February 03, 2015

James Joyce on Home Rule

James Joyce by Ronald Searle
In an earlier post I looked at a 25 year old Joyce who wrote about 'The Last Fenian' John O'Leary. In the same year, 1907, he wrote‘Home Rule Comes of Age’"From a hasty study of the history of Home Rule," Joyce made two deductions, one:
"The first is this: the most powerful weapons that England can use against Ireland are no longer those of Conservatism, but those of Liberalism and Vaticanism. Conservatism, though it may be tyrannical, is a frankly and openly inimical doctrine. Its position is logical; it does not want a rival island to arise near Great Britain, or Irish factories to create competition for those in England, or tobacco and wine again to be exported from Ireland, or the great ports along the Irish coast to become enemy naval bases under a native government or a foreign protectorate. Its position is logical, as is that of the Irish separatists which contradicts it point by point. It takes little intelligence to understand that Gladstone has done Ireland greater damage than Disraeli did, and that the most fervid enemy of the Irish Catholics is the head of English Vaticanism, the Duke of Norfolk."
Two:
"The second deduction is even more obvious, and it is this: the Irish parliamentary party has gone bankrupt. For twenty-seven years it has talked and agitated. In that time it has collected 35 million francs from its supporters, and the fruit of its agitation is that Irish taxes have gone up 88 million francs and the Irish population has decreased a million."
James Joyce wrote in 1910, 'The Home Rule Comet':
"The idea of Irish autonomy has gradually become surrounded with
 a pallid and tenuous substantiality, and just a few weeks ago, when a royal decree dissolved the English parliament, something pale and wavering was seen dawning in the East. It was the Home Rule comet, vague, distant, but as punctual as ever. The sovereign Word which in an instant made twilight fall on the
demi-gods at Westminster had called from the darkness and the
 void the obedient and unknowing star. 
This time, however, it could be made out very poorly because the skies were cloudy. The fog which usually covers the British shores grew so thick that it cloaked them in a fixed and impenetrable cloud bank, behind which could be heard the orchestral music of the electoral elements in discord — the fiddles of the nobles agitated and hysterical, the raucous horns of the people, and, from time to time, a passing phrase on the Irish flutes."
He also said:
"In the midst of such confusions it is easy to understand how the dispatches contradict themselves, and announce that Home Rule 
is at the door, and write its obituary six hours later. The uninitiated cannot be too sure in the case of comets, but at any rate the passage of the celestial body so long awaited has been communicated to us by the official observatory. 
Last week, the Irish leader Redmond proclaimed the happy news to a crowd of fishermen. English democracy, he said, has broken the power of the Lords once and for all, and within a few weeks, perhaps, Ireland will have her independence. Now, it is necessary to be a voracious nationalist to be able to swallow such a mouthful. As soon as it is seated on the ministerial benches, the Liberal cabinet will be confronted by a conglomeration of 
troubles, among which the foremost is the double balance. When this matter is settled for good or for bad, peers and commoners will declare a treaty of peace in honour of the coronation of George V. So far the way is clear, but only prophets can tell us where a government as heterogeneous as the present one will end. 
To remain in power, will it try to appease the Welsh and the Scots with ecclesiastical and agrarian measures? If the Irish exact autonomy as the price for the support of their votes, will the cabinet hasten to blow the dust off one of their many Home Rule bills and present it to the House again? 

The history of Anglo-Saxon liberalism teaches us the answer to
 these and similarly ingenuous questions very clearly. The Liberal
 ministers are scrupulous men, and once again the Irish problem will cause symptomatic rifts in the body of the cabinet, in the face of which it will plainly appear that the English electorate really did not authorize the government to legislate in its favour. And, following the Liberal strategy (which aims to wear down the separatist sentiment slowly and secretly, while creating a new, eager social class, dependent, and free from dangerous enthusiasms, by means of partial concessions), if the government introduces a reform bill, or the semblance of one, which Ireland will haughtily refuse, will not that be the propitious moment for 
the intervention of the Conservative party? Faithful to its cynical tradition of bad faith, will it not take this occasion to declare the Irish dictatorship intolerable, and start a campaign to reduce the number of Irish members from 80 to 40 on the basis of the depopulation, more unique than rare in a civilized
 country, which was and still is the bitter fruit of misgovernment?

"
He also said:
"The fact that Ireland now wishes to make common cause with British democracy should neither surprise nor persuade anyone. For seven centuries she has never been a faithful subject of England. Neither, on the other hand, has she been faithful to herself. She has entered the British domain without forming an integral part of it. She has abandoned her own language almost entirely and accepted the language of the conqueror without being able to assimilate the culture or adapt herself to the mentality 
of which this language is the vehicle. She has betrayed her heroes, always in the hour of need and always without gaining recompense. She has hounded her spiritual creators into exile only to boast about them. She has served only one master well, the Roman Catholic Church, which, however, is accustomed to pay its faithful in long term drafts.

What long term alliance can exist between this strange people and the new Anglo-Saxon democracy? The phrase-makers who speak so warmly about it today will soon see (if they do not see it already) that between the English nobles and the English workers there is a mysterious communion of blood; and that the highly praised Marquis of Salisbury, a refined gentleman, spoke not only for his caste but for his race when he said: ‘Let the Irish stew in their own juice’."
In 1912 he wrote 'The Shade of Parnell':
"By passing the bill for parliamentary autonomy on its second reading, the House of Commons has resolved the Irish question, which, like the hen of Mugello, looks newborn, though it is a hundred years old. The century which began with the transaction of buying and selling the Dublin parliament is now closing with a triangular pact between England, Ireland, and the United States. 
It was graced with six Irish revolutionary movements which, by the use of dynamite, rhetoric, the boycott, obstructionism, armed revolt, and political assassination, have succeeded in keeping awake the slow and senile conscience of English Liberalism. 
The present law was conceived, in the full maturity of time, under the double pressure of the Nationalist party at Westminster which has been jumbling up the workings of the British legislative body for half a century, and the Irish party across the Atlantic, which is blocking the greatly desired Anglo-American alliance."

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