GLADSTONE AND THE IRISH ISSUE, JULY, 1885--DEC., 1885
ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF MIDLOTHIAN, September 17, 1885. XVIII.--IRELAND.
I have reserved until the close the mention of Ireland.
The change just effected in our representative system is felt to have been a large one even in Great Britain; but it is of far wider scope in Ireland, where the mass of the people in boroughs as well as counties have, for the first time, by the free and almost unsolicited gift of the Legislature, been called to exercise the Parliamentary franchise. They will thus, in the coming Parliament, have improved means of making known, through the Irish members, their views and wishes on public affairs. Without doubt we have arrived at an important epoch in her history, which it behoves us to meet in a temper of very serious and dispassionate reflection.
Those grievances of Ireland, with which we had been historically too familiar before and since the Union, have, at length, been happily removed. The poison of religious ascendancy, in its various forms, has been expelled from the country; and the condition of the cultivators of the soil, constituting the majority of the people, which had been a scandal and a danger to the Empire, has been fundamentally improved, at the cost of no small effort, by the action of Parliament.
But the wants of Ireland have to be considered, as well as her grievances. Down to this hour Ireland has continued greatly in arrear both of England and of Scotland, with respect to those powers of local self-government which associate the people, in act and feeling, with the law, and which lie at the root, as I believe, of political stability, of the harmony of classes, and of national strength. This is a serious evil; and it is the more to be regretted, because both the circumstances and the geographical position of Ireland may appear to invest her, as a portion of the Empire, with special claims to a liberal interpretation and