalment comprised £3 for interest, 2s. 6d. for expenses, and 17s. 6d. for sinking fund. The loan from the exchequer was secured against individual failures to pay by the realisable value of the holdings.
The salient features in this procedure were that the landlord received cash and that the tenant paid interest at the then existing rate on Consols, viz. 3 per cent. Both these
p.252features are important. A payment in cash, or its equivalent, is preferable for such transactions to a payment in stock, with a fluctuating value, because, if the stock appreciates the landlord gets more than he bargained for, and this, by arousing the suspicions of other would-be tenant-purchasers, produces a disinclination on their part to buy. Again, if the stock depreciates, the landlord cannot carry out contemplated redemptions of mortgages on his property, and this produces a disinclination on the part of other landlords to sell. In the second place it is difficult to persuade Irish tenants that the State is assisting them if they, the poor, are asked to pay higher interest for the State's credit than the State pays for the credit of the rich. The chief defect in this procedure lay in its restriction to separate bargains in respect of single holdings. It made a patchwork, whereas the untoward results of the historic and economic causes on which I have touched demanded the wholesale treatment of convenient areas.
Under these Acts, in the course of six years, more than 27,000 tenants became owners by virtue of advances which amounted to over £10,000,000. The largest number of applications for purchase in any one year was 6,195 for £2,271,569 in 1887, and the average price for all the holdings bought under these Acts was £396.
When the sums provided by the Ashbourne Acts were exhausted, Mr. Arthur Balfour carried the Act of 1891, subsequently amended by the Act of 1896. Under these Acts the landlord was paid in stock instead of cash. The tenant still paid an instalment of £4. which was, ultimately divided into £1 5s. for sinking fund and £3 15s. for interest. This large sinking fund, £1 5s. instead of 17s. 6d., was retained after interest had been reduced to the rate on Consols 2 3/4 per cent, chiefly to avoid a discrepancy in the total of annual instalments as between purchasers under the Act of 1891 and purchasers under the Ashbourne Acts. Difficulties were feared if the earlier purchasers were to pay £4 and the later purchasers only £3 15s. for each £100 advanced, so the spare five shillings was put in the sinking fund. This
p.253speculative difficulty was afterwards discounted in order to deal with one of a more practical character. Under Mr. Gladstone's Land Law Act of 1881, which dealt with rent-fixing, statutory rents were revised every fifteen years, and the second term rents, beginning in 1896, seemed certain to reveal considerable reductions on the rents payable during the first period. It was felt that the security for the earlier advances would be endangered if rents throughout Ireland fell below the level of the purchase-instalments, and that purchase would be retarded if the purchaser did not obtain immediate relief by agreeing to buy. To meet this practical difficulty Mr. Gerald Balfour, in 1896, permitted the purchaser to write off the amount repaid by sinking fund during the first and two successive periods of ten years. These decadal reductions were optional. If the purchaser forewent them he paid £4 per £100, and extinguished his debt in 42 1/2 years. If he availed himself of them he paid £3 8s. 7d. per £100 after the first ten years, and continued to pay, with two further reductions in prospect, till the debt was extinguished in a period undefined, but estimated at about 72 1/2 years. But this privilege was made retrospective, so that purchasers under the Ashbourne Acts could also reduce their instalments of £4 to £3 11s. 10d.
The salient features in the procedure of the Acts of 1891 and 1896 were that, (1) the landlord was paid in stock instead of cash. But owing to the rise in the value of gilt-edged securities, Irish Land Stock, with a face value of £100, became at one moment worth as much as £114 ; the purchaser's interest was at two and three quarters per cent i.e. the existing rate on Consols; but (3) his instalment, prospectively fined down by decadal reductions, enabled him to offer an acceptable price and yet pay far less to the State, by way of instalment, after purchase than was due to his landlord, by way of rent, before purchase. The operation of purchase was still confined, almost wholly, to single bargains. But in Mr. Arthur Balfour's Act of 1891 a new departure was authorised which, after development in Mr. Gerald Balfour's Act of 1896, has led to important and far-reaching consequences.
The Congested Districts Board was established to deal with scheduled areas in the West of Ireland that comprised a large number of holdings at once too limited in area, and too poor in soil, for any one of them to support a family by farming or to afford security to the State, under existing facilities for purchase, in the event of the occupier wishing to become the owner. A select committee of the House of Commons, so long ago as in 1878 (No. 249, pp. 4 and 5), when Disraeli was Prime Minister, had recommended that a properly constituted body should be empowered to purchase, not single farms, but whole estates, and to re-sell them after amalgamating, enlarging, and re-distributing what are now called uneconomic holdings. Provisions to this end had been inserted in earlier Acts, but, in the absence of administrative machinery and financial resources they remained abortive. It had for long been evident that the small, impoverished holdings, which had supported a dense population before the famine, stood in need of fundamental remodelling if they were to support even a largely reduced population. The efforts made by wealthy Irish landlords in this direction were arrested by the Land Law Act of 1870 and rendered impossible by the Land Law Act of 1881. With the Purchase Acts of 1891 and 1896 a beginning was made.
Another feature must be noted. In addition to the value of any one holding, as a security against individual failure, a further security was provided against the risk of a combined refusal to repay. The Exchequer was empowered to retain grants due for various purposes in Ireland and to recoup itself in proportion to the defalcation in any county. It should be added that individual failures have been rare to the point of insignificance, and that no combined refusal has been attempted, or advocated, even during periods of agricultural unrest.
Under the Acts of 1891 and 1896 in the course of just over twelve years more than 44,000 tenants became owners by virtue of advances which amounted to over £13,000,000. Here we must note that the success of these Acts coincided
p.255with, and depended on, a rise in the price of gilt-edged securities. The number of applications rose from 1503 in the year ending March 31, 1896, to 6911 in the year ending March 31, 1900. But, with the fall in the price of stock land purchase showed signs of coming to a standstill. By 1902 it was evident that new legislation was needed, and in the next year the Irish Land Act of 1903 was carried.
The Irish Land Act of 1903 was not, as some suggest, a short cut to the millennium, evolved on the spur of the moment, and translated into fantastic finance. It had two bases, the one practical, the other moral. In the first place, it was founded on the ripe experience garnered during eighteen years from the operation of preceding purchase Acts. In the second place, it was founded on the historic agreement spontaneously arrived at in 1902 by accredited representatives of Irish landlords and tenants. They resolved that dual ownership ought to be abolished throughout Ireland, and that this primary policy should be accompanied by effective remedies for the uneconomic conditions prevalent in the West, but existing elsewhere, though sporadically, to a limited extent. This agreement, in itself unprecedented, was rendered the more remarkable by the fact that the signatories assumed the responsibility of telling the Government how the first object could be achieved. They advised that landlords could not be expected to sell, as a class, unless the price paid to them in cash would yield from sound securities 90 per cent of their income in terms of a rent that had been twice revised under the Land Law Act of 1881; and that tenants could not be expected to buy, as a class, unless their instalments due to the Treasury after purchase were from 15 per cent to 25 per cent less than such rents so revised. They invited the Government to give effect to that agreement. The Government accepted and, in the Act of 1903, tendered the costly but, under the circumstances, not extravagant imprimatur of the Treasury on a political treaty thence forward to be binding on all three contracting parties: landlords, tenants, and the State. The Nationalist members, as
p.256spokesmen for the tenants, and the representatives of the landlords, subscribed to the provisions offered, and the reports of the Estates Commissioners prove that these have been fulfilled so exactly that, in the case of second term rents, landlords and tenants have obtained average incomes and reductions that differ only by a decimal from the mean advocated at the Conference.
The objects of the Irish Land Act were, in conformity with the conclusions of the Conference, to abolish dual ownership rapidly and, at the same time, to deal systematically with agricultural slums. Its salient features fall under four heads.
A. State assistance to voluntary bargaining. For this purpose it was provided that (1) cash payments should be resumed to the landlords; (2) that the tenants' instalments should be £3 5s. for each £100 advanced, divided into £2 15s. (2 per cent) for interest and 10 s. for sinking fund. This was not, as the able and well-informed special correspondent of the Times suggests (February 9, 1912) a sudden departure from an instalment of £4. Decadal reductions under the Act of 1896 had, as I have said, diminished the instalments of purchasers under the Act of 1891 to £3 8s. 7d. after ten years with further prospective diminutions, and subjected the instalments of purchasers under earlier Acts to a similar process. A wholesale expansion of purchase was impossible unless would-be purchasers were offered terms comparable to those accorded to their predecessors. For this reason the tenantry of Ireland were offered repayment at £3 5s. per £100 for a period of about 62 years, in lieu, under the Act of 1896, of repayment at £3 8S. 9d., with further reductions, for about 72 1/2 years, and their representatives accepted the offer. They would certainly have refused, and rightly, the offer substituted by Mr. Birrell in the Act of 1909, Viz. an instalment of £3 10s. with the same sinking fund10s.and interest increased to £3. The third feature to be noted under this head is, that the terms agreed to by representatives of landlords and tenants at the conference could
p.257not be ratified unless the State added some help by way of cash to the assistance of its credit. It was agreed by all parties that £12,000,000 should be available to bridge the gap, at the rate of 12 per cent on the amount advanced, with the right to revise that rate after five years, but only for the purpose of extending the bonus it was calledto all future transactions. It was an integral part of a solemn covenant that the bonus should not be diverted to any object other than the abolition of dual ownership and the remedy of congestion.
B. The substitution of speedy purchase for dilatory litigation. To all members of the Conference of 1902 and of the House of Commons in 1903, with, I believe, the exception of Mr. Dillon, who was away in America while the Conference sat, it was evident that, if dual ownership was to be abolished, our choice was confined to two courses. We could, on the one hand, pursue, under the guise of purchase, the metaphysical and costly distinctions between landlord-right and tenant-right, which Mr. Gladstone had established under the guise of rent-fixing, or else, as the only alternative, we had to cut the cackle and get to business. Under this head the House of CommonsMr. Dillon inseminating dissentdecided in so far as landlords and tenants were concerned, two things: (1) It was agreed that where the tenant-purchaser's instalment, after purchase, was substantially less than his statutory rent revised at great costover £140,000 a year for Land Courtsthen, in those cases the State needed not to inquire at further cost and delay into either its own security in the holding, or the metaphysical distinction between value due to the landlord's ownership of the soil and value due to the tenant's improvement of the soil. This close approximation to unanimity will not surprise those who grasp that every landlord and tenant was to make a voluntary bargain on precisely those terms which the representatives of their classes had combined to obtain from the State. The alternative method of delay and litigation had been further discounted, for everybody except Mr. Dillon, by the fact
p.258that in the classic caseAdams v. Dunscathtried out in accordance with Mr. Gladstone's panacea, Adams, after repeated lawsuits, improved his financial position by an infinitesimal sum per annum without becoming an owner of his farm. It was also agreed that the Estates Commissioners appointed to administer the Act, should be administrative officials under the Government, and not amateur judges. This was essential, not only to substitute cheap speed for costly delay, but also to ensure that the benefits offered by the State should not be absorbed, say, in the rich province of Leinster to the detriment of the poorer province of Connaught, orfor who knows what may happen in Ireland?absorbed in the Home Rule province of Connaught to the detriment of the Unionist province of Ulster.
C. Dealing with Estates as a whole instead of with single holdings. This process, till then applied tentatively in the congested districts of the West, became the general method throughout Ireland, and was assisted by the provision of working capital for carrying out necessary amalgamations and improvements before resale.
D. Increase in the borrowing power and funds of the Congested Districts Board, for the purpose of dealing systematically with agricultural slums.
The features of the Irish Land Act (1903), founded, as they were, on experience and the consent of all parties concerned, became widely popular in Ireland. But, by Mr. Birrell's Act of 1909, they were all distorted or destroyed. A solemn treaty, framed in the interest of Ireland, was torn up to deck with its tatters the triumph of Mr. Dillon's unholy alliance with the British Treasury. The effect of this betrayal on the prospects of Irish agriculture will appear from a recital of the changes made by Mr. Birrell's Act, followed by a comparison of the results obtained under the two Acts. From that comparison I shall proceed to an examination of the reasons alleged for the breach of faith, and a statement of the Unionist party's pledge to continue their policy of 1903. I shall
p.259then conclude by inviting all who care for Ireland to weigh the prospects of Irish Agriculture under the Union against its prospects under Home Rule.
Changes made by the Act of 1909.(1) Instead of cash payments landlords are to receive stock at three per cent issued on a falling market, and this stock cannot appreciate because, owing to the embarrassment of Irish estates, about half of each issue must be thrown back on the market for the redemption of mortgages; a result fatal to land purchase and detrimental to the credit of the State. (2) Instead of paying £3 2s. per £100, tenants are to pay £3 10s. without any reduction in the period of repayment. The sinking fund remains at 10s. and the interest £3 is, for the first time since land purchase was attempted, placed at a higher rate than in the preceding Purchase Act, whilst the whole instalment of £3 10s. is raised, not only above the rate of the Act of 1903, but also above the rates, diminished by decadal reductions, of purchasers under still earlier Acts. This again, in view of these reductions and of periodic revisions of rent under the Land Law Act of 1881, is fatal to purchase. (3) The bonus of £12,000,000on the application of which all parties agreed in 1903was diverted from the unanimous policy of that year and brought in aid of Mr. Dillon's hobby, which all parties then rejected. Mr. Dillon is at liberty to rejoice over the ruin of one landlord more than over the salvation of 99,000 tenants. The laws of lunacy do not, and ought not to, touch him. But there is no reason why taxpayers should minister to his peculiar pleasure, with the result of postponing indefinitely any settlement of the Irish land question. (4) By reverting to inspection for security delay is substituted for speed, and speed is necessary in the conclusion of bargains that are themselves the result of prolonged negotiations; the more so when, as now, owing to the substitution of stock for cash, the seller cannot know what his bargain will turn out to be; and the buyer, owing to the block in agreements under the Act of 1903, cannot know when his bargain will take effect. In most cases
p.260it will not do so for from six to eight years, which must be added to the period of repayment, although his instalment has been increased. (5) The reversion to attempts at defining the metaphysical rights of the landlords and tenants revives the social poison of litigation of which, in 1903, every one but Mr. Dillon was weary. (6) The revival of litigation in respect of single holdings defeats the policy of dealing with convenient areas. (7) By transforming the Estates Commissioners, much I imagine to their disgust, from administrative officers into amateur judges, a further premium is put on litigation and delay, whilst the interests of one province as against the interests of another, are left without protection from the State. (8) Although more than half the holdings of Ireland are valued at less than £10 a year, a presumption is created that all holdings below that value are to be deemed uneconomic. The whole of Connaught with the counties of Donegal and Kerry and part of County Cork are branded as congested, and the Board, charged with conducting purchase in that area, is swollen to unmanageable size, whilst three commissioners are held sufficient for the rest of Ireland, which is twice as large.
To these eight changes, all inimical, and, as I believe, fatal to the abolition of dual ownership, two have been added of a more insidious effect. Compulsion has been adopted. This of itself checks voluntary purchase. It kills it when, as under this Act, compulsory purchases are to be paid for in cash and voluntary purchases in depreciated stock. Finally, the Act contemplates diverting the resources, applied under the treaty of 1903 to the abolition of dual ownership and the remedy of congestion, to a new purpose, for which Ireland can make no special claim. I mean the creation, over all Ireland, of new tenancies, to be sold to new men, who have never suffered from dual ownership or uneconomic conditions, and may be presumed to be ignorant of farming. This new policy amounts to a repeal of the policy sanctioned by all, viz. of giving special State aid to meet the peculiar needs of Ireland.
A comparison of the results obtained under the Acts of 1903 and 1909.In order to gauge the respective efficacy of these two Acts for the purpose of abolishing dual ownership, it is necessary to distinguish between applications for purchase, and advances actually made in respect of completed transactions. The applications exhibit the comparative popularity and convenience of the two Acts. The advances exhibit only the readiness of the Government to proceed with purchase. They pertain to the financial, rather than the political, aspect of the problem, and may be examined later together with the reasons alleged for the delay of its solution. The fact of the delay appears from the following figures:
Under the Irish Land Act (1903) the number of purchase agreements lodged in respect of direct sales by landlords to tenants was 217,299 in the course of less than six years from November 1, 1903, to September 15, 1909. To these should be added proposed purchasers in other categories, viz. in respect of estates sold to the Land Commission for subsequent re-sale, or to the Congested Districts Board, or in the Court of the Land Judge, or in respect of offers to evicted tenants. These bring the total of potential purchasers up to 248,109. Under the Act of 1909, in two years from December 3, 1909, to December 1, 1911, the number of applications in respect of direct sales stands at 8,992. In the other categories the number of potential purchasers amounted to 373 up to March 31, 1911. Since then tentative negotiations have been essayed, under the threat of compulsion and the menace of Home Rule, which suggest a far larger figure. But these transactions to which I shall return are of an eminently dubious character. We are on safe ground if we compare the number of tenants who were ready under the two Acts to acquire their holdings. After discounting whatever may be claimed on the score that the operation of the Act of 1903 was expedited by the fear of its destruction, a comparison of 217,299 would-be purchasers in six years with 8,992 in two years demonstrates that the abolition of dual ownership has been thrown back
p.262to the conditions which called for the Treaty of 1903. Furthermore, it is proper to discount, in turn, even the meagre total of 8,992. For it includes the remainders of estates, other parts of which had been sold under the Act of 1903 and the spurt of applications expedited, in this case, by the revolution of last August. To the over-sanguine and the over-timid this seemed to foreshadow the rapid passage of Home Rule, and, bad as are the terms of the Act of 1909, they are estimated to be better than any obtainable after the Union has been thrown on the scrap-heap of the Constitution. One other comparison may be noted. It was part of the Treaty of 1903 that landlords should be encouraged to remain in their native land by assistance in the repurchase of their demesnesthat is, homesafter selling their properties. Under the Act of 1903 the advances on resale to owners sanctioned by the Land Commission numbered 205. Under the Act of 1909 they number two.
