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next figures should appear. The Bank of Ireland declared a dividend of 12 per cent., and the average dividend of five other important banks was 11:6 per cent. At the end of June, 1901, the deposits and cash balances in Irish joint-stock banks had passed by 1,180,0001. the “record” figure of little over 40,000,0001., which they reached at the same date in 1900.
A gratifying feature in the Irish agricultural returns for 1901, and not only from an agricultural point of view, was the growth from 47,451 to 55,471 in the number of acres under flax as compared with 1900. This increase of 8,000 acres, following upon one of 12,000 in 1900 over 1899, seemed to point to a distinct tendency among the Ulster farmers to revive the cultivation of the raw material for the staple industry of Belfast and other towns of the northern province. The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland, usefully active in many directions under the inspiration of its energetic head, Mr. Horace Plunkett, was giving earnest attention to the subject of extended flax cultivation, and might be relied on to secure for the farmers all the best light available on questions of seed, and of the best methods of cultivation, besides administering the wholesome stimulus of prizes for the best crops grown under proper competitive conditions. The restoration of flax culture in Ireland, and its establishment, could that be brought about, on an extensive scale, under conditions calculated to secure a good quality of fibre, could not fail to be of material advantage to the old textile industries of Belfast. In 1901 those industries had one of the least favourable years which they had experienced for a considerable period. Alike in the spinning and weaving departments there were low prices and much depression. In the brown power-loom linen manufacture short time had to be worked in some districts, and the failure of several Belfast firms was recorded. That circumstance, most regrettable in itself, operated as a check on supplies, and so somewhat braced prices, and at the end of the year there was a revival of the demand from the United States, and a general feeling that the bottom had been reached, and that the trade outlook was beginning to brighten. The white linen trade also suffered from considerable, if not such severe, depression, except in goods of the highest qualities; but here also there were signs of improvement at the end of the year. The spinners were still doing very poorly, though doubtless they cherished hopes of revival with that of the manufacturing branches.
Very different was the record of the other great industry of Belfast—that of shipbuilding. The principal firm, Messrs. Harland & Wolff's, stood first in the world for individual output, the vessels launched by them in 1901 reaching the great total of 92,316 tons. These included the Celtic, launched April 4, of nearly 21,000 tons gross register, which is much the largest ship ever constructed, and six other very important passenger, or combined passenger and cargo, steamers of the most improved type. The other Belfast shipbuilding firm, Messrs. Workman, Clark & Co., came fourth, with 52,711 tons, in the marine construction of the United Kingdom. The total tonnage output of Belfast in 1901 was over 145,000, and exceeded by 26,000 tons that for 1900, which was the previous highest on record. In view of this remarkable progress, it was not surprising that the shipbuilding industry should show signs of revival in other Irish ports. Londonderry made a beginning in 1901 with two ships totalling 6,428 tons, and a yard on the Liffey had been secured by a Scottish firm with a view to the starting of shipbuilding operations in the course of 1902.
It is not possible to present so favourable a view of the political and social condition of Ireland in 1901 as of its economic aspects. Throughout the year the organisation of the United Irish League was striving to establish its authority over increasing areas in the south and west, and many loyalists were constantly remonstrating at the apathy of the Executive in allowing a system of lawless oppression to be extended and consolidated which, they represented, was in its essence identical with that maintained in former years by the Land and National Leagues. Even in the districts in which the United Irish League was most active it was admitted that there was comparatively little overt criminality ; indeed, there was no doubt that the country, as a whole, was exceptionally free from agrarian outrage. But it was very steadily and widely asserted that there was prevalent, nevertheless, a system of intimidation nearly, if not quite, as thorough and effective as any that had been brought to bear in the days when crime was frequent and flagrant; that the dictates of the branches of the League were very generally obeyed; that honest and law-abiding persons were coerced into joining its ranks, and, in fact, that over a large part of Ireland the law of the League was undoubtedly stronger than the law of the land. For the greater part, indeed for the whole, of the year the Executive declined to accept that grave view of the subject. So late as December 10, Mr. Wyndham, the Chief Secretary, speaking at Exeter, made comparatively light of the United Irish League movement. It was, he said, in the main, a political machine for collecting money from the more impoverished among Irishmen. To say that there were forty branches of it would be a liberal computation. It was made up of notoriety hunters, and its importance ought not to be exaggerated. At the same time, he recognised that oppression must be prevented. Our object should be to give “the maximum of protection to those who were oppressed and the minimum of advertisement to the oppressor.” Order must and would be maintained, and the Government would know how to deal with any attempt to revive that “insane" project the Plan of Campaign. But let Unionists avoid language of exasperation and fulmination. For the rest the
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great thing to be aimed at by Unionism was the economic and social regeneration of the country by the power and resources of the common exchequer created by the Act of Union.
The estimate contained in the Chief Secretary's speech of the strength of the United Irish League was received with derision both by discontented Unionists and by Nationalists.
