A History of
by Thomas Cox Meech
Published 1928 by Chatto and Windus
It was common knowledge that the
next legislative effort of the Government would be a Bill re-establishing a
separate Parliament for
Mr. Gladstone, with all his eloquence and genius, twice – in 1886 and 1893 – failed to carry Home Rule Bills. The first one was thrown out by the House of Commons; the second by the House of Lords. Once again Mr. Asquith was venturing where his illustrious chief had met disappointment little removed from despair.
The most perplexing aspect of the
problem was the racial, religious and social division between the South of
Ireland and that portion of the
On the 12th July of
each year the story of the defeat of the Irish and Catholic supporters of the
dying Stuart dynasty on the banks of the River Boyne by the Protestant Prince
The annual demonstration is the more firmly established by reason of the fact that in course of time the Orangemen – as the followers of King William were designated – became not only a political body but also a powerful benevolent Order with the ritual and passwords of a secret Friendly Society.
In the old days a very large proportion of the Protestants of the North, like their Scottish cousins, were Liberals who held strong views on Land Reform and other questions, but they held fast to the Act of Union. Older parliamentarians remembered the days of Mr. Gladstone’s first Home Rule Bill, when the Unionists of Northern Ireland declared their determination to resist by force any attempt to place them under an Irish Parliament.
The old battle-cry, said to have been coined by Lord Randolph Churchill, was revived by the new prospect of Home Rule:
In the first week of 1912 twenty
thousand Ulstermen marched past Sir Edward Carson at
An announcement was made that
those Liberals of Belfast who had remained supporters of the policy of the
Liberal Party were organising a demonstration in favour of Home Rule and that
Mr. Winston Churchill would address a meeting in the Ulster Hall. This building
was associated with the memories of Lord Randolph Churchill’s attack on Mr.
Gladstone’s Home Rule proposals, and the news that the son of their former
champion would speak there in favour of the hereditary foe aroused bitter
resentment among the Orangemen. Their leaders publicly asserted that Mr.
Churchill would not be permitted to speak. It was stated that five thousand men
would occupy the Ulster Hall for some days before his arrival and that the
approach to it would be blocked by seventy-five thousand men. Conservative and
Unionist papers like ‘The Times’ and the ‘Morning Post’ deprecated these
threats. ‘Punch’, by a cartoon headed ‘A Silly Game’, depicted Sir Edward
Carson standing with his back to the door of Ulster Hall trampling upon the
placard of Mr. Churchill’s Meeting and shouting ‘
It was asserted by a correspondent of the ‘Daily News’ that a leaflet had been circulated at an Orange Meeting in Ulster calling on Germany, as the great Protestant Power, to come and save Ulster from being ruled by the Pope.
In spite of friendly advice, the Ulster Unionists continued their preparations for preventing Mr. Churchill from addressing the meeting in the Ulster Hall. A correspondence took place between Lord Londonderry and Mr. Churchill, from which it appeared that the main objection was to the use of the Ulster Hall. Mr. Churchill said he could not ask the Ulster Liberals to abandon their meeting, but ultimately it was agreed that he should speak in another hall, and ‘Punch’ in a further cartoon on the subject, pictured ‘our one and only Winston’ in various attitudes deciding that he would go as Daniel in the lions’ den and adding ‘for all I care, let ‘em choose their own den’.
The Meeting in the substituted hall passed off quietly.[…]
An analysis of the division [on women’s suffrage] showed that many Irish Nationalist Members had voted against the Bill and the rest had abstained. The abstention of those who voted, or the favourable votes of those who abstained, would have won the day for the Suffragists. This fact was the subject of excited comment among the friends as well as the opponents of the Irishmen. Somewhile afterwards Mr. Walter Roach, a fervent supporter of Home Rule and of Woman Suffrage, gave expression to current conversation. Quoting the fate of the Conciliation Bill, he said:
Every Member sitting as a Nationalist Member for an Irish constituency who was against Woman Suffrage voted against the Bill, whilst of those who were supposed to be in favour of the Bill not a single one was found in the Lobby! I say to the Irish Members my faith is quite as strong and undimmed in Irish Home Rule as it is in Woman Suffrage, but they will forgive me for saying that they then played a selfish game. It is just as well to talk quite frankly and not to say one thing in the Lobby or the Smoke Room and to use soft words to the Irish Members in the House. They have played a selfish game. I can assure them – not by way of making any threats – that selfish games react upon the people who play them.
Meanwhile, the way was clear for the discussion of Home Rule. Mr. Asquith introduced his Bill on the 11th April. In the Debate on the First Reading there was a bitterness and a passion hardly ever known at this preliminary stage of a parliamentary measure. Mr. Asquith referred to what he described as the ‘new style’. Mr. Bonar Law had been speaking up and down the country in terms that delighted his more enthusiastic followers but were in striking contrast to the usual tone of Mr. Balfour’s speeches. The Prime Minister quoted one passage from the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that:
The present Government turn the House of Commons into a market place where everything is bought and sold. In order to remain for a few months longer in Office His Majesty’s Government have sold the Constitution.
Following upon this quotation came a smart dialogue across the Table:
The PRIME MINISTER: Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman repeats here, or is prepared to repeat on the floor of the House of Commons-
Mr. BONAR. LAW: Yes.
The PRIME MINISTER: Let us see exactly what it is: It is that I and my colleagues are selling our convictions.
Mr. BONAR LAW: You have not got any.
MINISTER: We are getting on with the new style. The right hon. Gentleman said
that I and my colleagues are selling their convictions –
(afterwards Sir James) CRAIG: You have sold them to Mr. John Redmond.
The PRIME MINISTER: That we are producing a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman said, elsewhere in the same speech, does not represent our views –
Mr. BONAR LAW: Hear, hear.
The PRIME MINISTER: In order that for a few months longer we may cling to office. Does he really believe that? What have I to gain? [An Hon. Member: Office.] What have my colleagues to gain- [An Hon. Member: Office] – by a transaction to purchase for us –
Captain CRAIG: Eighty Nationalist votes.
The PRIME MINISTER: To purchase for us a short further spell of the burdens and responsibilities which we have borne in very difficult and troublous times, now for the best part of seven years, at the price of surrendering our convictions and soiling for all time our personal and political honour. How many people, I wonder, in this House really believe that?
Mr. Redmond, speaking later, said it might be considered in the interest of some people to engender passion in Debates and to endeavour to overwhelm the issue by personal attacks. He appealed to his friends not to be tempted to retaliate – to conduct the Debate with self-restraint and good temper. He concluded a fervent speech with these words:
I pray earnestly that this Bill may pass; that it may achieve all the objects which its promoters have in view; and that, in the beautiful words of the prayer, with which the proceedings of the House of Commons are opened every day:- ‘the result of all our counsels may be the maintenance of true religion and justice, the safety, honour and happiness of the King, the public health, peace and tranquillity of the realm, and the uniting and knitting together therein of the hearts of all persons and estates within the same, in true Christian love and charity’.
The Bill received its First
Reading and went forward to its further stages. Its proposals, in brief, were
The Debate was adjourned in passion, and meanwhile the thoughts of the nation and the whole world were centred on news from the freezing seas which reminded man with tragic directness that he had not yet subdued the forces of nature.
On the 16th April, just before the debate on the Home Rule Bill was resumed, Lord Charles Beresford asked for authentic information concerning the news that the passenger ship ‘Titanic’ had been wrecked. This triumph of swiftness and strength – the nearest to perfection in shipbuilding craft that modern science and human skill could attain – had been supposed to be unsinkable and the disaster had shocked all calculations.
Ordinarily, the President of the Board of Trade would answer questions relating to the Mercantile Marine. When the Prime Minister advanced to the box it was obvious that a statement of grave importance was about to be made. He asked the House to permit him to answer the question. As he proceeded to read the message received by the Board of Trade to the effect that the ship had foundered, Members in all parts of the House removed their hats. In tones of deep emotion Mr. Asquith continued:
I am afraid we
must brace ourselves to confront one of those terrible events in the order of
Further information which came to hand showed that the ‘Titanic’ left Southampton for a maiden voyage to New York, and struck a submerged portion of an iceberg with a glancing blow which tore open a number of her watertight compartments below the waterline.
