Ireland and the Outside World

“To a greater extent or less the wide dispersal of Irishmen within the imperial boundaries makes the Irish question both an imperial and a local problem.”


Last autumn at Ennis, a little gray town in troubled and troublesome County Clare, I inquired of a gentlemanly old loafer as to the large public building opposite us. ‘’T is the Court House, sor, and the Asylum is just half a mile further.’ Such an unconsciously abundant answer might serve as a warning or as a text for any foreign student of Irish conditions, with the added comment that to place Bedlam conveniently near the seat of authority showed an official forethought unusual in Irish affairs.

Unfortunately for us, these affairs are no longer confined to Ireland; and of late, Ulster, as well as Sinn Fein, has been bringing home to us the din of that distressed country. Yet there is good reason even for this unwelcome campaigning, for in modern history Irish politics have rarely been purely insular in character. The isolation of Ireland ended in the sixteenth century, when the Atlantic ceased to be the mysterious western barrier of Europe and became a common maritime highway to the ends of the world. It is, therefore, only natural that the internal condition of Ireland should have been a considerable element in international rivalry and colonial expansion.

Yet the Irish are scarcely a race of sailors. The ancient domestic life of Ireland lay for the most part secluded behind the hills and highlands which rise from the coast to encircle the great central plain, the heart of the island. Even the estuaries and harbors and the sharply indented coast have been convenient chiefly to the foreigner, whether merchant or raider. Belfast is not a natural harbor, and its importance as a manufacturing and commercial centre is largely due to exotic origin, and its loyalty is not local.

In the rest of Ireland, to the south and west, these foreign elements are older if less concentrated. Among them has stood first of all the penetrating authority of the Catholic Church, which crosses all boundaries as an international force and institution second to none. The recent agricultural prosperity of the greater part of Ireland is due in part to food-conditions in a world torn by wars remote from Irish life. And countering appeals as to the political fortunes and economic future of Ireland cross the oceans to-day chiefly because there are so many of Irish descent or birth who are citizens of other countries and dominions.

In the face of such conditions rises Sinn Fein, — ‘Ourselves Alone,’ — a spirit and an organization domestic, national, and intensive in character. Yet the birth of Sinn Fein, and even the early pain of Ireland in that travail, are quick to touch politics and peoples the world around. It is another fateful Irish paradox. Indeed, the external importance of Ireland, its foreign relations and connections, may well be one reason for the defeat of the ingested and local ambitions of Sinn Fein.

For Englishmen there is, first, the sad historical fact that a restless, unhappy Ireland has been a menace to Great Britain for centuries past. At every crisis, in all the great wars of modern English history, the enemies of England have tried to make use of Ireland. In the Spanish wars of the sixteenth century, when the Great Armada was preparing to end the liberties and national life of Protestant England, Spanish aid to rebellious Ireland was a part of the immense campaign by land and sea. In the various stages of the struggle for constitutional government in England during the seventeenth century, it was the misfortune of Ireland to suffer from the ferocious temper those struggles provoked, and to beget the tradition that Ireland was a danger to the natural and national liberties of England. In the long Anglo-French rivalries which ended only at Waterloo, England’s misgovernment of Ireland, and French policy, aligned thousands of Irishmen in sympathy with France.

The American and French Revolutions brought Ireland to the front in British domestic politics. And only yesterday, in the struggle against the Central Powers, Ireland threatened to become the Achilles’ heel of the British Empire, a base for German intrigue and attack on the Allied cause. In 1916, while the French held at Verdun, Sinn Fein leaders struck at Dublin in a fashion to aid and comfort the men who sank the Lusitania. Even to-day it is not difficult to find strong Sinn Fein supporters in America who were also original apologists for Germany in the war.


With such memories, and in view of actual conditions of naval and military safety, the future of Ireland is a prime consideration to the national defense of Great Britain. At present, Ireland is both a liability and an asset. During the latter part of the recent war, the greater part of Ireland was held in quasi-order by something like 100,000 British troops. To-day areas of military control are constantly shifting, and men armed as for the trenches are the companions of daily life. Political murder, by alleged supporters of Sinn Fein, has thriven in this atmosphere of distrust and devilment; and advocates of coercion and ruthless action gain support from the highest authorities.

