STARTING THE REVOLUTION IN GREAT BRITAIN
"Disruption" was the cry at once raised by the Parnellites against Davitt in consequence of this speech – a fatal cry in so many Irish struggles. They who had themselves made the real departure in setting themselves against the Land League movement, audaciously charged Davitt with aiding Ford and George in trying to make a split in the ranks. Davitt could suffer imprisonment, but he shrank from this. He told George a few days later when they met in Dublin that he thought it wiser for them not to travel together into the West of Ireland as they, or at least as George, had contemplated. Mr. George wrote privately to Patrick Ford from Dublin (May 27):
But if Davitt shrank from an open break, he certainly had plans distinct from those of Parnell, as shown by a letter from George to Francis G. Shaw (May 30):
"Michael Davitt is full of the idea of popularising 'Progress and Poverty.' That was the first thing he said to me. He had read it twice before, and he read it twice again while in Portland [prison], and as you may see from his speeches and letters, he believes in it entirely. He says if a copy of that book can be put in every workman's club and Land League and library in the three kingdoms the revolution will be made. His first act was to demand of Parnell and Dillon £500 to use in the English propaganda, £300 of which he wanted to put in my hands for as many copies of 'Progress and Poverty' as it would bring. Parnell and Dillon at first agreed, and he went to Paris to get Egan's consent. Egan refused; but afterwards wrote that what Davitt wanted would have to be granted, and then after the Manchester speech Parnell and Dillon refused.
"The fact is that the line is really drawn and the split made, but not publicly. They [the Parnellites] will not budge beyond extension of the purchase clause; Davitt is for nationalisation and our programme. And the whole strength of the Land League management is to be used – in fact, it has all along been used – against the spread of more radical ideas. Davitt says he is going to the United States for the purpose of getting money for the propaganda."
But the money that was wanted came suddenly from another quarter. Mr. Shaw had that very month (May 10) sent Mr. George $500, saying: "As you do not tell me how I can help the cause just now, I take my own way and inclose a draft which I hope may strengthen the hands of you, its representative." And nine days later Mr. Shaw wrote that he had received a pledge of $3,000 for the circulation of "Progress and Poverty" from a man richer than he was who did not want to be known. He said that some of the money he would hold until he could learn what Mr. George advised doing with it, but that meanwhile he had ordered of Appleton a thousand copies of the book specially bound in cloth covers to be sent to the members of the Society for Political Education who were men of importance scattered about the country, and that he had preceded this by sending to them copies of George's pamphlet, "The Irish Land Question." Mr. George was at first inclined to believe that this society was "a sort of mutual admiration affair," on the members of which it would be useless to waste money; but the fact of the distribution subsequently raising some contention in the columns of the Boston "Advertiser," he then wrote to Mr. Shaw (August 3): "You have kicked up a row. And of all the things we want to do, to kick up a row is first and foremost. For when the row begins then those who most bitterly oppose us serve the cause the most."
But to go back. On June 6, 1882, came an earthquake. Michael Davitt, despite Parnell's express opposition, made a dashing speech in Liverpool, came out squarely against the peasant proprietary scheme and declared himself flatly for "land nationalisation." Davitt did not espouse the George method of application, which was to absorb land values through taxation. He leaned rather to Alfred Russell Wallace's plan of buying the land from the land-owners (though at half the market valuation) and then exacting a rent from the holders, which seemed to the socialists to include their idea of "management." But method just then was a secondary matter with Henry George. What he was most interested in at this time was the assertion of the principle of common rights in land, and he took Davitt's speech to be the old Land League cry of "the land for the people," advanced a stage towards practical application. The speech created a sensation. George was filled with exultation and wrote to Shaw (June 8):
On the same day George wrote to Ford:
"Well, I feel like congratulating you. At last the banner of principle is flung to the breeze, so that all men can see it, and the real, world-wide fight begun. What we have been hoping and praying and quietly working for is so far accomplished.
"Davitt proposes compensation. Of course neither you, nor I, nor Bishop Nulty agree to anything of that sort; but that makes no difference. It is best that Davitt should propose it, for his great work from now on is to be rather in England than in Ireland.... I don't care what plan any one proposes, so that he goes on the right line....
"I lecture in the Rotunda (Dublin) Saturday night. You can well imagine what I will say."
This lecture, Mr. George's second in Dublin, was delivered on June 10. It was on the "Irish Land Question" and was for the benefit of the Prisoners' Aid Societies. It took the line of and supported Davitt's Liverpool speech and was well received, for he wrote to Ford three days afterwards: "Sexton, who had been all the week in Dublin lying quiet, put in an appearance at the lecture, and on moving thanks to me essayed to defend somewhat the peasant proprietary business; but I went for that in my reply, and evidently carried the audience with me.... What was a most significant thing was that from beginning to end Parnell's name was not mentioned.... There was not a voice for him, not a cheer."
