I BEGIN by saying that the common belief in America that the present movement in Ireland is a spontaneous eruption of a people smarting under tyrannous oppression is not well-founded. The movement, unlike similar movements in the past, has been carefully planned by a few bold and astute leaders. They have timed it with reference to world-wide conditions and sentiment created by the war, particularly England’s preoccupations and the general recognition of the principle of self-determination as enunciated by President Wilson. They have coolly calculated all the forces, in and out of Ireland, that can be aroused and employed at this time to get a practical result, whether that result be an Irish republic, or such concessions as will bring complete independence within easier reach at a future time, when conditions shall again be favorable. There is nothing hot-headed or impetuous in the main management of this movement, about whose personnel and methods a secrecy is maintained which no one dares to penetrate. The penalty for any attempt is certain death. An ‘intelligence’ as highly organized and efficient as any maintained by the armies and navies in war-time protects the secrecy. Spies are everywhere — spies who themselves live in fear lest other spies report them neglectful or disloyal, and they share the fate always readiest for the traitor.
Thus, in impenetrable seclusion, a group, perhaps a very small group, meet, consult, and issue their orders. There is no fear of interruption or punishment. If one saw them through the window he would not dare reveal their identity. These men can sit together, chat, smoke their cigars, and do their work tranquilly. They are not only protected by their ‘intelligence,’ but they undoubtedly have a well-organized business machine, with executive and clerical help down to card-indexes, to make systematic the carrying out of a definite policy planned in every detail and understood by all.
And at the very heart of that policy lies the business of murder. I say business, for I am convinced that, however conscienceless, there is nothing bloodthirsty about it. There is an end to be gained, and these men, far removed from the actual scene, decree a murder precisely as a bank discount committee would pass on an application for a loan. They know England, they know America, and they know their Ireland down to the last detail. Their first concern is to produce in Ireland a state of mental servitude; to destroy ordinary resistance by creating a moral vacuum. The extent to which all classes outside the Belfast pale have been cowed is almost beyond belief. Several months ago Alan Bell, a Unionist ex-office-holder, was dragged off a street-car near the Shelbourne Hotel in the centre of Dublin, and shot to death. There were scores of witnesses. Not one budged to help a man thus pounced upon by daylight assassins. Not one dared to walk to the station round the corner to notify the police. No man or woman of any religious or political creed who saw the affair could have been persuaded to testify in a court.
Murder is King in Ireland. The Lord Mayor of Cork, himself a Sinn Feiner, was assassinated. Everybody believes that it was because he advised abatement in the violence. John Dalton, a prominent citizen in an Irish town, was an original Sinn Feiner, but his association with a policeman made him suspect, and he was put out of the way. When I landed in Ireland, I was horrified; but I soon felt the influence of the moral environment gaining upon me, so potent are habit and usage. Murder is domesticated — an institution. If one is put out of the way, it is the custom of the country, it is all in the day’s work.
To bring about this state of moral paralysis and so level down all public opinion within the country is the first object of the Irish management; the second is to put Britain up against difficulties which, added to her other difficulties, will betray her into a kind of blundering to which temperamental antipathies render her peculiarly liable; the third is to throw into contrast apparent unanimity and efficiency in Ireland and British incompetency, ranging from reckless aggression under the Defence of the Realm Act to bewildered and impotent inaction. This showing is especially useful as the basis of appeal to America. For without financial help from America and an American sympathy that will constantly embarrass Britain, the enterprise of an Irish republic is a mere chimera.
It is essential to an understanding of conditions in Ireland that the fundamental facts above outlined be borne in mind. There are outrages and outbreaks in the South and West. Suddenly the scene shifts to the North, and we see Catholics and Protestants shooting each other at Derry. These disturbances are partly personal, religious, and local. But the cold-blooded managers located at Dublin or Manchester, or wherever they may be, never share in the excitement; in fact they sometimes intervene to break its flow; they calculate causes and results to a nicety. They can order a programme which in the execution will gather up certain coefficients in the form of racial or religious passion, and give energy and carrying power to the main movement. If the Irish rebellion had been a mere popular outburst, it would have progressed to a culminating point and then collapsed. But it has been a shrewdly managed enterprise on ‘business lines,’ and from the moment it was launched until now it has shown a sustained advance. There has been within it little of the emotional energy which exhausts itself in the act of expression.
