(Written in November-December, 1913.)
It would be idle to attempt to forecast the details of a struggle between Great Britain and Germany. That is a task that belongs to the War Departments of the two States. I have assigned myself merely to point out that such a struggle is inevitable, and to indicate what I believe to be the supreme factors in the conflict and how one of these, Ireland, and that undoubtedly the most important factor has been overlooked by practically every predecessor of Germany in the effort to make good at sea. The Spaniards in Elizabeth’s reign, the French of Louis XIV and of the Directory took some steps, it is true, to challenge England’s control of Ireland, but instead of concentrating their strength upon that line of attack they were content to dissipate it in isolated expeditions and never once to push home the assault on the one point that was so obviously the key to the enemy’s whole position. At any period during the last three centuries, with Ireland gone, England was, if not actually at the mercy of her assailants, certainly reduced to impotency beyond her own shores. But while England knew the value to herself of Ireland, she appreciated to the full the fact that this profitable juxtaposition lay on her right side, hidden from the eyes of Europe.
“Will anyone assert,” said Gladstone, “that we would have dared to treat Ireland as we have done had she lain, not between us and the ocean, but between us and the Continent?” And while the bulk of England, swollen to enormous dimensions by the gains she drew from Ireland, interposed between her victim and Europe, her Continental adversaries were themselves the victims of that strange mental disease psychologists term the collective illusion. All the world saw that which, in fact, did not exist. The greatness of England, as they beheld it. imposing, powerful and triumphant, existed not on the rocky base they believed they saw, but on the object, sacked, impoverished and bled, they never saw. And so it is to-day. The British Empire is the great illusion. Resembling in much the Holy Roman Empire it is not British, it is not an Empire, and assuredly it is not holy. It lives on the lifeblood and sufferings of some, on the sufferance and mutual jealousy of others, and on the fixed illusion of all. Rather is it a great Mendicity Institute. England now, instead of “robbing from Pole to Pole,” as John Mitchel once defined her activities, goes begging from Pole to Pole, that all and everyone shall give her a helping hand to keep the plunder. Chins, Goorkhas, Sikhs, Malays, Irish, Chinese, South African Dutch, Australasians, Maoris, Canadians, Japanese, and finally “Uncle Sam”—these are the main components that when skilfully mixed from London, furnish the coloring material for the world-wide canvas. If we take away India, Egypt, and the other colored races, the white population that remains is greatly inferior to the population of Germany, and instead of being a compact, indivisible whole, consists of a number of widely scattered and separated communities, each with separate and absorbing problems of its own, and more than one of them British neither in race, speech, nor affection.
Moreover, if we turn to the colored races we find that the great mass of the subjects of this Empire have less rights within it than they possess outside its boundaries, and occupy there a lower status than accorded to most foreigners.
The people of India far outnumber all other citizens of the British Empire put together, and yet we find the British Indians resident in Canada, to take but one instance, petitioning the Imperial Government in 1910 for as favorable terms of entry into that British possession as the Japanese enjoyed.
They pointed out that a Japanese could enter Canada on showing that he held from six pounds to ten pounds, but that no British Indian could land unless he had forty pounds and had come direct from India—a physical impossibility, since no direct communication exists. But they went further, for they showed that their “citizenship” of the British Empire entailed penalties that no foreign State anywhere imposed upon them.
“We appeal,” they said, “and most forcibly bring to your notice that no such discriminating laws are existing against us in foreign countries like the United States of America, Germany, Japan, and Africa, to whom we do not owe any allegiance whatsoever.”
So that outside its white or European races it is clear the Empire has no general or equal citizenship, and that, far from being one, it is more divided racially against itself than are even opposing Asiatic and European nations which have the good fortune not to be united in a common imperial bond.
The total white population of this incongruous mass in 1911 consisted of some 59,000,000 human beings made up of various national and racial strains, as against 66,000,000 of white men in the German Empire, the vast majority of them of German blood. And while the latter form a disciplined, self-contained, and self-supporting and self-defending whole, the former are swelled by Irish, French-Canadians, and Dutch South Africans who, according to Sir R. Edgcumbe, must be reckoned as “coloured.”