The accident happened about half-past-ten on Sunday night, the 14th April, and some four hours afterwards the vessel sank with a loss of one thousand, six hundred and thirty-five lives. Of the total number of souls on board, seven hundred and eleven were saved. Amongst those who went down was Mr. W. T. Stead, one of the best-known journalists of this time – the founder of the ‘Review of Reviews’ and other periodicals.
On both sides of the Atlantic
thoughts of the terrible calamity dominated public interest. An Inquiry was
A few days afterwards Mr. Winston Churchill moved the Second Reading of the Irish Home Rule Bill, thus bringing the two great controversial measures of the Session into the arena for alternating demonstrations of furious gladiatorial combats.
Mr. Churchill, in the course of a comprehensive speech reviewing the whole Irish situation, leant across the Table and, addressing the Opposition, said:
Can you say that you are satisfied with the existing condition of things?
What position and
what status do you accord to four-fifths of her [
The Irish position from both
points of view was put in impressive speeches. Mr. Thomas Scanlan, the Member
forward to a time when those who have fought against one another as Protestants
and Catholics will join hands and stand shoulder to shoulder and fight together
to exterminate religious differences, and to bring about the peace and
prosperity and happiness of
Mr. Charles Craig, the Member for
You may call it what you like, but we in the North or Ireland believe that a Parliament in Dublin would be dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church, being what it is we do not believe, to use a colloquial phrase, that the Protestants would have a ‘fair show’. Protestants are not going to allow themselves to come under the domination of that Parliament.
A feature of the Debate was a
maiden speech by Mr. Samuel Young, who, amid loud and general cheers, mentioned
that he was ninety-one years of age. As a Protestant and an inhabitant of
For several days the Debate went
on with eloquent speeches on both sides. One
Further, I may
Ultimately the Second Reading was carried by three hundred and seventy-two votes to two hundred and seventy-one.
New Year’s Day  found the House of Commons in
turmoil once more. There had been rumours, some vague, some professedly
circumstantial, of threats from Ulster men that the historic appeal of the
Protestants to William of Orange might be repeated in another direction and the
name of the Emperor of Germany as the head of a great Protestant Dynasty had
been mentioned. In a Debate on the Irish Bill Mr. Bonar Law, dealing specially
with the case of
in the north-east of
Mr. Churchill, who rose to reply
on behalf of the Government, seizing upon the passage said:
I refer to the statement which he quoted with approval that the Loyalists of Ulster would rather be annexed to a foreign country –
CARSON: Than under moonlighters.
Mr. Churchill tried to continue his remarks but he was assailed by angry interruptions. Shrugging his shoulders, he observed ‘If you do not listen to me it is a matter of total indifference’.
‘We listened to your Leader’,
said Mr. (afterwards Sir) Stephen Collins, a popular Liberal Member, addressing
the excited men on the Conservative Benches.
For a moment there was a lull, and Mr. Churchill went on:
This, then, is
the latest Tory threat.
The storm now burst forth afresh.
‘What will they say about that in
Requested by the Speaker not to
interrupt, the noble Lord asked on a point of order if the reference to
Mr. Churchill said he felt bound to call the attention of the House to a statement indicating what the Leader of the Conservative Party considered proper conduct in the Loyalist population in the North of Ireland.
When Mr. Bonar Law rose once more
people who had missed the significance of his words till the passage had been
extracted and emphasised by Mr. Churchill possibly expected a sweeping denial
of the whole of Mr. Churchill’s interpretation. The correction by the
Opposition Leader was, however, purely personal. Mr. Churchill had said that he
quoted the statement as to the intentions of the
and carefully stated I believed it to be the fact but I quoted it neither with
approval nor disapproval.
[…] With this domestic matter [of a food tax] out of the way, the Unionist Party in the House of Commons threw all their power of attack into the Debate on the Third Reading of the Home Rule Bill.
Member after Member on both sides reviewed yet once again the history of the subject. Mr. John Redmond, in a tone of mingled pathos and prophecy said:
The present Leaders of the Irish Nationalist Party in this House are war-worn in this struggle, and in the ordinary course of nature speedily their places must be taken by younger men.
After recalling the fact that the struggle had been carried on by their fathers before them, he continued:
This Bill has
behind it the passionate enthusiasm of the great masses of the Irish people. It
has centred on it the hopes and prayers of millions of loyal Irish subjects of
the Empire wherever the flag of the Empire flies. At this moment when we are
actually speaking here, amidst the snows of
Mr. Bonar Law, again asserting that
They have a
right to rebel against such treatment if they think they can succeed. There is
no question of their succeeding. They are bound to succeed. It does not mean
that they must be in a position to defeat British soldiers. Nothing of the
kind. It means this, and this only: that they should be ready in this case to
give up their lives at the hands of British soldiers and they are ready. If you
shot down a hundred of them in
Every available man in all Parties was in the Division. One Irish Nationalist Member, bedridden through sickness, was brought over, attended by a nurse, who waited for him within the precincts whilst his colleagues carried him in to vote. The confident predictions of a substantial Liberal defection were not fulfilled: two Liberal Members only voted against the Bill. Some of the Members were paired, and some on both sides who were away had been unable to arrange pairs. In the end, the Third Reading passed by three hundred and sixty-seven to two hundred and fifty-seven.
Supporters of the Government were
cheered on their way to their Clubs. A demonstration was held outside the
Constitutional Club, at which the Home Rule Bill was burnt, and there was some
Meanwhile the House of Lords rejected the Home Rule Bill on the Second Reading by three hundred and twenty-six to sixty-nine, and politicians prepared for a two years’ campaign under the new Parliament Act.
By a coincidence, a bye-election
At a complimentary luncheon to
Mr. Hogge, Mr. John Redmond declared that any scheme to safeguard the interests
and liberties of
. Shortly after this Mr. Churchill was the central figure in
a stormy Parliamentary scene arising out of the ubiquitous Irish problem. In
the course of a speech in
If all loose wanton and reckless chatter we have been forced to listen to these many months is in the end to disclose a sinister and revolutionary purpose, then I can only say to you: Let us go forward together and put these grave matters to the proof.
This was the text of many a vehement speech from the other side, and it formed subject matter for spirited discussion in the course of a debate upon a vote of censure moved against the Government in the House of Commons. Speaking on that motion Mr. Bonar Law again demanded the referendum, and referring to the possible consequences if this step were not taken the Leader of the Opposition went on to say:
And what about the Army? We really now have got to a stage when we must face facts. What about the Army? If it is only a question of disorder, the Army, I am sure, will obey you, and I am sure that it ought to obey you; but if it really is a question of civil war, soldiers are citizens like the rest of us. [Hon. Members: ‘No!’] It never has been otherwise in any country at any time. If it is civil war, whether it is right or wrong – and I say nothing about it, whether it is right or wrong – the Army will be divided, and you will have destroyed the force, such as it is, on which we depend for the defence of this country.
The Prime Minister gratefully acknowledged that upon the general question the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was couched in mild and moderate terms, and he heartily assented to the proposition that in dealing with this grave and momentous question no door should finally be closed, if it could be avoided, to a settlement. Proceeding, he said:
I cannot give the same, or, indeed, any degree of assent to a proposition advanced by the right hon. Gentleman towards the close of his speech in regard to the duties and functions of the Army in case of civil war? Who is to be the judge whether any particular contest in which the armed forces of the Crown are called upon to intervene does or does not fall within the category of civil war?
I very much deprecate the laying down by a responsible Statesman of the right hon. Gentleman’s position of any such doctrine – that it lies in the discretion of those in the service of the King to determine whether or not any particular contingency justifies them in acting as the right hon. Gentleman would seem to suggest.
Mr. BONAR LAW: The question, surely, whether a contest is or is not civil war is generally decided by both combatants. For instance, in the American War the South were regarded not as rebels, but as combatants. That is the distinction.
The PRIME MINISTER: The South, as a matter of fact, were always described as rebels. I do not want to go into that. I only wanted to enter my protest against what I thought was a dangerous and unwise proposition.
