John Redmond’s Last Years(txt+pdf+epub+mobi电子书下载)

作者:Gwynn, Stephen Lucius

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John Redmond's Last Years

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PREFACE

In writing this book, I have had access to my late leader's papers for the period beginning with the war. These were placed at my disposal by his son, Major William Archer Redmond, D.S.O., M.P. I had also the consent of Mrs. Redmond to my undertaking the task. But for the book and for the opinions expressed in it I am solely responsible. No condition having been imposed upon me, it seemed best, for many reasons, that it should be written, as it has been written, without consultation.

A writer in whom such a trust has been placed may well be at a loss how to express his gratitude, but can never convey the measure of his anxiety. From those who cherish Redmond's memory, and especially from those who were nearest to him in comradeship and affection, I must only crave the indulgence which should be accorded to sincere effort. Differences of interpretation there will be in any review of past events, and others can claim with justice that on many points they were better situated for full understanding than was I. Yet for the period which is specially studied, if there is failure in comprehension it cannot be excused by lack of opportunity to be thoroughly informed.

To readers at large I would say this—that if any sentence in these pages be uncandid or ungenerous, it is most unworthy to be found in the record of such a man.

S.G.

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORYI

The time has not yet come to write the biography of John Redmond. Not until the history of the pledge-bound Irish Parliamentary party can be treated freely, fully and impartially as a chapter closed and ended will it be possible to record in detail the life of a man who was associated with it almost from its beginning and who from the opening of this century guided it with almost growing authority to the statutory accomplishment of its desperate task; who knew, in it and for it, all vicissitudes of fortune and who gave to it without stint or reservation his whole life's energy from earliest manhood to the grave.

But when the war came, unforeseen, shifting all political balances, transmuting the greatest political issues, especially those of which the Irish question is a type, it imposed upon men and upon nations, but above all on the leaders of nations, swift and momentous decisions. Because that critical hour presented to Redmond's vision a great opportunity which he must either seize single-handed or let it for ever pass by; because he rose to the height of the occasion with the courage which counts upon and commands success; because he sought by his own motion to swing the whole mass and weight of a nation's feeling into a new direction—for all these reasons his last years were different in kind from any that had gone before; and as such they admit of and demand separate study. Intelligent comprehension of what he aimed at, what he achieved, and what forces defeated him in these last years of his life is urgently needed, not for the sake of his memory, but for Ireland's sake; because until his policy is understood there is little chance that Irishmen should attain what he aspired to win for Ireland—the strength and dignity of a free and united nation.

It is of Redmond's policy for Ireland in relation to the war, and to the events which in Ireland arose out of the war, that this book is mainly designed to treat. Yet to make that policy intelligible some history is needed of the startling series of political developments which the war interrupted but did not terminate—and which, though still recent, are blurred in public memory by all that has intervened. Further back still, a brief review of his early career must be given, not only to set the man's figure in relation to his environment, but to show that this final phase was in reality no new departure, no break with his past, but a true though a divergent evolution from all that had gone before.

Ireland, although so small in extent and population, is none the less a country of many and locally varying racial strains; and John Redmond sprang from one of the most typical. He was a Wexfordman; that is to say, he came from the part of Ireland where if you cross the Channel there is least difference between the land you leave and the land you sail to; where the sea-divided peoples have been always to some extent assimilated. Here in the twelfth century the first Norman-Welsh invaders came across. The leader of their first party, Raymond Le Gros, landed at a point between Wexford and Waterford; the town of Wexford was his first capture; and where he began his conquest he settled. From this stock the Redmond name and line descend.

Thus John Redmond came from an invading strain in which Norman and Celt were already blended; and he grew up in a country thickly settled with men whose ancestors came along with his from across the water. Till a century ago the barony of Forth retained a dialect of its own which was in effect such English as men spoke before Chaucer began to write; and even to-day in any Wexford fair or market you will see among the strong, well-nourished, prosperous farmers many faces and figures which an artist might easily assimilate to an athletic example of the traditional John Bull. Redmond himself, hawk-faced and thick-bodied, might have been taken for no bad reincarnation of Raymond Le Gros. To this extent he was less of a Celt than many of his countrymen; but he was assuredly none the less Irish because he was a Wexfordman. The county of his birth was the county which had made the greatest resistance to English power in Ireland since Sarsfield and his "Wild Geese" crossed to Flanders. Born in 1857, he grew up in a country-side full of memories of events then only some sixty years old; he knew and spoke with many men who had been out with pike or fowling-piece in 1798. Rebel was to him from boyhood up a name of honour; and this was not only a phase of boyish enthusiasm. In his mature manhood, speaking as leader of the Irish party, he told the House of Commons plainly that in his deliberate judgment Ireland's situation justified an appeal to arms, and that if rebellion offered a reasonable prospect of gaining freedom for a united Ireland he would counsel rebellion on the instant.