It is one thing to paint the map red, but you must be sure that your colors are fast and that the stock of paints won’t run out. England apart from her other perplexities is now faced with this prospect. Great Britain can no longer count on Ireland, that most prolifix source of supply of her army, navy, and industrial efforts during the last century, while she is faced with a declining birth-rate, due largely, be it noted, to the diminished influx of the Irish, a more prolific and virile race. While her internal powers of reproduction are failing, her ability to keep those already born is diminishing still more rapidly. Emigration threatens to remove the surplus of births over deaths.
As long as it was only the population of Ireland that fell (8,500,000 in 1846 to 4,370,000 in 1911), Great Britain was not merely untroubled but actually rejoiced at a decrease in numbers that made the Irish more manageable, and yet just sufficiently starvable to supply her with a goodly surplus for army, navy, and industrial expansion in Great Britain. Now that the Irish are gone with a vengeance it is being perceived that they did not take their vengeance with them and that the very industrial expansion they built up from their starving bodies and naked limbs contains within itself the seeds of a great retribution.
“Since Free Trade has ruined our agriculture, our army has become composed of starving slum dwellers who, according to the German notion, are better at shouting than at fighting. German generals have pointed out that in the South African War our regular and auxiliary troops often raised the white flag and surrendered, without necessity, sometimes to a few Boers, and they may do the same to a German invading force. Free Trade which ‘benefits the consumer’ and the capitalist has, unfortunately, through the destruction of our agriculture and through forcing practically the whole population of Great Britain into the towns, destroyed the manhood of the nation.” (Modern Germany, page 251, by J. Ellis Barker, 1907).
An army of slum dwellers is a poor base on which to build the structure of a perpetual world dominion.
While the navy shows an imposing output of new battleships and cruisers for 1 913, the record, we are told, of all warship construction in the world, it takes blood as well as iron to cement empires. Battleships may become so much floating scrap iron (like the Russian fleet at Tsushima), if the men behind the guns lack the right stamina and education.
We learn, too, that it is not only the slum dwellers who are failing, but that to meet the shortage of officers a large number of transfers from the Merchant Marine to the Royal Navy are being sanctioned. To this must be added the call of the Great Dominions for men and officers to man their local fleets. As the vital resources of England become more and more inadequate to meet the menace of German naval and moral strength, she turns her eyes to Ireland, and we learn from the London Daily Telegraph that Mr. Churchill’s scheme of recruiting at Queenstown may furnish “matter for congratulation, as Irish boys make excellent bluejackets, happy of disposition, amenable to discipline and extremely quick and handy.”
As I can recall an article in this same journal, written during the course of the Boer War, in which Ireland was likened to a “serpent whose head must be crushed beneath the heel,” the Daily Telegraph’s praise to-day of the Irish disposition should leave Irish boys profoundly unmoved—and still ashore.
There is yet another aspect of the growing stream of British emigration.
“Death removes the feeble, emigration removes the strong. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, have no use for the sick and palsied, or for those incapable of work through age or youth. They want the workers, and they get them. Those who have left the United Kingdom during 1912 arc not the scum of our islands, but the very pick. And they leave behind, for our politicians to grapple with, a greater proportion of females, of children, and of disabled than ever before.” (London Magazine.)
The excess of females over males, already so noteworthy a feature of England’s decay, becomes each year more accentuated and doubtless accounts for the strenuous efforts now being made to entrap Irish boys into the British army and navy.
If we compare the figures for Germany and Great Britain, and then contrast them with those for Ireland, we shall see, at a glance, how low England is sinking, and how vitally necessary it is for her to redress the balance of her own excess of “militants” over males by kidnapping Irish youths into her emasculated services, and by fomenting French and Russian enmities against the fruitful German people.
Germany 1910: Males 32,031,967; females, 32,871,456; total, 64.925,993. Excess of females, 739,489.
Great Britain, 1911:
England and Wales: Males, 17,448,476; females, 18,626,793; total. 36,075,269. Excess of females, 1,178,317.
