in the House of Commons upon Introducing
the Third Government of Ireland (Home Rule) Bill, 11 April 1912*
It is nineteen years since Mr. Gladstone, in a memorable speech which is still fresh in the recollection of most of us who heard it, at this Table moved for leave to introduce the second and last of his measures to provide for the better Government of Ireland. That speech taken, as it must be, by way of supplement to the speech in which he introduced the earlier Bill of 1886, contains the classic exposition of what I may term the historic case as between Great Britain and Ireland. I shall not attempt to-day to retraverse the ground which he covered. I do not presume to be able to bend the bow of Ulysses. But it is within my compass, and it is germane to the task which I have undertaken to-day, if before I enter upon any explanation of the provisions of the Bill which I am about to introduce, I take up the narrative where Mr. Gladstone was obliged to leave it, and ask the House of Commons to consider how far the case for or against what is called Home Rule has been affected one way or another by the course of events since 1893.
That inquiry naturally subdivides itself into two branches, according as the problem is regarded from the point of view of Ireland alone or especially, or from the point of view of the United Kingdom and the Empire at large. Let us then first see how the case stands in regard to Ireland. As Mr. Gladstone pointed out, it was not till the General Election of 1885 that the democracy of Ireland was able to give effective utterance to its view as to the way in which it should be governed. From the first moment the Irish people was granted an articulate political voice it pronounced by a majority of four to one of its representatives in favour of Home Rule. That verdict was repeated substantially in the same proportions in 1886 and in 1892, and when Mr. Gladstone spoke in 1893 he had in support of the proposition that “Ireland demands Home Rule” the evidence of three successive General Elections.
Since then nearly twenty years have passed, and from the date of the extension of the Franchise in 1884 we have had eight General Elections. The fortunes of parties in this House have during that time ebbed and flowed; Governments have come and gone; great personalities have filled the scene, and passed away. We have had as a nation peace and war, adversity and prosperity, shifting issues, changing policies; but throughout the welter and confusion,
*Hansard, 5.S., XXXVI, 1399–1414, 1422–24.