Introduction. During most of 1880 and 1881, Protestants as well as Catholics thronged to attend Land League meetings. Gladstone, whose Liberal party returned to power in the 1880 general election prepared a far-reaching Land Bill, the Land Law, (Ireland) Act 1881, which granted the ‘3 F’s’—fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure. In Ulster the Act was greeted with acclaim but in the rest of Ireland the response was mixed and the legislation had fallen far short of the Land League’s aim to abolish Landlordism. At the time Parnell was concentrating on winning Home Rule for Ireland, and the Nationalists, as the Irish Parliamentary Party was known, began a drive to extend their party’s influence all over Ulster. This led to an increase in pro-union activity in Ulster. The Nationalists assumed that because so many Ulster Protestant farmers has joined them in the Land League they would now back their campaign for an Irish Parliament based in Dublin. In 1885, all 39 Irish Parliamentary MPs voted with the Conservatives against the Government thereby forcing a general election. The Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union (ILPU), (later the Irish Unionist Alliance) was formed in May, 1885 to oppose Home Rule and maintain the Union. The ILPU published a news sheet, Notes from Ireland, as well as its annual series of pamphlets. They provide ample material for the study of Irish Unionism and of the Anglo-Irish Community in Ireland.
This document outlines some Unionist fears about Home Rule. The author argues that persecution of Protestants would be unlikely, although church property might be confiscated. The main fear, he argues, is taxation and the protection of Irish industry by the imposition of tariffs. Such measures rather than hurting England could bring about the ruination of Ireland. An end to agitation in the country and hard work would be far more beneficial to fledgling Irish industries.
Source. The Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, The Real Dangers of Home Rule (Dublin, 1886) pp. 2–13.
But the more important question is the effect which Home Rule (that is, supposing Home Rule to mean the power of making laws, and, in particular, of imposing taxes) would have upon the interests of the minority. As I have said, persecution, in the old sense of the word, may be dismissed as, to say the least, highly improbable. But is there no way of affecting Protestants, or the interests of Protestants injuriously, except by direct and open persecution? It is tacitly admitted that the Roman Catholics of Dublin would not be unlikely to put in a claim for at least one of the Dublin Cathedrals, both of which have been restored by the outlay of immense sums of money by Protestants. There is, in print, in a recently published history of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kildare a hint, by no means obscure, of the coming time, when the Cathedral of Kildare—which has been partially restored with money contributed by Protestants —shall be restored to its ‘rightful owners’. These are but trifles—straws, perhaps; but the old proverb has not yet lost its force. The more serious question, however, is the question of taxation. …
One of the objects which the Parnellite party set before them for accomplishment, when they shall have been installed in College-Green, and in a ‘purified’ Dublin Castle, is the ‘fostering of Irish industries’. What that means is not left a matter of doubt; what the men engaged in the various Irish industries understand by it is not a matter of doubt. At a meeting some time ago of what was then called the Irish Protection Association, but is now called the Irish Industrial League, and which was attended by about a score of people, most of those present representing different branches of industry, the necessity for protection, all around, was insisted on. ‘Burn everything from England, except her coal’, was the motto of the meeting. Now, if I were an Englishman I should not object to that. Mr. Chamberlain never made a greater mistake in his life than when he expressed an ‘apprehension’ that an Irish Parliament would seek, by protection, to exclude English manufacturers. He showed a lamentable want of appreciation of the true character and objects of Free Trade. By any such policy as that suggested Ireland could only injure herself. The apostles of Free Trade in England made a great mistake in showing any anxiety, and even in entertaining any desire, that other nations should become converts to the principle of Free Trade. People are always sceptical when professions of disinterested philanthropy are made.
The essential principle of Free Trade is that it benefits the nation which adopts it, whether other nations adopt it or not. If commercial treaties are beneficial, if the principle underlying them is a true principle, then the principle of Free Trade is utterly wrong. The two things are diametrically opposed to each other. Yet England has had her commercial treaties since she formally adopted Free Trade. And therefore, Mr. Chamberlain may be excused for thinking that the adoption of a system of protective duties in Ireland would injure England. If it would injure England, there would be some reason for anticipation that it would benefit Ireland. But the loss would be Ireland’s, not England’s. Nothing will so effectually kill any industry as the ‘fostering’ of it by protective duties. In any case, it is the people who thus tax the necessaries, the conveniences, or the comforts of life, who suffer, not those who produce the articles which minister to these objects.
It is, therefore, Irishmen who have most reason to fear the establishment of an Irish Parliament, if that Irish Parliament would be likely to take to the ‘fostering’ of Irish industries. There are many Irish industries which are capable of development; but a forced growth, a hothouse development of any industry, will never bring that industry to a healthy condition. The most effective way of fostering Irish industries is to get rid of the unhealthy agitation which has prevailed in the country for the last half-dozen years: to instil into the minds of the people of all classes that the true secret of industrial progress is hard work, and to recognise more fully, in the words of Goldsmith:
‘How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.’