Nevertheless, as Mr. George had predicted, the "Kilmainham Treatyites" soon rallied and began to fight, and fight with effect. They attacked George covertly at first, aiming to arouse national jealousy against him by speaking of him as "an American" and a "cosmopolitan politician." But Davitt they attacked more openly, for having considerable influence on telegraphic and other large channels of news and political comment, they could and did harry him on both sides of the ocean at once.
Davitt's position was trying. Patrick Ford had arranged for a big reception to him in the Academy of Music, New York; but a committee from the Parnellite faction went down the bay, first reached him and made out such a case that he felt the necessity of giving a prominent place in his first speech in America to an explanation that he had not been "captured" by Henry George or anybody else.
Then again occurred the unlooked for. Some prominent prelates in the Catholic Church in the United States had condemned the Land League movement as attacking the rights of property. Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn of St. Stephen's Catholic Church, one of the largest in New York, had privately expressed strong approval of the movement, but had never spoken publicly on this or any kindred subject. He had been widely known both for the eloquence of his utterances and the independence of his views, and yielding to the pressure to come out and take a public stand on the land question, he had laid prudential considerations aside, and consented to speak at the Davitt reception. He followed Davitt and made an extraordinary speech on the lines of the land for the people. Elegant in diction and oratorical in delivery, it flashed with wit and burned with enthusiasm. He spoke as a priest of the people, who bore witness to the everlasting truth.
He encouraged Davitt to "preach the gospel" and not to apologise for it or explain it away. His address made such a sensation that the Doctor was invited to speak at most of the meetings with Davitt during the short tour, and he did speak at three, at one of them saying:
These speeches were too marked in their effects on popular thought in this country, the main source of Land League funds, to go unnoticed by those at Rome and elsewhere bent on suppressing the Irish cause; and the powers which had silenced so many of the clergy of Ireland, among them Dr. Nulty, for the same kind of utterances, now turned towards New York. They caused Cardinal Simeoni, Prefect of the Propaganda, in the name of the Pope, to write several letters to Cardinal McCloskey in New York complaining of "the priest McGlynn" who seemed "very much inclined to favour the Irish Revolution" and who was making speeches containing "propositions openly opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church." The Cardinal Prefect ordered Dr. McGlynn's suspension, unless Cardinal McCloskey should deem another course advisable. Dr. McGlynn after the first letter of complaint had an interview with Cardinal McCloskey. He explained his doctrine, and as he said five years later, he defended it from the Cardinal's "misunderstandings and misapprehensions." "I told him substantially," said Dr. McGlynn, "that I knew my theology well enough not to sin against it ignorantly, and that I loved my religion too well to sin against it wilfully." As a result of this interview Dr. McGlynn said he would not speak further for the Irish Land League cause. "I voluntarily promised to abstain from making Land League speeches, not because I acknowledged the right of any one to forbid me, but because I knew too well the power of my ecclesiastical superiors to impair and almost destroy my usefulness in the ministry of Christ's Church to which I had consecrated my life."
While to Patrick Ford, Dr. McGlynn was a revelation, to Henry George he was more than that, for never before had he heard of the clergyman. McGlynn was a new star in the sky; as George wrote to the "Irish World," a "Peter the Hermit" in the new crusade; and as he wrote to Ford privately: "If Davitt's trip had no other result, it were well worth this. To start such a man is worth a trip around the world three times over. He is 'an army with banners.'"
But it was of Davitt that George wrote chiefly to Ford at this time. Before any adequate report of the New York meeting had reached him, he said (June 20): "To-day there is a despatch that Davitt says that there is no dispute between him and Parnell, and that the latter's scheme will be carried first. It won't. Davitt has awakened the echoes both in Ireland and in England. He is first and Parnell is nowhere, if he [Davitt] will only stand firm and not get scared. Tell him so for me." George wrote ten days later, "It's a nice combination [against Davitt] – Government, Fenians, Whigs and Parliamentarians! When I say Fenians I mean only those of the Devoy stripe." But Davitt yielded to the pressure, both while in America and subsequently when he returned to the British side. He allowed the great work of his life to be subordinated to the comparatively trifling Parliamentary programme. George's views are reflected in letters to Ford:
London, July 1
London, July 4
"The Kilmainham treaty has gone to smash sure enough at last. The situation, though, is not a good one – the old fight in the dark is to go on again. Ireland has plenty of good minor officers and guerilla chiefs, but not a single general. Davitt is nearest, but he lessened his influence and injured his usefulness by what seems to me like weakness.... A great leader would not begin an important campaign by an apology, and I am well satisfied that you had nothing to do with that. Well, I am sorry for Davitt's sake, but the cause moves on no matter who falls."
