Page images
PDF
EPUB

At the general election of 1886, the total number of votes polled

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Majority for Tories and Dissentients together over Liberals 75,178

But in round numbers, an addition of ten per cent. (=134,500) to 1,345,000 raises it to 1,479,000, or carries it by 58,000 beyond the number which returned the present majority. A further addition of 1 per cent. brings 58,000 up to 78,000, and ought cæteris paribus to convert the original Tory and Dissentient majority (for Great Britain) of ninety-three into a minority of about the same depression. But if instead of 11 per cent. we are to be encouraged by the seven elections to add 22 per cent., the original figure of 1,345,000 becomes 1,641,000, and the excess over the combined Tory and Dissentient votes grows to 220,000. In such a figure there would be the promise of a very heavy Liberal preponderance indeed.

It may be said, and said with truth, that these figures, if true as far as they go, do not fully state the case. The Tories and Dissentients had in Great Britain a large majority of uncontested seats. The seats taken without contest in 1886 were by Tories ninety, and by Dissentients twenty-three, together 113; by Liberals only forty-six. Clearly an allowance ought to be made on this account; but it is not so easy at first sight to say what allowance.

Probably the best method of coming near, at any rate, to the truth, is to go back to 1885 when the new distribution first took effect. Nearly all the seats were then contested. The Liberals had a majority of eighty-six, in the three kingdoms, over the Tories. If then we find that in the seven constituencies we nearly resumed the position of 1885, we may form some estimate of the general result.

I therefore present a table in which the votes recorded by the seven constituencies in 1885 between Liberals and Tories are compared with those recorded in 1887 between Liberals on the one side, and Tories, taken together with Dissentients, on the other.

[blocks in formation]

de

up of 3,599 polled for Mr. Russell (whose retirement from Parliament we

to regret), and 978 polled for a Liberal competitor.

1887

age

ELECTORAL FACTS OF 1887.

443

It thus appears that so far as the constituencies are concerned we have fully maintained, on our old and partially exhausted register, the relative strength we polled on the fresh and full register of 1885. The small decline in the total numbers may be accounted for by the of the register. The general result is this. The figures of 1887 in the recently contested constituencies give evidence of a state of electoral facts not less, but decidedly more, favourable than that of 1885; for our aggregate excess in these constituencies, which was in 1885 3,183, has now grown to 3,687.5 But the balance of 1885 was one which gave the Liberals a majority over the Tories for the United Kingdom of eighty-six; for Great Britain, which excludes the Irish Tories from the reckoning, of a full hundred.

There remains, however, another method by which we may get to closer quarters with, and do a fuller, perhaps an extravagant justice to the argument derivable from the uncontested seats of 1886. Let us go back then to that election, leaving Ireland alone for the moment as before. Let us assume, what is most improbable, that the uncontested seats will stand at the next election as they did at the last; and let us credit the opposing party with the whole strength they derived from this source, severing entirely the contested from the uncontested cases.

The composite party opposed to Home Rule exceeded the Home Rulers in Great Britain (372 against 195) by 177.

As they had 115 uncontested seats, and the Liberals only 37, they obtained from this class of seats a majority of 78.

And the contested seats yielded them a further superiority of 99. These 99 seats were won by a balance of less than 76,000 votes, or less than six per cent. on the Liberal poll of 1,345,000. The seven recent elections, as we have seen, show an improvement in the Liberal strength, not of six, but of twenty-two per cent. A gain of less than six per cent. would presumably destroy the majority of 99 and reduce the two parties to par. A gain of seventeen per cent. (an abatement of five from twenty-two is thus made for the chapter of accidents) would give, on the same principle, a Liberal majority of 198 in Great Britain. This, by allowing the adversary credit for the whole balance of 78 uncontested seats, is reduced to 120. Again giving them the benefit of a most questionable assumption, that they will keep their seventeen Tory seats in Ireland, and making this further deduction from 120, they remain in a computed minority of 103.

[blocks in formation]
[graphic]

Among the 78 uncontested seats, 26 belong to Dissentient Liberals Should a portion of these members become reconciled to the Libera majority, havoc would so far be made in the balance of 78, and the minority represented by the figure of 103 would be further reduced So far as I can dive into the probabilities of the question, this thir method of computation, which appears to do more than exact justic to the Tories, presents to us contingent results in no way less satis factory than those which were derived from other aspects of the question.

