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Various Occurrences in 1871 page 2

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Towards the end of the year, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Evelyn Denison, feeling the advance of age and the pressure of the arduous and trying duties inseparable from his office, resigned the Speakership, and was soon after elevated to the peerage, taking the title of Lord Ossington. He was succeeded by Mr. Brand, the member for Cambridgeshire, long known as one of the most efficient of Liberal " Whips."

A visit paid this year by Prince Arthur to Ireland, though it elicited much friendly and loyal feeling, was not unattended by painful incidents. The Prince was accompanied by his sister, the Princess Louise, and the Marquis of Lorne. The royal party were received in all public places with the same respect and loyalty as usual, and the visit was nearly coming quietly to an end; but, on the day before the Prince departed, a riot of a serious character took place in the Phoenix Park. The " Irreconcilable" party in Ireland, in whose eyes respect to a British prince is equivalent to conversion into a " West Briton," a being for whom your genuine Irishman cannot find words to express his scorn and loathing, announced their intention of holding a public meeting in the Phoenix Park on the 6th August, in order to adopt a petition for the liberation of the Irish military prisoners confined for Fenianism. The authorities forbade the meeting to be held; the promoters persisted in holding it; and when the police, in pursuance of their orders, endeavoured to disperse the crowd, and prohibit anything like concerted action or public speaking, a serious affray was the consequence. The police appear to have acted with great and hardly excusable violence; and when it is considered that at this very time the Government did not interfere with the meetings of Red Republicans in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, that is, in the heart of London, while the Phoenix Park, a piece of open ground of immense extent, lies at a great distance from the busy part of Dublin, the indignation expressed by the Nationalists at the forcible suppression of the meeting cannot be wondered at. The chief promoter of the meeting, Mr. P. J. Smyth, afterwards member for the County Westmeath, and an ardent Nationalist, issued the following address: " Fellow-countrymen, - While yet the Princes of England are guests of the Viceroy the green sward of the Phoenix Park, close by their residence, has been reddened with the blood of the people.... Yesterday evening a lawful and constitutional assembly of the people in the public park was violently interrupted by an armed body of police, who savagely set upon the unarmed and unresisting crowd of men, women, and children, and soon left many of them weltering in their blood." After saying that the authorities had freely allowed the people to assemble by tens of thousands in the park a few days before, when the object was to make "a holiday for royalty," but set their faces against an assemblage which aimed at the nobler task of the liberation of captives, Mr. Smyth proceeded: "Fellow-citizens, this occurred at a moment when the Republicans of London are allowed to assemble in the public parks of that city, to express sympathy with the Commune of Paris, and to assail the Crown and constitution and the law. Once, when the Government of the day ventured to prohibit a public meeting for a political purpose in a London park, the populace tore down the railings of the enclosure, and the right to hold political meetings has never since been questioned. At present the socialist and the infidel may freely address assemblages in the London parks. It is by the same Government that permits all this in London that the people of Dublin have been assailed in the public park of the Irish metropolis. Fellow-citizens, this savage and high-handed proceeding will not be allowed to pass without fitting action. The necessary legal steps will forthwith be taken to bring to account the persons responsible for this invasion of law and public right. We appeal to you to sustain us in contesting an issue so vitally important by bringing condign punishment on the perpetrators of this disgraceful and sanguinary outrage." In due time, accordingly, the case of the Queen v. the Marquis of Hartington (then the Chief Secretary for Ireland) came on in the Four Courts.

Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal party in general having entered upon the policy of conciliation to Ireland, both in regard to the Irish Church and to the tenure of the land, from a conviction that those important measures were demanded by justice, never can repent of what they did; yet it must be confessed that the sanguine anticipations of seeing peace, union, contentment, and gratitude diffused over the sister island in consequence of this legislation have been woefully disappointed. The marked warmth and heartiness with which a French deputation, headed by Count Flavigny, that came over to Ireland in the summer of 1871 to make a public acknowledgment of the services rendered during the war by the Irish ambulance, was received by the masses of the Irish population was understood to cover and indicate at least as much dislike of England as affection for France. Nor was this feeling now confined to the Celtic portion of the population. A section of Protestants, among whom the most prominent figure was a distinguished Fellow of Trinity College, resented so keenly the conduct of England in having sacrificed their Church to, as they deemed, a miserable political expediency, and the clap-trap plea of numbers, that they eagerly joined that large disaffected mass of the native and Roman Catholic population which, about this time (direct agitation for a repeal of the Union being "discouraged by the experience of 1844), began to seek the same end under the newly-invented name of "Home Rule." The leader of this movement, Mr. Isaac Butt, the member for Limerick, was one, and not the least gifted, of the brilliant band of counsel who rallied round O'Connell on the occasion of his trial for exciting to sedition in January, 1844. Since that time Mr. Butt's public career had not been, on the whole, successful. The movement for Home Rule which he now took up had this advantage, that while the very name implied a certain degree of separation from England, and therefore ensured for it popularity, its vagueness made it more difficult for opponents to grapple with it. All that those who gave in their adhesion to the agitation need necessarily contemplate was the transfer to some legislative body established in Ireland of the management of the purely local concerns of the kingdom. But in the minds of the majority of its adherents Home Rule probably meant, and means, much more than this. It means the practical self-government of Ireland, and the extrusion of English influence from the conduct of its affairs, with the exception of a few specified departments, such as the Army and Navy, foreign relations, and the Post Office. It has been argued, on the one hand, having due regard to the fact of the success of the Austro-Hungarian experiment, that a considerable section of the community would contemplate the prospect of Home Rule in Ireland without alarm, were it not for this one circumstance. The difference of religion between England and Ireland will always cause the people of the two countries to take up divergent lines on many of the most important questions of foreign policy; their sympathies and antipathies are and will be different. The one people, for instance, rejoices - the other grieves - at any mishap which befalls the Pope. Now there is no such difference between the Austrians and the Hungarians; the chances are, therefore, that both their interests and their feelings will be generally in unison on important questions of foreign policy. But, it has been replied, on the other hand, in our case, - if we suppose an Irish Parliament to have successfully managed Irish affairs during a course of years, and to have thereby acquired dignity and self-reliance, - should some European complication suddenly occur in which the sympathies of Englishmen and Irishmen were ranged on different sides, and we were precipitated into war, the danger, notwithstanding the reservation of "common affairs" to the Imperial Parliament, of a collision between the two Legislatures would be fearfully great.

Mr. Gladstone delivered an important speech on this question at Aberdeen towards the close of the year, in which he based his opposition to Home Rule, not on any such prospective and hypothetical dangers as those we have referred to, but on the allegation that the Irish, if they will combine together, and become as keenly alive to their own interests as the Scotch or the Welsh are, can obtain whatever they can reasonably demand. " You would expect," he said, "when it is said that the Imperial Parliament is to be broken up, that at the very least a case should be made out showing there were great objects of policy, and great demands necessary for the welfare of Ireland, which representatives of Ireland had united to ask, and which the representatives of England, Scotland, and Wales had united to refuse. There is no such grievance. There is nothing which Ireland has asked, and which this country and this Parliament have refused." He proceeded to admit that Ireland had something like a grievance in regard to university education, but urged that a united demand from Ireland would lead immediately to its rectification; and continued: " What are the inequalities of England and Ireland? I declare that I know none, except that there are certain taxes still remaining which are levied over Englishmen and are not levied over Irishmen, and likewise that there are certain purposes for which public money is freely and largely given in Ireland, and for which it is not given in England or Scotland.... But if the doctrines of Home Rule are to be established in Ireland, I protest on your behalf that you will be just as well entitled to it in Scotland; and, moreover, I protest on behalf of Wales, in which I have lived a good deal, and where there are 800,000 people who this day, such is their sentiment of nationality, speak hardly anything but their own Celtic tongue - a larger number than speak the Celtic tongue, I apprehend, in Scotland, and a larger number than speak it, I apprehend, in Ireland. I protest on behalf of Wales that they are entitled to Home Rule there. 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?"

A tragic event, the prelude, as it proved, to one still more tragic, was announced in the autumn from Calcutta. Mr. Justice Norman, acting Lord Chief Justice, was assassinated by a fanatical Mussulman while ascending the steps leading to his own court. He had reached the summit of the flight of steps, when a man, who had been concealed in a doorway, sprang out and stabbed him in the back. Mr. Norman turned quickly round, and was stabbed again in front; either wound, being inflicted by one who was an adept in the art of murder, would have been fatal. The assassin was immediately seized. The evidence given on the trial left it doubtful whether pure fanatical hate towards a judge who had lately been enforcing the law against some Mohammedan conspirators at Patna was the cause of the murder, or whether some private grudge supplied a subsidiary motive. However this might be, the deed might well suggest disquieting reflections in the minds of the dominant race, considering the immense and increasing strength of the Mohammedan element in the population of British India, and the uncompromising detestation with which the Wahabees, the Puritans of Islam, regard the English Raj.

