“Imperii dignitas non in vocabuli voce sed in gloriosae pietatis culmine consistit.”
– LEWIS II, Holy Roman Emperor
IF Ireland secures Self-Determination from the Peace Conference, there can be no doubt as to the outcome. Her people will vote themselves free forever from the Empire that was built on the ruins of her freedom. But it may be that the Allies and America will rule that the oldest and most illustrious of European nations is not entitled to the privileges being offered to the little peoples who, up to the last months of the war, fought loyally on Prussia’s side. In this case the struggle will be lengthened, though the outcome will be the same. The policy of restoring the Gaelic State by fighting the battle in Ireland and on the social plane, instead of at Westminster and on the political field, will go on. Against the Competent Military Authority will be set up the Competent Moral Authority. Sooner or later, for her own sake, England will offer us terms. What terms shall we accept?
There were times in the past when we were prepared to accept the Dual Monarchy. It is true that though in theory there was a King of Ireland and a King of England who happened to be the same individual, the arrangement was always one-sided. The King was always an Englishman rarely by blood, indeed, for the present Royal Family is German, but always in manners and ideals – and never displayed one shred more of interest in Ireland than your insular Briton is capable of feeling for any country but his own. Ireland’s sensibilities were always ignored and outraged. Only the other day the British Royal Family insulted every Catholic in the world by contemptuously casting off the grand old Catholic name of Guelph so redolent of Church history in favour of the shoddy title of “Windsor.” Never was the English King a man with whom an Irishman could pass a dozen sentences. Think of any of the English monarchs (save the Stuarts, whom the English murdered and exiled) and you cannot select one whom you would, as a man, invite to tea. What could you think of as a topic of common interest for conversation? Their mentalities were as the Poles asunder from an Irish-man’s. They were, indeed, odd “fathers of their people.”
Yet we would accept the Dual Monarchy in former days because kings have one use – that of offering a serviceable camouflage for political arrangements. It is so the English ever use their crowned heads. If it pleased the English that their King should be King of Ireland, if they would on that condition withdraw their imposed force, we were not prepared to surrender practical control of our country for the luxury of refusing the Briton the pleasure of putting a harp upon his coins. The “gold link of the crown” might itself be snapt, while invisible bonds in the form of capitalistic domination remained, and we know well to-day that the English tongue is stronger far to hold us in subjection than any political or economic institution ever invented. It would be foolish, indeed, to cavil about a crown when more real things were neglected.
To-day we demand the severing of all links because we know England’s methods better. We know that crown or any other link will be used by England to advance Anglicisation. We know that while she has any trace of authority here, she will use it to recover in the future anything that she may yield in the present. The only concessions that we are prepared to make are those that a free state may make by free treaty with another. Now that England has “destroyed the last stronghold of Militarism in Europe” and “made the world safe for democracy,” she need have no fear of us even as an independent country. She has no rival with whom we may intrigue (though in any case we could have no motive for doing so), and we are willing to give her reasonable assurances that we will never, with our four millions, make a surprise attack upon and subjugate her forty. Our resolve to accept no less than the freedom thrust upon the Jugo-Slavs is not a little strengthened by the Ally statesman’s reminder that “autumn leaves are falling.” It would be foolish to yield a compromise to the Devil when St. Michael had him by the tail.
Our attitude to the English Empire is analogous to our attitude towards the English Crown. In our struggle against the Union we were prepared to accept, after Repeal, the status held by the Ascendancy Parliament, which was one of theoretic sovereignty within the economic circle of that capitalistic institution called the Empire. We philosophically accepted the Empire’s existence, even as we accepted the existence of Original Sin. Our position was that of the Gauls and other subjected races within the unshakable Roman Empire. Their presence within the universal order was no indignity, and without shame they could seek the most advantageous terms for themselves. Others besides ourselves were condemned to live beneath the gaudy emblem of the Union Jack the Republican Afrikanders, the democracy behind Cardinal Mannix, the brave and cultured French-Canadians, our kinsmen of Scotland – whose national sense is now re-awakening – and the mighty population of India, custodian of one of the fairest and noblest cultures which ever beautified the earth. Combination between these fellow-victims might ultimately lead to the overthrow of the cockney hegemony and release a group of free peoples to enter the United States of Civilisation.