The aggregate number of seats transferred has been small, and the basis supplied by the contested elections of a few month (numerous and varied as they have been) is too narrow to allow o demonstration or of undue confidence. But, viewing them in cold blood, the rational Tory, and still more any Dissentient who may be inclined to the practice of forecast, will probably regard them as of very marked significance. They may even begin to ask themselves in a reflective temper, Where is all this to end?

THE

NINETEENTH

CENTURY.

No. CXXVIII.-OCTOBER 1887.

INGRAM'S HISTORY OF THE

IRISH UNION1

A LIVELY satisfaction, flavoured with curiosity, was the feeling excited in my mind by the announcement that a work purporting to be a history of the Irish Union had appeared; for, so far as I at least am aware, there was no work already existing of such a nature as to deserve that title. The case of the Irish Union, one of the most singular in history, lay before us as the beads of a necklace might lie after the threads had been sharply broken, all scattered one by one upon the floor. Moreover it is not too much to say that, with exceptions altogether insignificant, the party opposed, in the great Irish controversy of to-day, to the national aspirations' has declined to enter the historic field. Ingenuity, ability, and versatility have been strained to the utmost by its leaders in their speeches; but as regards the history either of Ireland generally or of the Union, those speeches have presented a dismal blank. Much effort, indeed, has been made, by the party of Home Rule in Ireland, to supply the British public with historical information. Much has been told in tracts and articles. Mr. Lefevre 2 has published an excellent work, and Mr. Childers, I believe, has in hand an examination of the case of the Fitzwilliam Government, which can hardly fail to be of great value. But, speaking generally, the work done has been popular, rather than systematic; and lecturers on Ireland must have experienced great difficulty in gathering any materials at

1 A History of the Legislative Union of Great Britain and Ireland, by J. Dunbar Ingram, LL.D. London: Macmillan, 1887. 2 Peel and O'Connell. London, 1887. VOL. XXII.-No. 128.

HH

once comprehensive and trustworthy to elucidate the conception and the progressive course of the vast and unique legislative operation, which has such vital bearings on the present claim of the Irish nation.

6

On the very threshold of the inquiry, I find myself obliged to affirm that the volume of Dr. Ingram is not a good history, or a bad history, of the Irish Union, but it is no history at all. It is written with talent. It contains some useful information. It pitches its own claims extremely high, and thereby enhances the responsibility of the writer, who determined to investigate the subject for himself,' and who found, on examining closely and in detail the original and contemporaneous authorities,' that the charges against the Union rested only on the stories of Barrington, or on speeches of the Opposition, which, when challenged, they declined to substantiate. Once more, then, it may be asked

6

Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu ?

The author of these magniloquent declarations has indeed discussed largely and ingeniously a few points of the question. But (1) of the greater and heavier charges he has offered us no investigation whatever. (2) In those items of the case, with which he principally deals, he has completely misapprehended the point and essence of the charges. (3) He has in certain instances betrayed so gross a want of acquaintance with the leading facts of Irish affairs, as to show that he has not acquired even a rudimental conception of the historic scope of his great subject. He has merely presented us with a piece of special pleading, so narrow and confined that, even if it were as near as it is far from the truth, it would utterly fail to carry us down to the root of the matter, or qualify us to give an opinion on the Union.

Of statements which must sound so harsh I am of course bound to the strictest proof. But, before proving my allegations, let me state the limits of the task I propose to myself. It is not to decide the merits of the Union, on which I shall not say a word; confining myself to the means by which it was brought about. It is not to supply a history of the Union, but to prove that Dr. Ingram, however good his intentions may have been, has not given us such a history. I have for some time past done my best to form some acquaintance with the past experiences of unhappy Ireland, and I now know just enough to be aware that my knowledge is most imperfect, and to have an inkling of the magnitude and complexity of the business. The Thucydides or Father Paul of the Irish Union has not yet mounted above the horizon. When he dawns, he will, as I surmise, require years, and probably volumes, for the full performance of his work. I will briefly refer to two special difficulties in his way—one of them, alas! absolutely irremovable.

Preface, p. vi.

« PreviousContinue »