It will readily be inferred, even by those unacquainted with Ireland, that a process for healing ancient wounds has been turned into a process for exasperating future conflicts. A blister has been substituted for a poultice on the sores of centuries. Existing agreements are blocked. Future agreementsfor this is their appropriate, if cynicaldesignation, are relegated to a future which few can foresee. Landlords who have contracted to sell are threatened with bankruptcy by the foreclosure of mortgages. Tenants who have contracted to buy see their hopes deferred with sick hearts. Whilst to owners and occupiers who have not completed their bargains no hope comes at all. The newly won prosperity of Ireland is doomed because the Nationalist party and British Government have not kept faith; and with prosperity peace is departing. The environment that breeds agrarian disorder and crime has been restored, and agitators, in expectation of Home Rule, are already at their dirty work again. A new plan of campaign menaces the peace of Ireland in those districts whose past records are most darkly stained.
Examination of the reasons alleged for tearing up the
p.263Treaty of 1903.The Government defended their reversal of the policy of 1903, and departure from their pledges to carry out that policy, by making two assertions. They asserted (1) that the size of the problem, which all parties undertook to solve, would exceed by far the speculative estimate put forward in 1903; (2) that the credit of the British Exchequer, which they have depressed, would prove unequal to the burden foreshadowed by the new dimensions, which they have assigned. (1) Size of the problem. The first assertion, that much nearer £200,000,000 than £100,000,000 must be borrowed in order to complete purchase, is based on two assumptions explicitly stated in the Return presented to Parliament (Cd. 4412 of 1908) as follows: It will be observed that the purchase money of the agricultural land not yet brought before the Commissioners for sale under the Land Purchase Acts has been estimated on the assumption that it will be all sold and that it will be sold on an average at the price for which lands had been sold up to 30th April last, under the Irish Land Act (1903).
p.264and many more that cannot be described as in the main agricultural or pastoral. No special pleading on the part of the Government can alter the fact that the 490,000 holdings given by the census include all the lands under crops and grass and two-thirds of the waste. They embrace 19 million acres, and more than cover the ground. For the purpose of an estimate it is an outside figure, the more so since, in respect of grass lands the value of a single farm may exceed the limit of any one advance, and it is not uncommon for a large grazier to rent many grass farms. If the Government, by conferring a judicial status on the Estate Commissioners, surrendered their control over the amounts of single advances; and again, if the Government, at the dictation of Mr. Dillon, embarked on a new policy of creating tenancies in grass land and selling them to new men, they are debarred from increasing the estimate to cover their own misfeasance. In tendering the speculative estimate of 1903, it was clearly laid down that the amount of one advance was only to be increased in rare cases, and the sub-division of permanent pasture was denounced as a form of economic insanity. It was also explained that deductions must be made from the 490,000 holdings in respect of small town plots, accommodation plots, and market gardens; nor are these insignificant, for to the 80,000 holdings not exceeding one acre we must add 62,000 of from 1 to 5 acres. In the face of these facts, the assumption that all agricultural landas defined in the Returnwill be sold, is not only unsound but preposterous.
The second assumption, that the average price of future transactions will equal that of past transactions is opposed to the presumption that better, and therefore dearer farms, came onto the market before worse and therefore cheaper farms. I am not referring to the number of years' purchase offered, a point on which I have never expressed an opinion but to the value of the property which passes. It is with farms as with oranges, the good ones go first. The pertinence of this maxim to land purchase is proved by the reports of the Estates Commissioners. These contradict the Government's
p.265second assumption, for they exhibit a steady and continuous decline in the average of advances that have been made. The average amount of advances under the Act of 1903 to March 31, 1908, was in round numbers 361. On some such figures the second assumption rests. I ventured at the time to assert that the average in the future would not exceed £300. This estimate has been confirmed, for the average advances from March 31, 1908, to September 15, 1909when the Act ceased to operate was £287. A further reduction may be confidently expected, since the progress of purchase in the richer provinces has by far exceeded its progress in Connaught. In Leinster over 53,000 agreements have been lodged at an average price of over £481; in Munster over 58,000 at an average of over £420; in Ulster over 84,000 at an average of over £226; whilst in Connaught only some 26,000 at an average of just under £200.
The reasons alleged in defence of the Act of 1909 failed to justify, or even to explain, the changes it imposed. An explanation must be sought in the real reasons, and they are not far to seek. The first was that the old methods of litigation and delay, abjured by all parties in 1903, were substituted for the new methods of speed and ease, because Mr. Dillon so willed it; and the second, that the policy of abolishing dual ownership, to which Mr. Redmond stood pledged, had to be ousted, again at Mr. Dillon's dictation, to make way for the folly of creating new tenancies, of symmetrical size, throughout all Ireland. The Treaty was torn up because Mr. Dillon, acting as deputy for Mr. Birrell (whose main argument for Home Rule is that it bores him to be Chief Secretary), ordered Mr. Redmond to eat his words.
From this examination of the reasons for destroying the Act of 1903, the true size and nature of the financial problem emerges. From the total of some 490,000 holdings substantial reductions must be made in respect of waste lands, grasslands, and accommodation plots, and, again, in view of the limitation on the amount that may be advanced to one person.
p.266We ought probably to deduct 20 per cent, but if, to be on the safe side, we deduct only 15 per cent, 416,000 are left. These, however, include some 80,000 sold before the Act of 1903, or under the Land Commissioners as distinct from the Estates Commissioners. In respect of the 336,500 remaining, 257,474 agreements have been lodged under all categories in the Acts of 1903 and 1909. Indeed, a larger number have been lodged, for in most cases our information is only to March 31, 1911, leaving less than 79,000 holdings that may still come into the market. This is an outside figure, provided always that the policy of 1903 be adhered to, viz. that advances are made to occupiers and not to new men, except as under the Act of that year (sect. 2 (1) b and d, and sect. 75) in rare cases, rigidly defined, of the sons of tenants and of evicted tenants.
If the average price remains at the figure for the period March 31, 1908, to September 15, 1909viz. £287a further sum of £22,673,000 may be required in excess of £84,099,818 already required under the Acts of 1903 and 1909; making £106,772,818. This total includes nearly £1,000,000 for re-sales to owners and some provision for evicted tenants. Under these heads it will not expand in a greater relative degree. It includes, also, purchase of whole estates and of untenanted land by the Estates Commissioners and Congested Districts Board, and these may involve larger sums than were originally contemplated. I promised to return to that point, and will now do so. Since the Return under these heads up to March 31, 1911, tentative negotiations have been made for the purchase of a number of estates and for supplying more evicted tenants with holdings. But this does not increase the money size of the problem by much, because many of these estatesif sold to the new Congested Districts Boardsare subtracted from business that would have been done by the Estates Commissioners; again, it is, as we know, impossible to spend much money, or move many migrants, or even enlarge many holdings, in one year. If the new Congested Districts Board attempts to handle some millions' worth of land in a
p.267hurry, one of two things must happen, either their work will be indefinitely delayed, or else they will sell off uneconomic holdings without amending their defects. The business will not cost more. It will only be scamped, or shirked. I doubt if the additions, which do not conflict with the policy of 1903, will increase the amount to be borrowed in the market, though they may increase the sums needed for working capital. Let us add for these expansions, which are strictly limited by physical impediments, £2,000,000 or even twice that amount. It still remains obvious that, even after expansions, good, bad, or indifferent, of the policy of 1903, the total sum to be borrowed cannot exceed from £110,000,000 to £113,000,000, as the outside figure that need be contemplated, provided we refrain from the economic insanity of distributing eleven million acres of permanent pasture among shopkeepers and Gombeen men. This figure of £113,000,000, indeed, exceeds what may reasonably be expected. The average of advances fell from £426 on the earliest agreements, to £361 on all agreements to March 31, 1908, and to £287 on agreements between that date and September 15, 1909. We may count on a continuation of that fall until the average approaches £200, the price for Connaught, where purchase has proceeded most slowly. But let the total stand at £113,000,000. That sum neither warrants the breach of faith of which the Government and the Nationalist party have been guilty, nor does it present an insoluble problem to the resources of a united Exchequer. £41,097,939 has already been borrowed in the market, and advanced, in less than eight years.
The policy to which the leaders of the Unionist party stand pledged may now be re-stated in the words which I was authorised to use by Mr. Arthur Balfour and Lord Lansdowne after consultation with their colleagues. Speaking on July 9, 1909, I said
Our attitude is, that it is necessary to deal effectively with the block of pending agreements, but in dealing with that block it is not necessary to prejudice the interests either of the landlords or tenants,
p.268who may come to terms on some future agreements. We think that the spirit of the Act of 1903 must be observed in the case of pending agreements, but it must not be departed from in the case of future agreements.
Hansard. , 1909, vol. vii. No. 93, cols. 1542, 1543.
Mr. Bonar Law confirms this pledge. He instructs me to say that the Unionist party will resume the land policy of 1903, and pursue the same objects by the best methods until all have been fully and expeditiously achieved.
The prospects of Irish agriculture under the Union include a return to the land policy of 1903, with its fair hopes of reconciliation between classes and creeds, and its accomplished result of abounding prosperity. What are the prospects of Irish agriculture under Home Rule? Of what Home Rule may mean in this, as in other respects, we have been told so little that we are driven to consider its effect on Irish agriculture in the light of two contingencies. It may be that the extremists, with whom Mr. Dillon invariably ranges himself, as a preliminary to dragging Mr. Redmond after him, will have their way. In that case Ireland will exact complete fiscal autonomy from a Government which invariably surrenders to Mr. Dillon's puppet. Should this occur, land purchase will cease abruptly in the absence of credit for borrowing the sums it requires. Take the other alternative, hazily outlined by Mr. Winston Churchill at Belfast. We glean from his pronouncement that the Government intendif they canto refuse fiscal autonomy, and to preserve control over land purchase. Can it be expected that this attempt, even if it succeeds, will produce better results for land purchase than the pitiable failure of the Act of 1909? Is it not certain that less money will be raised in England, for Ireland, after Home Rule? And if raised in driblets, on what will it be spent? Obviously, not on the policy of 1903, but on the policy substituted by Mr. Dillon in 1909. It will be spent on expelling landlords and graziers to make room for subscribers to the propaganda of extremists. We must judge of what will happen to agriculture after Home Rule by
p.269what has happened since the Treaty of 1903 was repudiated. Nor must we forget that Mr. Dillon's destructive activity has ranged beyond land purchase. That policy could have achieved little but for the untiring and generous patriotism of Sir Horace Plunkett. He established the Department of Agriculture and converted his countrymen to co-operation, in the absence of which no system of small ownership can succeed. He, too, based his efforts on a conferencethe Recess Committee. How has he been met? Mr. Redmond, a member of that Committee, as later of the Land Conference, has, here again, succumbed to Mr. Dillon, who seeks to defeat co-operation between farmers, in the interests of his disciples; whilst Mr. Russell, with the hectic zeal of a pervert, has refused Ireland's share of the new Development Grant in order to spite Sir Horace Plunkett.
Such signs of the times are read in Ireland more quickly than in England, and in several ways. To this man they spell speedy triumph for the form of economic insanity in which he vindictively believes; to that man, the retention of an office won by recanting his opinions. But there are others in the saddest districts of Ireland who must also be taken into account. To the fewfor they are fewwho thrive by deeds of darkness whenever the Union is attacked, these signs of coming change suggest a more tragic interpretation, from which the fanatic and the place-hunter would recoilwhen too late. The blatant publican who strangles a neighbourhood in the toils of usury and illicit drink, and the bestial survivor of half-forgotten murder-rings take note of these signs. The atavism of cruelty returns. Emboldened by Mr. Birrell's bland acquiescence in milder prologues to Home Rule, a new plan of campaign is, even now, being devised, charged with sinister consequences from which all men in 1903 trusted that Ireland would be for ever absolved. The prospects of Irish Agriculture under Home Rule include the return, after a brief chapter of hope, and energy the child of hope, to the old cycle of bitterness and listlessness and despair.
A consideration of these alternatives leads to this dilemma. If the Government concede fiscal autonomy Land Purchase ends. If they refuse it, and Mr. Redmond accepts a gas-and-water Bill, that compromise, so accepted, will receive from Mr. Dillon the treatment accorded to the recommendations of the Recess Committee and of the Land Conference. The compromise will be repudiated and the millions already advanced for purchase will be used as a lever to extort complete autonomy. The lever is a powerful one. All depends upon who holds the handle.
It may be said in conclusion that the Unionist policy of Land Purchase vindicates the Union, and that the treatment it has received demonstrates the futility, and the tragedy of granting Home Rule.
The best possible system for Irish financial reform is adherence to the principles of the Act of Union. The constitution, as settled by the Act of Union and the Supplementary Act for the amalgamation of the Exchequer, contemplated that each of the three Kingdoms should contribute by equal taxes to the Imperial Exchequer. Equal taxes were to be those which would press upon each country equitably in proportion to its comparative ability to bear taxation. These taxes were to be imposed subject to such exemptions and abatements as Scotland and Ireland should from time to time appear to be entitled to. If their circumstances should so require, they should receive special consideration.
All the revenues of England, Scotland and Ireland, wherever and however raised, when paid into the common Exchequer, form one consolidated fund. The Act for the consolidation of the Exchequers directs that there shall be paid out of the common fund indiscriminately under the control of Parliament all such moneys as are required at any time and in any place for any of the public services in England, Scotland, Ireland or elsewhere in the Empire.63 Such payments are to be made without consideration of anything but necessity. They are to be without differentiation on the ground of the locality of the expenditure, or of the relative amount of the contributions to the common
p.272chest of England, Scotland or Ireland. All expenditure is alike common whatever its object may be, civil, naval or military or foreign, it is all alike Imperial, and all of it is under the constitution indiscriminate. The whole United Kingdom forms one domain, and but one area for the purposes of expenditure. As long as the Act of Union lasts no one of the three Kingdoms can be said to be run either at a loss or at a profit. They are all run together as one incorporate body. The common revenue balances the common expenditure, and they bear together one another's burden and the weight of Empire.
The Act for the amalgamation of the Exchequers of Great Britain and Ireland contained provisions for the continued representation of Ireland in fiscal matters at the Exchequer and in Parliament. Power was given to His Majesty by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of Ireland to appoint a Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. The Vice-Treasurer could sit in Parliament, and appointment to the office did not vacate a seat in the House of Commons. This office has been allowed to fall into abeyance. The Exchequer is only represented in Ireland by a Treasury Remembrancer. Most persons who know Ireland would concur in the view that the existing arrangement is not satisfactory, and that it would be of great advantage to Great Britain, as well as to Ireland, to have in Parliament a Minister specially responsible for Irish finance, acting under the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Vice-Treasurership should be revived and the occupant of it should be a member in touch with Irish opinion, understanding Ireland and her real wants, which are often very different from the demands upon the Exchequer that are most loudly proclaimed. The restoration of the office would facilitate business, and tend to remove many misunderstandings, and prevent many mistakes. personal interviews in Ireland with such a Minister would be worth reams of correspondence, and would save weeks of time Promptitude, economy and efficiency would be secured.
For the purposes of a system of Tariff Reform, the revival of the Irish Vice-Treasurership is expedient. The peculiar circumstances, conditions, aptitudes, and requirements of Ireland must be regarded, inquired into, discussed and weighed. Her commercial, industrial, and agricultural interests must be specially considered. They vary in many particulars from those of Scotland and England. This can only be done satisfactorily by a responsible Irish Minister charged with the duty of protecting and securing her interests and harmonising them with those of the sister Kingdoms in the framing of a scientific scheme of Tariff Reform.
If Irish interests are properly provided for, she should gain greatly under Tariff Reform. The effect of the Whig finance, inaugurated by Gladstone in 1853, accompanied by a rigid application of the Ricardian theories of political economy, and the continuous narrowing of the basis of indirect taxation, told against Ireland most severely, depleted her resources and retarded her progress. Sir Stafford Northcote thus addressed the House of Commons after twelve years' experience of the Gladstone Budget: The upshot of our present system of taxation has been to increase the taxation of the United Kingdom within the last ten or twelve years by 20 per cent, and they would find that whereas the taxation of England had increased by 17 per cent, that of Ireland had increased no less than 52 per cent between 1851 and 1861. This disproportion had been brought about by laying upon Ireland the burden of the Income-tax and by heavily increasing the spirit duties, making use at the same time of these two great engines of taxation to relieve the United Kingdom, but more especially England, of particular fiscal impositions ... Taxation in these two parts have pressed so heavily on Ireland, it was incumbent upon the people of England to take into account the necessity of relieving Ireland in any way they could.
Hansard. , Feb. 27, 1865, vol. 177, p. 813.
This plea of a great Conservative financial authority for that special consideration for Ireland to which she is entitled in fiscal matters under the Act of Union was not carried into effect until the Unionist administration of Lord Salisbury, in 1886. Then began, under the Chief Secretaryship of Mr. Arthur Balfour, that practical application of the Exemptions and Abatements clause of the Act of Union in the policy of Constructivism which has fructified so magnificently, and which, if allowed to continue uninterrupted by Home Rule, will lead Ireland to affluence.
