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awaiting the bandsmen. This manoeuvre caused much interest and comment among the spectators.
There were in honour of the meeting decorations which hardly appeared worthy of the occasion. They consisted of ropes of hay with pieces of ivy attached, and they were stretched overhead between trees on either side of the road. To one was attached a piece of paper with a Gaelic inscription, which probably nobody present could translate. (As though there were not already troubles enough in Ireland the patriots are trying to add the bi-lingual difficulty to the number.) In due course the procession, headed by one of the M.P.'s, swung round the corner, and found itself confronted by the police. The M.P., who had, of course, been informed of the presence and disposition of the police, appeared not to see them, and walked boldly forward until he came too close to the officer standing in front of his men to ignore their presence any longer. When he realised the connection between the business of the day and this obstruction to his advance, his expression, first of surprise, then indignation, then a fierce determination, was very creditably done, and much appreciated by the audience, which now numbered about eight hundred. The M.P. learnt from the officer that he was acting under orders from the Government, whereupon he said he must have five minutes to consider his course of action. In the meantime the crowd proceeded to arm itself with sticks and stories. There was some high-angle fire from behind a cottage and some plunging fire from an adjoining eminence. An ugly rush was made at one end of the police line, and out flew the batons. Having considered the situation, and having again conferred with the police officer, the M.P. mounted the well of the long sidecar which served as a platform and tried to obtain a hearing. It is interesting to record that not long ago this M.P. and the local firebrand, who was chairman of this meeting, were among a crowd engaged in cattledriving with whom the police fell in; and both their heads met a baton wielded by a man taking every advantage of a rare opportunity. When the speaker's voice could be heard he was begging his followers to be guided by him, and to be content to hold their meeting where they were, and not to mar Easter Sunday afternoon with bloodshed. He gave the command no stones," and the crowd acquiesced in adopting a peaceful attitude. He, of course, dilated on the unparalleled provocation offered by the “Governmint,” his strictures being received with blood-curdling yells ("cheers") by the crowd, whose excitement then subsided as quickly as it had arisen, and the business of the day began. The M.P. made the usual stereotyped oration, in the course of which he proclaimed the most rigorous form of boycott of several VOL. LXXXIV. N.S.
ranches in the neighbourhood. The next speaker was his fellow M.P., Chairman of the County Council, who, as far as he dared, pleaded for moderation and peaceful methods. He was in favour of extending Mr. Birrell's (“* Berrell,” as he called him without any prefix) "chance” till the end of “this season."
He urged that Mr. Birrell, in order to restore the land to the people whose fathers had died for it, had to raise a large sum of money-140 millions—and that even in England it was not easy to raise such a sum; he himself had heard Mr. Birrell say-he had said it to the people of Ireland through their representatives and through the Press—that, if money was not forthcoming, there would be “ hell” in Ireland next winter. Nobody who was listening could have the slightest doubt that the speaker really believed that Mr. Birrell meant this as a direct exhortation to the people of Ireland to raise “hell” if disappointed. The audience, of course, interpreted it as such. Mr. Birrell's prophecy is twin brother to “don't nail his ears to the pump," and may-with his question as to why ranch-owners did not take steps to protect their own property and Lord Denman's famous defence of cattle-drivingfor as such it was regarded in Ireland-be added to the number of things which had better have been left unsaid or expressed differently There was some slight demur among the crowd against extending “Berrell's chance," but eventually acquiescence in this course was fairly general. As regards what was to happen in the case of further disappointment and delay there could be no doubt that the sense of the meeting to a man was in favour of extra particular and unqualified "hell," which they know so well how to raise. The speaker, having come to the end of his studied moderation, devoted himself to unrestrained abuse of the hated Saxon, drawing largely on his imagination for his facts. He said that the hereditary enemies of Ireland were a powerful race; that France and Germany were afraid of them ; but he also said that the English were a “cowardly and treacherous race"; that every one of the British soldiers had been taken prisoners in South Africa, and that England had (treacherously) made peace with the Boers. He prophesied that in forty years Ireland would have Home Rule. The inconsistencies of such a speech must seem inexplicable to Englishmen, but it must be remembered that in Ireland words used on such an occasion have no relation to their usual meaning or to the meaning they are intended to convey. When not listening to arrangements for acquiring by coercion their neighbours' property, the audience on such an occasion merely wishes to have its ears pleasantly tickled by a voluble discourse, to which it does not listen too closely, and of which the majority can only dimly grasp the underlying meaning. The
most impassioned eloquence does not arouse the least echo of enthusiasm. The decrees of the League, which are wrapped up in it, are the only points of real or permanent interest. The speaker I have just quoted is a very favourable specimen of a Nationalist M.P. He is strongly opposed to the prevailing corruption, extravagance, and inefficiency of the popularly-elected public bodies. He unreservedly admitted to a friend of mine that until a nucleus of gentlemen were elected to serve on County Councils the present state of affairs is bound to continue, and, as there does not seem to be the slightest chance of a gentleman being chosen to assist in directing the affairs of the community in the greater part of Ireland, the prospects of raising the standard of control of these affairs appear to be remote. Although he is Chairman of the County Council, he is quite powerless to make any effective resistance to the policy pursued by his colleagues !