Of the naval side the Admiralty well knows the dreadful responsibilities laid on the Irish patrol because of the state of Ireland and the physical opportunities for enemy submarines in Irish waters. It is not necessary to believe all the stories of mysterious landings and of secret bases used by German commanders during the war. But the fact remains that Irish waters were enemy waters during the greater part at least of 1917, and that when we went into the war the Allies practically did not enjoy the command of the sea.

With the lesson of these recent events in mind, the existence of a potentially rebellious Ireland is to England a naval menace of the first order. Certainly prior to the outbreak of war, in 1914, Germans viewed with approval the supply of arms both to the followers of Sir Edward Carson and to the National Volunteers of the South. Purely on grounds of national defense and economy, the argument for a satisfactory Irish settlement is tremendous. Indeed, it is probable that only by the air could the Irish danger be met quickly and adequately. The distance from English aerodomes are easily covered by bombing planes. But the areas to be covered, the configuration of the country-side, and the lack of great strategical centres to be affected by attack from the air would present special difficulties even in an air campaign.

Nevertheless, the danger to England of an independent Ireland, whether neutral or belligerent, is even greater. As a neutral in another war, Ireland would again be a hotbed of enemy intrigue and propaganda. If Spain could offer occasional aid for enemy naval operations in the recent war, certainly Irish estuaries would offer peculiar opportunities in another war against England. Indeed, a neutral Sinn Fein republic would be almost unthinkable. Without the opportunity or means of self-protection, with a population possibly affected by ancient hatreds, an Irish republic would probably be swept into the vortex of any future naval war unless it were completely protected by the British Navy. As a whole, therefore, an independent Ireland seems an impossible thought from the point of view of British safety.

Yet there are three hypotheses which might give such a result. In the first place, if a war against the United States and the British Empire on the one side by a coalition of European and Asiatic powers, to which Japan would be an indispensable party, should result in an overwhelming victory for the enemy, it is conceivable that, for a short time, an independent Ireland might emerge from such a catastrophe.

A second hypothesis with like result would require a successful war, whether military or economic, in behalf of Ireland, by the United States against the British Empire and its allies, perhaps including both Japan and France. In such an event, we should, of course, become the guarantor and protector of Ireland in her new-found liberty against an England less than seventy miles distant from the Irish coast.

A third hypothesis would be a successful war based on the disruption of the British Empire by the revolt of Canada, Australia, and South Africa, aided by the United States Navy, charged with the command of all the seas.

There are of course other equally unlikely and costly hypothetical combinations to the same end. But these are, in cold blood, the three chief ways by which our vociferating hyphenates in America, in spite of the opposition of a large section of native Irishmen, might win by military and economic force their heart’s desire—an independent Sinn Fein republic. Does not this seem like a reduction ad absurdum?

But what of American interest in such an event? God placed Ireland where she is, and with varied effect the first element in her tempestuous history is her geographical position. The Atlantic is broad; but man has narrowed it, and ocean highways of the world go past Irish shores. Only recently these facts have been of peculiar interest to us because of the admirable operations of our naval forces in these waters. Of course, in 1917 there were amiable mandarins in Washington and elsewhere who thought we could go to war without fighting; but from the afternoon of April 6, and even before that day, there were also men who understood that Ireland must be one of the first places from which we must fight Germany. That is why our destroyers went first to Irish waters to defend our shores. There they guarded the long lines of communication which led from the wheatfields of the West, from the ore-docks of Lake Superior, from all the industrial centres of the Mississippi Valley and the Atlantic seaboard, and from the gateway of the Panama Canal, to the support of our far-flung frontier of American civilization. In that way Ireland became, in spite of the enemy and of small groups of Irish traitors, an outpost of our liberties.