The Lloyd George Budget penalised Ireland still further by exaggerating those methods of Whig finance which persistently narrowed the basis of indirect taxation and heaped up disproportionate imposts on a few selected article(s) which are either very largely produced or very largely consumed in Ireland. The effect of Gladstone's Budget of 1853 was to reduce the area under barley in Ireland by 134,000 acres in six years; the Lloyd George Budget has reduced the Irish barley crop by 10,000 acres in one year. Therefore in the framing of the Tariff Reform Budgets of the future, Ireland's equitable claim under the Act of Union should be recognised and given effect to.
Agricultural land in the hands of the farmers who have bought their holdings under the Irish Land Acts has been made liable to extravagant burdens by the Lloyd George Budget. These peasant purchasers are treated as if they were Dukes. When they discover their real position, their resentment will be bitter. Form IV. has not yet been circulated among them. It has been kept back deliberately It would not suit Mr. Redmond or the Ministry, should the Irish farmer discover what the actual working of the new Land taxes means while the legislative logs are still being rolled by the Radical-Socialist-Nationalist combination. When Home Rule is defeated Unionist finance should provide that the burden imposed by these taxes on agricultural
p.275progress and national prosperity shall be removed, and that the benefits conferred by the great Unionist policy of State purchase on the peasant proprietors shall not be allowed to be filched away by the Socialist budget, though it was by that very Irish party, whose first duty should have been to protect them, that the Irish farmers' interests have been betrayed.
It was found by the Financial Relations Commission that Ireland contributed a revenue in excess of her relative capacity. Mr. Childers, in his draft report, suggested that practical steps might possibly be taken to give Ireland relief or afford her equitable compensation in three different ways
(1) By so altering the general fiscal policy of the United Kingdom as to make the incidence of taxation fall more lightly on Ireland, it was suggested that the taxation upon tea, tobacco, and spirits, which weigh more heavily on Ireland in proportion to her relative capacity, because of the habits of the people, and the larger proportion in Ireland of the poorer classes, might be reduced and a part of the burden transferred to other commodities. It was, however, felt, he said, that this would open up questions of such magnitudelike Free Trade and the incidence of taxation as between different classesthat it would be inexpedient to urge it, when the object in view was the solution of a pressing difficulty with regard to Ireland taken apart from the rest of the United Kingdom. But that difficulty will be removed under Tariff Reformone-sided Free Trade is no longer a sacrosanct fetishand the case of Ireland must be taken not as apart from, but as part of, the United Kingdom. Irish interests, Agricultural and Industrial, can be far better promoted, furthered, and secured under a scientific tariff system than under the so-called free trade system, which insists on the fallacy that identity of imposts means equality of burden, and concentrates its pressure on the great Irish industries of brewing, distillery, and tobacco manufacturing; a system which taxes heavily teathe great article of consumptionand has brought peculiar disaster on agriculture. Therefore, the remedy which Mr. Childers thought impracticable in 1896 will become eminently practicable with a Tariff Reform Ministry in power.
(2) The second suggestion then made was that there should be a policy of distinct customs and excise for Ireland as apart from Great Britain. This would involve a customs barrier between the two islands. The inconvenience of such a course would be immeasurable and disastrous under modern conditions. It would certainly come sooner or later under Home Rule, but it would be a reversal of the policy of the Union.
(3) The third method which most strongly recommended itself to Mr. Childers was to give compensation to Ireland by making an allocation of revenue in her favour, to be employed in promoting the material prosperity and social welfare of the country.
This is the course which has been pursued by Unionist statesmen, and finds practical expression in their Constructive policy. The results cannot be better proved than by the fact that within the six years from 1904, during which the statistics of Irish Export and Import trade have been kept, her commerce has increased in money value by more than twenty-seven millions. At least four-fifths of that great increase represents a corresponding increase in British trade with Ireland.
Mr. Childers wrote in 1896
Apart from the claim of Ireland to special and distinct consideration under the provisions of the Act of Union, and upon the ground that she has for many years been, and now is, contributing towards the public revenue a share much in excess of her relative taxable capacity; I think that Great Britain as a manufacturing and trading country would in the course of time be amply repaid by the increase of prosperity and purchasing power in Ireland for any additional burdens which this annual grant to Ireland might involve. Looked at simply as a matter of good policy, it would be that often advocated with regard to Crown Colonies of Imperial expenditure with a view to the development of a backward portion of the Imperial estate. Ireland is so much nearer to and more exclusively the customer of the trading and manufacturing districts of Great Britain than any Colony, that this argument in her case should have redoubled weight. It is at least probable that, if in place of the fitful method of casual loans and grants hitherto pursued, there was a steady, persevering, and well-directed application of public money by way of free annual grant towards increasing the productive power
p.277of Ireland, the true revenue derived from that country might in time be no longer in excess of its relative taxable capacity.
1896, c. 8262, p. 194.
The wisdom of this Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a strange contrast with the folly of the Radical Chief Secretary, who tells England to cut the loss at the moment of Ireland's rapid progress because Irish Old Age Pensions have exceeded in number the reckless anticipation of the Right Hon. Mr. Lloyd George.
The present writer ventures to suggest that under a general scheme of Tariff Reform, the home-grown food supply of the United Kingdom might be generally increased and cheapened, and Ireland, along with the other agricultural districts of the United Kingdom greatly developed, by an extension of the principle of the Parcel Post, and the constitution of a great Home-Grown Commodity Consignment Service worked through arrangements between the Post Office, the Railway Companies, the Agricultural Departments and Farmers' Co-operative Associations. The railways already provide special rates for farm produce. But if the system were organised by the State in connection with the Railways and Agricultural Associations, and the parcel post expanded from the carriage of parcels of eleven pounds weight to the carriage of consignments of a tonnage limit to be delivered on certain days at depots in the large cities and centres of population, great national interests might be served.
The value of proximity to the Home Markets which has been so depreciated in favour of foreign supplies by modern transit methods and quick sea passages, would be restored to the British and Irish farmer. If this were accompanied by a tariff system which would secure a preference for home-grown cereals such as oats and barley, a direct
p.278effect in stimulating agriculture, and an indirect effect in increasing winter dairying, cattle feeding and poultry rearing, would be produced. The country would become more self-sustaining. The peace food supply would be cheapened and the food supply in time of war augmented. The defensive power of the realm would be increased. If, under the new Tariff system, it seems not inexpedient to re-impose the small registration duty on imported foreign as contrasted with colonial wheat and flour, the revenue thus produced might, without exactly earmarking it, be applied partly towards encouraging and advancing agriculture in the United Kingdom, and partly towards financing such a Commodity Post as above suggested. This subvention to domestic, agricultural and pastoral industries would balance the tariff on foreign manufactured goods, and the farmer of England, Scotland and Ireland would share amply in the stimulus of a new fiscal policy. Tariff Reform may assist the manufacturer and artisan by imposing duties at the ports, and the farmer and agricultural laborer by cheapening transit and encouraging food production within the United Kingdom.
In 1888 a system was inaugurated by which Grants in Aid of Local Purposes have been made in the Three Kingdoms on the basis that England should get 80 per cent, Scotland 11 per cent, and Ireland 9 per cent, when such subventions are given from the Imperial Exchequer. The Legislation sanctioning this proportional allocation began with the English Local Government Act of 1888, when Grants in Aid were made out of the Probate Duties, and has been carried into several other Statutes relating to England, Scotland and Ireland. These proportions have become to a large extent stereotyped in the allocation of such grants. The new basis of contribution was originated by Mr. Goschen and was stated by him to depend upon the amount of the assumed contribution of each country to the
p.279Revenue for Common purposes. The method of calculation, he said, was a very complex one.64
It was pointed out at the time that under the new system the party that would probably require the largest amount of the grant would be the poorest country, and yet the richer country would get the larger proportionate grants.65 The method of segregation is as follows. The Revenue and Expenditure Returns divide public expenditure into four clauses: (a), Imperial or Common Services, (b) English Services, (c) Scottish Services and (d) Irish Services; and having treated the three latter as local services and charged the particular outlay on them against each of the three countries, they estimate the balance left in cash as the Contribution of England, Scotland and Ireland to the Imperial Expenditure. It is admitted that this division is absolutely arbitrary. It has no sanction by any Act of Parliament. It is opposed to the system of Finance under the Act of Union. All the revenues of England, Scotland or Ireland are contributed for Common purposes, and in which all expenditure of any kind in any portion of the United Kingdom is alike Common or Imperial.. The details of the division were never disclosed, when the proportions were originally fixed. The segregation of the services classified as Imperial is open to serious objections. The method of computation is empirical and unconstitutional, and if carried to its logical conclusion would now result in depriving Ireland of any share whatever in future Equivalent grants, as her contribution to the services thus classified as Imperial is practically a minus quantity, though the revenue actually raised in Ireland is much higher than it ever has been before. This method of Distribution of Grants in Aid has been condemned by a succession of the highest financial authorities. Lord Ritchie, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, said, 'he did not think it possible really to defend in all its details distribution by contribution.' 66
Mr. Wyndham said It leads to results which all must hold to be illogical, and results which everybody in Ireland holds to be unjust because the greater the increase of taxation the less is the proportion that comes from Ireland, the poorer partner in the business, and so the less is the equivalent grant. As the evil increases the remedy diminishes, and you have only to force up taxation sufficiently high to extinguish the remedy altogether.
Parl. Deb.. , vol.120, p. 823.
Mr. Asquith said A more confused and illogical condition of things it is impossible to imagine. The House ought really to take the opportunity of threshing out the principle upon which these equivalent grants ought to be distributed between the three countries.
Parl. Deb.. , vol.175, p. 1088.
Lord St. Aldwyn said That he always had a very strong objection to the system of Equivalent Grants, because when they had to make a grant for certain purposes to England, they were obliged to make proportionate grants to Ireland and Scotland quite irrespective of whether they needed them or not.
Parl. Deb.. , May 31, 1903.
Neither the Imperial contribution basis nor the Population basis, which has in some instances been resorted to for grants in aid, is satisfactory, nor is the method desirable of setting aside a certain fund raised by some particular tax to finance a particular service. For instance, the subvention of Education in Ireland out of the Whisky money recently broke down owing to the diminution of the Revenue from this source. The more sober Ireland became, the less she got for Education. Chaos was imminent, and finally, after much friction, a special grant had to be made from the Treasury to save the situation. There are numerous instances in which great complications have been caused in dealing with local
p.281authorities owing to these methods of making grants in aid, and the system should be reformed. The true basis is the basis of each Kingdom's need. [...] England has her needs, let them be supplied. Scotland has hers, let them be supplied. Ireland has hers, and having regard to her present comparative poverty, let them be supplied not grudgingly or of necessity, but by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a cheerful giver. This is the constitutional principle under the Act of Union, and the soundest financial principle to observe for the United Kingdom.
The history of Ireland for the last two centuries and more is a continuous exposition of the disastrous consequences of political and economic separatism within an area where every natural condition, and the whole course of historical development, pointed to political and economic union. Geographically, racially and historically an integral part of a single homogeneous island group, Ireland has never really been allowed to enjoy the full advantages of political and economic union with the adjoining main island. Almost every misfortune which Ireland has suffered is directly traceable to this cause. In spite of this, it is now seriously proposed to subject her once again to the disadvantages of political separation, and that on the very eve of an inevitable change of economic policy, which, while it would restore real vitality and purpose to political union, would also once more intensify all the injury which economic disunion has inflicted upon Ireland in the past.
In the long constitutional struggle of the seventeenth century her position as a separate political unit made Ireland a convenient instrument of Stuart policy against the English Parliament. Cromwell, with true insight, solved the difficulty by legislative union with England. But his work was undone at the Restoration, and for another 122 years Ireland remained outside the Union as a separate and subordinate state. Her economic position was that of a Colony, as Colonies were then administered. But it was that of a least favoured Colony. This was due, in part, to a real fear of Ireland as a danger to British constitutional liberty
p.283and British Protestantism67 which long survived the occasion which has seemed to justify it. But what was a more serious and permanent factor was the circumstance that Ireland's economic development could only be on lines which competed with England, and not like Colonial development on lines complementary to English trade. One after another Irish industries were penalised and crippled by being forbidden all part in the export trade. A flourishing woollen industry, a prosperous shipping, promising cotton, silk, glass, glove making and sugar refining industries were all ruthlessly repressed,68 not from any innate perversity on the part of English statesmen, or from any deliberate desire to ruin Ireland, but as a natural and inevitable consequence of exclusion from the Union under the economic policy of the age. Whatever outlet Irish economic activity took there was always some English trade whose interests were prejudicially affected, and which promptly exercised a perfectly legitimate pressure upon the Government to put a stop to the competition. The very poverty of Ireland, as expressed in the lowness of Irish wages, was an ever convenient and perfectly justifiable argument for exclusion. The linen industry alone received a certain amount of toleration, and even encouragement. These regulations were so little animated by direct religious or racial antipathy that it was upon the Protestant Scotch and English settlers that they fell with the greatest severity, driving them into exile by thousands, to become, subsequently, one of the chief factors in the American Revolution. But if the direct economic effect of political
p.284separation weighed less heavily upon the Catholic majority they suffered all the more from the utter paralysis of all industry and enterprise consequent upon the Penal Laws. These laws, monstrous as they seemed even to Burke, were in their turn a natural outcome of a political separation which made the security of Protestantism in Ireland rest upon the domination of a narrow oligarchy in instant terror of being swamped. Under Union they would never have been devised, or could certainly never have endured.
The revolution by which the Irish Parliament, in 1782, asserted its constitutional equality with the British Parliament, subject only to the power of bribery, direct or indirect retained by the Crown, brought out in still more glaring relief the utter unsoundness of the existing political structure under separation. After eighteen years of ferment within Ireland and friction without, British and Irish statesmen, face to face with civil war and French invasion, realised that the sorry farce had to come to an end. Meanwhile the immediate economic effect of liberation from the direct restrictions on Irish foreign trade, already conceded in 1779 and helped in various directions by judicious bounties, was undoubtedly to give a new impetus to production in Ireland. The first ten years of Grattan's Parliament were, on the whole, years of growing prosperity. Whether, even apart from Civil war and increasing taxation, that prosperity would have continued to increase, if the Union had not come about, is, however, a more doubtful matter. The immense industrial development of England during the next half-century would probably, in any case, have crushed out the smaller and weaker Irish industries, while the existence of a separate tariff in Great Britain would have been a serious obstacle to the development of Irish agriculture. A full customs union, with internal free trade, was undoubtedly the best solution of the difficulty. But Pitt's Commercial Propositions of 1785 failed, partly, indeed, owing to political intrigues, but still more owing to the fundamental impossibility of securing an effective customs union without some form of political union.
When finally Ireland entered the Union it was with the severe handicap of an industrial system artificially repressed for over a century. The removal of the last traces of internal protection in 1824 only accelerated the process, inevitable in any case, by which Irish industries, with the exception of linen, were submerged. But manufacturing industry was at the best a small matter in Ireland compared with agriculture. And to Irish agriculture the Union meant an immense development in every direction. Unfortunately the inheritance of the preceding century, a vicious agrarian system and a low standard of living, was not easily to be eliminated, and little attempt was made to eliminate it. The great increase of agricultural production was accompanied, not by a progressive and well-diffused rise in the standard of national well-being, but by high rents and extravagance on the one side, and, on the other, the rapid multiplication of a population living on the very margin of subsistence. The terrible year of famine was a warning to British statesmanship of the need of a constructive and Conservative policy for the reorganisation of Irish agricultural life and for the broadening of the economic basis in Ireland by the deliberate encouragement of new industries. Under a true conception of Union, political and economicand there were not wanting men like Lord George Bentinck and Disraeli who entertained itIreland might within a generation have been levelled up to the general standard of the United Kingdom.
But the evil effects of political and economic separatism in the eighteenth century were still unremedied when the whole economic policy of Union was abandoned. The very principle and conception of Free Trade is, inherently, as opposed to the maintenance of national as of Imperial Union. Ireland was deprived of that position of advantage in the British market which was one of the implied terms of the Union, and was not allowed to protect her own market. Incidentally, and as a consequence of the new fiscal policy, Ireland was saddled with a heavy additonal burden of taxation which only handicapped her yet further
p.286in the struggle to recover from the famine and to meet foreign competition. The full severity of that competition was, however, not experienced till towards the end of the seventies, when the opening up of the American West coupled with the demonetisation of silver, brought down prices with a run. A series of bad harvests aggravated the evil. The same conditions were experienced all over Europe, and were everywhere met by raising tariffs to the level required to enable agriculture to maintain itself. Even in England Fair Trade became a burning issue. Given normal agrarian conditions in Ireland the Irish vote would have gone solid with the Fair Traders, and the United Kingdom would in all probability have reverted to a national system of economics a generation ago. As things were, landlords and farmers in Ireland, instead of uniting to defend their common interest, each endeavoured to thrust the burden of the economic debacle on the other. The bitterness of the agrarian struggle which ensued was skilfully engineered into the channel of the Home Rule agitation. In other words, the evils of economic separatism aggravated by the social evils surviving from the separatism of an earlier age, united to revive a demand for the extension and renewal of the very cause of these evils.