Scotland: Males, 2,307,603; females, 2,451,842; total. 4,759,445. Excess of fermales, 144,239. Total for Great Britain. 40,834,714. Excess of females, 1,322,556.
Thus. on a population much less than two-thirds that of Germany. Great Britain has almost twice as many females in excess over males as Germany has, and this disproportion of sexes tends yearly to increase. We read in every fresh return of emigration that it is men and not women who are leaving England and Scotland. That Irish emigration, appalling as its ravages have been since 1846, is still maintained on a nationally healthier basis the sex returns for 1911 make clear. The figures for Ireland at the census were as follows:
Ireland: Males. 2,186,802; females. 2,195,147; total, 4,381,951. Excess of females, 8,346.
Ireland, it is seen, can still spare 100,000 or 150,000 males for the British armed forces and be in no unhealthier sex plight than Scotland or England is in. It is to get this surplus of stout Irish brawn and muscle that Mr. Churchill and the British War Office are now touting in Ireland.
I take the following Government advertisement from the Cork Evening Echo (of March. 1913), in illustration:
“NOTICE—Any person that brings a recruit for the Regular or Special Reserve Branches of the Army to the Recruiting Officer at Victoria Barracks, Cork, will be paid the money reward allowed for each recruit, which ranges from 1s. 6d. to 5s. each.”
From whatever point of view we survey it we shall find that England’s Empire at bottom rests upon Ireland, and requires the continued exploitation of Ireland to make good British deficiencies. The Dominions are far off, and while they may give battleships, they take men. Ireland is close at hand—she gives all and takes nothing. Men, mind, food, and money—all these she has offered through the centuries, and it is upon these and the unrestricted drain of these four things from that rich mine of human fertility and wealth, that the British Empire has been founded and maintained. To secure to-day the goodwill and active co-operation of the Irish race abroad as well as in Ireland, and through that goodwill to secure the Alliance and support of the United States has become the guiding purpose of British statesmanship.
The Home Rule Bill of the present Liberal Government is merely the petty party expression of what all English statesmen recognize as a national need. Were the present Liberal Government thrown out to-morrow their Unionist successors would hasten to bind Ireland (and America) to them by a measure that, if necessary, would go much farther. Every Unionist knows this. Ireland is always the key to the situation.
I will quote two pronouncements, one English and one American, to show that Home Rule has now become an Imperial necessity for England.
Speaking in the House of Lords on the Home Rule Bill, Earl Grey, the late Governor General of Canada, said on January 27th, 1913:
“In the interests of the Empire I feel very strongly that it is imperative that the Irish question should be settled on lines which will satisfy the sentiment of the over-sea democracies, both in our self-governing colonies and in the United States. Every one. I think, will agree that it is most important and in the highest interests of the Empire that there should be the friendliest feelings of generous affection and goodwill, not only between the self-governing Dominions and the Motherland, but also between America and England * * *. I need not elaborate this point. We are all agreed upon it. A heavy shadow at present exists, and it arises from our treatment of Ireland * * *. If this be so, is it not our duty to remove the obstacle that prevents relationship with America from being that which we all desire?”
The American utterance came from one equally representative of American imperial interests. It is that of Mr. Roosevelt, published in the Irish World, of New York, February 8th, 1913:
“I feel that the enactment into law of this measure * * * bids fair to establish goodwill among the English-speaking peoples. This has been prevented more than by any other one thing by this unhappy feud that has raged for centuries, and the settlement of which, I most earnestly hope and believe will be a powerful contribution to the peace of the world, based on international justice and goodwill. I earnestly feel that the measure is as much in the interests of Great Britain as of Ireland.”
Did we judge of Ireland only by many of the public utterances made in her name, then indeed, might we despair of a people who. having suffered so much and so valiantly resisted for so many centuries were now to be won to their oppressor’s side by, perhaps, the most barefaced act of bribery ever attempted by a government against a people.