The movement in its organized militant form began with the rebellion of Easter, 1916. There were at that time no outstanding causes to produce an emotional reaction among the people. Ireland was relatively prosperous. The land laws of 1903 had removed the hardships of the tenant; under it the division of large bodies of land in severalty had been carried out with extraordinary efficiency. The owners of the land enjoyed a high degree of prosperity during the war. Ireland had been indulged in her unwillingness to take her full share in the great struggle for justice and liberty. The conflagration did not start by spontaneous combustion. Ireland was set on fire by persons thoroughly familiar with the inflammable material of which it was composed and who knew precisely when and where to apply the match.
The rebellion of Easter, 1916, was not in any true sense a rebellion, but an affair organized and directed from above, as the initial step in a programme planned to produce its own motive power at each successive step. The actual participants in the fighting were men and boys brought from the country within forty-eight hours, and absolutely ignorant of what they had come to Dublin to do. I had it on good authority that, when these men went into the General Post-Office, the captureof which was planned as the central incident of the rebellion, most of them were surprised when they were told to stay inside and hold the building. There was no surprise, however, among a very large number of the post-office employees, who were coöperating with Sinn Fein against the government of which they were the servants.
The rebellion was never expected to succeed as a rebellion. It accomplished precisely what was expected of it by its organizers. A Downing Street which at its best was always unable to meet trouble in Ireland with wisdom and tact, and in the spring of 1916 was deeply engaged in an agonizing preoccupation in other directions, handled the situation in the way that the cool heads of Sinn Fein would themselves have prescribed, in order to produce the results they desired. The blow stung but did not arouse the government. The usual absentmindedness was aggravated into mental confusion. There was no careful study and cool planning to match against the study and planning of the engineers of the Irish movement. England’s reply alternated between shooting at random and falling back into an attitude of bewildered leniency. The policy was neither one thing nor the other, neither the strong hand nor the generous heart; it was no policy at all. It was more of the same old thing of which Ireland had had so much, and to which the reaction of the Irish temper is disgust and rage. Ireland has lived under Church discipline and understands mastery. But she cannot abide bungling and weakness accompanied by airs of superiority. She would take, perhaps even thrive under, such a government as, for example, Germany would have given her before 1914 if she had been a German instead of a British dependency. But she cannot stand John Bull’s ways. And, indeed, was the ground of ‘incompatibility of temper’ ever stronger in any case for divorce?
From Easter, 1916, onward the steam was up more and more for the engineers of Sinn Fein. The British never failed them. They pricked the bull, and he lunged, sometimes madly, always aimlessly. And so a community comparatively tranquil was gradually aroused. Right on the heels of immunity from conscription, with Plunkett’s scheme (for taking the land from the big owners and dividing it among the agricultural masses on terms that gave everybody a chance to indulge the ingrained land lust) in successful operation; with general prosperity prevailing throughout the country; and, finally, under the rule of Augustine Birrell, whose avowed policy of ‘killing with kindness’ had been carried out for almost ten years, Catholic Ireland rose in revolt.
You can at any time get a fight out of Ireland against England. No immediate provocation is needed. The grievances ten centuries old are as fresh as yesterday, when the gaudium certaminis of the Irish race is evoked. But, as I have insisted, this particular fight is different. Emotional up-blazing and mobocracy generally are secondary, a byproduct, very useful perhaps to furnish added momentum; but the leadership stands apart from all that kind of thing; like a general in modern war in his G.H.Q., far removed from contact with exciting causes by which his judgment might be put out of balance. Just as the general studies his map, so does the Irish leadership study conditions. Whatever may be the excitement elsewhere, these engineers stand coolly at their switchboard, turning on current here, turning it off there, regulating everything as by a system of push-buttons. They are no amateurs, and their patriotism expresses itself in practical terms. Their survey is wide and they look far ahead. Their anonymity contributes to the purely intellectual character of their methods, for there is no personality to be sustained or vanity to be gratified. The men behind this movement have none of the subjective weakness peculiar to leaders who work in the open. One of the best informed men in Ireland—a Unionist M.P. — told me that he had substantial evidence that the managing board had headquarters in Manchester, and that its membership included one or more Americans. And I often heard it stated that the most efficient of the assassins were gun-men imported from the United States.