Since then the underlying conditions of Irish economic life have undergone a complete transformation. The wealth and credit of the United Kingdom have been used to inaugurate a settlement of the agrarian question. The productive and competitive efficiency of Irish agriculture has been enormously increased both by Government advice and assistance and by patriotic private effort. Old Age Pensions have alleviated the burden of an excessive residue of older persons, and irrigated the poorer districts with a ream of ready money. In every direction there is a deliberate effort to raise the economic standard of Ireland to the British level. Last, but by no means least, the exclusion of all foreign livestock from the United Kingdom though originally designed only as a precautionary measure against cattle disease, has in effect protected one most
p.287important branch of Irish agriculture and given it a vital interest in the maintenance of the Union. On the eve of the revival of a national policy of economic development Ireland stands on a far sounder basis, and in a far better position to take advantage of that development, than in 1800. The standard of life is rising, and will of itself put a check on a mere multiplication of beings living on the margin of subsistence. For the natural increase of population, which will once more come about, there will be provision not only through more intensive cultivation and in rural industries, but also in a real, though possibly gradual, development of new manufacturing industries, Incidentally the establishment of a protective tariff for The United Kingdom will, by lowering the excessive duties on tea and tobacco which weigh so heavily upon Ireland, increase still further the local excess of Government expenditure over revenue and facilitate the local accumulation capital, already so noticeable a feature of recent years, and thus provide an essential factor in stimulating new enterprise, whether agricultural or industrial. Nor would it be in any way inconsistent with a national economic policy for the United Kingdom as a whole to devote special sums, through bounties and in other ways, towards the opening up of new fields for the economic activities of the Irish people. For the first time in her history Ireland will have a fair start, and, under the Union, the twentieth century may yet prove Ireland's century just as Canadians claim that it will prove Canada's century.
Now let us turn to the other side of the picture. The establishment of Home Rule, in other words of politcal separatism, must inevitably be followed by active economic separatism, i.e. by the creation of a completely separate fiscal system in Ireland. The idea that an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer can carry on in dependence on a British Budget, which may at any moment upset all his calculations of revenue, is absurd. So is the idea that there can be separate tariffs with mutual Free Trade, or a common tariff without a common government to frame it. If Free Trade,
p.288indeed, were to be maintained in England, fiscal separation would be no disadvantage to Ireland. On the contrary, she would continue to enjoy the same access to the British market while giving her own industries such protection as might be convenient. It is one of the glaring weaknesses of the policy of Free Imports that it actually puts a premium on separatism. But it is impossible to discuss the future on that assumption. Whatever the fate of the Home Rule Bill may be it is certain that Free Trade is doomed, and that the United Kingdom, whether united or divided, will revert to a policy of national protection and national development.
What will be the effect upon Ireland? Assuming mutual good will, assuming that the Irish Government will be ready to grant a substantial preference to British trade over foreign trade, there can be no doubt that Great Britain would respond and give to Irish products the same preference as might be extended to Canadian or Australian products. But the first duty of the British Government would be to British producers. While Empire-grown wheat, and possibly meat, would come in free, the British farmer would receive a measure of protection against the rest of the Empire in dairy products and poultry, in barley and oats, in hops, tobacco, sugar beet, vegetables and fruit, in all those crops, in fact, in which the British production could meet the British demand without an undue effect upon prices.
Now, it is precisely by these intensive forms of production that Ireland stands to gain most under Union. Under Home Rule she would lose this advantage and have to compete on an equality with the rest of the Empire both in respect to these products and in respect to wheat and meat. It is extremely doubtful, too, whether her special privileges with regard to store cattle would long survive. They could no longer be defended, as against Canada, by the arguments now used, and as a piece of pure protectionism there would be no reason for Great Britain to give them a separate fiscal entity. And if the hopes of Irish agriculture would be severely checked, still
p.289more would that be true of those hopes of new industries already referred to. Even the great linen industry might find a small duty enough to transfer a large part of its production within the British tariff zone. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether any tariff that Ireland could Impose, consistently either with preference or with reasonable prices in so small a market and on so small a scale of production, could be of much effect against the competition of British industries, strengthened and made aggressive under the stimulus of a national trade policy.
This is the most favourable hypothesis. But it is at least conceivable that a Nationalist Government, whether actuated by a laudable desire to hurry on Irish industrial development, or influenced by the tradition of animosity which still plays so strong a part in Nationalist politics, may refuse to enter upon the policy of Imperial preference. It might even be tempted by various considerations to give a preference to the United States or to Germany. Germany is a large importer of foodstuffs. The establishment of a British tariff may prove a serious blow to her manufacturing interests. A trade agreement with Ireland might be a very useful temporary business expedient from the German point of view. Incidentally a large increase of German merchant shipping in Irish harbours might, in the case of possible hostilities, be of no little service in providing commerce destroyers with a most convenient excuse for being in the most favourable area for their operations. Any fiscal excursions of that sort would inevitably be visited upon Ireland by severe economic reprisals of one kind or another on the part of Great Britain, from which Ireland would receive permanent injury far outweighing any temporary advantage which might be secured from foreign countries.
In other words, Ireland under Home Rule would be in almost every respect thrust back into her eighteenth century position of least favoured Colony. She would, at the best, be handicapped in the British market in respect of those products by which she could profit most, and in those which she is less fitted to produce would have to compete
p.290with the virgin soil and competitive energy and organisation of the great Dominions. At the worst, her fiscal policy might invite reprisals and make her least favoured not only by her circumstances but by the intention of those who would frame the British tariff. It is true that the British Government would no longer dream of directly interdicting Irish exports. But in that respect modern organised capital has an influence to promote or kill almost as great as that of governments in former times. And the influence of British capital, under such circumstances, would certainly not tend to be directed towards the economic development of Ireland.
But the use of the customs tariff is by no means the only great instrument of a national economic policy, To promote the flow of trade in national channels, to secure the fullest development of the national territory and resources, the removal of natural internal barriers is often even more important than the setting up of artificial external barriers. Statesmen who have had to face the task of giving strength and solidity to weak political unions have always aimed at the development of internal communications. Washington's first concern after the success of the American War of Independence was to endeavour to create a system of internal river and canal navigation in order to help to bind the loosely allied States into a real union. Bismarck used the Prussian railways as well as the Zollverein to build up German unity. In the making of Canada the Intercolonial railway and the Canadian Pacific were essential complements to the national tariff. Railways forced South Africa into union, and will gradually give Australia real cohesion and unity. In the United Kingdom there has been no national policy with regard to communications, least of all any nationally directed or stimulated effort to cement the political union of 1800. But such a policy is essential to the reality of the Union. To get rid, as far as possible, of the barrier which the St. George's Channel presents today both to the convenience of passenger traffic and to the direct through
p.291carriage of goods between internal points in the two islands should be one of the first objects of Unionist policy in the future. In the train-ferry, which has bridged the channels of sea-divided Denmark, which in spite of the Baltic, has made Sweden contiguous with Germany, which for the purposes of railway traffic, has practically abolished Lake Michigan, modern developments have provided us with the very instrument required. To Irish agriculture the gain of being put into direct railway communication with all England and Scotland would be immense. From the tourist and sporting point of view Ireland would reap a doubled and trebled harvest. More than that, the bridging of St. George's Channel will for the first time enable the west coast of Ireland to become what it ought to be, the true west coast of the United Kingdom, the starting point of all our fast mail and passenger services across the Atlantic.
But all this implies the Union, the existence of a single Government interested in the development of the United Kingdom as a whole. Separate governments in Great Britain and Ireland would not have the same inducement to give financial encouragement to such schemes. Irish manufacturers and British farmers alike might protest against being taxed to facilitate the competition of rivals in their own markets. An Irish Government would have neither sufficient money nor sufficient interest to give the subsidies necessary to secure a three days' service across the Atlantic. A British Government would naturally develop one of its existing ports, or some new port on the west coast of Scotland, rather than build up a new source of revenue and national strength in a separate State. No one could blame it, any more than we could blame the Canadian Government for wishing to subsidise a fast service from Halifax or some other port in the Dominion rather than one from St. John's, Newfoundland. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Navigation Acts deliberately destroyed Irish shipping. A policy of laisser faire in matters of national communication has hitherto prevented its revival. To-day new ideas are in the air. Those ideas
p.292can be applied, either from the standpoint of the Union or from that of separatism. In the one case Ireland has the prospect of becoming, what her geographical position entitles her to be, the eastern bridge-head of the North Atlantic. In the other the immense power of the larger capital and larger subsidies of Great Britain will be as effective as any navigation laws of the past in leaving her a derelict by the wayside, continuing to wait idle and hungry, with empty harbours, while the great streams of commerce flow past her to north and south.
And if the theory of laisser faire is rapidly dying out in matters of trade and communications, it has already been largely superseded in regard to social questions. The duty of the State to expend money in order to level up the standard of life of its citizens, or to prevent their sinking below that standard, is today universally recognised. The methods by which that object is aimed at are various. There is the crudest form, that of direct money relief, such as is involved in Old Age Pensions. There is the subsidising of socially desirable economic operations, such as insurance against sickness or the acquisition of freehold by tenants. There is the expenditure of money on various forms of education, in the scientific assistance of industry and agriculture, in promotion of forestry, drainage, or the improvement of local communication. There is the enforcement of innumerable regulations to safeguard the health and safety of the working population. Nowhere has this conception of the duty of the State exercised a greater influence than in Ireland during the last twenty years. The Congested Districts Board, the Department of Agriculture, the Land Purchase Scheme, illustrate one phase of its carrying into effect. Old Age Pensions, cheap Labourers' cottages, sickness insurance illustrate another. All these have been provided out of the United Kingdom exchequer. They could not be provided out of Irish revenues. Still less could Irish revenues provide for a continuous extension of this policy in order to keep on a level with English conditions.
It has been stated by Mr. Churchill that under the
p.293Government scheme of Home Rule, Land Purchase and Old Age Pensions will be paid by Great Britain. Even if that were a workable arrangement it only covers a small part of the field. For the rest Home Rule would mean the complete abandonment of the attempt to level up the social conditions of Great Britain and Ireland to a common standard, The Irish Government would never have the means to carry out the same programme of social legislation as will be carried out in Great Britain. Handicapped in competition with British industries it would, moreover, naturally be disinclined, even apart from the question of cost, to apply any legislation or any regulations which might tend to raise the cost of production. There will thus not only be an inevitable falling back for want of means, but, in addition, a continual temptation to the weaker and more backward State to meet superior industrial efficiency by the temporary cheapness, of inferior social conditions.69
But such a policy would not only be disastrous in itself in its ultimate effect upon Irish national life. It would at once provide a fresh and valid excuse for effective fiscal differentiation against Ireland in Great Britain. Once again, as in the eighteenth century, Ireland would be penalised for being a poor and sweated country.
So far the discussion of the economic results of separation has been confined to Ireland, because Ireland would undoubtedly be the chief sufferer. Her dependence on the English market, the smallness of her home market, her backward social condition, would all be insuperable obstacles to a really healthy development on independent lines. Great Britain, on the other hand, would suffer relatively much less from Home Rule. The immediate shrinkage of trade with Ireland, even with an Irish tariff to overcome, might not be very great. The real loss would be not so much
p.294any actual decrease of trade, as the loss judged by the standard of the possibilities of Irish development under the Union. The essence of the situation after all is that the United Kingdom is a single economic area. The exclusion of one part of that area from the political and economic life of the rest, while injurious to the rest, must prove disastrous above all to the part excluded. After centuries of alternate neglect and repression Ireland has at last been brought to a condition in which she is capable of taking the fullest advantage of a new era of progress and development for the United Kingdom as a whole. And this is the time which is chosen for seriously suggesting that she should once again be excluded from all the benefits of partnership in the United Kingdom and driven out into the wilderness of poverty and decay. The plea for this folly is an unreal sentiment which is itself merely the survival of the mistaken political or economic separatism of the past, and which is nothing to the real and justifiable sentiment of bitterness which would be roused in Ireland if the plea were accepted.
The argument so often and so plausibly presented in favour of Home Rule, which urges that the Imperial Parliament is overburdened with local affairs, contains an element of truth. It would, however, be more in accordance with the facts to put the case the other way round: for localities are much more seriously inconvenienced in certain respects by the necessity of referring local business to the Imperial Parliament, than the Imperial Parliament is inconvenienced by the transaction of such business, which, if we are to believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it neglects (videfrn> Nash's Magazine, February, 1912). At the same time, to affirm that, in order to remedy what is no more than a defect in administration, it is necessary to overturn the British Constitution, and to build on its ruins four semi-independent Legislatures and one supreme Parliament, is merely to exemplify the cynical imposture of partisan misrepresentation: what Mr. Balfour described as the dream of political idiots.
There is no impartial person who does not clearly recognise that to constitute a separate Parliament for Ireland (to say nothing of England, Wales, and Scotland) must necessarily result, not in the more efficient despatch of legislative and administrative business, but in perpetual friction, clogging the mechanism alike of the subordinate and the predominate body. Ireland enjoyedor enduredan independent Parliament during eighteen years, from 1782 to 1800; and, in the result, the greatest statesmen both in Ireland and in England were forced to acknowledge that
p.296the system had in practice failed utterly; and that there remained no alternative but the Union. To that view of the situation the great majority of the Irish people, irrespective of race or creed, were converted within a year before the passing of the Act, an event which was hailed with rejoicing. The experience of 112 years, fraught as they have been with occasional calamity and burdened with many blunders, has not produced a single valid objection to the principle of the Union, unless the survival among a diminishing section of the population of the old bad tradition of hatred towards England and its deliberate exploitation by pledge-bound politicians is to be regarded as a reason for sacrificing the welfare and the prosperity of both countries. The framers of the Act of Union did not, and indeed could not, provide for every contingency. It is therefore the business of those who are determined to maintain the Union, to adjust its machinery to modern requirements. An omission of capital import was the failure to provide for the efficient promotion of private Bills. The matter was, indeed, actually considered by the authors of the Act of Union. The Duke of Portland wrote to Lord Cornwallis, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, under date December 24, 1798, as follows: One of the greatest difficulties, however, which has been supposed to attend the project of union between the two kingdoms, is that of the expense and trouble which will be occasioned by the attendance of witnesses in trials of contested elections, or in matters of private business requiring Parliamentary interposition. It would therefore, be very desirable to devise a plan (which does not appear impossible) for empowering the Speaker of either House of the United Parliament to issue his warrant to the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions in Ireland, or to such other person as may be thought more proper for the purpose, requiring him to appoint a time and a place within the County for his being attended by the agents of the respective parties, and reducing to writing in their presence the testimony (for the consents or dissents, as the case may be) of such persons as, by the said agents, may be summoned to
p.297attend, being resident within the County (if not there resident a similar proceeding should take place in the County where they reside), and such testimony so taken and reduced into writing may, by such Chairman or by the Sheriff of the County, be certified to the Speaker of either House, as the case may be. It seems difficult to provide a detailed Article of the Union for the various regulations which such a proceeding may require, but the principle might perhaps be stated there, and the provisions left to be settled by the United Parliament.
According to Lord Ashbourne's Life of Pitt, the Prime Minister himself framed a scheme for constituting a Court of Appeal in Ireland, with power to examine evidence and certify all preliminaries and other matters respecting private Bills. Why the provision was not included in the Act of Union is not clear. The fact of its omission, however, proves that the necessity of resorting to the Imperial Parliament for the transaction of private business was not an objection that hindered the passage of the Act of Union, although today the same omission is absurdly used as an argument in favour of the repeal of that measure. At the same time, it is true that the requirements have immensely increased in proportion as the resources of the country have been developed since 1800. The introduction of railways, telegraphs, telephones and electric appliances, together with the grant of compulsory powers to municipalities, has involved the promotion of numerous private Bills at vast expense to Ireland. Mr. A. W. Samuels, K.C., who contributed a paper on the subject to the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland in November, 1899, quoted some instances of the cost of private Bill legislation in Ireland:
The ratepayers of Dublin, of Rathmines, of Pembroke, of Clontarf, and other suburbs of the city, long will feel the burden added to their rates by the London litigation of the Session that has passed. The Dublin Boundaries Extension Bill of 1899 has cost the city, as I am informed on reliable authority, between £12,000 and £13,000. There were twenty-four separate sets of opponents. The cost to Rathmines of its opposition approaches, I am informed, £8,000. To meet it about one shilling in the pound must be added
p.298to the taxation of that township. The costs of Pembroke cannot be far short of the same sum. If we add those of the oppositions of Kilmainham, Drumcondra, Clontarf, and of the County of Dublin and of private persons and public bodies, the total expense to the inhabitants and ratepayers of the city and its suburbs will not fall short of £45,000.
Mr. Pope, Q.C., stated before the Committee which considered the Irish Railways Amalgamation Scheme of last Session, that the Bill at hearing was costing £5 per minute. A high authority conversant with the proceedings in this case has informed me that this was an under-estimate rather than an over-estimate, having regard to the fact that there were twenty-seven separate oppositions. The Bill occupied twenty-seven working days of four hours each; and its cost to the shareholders of the promoting Company were calculated to amount to about £400 per day. What the loss was to the shareholders of other Companies, and to the ratepayers represented by public bodies, it would be impossible to say. The Bill probably cost at least £50,000. There was a Belfast Corporation Bill. There was an Armagh and Keady Railway Bill. There were several other Irish Bills before the Houses, exhausting thousands more of Irish capital, and diverting it from the material development of the country. So abnormal was the waste of Irish money on the Railway Bill that it excited general attention even in England, and became the subject of comment in Parliament. Mr. J. H. Lewis, the member for Flint Burghs, speaking on the 24th July, 1899, on the third reading of the Scotch Private Legislation Procedure Bill, said 'I am sure everybody must have regarded with great dissatisfaction the enormous expenditure to which certain Irish Railway Companies were put during the last few weeks within the walls of the House. Surely a better system can be devised than that which drags over from different parts of the United Kingdom a host of witnesses, who could be examined on the spot. I am sure all honourable members deeply regret this great waste of public money.'
