23 SEPTEMBER 1899
I have heard a good deal of the ‘New Conservatism’ in Ireland since I returned from the Transvaal. I felt interested in it and diligently perused the Daily Express every morning to discover what manner of thing it was, and I found myself more than once puzzled. I am a rude, unlettered man and my dreams o’ nights were haunted by dairymaids declaiming London-Celtic stanzas the while they churned. I took this to be a direct inspiration from the gods, and though I had doubts about the stability of a nationality reared on butter and nursed by peaceful bards I approved of this New Conservatism when I contrasted it with the cruel Old Conservatism of jobbery and robbery and West-Britonism. Alas! my ignorance was imposed on.
When England started to bait the Transvaal I was gladdened to find that the New Conservatism did not start shrieking and shaking its fist at Oom Paul. It weighed up the situation as fairly as its knowledge of the facts would allow and remarked profoundly, like the Spectator, that there was much to be said on both sides. It decreed when President Kruger offered the seven years’ franchise and a proportion of seats in the Raad that the offer was fair and that England should mark time. But England didn’t and the New Conservatism bowed its crested head and advised the Transvaal to concede whatever England asked. I reckoned by this time that the New Conservatism lacked grit somewhat, but I still believed in its honesty. The Transvaal conceded practically more than England had demanded at Bloemfontein and then the English threw off the mask. Everyone who knows the Transvaal knows how false the franchise agitation was. Months ago I asserted in these columns that not one in twenty of the uitlanders wanted the franchise. The English Press and the English Government knew it, but they used the false cry as a pretext for their intended spoliation. Kruger forced them into the open and then—
England boldly admitted that she cared nothing about the franchise and proclaimed that she intended to crush the Dutch Idea in South Africa.
Now what did our blessed New Conservatism do when England proclaimed herself a hypocrite and a tyrant? It hesitated a moment, and then its old Imperialistic, rob-the-cripple spirit flared up and it threw off its sheep’s clothing and stood forth the Old Conservative wolf, licking its chaps as he scented blood. From the organ of New Conservatism of Wednesday, from its ‘London Letter,’ I take the following howlings of the New Conservative British Lion:
‘England has made up her pretty firm mind that no longer shall the Transvaal and the Free State block the way … There is no resentment, of course. If we have to fight these Bible-reading Dutchmen that is very sad, but before this Cape-to-Cairo resolution of Mr. Bull everything must give way.’
‘There is no enthusiasm for war. We cannot get up a sufficient amount of hate against Kruger over the franchise, but there is quite a resolute spirit, which will soon kindle into a fire, to wipe out once for all his insolent spirit.’
‘My information is that the Boer Republic is doomed and that the opportunity of wiping it out is one that will not be lightly lost.’
‘What we are told is this—that we are a nation of cowards. Here we are, 400 millions only, going to attack a little Republic of about 30,000, all Bible-reading farmers. … The 400 millions’ argument would have more effect if the 30,000 would kindly cease to block the road to Uganda and Khartoum, not to speak of plotting in every capital in Europe.’
Here you have the New Conservatism—this revivifier of Ireland’s prosperity and individuality and glory—preaching murder as cynically and brutally as I have heard the Chartered Company’s troopers preach it of the Matabili. What think you of the New Conservatism now, Irishmen? Do you not see in its unmasked face the repulsive features of the Old Irish Toryism. Its siren song is changed to the jackal’s howl. Away with the filthy thing which jokes of murder!