At all events, every move has been characterized by objectivity. A sudden and spontaneous rising in Ireland might have been unfortunately timed. If the circumstances had been adverse, however general and intense the revolt might have been, it would have spent itself fruitlessly. There was never any question of getting popular feeling aroused in Ireland. The important thing was to use the explosive material at the moment when it could do the most damage. From 1916 until now has been a period well-suited to such coolly calculated plans.
To begin with, England was, and still is, in difficulty. There has never been a time when it was so true that ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.’ Up to the last three months of the war the danger of defeat by Germany was imminent. Since the war Britain has had to face danger on all sides. Her empire in Asia has been threatened. Her labor problem and the problem of social unrest would be enough to tax a government to the utmost in ordinary times. Fundamental differences of interest and conviction may at any moment cause a cleft between her and her Continental allies. And all of this must be met by a government resting on the sand of opportunist coalition — a coalition without the cohesion which homogeneous conviction alone can furnish; a government headed by a man worn by four years of such strain as no other man ever underwent — a tired man, of whom a jaded and irritable democracy is tired.
Britain has never handled Ireland happily, or with understanding, even when handling Ireland was about the only hard thing she had to do. Having regard to the fact that Britain is responsible for results in Ireland; that the government of dependencies is her particular and peculiar business; that for a long period she has been in unchallenged authority, and that she had the power and resources to enforce it, the blame for Irish conditions must be laid primarily at Britain’s door. Ireland was worth the trouble, but Britain would not take it. She has indulged her weakness of neglect, just as Ireland is now indulging her weakness of violence. Although British rule in Ireland in recent years has been in the main benevolent, — considered in relation to the past, and in relation to the Irish temperament and character, — it has the demerit of practical failure. The Irish were there, to be won over by methods suited to them — and they were worth the winning. But it was too much trouble to specialize Catholic Ireland. Ulster had the same government and got on well enough. The British Empire was nothing but a state of mind. British rule everywhere was lenient. Other peoples lived and prospered under it. Let Ireland do the same.
The effect of this kind of treatment was to teach Ireland that the only way to arouse England from her absentmindedness, the only way to move her to concessions to the Irish point of view, was by violence. The Irish being what they are, a sensitive and romantic people, a people whose devotion to the Church has arrested development on the purely intellectual side, a people sorely in need of, and not unready to respond to, sympathetic and helpful guidance in industrial activities — I say, the Irish being what they are, and Ireland being what it is, an island indispensable to the maintenance of the Empire, Britain is primarily at fault for present conditions. Without attempting to palliate Ireland’s criminal methods, that is the obvious and simple fact. If, during the past twenty-five years, — not to open up a dreary and unreal discussion of the distant past, — Britain’s left-handed generosity had been replaced or supplemented by a planned and fruitful policy of peaceful penetration and industrial coöperation, Ireland might have ceased to live in the past and nurse old grievances. A new spirit of enlightened self-interest and intellectual independence might have come over her. Concessions exacted by force are never appreciated, but fraternity begets fraternity. With chimneys ablaze and wheels turning throughout Ireland, through English coöperation, the memories of such things as England’s selfish and brutal destruction of the Irish woollen industry, which preceded the famine of 1846, and the wiping out of half the population, might have lost their vividness. Ireland may not be a good child, but the waywardness of the ward is the shame of the guardian. The executive authorities of Sinn Fein therefore timed their movement wisely from the standpoint of getting results. It was good judgment, if bad loyalty, to choose a moment when Britain was so deeply preoccupied. Their calculation that the bungling and blundering would be greatly above normal proved correct. The effect was to arouse Irish feeling on a crescendo scale. And there was another effect, which the shrewd leaders have played for all it was worth. The planless and vacillating reaction of Downing Street in contrast with the well-ordered, if criminal, programme of Sinn Fein created an impression of British incompetency in Ireland as well as throughout the world. The Irish were on their job and had nothing else to think about. They have really played with the London government. The kind of change of pace used by baseball pitchers has kept the British batters guessing.