The fact that Ireland was under the protection of our fellow belligerent made this possible. That war is now part of history, but from the point of view of self-interest and self-protection, America has a strategical concern in the condition of Ireland second only to Great Britain’s. In peace as in war Ireland lies almost athwart our main channels of trade with the greater part of Europe. If we should ever have to oppose the other English-speaking peoples, Ireland and Canada would probably be our main regions of activity. But such a possibility is almost inconceivable. On the other hand, if we were to be engaged in a struggle with a continental power, whether European or Asiatic, the state of Ireland would be a direct consideration. And an independent Ireland, weak and comparatively defenseless, open to hostile intrigue and propaganda, would be a potential menace to our safety. At least for these reasons we have an interest, clearly national, in the Irish question, which the British do not always appreciate.

But the day of national wars may have passed. We may find the mobilization of our forces needed only as we play a part in an international crusade against some common enemy of world-wide peace. In that event, our interest would dictate a stable Ireland which could be protected and which would not be an additional peril. Do those Sinn Fein leaders who so eagerly oppose the League of Nations or similar international guaranties of peace reckon fully the elements on which they call? I remember a recent conversation in Ireland with an eminent and delightful Irish Catholic prelate, who, with a group of a dozen clergy of his church declared his opposition to the ratification of the Peace Treaty by America unless and until Ireland should become an independent republic. To him in natural fashion the peace of the rest of the world, even the defeat of Germany, seemed of small account compared to his desire. One could sympathize with his sincerity, yet deplore his limited view. For, either the world was to remain a vast armed camp with civilization in chaos, or a new struggle must ensue, which would leave the British Empire in pieces and beat Great Britain to the ground, in order to force a conclusion, which would in any case be bitterly opposed by more than a million Irishmen themselves. Furthermore, in America the very forces, whether partisan or not, which have opposed the League of Nations and delayed the ratification of the Peace Treaty by the Senate are largely indifferent to European conditions and advocate non-intervention by America in foreign questions. What practical and effective aid, therefore, can Sinn Fein expect from parties whose principles are the negation of her hopes for assistance.

A further national interest for America in the campaign which the Irish situation has let loose on this side of the Atlantic is also shared by the great dominions of the British Empire. In all of these there are considerable populations of Irish race and sympathies, but the local problems of nationality in these dominions have slowly been gaining satisfactory answers. Within the British Empire each has secured self-government and practically national consciousness, combined with imperial loyalty. In South Africa, in spite of racial divisions, recent war, and ill-judged rebellion, liberty has found security for both Boer and Briton, and the native black is no longer a mere pawn in the white man’s ruthless expansion. In Canada, Protestant and Catholic agree to differ and remain more or less content under a common flag. New Zealand and Australia each has won to unity under a different form of self-government, and has faced successfully the domestic dangers of radical experiment. But, in common with Newfoundland, all these great centres of separate life, so varied and so distant, are still vital, loyal parts of the Empire.

Yet to a greater extent or less the wide dispersal of Irishmen within the imperial boundaries makes the Irish question both an imperial and a local problem. The experiences of the war and pressing domestic problems may have obscured temporarily the Irish issue for Canadians. But in Australia it has emerged again in a way to affect recent and internal matters. Already the appeal to the United Kingdom to settle the Irish question is voiced by Australians who dread the full development of an Irish partisan organization which may influence Australian politics and elections on issues remote from the Commonwealth. They naturally oppose the injection of ancient and old-world antagonisms into the new and vigorous political life of the Antipodes. To a less extent, the situation may develop along similar lines in other parts of the Empire.