Mr. Asquith returning to the
general question repeated a proposal which he had made at the beginning of the
Session that counties in
At a later stage in the debate
Sir Edward Carson referred to Mr. Churchill’s
Sir E. CARSON: The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) says I am wrong on the merits or something or other and that I shall be handed down to history as being so, as if I care twopence whether I was or was not. I am not on the make.
Mr. DEVLIN: I do not know what a great lawyer means by a politician on the make, but I will tell the House what an untutored layman means by it. When a young lawyer becomes an Irish Home Ruler, and subscribes to the principles of Home Rule, and when the forces of honour and justice are beaten, joins the forces of a powerful enemy – that is what I call a man on the make.
Sir E. CARSON: I wish to say that the observation of the hon. Member is an infamous lie, and he knows it.
White with passion, Sir Edward Carson stood by the table: his tall figure swung round towards the Nationalist benches. ‘Joe’, as his Nationalist colleagues affectionately called Mr. Joseph Devlin, was the centre of a cheering crowd who shouted across the gangway at the protesting men behind Sir Edward Carson. Very soon Members in all parts of the House were shouting indiscriminately at the two Irishmen and at one another. Rising impressively the Speaker quelled the storm. He reminded Sir Edward Carson that the expression he had used was not a proper one, however strong his feelings might be.
‘I should be sorry, Sir, to offend the dignity of the Chair by an expression I used’ said Sir Edward. ‘This is a statement which has been repeated and contradicted many times. At the same time, I would ask leave to withdraw ‘infamous lie’ and to say ‘wilful falsehood’.
Mr. Devlin endeavoured to pursue his point. The fact that Sir Edward Carson was once a Member of the National Liberal Club had been discussed quite recently in the press. It was asserted that membership of this institution was often broadly interpreted. Mr. Devlin was proceeding to quote the form signed on admission in which each member declared himself a Liberal in politics when the Speaker asked whether it was desirable to introduce personal matters which they had heard several times before. Speaking in very solemn tones he added:
We are now approaching a very serious climax in the affairs of this country, and I would appeal to hon. Members to drop these personal remarks.
Mr. Churchill here asked to be allowed to say, as his name had been brought in, that he had not the slightest personal resentment in respect of any comments made about him, and he certainly did not desire that anyone should take up the cudgels on his behalf. Mr. Devlin, passing to the broad issues, delivered an eloquent speech on the general principle of Irish self-government. As an Ulsterman he represented the Home Rule aspirations of that considerable portion of the population in the North-eastern counties who were opposed to the Orangemen and Unionists. He observed that it had been inferred in Conservative speeches that the Irish Home Rulers were ‘skulking behind British troops’. On this he declared:
I have stated on platforms, and I repeat it now, that if this were to be determined by the arbitrament of the sword, and if you took your British troops and British police out of Ireland we, who hold passionately to the conviction that Ireland ought to have Home Rule upon logical, upon democratic, upon reasonable, upon historical, and upon traditional lines, are prepared to have the issue fought out in that way.
The next incident followed upon
wild rumours in
March hares were chasing each other madly round all the circles of political gossip.
There was little doubt that arms
had been landed in the North of Ireland and leading men in
Questions, interjections in debate, and scenes followed each other in the House of Commons with such turbulent persistence that the ordinary onlooker found a difficulty in disentangling a connective narrative from the maze of assertions and contradictions.
According to the Minister for War
information had reached the Authorities which led them to assume that hotheaded
persons under no discipline might try to capture certain stores of arms and
ammunition. It was resolved that steps should be taken for guarding military
supplies against any such attempt, and reinforcements were moved into this
particular district. As there was a suggestion that there might be a
difficultly in carrying the troops by train, preparations were made to send
them by sea. It was also decided that a battle squadron and a flotilla should
be moved form
Mr. Churchill, summing up the situation in the light of history, says in his realistic book ‘The World Crisis’:
Beyond this nothing was authorised; but the Military Commanders, seeing themselves confronted with what might well be the opening movements in a civil war, began to study plans of a much more serious character on what was the most inherently improbably assumption that the British troops would be forcibly resisted and fired upon by the Orange Army.
[…] And then occurred this enlivening passage:
Here we get the right hon. Gentleman the Member for
Sir E. CARSON made an observation which was inaudible to the Gallery.
Behave like a king!
Sir E. CARSON:
You behave like a cad!
Next came the inevitable point of order. The Speaker ruled the expression used by Sir Edward Carson improper, but also rebuked other hon. Members for their “taunting and offensive” observations.
Out of these volcanic debates, strangely enough, arose a general movement in the direction of concord.
Towards the end of his speech Mr. Churchill adopted a conciliatory attitude, and appealed for some agreed settlement on the lines of safeguarding the dignity and interests of Protestant Ulster. Mr. Balfour took a similar line. He declined to admit that there were no circumstances in which it was justifiable for a population to resist the Government. Such cases, he added, were rare:
of Ulster, in the sense of compelling Ulster to leave a free Government under
which she is happy, and put her under a Government which she detests, is one of
those cases. I hold now, and I held nearly thirty years ago, that if Home Rule
was forced upon
Then followed one of the most
affecting and impressive passages of persuasive oratory ever delivered in the House of Commons. Accepting Home Rule
with the exclusion of
There was a time, and it is not so very long ago, when I cherished the dream that… ancient memories would gradually soften, men would look forward as well as backward, and there would grow up what there ought to be as between these two islands, a common hope, a common loyalty, confidence in the common heritage, and all this might be accomplished under one Parliament… If in order that there is yet to be established in Dublin a separate Parliament to the injury, as I personally think, of the British people, then I, for my part, may be an object of pity to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill); but he need not think that I shall regard such a consummation as a triumph over my political enemies. On the contrary, it is the mark of the failure of a life’s work; it is the admission that the causes for which I have most striven, which I have most earnestly sought to accomplish, are fated to break down, and that long labours spent in this House, and out of this House, in political work have not borne the fruit that I once hoped they might.
With such an example before them Statesmen in the forefront of the conflict were encouraged to make another effort towards mutual concessions, but when the House met for the Third Reading of the Home Rule Bill on the 21st of May there was a thrilling demonstration of the fact that no agreement had yet been reached.
Lord Robert Cecil opened the attack with a motion that the debate be adjourned. When the Prime Minister rose in response to this motion he was met with a running fire of interjections.
The Speak appealed to hon. Members to continue the discussion in the ordinary parliamentary way, and later on called Mr. Amery to order for referring to the Prime Minister as “an old gentleman who cannot make up his mind”.
Eventually the motion to adjourn the debate was defeated and then the crescendo note was struck.
Mr. J. H. Campbell rose from the Front Opposition Bench ostensibly to continue the debate.
“Adjourn! Adjourn!” shouted the Conservative Members below the gangway. The cry was taken up by the back Bench Members of the official Opposition above the gangway. If Mr. Campbell was addressing the House no syllable could be heard. He stood at the Box complacently surveying the Government Benches opposite outwardly unmindful of the continuous roars of “Adjourn! Adjourn!” from his own side.
Some two years before Members of the Opposition had been advised in certain quarters to shout “Dissolve! Dissolve!” continuously and thus prevent the House of Commons from proceeding with its business. The fact that a Member of the Conservative Party – a vehement anti-Home Ruler – happened to be on his feet was incidental. The demonstration had no reference to his presence at the Table: Either the advice formerly given was being followed or this was a spontaneous outburst of violent protest against the policy of the Government.
Mr. Bonar Law sat in the middle of the Front Opposition Bench with folded arms looking straight over the heads of the men on the Government Bench. The other Conservative Leaders sitting beside him, while taking no active part in the commotion, indicated by their attitude that they had no subduing advice to offer their followers.
The shouts consolidated into a deafening chant. Any attempt at ordered debate was impossible. The Speaker rose and the turmoil subsided for a moment. What followed is thus officially recorded:
Mr. Speaker: Hon Members seem determined not to hear their Leader. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition whether that is with his assent and approval –
Winterton: Do not answer!
Mr. Bonar Law: I would not presume to criticise what you consider your duty, Sir, but I know mine, and that is not to answer any such question.
Mr. Speaker: Having invited the right hon. Gentleman to assist me in obtaining order, I have been disappointed in that – [An Hon. Member: “Hurrah!”] – and there is nothing open to me except, under Standing Order 21, to suspend the sitting of the House, which I do until to-morrow.