But if he was always and admittedly a potential rebel, no man was ever less a revolutionary. As much a constitutionalist as Hampden or Washington, he was so by temperament and by inheritance. The tradition of parliamentary service had been in his family for two generations. Two years after his birth his great-uncle, John Edward Redmond, from whom he got his baptismal names, was elected unopposed as Liberal member for the borough of Wexford, where his statue stands in the market-place, commemorating good service rendered. Much of the rich flat land which lies along the railway from Wexford to Rosslare Harbour was reclaimed by this Redmond's enterprise from tidal slob. On his death in 1872 the seat passed to his nephew William Archer Redmond, whose two sons were John and William Redmond, with whom this book deals. Thus the present Major William Archer Redmond, M.P., represents four continuous generations of the same family sent to Westminster among the representatives of Nationalist Ireland.

Not often is a family type so strongly marked as among the men of this stock. But the portraits show that while the late Major "Willie" Redmond closely resembled his father, in John Redmond and John Redmond's son there were reproduced the more dominant and massive features of the first of the parliamentary line.

To sum up then, John Redmond and his brother came of a long strain of Catholic gentry who were linked by continuous historic association of over seven centuries to a certain district in South Leinster, and who retained leadership among their own people. The tradition of military service was strong, too, in this family. Their father's cousin, son to the original John Edward Redmond, was a professional soldier; and their mother was the daughter of General Hoey. They were brought up in an old-fashioned country house, Ballytrent, on the Wexford coast, and the habits of outdoor country life and sport which furnished the chief pleasure of their lives were formed in boyhood. Their upbringing differed from that of boys in thousands of similar country houses throughout Ireland only in one circumstance; they were Catholics, and even so lately as in their boyhood Catholic land-owners were comparatively few.

John Redmond was four years older than his younger brother, born in 1861. He got his schooling under the Jesuits at Clongowes in early days, before the system of Government endowment by examination results had given incentive to cramming. According to his own account he did little work and nobody pressed him to exertion. But the Jesuits are skilful teachers, and they left a mark on his mind. It is scarcely chance that the two speakers of all I have heard who had the best delivery were pupils of theirs—Redmond and Sir William Butler. They taught him to write, they taught him to speak and to declaim, they encouraged his natural love of literature. His taste was formed in those days and it was curiously old-fashioned. His diction in a prepared oration might have come from the days of Grattan: and he maintained the old-fashioned habit of quotation. No poetry written later than Byron, Moore and Shelley made much appeal to him, save the Irish political ballads. But scarcely any English speaker quoted Shakespeare in public so often or so aptly as this Irishman.

From Clongowes he went to Trinity College, Dublin, where he matriculated in October 1874 at the age of seventeen. His academic studies seem to have been half-hearted. At the end of a year his name was taken off the College books by his father, but was replaced. At the close of his second year of study, in July 1876, it was removed again and for good.

But apart from what he learnt at school, his real education was an apprenticeship; he was trained in the House of Commons for the work of Parliament. He was a boy of fifteen, of an age to be keenly interested, when the representation of Wexford passed from his great-uncle to his father. Probably the reason why he was removed from Trinity College was the desire of Mr. William Redmond to have his son with him in London. Certainly John Redmond was there during the session of 1876, for on the introduction of Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill he recalled a finely apposite Shakespearean quotation which he had heard Butt use in a Home Rule debate of that year. In May 1880 his father procured him a clerkship in the House. The post to which he was assigned was that of attendant in the Vote Office, so that his days (and a great part of his nights) were spent in the two little rooms which open off the Members' Lobby, that buzzing centre of parliamentary gossip, activity and intrigue. Half a dozen steps only separated him from the door of the Chamber itself, and that door he was always privileged to pass and listen to the debates, standing by the entrance outside the magical strip of matting which indicates the bar of the House. From this point of vantage he watched the first stages of a Parliament in which Mr, Gladstone set out with so triumphant a majority—and watched too the inroads made upon the power and prestige of that majority by the new parliamentary force which had come into being.

