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OUR LONDON LETTER, Issue 15631, 23 October 1914
OUR LONDON LETTER
[By W. L. George.] 18th September, 1914. The Home Rule controversy has at last come to a comparative settlement, which ought, I suppose, to be looked upon an satisfactory, as both sides seem rather discontented with it. That was to bo expected after these three years of struggling for more or less illusory advantages, when a setlement is offered in a hurry in the midst of a European War. As I suggested in my last letter, a settlement in the shape of a bad Amending Bill would have been worse than none, and this much can be said for the Government: that it has done well not to exclude in a haphazard way certain sections of Ireland from the ecope of the Bill. It has preferred to pass tho Home Rule Bill into law at once, and to suspend it« operation for a period of not less than a year, which is to be extended by Order-m-Comicil until the end of the war. In addition, Mr Asquith has pledged himself to introduce a=i Amending Bill in the next session to exclude the Protestant sections of Ireland from Home Rule.
On the whole, this seems fair enough, though at fiibt sight it appears to place Unionists at a disadvantage. The Unionist, contention is that Mr Asquith pledged himself early :'n the summer not to piaee the Home Rule Bill on the Statute Book unless accompanied by an Amending Bill on the lines suggested above. To meet the difficulty Lord Lansdowne laid down a Bill in the House of Lords to suspend the Home Rule Bill sine die, and to extend the provisions of the Parliament Act. His intention wa« clear enough : to preserve for the Government the benefits it had gained by parsing the Bill three times and bringing it within the .scope of the Parliament Act. This, as you know, means that the Bill can be given the Royal Assent without the consent of the Ho'uee of Lords. lord Lansdowne's proposal was perfectly fair, but the difficulties of sheer proceduie which involve usages as to the prorogation of the House, rhe continuity of cessions, the General Election (which must under the law take place before the end of next year), made it almost impossible to frame an adequate Bill. Besides, the Home Rule question cannot indefinitely be allowed to hang in the air. Thirty years of suspense, endins in four years of active debate, should realiv make an end of the trouble. Given the relations between the Liberals and the Irish party, it seems that Mr A.fqmth is compelled to pass the Home Rule Bill, and it is really an act of grace that, he should promise another Amending Bill,, given the treatment that has been afforded the Amending Bill he offered the Opposition three months ago. In that Bill he was willing to exclude any Ulster county that voted" itself out. That was a veryfair proposal, and the reply of the House of Lords was to ask for the "clean cut of the whole of Ulster, which has a population of seven Catholics out of every sixteen men. Well, there really are limits We have had a great deal of talk about the, iniquity of the Government s forcing Mr Redmond's will upon a reluctant minority, but even if we ignore the fact that Mr Asquith was willing to exclude, wherever possible, the minorities that wanted to be excluded from Mr Redmond's power, we must still apefi that in the end minorities must suffer. Ihe Liberal .coalition has w majesty « «, even if we knock out the Irish it still has a majority of 11: that majority is not for nothing, and there is many a Government in Australia and New Zealand that has carried on its business with a smaller one In these circumstances, as the offer has been refused, I think Mr Asquith is bein« generous in promising any concession °at all, and adhere to my old position that if he has sinned at all, it has not been bv brutality, but by weakness. The most elementary theory of government gave him the right to incorporate Ulster by force. If, however, the Government has decided not to say with Lord Mliner: " the consequences!" it has probably been for the following good rca.-on. As soon as the war broke out. a truce was called, and volunteers for the Army were appealed for by Lord Kitchener. Ireland was evidently a much better , field tnan England just then, because there were perhaps 200,000 men, Ulster or Nationalist volunteers, who had received a certain amount of military training, ami would therefore make good stuff for the new force. The recruiting among the Ulstermen was good, but among the Nationalists it was bad, worse than at ordinary times. That was evidently because the Nationalists were anxious about Home Rule, and, in a general way, felt injured. That had to be settled, for Irishmen enlist in much larger proportions than Englishmen, in certain districts as much as 40 per cent. It was necessary to reassure them, and that is to a certain extent, I believe, why Home Rule has been passed into law. What form the Amending Bill will take next year nobody can tell, but it seems hardly likely that, the Unionists will get much more than they would have got three mouths ago without so much bitterness and s.o much agitation. I should .say that Mr Asquith intends to apply the 'same suspending treatment to the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and that an Amending Bill, to mitigate the disendowment clause, will also bo introduced in the next session. * * * * * * * An interesting suggestion was made by Mr Bonar Law in the bitter speech he delivered against Mr A«quith"s proposal, lie suggested that, if Home Rule was to be adjourned until after the war. in view ot the heroic loyalty of the Dominions we might settle the 'whole .Irish question by Imperial federation. We have heard ot that sort, of tiling before, and nothing is more pleasant in theory, but 1 hardly believe that it can lie carried out. The interests of the various parts of the Empire are too varied and divergent to make federation workable: certainly an Imperial Army and Navy are as alile as Imperial diplomacy : but questions of trade and industry create already so much trouble inside the Dominions where the faimers clamor for Freetrade and the voung manufacturers for Protection, that if we had to conciliate in one room the monetary rivalries of New Zealand, Great Britain. "Canada, and the iesl, we bhould end only in confusion and bitterness. Personally. 1 feel that federation, ot which