These disabilities have been the subject of frequent representations. Resolutions advocating reform have been repeatedly passed by the Irish Chambers of Commerce, by the Incorporated Law Society, and by local bodies. Leaders of the Unionist party have constantly urged the necessity of a provision for expediting and cheapening Private Bill procedure. In 1896 a deputation from the Dublin Chamber
p.299of Commerce laid the matter before Mr. Gerald Balfour, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. He expressed a hope that the Government would introduce a reform. In the Queen's speech of February, 1897, it was announced that Bills for amending the procedure with respect to Private Bills coming from Scotland and Ireland had been prepared. The opportunity for laying these measures before Parliament did not arise.
But in 1899 a Bill amending the procedure of Scottish Private Bill Legislation was passed into law. The measure forms the precedent for future legislation. In the year 1900, Mr. Atkinson (now Lord Lord Atkinson), speaking for the Government, said that the Government were most favourable to the introduction and passing of a Bill dealing with private Bill legislation for Ireland. He thought the real and substantial difficulty was the creation of the tribunal which was to sit locally and to inquire into these matters. The Irish Government thought it wise to wait until they should see what would be the effect of the operation of the Scotch Act.
Subsequent experience has proved that the Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act of 1899 may taken for the model of a similar measure designed to apply to Ireland. The Scottish Act substituted for procedure by means of a Private Bill, procedure in the first instance by means of a Provisional Order. Instead of applying to Parliament by a petition for leave to bring in a Private Bill, any public authority or persons desirous of obtaining parliamentary powers now proceed by presenting a petition to the Secretary for Scotland, praying him to issue a Provisional Order in accordance with the terms of a draft Order submitted to him, or with such modifications as shall be necessary.
Before the Secretary for Scotland proceeds with the Provisional Order, the draft Order is considered by the Chairman of Committee of the House of Lords, and the Chairman of Ways and means in the House of Commons;
p.300and they report to the Secretary for Scotland whether or not the matters proposed to be dealt with by the draft Order, or any of them, should be dealt with by Provisional Order or by Private Bill. Should the Chairmen report that these matters, or any of them, should be dealt with by a Private Bill, the Secretary for Scotland, without further inquiry, refuses to issue the Provisional Order so far as it is objected to by the Chairmen; but the advertisements and notices already given by the promoters of the scheme are regarded as fulfilling (subject to Standing Orders) the necessary conditions to be observed prior to the introduction of a Private Bill. Should the Chairmen report that the Provisional Order, or a part of it, may proceed, the procedure is as follows. If there is no opposition, the Secretary for Scotland may at once issue the Provisional Order, which is then embodied in a Confirmation Bill for the assent of Parliament. If there is opposition, or in any case where he thinks inquiry necessary, the Secretary for Scotland directs an inquiry, and the Order is then considered by the tribunal described below; and if passed by that tribunal, with or without modifications, it is brought up in a Confirmation Bill for the assent of Parliament.
It follows that in the case of unopposed schemes brought in under the Act, there is a great saving of time and expense as compared with the former system.
With regard to schemes which are opposed, the judicial functions of a Parliamentary Committee dealing with Private Bills were transferred by the Act of 1899 to a special tribunal, composed of two Panels, a Parliamentary Panel and an Extra-Parliamentary Panel, whose members shall have no local or personal interest in the questions at issue. From these is formed a Commission of four members.
Mr. A. W. Samuels, K.C., thus describes the constitution of the Commission:
In the first instance it is provided that the members shall be takentwo from the Lords and two from the Commons. In the
p.301event of that being found impossible, three may be taken from one House and one from the other. In the next resort all may be from the same House. Finallyif members cannot be procured to servethe extra Parliamentary Panel can be called upon, and the Commission manned from it.
The next great reform introduced by the measure is, that the inquiry is to be held at such place, in Scotland, as may be convenient. The inquiry is to be localised as far as possible. It is to be held in public. The Commissioners are to settle questions of locus standithey can decide upon the preamble before discussing clausesand persons having a locus standi can appear before them in person or by counsel or agent.
When they have heard the evidence the Commissioners are to report to the Secretary of Scotland, and they can recommend that the Provisional Order should be issued as prayed for, or with such modifications as they may make. If there is no opposition to the Provisional Order as finally settled by the Commissioners, it is embodied in a Confirmation Bill by the Secretary of Scotland and passed through Parliament.
If there is opposition a petition must be presented to Parliament against the Order, and then, on the second reading of the Confirmation Bill, a member can move that the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, and if the motion is carried in the House a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons shall sit, at the peril of costs to the opponents, to hear and take evidence and decide upon the measure in the same way as in the case of a Private Bill.
In 1904, the Select Committee appointed to consider the provisions of a similar measure to be applied to Wales, reported that in practice the Scottish Act had proved a success, which they attributed largely to the supervision of the Provisional Orders conducted by the Scottish Office.
There would seem, then, every reason to believe that a measure framed upon the lines of the Scottish Act, to apply to Ireland, would be equally successful.
The remarkable increase in the prosperity of Ireland,which has occurred during the last twenty years, demonstrates the necessity for providing every means of encouraging the further development of the country.
All the available statistics amply confirm and corroborate the evidence of this prosperity, which is known to every man with the smallest direct acquaintance of Ireland in recent years. The figures of savings, bank deposits, external trade, all alike show the exceptional advances in prosperity now enjoyed by Ireland.
The progress of Ireland under the Union thus indicated, was inaugurated by Mr. Balfour, the best Chief Secretary Ireland ever had; to this day his name is always mentioned with respect and gratitude by the people of Ireland, especially by the residents in the South and West, where his policy produced splendid and lasting results. Insufficient credit has been given to the work of agricultural and commercial development steadily pursued by Mr. Gerald Balfour; the results upon which we rejoice today are mainly due to the policy adopted by Mr. Balfour and his brother. This policy, coupled with the restitution of sales under the Land Act of 1903, is the one which Unionists intend resolutely to pursue.
The figures on the next page show that the increase of population in some important centres in the south and west is very small, and that in other centres there is a decrease. Ireland being mainly an agricultural country, the population tends to decrease owing to emigration, although of late years, owing to the rise in prosperity, the tendency is rather to remain stationary. At the same time, the increase of the population in the provincial towns is not commensurate with the increase of material wealth in the country.
With regard, for instance, to the increase in the number of tourists visiting Ireland, both private persons and local bodies desire to extend existing inducements and to improve the means of transit and to raise the standard of accommodation. It is clear that, under a reformed method of procedure in respect of Private Bill Legislation, enterprise would be freed from the restrictions which at present hinder its free exercise, and a substantial and a steadily increasing benefit would accrue to Ireland.
Increase and Decrease of Population of Cities and Towns In Ireland having In 1901 a Population Exceeding 10,000. (Census of Ireland 1911.)
|Cities, towns, etc.||Percentage of increase since 1901||Cities, towns, etc.||Percentage of decrease since 1901|
|Rathmines and Rathgar||17.1||Newry*||5.2|
Those marked (*) are Parliamentary Boroughs.
An article on Irish Poor Law Reform written within the limits assigned to me can only be constructive in the broadest sense. It is a serious and tangled problem: the existing system has developed in a haphazard fashion; there is about it hardly anything that is logical, much that is anomalous, some things that are tragic. The present conditions of the Irish Poor Law system are set forth in the reports of various Royal and Viceregal Commissions. The most important are those of the Viceregal Commission on Poor Law Reform in Ireland (1906), the Departmental Commission on Vagrancy, the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-minded, and the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws (Majority Report). The study of all these reports is a rather distracting business. They establish between them an urgent need for reform; on the methods, and even principles, of reform there are wide differences of opinion. I propose to set out here, so far as may be possible, a summary of those reforms on which the various reports and Irish public opinion are nearly, or quite, unanimous. Such a summary may at least help to acquaint the rank and file of the Unionist Party with the primary conditions and necessities of a work which, for historical, moral, social and political reasons, must receive the Party's early and practical attention when it returns to power.
The Unionist Party, as representing the best elements in British Government, owes in this matter a great act of reparation to Ireland. The present Poor Law system is based on the most fatal of all blunders the deliberate
p.305disregard of educated opinion in Ireland. The story, a very remarkable and suggestive one, is told in the Viceregal Commission's report. The Royal Commission of 1836 came to the conclusion that the English workhouse system would be unsuitable for Ireland. The Irish Royal Commissioners, including the famous Archbishop Whately, made two sets of recommendations. One set involved a compulsory provision for the sick, aged, lunatic and infirm. The other proposed to attack poverty at the root by instituting a large series of measures for the general development of Ireland. Looking back over nearly eighty years of Irish history, we must be both humbled and astonished by the almost inspired precision and statesmanship of these proposals. They included reclamation of waste land and the enforcement of drainage; an increased grant to the Board of Works; healthy houses for the labouring classes; local instruction in agriculture; the enlargement of leasing powers with the object of encouraging land improvement, and the transfer of the fiscal powers of Grand Juries to County Boards. Here we have in embryo the Irish Labourers Acts from 1860 to 1906, the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, the Irish Land Acts from 1860 to 1903, the Local Government Act of 1898reforms which Ireland owes almost entirely to the statesmanship (though it seems a rather belated statesmanship) of Unionist Governments. These Irish recommendations were ignored by the Government of the day. It sent an English Poor Law Commissioner (Mr. Nicholls) to Ireland. He spent six weeks in the country. On his return he recommended the establishment of the English Poor Law system there, and it was accordingly established.
The first Poor Law Act for Ireland was passed on July 31, 1838. Between that year and 1851 one hundred and sixty-three Poor Law Unions were created. The number is at present one hundred and fifty-nine, and they are administered by elected and co-opted Poor Law Guardians to the number of more than eight thousand. In every Union there is a workhouse, and in that workhouse all the
p.306various classes of destitute and poor persons are maintained. They include sick, aged and infirm, legitimate and illegitimate children, insane of all classes, sane epileptics, mothers of illegitimate children, able-bodied male paupers, and the importunate army of tramps. The mean number of such inmates in all the workhouses on any day is about 40,000, of whom about one-third are sick, one-third aged and infirm, one-seventh children, one-twentieth mothers of illegitimate children, and one-twelfth insane and epileptic. This awful confusion of infirmity and vice, this Purgatory perpetuating itself to the exclusion of all hope of Paradise, presents the vital problem of Irish Poor Law Reform.
A radical solution must be found for it. On that point the reports of all the Commissions are unanimous. They differ, where they do differ, only as regards means to the end.
The supreme reform which must be undertaken by any Government that seeks to remove this great blot on Irish administration is the abolition of the present workhouse system on some basis which, while effective, will make no addition to the rates. The two chief reports (those of the Viceregal Commission and the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws) are in agreement, not merely as to this necessity, but as to the guiding principles of reform. They recommend classification, by institutions, of all the present inmates of the workhousesthe sick in hospitals, the aged and infirm in almshouses, the mentally defective in asylums. Appalling evidence was given before the Viceregal Commission and the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-minded with regard to the present association of lunatics, epileptics, and imbeciles with sane women and children in the workhouse wards. The latter Commission recommended the creation of a strong central authority for the general protection and supervision of mentally defective persons.
The reforms do not contemplate the amalgamation of Unions and the complete closing of only a certain number of workhouses. They suggest rather the bringing together
p.307into one institution of all the inmates of one class from a number of neighbouring workhouses, and the closing of all workhouses as such. The sick should be sent to existing Poor Law or County Hospitals, strengthened by the addition of Cottage Hospitals in certain districts. Children should be boarded out. The bulk of the remaining inmates, classified with regard to their defects and infirmities, should be segregated according to counties or other suitable areas. On the treatment of able-bodied paupers there are different opinions. It is suggested by the Philanthropic Reform Association, which includes some of the most earnest and disinterested philanthropists in Ireland, that the well-conducted of this class should be placed in labour colonies, and the ill-conducted in detention coloniesboth classes of institutions to be maintained and controlled by the State, and not by the County authorities.
The areas and resources of the existing Unions are in most cases too limited, and the numbers of necessitous persons too small, to warrant the present Boards of Guardians in erecting as many types of institutions as there are classes of inmates. The break-up of the workhouse system involves, of necessity, the establishment of larger areas of administration. It is clear that the County must be substituted for the Union in any radical scheme of reform. On this point the Royal Commissioners and the Viceregal Commissioners are agreed. County rating must take the place of Union rating, since the inmates of the different institutions would be drawn from all parts of each County or County Borough. Substantial economies in administration might be expected from this plan. Hospitals should be brought into a County Hospital System, with the County Infirmary as the central institution, and nurses should be trained there for the County District Hospitals (now Workhouse Infirmaries).
About such a general scheme of decentralised reform there is little or no disagreement. There is, however, a good deal of disagreement concerning the control of the new institutions. The Viceregal Commission advocates the
p.308retention by the Poor Law Guardians of many of their existing functions. It suggests, for instance, that County Hospitals should be managed by a Committee consisting of all members of the present District Hospital Committees, strengthened by nine members appointed by the County Council; and that the Chairman of the Board of Guardians should be the Chairman of the District Hospital Committee. The Royal Commission, on the other hand, votes boldly for the abolition of the Boards of Guardians. It argues that, if we are to have a County system of institutions maintained by a County rate, we must adopt the logical consequence that the County Council which strikes and collects the rate should have the direct or indirect management of the institutions. It proposes that the Council should appoint a statutory Committee (one-half to be taken from outside its own members), to be called the Public Assistance Authority, and that this Authority should manage and control all the institutions in the County. The Philanthropic Reform Association, which has given much study to this question suggests a via media between the two official schemes. It recommends that all the institutions should be controlled by the County Council, through Committees directly responsible to it, to which persons of experience from outside should be added. Such committees need not be elected by the Poor Law Guardians, as recommended by the Viceregal Commission, or by the Statutory Committee of the County Council, as recommended by the Royal Commission. The Association desires, and it has a large volume of Irish opinion behind it in this, to minimise the existing powers, and reduce the numbers, of the Poor Law Guardians. It is also very earnestly impressed with the need of bringing women into the Poor Law administration. In this it is absolutely right. The Women's National Health Association and the United Irishwomen have demonstrated triumphantly the value of women's services in improving the social, economic, and sanitary conditions of rural life in Ireland. A recent Act of Parliament qualifies women for election to the Irish County and Borough Councils. No
p.309great reform of the Poor Law system can be effective without their aid. The Unionist Party will only be acting consistently with its social ideals if it encourages, by every means within its power, an Irish feminist movement, full of hope for the country and wholly dissociated from party politics.
Any thorough reform of the Irish Poor Law system will demand an increased expenditure of Imperial funds. The growing severity of Irish taxation under recent Radical budgets forbids the possibility of addition to the ratepayer's burdens. The anomalous distribution of the grants in aid of Irish local taxation has done much to complicate the Poor Law question. The Royal Commission reported that no account whatever is taken of the burden of pauperism, the magnitude of the local rates, or the circumstances of the ratepayers and their ability to pay rates in the different areas. Under this system the minimum of relief is extended to the districts in which the weight of taxation is most oppressive. The Commission proposed a scheme by which the old Union grants within each county would be pooled and credited to the common fund in aid of the poor rate in that county. The Viceregal Commission also complained of inequality of expenditure, and advised a reapportionment of the grants in aid of local taxation, on the basis of the recommendations of the minority of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation (1902). That Commission was unanimous in recommending increased grants for Poor Law service in Ireland. The distribution of such new grants would be a matter for discussion; of the necessity for them there is no doubt. The Unionist Party must not rest content with reforming the Irish Poor Law system; it must help the reformed system to pay its own way. No fair-minded Englishman who reads Sir George O'Farrell's evidence as to the distribution of the Irish Church surplus (Report of the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-minded, page 468) will dispute his country's obligations in this matter. The cost of Irish Poor Law Reform is one of the strongest arguments against Home
p.310Rule. The Unionist Party's full and generous recognition of its duty to Ireland in this respect will establish a new argument for the Union.
One vital factor in Poor Law Reform remains to be consideredthe Poor Law Medical service. The 740 Dispensary districts of Ireland are now administered by a little more than 800 Medical Officers. The salaries of these doctors, amounting in all to nearly £100,000 per annum, are paid as to one half by the Poor Law Guardians, and as to the other half out of the Local Taxation (Ireland) account. Most of the doctors, in addition to their public duties as servants of the poor, engage in private practice, of which, in most of the rural areas, their offical position gives them a monopoly. A largeperhaps, a surprisingly largenumber of the Dispensary doctors are earnest and self-sacrificing men; but the system is corrupted by one radical defect. Owing to the security of private practice involved, there is a fierceness of competition for these appointments out of all proportion to their financial value. The elections are made by the Guardians, and it is a fact so notorious as even to be acknowledged by Mr. Birrell that flagrant canvassing and bribery are a common feature of these elections. Candidates have been known to distribute sums of £400 or £500 to Guardians, in order to secure appointments of £150 or £160 a year. Another serious and extending feature of the present system is the boycotting by the Guardians of all candidates who have not graduated at the new Roman Catholic University. The most highly qualified men from the University of Dublin have now practically abandoned competition for these Dispensary offices outside the Protestant counties of Ulster. Moreover, throughout the whole country local candidates are consistently preferred to superior men from outside. Both the Viceregal and Royal Commissions recognise the necessity of radical reform in this system, but they suggest different remedies. The Royal Commission proposes that the election and control of all the Dispensary Medical Officers of a County shall be vested in the Public Assistance Authority for that
p.311County; and that little or no change be made in the present financial basis of the payment of salaries. The Viceregal Commission suggests a bolder and more drastic remedy. It advocates the establishment of a State Medical service on the lines of the existing services in Egypt and India. This would require the payment by the State of the whole, instead of half, of the salaries of Medical Officers. The Commission regards it as proper and equitable that such a service should be, in the beginning, at any rate, restricted to candidates educated in Ireland. A representative Medical Council should elect the candidates by competitive examination, and deal with all important questions of promotion, removal and superannuation. The Commission maintains that the creation of a State Medical service in Ireland would mean a very small increase in the Parliamentary grant in comparison with the benefits involved. This I believe to be the ideal system, but one must recognise that its accomplishment is confronted with many difficulties. The Irish Local Authorities would not willingly relinquish a privilege which is a primary element in their influence and prestige. Irish medical opinion is acutely divided on the question, which is now further complicated by the prospect that the medical benefits under the National Insurance Act may soon be extended to Ireland. It would be outrageous to expect the Dispensary Officers to add the heavy medical duties under the Act to their present responsibilities without adequate payment. Indeed, the extension of the medical benefits to Ireland would make inevitable an early reform of the whole Poor Law system. This is one reason why the Unionist Party, when it returns to office, should be ready to tackle the subject without delay. To no department of the work will it be asked to apply greater sympathy, knowledge, tact and firmness, than to the problems of the Poor Law Medical service.
