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The History of Ulster
The Second Home Rule Bill


Mr. A. J. Balfour, Irish Chief Secretary—He enforces the Crimes Act—The Nationalists adopt the Plan of Campaign—Joseph Chamberlain visits Belfast and speaks in the Ulster Hall—He also visits Coleraine—General Election of 1892 gives Gladstone a Majority — Mr. John Morley, Irish Chief Secretary — Belfast created a City—The Ulster Convention—The Duke of Abercorn presides —Mr. Balfour visits Belfast—Gladstone's Second Home Rule Bill—Is thrown out by the Lords—The Ulster Defence Union—Death of Queen Victoria—Lord Salisbury retires—Mr. Balfour, Prime Minister—He resigns, and is succeeded by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman—General Election of 1906—Old-Age Pensions—Liberal Majority of 1910—Attack on the House of Lords—Death of King Edward VII.

The session of 1887 was given up almost wholly to Irish business. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, passed in July, differed from all previous repressive Acts in being permanent. It added largely to the power of the Executive to stop meetings and suppress dangerous associations. A Land Act followed which was designed to restrain evictions and reduce rents, but it took no power to deal with arrears. The Crimes Act was put in force with great energy by Mr. A. J. Balfour, the Irish Chief Secretary, and its effects were seen in a diminution of outrages. The Nationalists adopted a new device entitled "The Plan of Campaign", for the protection of tenants. It consisted in the depositing of rents with trustees until the landlords had agreed to reductions. When Mr. Balfour began his Irish administration, Gladstone and the Home Rule Liberals were closely allied with Parnell and his party, and they acted together. This was seen in the long debates on the address, particularly on Parnell's amendment, on the efforts to affirm the new rules of procedure, and on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, of which the latter clauses in Committee were only carried by the use of the novel closure. In October Joseph Chamberlain made two speeches in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. He had said: "Ulster must hold its own; it is the very key of the position", and he now asked his audience what they would do in the event of the Home Rule Bill becoming law. The thousands present shouted: "Fight!" In Coleraine Chamberlain promised to assist in resisting "the outrage and the insult that will be put on the loyalty of Ulster if it were submitted to the degrading domination of a Dublin Parliament". Belfast, in the following year, received a visit from Lord Hartington. Gladstone now pledged himself to devote what yet remained of his political life to Irish Home Rule, and not to retire until he had settled that great question.

In 1888 a further sum of 10,000,000 was voted for Irish land purchase, and in 1889 money was voted to develop the drainage of the country and to facilitate trade and locomotion by the introduction of light railways. From one cause or another an undeniable and great improvement in the condition of Ireland took place under the Chief Secretaryship of Mr. Balfour, who visited various parts of the country, including Antrim and Donegal. No attempt, however, was made to deal with the local government question until 1892, when a Bill creating a limited form of county government was introduced. This Bill was soon withdrawn, chiefly on account of the determined opposition of Ulster.

The general election of 1892 gave Gladstone a majority of 40. On the meeting of Parliament a vote of want of confidence was carried by 350 to 310. Lord Salisbury resigned; and Gladstone came back to power, with Lord Rosebery as Foreign Secretary, Sir William Harcourt Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Asquith Home Secretary, and Mr. John Morley (now Lord Morley of Blackburn) as Secretary for Ireland.

