**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Lawyer’s Objections To Home Rule
by [?]

Mr. Dicey in his Case against Home Rule does me the honour to refer to an article which I wrote a year ago on “American Home Rule,”[1] expressing in one place “disagreement in the general conclusion to which the article is intended to lead,” and in another “inability to follow the inference” which he supposes me to draw “against all attempts to enforce an unpopular law.” Now the object of that article, I may be permitted to explain, was twofold. I desired, in the first place, to combat the notion which, it seemed to me, if I might judge from a great many of the speeches and articles on the Irish question, was widely diffused even among thoughtful Englishmen that the manner in which the Irish have expressed their discontent–that is, through outrage and disorder–was indicative of incapacity for self-government, and even imposed upon the Englishmen the duty, in the interest of morality (I think it was the Spectator who took this view), and as a disciplinary measure, of refusing to such a people the privilege of managing their own affairs. I tried to show by several noted examples occurring in this country that prolonged displays of lawlessness, and violence, and even cruelty, such as the anti-rent movement in the State of New York, the Ku-Klux outrages in the South, and the persecution of Miss Prudence Crandall in Connecticut, were not inconsistent with the possession of marked political capacity. I suggested that it was hardly adult politics to take such things into consideration in passing on the expediency of conceding local self-government to a subject community. There was to me something almost childish in the arguments drawn from Irish lawlessness in the discussion of Home Rule, and in the moral importance attached by some Englishmen to the refusal to such wicked men as the Irish of the things they most desire. It is only in kindergartens, I said, that rulers are able to do equal and exact justice, and see that the naughty are brought to grief and the good made comfortable. Statesmen occupy themselves with the more serious business of curing discontent. They concern themselves but little, if at all, with the question whether it might not be manifested by less objectionable methods.

The Irish methods of manifesting it, I endeavoured to show, were not exceptional, and did not prove either inability to make laws or unwillingness to obey them. I illustrated this by examples drawn from the United States. I might, had I had more time and space, have made these examples still more numerous and striking. I might have given very good reasons for believing that, were Ireland a state in the American Union, there probably would not have been any rent paid in the island within the last fifty years, and that the armed resistance of the tenants would have had the open or secret sympathy of the great bulk of the American people. In truth, the importance of Irish crime as a political symptom is grossly exaggerated by English writers. I venture to assert that more murders unconnected with robbery are committed in the State of Kentucky in one year than in Ireland in ten, and the condition of some other Southern and Western States is nearly as bad. All good Americans lament this and are ashamed of it, but it never enters into the heads of even the most lugubrious American moralists that Kentucky or any other State should be disfranchised and remanded to the condition of a Territory, because the offences against the person committed in it are so numerous, and the punishment of them, owing to popular sympathy or apathy, so difficult.

There are a great many Englishmen who think that when they show that Grattan’s Parliament was a venal and somewhat disorderly body, which occasionally indulged in mixed metaphor, they have proved the impossibility of giving Ireland a Parliament now. But then, as they are obliged to admit, Walpole’s Parliament was very corrupt, and no one would say that for that reason it would have been wise to suspend constitutional government in England in the eighteenth century. It is only through the pernicious habit of thinking of Irishmen as exceptions to all political rules that Grattan’s Parliament is considered likely, had it lasted, to have come down to our time unreformed and unimproved.