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Thoughts For A Convention
by [?]

1. There are moments in history when by the urgency of circumstance everyone in a country is drawn from normal pursuits to consider the affairs of the nation. The merchant is turned from his warehouse, the bookman from his books, the farmer from his fields, because they realize that the very foundations of the society, under whose shelter they were able to carry on their avocation, are being shaken, and they can no longer be voiceless, or leave it to deputies, unadvised by them, to arrange national destinies. We are all accustomed to endure the annoyances and irritations caused by legislation which is not agreeable to us, and solace ourselves by remembering that the things which really matter are not affected. But when the destiny of a nation, the principles by which life is to be guided are at stake, all are on a level, are equally affected and are bound to give expression to their opinions. Ireland is in one of these moments of history. Circumstances with which we are all familiar and the fever in which the world exists have infected it, and it is like molten metal the skilled political artificer might pour into a desirable mould. But if it is not handled rightly, if any factor is ignored, there may be an explosion which would bring on us a fate as tragic as anything in our past history. Irishmen can no longer afford to remain aloof from each other, or to address each other distantly and defiantly from press or platform, but must strive to understand each other truly, and to give due weight to each other’s opinions, and, if possible, arrive at a compromise, a balancing of their diversities, which may save our country from anarchy and chaos for generations to come.

2. An agreement about Irish Government must be an agreement, not between two but three Irish parties first of all, and afterwards with Great Britain. The Premier of a Coalition Cabinet has declared that there is no measure of self government which Great Britain would not assent to being set up in Ireland, if Irishmen themselves could but come to an agreement. Before such a compromise between Irish parties is possible there must be a clear understanding of the ideals of these parties, as they are understood by themselves, and not as they are presented in party controversy by special pleaders whose object too often is to pervert or discredit the principles and actions of opponents, a thing which is easy to do because all parties, even the noblest, have followers who do them disservice by ignorant advocacy or excited action. If we are to unite Ireland we can only do so by recognizing what truly are the principles each party stands for, and will not forsake, and for which, if necessary they will risk life. True understanding is to see ideas as they are held by men between themselves and Heaven; and in this mood I will try, first of all, to understand the position of Unionists, Sinn Feiners and Constitutional Nationalists as they have been explained to me by the best minds among them, those who have induced others of their countrymen to accept those ideals. When this is done we will see if compromise, a balancing of diversities be not possible in an Irish State where all that is essential in these varied ideals may be harmonized and retained.

3. I will take first of all the position of Unionists. They are, many of them, the descendants of settlers who by their entrance into Ireland broke up the Gaelic uniformity and introduced the speech, the thoughts, characteristic of another race. While they have grown to love their country as much as any of Gaelic origin, and their peculiarities have been modified by centuries of life in Ireland and by intermarriage, so that they are much more akin to their fellow-countrymen in mind and manner than they are to any other people, they still retain habits, beliefs and traditions from which they will not part. They form a class economically powerful. They have openness and energy of character, great organizing power and a mastery over materials, all qualities invaluable in an Irish State. In North-East Ulster, where they are most homogeneous they conduct the affairs of their cities with great efficiency, carrying on an international trade not only with Great Britain but with the rest of the world. They have made these industries famous. They believe that their prosperity is in large measure due to their acceptance of the Union, that it would be lessened if they threw in their lot with the other Ireland and accepted its ideals, that business which now goes to their shipyards and factories would cease if they were absorbed in a self-governing Ireland whose spokesmen had an unfortunate habit of nagging their neighbors and of conveying the impression that they are inspired by race hatred. They believe that an Irish legislature would be controlled by a majority, representatives mainly of small farmers, men who had no knowledge of affairs, or of the peculiar needs of Ulster industry, or the intricacy of the problems involved in carrying on an international trade; that the religious ideas of the majority would be so favored in education and government that the favoritism would amount to religious oppression. They are also convinced that no small country in the present state of the world can really be independent, that such only exist by sufferance of their mighty neighbors, and must be subservient in trade policy and military policy to retain even a nominal freedom; and that an independent Ireland would by its position be a focus for the intrigues of powers hostile to Great Britain, and if it achieved independence Great Britain in self protection would be forced to conquer it again. They consider that security for industry and freedom for the individual can best be preserved in Ireland by the maintenance of the Union, and that the world spirit is with the great empires.