The Union Idea

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VII | Start of Chapter

Mr. Froude, who has not in general too much sympathy with the national claims of Ireland, takes this inaction very seriously to heart. He condemns the English Government severely for having thrown away what he believes to be a golden opportunity for a genuine Union between the two countries. "From this one act," he says, "as from a scorpion's egg, sprang a fresh and yet uncompleted cycle of disaffection, rebellion, and misery." But Mr. Froude seems to have entirely overestimated the chances of any real union between England and Ireland at such a time. It would not have called for any marvellous gift of statesmanlike foresight to enable one of Queen Anne's Ministers to see that there was no chance whatever for a genuine union between England and Ireland under the existing conditions. Any Minister must have known well that the opinion of the Irish House of Lords could not possibly be accepted as the opinion of the Irish people. The Irish Parliament was composed exclusively of those who represented the conquering race, and no one belonging to the Faith of the great majority of the Irish people was allowed to have a seat in either House. The Irish Parliament was at that very time engaged in pressing on Queen Anne and her Ministers the necessity of passing further laws for the repression of "Popery" in Ireland. The steady progress of confiscation was still going on for the transfer of Irish soil to the ownership of settlers from England and Scotland. The Parliament of England was itself made up in such a manner as to deprive it of all claim to be called representative of the English people. We must not, therefore, find too much fault with Queen Anne and her advisers because they did not pay great attention to the appeal of the Irish House of Lords, and did not regard the time as peculiarly appropriate for the blending of two utterly unrepresentative Parliaments into one utterly unrepresentative Parliament. But the idea thus started by the Irish House of Lords, and allowed to pass almost unnoticed by Queen Anne and her Ministers, did take hold of the minds of many Englishmen, and took shape as a definite policy in the Ministerial councils of later rulers. It is only just to say that many Englishmen adopted this idea simply because they desired that Ireland should be dealt with on principles common to both countries, and were of opinion that this object could be attained—or, at least, would have a better chance of attainment—in a common legislative body than in two separate Parliamentary assemblies.