As compared with these smaller experiences, our own Irish problem in America becomes more serious in this year of controversy and political turmoil. We know to our cost that in our ‘melting-pot’ all the elements have not melted. The issue of the hyphenates and of true Americanism is still with us. Already Sinn Fein has seized on the situation: its adherents in this country have used propaganda to the limits of the Constitution, if not beyond. And there is danger that a particular solution of a question subject to a foreign sovereignty may become a test for candidates in an American political campaign. The temptation to our astute and unscrupulous political managers will be great. American interests are at least indirectly involved in the settlement of the Irish controversy. But it would be presumptuous and impertinent for Americans to meddle in the internal politics of the United Kingdom and of the British Empire. The United States government has not interfered directly or in constitutional fashion in Irish matters, and sensible men of whatever breed or party hope she will not do so. Yet the happy presence in our population of over fifteen millions of people of Irish descent or birth gives us inevitably a natural concern in the situation. The fact that friendly coöperation between the United States and the British Empire is now the best guaranty of world peace, which is also an American interest, adds importance to any threatened interference with that relationship. We may, therefore, be justified in crying a plague on all your houses to those who fail to provide, accept, and administer a justifiable plan for Ireland. What that particular plan or solution is to be may not be an immediate American concern. But we cannot be indifferent to the present situation, whether that is due to the delays or mistakes of the British government, to the obstinacy of Ulster, or to the extravagance of Sinn Fein. Those Englishmen and Irishmen who are aware of the facts are alive to this menace to Anglo-American accord. A few of them and certain extreme elements in the United States undoubtedly rejoice at the possibility.

In this whole situation the tradition and memory of heartrending distress in Ireland have a bearing. Poverty and misery still exist. Dublin slums continue notorious, the housing problem is acute, some branches of labor are under-paid, and in bleak and barren western counties the peasant lives a hard life in spite of governmental assistance. Communications of all sorts are poor, natural resources have not been adequately developed, better agricultural equipment is needed, and Ireland is overtaxed. These are legacies of the ancient régime. But by way of contrast Ireland is relatively more prosperous than in 1914 or, in fact, than ever before. The tale of a starving, prostrate, and poverty-stricken country is no longer true. Indeed, increase in material prosperity and the intellectual ferment of a new age are partially responsible for renewed political unrest. Similar conditions existed in France just prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution. People are now asking why they have not been better off before, and the more progressive are looking for further opportunities for less restricted prosperity. But increasing agriculture and industry do not necessarily hide political and administrative anomalies, or lessen the distrust of the British government felt by the majority of Irishmen. So it is a serious mistake to allow the undoubted facts of Irish economic improvement to obscure the broader and more social causes of Irish discontent.


‘Man does not live by bread alone’; in any case he does not eat it by himself. In Ireland particularly we must reckon on forces which are not purely material, and which connect the domestic aspects of her life with the conditions of her external trade and with her economic relationship to the outside world. Thus during the eighteenth century prostrating burdens and restrictions were laid on Irish industry at the demand of jealous British competitors. Lack of transportation, the agricultural self-sufficiency of England, and all the evils of landlordism combined to hamper Irish export trade. The final development of free trade between Ireland and Britain, and the establishment of Grattan’s Parliament in 1782, grew directly from political conditions at the time of our own War of Independence.

The economic opportunity thus given to Ireland was, however, tardy; for new industrial conditions were soon to place Irish manufactures at a peculiar disadvantage. The development in England of the factory system, the concentration of industry in coal and iron districts, and the vast changes due to capitalism as a part of the industrial revolution, left Irish manufactures under a heavy handicap. The new industrial world went on without her during the first half of the nineteenth century. She lacked capital; she had no iron and produced no fuel for industrial purposes. She raised no cotton; her woollen trade had been killed by English laws a century earlier; and her manufacture of linen was still limited by the ancient system of cottage labor and domestic economy. Labor she had in abundance, for her depopulation was just beginning.

Yet the vast changes which were then taking place in Great Britain could have given Ireland a new chance for wealth. For in England agriculture was fast becoming totally inadequate to supply the demands for food made by the constantly increasing population of her industrial centres. The agricultural development of Ireland would, therefore, have been a great aid to England. Almost at her shores was a potential supply of food, which under early and sufficient stimulus would have been a godsend to Great Britain during the recent war. Even in belated and inadequate fashion Irish food was of value to England, and is to-day the chief source of Irish prosperity. And this despite the long years of neglect and dissipation of resources. Except for sugar, tea, and coffee Ireland is practically self-supporting, and her natural market lies at her doors. During the last five-and-twenty years rapid attempts have been made to remedy the iniquities and stupidities of earlier generations.

