Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

to a good Land Bill as to the main proposals of the Recess Committee for creating, reviving, and fostering Irish industries.

But what is it exactly that the Recess Committee suggests ? Part V. of its Report answers this question very succinctly :

Our proposal (it says] is that Parliament should establish a Ministry of Agriculture and Industries for Ireland, which shall consist of a Board, with a Minister responsible to Parliament at its head, and be advised by a Consultative Council representative of the agricultural and industrial interests of the country. This Department, besides undertaking certain new duties hitherto lest undischarged, should (with some exceptions which are mentioned) take over the following existing departments of the Irish Government: the Congested Districts Board, the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council, part of the functions of the Board of Works, the Agricultural Department of the Land Commission, the Agricultural Department of the Board of National Education, and the functions of the Science and Art Department in Ireland. The new Board, it is further explained, ought to consist of not less than five members, chosen as the members of the Congested Districts Board are chosen, that is to say, with the object of representing as far as possible the different districts and political complexions of the country;' the special value of such a body being stated to be, firstly, the corrective which it would afford to the liability of ordinary permanent officials to sink into routine, and, secondly, the influence which it would exercise in the direction of liberal administration. The nature and functions of the Consultative Council are then described. • The function of this council,' says the Report, 'would be (1) to keep the department in direct touch with the public opinion of those classes whom the work of the Ministry concerned, and (2) to distribute some of the responsibility for administration amongst those classes. It might consist of about forty-two members, and should be partly elective and partly nominated, in accordance with the principles which have been found to work satisfactorily in other countries. To a department so constituted would be delegated, as the proposed absorption of several existing departments of the Government would suggest, all matters relating to the promotion of agriculture and other industries, including forestry, reclamation, drainage, fisheries, and the hundred and one other means of livelihood which exist in every progressive country in the world; and to carry out its work the new body would be endowed with funds proportionate to its needs.

The scheme [says the Recess Committee's Report] is believed to be practical in its entirety, and calculated to lead not only to economical administration, but to results remunerative to the State. But an expenditure considerably greater than could be met by the funds of the departments which it is proposed to absorb would be required for its purposes, especially at the outset, and during what would necessarily be the experimental stage of its operations. The scale on which these requirements would be provided for might depend somewhat on the claim which may be established for Ireland by the Royal Commission on Financial Relations.

I have thought it well to set out thus in some detail the main

suggestions of the Recess Committee for the purpose of explaining what it is that the Government is expected to do if they deal with this matter next session, and in what direction they must proceed if they have any hope that their proposals will meet with general acceptance in Ireland, and if, in fact, their scheme is not to turn out one of those monumental failures which in that country so often mark the efforts of British administrators. Pottering attempts at reform ; proposals showing distrust of Irishmen and their capacity for affairs; and a niggardly provision of funds—all those things will not only be of no use from any point of view, but will show that the new policy of 'Killing Home Rule by Kindness' is only a very old and worn-out policy under a new name. The old discredited methods and objects of British administration in Ireland must be abandoned ; the new department must be a popular and representative body; and it must have ample funds at its disposal. The effort to restore the ruined industries of Ireland and to save from extinction those which still survive must, in other words, be a serious one, or it would be much better if it were not undertaken at all.

One fact in addition, in reference to the proposals of the Recess Committee, should be borne in mind by the Government. It is not Nationalists alone who have made or advocate them. The committee consisted of elements of the most diverse character. Unionists who may fairly be said to represent every section of their party in Ireland have united with Nationalists not only in setting forth the necessity for something being done on a very considerable scale for the promotion of the material interests of their country, but in specifying the precise measures which, in their opinion, ought to be adopted to that end; and their united recommendations have, since their publication, received the emphatic endorsement of men outside, of whom Lord Dufferin may be taken as a type. If such a combination should be found to have no weight with the Government, even in a matter which involves no political issues whatever, then the less said henceforth about the Unionist policy of ' Killing Home Rule by Kindness,' the better.

I have so far alluded to but two questions of urgent importance to Ireland, but others are pressing also, such as the further amendment of the Land Acts (the necessity for which cannot be a surprise to the Government), the satisfaction of the too long denied claims of the Catholics of Ireland in the matter of university education, and the reform of the system of Irish Private Bill Legislation. I have already referred to the defects of the Land Acts that still remain to be remedied. While the Land Bill of last session was passing through the House of Commons, the Government were expressly apprised of those defects and warned that the failure to remedy them would to a certainty be the cause of further agitation in the immediate future. That agitation is now on foot, and it will continue to grow till its end is attained. If the Government do not by appropriate action stop it, Irish representatives must see what they can do. As for the university education question, the admissions of Mr. Arthur Balfour, when he was Chief Secretary, and those of the present Chief Secretary at the close of last session—if I might not say, their pledges-on this subject really ought now to be crowned by the realities of fruition. Forty years have the Irish Catholics been asking for what is acknowledged by all but the most fanatical bigots to be their rigbt. How much longer are they to wait ?

To the amendment of the Land Acts, the question of Catholic university education, and the abolition of the present system of passing Local Acts for Ireland, I may add the settlement of the still unsettled Evicted Tenants question. If some public funds had last session been provided to facilitate the restoration of the unfortunate victims of the Land War to their homes, the permissive provisions for restoration contained in the latest Land Act might and probably would have by this time put an end to the trouble. But though the Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Chamberlain, and Lord Lansdowne in 1894 practically agreed to public money being provided for that purpose, in connection with a Permissive Evicted Tenants Bill, the Government of which they all three were and are members refused to act on that agreement when it came in its turn to deal with the subject. Is it too much to hope that next session it will see the expediency, not to say the humanity, of a different policy?