Britain was in a bad position to take care of herself in Ireland by reason of the wo rid-wide acceptance of the academic principle of self-determination. British helplessness enabled the Irish leaders to keep in the background the question of Irish fitness for full selfgovernment. A people without some deep disability on this side would long ago have gained their independence.
Another condition favorable to the plans of the Irish leaders is the difficulty in sending soldiers to Ireland. The British army is extremely reluctant, and it is doubtful if a government which in the past two years has had some sinister experiences with army Sovietism could compel a sufficient number of men to take the field against the Irish. The mutiny of the crack Irish troops in India has greatly intensified the feeling among soldiers here. Most of the soldiers I saw in Ireland were very young and raw. If it were possible to put under orders in Ireland such troops as the French government sent out against the labor organizations in early May, — seasoned veterans, well led, and with an old grudge against the laborite slackers, — they could clean up Ireland in a week. But a halfterrified constabulary, uncertain of British support, and a few thousand green young fellows in khaki, are constantly being made ridiculous. Lloyd George raised an issue early in June upon which he might have consolidated British opinion, divided the Irish forces, and won a quick success. It was the question whether the Irish labor unions could make an end of democratic government. After enunciating this clearcut principle in the strong way of which he is capable, the Prime Minister failed to support it by action. Labor is the joint in the Sinn Fein armor, but Lloyd George has apparently failed to thrust in his sword.
Behind the political revolt in Ireland, social revolt waits its turn. Ireland is a country of ’low visibility.’ The Republic itself is an ‘invisible republic.’ It has promulgated a constitution, has a parliament, a president and vice president and cabinet, all functioning in secret. There are ‘diplomatic representatives’ in nearly all countries. There are commissions working on economic and industrial questions. These various activities are allocated among the many organizations which exist in Ireland. These organizations are at present all held together in Sinn Fein — I will not say by Sinn Fein, for, as I have already pointed out, the compelling force is terrorism, which is being managed by a special body. Sinn Fein’s principle is broad enough to take in all the Irish groups. It is hate of England. There are no differences among the various Irish bodies on the question of the injustice of British supremacy. With Sinn Fein to hold, and the bold and shrewd executive group to drive, the movement has had an amazing prosperity. But whenever it comes to the point of success or failure, the various groups will assert, with Irish energy and emphasis, their respective interests and convictions.
If an Irish republic were set up, the Transport Union, which includes practically all of labor, would strike for soviet government within a week. The Union is at one with the rest of Sinn Fein in hatred of England, but the two organizations are diametrically opposed in their ideas as to how to work out the country’s destiny. Arthur Griffith, who is more truly the architect of the Sinn Fein structure than anyone else, has always been hostile to the labor organizations and has openly opposed strikes. For the great occasion he has sunk his own ideas and made a working arrangement with Labor. But it is a mere compact, not a true union. If Lloyd George had not been so busy in other directions, and if he had been bold in action as well as in conception and speech, he could have pierced to the bottom of this incompatibility and aroused the sleeping antagonism between Sinn Fein and Labor. But the irreconcilable difference is there, and it will come out some time. Labor is said to include roughly one third of the population of Ireland. It is an organization with a definite Bolshevist programme of action; whereas Sinn Fein itself will split up into factions when the time comes to translate hatred of Britain into concrete terms. Labor goes straight into the heart of the Ulster pale. There is not yet a social revolution in Ireland, but the forces working for it are latent and potential in the situation, and are sure to assert themselves at the favorable moment. There is as yet no open threat against the Church or the organization of society, because the time is not yet ripe.
‘Low visibility’ makes it difficult clearly to discern the boundary lines of opinion. The Unionist element outside Ulster is estimated at half a million — about 16 per cent of the whole population. A considerable fraction was Nationalist, in the sense that it supported the Parliamentary Party. Since the rebellion and the scrapping of that party, it is impossible to know what has happened among the Unionists. If they are opposed to Sinn Fein, it is impossible now for them to make their opposition vocal. But I did not meet a single Unionist who expressed the least sympathy with the campaign of terrorism. They dare not speak openly, for it is they, and especially the upper classes, who have most to fear from it.
