Much of it is the result of ill-judged efforts at economy, by persons who seem unaware that economy of this sort is more costly in the end than the most reckless extravagance.


In the case of children and of the sick an appeal can be made to those selfish interests of society which are involved in the proper education of the former and the speedy cure of the latter, but in the case of the aged it is only justice and mercy that can be invoked. They have finished their life's work, and can be of no further direct advantage to society. They are of little use for the purpose to which they are now applied-examples, to terrify the young into making independent provision for old age. Men and women in the vigour of youth are little disturbed by the contemplation of the discomforts endured by the aged in the workhouse. For centuries the people of this country have undertaken the maintenance of the destitute aged ; and the conditions of modern industry are such that the great majority of the workers, who live long enough, have to end their days as pensioners upon society. In their case, as in that of the children and the sick, it is no new liability which it is proposed to impose upon the people. The aged are now maintained by the rest of the community: the only question is whether their public maintenance can be given to them in a pleasanter shape, without unduly increasing the burden upon their neighbours. It is undoubtedly possible even at present rates of wages for men and women between eighteen and twenty-five years of age to make provision for old age, and if marriage could be postponed till this had been done it would be a great benefit to the community at large. But that is just the time of life when nobody thinks of destitute old age except as a very remote and uncertain calamity; and although no effort should be spared to inculcate the duty of thrift and provide facilities for its exercise, it is utopian to expect that any premium which the State could offer, by augmenting the provision voluntarily made, would be sufficient to induce the young generally to embrace a system of insurance against old age. What is most wanted to stimulate such insurance is not subsidies, but security. In rural districts in particular the spectacle of old men who have subscribed for pensions to clubs which have become insolvent, and who have therefore to go to the workhouse notwithstanding their early thrift, is the great obstacle to insurance. The richer classes are protected by the laws to which life assurance offices are subjected; the poorer classes stand in much greater need of protection against the risk of entrusting their savings to clubs and societies which are financially unsound.

But all schemes for old-age pensions partly subscribed by the people themselves are too late for the existing aged and for the survivors of the generation now in middle life. Their lot might be improved in two ways

1. By better classification within the workhouse itself. Many local authorities are desirous of trying such experiments in this direction as with the sanction of the central authority are already within their legal powers. These experiments should be encouraged and not thwarted. There is no justice in treating all alike, irrespective of their antecedents and character. There is no reason for subjecting godly men and women, whose only fault is that they are desolate and helpless, to the blasphemies and indecent language of the common pauper.

2. The experiment of State pensions for the aged might be tried. The chief objection to such a system is its cost. But by placing the age at which the right to a State pension should accrue high enough, and by making the conditions sufficiently stringent, the cost could be kept within any limits that were thought right. If the title to a pension depended upon the applicant not having for a long antecedent period been chargeable to the public, a new and powerful motive for keeping off the rates would come into operation. The community would retain full power to lower the age, and to relax the conditions, according to the results of the experiment. It might even prove less costly than maintenance in a workhouse.

It thus appears that a reform of the Poor Law in the direction of better treatment of the children, the sick, and the aged may be effected on sound Conservative principles, with advantage not only to the persons immediately concerned, but also to the community at large. Bringing up the children of the State in homes real or artificial, so as to make good men and women of them, will enure to the benefit of the next generation. The social problems with which it will be confronted will be the more easily solved. Organising medical relief and making public hospitals and infirmaries available and effective for the cure of the destitute sick will lessen the burden that has to be borne by the existing community. And the classification of the aged in workhouses and a system of State pensions for the veterans of industry is not a mere piece of sentimental benevolence. It is justified by a profound regard for the permanence of our social progress. Western writers seldom refer to Chinese civilisation unless to scoff at it. But it has one excellence in which it is unique. Ancestors are not only worshipped when dead, but are reverenced while still alive. To the last moment of their lives they remain the cherished and honoured heads of their families of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And it has also another peculiarity, in which it is unique. Compared with our ephemeral Western civilisations, its days have been long in the land.



On the eve of a general election, the time has come when the policy and action of the Irish party in the House of Commons since the deposition of their leader, the late Charles Stewart Parnell, should be passed in review, and when a definite opinion can be formed as to its success or failure.

For three and a half years that party has had a free hand to shape its own course and the future destinies of Ireland-possibly even the future of the United Kingdom itself. How has it acquitted itself? How has it shaped those destinies ? Is Ireland nearer to or farther from Home Rule than ever ? These are questions of the deepest interest, of the utmost importance.

In order to understand clearly and precisely the policy of which Parnell was the embodiment and representative, if not absolutely the creator, it is necessary to glance briefly over the principal incidents of the Home Rule movement. That movement may, I think, be dated from the Home Rule Conference which was held in Dublin in 1873, at which a series of resolutions was passed formulating the demands of the then Irish party, of which Mr. Isaac Butt was the leader. No definite pronouncement was there made as to the future parliamentary action of the Irish party; but not long after, namely in February 1874, the Nation newspaper, one of the organs of the party, set forth clearly and concisely the position which the Irish National party ought to take up, and the policy which it ought to follow in Parliament.

There is not a member elected in the three kingdoms who does not know that the National party in Parliament holds the destiny of Ireland in its hands.