The only other speaker at this meeting was its Chairman, a prominent member of the League. He is a very different type from the last speaker. He is what is locally called a mountainy," i.e., he comes of a peculiar race inhabiting some neighbouring hills. The unfortunate community to which he belongs is not conspicuous for its mental balance, partly, it is to be feared, from a lack of proper nourishment and partly from inbreeding. It contains in consequence a lamentably large proportion of the mentally weak and afflicted. Our speaker is a " leader" in the cause, and an aspirant for parliamentary honours. I was standing just in front of him and had the full benefit of his oratory. I do not know if the presence of a stranger excited or inspired him, but he kept his eyes riveted on mine, and before he had finished his first sentence he was thoroughly wound up. His eyes blazed with a kind of insanity and his tongue completely ran away with his brain. He was quite incoherent and unintelligible most of the time. I smiled reassuringly in answer to his frenzied stare, but with no effect. He was all against "chances” or moderation of any kind. He was for hostility à outrance against the hated Saxon, who was to be ruthlessly opposed in the “ field and in the forum " (pronounced "forrrrum"). He grew calmer towards the end of his oration, when he came to the business part of his speech, which was to remind all families belonging to the Ancient Order of Hibernians of the rule that at least one member should belong to the League. On dit, that funds are low, and as a prominent Leaguer, subscriptions to his organisation are dear to our speaker's heart. This speech terminated the official proceedings. One of the M.P.'s held a sort of informal levée of his supporters and fol
lowers in the middle of the road, I heard one countryman presented to him as the bhuoy that was in the dhrive the other day. The bands were now allowed on parole to pass through the ranks of police and go to fetch their refreshments from which they had been cut off. I could not help remarking to a man who knows his Ireland thoroughly on the insensate bitterness at the beginning of the proceedings evinced by the violent part of the crowd, consisting chiefly of gossoons of sixteen years of age and upwards-for when there was a prospect of a fight the expression of ferocity on their faces was hardly human. The prompt reply I received was that their frame of mind was entirely due to what they were taught in the National Schools, by teachers in many cases ignorant and with their judgment warped and narrowed by brooding over the real or imaginary wrongs suffered by Ireland in the past. He tersely stated the position by saying that the English Government, in handing over some millions sterling annually to the National Schools, finances in many parts of Ireland an organisation which produces in its citizens the frame of mind I have tried to describe. The elder generation's alleged contempt and hatred for England is probably due to Parnell's famous saying, that the only way to treat an Englishman is to kick him in the stomach, a method entirely justified by the experience both of the Irish and the Boers, and one which loyal Irishmen and Colonials may yet be tempted to adopt by witnessing its uniformly successful application. To return to my test, the true inwardness and meaning underlying the comedy--always capable of being suddenly transformed into a tragedy-which I have endeavoured to portray faithfully and without exaggeration
was clear and unmistakable. Expressed in English Socialist vernacular it was, “Why should 'e 'ave and not me?” the primeval covetousness of one's neighbour's goods dressed up in historical grievances, patriotic appeals, endless and irrelevant rhetoric of all sorts, but unmistakable in its nakedness through its transparent disguises. It is a case of “nature red in tooth and claw," and the patriots can smell blood even if they have not tasted it. They are getting out of hand, and it is doubtful if their priests and "leaders" will be able to control them if the sway of the League remains much longer undisputed. The crowd went to the meeting to hear their "leaders" urge them to take steps legal or illegal to bring about the expropriation for
(1) Since this article was written one of the speakers at the meeting is reported in the local Nationalist organ, which I have before me, to have said :-“The people took this matter into their own hands, and without leaders applied the hazel and made it a powerful weapon to be the means of planting the people on the soil again (hear, hear)." This candid admission is undoubtedly correct.
division among the people of the profits and part, at least, of the capital of people carrying on a perfectly legitimate business, by rendering that capital invested in land unproductive and by artificially lowering the value of the land which is to be purchased for them with money lent by the State. The
The “leaders" said what they were expected to say. If they had not done so they would soon be replaced. A local pig-jobber is wildly outbidding in promises the M.P. of the constituency, because he is anxious to enter the House of Commons in order that he may, as he believes he could, become parliamentary representative of the Pig-Jobbers' Association, a post worth a comfortable income. The third speaker at the meeting is compelled to be violent in order to clear his character. He, thro
He, through no fault of his own, and owing to circumstances into which I need not enter, is suspected of either bribing the police or of being a Castle spy. He is therefore bound to out-herod Herod in his thoroughgoing zeal for reform. It is quite pathetic to see “leaders” of men in the position of having partly to advise the cat which way to jump and partly to guess which way it will jump, and of having to try to jump before it and yet with it. The attempt to perform this impossible feat leads to such wrigglings and contortions as to compel sympathy for the poor performers. It is a case of “Oh, what a tangled web we weave" with a vengeance. I am not relating these weaknesses of our leaders in order to belittle my own countrymen and raise a cheap laugh or a sneer. I do so in order that thoughtful Englishmen may consider whether we have not already a larger measure of self-government than we are fitted for. Demagogy has always been the same profession in every age and in every country. The arts of the demagogues are nauseating in their staleness. I personally much prefer the Irish leaders to their English counterparts. Their preachings are no more immoral, and they have the saving grace of affording great amusement, whereas the conceited and blatant vapourings of the English professional Socialist agitator in his attempt to set class against class are merely contemptible. Any Irishman who dares to describe his country as other than a paradise inhabited by scholars and saints is, of course, a traitor, whose vile object it is to blacken the fair fame of his fatherland. At least, as such he is loudly proclaimed by his fellow-countrymen, but the candour of the Irish about each other's failings at home leaves nothing to be desired, and it would be unfair to them to accept their estimate of each other too seriously.
We do not really think we are perfect, but it is one of our national weaknesses that we like the outside world to affect to believe that the Irish national character is almost immaculate.