Redmond himself described thus (in a lecture delivered at New York in 1896) the policy which came to be known as "The New Departure":"Mr. Parnell found that the British Parliament insisted

upon turning a deaf ear to Ireland's claim for justice. He

resolved to adopt the simple yet masterly device of

preventing Parliament doing any work at all until it consented

to hear."

In the task of systematic and continuous obstruction Parnell at once found a ready helper, Mr. Joseph Biggar. But Parnell, Biggar and those who from 1876 to 1880 acted generally or frequently with them were only members of the body led by Butt; though they were, indeed, ultimately in more or less open revolt against Butt's leadership. When Butt died, and was at least nominally replaced by Mr. Shaw, the growth of Parnell's ascendancy became more marked. In the general election of 1880 sixty Home Rulers were returned to Parliament; and at a meeting attended by over forty, twenty-three declared for Parnell as their leader. A question almost of ceremonial observance immediately defined the issue. Liberals were in power, and Government was more friendly to Ireland's claims than was the Opposition. Mr. Shaw and his adherents were for marking support of the Government by sitting on the Government side of the Chamber. Parnell insisted that the Irish party should be independent of all English attachments and permanently in opposition till Ireland received its rights. With that view he and his friends took up their station on the Speaker's left below the gangway, where they held it continuously for thirty-nine years.

Mr. William Redmond was no supporter of the new policy. As the little group which Parnell headed grew more and more insistent in their obstruction, the member for Wexford spoke less and less. His interventions were rare and dignified. In the debate on the Address in the new Parliament of 1880 he acted as a lieutenant to Mr. Shaw. Yet he was on very friendly terms with Parnell—almost a neighbour of his, for the Parnell property, lying about the Vale of Ovoca, touched the border of Wexford.

Mr. William Redmond's career in that Parliament was soon ended. In November 1880 he died, and, normally, his son, whose qualifications and ambitions were known, would have succeeded him. But collision between Government and the Parnellite party was already beginning. Mr. T.M. Healy, then Parnell's secretary, had been arrested for a speech in denunciation of some eviction proceedings. This was the first arrest of a prominent man under Mr. Forster's rule as Chief Secretary, and Parnell, with whom in those days the decision rested, decided that Mr. Healy should immediately be put forward for the vacant seat. In later days he was to remind Mr. Healy how he had done this, "rebuking and restraining the prior right of my friend, Jack Redmond." Redmond had not long to wait, however. Another vacancy occurred in another Wexford seat, the ancient borough of New Ross, and he was returned without opposition at a crucial moment in the parliamentary struggle.

That struggle was not only parliamentary. From the famine year of 1879 onwards a fierce agitation had begun, whose purpose was to secure the land of Ireland to the people who worked it. Davitt was to the land what Parnell was to the parliamentary campaign: but it was Parnell's genius which fused the two movements.

To meet the growing power of the Land League, Mr. Forster demanded a Coercion Bill, and after long struggles in the Cabinet he prevailed. Against this Bill it was obvious that all means of parliamentary resistance would be used to the uttermost.

They were still of a primitive simplicity. In the days before Parnell the House of Commons had carried on its business under a system of rules which worked perfectly well because there was a general disposition in the assembly to get business done. A beginning of the new order was made when a group of ex-military men attempted to defeat the measure for abolishing purchase of commissions in the Army by a series of dilatory motions. This, however, was an isolated occurrence. Any English member who set himself to thwart the desire of the House for a conclusion by using means which the general body considered unfair would have been reduced to quiescence by a demonstration that he was considered a nuisance. His voice would have been drowned in a buzz of conversation or by less civil interruptions. This implied, however, a willingness to be influenced by social considerations, and, more than that, a loyalty to the traditions and purposes of the House. Parnell felt no such willingness and acknowledged no such loyalty.

