« PreviousContinue »
State of Affairs-Platform Speeches on the Financial Relations of Ireland and
SELDOM did a year open more tamely than the sixtieth year of
Matabele "to face the music" of the South African Commission, was making a sort of royal progress, which enabled the dissentient Afrikanders to accentuate their disapproval of the policy which had led to the Transvaal outrage. Finally the Treaty of General Arbitration between Great Britain and the United States had been satisfactorily drafted and was on the eve of signature.
Sir Edward Clarke, who had recently taken up an independent position among the Conservatives, was one of the first to occupy a public platform in the new year. Addressing his constituents at Plymouth (Jan. 4), he devoted the greater part of his speech to a history of the financial relations of the United Kingdom with Ireland since the Union, and supported the idea of taxing the different parts of the kingdom in proportion to their "taxable capacity." He, moreover, championed the oft-repeated assumption that British free trade had injured Irish industry on the ground that English consumers profited more than Irish from foreign commodities imported duty free. His speech furnished Mr. Leonard Courtney with a text for an admirable discourse to his constituents at Liskeard (Jan. 5) on the true effects of free trade. Mr. Courtney rejected the notion that any serious injustice was done to Irishmen by subjecting them to equal taxation with other British subjects, and held that equality of taxation for individuals of equal means was the right ideal-not a taxation proportioned to the taxable capacity of different State areas.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir M. Hicks-Beach, also alluded, but in very guarded terms, to the same question at Bristol (Jan. 6). He declined to express his views except in the House of Commons, but whilst deprecating the irritating tone of some English critics, he warned Irishmen that two other royal commissions had reported in a very different sense to that which had given rise to the present agitation. The commission, it should be remembered, had been appointed after much delay and hesitation with a definite purpose, and the report of the majority might have been anticipated to give support to Mr. Gladstone's scheme of Home Rule. According to this report, Ireland claimed to be treated as a separate entity, and to contribute not more than one-twentieth of the total revenue to the Imperial Exchequer. If that claim were just, Ireland had paid (for instance, in 1893-4) 2,750,000l. more than she ought to have done. It was advanced by speakers on the Unionist side that there was another point of view, according to which 3,750,000l. had been expended in the same period for Irish purposes in excess of what would have been admissible if the expenditure for Irish purposes had been in proportion to the taxable capacity. Lord Farrer, a staunch Radical, who had been connected with the Board of Trade for many years, contributed some important points for the consideration of disputants. He insisted that, in dealing with