“Injured nations cannot so entireley forgive their enemies without losing something of their virility, and it grates upon me to hear leader after leader of the Parliamentary Party declaring without shame, that Home Rule when it is won for Ireland is to be used as a new weapon of offense in England’s hands against the freedom of the world elsewhere.”
Did the Irish Parliamentary Party indeed represent Ireland in this, Mr. Wilfrid Blunt’s noble protest in his recent work “The Land War in Ireland,” would stand for the contemptuous impeachment, not of a political party but of a nation.
Mr. Redmond, in his latest speech, shows how truly Mr. Blunt has depicted his party’s aim: but to the credit of Ireland it is to be recorded that Mr. Redmond had to choose not Ireland, but England for its delivery. Speaking at the St. Patrick’s Day dinner in London on March, 17, 1913, Mr. Redmond, to a non-Irish audience, thus hailed the future part his country is to play under the restoration of what he describes as a “National Parliament.”
“We will, under Home Rule, devote our attention to education, reform of the poor law, and questions of that kind which are purely domestic, which are, if you like, hum-drum Irish questions, and the only way in which we will attempt to interfere in any imperial question will be by our representatives on the floor of the Imperial Parliament in Westminister, doing everything in our power to increase the strength and the glory of what will then be our Empire at long last; and by sending in support of the Empire the strong arms and brace hearts of Irish soldiers and Irish sailors, to maintain the tradition of Irish valor in every part of the world. That is our ambition.“
Were this, indeed, the ambition of Ireland, did this represent the true feeling of Irishmen towards England, and the Empire of England, then Home Rule, on such terms, would be a curse and a crime. Thierry, the French historian, is a truer exponent of the passionate aspirations of the Irish heart than anyone who to-day would seek to represent Ireland as willing to sell her soul no less than the strong arms and brave hearts of her sons in an unholy cause.
“* * * for notwithstanding the mixture of races, the inter-communion of every kind brought about by the course of centuries, hatred of the English Government still subsists as a native passion in the mass of the Irish nation. Ever since the hour of invasion this race of men has invariably desired that which their conquerors did not desire, detested that which they liked, and liked that which they detested * * *. This indomitable persistency, this faculty of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of lost liberty, and of never despairing of a cause always defeated, always fatal to those who dared to defend it, is perhaps the strangest and noblest example ever given by any nation.” (Histoire de la Conquete de l’ Angleterre par les Normands, Paris edition, 1846, London, 1891.)
The French writer here saw deeper and spoke truer than many who seek to-day not to reveal the Irish heart, whose deep purpose they have forgotten, but to barter its life-blood for a concession that could be won to-morrow by half that blood if shed at home, thus offered without warrant “as a new weapon of offence in England’s hands against the freedom of the world elsewhere.”
The Irishman, who in the belief that Home Rule has come or that any measure of Home Rule the London Parliament will offer can be a substitute for his country’s freedom, joins the British army or navy is a voluntary traitor to his country. His place is to prepare for the coming of the German. His place is to see that when a victorious Germany severs Ireland from her hereditary exploiter the difficulties of settlement shall be resolutely faced by a people determined to justify the freedom conferred upon them. Even were Germany all that Englishmen paint her and Irishmen only to change “owners,” the change could not but be beneficial to Ireland. Germany took Alsace-Lorraine by force from France in 1870, and has governed those provinces for forty years by what is termed “brute force” and against the will of the majority. Yet forty years of German “tyranny” have brought extraordinary prosperity. Strassburg, a mean, pent-in garrison town under France, has become a great and beautiful city under the Germans, and the population of the whole annexed territory has greatly increased in the period. Ireland in the same forty years of English civilization has lost nearly one-fifth of her population. Her pauper rate, her lunacy rate, her sick rate—consumption particulary—have all gone up; her vitality has gone down. Her ports, save one, lie idle; her rivers empty. Every way out lies only through and across Britain.
Almost everything that Ireland produces, or consumes, must all go out or come in solely through England and on payment of a transit and shipping tax to English trade.