In recognition of the great progress and prosperity of Belfast, which has not unjustly been called the capital of Ulster and the commercial capital of all Ireland, the Government in 1892 conferred upon it the title and privileges of a city. On the 17th of June a great convention, at which over 11,000 delegates, representing all Ulster, were present, was held in a building specially constructed to accommodate so large a gathering. The object of the convention was to prove that Ulster would not submit to Home Rule, in connection with which Gladstone threatened to propose a new measure. The Duke of Abercorn presided at this Convention, and concluded a simple speech, addressed to over 13,000 people, with the statement: "Men of the North, once more I say we will not have Home Rule". The Duke was followed by Sir William Ewart, one of the greatest representatives of the linen trade in the world. He moved the six resolutions, which were seconded by Mr. Thomas Sinclair, ex-president of the Ulster Liberal-Unionist Association. The words of Mr. Sinclair's speech, which won the heartiest approval, were in reply to the threat he stated Gladstone had recently made, to coerce the Ulster Unionists, if necessary, with the Queen's troops. "Fellow-countrymen," said Mr. Sinclair, "Mr. Gladstone's threat is a serious one, but, nevertheless, we can never falter in our resolve. We are children of the Revolution of 1688, and, cost what it may, we will have nothing to do with a Dublin Parliament. If it be ever set up we shall simply ignore its existence. Its Acts will be but as waste paper; the police will find our barracks preoccupied with our own constabulary; its judges will sit in empty court-houses. The early effects of its Executive will be spent in devising means to deal with a passive resistance to its taxation co-extensive with loyalist Ulster."

On Easter Tuesday, the 4th of April, 1893, while Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill was awaiting its second reading in the House of Commons, Mr. Balfour paid a visit to Ulster. Lord Salisbury had accepted an invitation to visit Belfast, but was prevented by illness from carrying out his intentions, and his place was taken by Mr. Balfour. Elaborate preparations were made for his reception. A platform was erected in front of the Linen Hall in Donegal Square, and from this platform Mr. Balfour witnessed a march-past for four hours of the representatives of all the public bodies in Belfast. A copy of the Home Rule Bill was solemnly burnt in public, and stamped upon amid universal applause. In the evening Mr. Balfour addressed a large audience in the Ulster Hall, concluding his speech by saying: "I shall go back to my work in the House of Commons strengthened by the strong convictions I have obtained to-day of what Ulster is, and what Ulster means. And depend upon it, that if the British people can only have it brought home to their minds what Ulster is, and what Ulster means, not all the forces arrayed against you can prevail against righteousness and justice in the end." The Government, foreseeing trouble, now published a prohibition against the importation of arms into Ireland.

When Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill was introduced it was found that the chief change in it was that the Irish members, instead of being excluded from all share in municipal affairs, as in the Bill of 1886, were to sit in the Imperial Parliament, but only to vote on Imperial matters. This proposal, however, created much opposition among Gladstone's followers, on the ground that it would throw the working of the Imperial Parliament into complete confusion. Accordingly, Gladstone reversed his policy, and accepted a proposal that Ireland should be represented in the Imperial Parliament by 80 members, whose votes should be of equal value with those of English and Scottish members, not only in Imperial affairs, but also in exclusively English and Scottish matters as well.

During the period devoted to the second reading of the Bill some rioting took place in Belfast and Londonderry, but it was not attended by any serious consequences. Lord Salisbury visited Belfast during this period, and addressed a public meeting in the Ulster Hall. He also visited Londonderry. After prolonged discussion, which lasted eighty-two days, the Home Rule Bill was carried through the House of Commons; but on reaching the House of Lords it was thrown out on the second reading by 419 to 41, a fact which excited great popular enthusiasm throughout the whole of Ulster.

The Unionists of the province now turned their attention to the completion of their defensive organization. Rifle clubs were formed in all the counties, and, under the direction of Lord Templetown, were placed in correspondence with Unionist Associations in Great Britain. The Central Assembly of the Ulster Defence Union held their first meeting. It consisted of 600 members, who had been returned to it by the enrolled Unionists of Ulster, with the mandate to declare their policy and direct their defence in the event of a Parliament in Dublin being set up. The Assembly chose their 40 representatives, who, acting with the Unionist Ulster members of both Houses of Parliament, constituted the Executive Council, with Mr. Thomas Sinclair as chairman.