The way is open to maintain and increase this natural prosperity by giving Ireland a better opportunity to produce food which England needs, and which she can buy without considering the fluctuations of foreign exchange. From an economic point of view this is not the time for the separation of Ireland from the British Empire but of closer coöperation between England and Ireland. For a prosperous Ireland is an asset to Great Britain, and she remains England’s largest trader, in this respect exceeding even America.

If this be true primarily of agricultural Ireland, the economic relations between the new industrial Ireland and England are even nearer. For during the past hundred years a special and significant economic connection has given new life to the political union which was based on historical ties of race and religion between Ulster and Great Britain. To-day the industrial life of northeastern Ireland, which centres about Belfast, is dependent on external sources of supply, not only for practically all raw materials, but for fuel and machinery as well. To-day a former president of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce says: ‘Shipbuilding and engineering, rope-making, tobacco manufacture, distilling, cotton printing and dyeing, the making-up trade, which includes ready-made clothing of various kinds, may all be regarded as exotic industries,’ for the maintenance of which Ulster is dependent chiefly on England. Even in the linen trade six sevenths of the flax has normally been grown outside of Ireland, though Irish enterprise is now trying to revive this form of agriculture and thus also to secure a healthier and more widespread distribution of this industry. Naturally financial and baking connections have contributed to strengthen the relationship with England. And the balance of parties at Westminster has given political importance to these links.

Under the circumstances great credit is due to the energy and ability of the men who, in spite of natural disadvantages, have won for Belfast her splendid industrial position by utilizing her nearness to the iron- and coal-fields of Great Britain, and have thus finally brought to Ireland the rapid development of the industrial revolution. But this growth has, of course, complicated the political situation to-day. To Britain Belfast is a national asset, and to Ulster the existence of the United Kingdom is a guaranty of her prosperity. ‘Big Business’ is on the side of the present political arrangement. Industrial Belfast looks with apprehension at the possibility of an Irish legislature at Dublin in which representatives of agricultural interests would be in the majority. To antagonisms based on religious differences and political tradition there has come the apparent separation of varied economic life. Yet for both the industrial northeast and for agricultural Ireland prosperity depends largely on the vitality of the economic relationship with Great Britain. That vitality does not rest solely on any artificial monopoly maintained by unscrupulous dictation or manipulation. Such limitations on the further prosperity of Ireland as at present exist are due chiefly to faulty administration by the British, to a short-sighted policy which does not appreciate the mutual value of further improvement and content in Ireland.


Sinn Fein has called for a ‘National Commission of Inquiry into the Resources and Industries of Ireland,’ and is asking for $10,000,000 in America to issue bonds of an ‘Irish Republic’ to aid economic conditions in Ireland. Unquestionably funds are needed to promote the industrial and agricultural revival. But to require political independence for that end is the height of folly. It will defeat its very purpose, for it will alienate the elements which are essential to the success of any broad programme of social improvement. That independence could be won only by a successful rebellion or by a great foreign war. The first is impossible, and the second, even if possible, would destroy the natural market for Irish produce, deprive industry of its supply of fuel and raw materials, and wreck the chief regions involved. On purely economic grounds independence thus won would bring about the ruin of Ireland. Sinn Fein, with its ideals of self-reliance, with its slogan of ‘Ourselves Alone,’ with its claim of ‘Ireland for the Irish,’ was originally an economic rather than a political movement. To-day its political organization and purposes are bedeviling even its limited economic conceptions.

Such political partisanship, with its venom of personal hatreds, rests heavy on the present condition and future prospects of Ireland. ‘Anglo-Irish history is for Englishmen to remember and for Irishmen to forget,’ if justice and wisdom and sympathy are to win the day; and undoubtedly the intelligent public opinion of the world is against the continuance of the present situation. This may seem incomprehensible and unfair to many Ulstermen; but one measure of their failure to understand the state of affairs is to be found in the recent solemn remark of an Ulster representative in America: ‘Great Britain gives us a paternal government especially adapted to our needs.’ The day has long gone by when even Ulster can endure a ‘paternal government,’ and to-day all Ireland suffers from the delays and expenses of a remote government from Westminster via Dublin Castle. Sir Edward Carson and his ‘Covenanters’ have set an example of defiance which does not fit with a picture of submission to paternalism, while the needs of all Ireland cry aloud.