During the last three years the Irish Unionist Party has made three vain attempts to bring the reform of the Irish Poor Law before Parliament. Its Bill, which now stands in the name of Sir John Lonsdale, asks for the
p.312appointment (as recommended by the Viceregal Commission) of a body of five persons with executive powers to carry out the recommendations made by that Commission. These temporary Commissioners would have authority to draft all necessary schemes, to consolidate or divide existing institutions, and generally to reform the whole administration of the Irish Poor Law service. The Bill assigns to them an executive lifetime of five yearshardly, perhaps, an adequate time for the establishment of reforms which, in their making, must affect nearly every aspect of Irish life, and, in their operation, may reconstitute the basis of Irish society. It is to be supposed that, when the whole Unionist Party addresses itself seriously to the question, it will give further and careful attention to the principles of reform before setting up this, or some other, executive machinery. I can think of no more thirsty or fruitful field in Ireland for the exercise of the highest constructive statesmanship that the Party may possess. The need is urgent, the time is ripe, all the circumstances are favourable. The Old Age Pensions Act and the Insurance Act, if not vitiated by further increases in Irish taxation, will greatly simplify the task of Poor Law Reform. The former Act has reduced the number of old inmates in the workhouses; the Insurance Act should lead to a reduction in expenditure on outdoor relief. Moreover, it may be hoped that the infirm and pauper classes will be henceforward, like the old age pensioners, a diminishing fraction of the population of Ireland. They are, to a large extent, flotsam and jetsam over the sea of Ireland's political troubles. Land agitation, with its attendant vices of restlessness and idleness, the emigration of wage-earners, the discouragement of industry under Governments indifferent to the administration of law and the development of national resources, have all contributed to the Dantean horrors of the Irish workhouse system. These poor people are an excrescence on the body of Ireland which good government, if it does not wholly remove, may reduce nearly to vanishing point. Hitherto the chief rewards and blessings of British
p.313administration in Ireland have gone to the hard voters and to the strong agitators. It is time for the Unionist Party to think of the hapless, the helpless, the voteless, and, therefore voiceless, elements in Irish life. Ireland, as she becomes better educated, gives more thought and truer thought than formerly to her social and economic problems. Her gratitude and loyalty will go in abundant measure to those who take counsel with her about these problems and help her to solve them. The Government which cleans up many sad relics of the past by a complete reform of the Irish Poor Law system will put all Irishmen and Irishwomen under a deep sense of obligation to it. Policy, not less than duty, should give this reform a place in the forefront of the Unionist Party's constructive programme for Ireland.
Education is probably the most sorrowfully dull of all dull subjects. It is difficult to repress a yawn when the word is mentioned. Yet we owe everything to it that we value most. Through it we become emancipated citizens of the world. Through it we are able to appreciate what is beautiful and what is ugly, what is right and what is wrong, what is permanent and what is merely transitory. If the people of a country can make it their boast that they are truly educated, they need boast of little else, for all the rest will have been added unto them.
It will be found next to impossible to draw any argument for Home Rule from the history of Irish Education during the last decade. Indeed, if a Nationalist Parliament were now to be established in College Green, it is more than probable that the progress made by educational reformers since 1900 would be largely thrown away, and the prospects of still further improvement endangered and perhaps destroyed.
What has been done in the domain of Irish Education, and what still remains to be done? Leaving out of account the problem of the Universities, which, so far as can be seen, has at any rate been temporarily solvedand solved, let it be marked, under the Legislative Union, with the participation and consent of the Nationalist partythere are two broad branches of the educational tree which every year are growing in volume and putting forth finer leaves and fruit.
p.315Primary and Secondary Education, by far the most important parts of the Irish Educational system, if only allowed to continue their development, tended with care by those who have the interests of the younger generation at heart and left unmolested by the poisonous creepers of political prejudice, will be found to do more for the increase of Irish prosperity and the establishment of national and religious concord than any device for legislative separation that the wit of man can frame. Not that educational reform is not sorely needed. Far from it. There are few aspects of Irish life where reform is more urgently required. But let it be reform, as far as possible, along existing lines of progress, and in full recognition of religious susceptibilities and of certain stubborn facts which may be deplored, but which it would be unwise to ignore. Let it be reform undertaken and pursued on the advice of those who understand this question and are in sympathy with its peculiar difficulties, and let not the Treasury turn a deaf ear to the demands of reason, when a few extra thousand pounds might make all the difference between failure and success. Above all, let it be reform unembittered by the strife of creeds warring for supremacy in an Irish House of Commons. Let it reap the advantages of a continuous policy undisturbed by the rise and fall of local Ministries and the lobbying and log-rolling of sects and factions. Treat it, as it is being treated today, in a calm spirit of inquiry and recommendation, and the richest blessing of the Legislative Union will be an Ireland at peace within herself, honoured for her learning, distinguished by her refinement, and intellectually the equal of any nation upon earth. 71
The National Board which presides over Primary Education has shown itself, under the Union, singularly free from prejudice, either political or religious. During the last few years it may be said to have changed the face
p.316of the National schools in Ireland, and in a large part of the country has contributed to make primary education what it ought to benot a mere glut of random scraps of knowledge, not a mere conglomerate of facts, dates, and figures, undigested and unassimilated, of no practical use to the pupil in his later life, and stifling any constructive powers of thought with which he might have been born, but a system of self-development and self-expression, with the future of the pupil as a citizen in view, rather than his mere monetary value in the shape of school fees. This in itself is a remarkable stride in advance, which the Separatist will find difficult to explain away. Who will be so bold as to calculate the harm which was inflicted by the arid and artificial system of cram, introduced in 1871, but now fortunately abandoned in the National Schools, which had only one object in viewthe money grant that was made proportionate to the output of heterogeneous lumber that could be retained by the pupil until called for by the examiner? Surely, the great aim of education should be self-culture, the development of the mind, body, and character of the pupil, consideration being had to the career he is likely to pursue in the future. This the National Board has realised in time, and it is owing to its efforts and the co-operation of men and women of all shades of opinion who labour in the schools that such signal improvement has taken place during the last few years.
Apart from this larger question, there are various other features of the National Schools that ought not to be excluded from this brief review. Some of them are evidence of progress made, others of grievances which still require redress. No one will deny that, taking Ireland as a whole, the structural character of the school buildings has been greatly improved in recent years, and that the cleanliness of school premises, which still leaves a good deal to be desired, is attended to with far more care than it used to be. In days gone by, the Board could grant only two-thirds of the estimated cost of a new building of the cheapest and shabbiest description. The result was that, for a whole
p.317generation, a low standard of school-house was stereotyped, and the requirement of a local contribution entirely prevented the erection of new school-houses in poor districts where they were most needed. The new plans, on the other hand, are designed according to the most modern ideas, and as a local contribution is not insisted upon in impecunious districts, where valuation is low, the Board can grant the whole of the cost where necessary. It is easy to appreciate what a difference this important reform must make, not merely to the landscape or to the comfort and health of the children, but to the general efficiency of pupils and teachers alike. There is, however, still much room for improvement. The grants hitherto given have been sadly inadequate, and in order to provide suitable school buildings, even in those cases alone where the present structures are actually a danger to the health of the children, it would be necessary to make grants at the rate of about £100,000 a year for the next 4 or 5 years, after which they might be reduced to £50,000.
Another satisfactory development is the increase of teachers' salaries which has taken place during the last two decades. In 1895, the average income from State sources of principal teachers in primary schools was £94 in respect of men, and £79 in respect of women. By 1910, it had risen to £112 and £90 respectively. Notwithstanding this, their financial position, especially in large and important schools in centres where the cost of living is high, is not yet as good as it ought to be, if it be compared with that of similarly situated teachers in England and Scotland. As for the incomes of assistant teachers, they also have risen in the same period from £61 for men, and £49 for women, to £81 and £68 respectively, and the money, though still insufficient, is now being paid for a better article. Re-adjustment of numbers in the higher grades of national teachers is also required, so as to enable all efficient teachers who have complied with the conditions of service to receive the increases of salary to which they are entitled.The cost of such a readjustment would be about £1,000 a year
p.318for the present, but the expense would gradually increase, and might ultimately amount to £18,000 per annum. For the convenience of the profession, it is also desirable that salaries should be paid monthly, instead of quarterly, to the teaching staffs of the schools. The expenditure (non recurring) required under this head would be about £280,000, with an additional yearly sum of £5,000, due to increased cost of administration. That a Dublin Parliament would welcome or even less be able to satisfy these various demands upon its purse without further taxation is extremely improbable, especially in view of Mr. Birrell's warning that the finances of Home Rule would be a very tight fit.
Since 1900, a period of training has been required from the principals, and this rule has recently been extended to assistant masters. In fact, the qualifications demanded of national teachers in Ireland are much higher than in England. When all the foregoing changes are considered, it will be quite evident that not only must the teachers benefit from them, but that the children cannot fail to benefit as well. Indeed, it is these various reforms which, in all probability, have conduced to a better school attendance than could be boasted of in the past. Many an educational reformer has had cause to wring his hands over the meagreness of attendance in days gone by. Even today it is not as it should be. It is lower than in England and in Scotland, but it has steadily risen, and continues to rise, and stands now at about 71 per cent, an advance of between 30 or 40 per cent upon what it was less than 40 years ago; a fact which is certainly remarkable, when the poverty of the population and its scattered character are taken into account.
Another evil which the Board has had to fight has been the mushroom-like multiplication of small schools. It is hardly necessary to emphasise what must be a manifest disadvantage for any authority which is trying to raise the standard of educational efficency in a country. This multiplication was largely due to the fact that Protestant
p.319Schools were accustomed to receive grants when they could maintain an average attendance of 20 pupils, quite irrespective of how many other schools of the same or a similar denomination there might be in the immediate vicinity, and whether they were really wanted or not. How far these grants were conducive to unnecessary multiplication may be gauged from the fact that, whilst there were 6,500 schools in operation in 1871, when the population of Ireland was five and a half millions, there were 8,692 in 1901, or 2,000 more, when the population was a million less. This vast and unprofitable growth in the numbers of educational establishments could be stayed only by drastic regulation. Where neighbouring mixed Catholic or Protestant schools cannot show an average attendance of 25, they are now obliged to amalgamate, and the same result has to follow if neighbouring boys' and girls' schools fall below an average attendance of 30. These regulations have had the desired effect, and no less than 300 superfluous schools have been absorbed in this manner during the last five years.
Before leaving the details of the National Schools, some mention should be made of the conspicuous improvement in the curriculum which has taken place in the first decade of the new century. Formerly, it was hidebound, bloodless, unintelligent, and useless. Now, it does what it can to cater for the practical side of the pupil's future life, and is designed with the object of helping him to think out problems for himself and of equipping him with any knowledge of the historic past which may serve him, not as a collection of antiquities, but as example and precept. During the last twelve years an astonishing advance has been made. In 1899, Hand and Eye training (including Kindergarten) was taught in 448 schools, in 1910 it was taught in 6,010.In 1899, Elementary Science was taught in 14 schools only, in 1910 it was taught in 2,400. In the former year Cookery was taught in 925 schools, in the latter year in 2,665. In 1899, Laundry Work was taught in 11 schools, in 1910 in 691. If this is not progressionand progression under
p.320the Legislative Unionto what can the predicate be more truthfully applied? Statistics are apt to be barren and uninforming and can be adapted, with almost equal plausibility, to support the arguments of either side; but these figures are eloquent and speak for themselves. They embody a large and vital portion of the history of Irish Primary Education, and are a proof of the interest which is being taken in it and of the activity of the architects behind the scenes. Long may this spirit of progress flourish and enlighten the generations that are yet to come!
It is only fair to say that, amid a good deal of discouragement and not always intelligent criticism, the National Board has proved itself broad-minded and open to argument wherever the interests of Irish Education have been concerned. Although nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, and therefore not an elected body, it has never lagged behind public opinion. In the teaching of the Irish language, for example, it has shown itself peculiarly sympathetic. In fact, the experience of the Board has been, that the Irish parents are not quite so anxious that their children should be taught Irish as the Gaelic League would have us suppose. Indeed, the difficulty of the Board has been to maintain sufficient interest in the subject. Nevertheless, it has done its best. In 1899, teaching in Irish was provided in 105 schools for 1,825 children. In 1911, it was provided for 180,000 children in 3,066 schools, and during the same time bilingual instruction has been introduced into some 200 schools.
In spite of what has been, and is being done, further reforms in primary education are still unquestionably required, and can, moreover, be easily effected without any of the convulsions of a constitutional revolution. The salaries of principals and assistants, especially in large and important schools, ought to be increased. In particular, the Pensions Act needs modification, for, under the present Act, teachers who retire before reaching the age qualifying for a pension receive gratuities considerably less than the Old Age Pensions. Even those who qualify for
p.321pensions are very shabbily treated if they retire before sixty years of age. Building grants also should be increased, so that the constant applications for the rebuilding of bad premises could be met.72 The teaching of infants, greatly improved by the institution of junior assistant mistresses by Mr.Walter Long during his Chief Secretaryship, can be still further improved and brought up to the English standard; and the efficiency of primary education generally can be promoted in the direction of sympathetic appreciation of the real needs of the children, regarded from the point of view of thinking human beings, and not merely as recording machines.
The following desirable improvements may also be mentioned:
p.322Continuation Schools, on which about £10,000 a year is at present spent. A beginning could be made of compulsory attendance, and the amount of the grant doubled.
Much might be done in all these directions. Much has been accomplished already. The worst that can happen is that a separate legislature should be set up in Dublin, devoid of the requisite means, as it would most certainly be (unless, indeed, it had recourse to the rates, or the taxpayer) of financing Irish Education; swayed from side to side by the exigencies of the party programme of the moment; and temperamentally unable to look at the educational problem from the standpoint alone of the needs of the country in the way that it is now regarded. At present, under the Union, Irish Education is fortunately liberated from all appeals to party passion, and organised with but one end in view, the upbringing of the infant race whose possession is the future.
The need for reform is more urgent and, in many respects, better defined in the system of Secondary than in that of Primary Education in Ireland. But the two ought to be closely interconnected, and in discussing one at least of the more important changes which it is desirable to introduce, the National Schools have as good a claim to be heard in the matter as their elder brethren.
Since 1900 great efforts have been made by the Intermediate Board to promote the interests of Secondary Schools and to supply the educational needs of those who want to equip themselves for the struggle of life in its various departments. In 1900, the Board of Intermediate Education was empowered to appoint inspectors, but it was not until quite recently, after many fruitless applications and under a threat of resignation by the Board, that inspection was placed on a business-like footing and a permanent staff of six inspectors appointed. But this, after all, is a comparative detail, and
p.323reform will have to strike deep indeed if the secondary schools in Ireland are to take their place as a living part of a living body.
The question of reform may be dealt with under three principal heads: (1) the abolition of the examination tests, (2) the inter-relationship between the Primary and Secondary systems, and (3) the position of teachers. Although there are other matters which will be briefly referred to, these are the three cardinal difficulties that beset the Intermediate Board today and obstruct the most public-spirited efforts to convert the Irish educational system into one organic whole.
(1) Although the mischievous principle of fees by results has disappeared for ever from the National Schools, it still clings to Intermediate Education, numbing and constricting, like some remorseless ivy limb, the growth and free exercise of the central stem and its branches, and preventing the natural sap from rising and vitalising the whole. It is not as though the rest of the world had set the seal of its approval upon this kind of examination. The contrary is the fact. Almost every country in the world has rejected this system as wholly pernicious, injurious for the pupil, demoralising for the teacher, and wasteful for the State. To regard the youth of the Secondary Schools merely as the geese that lay the golden eggs when the examinations occur, is to destroy the true aims of education and pervert the principle of rational development. In fact, payments to Intermediate Schools ought to depend largely on the results of inspection, and much less on written examinations, a change which would involve the appointment of a larger number of inspectors than at present exist. It is all important that this alteration should be undertaken without delay. The mechanical agglomeration of lifeless snippets of information which characterises the present method is an absurd and antiquated remnant of the bad old times, and the sooner this part of the system is hewn down the better it will be for the conscientious discharge of the teacher's duties and the self-respect of all concerned.