There is not one so dull as to fail in comprehending the political situation, and the exact position which the Home Rulers can-nay, must--occupy.

Mr. Gladstone's term of office is virtually at an end ; Mr. Disraeli steps into power instead. The men now pledged to the Home Rule cause can be absolute masters of the situation. The Tories must cease to govern whenever the Home Rulers will it. The Whigs in turn can hold the reins of government only by sufferance of the Home Rulers. In the nice poise of the two great British parties no ministry could live six months with sixty members ready at any moment to incline the scale on either side. Legislation must become a sheer impossibility under such circumstances, until the necessary arrangement between the two countries, sanctioned Vol. XXXVIII—No. 221



by the National Conference at the Rotundo, is completed. It rests, therefore, with the men who have pledged themselves to that arrangement to make its completion. an accomplished fact.

These sentences were written while the country was in the throes of the general election, and a year or so before Parnell entered Parliament. The policy set forward in them, however, was, on that occasion, doomed to disappointment. Some fifty-nine members were returned as Home Rulers of a more or less heterogeneous character. But the elections generally went decidedly in favour of the Conservative party, which was returned to power with so large a majority as to be completely independent either of the opposition or the support of the Irish party. For that Parliament at any rate, the Irish Home Rule or National party failed to attain the position it coveted, and from the English point of view it was in one, and that the most important, way a quantité négligeable.

Six years passed before another general election took place. In the meantime, Butt had died, and Parnell had risen into fame, and was rapidly becoming the recognised leader of the Irish National party both in Parliament and in the country. During the agrarian agitation of 1879, and during the electoral struggle of 1880, he had in various speeches explained and placed his policy on record, and declared the means by which he intended to secure his objects.

One passage from a speech which he delivered at Cork in March 1880, when he stood for that city, should be specially quoted, as he himself refers to it, time after time, in later years, and quotes it as the great pronouncement of his policy.

"That is your charter,' he once said of it. And on another occasion, it was a pledge, the platform upon which the whole future of Irish independence depended.'

And now Ireland has a chance such as she has not had since the Act of Union united the Parliaments, although not the hearts, of England and Ireland; and I ask you, are you going to throw away this chance, as every chance that Ireland has ever had has been thrown away? We feel confident that we can gain for Ireland the right of making laws on Irish soil, laws for Irishmen and for Ireland.

But the only condition on which we can do this is that we have men to help us who will be independent of any English political party-men who can be trusted and relied upon to vote against any English government, be it Whig or Tory, that refuses to do justice to Ireland.

And in the course of the contest he further said :

I think it is of very little importance what government we have to face, or what is their view of politics. The Irish party ought to be determined enouglı and strong enough to wrest justice from any English government. . . . This is the key to the position. You can compel justice to Ireland from any English government, provided you send men of determination and integrity to represent you.

Once more, however, was the Irish party disappointed. The

general election again resulted in the return of one party by so large a majority as to make it independent of Irish support, or indifferent to Irish opposition. This time the Liberals were returned to power in such numbers as to make them masters of the situation.

Three hundred and forty-nine Liberals were returned, as against only 243 Conservatives and sixty Home Rulers. The Irish National party did not, therefore, hold any balance—had not any deciding vote in the House of Commons.

In 1885 came another general election. In the intervening years vast changes had been made in the Constitution; the Reform Act had been passed extending household franchise to residents in the counties; and almost a wholly new distribution of Parliamentary seats had been effected.

And now, Parnell's hope and Ireland's hope was nearly realised. Three hundred and thirty-five Liberals were returned as against 249 Conservatives, whilst eighty-six Home Rulers were sent to the Imperial Parliament. There was an exact tie. It was true that the Home Rulers did not quite hold the balance, but they went very near it--so near, in fact, that Mr. Gladstone, once more Prime Minister, after having declared that it would not be safe for the Liberal party to enter on the consideration of a measure in respect of which, at the first step of its progress, it would be in the power of a party coming from Ireland to say, "Unless you do this, and unless you do that, we will turn you out to-morrow," ' adopted the unsafe course, and introduced a Home Rule Bill in 1886.

So far, then, Parnell had triumphed, and it was a marvellous triumph. He had, in fact, compelled Mr. Gladstone to concede Home Rule to Ireland. But neither he, nor Mr. Gladstone, nor both combined, were able to compel the House of Commons to concede Home Rule; still less were they able to compel the electorate to concede it. The Bill introduced by Mr. Gladstone was rejected. An immediate appeal to the country was made, and a general election took place. A huge wave of indignation with the Liberal leaders swept over the country; 316 Conservatives were returned, and seventy-eight Liberal Unionists, or 394 in all, in opposition to Mr. Gladstone, Home Rule, and Parnell, whilst only 191 Gladstonians were returned, and eighty-five Home Rulers, or 276 in all.

Once again, therefore, the hopes of the Irish party were defeated. They had increased their party in Ireland, but even so large a party as eighty-five did not hold the balance between the two great British parties, and the Irish party was practically powerless.

And now I must go again to Parnell's own words for the declaration of his policy in the ensuing years, while Mr. Gladstone was out of office, and powerless to further the cause of Home Rule in Parliament. Speaking at an entertainment given him by his

« ElőzőTovább »