The intimation that oppression would be prevented and order maintained, of course, afforded gratification among the former, which was confirmed by prosecutions instituted during the last half of December against certain Members of Parliament for taking part in meetings of an intimidating character in the west. On a charge of unlawful assembly held to intimidate a man into giving up an evicted farm, Mr. Conor O'Kelly, M.P. for North Mayo, and chairman of the Mayo County Council, was convicted by two resident magistrates at Castlebar, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment without hard labour, other defendants having shorter terms. Mr. Hayden, M.P. for South Roscommon, on a similar charge, was sentenced, at Castlereagh, to twenty-one days'imprisonment. In this case one of the objects of the meeting in question was said to be the intimidation of a man who had taken land on the grazing system, which it was one of the primary objects of the League to discourage, in order that the lands which had been so hired should be made available for the use of the small tenantry. In a third case, at Ballymote, Co. Sligo, Mr. John O'Donnell, M.P. for South Mayo, was sentenced to two months', and Mr. Tully, M.P. for South Leitrim, to one month's imprisonment, for unlawful assembly on an occasion when the object of the meeting was said to be to incite Lord de Freyne's tenants not to pay their rents. In all these cases, with the exception of that of Mr. C. O'Kelly, points of law were reserved by the resident magistrates for the consideration of a higher tribunal, so that the sentences did not at once take effect. Mr. William O'Brien, the founder of the United Irish League, who was travelling in Australia for his health when Mr. C. O'Kelly's case was heard, telegraphed his congratulations to that gentleman on his conviction ; and Mr. J. Redmond, on his return in December from a tour for the enlistment of support for the United Irish League in the United States (as to the results of which there were divergent reports), expressed his satisfaction that the Government had again resorted to coercion, that being the only “salt” required to bring the country into a healthy political condition.
It remained to be seen whether these gentle forms of “ coercion” so far resorted to would avail to check the spread of a system of intimidation, or whether the full machinery of the Crimes Act would have to be put in force. The Government, it was clear, were anxious to avoid all needless interference with public agitation, and doubted the existence of any large body of popular sympathy bebind the League movement. There was no distress to be worked upon as in the early days of
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the Land League ; the labourers looked upon the United Irish League as a farmers' concern, unlikely to be of any service to them; and well-informed persons believed the movement itself to be honeycombed with dissensions and jealousies.
The very perplexities of the Executive in Ireland in 1901 arose in no small measure from the advantages conferred by the Legislature, or the agencies established by it, on certain sections of the Irish tenant farmers. The chief ground of offence in the case of the De Freyne tenantry, for example, was that their landlord had not given them rent reductions like those given by the Congested Districts Board to the tenants on a neighbouring estate, which the Board had bought from Lord Dillon. Again, in Ulster, where Mr. T. W. Russell pursued throughout the year his agitation for the compulsory sale of all agricultural land in Ireland to the occupying tenants, one of the considerations on which he placed great reliance was the anomalous disadvantage at which the ordinary tenant found himself, in having to pay a higher rate per acre for the occupation of his holding than was represented by the sums, composed of instalments of principal and interest, which the tenants on the estates where sales had been effected under the Purchase Acts were paying, for a limited number of years, before becoming owners out and out. The fact that, even so, the occupying tenants were paying, in almost every case, rents greatly reduced at two successive valuations by the Land Courts, and were enjoying fixity of tenure, did not seem to weigh against this inequality. Mr. Russell's movement was not considered by those who had the best means of judging to be making much, if any, way, but he and his friends were looking forward with hope to a coming election in East Down, where a compulsory purchase candidate, though standing as a Unionist, would poll the Nationalist vote in the absence of any candidate of that party.
The perennial Roman Catholic University question was before the country in 1901 in a somewhat new phase, the Government having granted a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole subject of university education in Ireland, only withdrawing Trinity College from the purview of the inquiry. Evidence was taken during the summer and autumn and issued to the public, and an impression was current that the Commission would suggest some solution of the problem which would involve certain changes in the constitution of the University of Dublin. The state of Protestant feeling in the North of Ireland was by no means favourable to any substantial concession to the Roman Catholic demand for separate arrangements for University teaching, though in England there had seemed to be a sensible increase of acceptance for the views inculcated with so much earnestness by Mr. Balfour.
FINANCE AND TRADE. FINANCIAL affairs both in this country and in Europe have been greatly affected by the continuance of the war in South Africa. The cessation for nearly two years of the output of the Rand Mines has had a material effect in reducing the world's supply of gold. There has been little actual scarcity, but all through 1901 the rates of interest in the money market were high, and the prices of almost all securities were correspondingly lowered. An exception to the rule was furnished by American Railroad shares, which were in enormous demand. This was due to no little extent to the material improvement in the earnings of the lines and to the generally flourishing condition of American trade. Taking it all round, the year has been a good one for those who have had money to invest, but a very bad one for those who have been obliged to sell securities. Institutions such as banks, insurance companies, trust companies, and other concerns who have much money locked up in securities have had to write down their assets more or less severely in order to make them conform to the low levels which were reached on the Stock Exchange. The same considerations do not apply to private investors, since they are under no necessity to issue a balance-sheet to the world.
The British Government has been a large borrower on account of the war expenditure in South Africa and China. In February 11,000,0007. in 3 per cent. Exchequer Bonds, redeemable at par on December 7, 1905, were allotted at an average price of 971. 55. 4d. per 1001. At the end of the financial year 1900-1 the Government recognized the advisability of borrowing upon a more permanent form of security than Treasury Bills, Exchequer Bonds and Ten-year War Loans. Issues of this kind at short intervals deplete the floating cash of the money market, and are more expensive than a security for which the public can subscribe freely. In April, therefore, 60,000,0001. in Consols were created. This issue, which was made at 941, and thus produced 56,700,0001., was a success. Half of the amount was offered to the public and the rest disposed of privately as follows: 11,000,0001. to Messrs. N. M. Rothschild & Sons, 10,000,0001. to Messrs. J. S. Morgan & Co. (a London branch of the American house of J. P. Morgan & Co.), and 9,000,0001. to the Bank of England. At first the issue was popular, but later on public opinion turned against Consols altogether, probably because the rate of interest will be reduced to 21 per cent. in April, 1903. A good many realisations took place, and on July 15 business was done in Consols at 91, the lowest price recorded since their conversion