Not least of these is the need of wider appreciation of the spiritual and idealistic qualities of Irish life, which mingle so mysteriously with the conservative and material elements of national character. Irish politics can, therefore, never be stripped of their human quality; the very limitations of rural life have given them a local importance beyond their due; and thus the political discontent of a residue of Irishmen in Ireland carries a poignant personal appeal to the race at large beyond the seven seas.

Here again, therefore, the external features of the Irish question crowd on domestic aspects. The experience of the race outside of Ireland has been that of local self-government under a central political control. Under such a system, whether in America or within the British Empire, the vast majority of Irishmen have found freedom and prosperity. Under such circumstances, it is small wonder that most of them should sympathize with the aims of local self-government in Ireland, and respond to the ideals of Irish nationalism. Any longer to deny or to delay such a settlement is to disregard the wishes of a majority of Irishmen under whatever flag. Such a state of affairs lays a responsibility, not only on the British government, but also on the warring factions in Ireland. Indeed, the continued sympathy of moderate Irish opinion throughout the world may well depend on the response which the silent, moderate majority in Ireland may make to sane compromise, and the prospect of economic progress and political peace. But the Irish question has been too long in the open to permit of its successful solution by methods of close bargaining and backstairs intrigue. For to-day ‘Irish discontent is a world force.’ The distrust of England felt in the greater part of Ireland is founded in history; it will take more than an act of Parliament to lessen it. Any settlement will need a ‘good press’; and the tradition of Irish life requires the grand gesture.

The dead hand of religious intolerance has also helped to delay any appropriate solution. This in turn has reacted unfavorably on the Catholic Church in Ireland. For the continued domestic controversy has tended to isolate the Irish clergy from general movements of religious and social policy directed and fostered by the Vatican. Indeed, it is open to serious doubt how far the Vatican is in sympathy with Sinn Fein. Only a few years ago the higher clergy were not encouraged to espouse the Nationalist cause, and in England they have supported the Unionist Party. In so far as Sinn Fein may be a radical, revolutionary body, assisted by secret societies which are under the clerical ban, the Vatican is naturally opposed to it. Yet the lower clergy, the parish priests, who are for the most part famers’ sons, trained and educated only in Ireland, are bound to keep in touch with the local interests and enthusiasms of their parishioners. As social disturbances and political crimes have followed in the wake of Sinn Fein agitation, the problem of the church has become more difficult. There have been brave denunciations, by higher clergy, of murders; but one cannot escape the strong impression that, whether for good or evil, the leadership previously enjoyed by the local priests is passing into lay hands. Certainly Ireland’s social problems are no longer profiting by clerical direction.

The case of Protestantism in Ulster is somewhat different. There the political tom-toms have been beaten vigorously by ecclesiastical leaders. The Grand Master of the Orange Lodge has been a clergyman; and the fear of Catholic domination has roused ancient prejudices in spite of every official and legal guaranty of religious tolerance and protection in any proposed new Irish constitution. You will hear more talk about the religious side of the Irish question in a day in Belfast or from Ulstermen than from Dublin Catholics in a week. To an American Protestant the impression is not happy; and the assertion that only Protestants have to fear Catholicism and consequently discuss the question more fully does not ring true. The whole religious controversy is out of touch with the modern world; and it is open to serious doubt whether Ulstermen can continue to appeal successfully to their fellow churchmen in Great Britain to support them politically religious grounds. In any case the plain lesson of everyday life in Ireland to-day is that Protestants and Catholics can cooperate amicably and effectively in public affairs of common concern.

The world has also had its fill of assassination as a political method. Yet I have heard political murder defended, or at least excused, by Sinn Feiners in Ireland, and I have no doubt that the recent attempt on the life of Lord French will find support. That crime may not have been directly of Sinn Fein origin; but indirectly it is the result both of extreme Sinn Fein agitation working in fertile soil and of a governmental policy which has sought in general coercion the chief reedy for long-continued and justifiable political discontent. Neither method excuses the other, and both give further evidence of the need of a new dispensation.

