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DEPARTURE OF FATHER SHEEHY.
insight into the reverend gentleman's character. He found that considerable change had taken place in the condition of affairs locally since the day on which he had been arrested. The Land League was powerless, its courts no longer sat, and even the decrees of the central body in Dublin were inoperative; rents were being collected, the law was being administered, property and life were secure. The ecclesiastical authorities had deprived him for the time of his curacy. In a word, peace and order reigned at Kilmallock, which therefore was no place for one of his vain and turbulent nature. Catholic Irishmen had shown that they would not hesitate to lay hands even upon a Catholic priest if he should so far forget his calling as to play the part of the common disturber of the peace and streetrioter. So Father Sheehy left.
196 EFFICIENCY OF THE ORDINARY LAW.
IRISH DISORDER DUE TO WEAK ADMINISTRATION, NOT TO DEFECTS IN THE LAW — RESIGNATION OF LORD COWPER AND MR FORSTER — CRIMES ACT OF 1882 — SERVICES OF RESIDENT MAGISTRATES — MODIFICATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM—HABEAS CORPCS SUSPENSION ACT—GENERAL REFLECTIONS ON THE SITUATION—OBJECTS OF THE LAND LEAGUE—FARMERS HOLD ALOOF FROM THE LEAGUE—EXTENSION OF DISTRICT TO BRUFF—EXAMPLE OF DEFECTIVE SYSTEM OF ADMINISTRATION — CONFERENCE WITH CHIEF SECRETARY — MR FORSTER'S SCHEME — APPOINTMENT OF
SPECIAL RESIDENT MAGISTRATES MEASURES ADOPTED BY
SPECIAL MAGISTRATES — SYSTEM OF PROTECTION TO INDIVIDUALS—SYSTEM OF PATROL—EMPLOYMENT OF TROOPS ON PROTECTION DUTY — ENERGY OF THE LAND LEAGUE — ITS MERCILESS CRUELTY.
I Have never entertained the least doubt that the ordinary law of the land is amply sufficient in its strength for the purpose of maintaining order even in Ireland, though I am not prepared to urge that under all conceivable conditions its provisions would suffice for the purpose of restoring order. My faith, howEFFICIENCY OF THE ORDINARY LAW. 197
ever, in the efficiency of the ordinary law is almost unbounded. It is not the imperfection of the law, but its spasmodic and weak administration that has produced the present condition of social anarchy in Ireland. Had the law been enforced from the beginning of 1881, many a life would have been saved, and the British nation would have been spared one of the greatest blots that has stained its history. The opportunity was lost, and we are witnesses to the sequel. If Ireland were quieted to-morrow, we cannot expect that the triumphant maintenance of disorder over law for six years, the demoralising doctrines taught for so lengthened a period with impunity, and the shocking callousness with which blood has been spilt at the very doors of the people, will be readily forgotten, or will not produce deplorable results in the future.
Again, in the autumn of 1881 it was acknowledged on all sides that special legislation in the form of a criminal enactment was necessary for the restoration of order; but the 198
MR FORSTER's VIEWS.
Government introduced no such bill into Parliament. When Mr Forster, whose premature death is ever so deeply felt by his friends, took office as Chief Secretary, he relied upon his own honest character and the justice of his views relating to Ireland to enable him to meet the storm so rapidly developing; but in the autumn of 1881 no one realised the situation more clearly than he did, or the fact that the people were out of hand, and that nothing could restore the authority of the Government short of special power being accorded to it by Parliament. There are grounds for believing that Mr Forster failed to convince his colleagues of the necessity, though it is also contended that he omitted to demand them with a decision of purpose commensurate to his convictions. Whichever view of that matter was correct, Lord Cowper and Mr Forster faced the situation, and recoffnising the weak point in the system of government they were working, undertook with energy the task of applying a remedy. In the
RESIGNATION OF LORD COWPER. 199
face of much opposition of a nature difficult to contend against, and from persons to whose opinions they were bound to pay deference, a radical change was carried out, implying nothing short of a complete decentralisation of the government, which, in the short space of a few months, produced the most beneficial results. Here was another golden opportunity. Continuity of policy for six months, even longer, would have given law the victory over disorder; but most unfortunately, at this critical juncture Mr Forster and Lord Cowper left office, and the Irish people most concerned assumed, rightly or wrongly, that a policy of strong government was about to give place to one of conciliation. The word conciliation, it need hardly be stated, is not interpreted in Ireland as it is in England. In Ireland, at the time, it was concluded that the Government was weary of the fight, and as it had been useless to further contend against the Land League, the officers of the Crown were to be "thrown overboard,"