Montreal Daily Star, 16 March 1911, page 3
Home Rule forCanada
Home Rule forIrelandis as definitely assured as anything can be which is subject to the uncertainties and cross-currents of politics. There is to-day a large majority in the British Parliament pledged to see it through.
As we took occasion to say a few weeks ago, the satisfaction of the Irish demand ofGreat Britaincan afford to daily with no longer. In these critical times, they must win the loyal and hearty friendship of the Irish race, both at home and abroad. This now plain enough to every Imperial statesman whose vision is as far-flung as the boundary line. We have seen even the Unionist party coquetting with the idea; and such outcry as we still hear is intended to save the House of Lords than to deny Ireland.
And through the long years, the Irish race has toiled for it, and suffered and sacrificed: has stood solidly together like an unshaken brotherhood- despite natural differences of opinion between leaders on occasion- and has fought through fair and foul weather with untiring pluck, with patience, unflinching perserverance and an unquenchable loyalty to the Old Land, which the rolling between of the Seven Seas could never drown out in the heart of the exile, constitute a price which an purchase the dearest wish of a race, then the Irish people have bought Home Rule with their tears and with their unfaltering fidelity.
They have never for a moment abandoned hope. They have never accepted defeat. They have believed in the justice of their cause as they have believed in their God; and no race known to history has been truer to religion and fuller of a deathless love for native land than the race which was cradled between the Giant’s Causeway andBantryBay.
But to-day the scene is changed.
It is the simple truth that Home Rule forCanadais more in danger than Home Rule forIreland.
The people ofGreat Britainare on the point of yielding to reason to unwearying appeal, and to the invincible logic of the international situation. The people of theUnited States, on the other hand, have just been awakened to the wisdom of applying reason and possible “Invincible logic” to the task of coaxing or coercing us into a surrender of our Home Rule.
Irelandas a Nation is about to be born again. Canadaas a Nation may be approaching its last struggle for life.
In each case, we are a small people under the shadow of a great neighbor. In each case, we have a national history of our own reaching back into the heroic ages of glorious deeds and great men. In each case, we have a fervent national spirit to be extinguished, a pride of country to be humbled, a belief in our high destiny to be broken.
Canadastands to-day whereIrelandstood before she was absorbed by the larger nation. We are free; we have our own Parliament; we make our own laws; we are conscious of our separate nationality; we are proud of our past and passionately optimistic about our future.
But Irishmen know how little all that availed them, with a blind or bought Parliament trifling with their destinies, and a rich and covetous neighbor fearful of the results of leaving them with their independent existence.
When a great and powerful nation, possessing all the resources of wealth and all the allusements for weak men within the gift of a strong central government, casts its eyes upon a smaller, feebler and poorer neighbor, and decides that its territory would nicely round out the domain of the ‘big fellow,’ and hour of imminent peril has struck the weaker country.
It does not matter very much how the first approaches are made. It is wholly a question of intention. Any road will do to travel when a burly thief can induce an unarmed stripling to enter it in his dangerous company.
If the Americans mean Annexation, they may as well begin by merging our markets for natural products into one as in any other way. That is at the present time following the line of least resistance; for it is the American market for our farmers, our fishermen and our lumbermen that the Reciprocity advocates of Canada have long sought.
But the heart of the matter lies in the purpose behind it all. Was Champ Clark right? Does President Taft mean anything in particular when he constantly and insistently tells his people that “Canadais at the parting of the ways.” Are the Americans like other people- like the British, the Germans, the Austrians, the Russians, the French, the Japanese? Or are they too good to be human? Have they none of the appetites which spur on the rest of the race? Do they care nothing for expansion- for finding new markets- for making louder the scream of the Eagle?
These are the important questions; for if the Americans mean Annexation, then the fight of the future will not be for Home Rule forIreland, but Home Rule forCanada.