(2) As for any proper official relationship between the Primary and Secondary systems, it may be said as yet to be practically non-existent. That co-ordination of the two is essentialnay, vitalif Irish education is to be placed on a sound footing, may be appreciated from the fact that a large proportion, or 57 per cent of the membership of Intermediate Schools is recruited from the schools of the National Board. There seem to be only two ways in which this co-ordination can be satisfactorily effected. Either the pupils must transfer from the National to the Secondary Schools at an age when they will be young enough to profit by Secondary instruction, or some sort of higher instruction must be given in the National Schools so as to fit the children, when they leave the latter at rather a later age, for the curriculum awaiting them in the Secondary system. It is the Treasury at the present moment, and the Treasury alone, that blocks the way to this reform. Since 1902 it has been asked to sanction the establishment of higher grade schools in large centres; the National Board also has repeatedly pleaded for the institution of a higher top, or advanced departments, in connection with selected Primary Schools in rural districts. But all these requests, founded though they have been on intimate knowledge of the requirements of Irish Education and a ripe experience ranging over many years, have been brushed aside by the officials at the Exchequer, although the cost would be only about £25,000 a year, on the very insufficient ground that the Development Grant has been depleted to defray the loss of flotation of stock for the purposes of land purchase. What, in the name of common sense, has land purchase to do with education? What indissoluble relationship is there between the two that the expenditure upon the one should be made dependent upon the requirements of the other? This niggardly and short-sighted attitude is hardly worthy of one of the richest countries in the world. It is but a matter of a few thousands, and surely the efficient training of the youth of Ireland is quite as important as buying out the Irish landlords and placing the Irish tenant in possession of
p.325the soil. The result of the present want of co-ordination is that the clever pupil is now kept far too long in the lower school. There he remains, kicking his heels until he is sent up to the Intermediate School at 15 or 16 much too late an age at which to begin the study of languages. The Primary teachers are, of course, only too pleased to retain the clever boys as long as possible in the National Schools, but it is unfair to the children, and is robbing the community of services which might be rendered to it by these pupils in the future if fair opportunities were afforded them of training themselves while there was yet time. Without higher grade schools, without scholarships, without at least some system of a higher top in connection with the Primary Schools, there can never be proper co-ordination of administration, and education in Ireland will never be able to progress beyond a certain point. The Christian Brothers have set the Treasury a good example in this matter. In their schools there is close co-ordination of primary and intermediate education. Promising boys in the fifth standard are removed when they are 11 or 12 years of age into the higher schools and thus given an opportunity, at the most receptive period of their lives, of acquiring knowledge which they will be able to turn to good account in after life. Over and over again has the National Board attempted to persuade the Treasury to adopt a similar system, but hitherto without avail. The crust of the official mind has been impervious to every appeal. There seems, indeed, to be now some chance of the establishment of scholarships for pupils in primary schools, but unless an intelligent mind is brought to bear upon it, and the scholarships limited, as in England and Scotland, to pupils under 12 or 13 years of age, the same unfortunate result will follow, as in the case of the Society for Promoting Protestant Schools and other similar bodies, where the scholarships have turned out to be a practical failure. An exception, however, as suggested by Dr. Starkie, and as allowed in Scotland, might be made in favour of the best Primary Schools. That is to say, where satisfactory Secondary teaching is given at a Primary School, the pupil
p.326might be relieved of one or two of the three years he is obliged to spend in the Secondary School before he can compete for the Intermediate Certificate which is awarded at 15 years of age.
The argument is sometimes used that the establishment of higher grade schools would lead to unfair competition with the Intermediate Schools already in existence. No one desires to do this. Where the Intermediate Schools already hold the field, such overlapping can easily be avoided by proper administrative co-ordination between the National and Secondary systems. Where, on the other hand, there is a dearth of Intermediate Schools, as in Connaught and Kerry, higher grade schools can, and should be established without any risk either of overlapping or competition. They would supply a want which is deplored by all educational reformers, and make their influence felt far outside the mere circle of the schoolroom. A private commercial school has already been founded in Kerry and has continued for some time without State help, but, through want of encouragement, it has recently been compelled to adopt the programme of the Intermediate Board, which is entirely unsuited to its particular aims. Surely, private enterprise of this kind ought not only to be welcomed, but stimulated by a State grant, and everything possible done to encourage schools to develop along their own lines. At the present moment, they are bound hand and foot by the examination rules of the Intermediate Board, and it is quite impossible for any central authority, however eagle-eyed and sympathetic, to appreciate the peculiar atmosphere and wants of every locality. In such cases, local initiative is far more valuable than red tape, and more likely to result in an intelligent interest in his pupils and subject on the part of the teacher.
(3) The position of the Secondary teachers, especially of lay assistant teachers, cries aloud for reform. In fact, their case is an acknowledged scandal. How can any one expect that the training of the youth in the Secondary Schools can be really satisfactory when the teachers
p.327are so miserably underpaid, when the elements of self-respect are given no room in which to develop, and the whole profession are treated rather as beasts of burden than as a noble and responsible body to whom is entrusted much of the destiny of the race? The question of reform is here largely a question of money. There are signs that this fact is becoming more appreciated as the years go by, and it is devoutly to be hoped that before long the teaching profession in the Secondary Schools will have no more to complain of than the Primary teachers, or than is usual in even the most cared-for and prosperous professions in this our imperfect world. Salaries, pensions, a register, security of tenure, opportunities of proper trainingthese may be said to embody the chief requirements of Secondary teachers at the present moment. In existing circumstances there is no attraction for competent men and women to enter the teaching profession so far as Intermediate education is concerned. The most incompetent crowd into it, although there are many exceptions, and teaching is regarded as a stop-gap during periods of impecuniosity rather than as a permanent career to be proud of and to be worked for. The salaries are beggarlyconsiderably lower than the incomes of the teachers in the Primary Schools. In 1908, the average salaries of principals in the Primary Schools were £112 for men and £90 for women, and in the County Boroughs £163 and £126 respectively, whilst in the Secondary Schools lay assistants were paid about £80 per annum. In view of this, surely the demand that is being made on behalf of highly qualified Secondary teachers is not exorbitant, namely, salaries of £100 to £300 for men and of £80 to £220 for women. If the maximum rate were £150 for men and £100 for women the cost would be £220,000 a year. Where is the money to come from? Will a Nationalist Parliament be prepared to find it, and if so, from what source? Ireland is a comparatively poor country and is not in a position to bear much more taxation. The Intermediate Board, with its present resources, cannot
p.328afford to step into the breach, and the only solution seems to be that the British Exchequer should come to the rescue and that the Board should be granted the means of dealing with this all-important matter, the neglect of which is having a most injurious effect upon the efficiency of the Intermediate Schools. It has been suggested that a half-way house might be found, that the Treasury should grant £60 for each assistant master and £40 for each assistant mistress, and that the remainder should be raised by the authorities of the schools under the direction of the Board. This alternative scheme would cost the State about £88,300 a year, but, like all makeshifts, would not effect a real settlement of the difficulty, creating, as it would, a patchwork system of payment which might break down at any moment. On the other hand, let the settlement be a generous one, and the return will be a hundredfold in added efficiency, a higher sense of duty, and an increased personal interest on the part of the teacher in the class of which he has charge.
In close connection with the question of salaries are those of pensions and security of tenure. The pensions of the Primary teachers, inadequate though they be, would be looked upon as a provision of the most munificent kind by the poor men and women who enter service under the Intermediate system. The Primary teachers, moreover, can call back upon subsidiary occupations if they find that their salaries are insufficient for their maintenance. They can run a little farm or keep a shop or do other remunerative work, but the assistants in Secondary Schools are debarred from these methods of supplementing their exiguous wage. Those terrible words might, without any extravagance, be inscribed for them over the doors of their schools: All hope abandon ye who enter here.Something must be done. A starvation wage, with an adequate pension to follow, might be tolerable, a decent wage, without any pension, might be borne, but starvation at both ends is a disgrace to the Treasury while it lasts and one of the things which should be taken in hand without any further delay.
Security of tenure is equally important. How can a teacher be expected to devote the whole of his mental energies to his scholastic duties, how can any one expect him to throw himself heart and soul into his work, if there is always lurking in his mind the haunting fear of dismissal through no fault of his own? It is unreasonable to suppose that any human being can give of his best under these distracting conditions. In the National Schools a system of appeal has been in force for some time, and has been carried out with fairness on the part of those in authority and to the apparent satisfaction of the teaching profession. The dismissal order of every Roman Catholic manager has to be countersigned by the Bishop of the Diocese, and in the case of all teachers an appeal is now allowed to the Board itself, and is often utilised by Protestants. In fact, so far as the National Schools are concerned, the tenure of the Primary teachers during good behaviour is practically secured. Why cannot similar safeguards be introduced into the Intermediate system? An appeal to the Board in this case is not proposed by those who know all the circumstances best; but teachers in Roman Catholic schools might have the right of appeal, in the case of Diocesan Colleges, to the Bishop of the Diocese, or in the case of schools under religious orders to the Provincials or Generals, and Protestant teachers might be allowed to appeal to the Board of Governors of their schools, or they might sign an agreement, providing for a referee, such as the No. 3 and 4 agreements under the National Board.
A register of teachers is also required. Every existing teacher in the Intermediate Schools who satisfies the tests of efficiency should be placed upon it without delay. As far as future appointments are concerned, qualifications might be adopted similar to those which now obtain in the Scotch Department, e. g. (a) a degree in a University, or its equivalent; (b) a diploma following professional training for one year; and (c) two probationary years in a good school. Special terms would probably be demanded for
p.330those who, like Nuns, are precluded by their calling from attending Lectures at a University.
These are some of the reforms which could, and should be introduced to make the teaching profession more efficient, more attractive for competent and clever men and women, and more of a permanent and honourable career than it has been in the past. Once again, it is not unreasonable to askHow will a Dublin Parliament be able to provide the necessary funds? An extra annual sum of roughly £300,000 is required, in addition to a further sum of about £330,000 to meet non-recurring expenditure. These are, admittedly, moderate estimates. The matter, anyway, is now ripe for settlement, and procrastination can only aggravate the financial difficulty. So far as the educational problem is concerned, it is a manifest obligation upon the Nationalist Party to outline their proposals for the redress of these grievances, and to indicate the means by which they can be carried out, before a separate Legislature is set up for the people of Ireland.
Within the scope of these few pages it is not possible to comprise all the aspects of modern Irish Education which are worthy of discussion. What are most urgently needed today are the necessary funds to continue the good work which is being done, and to introduce the reforms that have been sketched above. Parsimony in educational matters is the most wasteful of all misplaced thrift. Let the reformers be dealt with wisely and generously, and the harvest will exceed even the expectations of those who are working most hopefully upon the problem. Withhold the funds on some niggardly and mistaken principle of petty economy, and the present progress will be discouraged and the educational tree become stunted in its growth. From an administrative point of view, nothing, finance apart, would contribute more to the efficiency of Irish Education than the amalgamation of the National and Intermediate systems, as well as of the Technical work at present administered by the Department of Agriculture and
p.331Technical Education, under one Board. The method of examination by the Department is far sounder than that which is forced upon the Intermediate Board by the Acts of Parliament under which it works. In the case of science, the two are to be seen working today side by side in the Secondary Schools, to the undoubted benefit of the scientific course, which enjoys a double subsidy from the State, and is subject to the superior method of examination by the Department, being treated as a detached subject and the candidates being passed en bloc. On the other hand, the obsolete method of examination by the Board tends to the serious disadvantage of the classical curriculum, the grants being made on the unprofitable results of a general examination of individual candidates, the class not being regarded as a whole, as is the case with the Department. By the repeal of the Intermediate Acts, and by the amalgamation of the various Boards into one, these anomalies would rapidly disappear, and for the first time a genuine system of co-ordination could be introduced into Irish Education, which would knit together the strength of all the parts and overcome many of the prevailing weaknesses, making the whole system what it ought to be, a living, growing, pulsating organism, developing and shaping itself with the life of the nation.
Is it conceivable that all this can be accomplished if the Union between the countries is rent asunder? What chance will there be of effecting this great settlement, which requires money and, above all, requires peace, when Ireland is plunged once again into the old internecine struggles of the eighteenth century? The warning is writ very large upon the wall, so that he who runs may read. The best hope for education in Ireland are the resources of Great Britain and a uniform policy undisturbed by party feuds. Neither of these can be looked for under a separate Parliament. Under the Union Ireland can have both, for the welfare of her children and the building of a noble history.
Any scheme giving self-government to Ireland must seriously affect the problem of local transit and transport, by rail and water, which all parties in Ireland agree to be pressing and important. Nor is it merely a local question. As recent returns show, the trade between Ireland and Great Britain has of late years enormously increased, to the great advantage of both; for if Irish farmers profit by the export of beef, mutton, milk, eggs, butter, bacon and other articles, Great Britain has the benefit of a near food supply within the United Kingdom. Nor does any one doubt that this trade is capable of enormous increase. The improvement of Irish agricultural methods, the growth in England of a town population, the increased price of the necessaries of life, are some of the factors pointing in this direction.
If this trade is to expand, Irish traffic routes and facilities with Great Britain must be improved and increased, especially as the articles carried are largely of a perishable kind. Moreover, the internal traffic of Ireland by rail, waterways, and canals is capable of and needs great development, as witness the recent Reports of the Viceregal Commission on Irish Railways, and of the Royal Commission on Canals and Waterways 73 The problem of inland navigation is again intimately bound up with that
p.333of arterial drainage, as the Commissioners have reported. It is then strange to find, that on these pressing questions of first importance, there is an almost absolute silence on the part of those who advocate Home Rule in and out of Parliament.
It is true that the nationalisation of the Irish railways has in past years found the keenest advocates amongst individual members of the Home Rule Party; that the Majority Report of the late Viceregal Commission favouring State purchase of the Irish railways was formally approved of by the Parliamentary Party, and that Mr. Redmond has named transit as one of the special matters that should be left to be dealt with by an Irish Legislature. But there the matter ends. We are not given the slightest inkling what is proposed to be done on this matter, or how it will be done, or the slightest proof that under any system of Home Rule, the financial difficulties of the problem can be solved at all.
The Reports of both the Commissions referred to are based, first on the continuance of the present system of laws and government, and secondly, on the use of Imperial credit to the tune of many millions. Yet amongst the shoals of literature on Home Rule problems and finance, I can find no enlightenment as to how the transit problem is to be solved under the new conditions; i.e. how any Home Rule Government, whether it has control of Customs and Excise or not, and however it economises, is to find the money necessary to buy out the Irish railways and canals. A Government that is faced with the problems of poverty and congestion, of housing, of increased educational grants, of afforestation, and of arterial land drainage, will have an almost impossible task in raising money for these purposes alone. And, let those who can, inform us how an Irish Parliament and Executive (with all else they will
p.334have in hand), will be able to raise even the £5,000,000 necessary to improve the Irish Light Railway System; not to speak of the sum at least tenfold greater which will be required for a complete purchase scheme.
So far we are without that information. The Irish Parliamentary leaders have not touched upon the point. The pamphleteers are almost equally silent. Professor Kettle, in his Home Rule Finance, mentions the Nationalisation of Railways in one line of print, merely stating that the project will have to be financed by loans and not out of annual revenue (p. 41); and he further remarks, generally (p. 72), that for the development of any future policy, approved by her own people, Ireland relies absolutely on her own fiscal resources. What fiscal resources, and under what conditions are they obtainable?
In the volume entitled Home Rule Problems issued by the Liberal Home Rule Committee, with a preface by Viscount Haldane, not one word is said on the subject, though there are chapters on Irish finance, and on Irish commercial and industrial conditions. Neither has Mr. Stephen Gwynn a single word on the subject in his Case for Home Rule, though he makes the large assertion that there is no country in the world where resources are more undeveloped than those of Ireland.
Mr. Erskine Childers 74 merely refers to the Irish railway problem as one that is obvious and urgent, which no Parliament but an Irish Parliament can deal with, and which calls aloud for settlement.
Let us now look at the problem in more detail; and first is the question of the railways. The property to be dealt with consists of 3411 miles of railway, representing a total capital of £45,163,000, of which, at the date of the Report of the Commission, £2,873,000 paid no dividend;
p.335the gross annual receipts of the whole system being £4,255,000 and the net receipts £1,690,000, representing a return on the whole capital of 3.77 per cent.75
Of these lines, the railways constructed under the Tramways and Light Railways Acts cover 603 miles, of which 322 are narrow gauge, involving a liability on various baronies which have guaranteed interest on capital to the amount of £36,000 per annum. To bring these light railways up to a proper standard and equipment; to widen the gauge in many cases; to provide new sheds, stations, and rolling stock, and redeem the guarantees, a sum of about £5,000,000 would probably be necessary. In addition, projects for no less than eighty-three new railways were brought before the Commission76 and it is admitted on all hands, and the Commission find, that practically none of these railway extensions would be undertaken by private enterprise, and that these developments need the credit, help, and direction of the State. Even the necessary improvement of the existing light railways cannot now be undertaken, for under the system of legislation under which they were constructed, there is no means of raising new capital.77
Now, what is advocated by the Majority Report is the compulsory purchase by the State of these railway systems great and small, to be then worked and managed by an Irish elected authority as one concern, mainly with a view of developing Irish industries by reduction of rates and otherwise, and not strictly on commercial principles.
Final Report, pp. 76-83.
This was the scheme supported by the Parliamentary Party, written up unceasingly by the Freeman's Journal, and held out under the term Nationalisation of Railways, as one of the special boons which Home Rule will bring to Irish traders and farmers.
