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

There is, in truth, no reason to doubt that the idea of property in land, thoroughly accepted though it be in the United States, is nevertheless held under the same limitations as in the rest of the world. No matter what the law may say in any country, in no country is the right of the landed proprietor in his acres as absolute as his right in his movables. A man may own as much land as he can purchase, and may assert his ownership in its most absolute form against one, two, or three occupants, but the minute he began to assert it against a large number of occupants, that is, to act as if his rights were such that he had only to buy a whole state or a whole island in order to be able to evict the entire population, he would find in America, as he finds in Ireland, that he cannot have the same title to land as to personal property. He would, for instance, if he tried to oust the people of a whole district or of a village from their homes on any plea of possession, or of a contract, find that he was going too far, and that no matter what the judges might say, or the sheriff might try to do for him, his legal position was worth very little to him. Consequently a large landlord in America, if he were lucky enough to get tenants at all, would be very chary indeed about quarrelling with more than one of them at a time. The tenants would no more submit to wholesale ejectment than the farmers in Missouri would submit some years ago to a tax levy on their property to pay county bonds given in aid of a railroad. The goods of some of them were seized, but a large body of them attended the sale armed with rifles, having previously issued a notice that the place would be very “unhealthy” for outside bidders.

The bearing of this condition of American opinion on the Irish question will be plainer if I remind English readers that the Irish in the United States numbered in 1880 nearly 2,000,000, and that the number of persons of Irish parentage is probably between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000. In short there are, as well as one can judge, more Irish nationalists in the United States than in Ireland. The Irish-Americans are to-day the only large and prosperous Irish community in the world. The children of the Irish born in the United States or brought there in their infancy are just as Irish in their politics as those who have grown up at home. Patrick Ford, for instance, the editor of the Irish World, who is such a shape of dread to some Englishmen, came to America in childhood, and has no personal knowledge nor recollection of Irish wrongs. Of the part this large Irish community plays in stimulating agitation–both agrarian and political–at home I need not speak; Englishmen are very familiar with it, and are very indignant over it. The Irish-Americans not only send over a great deal of American money to their friends at home, but they send over American ideas, and foremost among them American hostility to large landowners, and American belief in Home Rule. Now, to me, one of the most curious things in the English state of mind about the Irish problem is the apparent expectation that this Irish-American interference is transient, and will probably soon die out. It is quite true, as Englishmen are constantly told, that “the best Americans,” that is, the literary people and the commercial magnates, whom travelling Englishmen see on the Atlantic coast, dislike the Irish anti-English agitation. But it is also true that the disapproval of the “best Americans” is not of the smallest practical consequence, particularly as it is largely due to complete indifference to, and ignorance of, the whole subject. There are probably not a dozen of them who would venture to express their disapproval publicly. The mass of the population, particularly in the West, sympathize, though half laughingly, with the efforts of the transplanted Irish to “twist the British lion’s tail,” and all the politicians either sympathize with them, or pretend to do so. I am not now expressing any opinion as to whether this state of things is good or bad. What I wish to point out is that this Irish-American influence on Irish affairs is very powerful, and may, for all practical purposes, be considered permanent, and must be taken into account as a constant element in the Irish problem. I will indeed venture on the assertion that it is the appearance of the Irish-Americans on the scene which has given the Irish question its present seriousness. The attempts of the Irish at physical resistance to English authority have been steadily diminishing in gravity during the present century–witness the descent from the rebellion of 1798 to Smith O’Brien’s rebellion and the Fenian rising of 1867. On the other hand the power of the Irish to act as a disturbing agency in English politics has greatly increased, and the reason is that the stream of Irish discontent is fed by thousands of rills from the United States. Every emigrant’s letter, every Irish-American newspaper, every returned emigrant with money in his pocket and a good coat on his back, helps to swell it, and there is not the slightest sign, that I can see, of its drying up.