The sweeping Sinn Fein victories in the elections seemed to me to be of less significance than the figures indicated. In Ireland ‘nothing succeeds like success.’ The instinct to ‘follow the crowd ’ is strong. The only thing worth tying to is Sinn Fein. The Parliamentary Nationalist Party is broken and dispersed. The British government is weak and vacillating. Sinn Fein is immensely strong in numbers, and the secret management to which have been given the reins of power is bold and skillful in action. In these circumstances it is not surprising that Sinn Fein has been eating into Ulster.
Of the nine Ulster counties, three — Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan — are 78 per cent Catholic. They were for that reason left out of the ‘Ulster pale’ in the pending Home Rule bill. Sir Edward Carson was afraid that, with all the nine counties in, the Belfast district might not be able to hold its own. Of the remaining six counties, Fermanagh is 56 per cent Catholic, County Londonderry 56, and Tyrone 55. Armagh is 45 per cent Catholic. It is apparent, therefore, that the Protestant strength is in the two counties of Antrim (20 per cent Catholic) and Down (31 per cent Catholic). These figures make it plain why the Sinn Fein tide sweeps into Ulster. There is no real barrier against it except Belfast, where the Protestants count 76 per cent of the population. But in Belfast, Labor cuts across Protestantism; social revolt is menacing and may at any time overthrow the present political and industrial leadership.
Ulster resistance is maintained by brains and character, not by numbers. The main motive is not devotion to the Union, but fear of Dublin rule. The people who do the thinking for Ulster dread the consequences to them of Irish independence. They fear the influence of the Church; they fear the destruction of their industry, which could be attacked by special legislation in the guise of general legislation, for neither the linen nor shipping interest exists elsewhere in Ireland; and they dislike the prospect of losing the political patronage, the lion’s share of which has heretofore been enjoyed by Protestants.
A comparatively small but highly organized body of people have held and are holding Ulster against a veritable flood tide in Ireland. It would be a mistake to believe that in the event of civil war the Belfast district would prove more than a match for the rest of Ireland, on account of its industrial organization, even if Great Britain were to stand aside. With Belfast Labor indifferent or disaffected, the ruling class would have its hands full in Ulster itself. The fact must not be overlooked that Catholic Ireland is very strongly organized and led; and in a civil war at the present time I doubt if the Belfast district would have the better of it in this respect.
The sheet-anchor of Ulster Unionism is at present at Westminster. The rest of Ireland is practically unrepresented, and Sir Edward Carson and his fellow members from Ulster have the field to themselves. What they say ‘goes,’ so far as Ulster is concerned. But in spite of the fancy figures they cut, they are skating on thin ice all the time. It is true of them, as it is of the leadership of terrorism in the South, that it is a leadership from the top down and not from the bottom up. It is doubtful if the Ulster heart is Unionist, as it is doubtful whether the rest of Ireland is Separatist on the terms proposed by the terrorists. In both cases the leadership is superimposed. After all, Ulster is more Irish than Scotch, and from that province have come the most uncompromising Nationalists. The tradition and the blood of the O’Neills and O’Donnells are still there. One of the latter clan, Dr. O’Donnell, Bishop of Raphoe, is the master mind in the Catholic hierarchy. He it was who brought the Convention of 1918 to nought after a compromise agreement had been reached among all factions. Between Saturday and Sunday Raphoe upset the whole business. John Redmond, defeated and humiliated, took to his bed, and after a few weeks died of a broken heart.
The Scotch grit of Belfast is a strong thing, but it is not necessarily dominating in Ulster. Carson, a transplanted Dublin lawyer, is an intrepid leader, and Southern Ireland would deal with him more readily, in my opinion, than with any other of its opponents; but unity in Ulster is a fiction. The oneness of Ireland has a tremendous Ulster sentiment behind it. Sinn Fein is conscious of this sentiment and responsive to it. The Southerners do not resent Ulster’s armed resistance to the British government. They are proud of it, even thankful for it. What they are doing, Ulster did first. It was the right way for Irishmen to act in a cause which they considered just. It showed the real contempt of Ulster for Britain. Sinn Fein is profoundly convinced that Ulster will one day line up with the other three provinces for an Ireland for the Irish. It is useful on this point to recall the action of the Sinn Fein convention held in Dublin in April, 1914, which submitted the following proposals to Ulster.