The Conservative Members wildly cheered their Leader. One of them walked over to the Front Bench and stood in front of the Prime Minister shouting abuse at him as the Speaker left the House. They then crowded into the Lobby jeering and gesticulating as they passed the Government supporters who complacently remained in their seats.
A Private Member’s day intervened, and when the House met again for Government business a more conciliatory atmosphere all round prevailed, in which the Speaker with judicial tact took the lead. He remarked that Mr. Bonar Law seemed to think that his request conveyed some imputation of responsibility for the demonstration which had taken place. “I wish to say frankly” added Mr. Speaker “that no such idea was in my mind, and if I conveyed such an imputation by the question which I put to him, I am extremely sorry.”
Dealing with the strained situation generally, the Speaker suggested that the Prime Minister, if he could see his way to do it, should give some further information to the House with regard to the amending Bill which it was understood would be introduced with a view to a settlement by agreement. Mr. Bonar Law expressed his personal gratitude to the Speaker for the generous statement which he had just made, adding “Such a statement could only be made, if I may venture respectfully to say so, by one who is conscious of his strength”.
Mr. Asquith, also responding to
the Speaker’s suggestion, said he had not abandoned hope of agreement, and he
assured the House it was the intention of the Government to introduce an
amending Bill embodying the substance of the proposals which had already been
outlined by him with respect to the position of
After a little “sniping” across the floor from below the gangway the Bill was read a third time by a big majority, and another stage was reached in the controversy which at that moment appeared to be monopolising public life.
[…] Lord Robert Cecil… moved the
adjournment of the House in order to call attention to “the growing danger
caused by the existence of the Volunteer Forces in
The recent gun-running expedition by Ulster Volunteers excited almost as much admiration amongst the Roman Catholic Nationalists as it did even in the highest councils of the Ulster Volunteers. There are a great many people, I find, strongly opposed to Home Rule who also entertain, I will not say a sneaking, but a really genuine feeling of pride in the fact that amongst the Irish National Volunteers are so many old soldiers ready for action, and so many of the very finest and best of the young men in the South and West of Ireland.
From this Mr. Birrell drew the moral
that self-respect might spring even out of these somewhat strange methods, and
that it might still be possible to find a solution of the difficulties. He
intimated in effect that he saw no useful purpose in prosecuting either side. A
voice from the Liberal benches was raised against this attitude by a son of
Lord Rosebery – Mr. Neil Primrose, whose ability and sincerity in debate
predicted a distinguished future, but who was destined, like others, to
complete his service to his country while yet in the full glow of youth and
hope. Mr. Primrose declared that it was “impossible to conceive a more farcical
motion being brought forward by a prominent member of a party which has aided
and abetted and organised armed force in
Mr. Bonar Law’s remedy was that
the Government should have a General Election and seek the sanction of the
people for their policy, in which case he said he and his friends would not
support resistance in
[…] When the ordinary
controversies of political life were renewed,
[…] The Speaker of the House
of Commons presided over the
Onlookers who were privileged to be in a position to watch the Members of the Cabinet filing in from behind the Speaker’s chair were struck with the look of deep solemnity on the face of each individual Member.
It had already been rumoured that
When the Speaker put the motion “This House do now adjourn” the Prime Minister briefly announced that the conference summoned by His Majesty the King held meetings on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th July respectively, and being unable to agree either in principle or in detail upon the possibility of defining an area for exclusion from the operation of the Government of Ireland Bill, it had brought its meetings to a conclusion. Mr. Asquith further announced that the Government’s amending Bill embodying his own proposals would be taken the following week.
Mr. Bonar Law, who rose after Mr. Asquith sat down, merely said “I propose to follow the example set by the Prime Minister and make no comment on the report”.
He agreed to the suggestion that the amending Bill should be discussed the following week. In reply to a question as to whether the House could be informed of the exact difference of opinion, the Prime Minister said with the brevity of a man who is thinking of deeper matters that he would rather make no statement.
The explanation has been supplied in vivid language by Mr. Winston Churchill in “The World Crisis”:
Mr. Churchill’s book was published years afterward. At the moment people outside the Cabinet little knew what the anxious faces of the Ministers portended.
At about the same time a German auxiliary, disguised as a merchantman, arrived and while endeavouring to evade capture went to the bottom.
The disguised auxiliary was found to contain arms. The men who landed were arrested.
The leader in this miniature
invasion was Sir Roger Casement who was born in 1864 in
His avowed mission in
On Easter Monday the crowds in
A day or two later Mr. John Redmond in the House of Commons expressed horror and detestation of the outbreak - speaking on behalf of the Nationalist Party, and, as he claimed, the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland.
In about a week the rebellion was subdued by the military and the rebels surrendered. It is believed that there were about five thousand of them in action from start to finish in various forms of resistance to authority. Some twenty leading business establishments, three branch Banks, and about a dozen smaller offices and shops were burnt to the ground, as well as the General Post Office. The value of the property destroyed was estimated, roughly, at nearly two million pounds. Some seventeen Army officers were killed and forty-six wounded. About eighty-six of other ranks were killed and three hundred and eleven wounded.
Very shortly after the tragedy Mr. Augustine Birrell entering the House of Commons turned off at the gangway instead of taking his place on the Treasury Bench.
Every Parliamentarian knew what that mean. Another front bench career was closed. From his new seat on a back bench the good-natured, even-tempered humorist, who always endeavoured to see the bright side of everything, confessed to the House of Commons that he had not sufficiently appreciated the possibilities of the Sinn Fein movement. In this, perhaps, he was at one with other people who had every reason to believe they understood the Irish race. Sinn Fein, founded, as previously mentioned, by persons of romantic and poetic views, was now a bigger and more daring force than modern Irish politics had ever known.
The House of Commons as a whole,
irrespective of Party, believed Mr. Birrell had acted, as he thought, for the best;
but he was Chief Secretary for
The end of the rebellion was not the end of Sinn Fein.
The rebel leaders were tried, several of them were sentenced to death, but the penalty was commuted to penal servitude. There were, however, some executions. One well-known literary man, who had taken no criminal part in the incident, was shot, as it was afterwards held on enquiry, through the frenzy of a demented officer.
Apart from the problem of the necessity or otherwise for stern and rigorous measures, the fact soon became evident that among the Irish people sympathy which had been against the rebels while they were in armed resistance to authority was followed by pity for the men who died in the cold dawn.
In addition to those persons who
were shot or imprisoned a number were arrested on suspicion and deported. A
detention camp at Frongoch in
The Prime Minister went over to
Apart altogether from the Sinn Fein movement and the rebellion there was a distinct feeling of friendliness between people hitherto rivals in the sense that only a Celtic population understands political rivalry. The desire for a new friendship still existed, not because of the rebellion, but in spite of the rebellion. Mr. John Redmond and Sir Edward Carson in the House of Commons expressed the hope that the new spirit might be encouraged. Mr. Lloyd George who had acted as a negotiator on behalf of the Government in some recent industrial troubles was asked by the Prime Minister to devote his energy to the promotion of a settlement, and in the confident belief that something might be done Parliament passed on for the moment to other questions.
Meantime the House of Commons had instituted another precedent. In the far off centuries it was an offence to report the proceedings of Parliament. Down to comparatively recent times it was the privilege of any Member to call attention to the presence of strangers and the mere fact that he exercised this privilege was sufficient to compel their withdrawal. In 1875 Mr. Joseph Bigger, a persistent Member of the Irish Nationalist Party, called attention to the presence of strangers on an occasion when the Prince of Wales, the German Ambassador, and other distinguished personages had come down to the House to hear a debate. Mr. Bigger afterwards disclaimed knowledge of the fact that the Prince was present, and said he had taken the step in order to call attention to what he regarded as a defect in the rules for the admission of the Press and strangers. The Standing Order relative to the admission of strangers was suspended during the sitting of the House by special motion. The distinguished strangers were then invited back, and in order to prevent a similar occurrence in future debates a resolution was eventually adopted to the following effect:
That if at any sitting of the House or of a Committee any Member shall take notice of the presence of strangers, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, shall forthwith put the question without debate or amendment; provided that Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, may, whenever he thinks fit, order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the House.