The Englishman makes it impossible for the Irish-man or any other lover of culture and freedom to accept the English Empire save under constraint. That Empire is based on the principle of the survival of the vulgarest. Of all the races which inhabit its territories the English is the most backward in culture and morals. And yet the English claim the right to impose their inferior institutions and their inferior language on all the gracious and refined peoples who fall beneath their sway. The magnificent and characteristic Mogul architecture of India is left to fall into ruin, and colourless jerry-built imitations of Whitehall (that artistic horror) are set up in India to remind the native that he, like the Irishman, “is not supposed to exist.” The natural modesty of decent native peoples is outraged by the moral-less living of the English civil servants and military garrisons which claim to represent “Christianity and civilisation.” Wherever they are not too numerous, the coloured peoples like the splendid race of the Maoris and the decent folk of Australia, Africa and Canada are exterminated. The English Empire is the only one which has ruled by extermination.
No people are less fitted than the English for authority. They make excellent servants. The Sam Wellers and Mark Tapleys are quite lovable folk. But as in Austria (according to Lecky) so in England, the affability and long-suffering ass-like patience of the “lower classes” has enabled the whole direction of the State to be appropriated by a militarist caste or governing race, and the entire upper classes and higher bourgeoisie of England inherit and practise the tradition of the ascendant Normans. The domineering and intolerant spirit of official England renders the English the worst rulers in the world. The English nation is so thoroughly drilled, personality and free thought are so completely quenched, that every untruthful formula sent out by the ruling classes is implicitly believed. All England is convinced that ” Catholic countries are backward,” ” Freedom exists under the Union Jack,” ” English rule is as good as self-rule,” “The Irish are lazy and quarrelsome,” “All races are inferior to ourselves,” “Nothing foreign is worth attention,” ” The Kaiser caused the war,” ” England was not prepared,” etc., etc. It is thus natural that the English nation inflicts itself on all its victims, and never “supposes them to exist.” The Englishman is incapable of respecting native culture, as did the Germans when they built their colonial buildings in harmony with native architectural styles; or of endearing himself to “inferior black races,” as did the French in Northern Africa where black and white mingled like human brethren; or again, of respecting native literature as did even Russia in the hour of her greatest tyranny, for Mickiewicz, the Polish Davis, was feted by the Russian literary circles when he “deported” from his own country.
Decent Englishmen always speak sheepishly and apologetically for their Empire, as if for a “poor relation.” No English writer of cultural status can be found to say a word for it. There is no English Imperial literature, no idealistic Imperial utterance like Virgil’s exhortation to Rome:
Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento;
Hae tibi erunt artes: pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos.
The Englishman would be satisfied, indeed, by the admonition, ” Remember, Briton, that it is yours to boss the world ” (to venture a free adaptation of the first line), but he would gape when the poet proceeded: “These be thine arts : establish the ways of peace, spare the lowly and bring the mighty down.” For the English Empire has spread not peace, but blood-shed. Every acre has been won by violence and retained by cruelty. The lowly have not been “spared,” but annihilated, and England has never attacked the mighty, though when they were her competitors she formed Leagues of Nations to attack them for her. And what binds this Empire together? Force, and the imposed English tongue. During the Great War blood was shed in almost every constituent territory, from Ireland to Canada and Ceylon and South Africa, and only the defeat of conscription by Cardinal Mannix prevented blood from flowing in Australia, too. No other Empire not even the Russian was rebelled against through its length and breadth by outraged discontents. Mr. John Dillon asks for Ireland “her place among the self-governing nations of the Empire.” It is a lurid comment on the illiberality of English rule that, except England, there is not a single self-governing nation within the Empire. For only the English colonies are allowed autonomy; wherever nationality lifts its head, as in Lower Canada, India or Ireland, the smallest vestige of freedom is withheld. In the Englishman’s Empire there is no room for any but Englishmen other peoples, for him, ” do not exist.” Ireland might compromise with the Empire if the Englishman would recognise nationality within it, as Austria recognised Hungary, and Germany Bavaria. But the English-man’s non-possumus attitude towards our nationality renders rapprochement impossible. Ireland has learnt from sad experience that John Bull is incapable of an honest contract. To enter his Empire is to enter the spider’s parlour.
