Front Page Titles (by Subject) MR. GLADSTONE ON HOME RULE FOR IRELAND. ( From The Economist, 30 th September, 1871.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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MR. GLADSTONE ON HOME RULE FOR IRELAND. ( From “ The Economist, ” 30 th September, 1871.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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MR. GLADSTONE ON HOME RULE FOR IRELAND.
The Prime Minister’s speech at Aberdeen cannot at any rate be charged with that tendency to intellectual hesitation and finesse which is the favourite taunt of his opponents. In speaking of the Irish cry for Home Rule, Mr. Gladstone drew no fine distinctions, and came to no ambiguous conclusion. He asked if the United Parliament was to be broken up because it could not or would not do justice to Ireland, or only to please the Irish fancy. If the former were alleged, the answer was that for the last three years the United Parliament has been eagerly engaged in doing for Ireland what it would hardly have done for either England or Scotland—no doubt because neither England nor Scotland stood in need of the measures granted as Ireland did,—but none the less did this sufficiently demonstrate the perfect willingness and capacity of the United Parliament to redress all real Irish grievances. If the latter were alleged, that the Irish do not choose to take even good government from the hands of a United Parliament, then the answer is that on that head the Irish have only the right to vote with the other members of the Union; the whole Union has a right to decide what is in this respect for the common benefit, and unless any party can allege that their individual interests are trampled on by the Union, the whole Union has a right to say whether union or separation will best promote the interests of all. And this in point of fact, as everybody knows, Great Britain has long ago decided. In Mr. Gladstone’s own vigorous words—“can any sensible man, can any rational man, suppose that at this time of day, in this condition of the world, we are going to disintegrate the great capital institutions of this country for the purpose of making ourselves ridiculous in the sight of all mankind, and crippling any power we possess for bestowing benefits through legislation on the country to which we belong?”
That is clear, forcible language, which may, we hope, have the effect of showing the Home Rule party in Ireland that while Ireland may gain almost anything that is reasonable and just from the Imperial Parliament, she will not gain the repeal of the Union for which that Party is now crying out, and which would be indeed in many respects far more mischievous to British interests, and perhaps even to Irish interests, than absolute independence.
Indeed it is hard to conceive anything more mischievous than the opening of an indefinite, and indefinitely increasable, number of debatable issues between Great Britain and Ireland such as would be not merely suggested but forced on the public by the division of duties between an Irish and British Parliament. It is difficult enough to divide the sphere of properly municipal or country from properly central and Parliamentary powers, and almost impossible to do so beneficially without giving Parliament an absolute overriding power in case of conflict. But this difficulty would not only be enhanced a thousand times by the great importance, unity, and national coherence of an Irish Parliament, but it would be quite impossible to give the Imperial (or as it would then be, Federal) Parliament a power to override the decisions of an Irish Parliament without provoking something like a rebellion on every separate occasion. It may be said perhaps that this difficulty has never been felt in the United States, where the State powers and the Federal powers are divided by a hard and fast line, which neither State nor Federation has the power to overleap. But in point of fact the difficulty has been felt, and felt very keenly, and though not for precisely the same reasons as it would be felt in this case, yet for a similar class of reasons—namely, because the genius and policy of a certain group of the States diverged very widely from the genius and policy of the remainder. The Secession war was in fact a State revolt against the Central power, and though that Secession was due not to race, but to a “domestic institution” of a most potent and mischievous kind, yet difference of race and religion conjointly are certainly quite capable of producing as great a chasm of feeling between the different members of a Federation as is any difference in “domestic institutions”. Only consider for a moment what an Irish Parliament would be disposed to feel if it found itself compelled to impose taxes for a war in which the sympathies of Ireland were directly opposed to the sympathies of Great Britain, or were even hindered from imposing taxes for some purely Irish object by the weight of the taxation for Imperial purposes which it disapproved. Is it even conceivable that such a Parliament could long exist without becoming a centre of the fiercest disloyalty and even treason? Or put aside questions of finance, and look only at ecclesiastical policy. Would not it be very probable that one of the first efforts of Ireland’s separate Parliament would be to re-establish a Church in Ireland, but not this time a Protestant but a Catholic Church—an effort which would probably give rise to civil war unless England interfered to thwart the wish of the Catholic party, in which case the danger of a violent disruption would arise again from another cause? It is in fact as plain as common sense can make it to all who look at the condition of Ireland with impartial eyes, that “Home Rule” would be but the first step in a series of virulent disputes as to the political relations of the two islands, which could hardly end except in separation, or re-conquest with all the evils that that would bring in its train. The Home Rule party would certainly be imprudent, but they would be far more logical, if they were to raise a cry at once for an Independent Irish Republic.