Page images

stability of trade between the mother-country and the colonies in this quarter of the world.

While Jamaica differs little from the other West Indian colonies in regard to the subject of closer economic federation, it approaches with greater timidity the problem of a political union with Canada. At a meeting which took place in Kingston in August 1921, an elected member of the Legislative Council of Jamaica moved:

'That the Legislative Council expresses its desire to know the views of the other British West Indian possessions and the Dominion of Canada on the important question of federation on an imperial basis of all the British possessions in the Western Hemisphere, and respectfully requests the Governor of the Colony to obtain such views for the information of this Council.'

Divergent opinions were expressed, but no conclusive definition of the term 'federation' seems to have been put forward. It is clear, as was pointed out by the Colonial Secretary (Lieut-Col. the Hon. H. Bryan), that the only direct way of entering into negotiations, having for their object a political as well as an economic union with Canada, would be through the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It should be possible to discern in Mr Churchill's hearty public assurances the vista of a new era for our Colonies, when once the scheme, now being evolved, has been put into practice.


[ocr errors]

ndi Art. 14.-IRELAND.*






in t


IRISH affairs have engaged a large share of public attention during the past six months; and during that period the problems of Irish politics have been more diligently pondered by British statesmen than they have et been for twenty years. It is not too much to say that the preoccupations of the Great War, and subsequently the international anxieties which followed upon the attempts to give effect to the Peace of Versailles, have prevented our responsible Ministers from giving that attention to the disturbed condition of Ireland which was necessary for a true understanding of its causes, or for a consecutive and consistent policy of relief. ion Successive measures for 'the better Government of Ireland' were enacted by Parliament in 1914 and 1920; but in neither case did our legislators pay sufficient heed to the warnings which they received that these measures would prove to be inoperative. They did not know, or they would not believe, that the Sinn Fein organisation was becoming daily more powerful and effective; nor did they appreciate the intensity of the national sentiment which was hostile to any permanent partition of Ireland. And, accordingly, the ferocity and the success of the guerilla warfare waged in Ireland during last winter against the forces of the Crown were disconcerting to the too sanguine Ministers who thought that it could be crushed by the feeble and half-hearted military policy for which they made themselves responsible.







[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of i


No one in Great Britain doubts that the British Army is equal to much larger tasks than the subjugation of Ireland; and it is unnecessary to labour the point. At any time we could have put down sedition, if we had chosen to put forth our strength and to treat Ireland as an enemy country. But the position last July was such that Ministers began tardily to see the difficulties in the way of succeeding by a policy of coercion. begin with, it was plain that great military forces-far larger than any that had yet been landed in Irelandwould be necessary. It would be necessary to seize all railways and all post-offices, to provide soldiers to


This article continues one by the same author, published in the 'Q. R.' for July 1921.

perform railway and postal duties, to guard bridges and lines of communication over extensive tracts of country, to surround hostile areas so that enemy forces could not break through, and to have in readiness at many points flying columns which could strike swiftly and surely when occasion offered. We learnt in South Africa that a comparatively small number of determined men, operating in their own country, can only be subdued by forces vastly superior in number and in equipment; and an Irish campaign under the conditions of last year, if it were to be completely successful, would have required at least 250,000 trained soldiers-horse, foot, and artillery. We could have raised such an army, if we had decided to do so; but very few people in Great Britain had realised that anything of the kind would be needed. That was the first difficulty in the way of the Cabinet. They had not got the necessary troops to subdue Ireland by force; and it would have been no easy matter to persuade the British public that they must forthwith undertake the burden of a new and costly war.