1. Increased Ulster representation in the proposed Irish parliament, on the basis partly of population, partly of taxable value, and partly of bulk of trade, the Ulster representation to be increased by fifteen members, including one for the University of Belfast; two members to be given to the Unionist constituency of Rathmines.
2. All Ireland to be a unit for the election of the Senate or Upper House, and representation of the Southern Unionist minority to be secured by proportional Representation.
3. A guaranty that no tax should be imposed on the linen trade without the consent of the majority of the Ulster representatives.
4. A guaranty that the chairman of the Joint Exchequer board should always be chosen by the Ulster representatives.
5. All posts in the Civil Service to be filled by examination.
6. The Ulster Volunteer force to be retained under its then leaders as part of an Irish Volunteer force, and not, except in case of invasion, to be called upon to serve outside Ulster.
7. The Irish Parliament to sit alternately in Dublin and Belfast.
8. The clauses in the Home Rule bill restricting Irish trade and finance, prohibiting Ireland from collecting and receiving its own taxes, or otherwise conflicting with any of the above proposals, to be amended.
These proposals were ignored by the Ulster leaders who were at that time in a state of obsession. All the same, they indicated the trend of Sinn Fein toward the consolidation of all Irish sentiment. Sinn Fein’s quarrel is with Britain. It recognizes that on the day that Ireland is united it will be free. This sentiment evokes a much greater sympathy in Ulster than the Carsonites would admit. Even the big interests in Belfast look over their shoulders with true Scotch canniness to the prospect of a properous and teeming Ireland, of which Belfast shall be the commercial capital and clearing-house. And they are not entirely averse from forming business associations with conservative elements in the South and West, which will strengthen them in the inevitable clash between capitalism and labor.
The attitude of the Church is a story by itself. In a general way, I think that her policy has been one of watchful waiting. It is very doubtful if even Cardinal Logue knew precisely where the Church stood at any given time. Many priests, especially the young ones, were drawn into the Sinn Fein movement. Some of them, like Father Mike O’Flanagan, put their political cause above the Church, and would defy the Pope if necessary. Others, like Dr. Kelly, the great Bishop of Ross, whose diocese is the extreme southern tip of Ireland, were openly and sincerely against the extremists. The main body of the hierarchy and priesthood was striving with all its mind and heart to keep the Church off the rocks while the tempest raged. The priests, being near to the people, were influenced by their environment, but by and large the Church has tried to keep in a position to smile on the winner.
I do not think that the present troubles can specifically be laid at the door of the Church. But, however greatly the Catholic training as practised in Ireland may promote spiritual welfare, it does not make for intellectual independence. From the clerical point of view the prime consideration is to maintain the power and authority of the Church. The Church furnishes mental and moral guidance for a majority of the Irish people. Whatever may be her effect in preparing the soul for the hereafter, the Church mentorship has prevented the development of worldly mentality among the Irish. Buckle maintains that Spain was ruined because rigid religious control kept the people in an intellectual strait-jacket. In his opinion doubt has ever been the great civilizer. Blind faith and romantic temperament have prevented change in Ireland. The Church is making an agonizing struggle to maintain the old conditions. But it is inevitable that the present upheaval will, to an extent at least, emancipate the Irish mind.
One of the several separate and distinct bodies held in the aspic of Sinn Fein is the land-owning interest. I am sorry that I have not at hand the statistics showing the distribution of land among the people since the Congested District Act went into operation in 1903. That was a great and beneficent piece of legislation, the full effect of which upon future events in Ireland is not to be measured at this time of excitement. Under its workings the passion of Irishmen for land, and their readiness to accept teaching in the productive handling of it, are creating an agricultural interest which is destined to play a great, perhaps a determining, part in stabilizing Ireland. The agricultural interest has been growing by leaps and bounds. Coöperative principles have been practised in common by the farmers North and South, who in their organizations and conventions have temporarily waived political and religious differences, and acted in concert for the promotion of good methods and for mutual profit generally.