It may be said that the programme of legislation which I have sketched for next session is a large one—so large, indeed, that practical politicians will regard it as impossible of accomplishment in its entirety. It concerns highly important subjects, I admit; but I deny that it is very large in any other sense. Most of the matters it embraces are practically non-contentious, and any measures dealing with them will most probably be non-contentious also, provided only they are thorough and constructed on the lines that will commend themselves to Irish opinion. For the contentious measure or measures time ought to be easily found by a Government supported by a majority of 150 and guided by ordinary intelligence in the arrangement of business. The Government, in fact, and its policy of * Killing Home Rule by Kindness' are on their trial. Up to the present, perhaps, it may be said that, as far as Ireland is concerned, neither has had a fair field or a full opportunity. It will be the fault of the Government itself if it has not both next session. It can create both the field and the opportunity, if it desires to do so; and if it does not provide itself with both, the only conclusion that can be arrived at is that the new l'nionist policy is no better than the old, and that the attitude of Irish Nationalists in and outside the House of Commons must be determined accordingly.

J. E. REDMOND.

THE

EDUCATIONAL PEACE OF SCOTLAND

The mind of England is in a lull between two storms. The agitation of the last educational struggle has hardly subsided, and the approach of the one which may burst upon us in the spring is producing a fresh sense of unrest. The period may therefore be treated as one for reflection, and, above all, for the ingathering of the experience of other communities. Comparative politics is the pursuit of too few of our public men, and in the midst of actual and fierce contest the illumination which it may and ought to yield is frankly despised. Yet few things afford more guidance in the formation of theory, and fewer still are so helpful in political practice.

On the subject of education, England suffers from more than mere insularity of ideas. In the discussions of this year, nothing was more remarkable than the slenderness of reference to point after point in the experience of people actually within this little island itself, who live in the enjoyment of a system beside which that of England is fragmentary and crude, and under which not a few of the most painful troubles which afflict English educational life, and which have sprung from ecclesiastical rivalry and claims, have practically disappeared. Scotchmen view many of these present-day troubles in England with silent amazement : while Englishmen wrestle fiercely among themselves, and do not think of looking for the help which lies abundantly to their hand north of the Tweed.

Of what those lights and lessons are it is not the object of the present paper to treat ; but any student of the history of the two nations would, just at first, find it hard to square his philosophy of kistory with the points which have been reached in England and Scotland on those matters of ecclesiastical and popular ascendency. England is the land of compromise : Scotland of none. A Scotchmau spends no little part of his life in splitting theological hairs; an Englishman uses these hairs to stuff his social mattress with, and lies down upon it—he being in his own eyes an eminently practical and peaceful person. Yet upon this very topic of education, Scotland ba; reached compromise and peace, while all England is theologically and ecclesiastically by the ears. I am not lauding the compromise nor deploring the mêlée, but simply noting the odd and actual fact. Vol. XLI — No. 239

113

!

How far apart the two nations stand may be at once and easily tested, namely, by a reference to the purposes to which it is proposed to put the large augmentation of grants from the British Exchequer. Even although there be no increase upon the proposals of Her Majesty's Government in last Session of Parliament, it is computed that there will fall annually to England a new grant of about 500,0001. sterling. Under the acknowledged system of equivalent distribution, a sum of 68,0001. sterling per annum will fall to be allotted to Scotland. Now, how do the two nations propose to use these moneys? In England, it is proposed to give a preferential grant of 48. per scholar in attendance at the voluntary schools. I do not deal with the claims so vehemently put forward for an increase upon this 4s., or for the power of rating for the purpose of strengthening the voluntary schools as against the alleged encroachments or tyranny of the School Board system. My object is simply to ask how do these two nations of England and Scotland propose to employ in the cause of education these grants of public money ? To strengthen,' says an Englishman, ' our voluntary schools ; ' of which,' adds a Churchman, 'our Board Schools are the dangerous rivals. But you don't tell me,' says a Scotchman,' that this can actually be so, because in our country, from Shetland to the Solway, we have in every parish our School Board, and the public schools under the Boards have been so triumphantly successful as to absorb almost the entire energies of the nation, in so far as these are directed to primary education. Then he proceeds to tell how, before the School Board system, hundreds of voluntary schools—built in times of great ecclesiastical rivalry and trial-at once disappeared, how in the case of the Free Church alone no fewer than 150 of the schools, the actual buildings and furnishings and ground, were handed over joyfully as a free and patriotic gift to the representatives of the people, and are now administered as Scottish public property for national and beneficent ends. Therefore, take it in the rough, Scotchmen could not, even though they tried, consume this money by an increase of a capitation grant to their remnant of voluntary schools; and the notion of endeavouring either to undermine the Board system, or capture the Board Schools, is simply in Scotland not within the range of sane ideas. Still, the reader will say, the question has not been answered, namely, what, in contrast to the English demands, are the Scotch proposals for using up this money which is descending on their barren country like a small though golden shower? No answer to this question has been given, because the grant to Scotland stands as a logical consequence rather than a plain offer. But an answer, possibly in a few weeks' time, will have to be made, and I will make so free as to propone the following -founded upon the nation's history, its needs, and its ideals. As a contrast to the English proposals it may be found striking and startling enough,

« PredošláPokračovať »