Seedy in origin, the English Empire is disreputable in its objects. No great dream of civilising the world inspires it, as the Roman, and it has crushed many fair civilisations in its march. No moral idea, no creed, no vision directs its development. It has no achievements – the world’s culture and welfare are not advanced one iota by its existence. One might accept or tolerate it, but no man of education and principle could ever feel one heart’s beat of pride in it. It can boast nothing but power. It is as shoddy and vulgar as the garish Union Jack, its symbol. As we meditate and seek a reason for so useless an institution, we discover that one object alone founded this Empire, preserved it, and directed its policy and expansion that of amassing wealth for the ruling English caste. To-day the Empire is solely a great capitalistic enter- prise for the exploitation of subject peoples and their lands. The native peoples of India and Burma and the Indies are made to labour for a minute wage labour is almost a negligible part of the cost of production, thanks to this godless exploitation of the ignorant for day-long hours, extorting from their own soil its wealth in rubber and tea, and these fruits of their land and labour enrich idlers in London with fortunes running to millions. To protect these Quaker investors in their dishonest undertakings, the whole bloody machinery of armies of occupation is maintained, and the school-books are filled with propaganda inventions regarding benefits conferred by English rule upon its happy victims. This is called the “White Man’s Burden.” The extortion of millions from the Irish farmers for their own land was similarly represented as a liberal act. The English Empire is a business proposition. But it could no more inspire noble emotions than could a Meat Trust.
A leading ” Empire-builder,” who rose from nowhere on a fortune made by manufacturing screws, cried to the English people ” to think Imperially.” If he were taken at his word the English Empire would fall asunder, for the meanness of English Imperialism would be thrown into relief by the true Imperial idea. By thinking Imperially the Irish people may shame West Britain in its proudest haunts. When Ireland remembers the Imperialism of Charlemagne and the Ottos, the Imperialism of the Holy Roman Empire, the Gael will have a boast that will expose the nouveau-riche vulgarity of English Imperialism as the true diamond exposes the falsity of paste. When, in 801 A.D., Charlemagne, crowned by Pope Leo in Rome, began to federate all Christendom into a mighty Catholic Empire, the Irish High-King sent him gifts of free accord, and in later years, though the Holy Roman Empire never exerted military or political power in Ireland, the Irish Brehon jurists proudly wrote of Ireland as a constituent part of the Empire. “When the King of Eire is is without opposition, he does homage to the King of the Romans [i.e., the Catholic Emperor]” they wrote, and in commentary, added that the King might pay that homage to the successor of Patrick as the Emperor to the Pope. Observe that here the jurists of free Ireland in her prime had the conception of Christendom as a federated state of states on the model of the Gaelic State itself. So that nearly 1,000 years ago, the theory of a League of Nations was embodied in Irish law.
It must be remembered that Charlemagne’s Empire left to every constituent race or nation its own laws and sovereignty. Militarily it embraced Central Europe, but nations beyond its military marches, west and east, gave adhesion to this splendid conception of a great Christian state of states. This vision is the true Imperialism. Only by the solidarity of the human race being established can its parts enjoy health and liberty. Divide the world from one empire into wholly independent empires and states, and each will seek to strengthen itself by the subjection of foreign man-power to oppose its competitors. A single empire or super-state alone can prevent the continual outbreaks of violence that come from the swingings of the balance of power. England, with its anti-Catholic separatism, split the unity of Christendom, and consequently the existence of the English Empire has been the source of all great wars in modern history down to the last. But for the dominant position arrogated by England, the German peoples, who so long had lived as peaceful little states, would never have been tempted to organise as a military machine. Friedrich List’s National System of Political Economy, written in the early days of the German uprise, shows how resentment provoked by English economic monopolies was the chief stimulus of the German imperial movement. Thus Continental militarism is ever the reaction of English militarism. From her island, England ever menaces Europe with her capitalistic and naval power, and every nation whose fortunes rise, sees itself condemned to a struggle with that ruthless outsider. While one power perpetually bears the naked sword in hand, the peaceful evolution of Europe as a commonwealth of little nations is impossible.