The influence for conservatism of the land-owners is for the time being put out of balance by two circumstances. First, Sinn Fein has a temporary ascendency over the owners. Second, on the edge of the land-owning class stands the most active and eager element in all Ireland. It consists of very young men, themselves mostly associated with agriculture, many of them sons of land-owning farmers. They are young men who would not go out to fight in the war, and who were not allowed to emigrate. They are hot Sinn Feiners, of one or the other of the various groups associated in that organization. They own no land, but they want it and must have it. There are about two hundred thousand of these youths burning with the lust for land. Many of them are Irish Volunteers, ready for any adventure. I was told that there were two hundred and twenty thousand soldiers trained to use arms when they could get them, and about as many more in varying degrees of training. The land-lusters are splendid military material. It is they who compose the agrarian movement, and who are too impatient to await the processes of distribution which, thanks to the enterprise and resources of the Sinn Fein bank under Mr. Smith-Gordon’s management, is financing and carrying on the Congested District work, temporarily deprived of normal resources. The young men are not particular how they get their land. Even the very liberal terms given by the bank irk them. They prefer to take it away from the owner, and the grazier is naturally the particular object of their rapacity. But no man with twenty-five acres, even if he be a priest, is immune from their violence.
Once having obtained land, the Irishman tends to become conservative. Underlying the land-owner’s show of zeal for Sinn Fein there is a carking anxiety about what may happen to his possessions. No man dares in the present state to give expression to fears of this sort; but at the first sign of a relaxed grip, the land-owners, all the way from the ten-acre man to the big grazier, will respond to the call of the keenest selfinterest ever felt by human beings. These land-owners who are involved in a political enterprise only secondary in its interest for them, and who are already experiencing the chill of the reaction, are going through a broadening mental process which will loosen the ties of religion and Irish patriotism. They will come out of it all with more practical and less romantic views. They are sure to constitute an all-round stabilizing influence in the Irish community of the future, their conservatism acting as a specific against Bolshevist tendencies and extremes of all sorts. There has already appeared a movement among farmers to oppose force to the force of the Transport Union, in whose membership farm-laborers are included. It is clear that the land-owning class is only in, and not of, a Sinn Fein which is submitting itself to a terrorist leadership in the hope of overthrowing British rule.
It is probable that one motive of the establishment of Sinn Fein courts was to reassure the land-owning class against agrarian aggression. And these courts have proved quite efficacious for the purpose. Their constitution and working furnish another evidence of the calculated efficiency of the inner group to which executive power is delegated. Aside from the result gained in controlling agrarianism and in setting up superficial order in communities where matters might have got out of hand, the Sinn Fein courts have made the official judicial administration ridiculous. When the legally constituted judges appear at a court house, they are handed the regulation white gloves to show that no cases await them, and solemnly go away. Thus respect for British administration is destroyed, and the Sinn Fein bodies, backed by organized murder, the secret, swift, and sure power of life and death, mete out a justice that is functionally sound and efficient. Of course, no normal mind can countenance such a system: the better it is, the worse it is.
The extent of Sinn Fein’s moral responsibility for crime in Ireland can be measured in the light of the facts. Sinn Fein itself is an evolution. It has a tradition, and, in spite of all that has happened and is happening, it retains a character of zealous and pure patriotism. Arthur Griffith, who more than any other man was the prophet and evangelist of the movement, and whose influence prepared the organization for the indispensable service that it has rendered as the container and conservator of the various more or less antagonistic forces of which the rebellion is composed, did not preach violence. His doctrine was essentially spiritual and intellectual. He held, in effect, that a people who were true Irishmen to the heart’s core, who loved their country, spoke its language, carried their patriotism and zeal for nationality into their daily life, gave themselves to every effort for economic and industrial development, cultivated good relations with all other Irishmen irrespective of religion, would finally realize their hopes without any challenge in terms of force to overwhelmingly superior power. There was to be hate of England without overt action; love of Ireland and faith in its future as a nation, with works. Such a tradition and character existing in a nation-wide organization provided an admirable instrumentality for bringing together and holding, on the common ground of opposition to English rule, all the organizations in Ireland, however dissimilar in purpose and method, that were utilizable in the fight for Irish independence. A great organization was thus tied together, mechanical unity was achieved, a sagacious and intensely practical overhead management was installed.