The London press has lately waxed indignant over Servia denied by Austria a port on the Adriatic, and we have been told that a Servia without a port is a Servia held in “economic slavery,” and that her independence is illusory unless she have free outlet to the sea. But what of Ireland? With not one, but forty ports, the finest in all Western Europe, they lie idle and empty. With over a thousand miles of seaboard, facing the west and holding the seaway between Europe and America, Ireland, in the grip of England, has been reduced to an economic slavery that has no parallel in civilization.
And it is to this island, to this people that the appeal is now made that we should distrust the Germans and aid our enslavers! Better far, were that the only outcome, the fate of Alsace-Lorraine (who got their Home rule Parliament years ago), than the “friendship” of England. We have survived the open hate, the prolonged enslavement, the secular robbery of England and now that England smiles and offers us with one hand “Home Rule” to take it away with the other, are we going to forget the experience of our forefathers? A Connacht proverb of the Middle Ages should come back to us—”three things for a man to avoid: the heels of a horse, the horns of a bull, and the smile of an Englishman!”
That Ireland must be involved in any war that Great Britain undertakes, goes without saying; but that we should willingly throw ourselves into the fray on the wrong side to avert a British defeat, is the counsel of traitors offered to fools. Our part may be at first a passive one, or we may be able to make it something more, but the day a German squadron holds the Irish Sea and communication with Great Britain is cut off, that day shall be the first day of Irish freedom, and the first day of freedom on the seas for Europe.
We must see to it that the day Germany strikes, Ireland shall be there. We must see to it that what was written only a few years ago by a member of the German General Staff shall not be falsified by any act of recreancy of ours:
“Of the Second Army Corps (of the British army) two divisions and one brigade of cavalry are quartered in Ireland, of which at any rate the larger part will remain there in order to prevent a rising of the Irish to whom the German invasion would bring the liberty they long for.” (Von Edelsheim, in his pamphlet Operationen über See.)
We must see to it that what Thierry wrote of our fathers is not shamefully belied by their sons. Our “indomitable persistency” has up to this excelled and subdued the unvarying will applied to one unvarying purpose of those who, by dint of that quality, have elsewhere subjugated the Universe. We who have preserved through centuries of misery, the remembrance of lost liberty, are not now going to merge our unconquered souls in the base body of our oppressor.
One of the few liberal statesmen England has produced, certainly the only liberal politician she has ever produced, the late Mr. Gladstone, compared the Union between Great Britain and Ireland to “the union between the mangled corpse of Hector and the headlong chariot of Achilles.” (1890.)
But, while I cannot admit that England is an Achilles, save, perhaps, that she may be wounded like him in the heel, I will not admit, I will not own that Ireland, however mangled, however “the plowers have ploughed upon her back and made long furrows,” is in truth dead, is indeed a corpse. No; there is a juster analogy, and one given us by the only Englishman who was in every clime and in every circumstance a Liberal; one who died fighting in the cause of liberty even as in life he sang it. Byron denounced the Union between England and Ireland as “the union of the shark with its prey.”
Ireland has been swallowed by the shark, but she has not been digested, she has not yet been assimilated. Byron’s analogy admits of hope and admits also (as science shows us) of that outlet of escape and retribution Edmund Spenser foresaw with dread nearly three centuries earlier. Although swallowed, Ireland may be reserved “in this unquiet state still for some secret scourge which shall by her come unto” the swallower. We need not go to the poets for the end of the story. Natural history furnishes the sequel. The shark sometimes swallows the wrong fish and the greatest of English naturalists tells us what has been observed to follow.
Describing the Brazilian sea fish, Diodon, which he had noticed off Bahia in the course of his voyage, Darwin says:
“I have heard from Doctor Allen of Forres, that he has frequently found a Diodon floating alive and distended in the stomach of the shark, and that on several occasions he had known it to eat its way, not only through the coats of the stomach, but through the sides of the monster, which has thus been killed. Who would ever have imagined that a little soft fish could have destroyed the great and savage shark?”
May it be found when German Science begins its great voyage for the freeing of the seas that the Irish Diodon was indeed the wrong fish for the World Shark to swallow!