On several occasions after that a motion had been made by individual Members and put to the House by the Speaker. In some instances it had been carried out and in others defeated, but, so far as those people who were well versed in Parliamentary history could remember, no definite step had been taken by the Government of the day to secure a secret Session until April 1916, when in response to various suggestions that the House should have a “heart to heart” talk Mr. Asquith rose and called the attention of the Speaker to the presence of strangers. By a unanimous vote of the House the strangers, who of course included the Press, were called upon to withdraw.
[…] Roger Casement for the part which he had endeavoured to take in the Irish Rebellion by his attempt to raise troops was tried for high treason before a Court composed of three Judges and a Jury. He was found guilty. He took advantage of the opportunity of bringing his case before the Court of Criminal Appeal where it was argued with skill by eminent counsel but his sentence was confirmed. He was deprived of his knighthood and executed.
Apart from the fact that it was many years since a tribunal of three Judges and all the other accompaniments of a trial for high treason had been called into effect for the administration of law in this country, no very great interest attached to the climax of this misguided person’s career.
Mr. Lloyd George’s mission for an Irish settlement had not been successful. Matters remained pretty much as they had been for some time – serious minded men on both sides very anxious to arrive at some understanding; irreconcilables frustrating their efforts. Mr. H. E. Duke, K.C. (afterwards Lord Merivale) was appointed to succeed Mr. Birrell as Chief Secretary. Mr. Duke was a foremost advocate and his experience extended beyond the Courts of Law. In his early days he was a Journalist and he had been a Member of Parliament for many years. It was hoped that as a Conservative who during the war had given general support to the Liberal Government he would be able to create an atmosphere of impartiality in which conflicting opinions might find some way to a general understanding.
 A new Irish Convention was announced, and in order to create
a “conference atmosphere” there was a general amnesty for Irish prisoners. They
were released from prison and detention camps and allowed to return to
His first act after release under the amnesty was to contest the seat in East Clare rendered vacant by the death of “Willie” Redmond. He was returned by an overwhelming majority but as a Sinn Feiner declined to take his seat in the “English” Parliament.
 The death of Mr. John Redmond in March 1918 was a severe loss, in view of the critical stage of the Irish problem. Mr. Redmond was born in 1851. He came of a well-established Irish family although it was said to be of Anglo-Norman origin. In his younger days he was called to the Irish Bar and for a while was one of the junior officials of the House of Commons. Somewhat to the consternation, it was said, of his immediate relatives he threw himself with the fervour of a young and ardent patriot into the Irish cause upon the side of the Nationalist Party lead by Mr. Parnell, whom he ultimately succeeded in the leadership. Tributes to his personal qualities and his statesmanlike gifts were made in the House of Commons on the day of his death. The Prime Minister and the leaders of the other Parties gave eloquent testimony to the impression which he had made upon his colleagues of various schools of thought. Sir Edward Carson, whose whole Parliamentary life had been devoted to a strenuous conflict with Mr. Redmond, in the course of a speech delivered with deep emotion said:
I can say with absolute sincerity that during the whole of that period I cannot recall to mind one single bitter personal word that ever passed between John Redmond and myself.
Just before the outbreak of War when the Conference held at Buckingham Palace broke down, Sir Edward Carson and Mr. John Redmond passed out of the Palace gates together. Sir Edward now recalled the fact that Mr. Redmond came up to him and said: “For the sake of the old times on the Leinster Circuit let us have a good shake hands”. Sir Edward in relating this touching incident added “And, Mr. Speaker, we had”.
A side of the special Man Power
Bill which was not treated as humorous was that which gave the Government power
by an Order in Council to extend the Military Service Acts to
On this part of the new Conscription Act there was a very strong opposition indeed from the Irish Nationalist Party, not because – as Mr. John Dillon and other Irish Members emphatically asserted – the Irishmen did not want to fight, but because of the disappointment and the failure of negotiations to settle the Irish problem. Mr. Dillon, who had now succeeded Mr. John Redmond in the Leadership of the Party, speaking in the debate on the Bill, said:
Mr. Joe Devlin declared that if the Government would pass a Home Rule Bill he would be the first to join up as a private.
It may be mentioned here that the “Order in Council” was not put into force.
[...] thoughts were directed once again to the apparently interminable Irish problem.
In anticipation of an early peace
a Nationalist resolution was proposed that before this country took part in any
Peace Conference in
[In the General Election] the
Irish Nationalists had been so universally unfortunate that the Party for all
effective purposes had ceased to exist as a Parliamentary force. Some Northern
Nationalist Members succeeded in retaining their seats, including Mr. Devlin,
whom the old Members generally – politics apart – welcomed back. The veteran
favourite of the House, Mr. T. P. O’Connor, who represented an English seat at
The seventy-three Sinn Feiners,
in accordance with their policy, declined to take their seats at
Mr. Griffiths proved to be one of
the most influential forces in Irish history. He was born in
Both de Valera and Griffiths were
prisoners again and another historic figure now came to the forefront. Mr.
Michael Collins, one of the young men who in a sense held the “Presidency of
the Republic” in commission, was born in 1890 and thus still under thirty. He
was the son of a
An administration was formed with
Ministers and Departments. Sinn Feiners elected to County and Town Councils
refused to recognise the British Administration at
In effect there were two separate
ruling authorities in
The Sinn Feiners had been consolidating their forces. Their “Law Courts” had been functioning, and, under Arthur Griffiths, a policy of government by passive resistance had been organised. Side by side with that was a state of active rebellion, in which, so far as could be gathered, Mr. Griffiths had no part.
Moderate men of all parties were
endeavouring to find a way out. Public opinion in
 Conditions in
In the month of August the
Government deemed it necessary to introduce a “Restoration of Order Bill”,
which was moved by Sir Hamar Greenwood, the Chief Secretary for
Sir Hamar Greenwood came to
The Bill was very strenuously criticised in various quarters of the House. Mr. Asquith said no one could dispute the gravity of the situation. He went on to observe:
Even in the
annals, the sombre annals of Irish disturbances, there has been no parallel to
the existing order of things in
Mr. Asquith went on to say
nothing would procure peace which did not to all intents and purposes put
Mr. Lloyd George repudiated the suggestion that Dominion Home Rule was either a possible or a practicable solution of the problem. In the course of his argument on that question he said:
My right hon. Friend said he would give Dominion Home Rule. Would he? Dominion Home Rule involves an Army and a Navy.
Major M. WOOD: Not necessarily.
The PRIME MINISTER: Yes, necessarily. There is not a single Dominion which has not the power to set up an Army and a Navy – not one. There is not a single Dominion that has not an Army; and if it has not a Navy, it is because it has not set it up. It has full power to do so.
At a later stage of his speech he returned to this part of the subject and added:
representatives of the Irish people… decline to accept the autonomy of
The most significant part of the debate consisted of speeches from the Conservative side by Lieut.-Colonel Guinness and Mr. Aubrey Herbert. Colonel Guinness belongs to an Irish Unionist family and he had taken an active part in opposing Home Rule. He said the speech of the Prime Minister had left him with a feeling of deep disappointment. There was, he asserted, a strong feeling among lifelong Unionists that the time had come for some change. He went on to say:
We had hoped that the Prime Minister might give this moderating influence a chance. He cannot negotiate with Sinn Fein, and others have to make the bricks with which Irish peace is to be built. Unless he will make an offer which will appeal to moderate men there is no straw with which these bricks can possibly be made. He has never really tested the effect of offering such a settlement as would satisfy moderate people in the South.
Mr. Aubrey Herbert, the son of
the Earl of Carnavon, had an hereditary interest in the Irish question. His
father was understood to have “explored the possible avenues” to an Irish
settlement as a colleague of the Marquis of Salisbury so far back as the early
eighties before Mr. Gladstone had brought in his Home Rule Bill. Mr. Aubrey
Herbert, who had distinguished himself as a soldier and a traveller, and had
fought as an Officer with the Irish Guards in
I am an
Englishman, and I want to see my own people looked after… If it is war, let it
be war. War is war, and you should do what you can to equip our people and see
their numbers are sufficient, but as both the right hon. Member for
Concluding a strong appeal to the House to grasp the chance of making a settlement before it was too late, he said:
When you are
The powers asked for by the Government were given by Parliament and so for the time being the old trouble continued.[...]