To restore the solidarity of humanity is the professed object of President Wilson’s League of Nations. It remains to be seen how far the President’s high declarations will be adhered to by other Allied diplomats, but the most sanguine could hardly hope that English policy will effect so amazing a change of front as to agree to the practical application even of the Fourteen Points except to Germany. A hundred years ago, when the flag of democracy and the hopes of Ireland went down at Waterloo, the victorious Powers, at the Congress of Vienna, carved up Europe to their liking. England forsook Poland, and Poland vanished from the map. Holland and Belgium were unnaturally coalesced. Sweden was given Norway. Prussia was given half Saxony. Austria got the richest part of Italy. Then three European Powers formed a League of Nations called the “Holy Alliance” and ruled the Continent with the most edifying professions anent the maintenance of religion, justice and order, until in course of time all the patching of the Congress was torn apart by successive bloody struggles.
There is no evidence at present that the coming League of Nations will not be a mere revival of the Holy Alliance a League of Victors seeking to safeguard their gains under the name of “making the world safe for democracy,” etc., changing the formula of the Holy Alliance to one more likely to impose on present-day minds. The admission or otherwise of Republican Ireland to the Peace Conference will be a luminous evidence as to whether this is another Congress of Vienna. The falsity of the Holy Alliance’s claims was obvious in the fact that the Alliance was based on suppressed nationalities. The new League of Nations will be as evil as the old if it is built on the same foundation. No League of Nations can restore human solidarity unless it is a League of All Nations, each nationality having equal voting powers, as each is an equal “moral person” Burma having an equal vote with Britain, and Czecho-Slovakia (or Ireland) with France. A big nation has no more right to more votes than a little nation than a big man has to more votes than a little man. Unless the Peace Conference and subsequently the League of Nations are framed on the plan of equal recognition and equal rights for all nationalities, we shall know that the victors are seeking to subject the world to their capitalistic mastery, as the Congress of Vienna and the Holy Alliance sought to subject it to their reactionary and obsolete monarchies. We shall know that the League of Nations exists to preserve the mighty from being cast down from their seat, and those of low degree from being exalted.
There is hope for Europe to-day that was absent when the helpless and blind masses were re-enslaved after the Napoleonic Wars; for to-day, although the victor league has no effective military enemy left, as happened, too, when Napoleon was beaten, it also happens that there are new forces abroad that promise trouble to capitalistic schemes of world-subjection. There is Bolshevism (born in Ireland) and Nationality. Large sections of the most advanced populations are forming themselves into Republics. Most of these new states are Catholic, and hence may be expected to display a social virility and a sense of moral issues that we seek in vain in the After-Christian communities. Republicanism, when free from the disproportionate centralisation of France, is congenial to Catholicity, as is to be clearly seen from the Reformation controversies, when the Protestant Kings’ claims to divine right (re-asserted to-day in the English doctrine of state- absolutism) were controverted by the great Jesuits by the enunciation of the law that rulers hold authority only by delegation from the people in whom the power to revoke it resides. In the new Republics we may see hope for the revival of Charlemagne’s ideal of a federate community of free peoples. Catholicity may yet prove the force by which democracy will establish itself in independence of Capitalism and military might.
The dissolution of the Empires into free Republics, and the subsequent restoration of humanity’s solidarity will find its chief enemy, as civilisation and peace have always found it, in English pseudo-Imperialism. It may be Ireland’s part to lead in the assault which moral force must make upon the strongholds of violence and exploitation. In the conscription crisis, she proved that a people strong in faith could command resources of power that are stronger than any arms. If the near future sees an attempt to establish Allied Capitalism on the ruins of German Militarism, it may be Ireland’s destiny to call together the freedom- lovers of the world. Her insistence on recognition at the Peace Conference may blast the moral pretence on which Capitalism is relying, and so may Ireland “teach the world the might of moral beauty.”
The rights of Small Nations are not in a just order to be protected by strong powers any more than to be trampled on by them. The rights of the Small Nations are to own the earth, as it is the workers’ right to own the wealth of the nation. The strong powers are but groups of suppressed little peoples overruled by castes, and they have no place in civilisation until they are dissolved into their proper elements. The little nations are not to be ” protected ” ; they are to rule. Theirs, as the Polish national poet prophesied, is the heritage of the future. It may be international Labour will bring them together, or it may be Catholicity. But as surely as Capitalism is passing, having failed to serve civilisation, so surely must pseudo-Imperialism pass, and the Holy Roman Empire come again as a League of Little Nations.
Let us, then, think Imperially!