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THE situation in Ireland occupies the largest share of attention
T of the students of European politics. The Land League, instead of dying out after a temporary flare of agitation, as its enemies hoped and its friends feared, has grown in power until it has the control of the country in its hands. When Mr. Parnell came to America, it had but thirty branches, and those weakly sustained. Now it has over five hundred strong and active branches. It carries with it the great majority of the people; and the minority who disapprove are forced to acquiesce in its doings, and even to seek protection in its membership. Ulster, the stronghold of Anti-Irish feeling in Ireland, is now invaded by its emissaries, and the Northern tenantry are finding that their interests are substantially the same with those of the tenants of the South and West, and are breaking the tyranny of the Orange Order and of the landlords who control it. In every part of the island, except the three North Eastern counties, the League will soon be supreme, and the unpaid magistracy, equally with the constabulary, have proved unable to cope with the violence of the agitation. In fact, the local administration of government has broken down in Ireland, because, like everything else provided by the English conquerors, it
has been made after the English model. In attempting to create a landed aristocracy in Ireland, the English invested them with the duties of committing magistrates. The justices of the peace, scattered all over the island, are country gentlemen, and successful tradesmen who have risen to the dignity of a place in the commission of the peace. They represent but one class and but one interest—as they are for the most part Protestant landlords. Even before the present disturbances, it was found necessary to deprive them of the powers vested in Englishmen of the same class, and their Courts of Quarter Sessions were each furnished with a stipendiary magistrate, under the name of assistant-barrister, who has all the legal authority which is vested in the court. This change was absolutely demanded by the consideration that these justices were, as a rule, violent partisans, and that they could not be trusted with cases where class prejudices were concerned. But the change has not tended to increase their authority over the mass of the people. It was a mistake to deprive them of the dignity of real magistrates and yet to leave upon them the responsibility of preserving the public peace in times of great excitement. Equally prejudicial to their authority has been the habit of suspending the ordinary modes of legal procedure whenever the strain has proven greater than usual. Taken altogether, the unpaid magistracy has been the most miserable of Irish failures, and whatever changes be made in the Land Laws, a new system for the administration of justice must be introduced. That in force in India would be the best model to follow, and the Irish people would gain greatly by having those local magistrates superseded by such judges as Cromwell, to their great disgust, gave the Scotch—“kinless loons, intent on nothing but bare, indifferent fair play."
Mr. GLADSTONE and his associates have shown great moral courage in refusing to adopt a policy of coercion towards Ireland. Coercion could do no more than allow of arbitrary arrests, and the retention in prison of men who had a legal right to their liberty. It might help to strike down a few of the prominent leaders, but it would only exasperate the people. Were every Irish prison full of Leaguers, there still would be no cessation of the agitation, while the injustice of irresponsible imprisonment would be calculated to inflame the popular passions. English law, since the agitation in regard to Trades Unions modified it, accepts the principle that it is not a crime to conspire to do any act not in itselt criminal. Now the purposes of the Land League are, in themselves, all legitimate. Intimidation by threats of violence is not one of these purposes, and if it has been employed in some cases, it has also been disowned and repudiated by the leaders. It is lawful to refuse to have dealings with a person whose conduct gives you moral offence. It is equally lawful to point him out to others as an object of moral reprobation, under the restraints imposed by the law of libel; and it is equally lawful to associate for this purpose. This has been the means avowedly adopted and successfully employed by the Land League; and that it has been successful in the face of a garrison of 30,000 soldiers, shows how great is the tension of Irish opinion. In no other country of Christendom could any class have been sent to Coventry so effectually as have the Landlords and other agents in Ireland. This furnishes a comment upon the English government of “the sister island,” to which the whole world is giving attention.