The “Black and Tan” was a dominating influence on Irish discussions.
He belonged to a body of specially recruited auxiliary Irish constabulary who had served in the Army during the War and were retained for police purposes. They wore their khaki uniform but were given a policeman’s black hat – hence the nickname “Black and Tan”.
Notwithstanding this warning categorical assertions were made that reprisals were being practised. Sensational stories were told about the “Black and Tans”.
Towards the end of October Mr. Arthur Henderson moved what amounted to a vote of censure expressing regret at the “present state of lawlessness in Ireland and the lack of discipline in the armed forces of the crown”, calling for an independent investigation into the “Causes, nature and extent of reprisals on the part of those whose duty is the maintenance of law and order”. Mr. Henderson quoted communications which had reached him to the effect that factories had been destroyed and that private citizens had been killed.
Other communications were read in the course of the debate to the effect that people had been flogged. On the other hand Sir Hamar Greenwood quoted cases in which servants of the Crown had been done to death, and read what he asserted was “the official order of the Irish Republican Army” to the following effect:
Small groups of snipers should be posted so as to cover their [soldiers and police] line of advance. Ready, as soon as opportunity offers, to direct an effective fire on them. If possible they should be cut off from their base, and annihilated.
The Chief Secretary declared that nobody regretted reprisals more than he did, but he contended that if he could bring to the mind and heart of every Member of the House the two years of agony and the “intolerable provocation” that these policemen, and in some cases soldiers, had gone through, reprisals though condemned and properly condemned, would also be understood.
Commander Kenworthy who read
various communications as to reprisals and attacks on private citizens,
suggested as an argument for a definite investigation that the experience of
history showed that there were always conflicting statements as to what
happened between contending forces. In the trouble of the Cuban people for
Commander Kenworthy quoted a passage from the “Manchester Guardian” which indicated that even in this tragic business there were touches of humour. He referred to a case in which a raid was made by the military on a lunatic asylum, and the following account was given of the incident:
One patient was arrested for speaking flippantly to the raiders. The main purpose of the raid was to arrest an attendant. On arrival the soldiers ran up to the man they were looking for, but did not know him. The officer in charge asked the man if he had seen him. “Not for the past hour,” replied the wanted man himself. The attendant took off his uniform and donned the dress of a turbulent patient. He then interned himself in a padded cell, and the military left without him.
Lord Robert Cecil while he could not accept the suggestion that the Irish Republican Army represented an independent country and that we were there as the aggressors, earnestly pressed the Government to institute an enquiry. Mr. Asquith, observing that he should have hoped it would not have been necessary to disclaim on the part of any of those who supported the motion for an enquiry either anything in the nature of sympathy with the abominable crimes and outrages to which the Constabulary and those engaged in the maintenance of order in Ireland during the last two years had been exposed, or anything in the nature of want of sympathy with the gallant men on whom the Chief Secretary passed a high encomium, assured the House that from his very heart he denounced crimes and outrages of this kind with as much emphasis and energy and conviction as it was possible for any tongue to express or any temperament to feel. He did not share the view – if it was entertained in any quarter – that the military and police in Ireland were not entitled under the conditions in which they were placed, to use a homely phrase, when they were hit to hit back again. They had not only the right but the duty of self-defence, and everything that was consistent and fell within the legitimate bounds for self defence they could and ought to resort to. The reason put forward for an enquiry was that there appeared to be what lawyers would call prima facie evidence to show that in not a few instances the officers and servants of the Executive had gone far beyond the limits of legitimate self defence and had engaged in what under the name of reprisals could be described under no other term than a campaign of outrage against unoffending and innocent people.
Mr. Bonar Law reminded the house that reprisals had been officially condemned and contended that an enquiry was not practicable. It would be difficult to get the evidence; men might be ordered to swear that such and such a soldier was engaged in such and such reprisal, and it would be impossible to have an enquiry in public which was fair. In reply to a suggestion that an enquiry might be made in this country, the Leader of the House said “How would you get the evidence and what would happen to the people who gave it?”:
Once you give the impression that these people are liable to have every act they do submitted to an unfair enquiry and perjured evidence, the weapon breaks in your hand.
In the course of this debate a
speech of some special interest in that it indicated the beginning of a
severance of a promising young Conservative from his Party, was made by Mr.
Oswald Mosley. He still spoke from the Conservative side but he declared that
the Government surrendered to the Sinn Feiners when it emulated their policy of
assassination. “It has” he continued “surrendered something which I, at any
rate, believe to be more important in this world even than outrages in
Day by day questions were put on the subject of reprisals; debates were initiated on motions for the adjournment; with counter accusations on both sides.
Troubles between the Home Office
and the Suffragette prisoners, over the policy of the “Hunger Strike” were
recalled by the case of Alderman McSwinney the Lord Mayor of Cork, who had been
sentenced to two years’ imprisonment “for having under his control a secret
police cypher and having in his possession seditious documents”. He was brought
The Government took the stand
that the Lord Mayor having been found guilty of an offence must serve his
sentence; and that if he persisted in starving himself the responsibility did
not rest upon the Authorities. Food was offered him and his friends were allowed
to visit him. Information was published from day to day of the state of his
health and of the incidents connected with the prolonged “strike”. The case
became one of the “leading features” in the news pages of the daily papers. On
the 25th of October Alderman McSwinney died in Brixton Prison on the
seventy-fourth day of his hunger strike. The following morning the Nationalist
While the funeral procession was
passing through the streets of
Is the hon. Baronet aware that there is a strong body of opinion in this country which cordially supported the Government in their last action in paying respect to a brave and possibly misguided man?
The circumstances surrounding the death of the Lord Mayor of Cork demonstrated that the Hunger Strike was an obsolete weapon, but the respect paid by the Government to the dead man and the demeanour of the crowd had a marked significance.
The attitude of the British public towards Irish questions, as often commented upon in the course of this work, was that a political question should be and could be settled by the wisdom of politicians.
Many examples from history might
be quoted of interest aroused by the picturesque and personal touch. The
tribute of respect to the dead body of the Lord Mayor of
The Government still held to the position that a Public Inquiry was not practicable. It was also urged by Sir Hamar Greenwood that they had the insurgents “on the run”, and by the Prime Minister that they had “murder by the throat”.
During a week-end towards the end
of November a terrible tragedy was reported from
There have been fourteen deaths, six injured, including one assassin, and three assassins captured red-handed with arms.
When Sir Hamar Greenwood had completed his report Mr. Devlin said “May I ask the right hon. Gentleman - ” He was immediately assailed with shouts of “Sit down!” which were renewed each time he got up to put his Question while other points were being dealt with. A little later he said “May I ask the Prime Minister why it is when a Question is put to himself and the Chief Secretary to recite all the horrible occurrences that have taken place last Sunday in Dublin, that we have heard nothing about the appearance of the military forces at a football match”. At this there were loud shouts of “Oh, oh” and “Sit down”. The subsequent scene is thus officially described:
Mr. DEVLIN rose to put further supplementary questions, amid loud shouts of “Sit down!”
An effort was made by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Major Molson) forcibly to remove the hon. Member for the Falls Division from his seat, but the attempt was resisted. Mr. Devlin struck out, and unintentionally hit an hon. Member (Mr. Higham) who was sitting in close proximity.
Grave disorder having thus arisen, Mr. Speaker rose, and ordered the suspension of the Sitting under Standing Order No. 21.
Sitting accordingly suspended at Five minutes after , the public galleries being also temporarily closed.
Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair at Twenty minutes after .
Major MOLSON: I wish to apologise to the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin), to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House. I am afraid that I allowed my feelings to get the better of myself, and I forgot myself.
Mr. Devlin accepted the apology and assured Major Molson that in this or in any matters affecting him in the House he had not the slightest personal feeling. But he protested that the hon. Members were taking out of the Speaker’s hand the question of order in relation to supplementary questions. He again put his question as to what had happened at the football match. Then followed the further official pronouncement with a sharp exchange of comments:
authorities had reason to believe that Sinn Fein gunmen came into
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Is that the total casualty list?