v.-e have heard a good deal during the last two or three years, has been slnin and buried in the fast six weeks by the attitude 0/ the Dominions in the European War. If you had been sulky and said more or less " Thus is a British war, not a New Zealand war, and we'll have no hand in it," there might have been good reason to induce the Dominions to tighten up their links, and a little persuasion—shall wo say financial pressure?—would perhaps have been applied in time from London : this would have had bad results, created Utterne-t*, and paved the way for separation, as in the ease- of Great Britain's American establishments .in 1776. But thic did not happen. New Zealand is offering for service more men in relation lu its population than Great Britain herself: Canada, though not endowed with a <onscript system, is'doing almost as well: while the navies of ail the Dominions hav« been oifered to Great Britain to be used anywhere. And if we add to this picture the gifts of corn, oats, meat, that have been offered the Mother Country, 1 think there is good cause for saying that we nef-d no Yio.-er link? ; that an Empire, standing like this, four square, in time* of emergency, does not want iU loyalty
hampered by agreements. It has come out in a spontaneous way, infinitely more effective than a legal way, because generosity does more than agreements ever oan do. I hesitate to prophesy, but somehow I doubt that, we shall ever hear anything Ipositive again about (federation. The English are sensible, and now that thov have seen that we have federation in "fact I can hardly credit that they will ticubic about its outer forms. * * # # * * '■■ # I am not giving you any war new* or forecasts, because the news would be stale in a month, while the forecasts might injure my reputation. But there are diplomatic movements, slower in their action, which are worthy of record. Italy still remains the X of the international i=3tuation, for her intervention at this stage might compass the downfall of Germany or seriously interfere with the chances of the Allies. If she were to attack France in the south-east, 1 do not suppose the effects would bo crushing ; but we should certainly be in for an extra three or four months of war. If, on the other hand, she were to march through Tyrol inUi Germany. I believe it would be the last straw for the Hohenzollerns. People here are blaming Italy a little unfairly for not taking the latter course, but the position of that State is most difficult. Here iis a Power which i'or of) years has formed a part <>'' , '<■• Triple Alliance. Injured as it . ■ by not having been taken into th ..lklence of its Allies, it is still their ally, and if it does not stand by their side" it is surely a little too much to ask that it should intervene airainst them. There are very good reasons why Italy should attack Austria—sordid reasons, j mean—for in international, politics those are the best, and there- are very pood sordid reasons, too, why she should not. If Italy does not step in, hut keep*- ready her good modern army uf 800,000 m-j>i until after the war. she may play the vale of the country that has amiably been nicknamed klepto-R-uniania when the day for the treaty comes. That is to say, when everybody else is exhausted and ruined Italy will be the onlv Great Power that is in perfect condition. She may then, conceivably, help herself to Trieste and the Trentino without firing a shot, these areas being due to her as the price of her neutrality. That is exactly what Rumania did after the Balkan Wtr, when the Balkan States, after a year of hard fighting, had nobody to put up against her fresh troops. If that is Italy's plan, 1 do not think she should be blamed, for, after all, nations do not go to war for fun, but for profits. They never get them, even if they win; but that is another and a Xonuan* Angell story, into which I will not enter, for fear of becoming unpopular among your patriotic readers. Possibly the attitude of Italy is dependent upon that of Bulgaria, Rumania, and Greece, who are said to have made an agreement against Turkey. The latter seems to be Germany's only friend—as if, indeed, the Hohenzollerns had established with Abdul Hamid, the " bloody Sultan," a bond of amity. This, of course, means that Turkey goes in the st-uggle chances of recovering a lost province or two. This __ the Balkan States will not allow, and they are probably inclined to take from Turkey nnw what they had to leave her last year, and that is where Italy comes in. Italy, no more than Austria, wishes to see Greece extending into Albania and closing up the Adriatic- ' Ihc-m , has -been ■ao diplomats sparring so fat, but 1 should not he. at al! surprised if ItaJy stood out of this struggle for that, qu.te subsidiary reason that she considers her role in the struggle as being to keep the Balkans quiet. If that is so, wu owe Italy apologies, for. as everybody kno.vs, in the Balkans, more than anywhere else in the world, a policeman's life i.s not a happy one. * * *- * * * * I am glad to report that the condition of unemployment in England after sis weeks' war "is not too bad. That is to sav, taking trade union figures, that unemployment is only 50 per cent, higher than in the ordinary August.. That is, of course, serious, but it might have been very much woise. As we are not a conscript country, none cave a small proportion of men are under arms, so that, relatively to foreign countries, we are handicapped. I fully expected a month ago that the consequences would lie much more serious, but a splendid campaign has been w aired by the Press It show people that it wouJd hi- ridiculous to alter their way of living so .long as our trade toutes were open"and profits continued much as they were. After a few weeks of hesitation people who found their banking accounts .swelling ha-vo once more begun to spend mor.ey as they did Of toury, there is still a little uncertainty, and inquiries I tiave personal!} made among tradesmen show that- business is not very good ; but, on the other hand, it is just about enough to keep them going, and that is a great deal when we consider that in Paris and Berlin there are whole streets of shops closed. Th<- effort has indeed been so energetic that- little by littl-- we have reopened a full half of our theatres. They are not doing very good business, because a number of |*opie are being conventional and silly, and sa-yii.tt "they haven't the lieart lc"g<> i" the theatre when they think of the dreadful things that aiv happening ;it the fiont" : but. it has lieen repro-«>nK-d to them that if they do not go to the theatre there, ate hundtv.-ds ..<f thousands <>f people here connected with the am:> -nu'iit trade to whom dreadful things will happen too—namely, starvation. This has. had a very good effect. So LunJon, crowded with refugee.:-., to-day offers a curious pica-ure of a fairly bright and busy eitv, which is getting accustomed to the •excitement of war, is not unduly chastered by the terrible tales of tignting and pillage. which come from !!:<• sern < f war. It may s.und unfeeling, but it really r- l>;st so. for we h;tve troubh on<>iir/h ;ib; -ad without creating some hkhv her" by dis-lora-timr our trade and generally making ourselves uracil more miserable liiau we i need. I
OUR LONDON LETTER, Issue 15631, 23 October 1914
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