But mark how the operation is to be carried out. The
p.336Commission reported that the sum required should be raised by a railway stock charged primarily on the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, with recourse to Irish rates to make up possible deficiencies, and further, that there should be an annual grant from the Exchequer of not less than £250,000 to the Irish railway authority. Seeing that the Commissioners refer to the financial terms prescribed by the Act of 1844 (Regulation of Railways Act, 7 & 8 Vict. c. 85, ss. 2-4), and that a cash payment to shareholders was provided for by that Act, it is to be presumed that the Commissioners intended Irish shareholders to be paid in cash. The Act of 1844 provided for payment to the companies of a sum in cash equal to twenty-five years' purchase of the previous three years' annual profits; but this was the minimum only, for it was provided that the companies could, under arbitration, claim additional payment in respect of future prospects.
Now twenty-five years' purchase of the divisible profits, which at the date of the Commission, were £1,690,000, would amount to over £42,000,000, and if in addition sums had to be raised for prospects, purchase of lines paying no dividend, special provision for prior stocks standing at a premium, redemption of guarantees, and the large sums required for the extensions and improvements we have mentioned, a sum not less than £50,000,000, and probably nearer £55,000,000, would be required.78
From the beginning to the end of the inquiry there was no suggestion that this immense operation could be carried out except by the use of Imperial credit, involving the two conditions: (1) that the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom be charged, and (2) that the British public be asked, and should be willing to find the money. Although
p.337the Majority Report contemplated an Irish elected authority to work the railways so purchased and amalgamated, it was never suggested that any such Irish authority could raise the necessary purchase capital, or, indeed, any portion of it. The whole scheme from beginning to end pre-supposed the continuance of the Union, with its advantages of credit and capital. Upset that Union, establish an Irish Parliament working out its own salvation, financially and otherwise, and the basis of the whole scheme of railway nationalisation vanishes.
That the British Government should allow its credit to be used to the tune of fifty millions, after full legislative executive and taxing powers were handed over to an Irish Parliament, is too fantastic to be considered seriously. Whether an Irish or English authority controlled the working of the railways would under such circumstances make little difference, with the Courts of Law, the Executive, and Police in other hands than that of the Government guaranteeing the interest. The security for the advance would be imperilled; and, indeed, it is doubtful whether a tenth of the money required would be advanced, even in London, on those terms. For a similar reason any formal pledge of Irish rates and taxes, to make up deficiencies in working, would be illusory. At any rate, if Irish Land Purchase is to be continued under British credit (and it certainly will be a prior claim and charge), it is idle to expect Parliament to undertake the vast additional obligations involved in Irish railway nationalisation. Parliament would pay the piper but could not call the tune.
There remains the alternative of the new Irish Parliament financing the operation. This it must do by means of payment in cash to the selling shareholders, for reasons which will be hereafter stated, unless it wishes to start its career by a scheme of spoliation, which would not merely rob the shareholders (who are mostly Irish), but would
p.338destroy the credit of the Irish Government. Mr. Redmond has recently acknowledged that a large number of Irish railway shareholders are good Nationalists; and it is certain that a great portion of the ordinary stock is held by Irish farmers and traders; and much of the preference and debenture stocks are also held by Irish charities, convents, diocesan trustees, and monastic institutions. These persons will expect, and justly expect, cash on a compulsory purchase, on basis of market value, or capitalisation of dividend, so as to secure the same return of interest.
Could the Irish Government borrow £50,000,000, and at what rate? To borrow at a higher rate than the present return on Irish railway capital, namely, 3.77 per cent, would be to incur a loss on working the railways, from the outset, which Irish ratepayers or taxpayers would have to make up. The net receipts, at the time of the Commission's Report, were, in round figures, £1,600,000, and thus to borrow £50,000,000, even at 4 per cent, would mean an annual loss of £300,000 a year, even if there were no sinking fund. A 10s. per cent sinking fund would increase the total annual loss to £550,000.
But, could an Irish Government Guaranteed Railway Stock be issued at 4 per cent? Would Ireland's credit stand better than that of Hungary, whose 4 per cent gold rentes stand at 92, or of the Argentine, which has to borrow at nearly 5 per cent? There are grave doubts whether the large sum required would be subscribed at all, at even 4.25 per cent or 4.5 per cent basis. It is not likely that English investors would take up such a loan, seeing that they have consistently fought shy of Irish investments, and they are not likely to change their views upon the break up of the Union.
It may be said that the sum required could be raised in Ireland that patriotic feeling would stimulate the operation, and the large sum of money (over £50,000,000), lying on deposit at the Irish banks may be referred to as available. Patriotism that has not financed the Irish Parliamentary Party will not be likely to finance a gigantic
p.339railway loan. Nor is the large sum appearing as banking deposits really free money available for investment. With increase of deposits, the items of loans and advances in banking accounts have also correspondingly increased, and they largely balance each other. Not only is the money deposited by one customer lent to another, and therefore already utilized, but, to a large extent well known to bankers, the deposits, i.e. the credits to particular accounts, represent money lent to the persons having these accounts, and are not, in fact, their own free balances. So also credits in the accounts of one bank, figure as debits on the balance sheet of another bank. There probably has been in recent years considerable saving in Ireland, but it is also certain that those savings have largely gone, and will continue rightly to go in improvements of farms, which the Land Acts and Land Purchase Acts have made worth improving for their possessors. Those who have not saved enough borrow, and the bank advances represent largely the capital required by farmers and traders. The deposits, therefore, are being well used, and are not dead money. Divert them to any large extent to another purpose, and there will probably be a contraction of banking credit, which Irish farming and industry will be the first to feel.
It may be said that the nationalisation of railways could be carried out, not by a cash payment, but by a paper exchange of existing Railway Stocks into newly created Irish Government Stock, the amount of the existing net receipts being guaranteed. But, unless the Irish Government could actually borrow in cash the sum required, at a rate equal to that nominally put on the new stock, the shareholders would be robbed of a capital sum equal to the amount of the discount on the stock, i.e. the amount of the market quotation below par, or issue price. There will be sellers of the new stock from the beginning, and what the public will give for it, and not the nominal figure
p.340put upon it by the Irish Government, will be its real value. The Irish Government may issue the Railway Stock at 3.5 per cent, but if they could borrow the sum required only at 4.5 per cent, the new stock will at once find its level at about 77 instead of 100, and the capital value of Irish railways will be reduced from, say, £45,000,000 to £35,000,000, and the difference, £10,000,000, would come out of the pockets of Irish shareholders. The Irish Government would be, however, in this unpleasant dilemma, that if they issued the stock at a rate per cent nominally higher than the present return in railway capital, namely, 3.77 per cent, the annual charge for interest would be greater than the net receipts, and so from the beginning there would be an annual loss; and the fact of this annual loss would be another factor tending to depreciate the new Railway Stock. The alternatives before an Irish Prime Minister, pressed to carry out a Nationalisation policy, are not enviable. He will either have to provide by taxation for the annual loss involved in taking over the railways on a fair basis, or to deprive the most thrifty and industrious classes of his fellow-countrymen of a large slice of their savings and investments. In either event, the new Government will have received a serious blow to its credit at the outset of its career.
There is, moreover, a special reason why such a stock, from its inception, would tend to depreciate in value; namely, that from the moment the Irish Government or their nominees became the owners, there would be almost irresistible pressure put upon them to reduce the railway rates, and generally (as indeed the Majority Report recommends) to work the railways on other than commercial lines79. A reduction of rates has been held out as the great resulting boon of nationalisation ever since the Irish Parliamentary Party specifically raised the
p.341question in Parliament in 1899. A 25 per cent reduction in rates and fares (suggested by Nationalist witnesses) would involve an annual diminution of net receipts to the Government of over £1,000,000 per annum, and if the reduction were in goods rates alone, the loss would be £568,000 per annum. It would be years, if ever, before such a loss could be recouped, however the traffic was increased. Experience has shown that in recent years running expenses tend to increase nearly parallel with the gross receipts, and a large increase in gross traffic would involve enormous capital outlay for rolling stock, engines, sidings, etc. It is unnecessary to comment upon the suggestion that the railways should not be run on commercial principles. The Irish ratepayers and taxpayers, who would have to bear the loss, would loudly call out for business management when it was too late.
It is hardly necessary to add that another result of such an operation would be to prevent the Irish Government raising the very large sum necessary for improving and standardising the light railways and for extensions, except at an unremunerative rate of interest. Even if shareholders be put off with State paper, contractors will have to be paid with cash. Moreover the creation of such a large amount of debt at the beginning of the new régime would render it difficult, if not impossible, for the Irish Government to raise sums necessary for other public works and services of a pressing character, arterial drainage, canals, education, and other objects, not to speak of migration, congestion, and land purchase. The conclusion, in fact, is inevitable, that without the security of the United Kingdom, and the market of British investors willing to lend, it is idle to think that either State purchase of railways, or any other of the boons mentioned, are reasonably possible. Mr. Erskine Childers, though a Home Ruler, does not fail to perceive, to use his own words, that financial independence will now mean a financial sacrifice to Ireland. 80
There are other important considerations which confirm the view that, if the control of Irish railways were taken away from the Imperial Parliament, and placed under a Parliament sitting in Dublin, and if the general code of railway legislation now binding on both countries could be altered by a Home Rule legislature, results disastrous to the trade between the two countries would probably follow, whether Nationalisation were carried out or not.
The Majority Report recommends, as one of the chief objects of Nationalisation under an Irish authority, the reduction of export rates, both local and through rates, on the Irish railways, as essential to the development of Irish industry, and this seems the pet project of a large number of witnesses, and of Irish local authorities. Import and export railway rates are now the same for the same classes of produce, and no Irish railway company could now differentiate between them, without being pulled up by the Railway Commission at the suit of British traders, or British railway companies. The policy suggested is practically to use railway rates as a system of local protection, similar to the existing practice and policy on the continental, and notably the Prussian State Railways. It is easy to see that without any Customs barrier between the two countries, such a policy would inaugurate practically a tariff war between Ireland and Great Britain, which would be disastrous to both. That such a policy should be subscribed to by Free-traders, and that a Free-trade Government should advocate a change in the relations between the two countries, under which such a system could be possible, is indeed surprising. To use Imperial credit for such a purpose would be midsummer madness. Even without any scheme of nationalisation, the establishment of a separate Executive and Legislature in Ireland might have sinister effects on traffic arrangements between Great Britain and Ireland and on the harmonious administration of the railways.
The truth of the matter, and the inference to be drawn from the above considerations and the whole trend of modern trade, is that to break up the railway systems of Great Britain and Ireland into two rival and hostile systems of transit, working for different objects and by different methods, would be to stop a natural and healthy process of uniform working and harmony, which has enormously advanced in the last decade, to the great advantage of Ireland.
Almost every scheme of amalgamation in Ireland has been connected with the opening or development of a new cross-Channel route, as the history of the Fishguard and Rosslare and the new Heysham routes fully shows. As part of this process, English companies, like the Midland and the Great Western, are either acquiring Irish lines or making special traffic arrangements with them. Enormous sums have been spent on harbours and steamers by English companies for the purpose of developing traffic with Ireland, and the increased interchange of goods has been of great advantage to both countries. The ideal put forward by advocates of railway nationalisation and Irish independence, that in respect of trade and traffic Ireland should be a sort of watertight compartment, self-supporting and self-contained, is, I submit, a mischievous delusion which, if put into practice, would undo much of the good progress Ireland has recently made. Such an ideal would also be the exact contrary of the line of national development as based on transit and transport followed in almost every other civilized country. In Germany, Canada, the United States, and Australia, we see the policy consistently pursued of amalgamation, consolidation, and facilities for long-distance traffic, so that between all parts of each State and Empire there shall be the freest and most perfect interchange of traffic. Canada and the United States have been so far inspired by this principle as to spend countless millions first on East and West (and now on
p.344North and South) lines, even before there was traffic to carry, and in order to create traffic; and the principle has been justified in its results.
From this point of view St. George's Channel and the Irish Sea should be a means of communication, constant and in every direction, between the two Islands, and not a sort of boundary ditch to be deepened and rendered difficult of passage.
If Ireland wishes to share England's prosperity she must not build up a wall against the credit, trade, and special products of her richer sister. If England wishes to have and to foster a magnificent source of food supply, well and strategically secured against continental foes, she also must do all that can be done to encourage intercourse. To develop traffic between Great Britain and Ireland is the policy which both experience and theory point to as advantageous to both countries; to subvert this policy and make Ireland's commerce local and self-sufficing, seems to be the narrow and mistaken ideal of Nationalist aspirations.
It follows that the Unionist Party must oppose any plan for nationalising the Irish railways, whether by the credit of the United Kingdom, or otherwise. The policy we advocate is to be found in the Minority Report of the Viceregal Commission, signed by Sir Herbert Jekyll, Mr. W. M. Acworth, and Mr. John Aspinall, not as politicians, but experts; and in the Report of the Royal Commission on Canals and Inland Navigation dealing with the question of canals and water transport in Ireland.
In the case of railways, the aim should be to amalgamate them into two or three large companies to standardise as far as possible the light railways, and level them in respect of gauge, gradients, works, and rolling stock with the larger companies. Unquestionably many of the smaller railways to be amalgamated, though not light railways, need large expenditure for the purpose of duplication of running lines,
p.345straightening of curves, stations, stores, and conveniences, and many extensions and cross-lines will also be needed to connect them with the trunk lines, and to open out districts now unprovided with railway facilities. Many of these projects, though industrially remunerative to Ireland and advantageous to England also as tapping new sources of food supply, would not be, in strictness, commercially remunerative in the sense of giving fair return on capital over working expenses, and it is idle to expect that private capital will ever be subscribed for these purposes. They can only be undertaken either directly by State funds, or by money provided by the State, and lent to the large amalgamated lines at low interest. This is the policy inaugurated by Mr. Arthur Balfour, which has been of untold benefit to many districts in Ireland. Probably a public grant of, say, £2,000,000, and loanable money available to the extent of £8,000,000, would largely solve the problem. For the reasons already given it is only by Imperial credit, and under the aegis of a united Parliament and Government, that capital on this large scale can be available for these purposes.
The problem of canals and inland navigation in Ireland is a minor one, but the same principles largely apply. The Royal Commission81 recommended that all the chief waterways, canals, and rivers necessary for inland transport should be purchased and remain under the control of the State, the controlling authority, however, not themselves, to become carriers on any waterways. At the same time, they strongly urged that the problem of arterial drainage and relief from floods should not be treated separately, but that the control of drainage works should be under the same central authority as that which is to control waterways and navigation.
It is not necessary to refer in detail to the Report. Apart from the sum necessary to buy out the existing owners of canals and waterways, towards which £2,451,346 had been contributed from private sources, the Commissioners contemplated a further expenditure of about £200,000 on new works. In addition the sum of £500,000 would be required, on a moderate estimate for drainage and the prevention of floods. The pressing nature of the latter problem is once more emphatically evidenced by the wholesale injury to property and the public health by the recent flooding of the basins of the Shannon, Barrow, Bann, and other rivers. Here, again, we have problems which it is idle to expect an Irish Parliament to solve satisfactorily for years to come, or, indeed, ever. Ways and means must be an effectual bar. Drainage and navigation form only one problem out of a dozen facing a Home Rule Government needing the raising of enormous capital. Probably the Commissioners conducting the Canals inquiry, who were persons of all shades of political opinion, were well aware that only under the present system of State credit could the financial difficulties be overcome. According to their report, the State (i.e. the Government of the United Kingdom) were to acquire the control, which was to be carried out by an Act of Parliament, naming the Waterways Commissioners, who should be persons disassociated from party politics.
The one dissentient out of twenty-one signatories, Lord Farrer, significantly adds that he does not favour a charge on the public purse and new Boards of Management until a purely Irish elected authority has agreed to pay for them. Precisely; Lord Farrer has looked ahead. Will an Irish elected authority agree to pay for these boons, and will they be able to pay? That is a question which will cause some searching of hearts amongst all interested in Ireland's welfare in these pages we have attempted to give an answer.
The conclusion is in fact inevitable. Ireland cannot have it both ways. She cannot have financial independence and financial dependence at the same time. No Colony has ever claimed or been granted these inconsistent conditions. If Colonial precedents are cited, their essential limitations should also be borne in mind. Colonial loans are not charged on the Consolidated Fund. Nor have Colonial railways been nationalised with the money and credit of the United Kingdom, in order to favour local exports at the expense of imports from England.
Our examination of the question brings us to the clear conclusion that it is only under the existing system of a single Parliament and Executive for the United Kingdom that the problems of transit and transport in Ireland, or between Great Britain and Ireland, can be satisfactorily solved, whether from the point of view of finance, justice to shareholders, or advantage to the trade and convenience of both countries.
Note.It has been suggested, since the above was written, that the balance in the Irish Post Office Savings Banks (now about £12,500,000) might be available to the new Irish Government, for advances to farmers and other public purposes. The suggestion involves the applicability of such advances for the purchase or amalgamation of the Irish railways under an Irish public authority. Such a proposal will not bear close examination.
It is an essential condition of the existence of Savings Bank deposits that the deposits should be always available on the call of depositors; and this condition would no longer be fulfilled if the balances were locked up in Irish railways. In fact, if there was any suggestion that these balances should be used for the purpose of enabling the Irish Government to run the railways on uncommercial principles, the deposits would very soon diminish or disappearand this apart from the question whether under Home Rule, the deposits would in any event remain at anything like their present high figure.