Dublin, August 4
"As for me, Davitt should have had sense enough to know that no one could have made him my 'trumpet.' He had too great a position. And surely he need not have been afraid of my trying to put him in the position of a disciple of mine. For in public and in private I have been engaged in pushing him to the front as the 'great leader.' But his enemies – O'Kelly first, I think – charged him with being captured by Henry George and the 'Irish World.' They saw that that annoyed and affected him, and then they pushed it. All he had to do was simply to go forward and not mind them. But their talk affected him so much that he was afraid to be seen with me or to have me go where he went. And so they made him morbidly afraid of the 'Irish World.' It seems to me pitiable weakness when a man's enemies can thus make him afraid of and unjust to his friends. Davitt has let his enemies turn him and swerve him in various ways; he has put himself on the defensive when he ought to have been on the aggressive, and has kept himself in hot water and dropped from the position he might have held.
"But he is a noble character, and by far the best of the lot."
The palpable fact was that Henry George felt increasingly lonely in the Irish movement – all the leaders save Davitt and Brennan hostile to him in principle, and even Davitt now shunning close connection and Brennan gone off to the South of France in utter disgust with the Kilmainham business. George had come in touch with many representative men in England like Joseph Cowen, proprietor of the "Newcastle Chronicle," Thomas F. Walker, manufacturer, Birmingham; and William Saunders, President of the Central News Agency in London. He had also met on very friendly terms the new Chief Secretary for Ireland, George O. Trevelyan; and for John Morley he wrote a "Fortnightly" article. But these men were of the general British radical movement and not of the Irish movement per se.
Yet on the other hand, such men as John Ferguson of Glasgow and Rev. Harold Rylett of Belfast joined with a host of Scottish and English radicals in wishing the war carried into Africa, believing that the most effective way to carry on the Irish land-for-the-people fight would be by raising the issue in England and Scotland. To this end Mr. George was invited to deliver an address in Glasgow on St. Patrick's night, the 17th of March. He accepted and spoke before a great public meeting in the City Hall. Three nights later he spoke before another big meeting in the National Hall. John Ferguson took the chair at the first meeting and Richard McGhee at the second. Many persons date the radical land movement in Scotland from these meetings, and it is clear that they put the spark to the agitation among the crofters, or small farmers, which soon blazed up.
Davitt had had something of this idea of spreading the war to the British side of the Irish Sea in wishing to circulate "Progress and Poverty," and now George, getting the Shaw money, obtained the means with which to carry the idea forward. Shaw cabled that he would send £300, and George replied by letter, "Now we shall start the revolution!"
He made an arrangement with James C. Durant, who had a printing office in Clement's Inn-Passage, for setting type and making plates of "Progress and Poverty" for a book of eighty-eight pages, quarto form, and paper cover, to sell at sixpence a copy. Durant was an enthusiastic admirer of the book and agreed to risk one third of the expense, and to take his pay out of the profits, if there should be any. George was to meet the other two thirds of expense. He did not look for any profit to himself after paying Durant; indeed, unless the sale should be very large they both stood to lose on the operation; but both were moved by the spirit of the propaganda.
Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. were to handle the sixpenny edition on commission. From thinking nothing at all of the book, they had come to have great expectations of it, George writing Shaw as early as February 11 (1882):
It was Mr. George's idea to push the reading of "Progress and Poverty" all over the three kingdoms. As a preliminary to this, he bought a set of plates of "The Irish Land Question" from the Glasgow publishers, Cameron & Ferguson – the Ferguson who had with Davitt and Brennan begun the Land League movement. From those plates an edition of five thousand copies of the pamphlet was struck off and sold at threepence each. Copies of it, together with a little four-paged tract by Mr. Shaw, entitled "A Piece of Land," were sent to all the newspapers in the United Kingdom and to all the Members of Parliament. In a similar way copies of "Progress and Poverty" were sent out when it appeared. Sample copies were also sent to every Land League organisation and every working men's club with a circular offering to supply quantities at wholesale rates. This edition of the book was also advertised in some of the papers, so that the £300 from America was made to go as far as it would in the propaganda work, and Mr. George was enabled to write by June 30 to Mr. Shaw: "So, my dear friend, we are in the way of doing something – so much that I don't like to say what I really think. The big stone is really moving. All it wants is a little push to start it rolling. And that, I think we are about to give. It is not what we do so much as what we start other people doing."