But this was not all. There are, perhaps, no people in Europe so sentimental as the English. We are governed by sentimental, much more than by logical, considerations; which, it may be said parenthetically, is one of the reasons why the logical French mind finds it so hard to believe in our sincerity. And, while the French nation would have no scruple in subduing by force of arms a rebellious province or in punishing with severity persons who avow themselves disloyal to the State, the English nation is very reluctant to treat treason as a crime. One of the most curious by-products of the reign of terror in Ireland last winter and spring was the comparative indifference, on the part of Englishmen, to the maltreatment and murder of loyalists, while any excess of zeal or act of indiscipline on the part of the police was made the subject of public and violent protest. Many of our people were quite ready to condone the murders committed by the gunmen, accepting the plea that they were acts of warfare, while any attempt on the part of our troops to behave as though we really were at war was regarded with the utmost disfavour. It was quite certain last July that, if the Cabinet had decided to declare war and to enter upon a definite campaign in




[ocr errors]

the South of Ireland, public opinion would not have suffered them to pursue such a policy to its legitimate conclusion. The politicians would have been so harassed by irresponsible critics that they would not have allowed the soldiers to do their business without interference.

whe Those who blame Mr Lloyd George for entering into con




[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]



ference with the delegates of Sinn Fein, too often forget that the country would not have supported him last summer had he asked for an army and a free hand to put down Sinn Fein by force.

And there is a third consideration. It is significant that those members of Parliament who have clamoured most loudly for the application of a policy of force to rebel Cork or rebel Dublin, live in England or in Ulster. There were 350,000 Unionists living in Southern Ireland last year. Had a state of war been declared, it would have been impossible for British troops to have discriminated between loyalist and Sinn Feiner while military operations were being carried on. The occupation of a country by a hostile military force means the devastation, and the ruin, of the inhabitants of that country. And Irish loyalists knew this very well. They believed, from past experience, that Britain would never carry through a war of reconquest to the end; and they were certain that war in the South and West of Ireland would mean ruin to them, swift and certain, for the Sinn Feiners would treat them as sympathising with the great enemy, Britain, and the British troops would not be able to distinguish them from their neighbours.

The wild words spoken in Parliament by some of those who prefer war to peace, in present Irish conditions, tand who declare that conference with rebels is a cowardly surrender, are spoken in a place of security. Such

utterances remind one of the old story of the Irish absentee landlord who wrote to his tenants from London to say that, if they thought they could intimidate him, by shooting his agent, they were greatly mistaken. It is very easy to be brave at the expense of other people. And the magnitude of the danger to which Southern loyalists were exposed all through last year may perhaps be estimated by the cry of relief with which they hailed the announcement that terms of peace had at last been Vol. 287.-No. 470,

signed. If the British Government had declared war last July, as many people thought they ought to do, they would have sacrificed all the loyalists in Munster and Connaught, not to speak of a large part of Leinster.

So much may be said, and ought to be said, in support of the decision reached by the Cabinet to abandon the half-hearted policy of a pretence of war in order to compel the Irish to accept an Act of Parliament which nobody desired. It was plain last summer that Sir Hamar Greenwood's optimistic assurances in the House of Commons were not based on good information; and it was by no means certain that military operations were being carried on with intelligence or with success. The Cabinet had been left by former Governments the damnosa hereditas of a policy of halfmeasures, of alternate sentimentality and bluff; and they were not exclusively, or chiefly, to blame for the situation in which they found themselves. The most fatal decision in recent Irish history was Mr Asquith's decision to withdraw Sir John Maxwell from Ireland in June 1916, just when that able general had succeeded in convincing Irishmen that a policy of rebellion was hopeless. Ever since that time, Irishmen, on both sides, have believed that England would never see the thing through'; and Irish sedition has flourished exceedingly in the strength of that belief. It was not easy, for the reasons we have given, for Mr Lloyd George to put forth the full power of England, and to demonstrate that Ireland was foolish indeed to challenge her to the test of arms. But it was unfortunate that his decision to treat with representatives of Sinn Fein was announced at a time when Sinn Fein believed itself to have been successful in the guerilla warfare which had been sustained for some months.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Irishmen will not believe it for years to come, but it is none the less true that the initiation of conferences with Sinn Fein last July was a great act of magnanimity on the part of Great Britain. It was an acknowledgment, indeed, that the Black and Tan' policy was a mistake, because it was not thorough enough; but it was at least as much the expression of a genuine desire on the part of England to prevent further bloodshed, and to check the destruction of Irish property by Irishmen

« PreviousContinue »