In the spring of 1894, Gladstone, being then in his eighty-fifth year, decided finally to retire from politics. He therefore resigned, and his place was taken by Lord Rosebery. In June, 1895, the Government were defeated by a majority of 7 in a vote connected with the administration of the army, and immediately resigned. Lord Salisbury now became Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The Cabinet was composed not only of Conservatives, but also of Liberal Unionists, and as it was found that parties

were evenly balanced in the House of Commons, a dissolution became absolutely necessary for the efficient management of public affairs; the new Government therefore announced their intention of appealing to the country. In the election which followed the voting gave the Unionists a majority of 152—made up of 340 Conservatives and 71 Liberal Unionists, as against 177 British Home Rulers, 70 anti-Parnellites, and 12 Parnellites. The general result of the election was to give Lord Salisbury's Government a larger majority than had supported any Ministry since the Parliament of 1833. The new Parliament met on the 12th of August, 1895, and was prorogued on the 5th of September.

Home Rule being shelved for some years, there is little to record of the history of Ulster as a province. As an integral portion of the Empire she took her share in supplying soldiers for the war in South Africa, which lasted from 1899 to 1902. As a truly loyal portion of the Empire she rejoiced when, in 1897, Queen Victoria's second or diamond jubilee took place to commemorate the completion of the great Queen's sixtieth year of reign, and she mourned Her Majesty's death, which took place on the 22nd of January, 1901, believing, as she does, that—

No braver soul drew bright and queenly breath
Since England wept upon Elizabeth.

Edward VII, who has been well entitled the Peacemaker, succeeded to the throne while the country was still involved in the Boer war. That war, however, was brought to a close on the 1st of June, 1902. In the same year Lord Salisbury retired from active political life, and Mr. Balfour became Prime Minister, and continued in office until December, 1905, when he resigned, and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed a ministry. In it were included Sir Robert Reid, Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Crewe, Lord Ripon, Mr. Herbert (now Lord) Gladstone, Sir Edward Grey, the Earl of Elgin, Lord Morley of Blackburn, Mr. Asquith, Lord Tweedmouth, Mr. John Sinclair, Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. John Burns, Earl Carrington, Mr. Birrell, Sir H. Fowler, Viscount Bryce, and Lord Buxton.

The General Election took place in January and February, 1906, and resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Liberal party. That party, including the Labour and Nationalist sections, numbered 377, while the Conservatives and Liberal Unionists only reached 157. During the year the Government exhibited great legislative activity, and passed many useful measures.

During 1907 Parliament sat from February to August, and no fewer than fifty-six Bills were passed. Mr. Birrell's Irish measure was rejected by the House of Lords. Early in 1908 Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman resigned, and a reconstruction of the Cabinet followed. Mr. Asquith became Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury; Mr. Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Mr. Joseph M'Kenna, First Lord of the Admiralty; the Earl of Crewe, Secretary for the Colonies; Lord Tweedmouth, President of the Council; Mr. Winston Churchill, President of the Board of Trade; and Mr. W. Runciman, President of the Board of Education. On the 28th of July, after a long debate, the Old-Age Pensions Bill passed the House of Lords and became law. The Act confers a right to an old-age pension on every man or woman who has attained the age of seventy. The applicant must satisfy the authorities that he or she is a British subject, and has been for at least twelve years up to the date of application resident in the United Kingdom, and in receipt of no larger yearly income than 31, 10s.

At a General Election held in January, 1910, the Liberal majority of 336 in the late Parliament was reduced to 115. Of this majority the Nationalists numbered about 75, and the Labour members 40. Soon after the reassembling of Parliament it became apparent that the compact section of the Irish Nationalists under the leadership of Mr. John Redmond held the balance between the Conservative and Liberal parties. It was evident that until the Conservative majority in the House of Lords could be rendered ineffective, no measure of Home Rule for Ireland was possible. By April the Government decided to adopt the views of the Irish party, and to make a determined attack on the position, constitution, and general character of the House of Lords.

At the beginning of May, Parliament was prorogued for a month. King Edward, who had been at Biarritz, returned at the end of April, and, after a brief illness, died at Buckingham Palace on the 6th of May, 1910, having during his short reign of nine years proved himself to be one of the most capable and most popular sovereigns who had ever ruled over the British Empire.


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