Sir H. GREENWOOD: Ten killed, a number wounded, and a man and woman crushed to death in the crowd.
Sir W. DAVISON: Does not the fact that thirty revolvers were found scattered over this football field impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the extreme urgency of getting hold of the arms as the crux of the whole question?
Sir W. DAVISON: Wherever they are. If the right hon. Gentleman has not power to do it by proclaiming martial law, should not legislation be introduced immediately to enable these arms to be taken?
Sir E. CARSON: You are a liar!
Mr. MACVEAGH: I presume, Mr. Speaker, that you heard the observation made by the right hon, Member for the Duncairn Division – “You are a liar!” [Hon. Members: “And the provocation given”].
Mr. SPEAKER: I did not hear it. I was speaking myself at the moment… It is not a Parliamentary expression and it should not be used in this House.
Throughout the Autumn Sitting the subject still came up again and again. On the 24th of November another Vote of Censure was moved upon the Government, this time by Mr. Asquith, in the following terms:
That this House condemns the outrages committed against the Forces of the Crown and civilians in Ireland, and expresses its deep abhorrence of the brutal assassination of His Majesty’s officers and other British subjects in Dublin on Sunday last; it deplores and condemn the action of the Executive in attempting to repress crime by methods of terrorism and reprisals which involve the lives and property of the innocent and are contrary to civilised usage; and it declares the urgency of taking immediate steps to bring about the pacification which is demanded in the interests of Ireland and the Empire.
Sir Hamar Greenwood admitted that
some of the Creameries which were connected with the movement in
We are succeeding. The Sinn Fein court has disappeared, except in back rooms, where it is held for the purpose of propaganda, especially in the American Press. The boycott is broken and its ugly sister, intimidation, is going.. I have been a party to the smashing of the hunger strike… The Irish Republican Army is being broken up, as I have quoted evidence to show.
Again Sir Hamar Greenwood
repudiated any official sanction of reprisals. Speaking for Labour, Mr. Clynes
asserted that since the crimes began in
An important personal feature of the debate was the “crossing” of Mr. Oswald Mosley. Parliamentarians of experience have witnessed this process before. As in the case of Mr. Winston Churchill and Major (now General) Seely, who sat on the Conservative side at the beginning of the century, and other less conspicuous men who had gone from time to time from one Party to another, the effort to maintain an independent attitude amongst his original Party, upon questions of vital difference followed the same process. It began with speeches, questions and other suggestions of a critical attitude. Then came the direct attack on certain definite points, with suggestions and hints from immediate neighbours to “go to the other side”. Finally the “cross over”.
The reception of Mr. Oswald Mosley’s first speech from the Opposition benches by his old colleagues was not quite so noisy as the demonstrations against Mr. Churchill’s first “Liberal” pronouncement. There were not many interjections, and the speech was comparatively brief. As Mr. Mosley proceeded with his passionate denunciation of reprisals the old Parliamentary device used on one occasion against Major Seely was adopted. By personal conversations carried on in audible tones the Conservatives tried to indicate an indifference to his opinions and murmured down his efforts at persuasive eloquence. The speech thus concluded:
It is because I am a passionate believer in the mission and in the destiny of the British Empire, however, much hon. Members may scoff at the conception, that I am willing to see sacrificed this tradition of ages of British rule, even to satisfy the transient purpose of his gambler’s effort, which the Government appears to think is the only solution of the Irish Question.
“Pearls before swine” observer Commander Kenworthy, which remark he was called upon by the Speaker to withdraw.
Another speech of strong personal
interest was delivered by Colonel Ward, the representative of the Navvies’
In the course of a vigorous
defence of the Officers and men in
Of all the heroic figures the world has ever seen I think the most heroic, the most chivalrous, the most honourable is the ordinary British Tommy.
Colonel Ward moved an amendment to Mr. Asquith’s motion to the following effect:
To leave out from the word “last” [“on Sunday last”] to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:
the military and police and other servants of the Crown for the courage and
devotion with which they are fulfilling their duty in
Mr. Asquith’s motion was defeated and this amendment carried.
Circumstances did not improve as
the year drew to a close. The Sinn Fein movement extended from
Mr. Lloyd George was, just at this time, entertained at the Constitutional Club, the first occasion on which such an invitation had been extended to or accepted by a Liberal Minister, and some people were inclined to draw the conclusion from this event that the fusion between the Conservatives and the Liberals in the Coalition was coming within the bounds of practical politics.
Early in December a Proclamation
was issued declaring Martial law in Cork County, Tipperary, Kerry, and
Limerick, demanding that by the 27th of December all arms and arms
held by unauthorised persons in these countries must be surrendered, the
penalty for infringement being death. Just at this time a party of the
authorised forces was ambushed in a lorry on the outskirts of
 The most significant political event of the new year was the
adoption by the Government of a policy of officially authorised reprisals in
Deeds of violence, however, grew worse and worse; there were more battles between the police and the Sinn Feiners and a curfew already in force was put into operation at eight in the evening. For a precedent in these islands historians went back to the days of the Norman occupation of England and their conflicts with the Saxon population of those times.[…]
The rumour that an Earl in
disguise was negotiating in
The story was not all fiction. It
may indeed be accepted that in order to explore the avenues of possible peace
An interesting appointment was
made to the highest office in
A mild sensation enlivened the
Rumours of an Irish truce, were,
indeed, fluttering in political circles like miniature kites – testing the
changing breezes. The two Sinn Fein leaders, easiest to find, because they
happened to be in prison, were Mr. John McNeill and Mr. Arthur Griffiths. An
intimation was supposed to reach them in some way that the Government might be
prepared to grant Dominion Home Rule, subject to safeguards about the Navy and
Army, but would have to be certain first that
At the beginning of June, General
Seely who had hitherto urged upon his fellow Liberals patience and
consideration for the officers on duty in
General Seely, who had served in
The progress of Irish
negotiations was slow but it proceeded stage by stage. General Smuts, the ever
present help in stress and trouble, went over to
Mr. Lloyd George had gone up to
Gaerloch in Inverness-shire for a holiday. In the Scottish highlands there were
“conversations” between the two other branches of the Celtic family. Mr. de
Valera contended that as
In October a conference was held
between Ministers representing the Government and Sinn Fein leaders as
representatives of the Irish people. The Pope telegraphed to the King his
satisfaction at the resumption of negotiations and prayed that an end would be
brought to the age-long dissention. The King in reply joined in the Pope’s
prayer that the conference might achieve a permanent settlement of the troubles
An indication of future trouble
with Mr. de Valera was provided by his telegram to the Pope denying that the
Colonel Gretton put down a motion
censuring the Government for entering into negotiations with delegates from
I am going to deal quite frankly with the House of Commons; it is no use unless you do so. If this Conference be broken off… the first thing that any Government would have to do would be to come to this House, and ask for a considerable expansion of the forces of the Crown… You have to surround and hunt down small elusive bands over a very considerable tract of territory, a good deal of it highly difficult, mountainous country and swampy country, with a population entirely in sympathy with your guerrillas.
If it is to be done, and if the people of this country are convinced that it must be done, it can be done and it will be done.
In that terrible hour, when someone standing at this Box has to ask the House of Commons to invite the country to make greater sacrifices, his conscience must be clear.
We shall examine every proposition, we shall seek every path which leads to an honourable peace. We want to be able, honestly and sincerely, to tell our countrymen if we fail that it has not been through our fault.
Mr. Asquith said twelve months ago some of them were bold enough to advocate Dominion self-government. “I think” he said “I myself was represented by the fertile and inventive rhetoric of the Prime Minister as being qualified to be the next inmate for political Bedlam.”
Now they were perfectly content to support the new Government policy by every means in their power.
The speeches of well known Conservatives made it clear that the general spirit of the House of Commons was in favour of exploring every possible avenue that might lead to peace. Colonel Gretton only took forty-three men into the lobby with him.
In the hours of
The first clause in the Articles of Agreement was to the following effect:
Ireland shall have the same constitutional status to the community of nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, with a Parliament having powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Ireland and an Executive responsible to that Parliament and shall be styled and known as The Irish Free State.