"His object," said Redmond in the address already quoted, "was to injure it so long as it refused to listen to the just claims of his country." The House, realizing Parnell's intention, visited upon him and his associates all the penalties by which it was wont to enforce its wishes: but the penalties had no sting. All the displays of anger, disapproval, contempt, all the vocabulary of denunciation in debate and in the Press, all the studied forms of insult, all the marks of social displeasure, only served to convince the Irishmen that they were producing their effect. Still, the House continued to act on the assumption that it could vindicate its traditions in the old traditional way: it was determined to change none of the rules which had stood for so many generations: it would maintain its liberties and put down in its own way those who had the impertinence to abuse them. The breaking-point came exactly at the moment when Redmond was elected.

On Monday, Jan. 24th, 1881, Mr. Forster introduced his Coercion Bill. It was open, of course, to any member to speak once, and once only, on the main motion. But every member had an indefinite right to move the adjournment of the debate, and on each such motion every member could speak again. The debate was carried all through that week. It was resumed on Monday, 31st. The declaration of Redmond's election was fixed for Tuesday, February 1st, in New Ross—there being no contest. A telegram summoned him to come instantly after the declaration to London. He took the train at noon, travelled to Dublin and crossed the Channel. At Holyhead about midnight another telegram told him that the debate was still proceeding. He reached Euston on the Wednesday morning, drove straight to the House, and there, standing at the bar, saw what he thus described:"It was thus, travel-stained and weary, that I first

presented myself as a member of the British Parliament. The

House was still sitting, it had been sitting without a break for

over forty hours, and I shall never forget the appearance the

Chamber presented. The floor was littered with paper. A few

dishevelled and weary Irishmen were on one side of the

House, about a hundred infuriated Englishmen upon the

other; some of them still in evening dress, and wearing what

were once white shirts of the night before last. Mr. Parnell

was upon his legs, with pale cheeks and drawn face, his

hands clenched behind his back, facing without flinching a

continuous roar of interruption. It was now about eight

o'clock. Half of Mr. Parnell's followers were out of the

Chamber snatching a few moments' sleep in chairs in the

Library or Smoke Room. Those who remained had each a

specified period of time allotted him to speak, and they were

wearily waiting their turn. As they caught sight of me standing

at the bar of the House of Commons there was a cheer of

welcome. I was unable to come to their aid, however, as

under the rules of the House I could not take my seat until

the commencement of a new sitting. My very presence,

however, brought, I think, a sense of encouragement and

approaching relief to them; and I stood there at the bar with

my travelling coat still upon me, gazing alternately with

indignation and admiration at the amazing scene presented

to my gaze."This, then, was the great Parliament of England! Of

intelligent debate there was none. It was one unbroken scene

of turbulence and disorder. The few Irishmen remained quiet,

too much amused, perhaps, or too much exhausted to

retaliate. It was the English—the members of the first

assembly of gentlemen in Europe, as they love to style it—

who howled and roared, and almost foamed at the mouth

with rage at the calm and pale-featured young man who

stood patiently facing them and endeavouring to make

himself heard."

An hour later the closure was applied, for the first time in Parliament's history. The records of Hansard spoil a story which Redmond was fond of telling—that he took his oath and his seat, made his maiden speech and was suspended all in the same evening. In point of fact he took his seat that Wednesday afternoon, when the House sat for a few hours only and adjourned again. Next day news came in that Davitt had been arrested in Ireland. Mr. Dillon, in the process of endeavouring to extract an explanation from the Government, was named and suspended. When the Prime Minister after this rose to speak, Mr. Parnell moved: "That Mr. Gladstone be not heard."

The Speaker, ruling that Mr. Gladstone was in possession of the House, refused to put the motion. Mr. Parnell, insisting that his motion should be put, came into collision with the authority of the Chair and was formally "named." Mr. Gladstone then moved his suspension and a division was called—whereupon, under the rules which then existed, all members were bound to leave the Chamber. On this occasion the Irish members remained seated, as a protest, and after the division the Speaker solemnly reported this breach of order to the House. For their refusal to obey the Irish members present were suspended from the service of the House, and as a body they refused to leave unless removed by physical force. Accordingly, man by man was ordered to leave and each in turn rose up with a brief phrase of refusal, after which the Sergeant-at-Arms with an officer approached and laid a hand on the recusant's shoulder. Redmond, when his turn came, said:

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