Here again one of the chief difficulties in the way of constitutional reform has arisen in part from the external political relations of Ireland. For the ‘Ulster Question’ has thriven on English party controversy, and the Irish issue as a whole has been the bane of political life at Westminster. Till recently one of the obstacles to an Irish settlement was due to the personal and party commitments of English Unionists to Ulster Unionists, to protect that group from constitutional changes in Ireland to which they objected.


Any proposal for the settlement of the Irish controversy is, therefore, at once exposed to an atmosphere of distrust and hostility almost unimaginable. Yet there are moderate and sane men in Ireland who, even though nominally Sinn Fein or Carsonite, may be encouraged to try to work out a plan sufficiently liberal. But unless their coöperation can be secured, almost any plan is probably doomed. In any case they will need the moral approval of the world outside.

A variety of solutions has been suggested, among them a plan for dominion government for Ireland. This is ably advocated by Sir Horace Plunkett, who, because of his patriotic self-sacrifice to Irish interests and his friendship for the United States, has won the respect and sympathy of many Americans. He would give complete self-government to Ireland as a dominion within the British Empire, on the same basis as New Zealand. ‘All Irish legislation would be enacted in Ireland’ by a single Irish parliament, with an Irish Executive responsible to it. Trade relations with Great Britain should be mutually agreed on; but the defense of Ireland would be vested in a single central authority. This plan marks a stage in opinion, for most of its supporters would have shrunk from so radical a plan even a year ago. Short of independence, it goes further than any previous plan, for it ignores in large part the elements of geographical location and historical connection which make the relations of Ireland to England so different from those of New Zealand or Newfoundland. It is, therefore, only natural that intransigent Ulster, apparently secure in its outside political support, should reject the Dominion plan. In spite of this fact, it remains probably the best ‘second choice’ for most people.

Lately, at the end of December, we have the bare outline given by the daily press of the plan finally evolved by the British Cabinet. As a practical proposal it, therefore, has greater authority than any other, while it still lacks the detailed formulation and amendment that it will receive in Parliament. Briefly, it proposes a much wider grant of powers to Ireland than was agreed on either in the Home Rule Act of 1914, or by the Irish Convention in 1918, coupled with a legislative partition of ‘Ulster’ from the rest of Ireland, while at Westminster there are to be Irish representatives in just proportion to her population. Various financial baits are held out to the further development of Irish accord in their course of time. Separation from England is impossible, Irish unity is desirable, and in the meantime here is a liberal compromise which with good-will and accommodation can be tried, as somewhat similar plans have been worked out in the United States and in British self-governing dominions. That is apparently the gist of the Prime Minister’s message.

It is regrettable that large financial powers are not at once granted in this plan. There could also have been greater recognition of the function of a central council, whether executive or legislative. For that is a forum where the common interests of Ireland must meet, where her relations to the outside world must be determined. Rightly the working of any such constitution will depend largely on the development of interstate comity, and on the gradual strengthening of Irish union by the recognition of the limits of provincial legislatures which had more than a local effect, whether on sentiment or materially, the way would be more rapidly cleared to unified peace. On the whole, therefore, the further the government’s plan goes in the direction of unity in practice, the nearer will it come to gaining as well the theoretical advantages of dominion government. Any government proposal goes heavily handicapped by its tardy appearance; but that feature cannot hide the fact that from the point of view of the Cabinet, the latest plan is probably as much of a compromise as could be expected from them at present.

Yet any solution—the best of these paper constitutions—depends for its ultimate success on the development of a healthier public opinion in Ireland, and on the patient experience of novel conditions of government. Here the moral responsibility of Irishmen, both in Ireland and elsewhere, becomes clearer. It is open to them to stultify their reputation, to damage wide interests as well as their own by ignoring or opposing the opportunity which they have of helping both themselves and others. In more senses than one they are on trial before the world. For it is not only a question what they may be able to secure in the way of a new form of government, but also whether they can themselves use the machinery of administration which may be available, slowly to secure justice, peace, and increasing prosperity for all of Ireland. These ends certainly are in accord with American interests in the Irish question.