The Irish people know- as does every Polish exile or Hungarian patriot- what it means to see one’s Mother Country in the grasp of another, and to be told that one’s nationality has been extinguished forever. They know the maddening humiliation, the unappeasable resentment, the furious hatred of the conqueror that this burning experience breeds.
It is not a loss to be counted in dollars or reduced to statistical tables. It is not an injury that can be wiped out by material advantage. There is no use talking to a proud people in such a position [illegible]
“inevitable destiny.” [illegible]
Century is the right to discover the [illegible]
It was not alone good government they sought but Irish government.
Canadians may have [illegible]
With that point of view. We may [illegible]
Nationality ofCanadadenied and [illegible]
a distinct nation “pooh-poohed” [illegible]
in a position to judge for us what sort of government [illegible]
have; and Canadian common [illegible]
polite fashion as the crude and [illegible]
not fit to govern themselves [illegible]
GoverningCanadawill be a novelty atWashington; and everybody from Champ Clark to the delegate fromAlaska, may be expected to take a hand. The good Canadian members will be those who accept the keynote fromWashingtonopinion; and the bad members will be the recalcitrant group who insist that Canadian opinion touching Canadian affairs should succeed.
To-day the long night of Irish discontent is closing. The perseverance of the Irish race has won its reward. But it must be remembered thatIrelandhas had two advantages in its long struggle which would be deniedCanadaif we were to be sent out into the Wilderness: -Irelandis an island and so a distinct geographical unit; and the Irish race is comparatively homogenous.
There is no natural boundary between the Dominion and the States of theUnionfor the greater part of the distance covered by the “imaginary line.” There is no distinct Canadian race- not yet. We are at best a blend of races which are possessed with a passion of patriotism for our new home.
We would be in the poorest possible position to keep up the fight for the recognition of the Canadian nation after we had once been submerged. American interests and settlers would flow into our country; and millions would come who knew not the name ofCanada. There would be nothing to mark offManitobafromMinnesotawhich did not separateMinnesotafromWisconsin. Our nationality would be lost sight of; and we would become a tier of Northern States which had once been a Nation.
At the end of our “long night of discontent”- at the end of our century of travail- the day would not be dawning. The sun of our nationality would have set forever.
The meaning of the loss of Home Rule is a matter upon which we cannot do better than consult our Irish fellow citizens. They know what it means by experience. Identity of language does not soften the suffering; nor does the excellence of the Parliamentary body, to whose care the disinherited people are committed, rectify the wrong.
No one surely will contend that the American Congress is a better governing body than the British Parliament. No one will argue very seriously that it is half as good. Yet the Irish were so thoroughly discontented with their treatment by this Mother of Parliaments that they have kept up an unceasing agitation for relief from its “benevolence.” Are we likely to love Congressional rule any better? Will we be more sympathetically governed fromWashingtonthan the Irish were fromWestminster?
We have our own way of doing things inCanada. It may be right or it may be wrong; but we like it. We prefer, as we said the other day, to have our judges appointed by the Dominion Government and not elected by the mob. We prefer our court procedure and our methods of justice. We prefer our municipal issues unmixed with Federal politics. We do not covet the “Boss” system of American cities. We prefer our treatment of the school question. We prefer our toleration toward all religions.
Will we be allowed to keep these preferences when we have lost Home Rule? Certainly not, so far as they are to be settled atWashington. Every privilege which is defended by the Parliament atOttawa, or by the British North America Act, will be flung into the melting pot when that Parliament is wiped out- as was the Parliament that met inDublin-and the Charter of the Dominion torn up.
Roman Catholic schools will disappear. The French tongue can no longer be spoken by our National Representatives. Our marriage safeguards will be wiped out. Our judges will be elected. Our Cabinet system of responsible government will go. The distinct development in popular rule- which we had hoped to make immortal under the name “Canadian” will be thrown upon the scrap-heap; and the effort to establish a free nation on the northern half of this continent will become one of the pathetic failures of history.
It is our belief that Home Rule forCanadais worth fighting for, and it is our conviction that the time to fight for it is before it is lost.