Some nervous people are anxious lest the Land League should have as an ulterior object a civil war for Irish independence. They see behind Mr. Parnell and Mr. Davitt the warlike forms of O'Donovan Rossa and the Fenians. There is no ground for any such fear. It is true that the hopes which inspired the Fenian movement have never been abandoned. It is true that great bodies of Irishmen are still waiting a chance to strike for Irish independence. But it is also true that they would deprecate nothing more strongly than an uprising of the Irish people at the present time. We have reason to believe that they have made very recently an urgent appeal to the Irish people, and especially to the Land League, to abstain from any acts of violence which might justify the appeal to military force on the part of their enemies. They desire nothing so much as that the Land League should rest its case upon the moral forces at its disposal, and work on just the lines laid down in its own programme. They have not the faith of the League as to the sufficiency of the reforms it demands; but they would not like to see those imperilled by a mad and useless uprising, which could only lead to a wholesale slaughter of the people.
In one sense the Nationalist party is behind the Land League. If the coming Land Reform be of the sort Mr. Parnell hopes for, if an Irish peasant proprietorship is to take the place of a landlord proprietorship, England will have lost a great hold upon Ireland. She will have reduced the garrison by the withdrawal of its most effectual members, and will have taught the Irish people the power there is in united action. And then, when the great crash comes in European politics, and England is as much embarrassed as in 1776-83, an independent Irish parliament in Dublin will be the least of Ireland's demands.
What measures of Reform Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues mean to prepare has been foreshadowed by the Liberal papers in England. They speak of the three F's—fixity of tenure, free sale of tenant rights, and fair compensation for unexhausted improvements. These would tend very greatly to improve the character of the Irish tenants. They would put a stop to the rack-rent system. They would legalize Ulster tenant-right throughout the whole island. But they are not sufficient for the purpose in view. They will not put a stop to the League and its agitations. The suggestion offered by Chief Justice James, that the government buy out those landlords who are unwilling to accept the new terms, would go a step further in the right direction. That we may hope for. But even Mr. Gladstone could not hope to carry through the Peers a law to put all Irish lands on the footings of the glebe lands of the Irish Church, and to enable the present tenants to buy them by extending them the aid of government credit. But nothing less than this will meet the case.
The sight of a minister of religion shut up in prison as a criminal, for refusing to perform a church service in a particular way, is one which goes far to encourage Americans to maintain the legal separation of Church and State. It is quite true that Messrs. Dale and Enraght are justly punished for violation of the law of the land; but that any particular celebration of public worship should be enforced by legal penalties, and that such matters should come within the scope of the law, is the point which is offensive to all right feeling. Certainly nothing could be farther than this from the ideal of Christianity furnished by the Gospels. It is there assumed that
all such matters belong to the free sphere of conscience and instinctive sense of right; and that any appeal to the penalties of the law with regard to them is quite out of place. Imagine Jesus of Nazareth looking on while one of his disciples took another by the throat and thrust him into prison, lest the simplicity and purity of the Gospel should suffer by his being at liberty! In fine, all such Church establishments as those of England rest upon the unwarranted extension of the sphere of law into regions where it can have no rightful activity.
Dr. Lidden defends his Ritualist brethren on the ground that they cannot recognize the authority of the existing ecclesiastical courts, which are composed of laymen only. He thinks that if a court composed of bishops were given the jurisdiction over such cases the result would be different. But the law to create such a court, and to select the particular bishops, would have to pass a lay parliament, and the bishops on its bench would be clothed with no authority they do not now possess, except as delegated to them by laymen. The bishops and the Parliament have both pronounced against Ritualism, with no effect upon the resistants. What possible combination of Parliament and bishops would command their submission ? The truth is that their notions of ecclesiastical independence are not consistent with the idea of an established church. The Scottish Kirk came nearest to it when it claimed for the General Assembly and subordinate courts an independent position as regards the State, and an authority derived directly from God. But no modern State will tolerate any such claim in. an endowed and privileged church.
The death of George Eliot is to be reckoned among the calamities of the year. Since her recent marriage she spent much of her time in Venice, and there was some hope that she might have in preparation a companion work to Romola,--a picture equally careful, vivid, and true of life in the rival Italian city, to set beside that she had drawn of Florence. So long as she lived there was always before us a chance of a new and great delight in a new book from her pen. She added to the wealth and color of human existence, and subtracted from its monotony, by the artistic worth of her creations. But now we know just how much her name is to stand for, and what are the bounds of her achievement.