I, do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors, by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The question of the naval and
military forces was dealt with in special clauses, the first of which provided
that until an arrangement had been made between the British and Irish
Governments whereby the Irish Free State undertook her own coastal defence, the
defence by sea of great Britain and Ireland should be undertaken by His
Majesty’s Imperial Forces, but the Government of the Irish Free State might
construct and maintain such vessels as were necessary for the protection of the
revenue or the fisheries. The ports of
(a) In time of peace such Harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the annexe hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
(b) In time of war or of strained relations with a foreign power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
The annexe dealt with the special facilities in detail.
As to military forces, the Agreement was to the effect that with a view to securing the observance of the principle of international limitation of armaments, if the Government of the Irish Free State established and maintained a military defence force, these establishments should not exceed in size such proportion of the military establishment maintained in Great Britain as that which the population of Ireland bore to the population of Great Britain.
The ever present
A special Session of the British Parliament was summoned to receive the Articles of Agreement. The proceedings are thus announced in the official report:
PARLIAMENT SUMMONED BY ROYAL PROCLAMATION
The King being seated on the Throne, and the Commons being at the Bar with their Speaker, His Majesty was pleased to make a most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament and then retired.
His Majesty’s Speech was as follows:
MY LORDS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
I have summoned you to meet at this unusual time in order that the Articles of Agreement which have been signed by My Ministers and the Irish Delegation may be at once submitted for your approval.
No other business will be brought before you in the present Session.
It was with
heartfelt joy that I learnt of the Agreement reached after negotiations,
protracted for many months and affecting the welfare not only of
It is my earnest hope that by the Articles of Agreement now submitted to you the strife of centuries may be ended and that Ireland as a free partner in the Commonwealth of Nations forming the British Empire, will secure the fulfilment of her national ideals.
I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your labours.
The discussion of the Agreement by the House of Lords was preceded by a melancholy duty which by fateful coincidence marked the passing of an old Order. The Lord Chancellor referred to the death of Lord Halsbury[…] The business for which the House had assembled suggested that, although there might possibly be some Tories left, Lord Halsbury was, in all probability, the last of the Tories whose Toryism had force and effect. There is little doubt what his opinion would have been upon the Irish settlement – or any other settlement of that problem which departed one iota from the old Conservative conception of unyielding government from the centre.[…]
It was a day of coincidences. Viscount Morley moved the address in reply to the speech from the Throne. Lord Morley was associated with all the previous Home Rule Bills, and he recalled that on one occasion, when Home Rule happened to have received one of its many repulses, he ventured to observe to His Majesty the King “Well, Sir, do not let us be too sure that Your Majesty will not, some day perhaps, sooner or later, receive Home Rule proposals from Conservative Ministers”.
The Earl of Dunraven seconded the
Address. Here again the modesty of past attempts was eclipsed by the boldness
of present achievement. Lord Dunraven had incurred the criticism and indeed the
hostility of his Conservative colleagues in days of old for suggesting a policy
of “Devolution” as a possible solution of the Irish problem. Mr. George
Wyndham, one of the most popular figures in the public life of the earlier
years of the century, had been driven out of the Chief Secretaryship for
The speech from Lord (formerly
befitting that he should attend here at these splendid obsequies of the
Unionist party. I think he is a very proper person to pronounce a funeral
oration over all that has been said and done by that misguided party.. for the
last thirty-five years, dead and buried from to-day, with all this engineered
splendour to cover up the defeat and humiliation you have had in
milk-and-water Home Rule Bill was put upon the Statute Book… I was ordered to
walk out of the House of Commons with indignation – which I did. And now… I am
to have no indignation at the grant of what they are pleased to call Dominion
Home Rule to
Some forty-seven peers voted against the Treaty but 166 voted for it.
In the House of Commons there was another animated Debate. The Address was moved by Sir Samuel Hoare, a Conservative and seconded by Mr. George Barnes, a life long British Trade Unionist. The Prime Minister spoke with glowing hope of the future. Mr. Stanley Baldwin making, as he observed, his first speech of Irish affairs in the House of Commons, urged Members of all parties to go on with faith in the future. Mr. Asquith declared that this great international pact gave us clean hands and a clear conscience.
The Die-Hards in the Commons still put up a sturdy fight. Colonel Gretton moved an amendment to the Address, which practically proposed to reject the Agreement and he was supported by some other members.
Mr. Winston Churchill in one of his vivid speeches, recalling to old Parliamentarians his declaration on South African self-government, thus summed up the situation:
last two years the condition of
There was still a tremor of uncertainty. A word might decide the rank and file. That word was spoken by a tall, tired man from the corner seat of the Third Bench near the gangway.
Mr. Bonar Law, the ex-leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, had come back after an illness. In the seclusion of the sick room he had been able to take a detached view of those controversies in which he had played so prominent a part. In the House of Commons his word still counted. His influence was stronger in this moment of trial than when he was its official leader. As he rose to address the House a tense silence fell upon the Assembly. Speaking in a softened voice, he explained that the only reason why he had come there that afternoon was because he thought it would be almost cowardly in such circumstances not to express his opinion. Then he added in the same quiet tones:
Let me say at the outset that I am in favour of this Agreement.
Whatever doubt there might have been was now dispelled. If the Die-Hards had any hope of a majority, that hope had now departed. Incidentally, Mr. Bonar Law spoke in friendly terms of those old colleagues of his. The phrase “Die-Hards”, he said, was sometimes applied as a term of reproach. It was not regarded as such when it was applied for the first time to a regiment fighting in the Peninsula War.
The debate went on for some time, and in the end some fifty-eight members followed Colonel Gretton to the Lobby against the Agreement while over four hundred voted for it.
Thus concluded the momentous business
of “the fourth Session of the thirty-first Parliament of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and
 The task of 1922 in
As might have been expected there was a long and rough journey still before the leaders of the Irish people who had undertaken to mould the destinies of their country anew. There was trouble awaiting the new dispensation from the wild young men of the mountains.[…]
Civil war in
A grimmer tragedy was to follow.
Michael Collins, who had been closely associated with
Michael Collins was one of the
most remarkable men in the world’s history. There is no direct evidence as to
how far he was responsible for the guerrilla warfare during the time when the
Free State forces were in conflict with the British forces, but there is no
doubt that he was inspiring brain of the “Irish volunteers”. During 1920, he
was the most “wanted” man in
It was understood that he conducted private negotiations for an Irish settlement through the Australian Archbishop Clune and in July 1921, when the truce was proclaimed, he was foremost in the discussions which concluded the Treaty with the British Government. Having entered into the Treaty he devoted all his energies to a faithful fulfilment of the conditions.
When the Republicans made war
against the Treaty he assumed chief command of the Free State Forces. On
With the death of Arthur
Griffiths, and of Michael Collins, a figure hitherto unknown outside the Irish
movement came prominently to the fore. William Thomas Cosgrave was born in
One of the earliest measures of the new [British] Parliament was the Irish Free State Constitution Bill ratifying the Treaty. The Die-Hards made one last protest but the Conservative Government, with Mr. Bonar Law as Prime Minister, set the seal on the Agreement.
The formal assent was given on the 5th December, and on the 6th the King signed the Proclamation announcing the adoption of the Irish Free State Constitution.
To Members of Parliament and to a large number of the British and Irish public one of the interesting features of the new dispensation was the appointment of Mr. Timothy Healy who was sworn in as Governor General of the Free State. There was a popular story of the great Irish wit, Father Healy, who was said to have been asked “What will Mr. Tim Healy be in the Irish Home Rule Government?” To this the politician’s reverend name-sake is reported to have replied “An old man!” This story was often quoted as indicating the prospects of Home Rule – another example of the true word spoken in jest!
Mr. Tim Healy was 67 – not quite an old man, as the age of Statesmen is counted. He had lived to see Home Rule.
Mr. Cosgrave was re-elected President. The Parliament of Northern Ireland immediately voted itself out of the Free State under the provisions of the Constitution, and the ordinary public in Great Britain left their brethren in the sister isle to work out their own salvation.
 There were changes and innovations in the more serious
matters of national life. Mr. J. H. Thomas, who had become Colonial Secretary,
announced that the
people in both countries who continue to urge that demands for a Republic in