The movement went forward without a single setback until the month of June of this year. First, the Republican Convention in Chicago, and then the Democratic Convention in San Francisco, refused to indorse Irish independence. De Valera failed in his task. With American sympathy and help, the achievement of a republic in Ireland was a possibility. Without them, the extreme of the Irish demand can never be attained. There can now be no imaginable conjuncture in which Britain could be forced into the surrender of a strategical unity so obviously necessary for the maintenance of her Empire.
Britain will not wage an offensive war on Ireland; but she will muddle through. Lloyd George could never obtain the mandate of English opinion for war in Ireland; and if he could, it is not in his nature to accept it. But he will negotiate until doomsday in the afternoon. Without the most active encouragement from America, the Irish movement cannot hold. Already the cracks are there, concealed by the low visibility. They will become crevices. Conflicting interests will resolve into their elements. Self-interest will be persuasive. The command of the central authority will weaken. Sinn Fein will lose its all-embracing charm. But before these things actually happen, the men who have planned and executed the Irish campaign will fix their limit, and there will be a Dominion of Ireland — or an agreed scheme for one. The Catholic Church, which has been hard put to it to steer a course that would not separate it from any large body of its people, whatever might happen, will have an influence in the settlement which will save its prestige. But Irishmen will be freer. They will think in more practical and modern terms. Intellectual and practical forces will be loosed, through the interplay of which men will become more forward-looking. Ireland will have made a great bound toward the goal of unity and Nationality.
I conclude with a summary of the main points that stood out in my examination of Ireland.
I. Sinn Fein is the all-embracing organization, in which are contained the various and differing bodies, each of which is serving the purpose suited to it. Supreme executive control is exercised by a small secret group, who make the plans and give the orders from a headquarters sufficiently remote to ensure a calm survey.
II. Aside from mechanical (as distinguished from chemical) unity, supplied by the spirit and structure of Sinn Fein, the potent force in the movement is the well-organized and well-directed violence aimed at certain specific results: mainly the reduction of the country to a level of mental servitude in which moral and physical resistance disappears. This violence has the full terrorist effect of lawlessness on the population of all shades of opinion, but rigid control maintains a state of order. The organization that deals directly with murder and violence is small and absolutely screened. Sinn Fein at large has little sense of blood-guilt, and to the extent that it is involved, or feels any compunction, takes to itself the unction that a state of war exists and the motive for the ‘killings’ is patriotism. III. The failure to get the Irish question into the American presidential election, in my opinion, reduces to nil the chance, always slender, in view of Britain’s necessities, of establishing an Irish republic as the result of this particular movement. Without strong American aid, the conflicting elements in Sinn Fein cannot long be held together in the effort along the present lines for full independence.
I venture to forecast that the leaders will compromise on a Dominion of Ireland, and that Sinn Fein will throw its full influence toward bringing in Ulster on the basis of its proposals of April, 1914, or some similar plan for achieving Irish unity and fully protecting the religious, political, and business interests of Counties Antrim and Down.
IV. It will transpire that, under cover of rebellion against Britain, all the various groupings of thought and interest have been undergoing a process of reorientation toward practical considerations. The land-owning class will be more conscious of its own self-interest; Labor will fight more openly for the Bolshevist aims which it has been necessary to keep in the background; and the ties of the Church will be less binding. Ireland will step out of the romantic twilight of the past and enter the great world-struggle for industrial and economic advantage. A social revolt, the leaders of which have been willing to believe that it would pay to wait, on the chance of Republicanism in Ireland or Labor government in England, will burst with full force, in North and South alike. The old geographical lines will largely disappear; differences of religion and race will fade away; and society will divide on the line of interest. Out of all this suffering and sacrifice will emerge a new Ireland, united and sufficiently free.