What may prove to have been an important step towards the co-ordination in one confederacy of the Australian colonies was taken in the autumn of this year. A new treaty between Great Britain and the Zollverein was being negotiated; and it would appear that Lord Kimberley, the Colonial Secretary, in a circular despatch to the Australian Governments, used certain expressions in relation thereto which seemed to the colonists to imply the recognition of a right on the part of the mother country to concede, and on the part of a foreign country to claim, certain tariff arrangements as between the different colonies which would be favourable to the interests of the treaty-making Power. Delegates from the Governments of New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria met at Melbourne, in September, 1871, to consider the question; and having carefully examined Lord Kimberley's despatch, agreed unanimously to the following resolutions.

  1. "That the Australian colonies claim to enter into arrangements with each other, through their respective Legislatures, so as to provide for the reciprocal admission of their respective products and manufactures, either duty free or on such terms as may be mutually agreed upon.
  2. "That no treaty entered into by the Imperial Government with any foreign Power should in any way limit or impede the exercise of such right.
  3. "That Imperial interference with inter-colonial fiscal legislation should finally and absolutely cease.
  4. "That so much of an Act or Acts of the Imperial Parliament as may be considered to prohibit the full exercise of such right should be repealed.
  5. " That these resolutions, together with a memorandum from each Government, or a joint memorandum from such Governments as prefer to adopt that method, shall be transmitted to the Secretary of State through the Governors of our colonies respectively."

The Conference proposed by Prussia for the settlement of the Black Sea Treaty question met in London on the 17th January. The presence of a French plenipotentiary at the Conference had been earnestly desired, and M. Jules Favre had been requested to attend it by the Paris Government. But difficulties arose in connection with his obtaining permission to pass out of Paris through the Prussian lines; and when, after a lengthy correspondence, the permission was obtained - or, rather, through the termination of the siege, the difficulty no longer existed - M. Favre had his hands so full of the work of negotiating the armistice with Bismark that it was impossible for him to leave Paris. The plenipotentiaries of the other Powers - England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia, and Turkey - proceeded, though with reluctance, to the deliberation of the question. At the first sitting, the Conference adopted, unanimously, on the invitation of Lord Granville, the principle that no one of the two or more Powers that may be parties to a treaty can nullify the same, or any part of it, without the consent of the cosignatory Powers. In the words of the protocol of the day's proceedings, the plenipotentiaries there assembled "recognise that it is an essential principle of the law of nations, that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the contracting Powers, by means of an amicable arrangement." At subsequent meetings, the reasons alleged by Russia for her desire to be liberated from the prohibitory stipulation respecting war-ships contained in the Black Sea Treaty were listened to and considered, as well as the reply of the Turkish Ambassador, who, while repudiating on behalf of Turkey all intention of separating her action from that approved by the majority of the friendly Powers, regretted that the question had ever been raised, and declared that the restrictive clause which Russia now felt to be unendurable still appeared to the Sublime Porte in the light of a prudent and desirable precaution. Upon minute inquiry, it was found that ten cases of infraction of the Convention of 1856, forbidding the navigation of the Black Sea by ships-of-war, had occurred in the intervening period. Most of these were unimportant; but there was one on which Russia laid much stress, having, indeed, protested against it at the time when it occurred. This was the admission into the Black Sea of H.M.S. Gannet, in which Sir Henry Bulwer was conveyed (1864) on a mission to Kustendji. General Ignatieff, the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, told the British representative there, about the year 1870, that Russia considered the clauses neutralising the Black Sea to have been annulled in practice from the time when H.M.S. Gannet passed through the Bosphorus into the prohibited waters six years before. The sense of the Conference was, on the whole, in favour of remitting the restriction which Russia complained of; and a new treaty was drawn up, and signed by all the Powers, by virtue of which the articles of the Treaty of 1856 limiting the number and size of the ships-of-war which Russia and Turkey might keep up in the Black Sea were abrogated, and a new provision was introduced, authorising the Sultan to open the straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus in time of peace to the fleets of the friendly and allied Powers, in the event that the execution of the stipulations of the Treaty of 1856 should require it. The meaning of this stipulation, of course, was, that if Russia took advantage of the liberty which she now had of preparing a large fleet to attack Turkey, the latter would be entitled, without the breach of any treaty stipulation, to summon the Mediterranean fleet of France or England to her aid.

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Pictures for Various Occurrences in 1871 page 2

Mr. John Leech
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