As if in a measure to meet the "slowing down" policy of the Parliamentary party, Patrick Ford had asked Mr. George to stump Ireland; but he had dissented. "I am willing and anxious to do all I can," he wrote (June 22), "and 1 have done all I have been asked to do; but you must remember I am not an Irishman, and these people are jealous of advice or interference from an outsider. That is the reason they are thrusting me forward, saying I have captured Davitt, etc. You see how Harris alludes to me as a 'cosmopolitan politician.' I don't like to mix in Irish politics on this account."
Nevertheless, he now concluded to make a correspondence trip to Western Ireland. He set off early in August, accompanied by an Englishman, James Leigh Joynes, one of the masters of Eton College, who wished to see something of the popular side of the Irish movement and who was engaged to write some descriptive articles for the London "Times." Joynes started out with the average Englishman's idea that rural Ireland was a place of outrages and murders. As they rode along part of their journey on an open jaunting car, he appeared somewhat apprehensive of their being mistaken for landlords and shot from behind the walls or hedges that fringed the roads. But the most peaceable of rural country met their view, and many pictures of industry that gave rise to Mr. George's expression in an "Irish World" letter (August 22) that "of all the libels upon the Irish, that which stigmatises them as idlers is the worst. If there are on the earth's surface any people who will work harder and suffer more for those who cling to them, I do not know where they are to be found."
At length the travellers arrived at the little town of Loughree. It was "guarded by seven police fortresses," besides having "two police barracks and a large military barrack." "As we drove down the street to the only hotel," said Mr. George, "the police seemed to start from the houses on each side and follow us." And the moment the travellers sprang to the ground both were arrested under the Crimes Act as "suspicious strangers." Said Mr. George:
They were taken into a barred room in the barrack, and despite Joynes' profuse protestations that there must be some mistake, the police went through the baggage and examined all the papers. Mr. George says:
Resident Magistrate Byrne who came to examine them apparently soon concluded that there had been a mistake, even if the police had acted upon telegraphic orders from some source. At any rate, after three hours' detention the suspects were released, not, however, without a formal protest from Mr. George against the proceedings as "needlessly annoying and insulting."
After spending that night at the hotel they visited Prior Corbett of the Carmelite Order and the stores of several "suspects." Then they drove to the town of Athenry, a few miles distant and within the same police district – "a town of one pump," an ordinary hand pump, from which the entire water supply of the place is drawn. Yet in so small a town, which furthermore could not support a single doctor, were quartered no less than twenty-six police constables and fifty-six soldiers. The travellers visited Father McPhilpin and then viewed the antiquities of the place, after which they went to the railway-station to take train for Galway. But the police, a great number of whom had appeared to be lounging around, closed in and arrested George, but not Joynes. After several hours' detention, Mr. George was taken before Magistrate Byrne – the same magistrate who had examined him at Loughree – and a lot of foolish testimony was presented touching the prisoner's movements and the nature of his printed papers and written notes. One of the papers put in evidence was a list of names, with the supposed letters "F.C." after some of them, which the Head Constable believed meant "Fenian Centre," but which the magistrate interpreted to be "T.C.," and to mean "Town Councillor." The upshot of the matter was Mr. George's discharge.
The trip affected a radical change in Mr. Joynes' views of the state of Ireland, and he wrote letters to the London "Times" based upon what he had seen and heard that seemed incomprehensible to the editor, so that the arrangement between Joynes and the newspaper was cancelled.
When Mr. George got back to Dublin in the middle of August he wrote to Mr. Shaw: "I have just returned from a very interesting trip into the west, in which among other things I saw the inside of two 'British Bastiles.'" He also sent to the President of the United States a letter of protest at the uselessness of the American Ministerial representation at the Court of St. James, making his own case the occasion of his writing and saying that while he fully realised the duty of an American citizen "in a foreign country to conform his conduct to the laws of that country, and that he cannot expect exemption from such police regulations as its Government may deem necessary," yet "that it is due to their own dignity that the United States should claim for their citizens travelling in countries with which they maintain relations of amity, exemption from wanton annoyances, unreasonable inquisitions and imprisonment upon frivolous pretexts." He averred that American citizens had been imprisoned there "without trial, and even without specific accusation," while the only action taken by the United States so far as known and currently reported there was on the part of American consuls who "attempted to bribe them by offers of money into acknowledgment of the justice of their arbitrary imprisonment by agreeing to leave the country as a condition of release." The letter was aimed at James Russell Lowell, the United States Minister to the Court of St. James – "a place," as Mr. George often afterwards described it, "for the spoiling of good poets." To make the protest more direct seemed inadvisable on account of the relations existing between Lowell and Mr. Shaw. Nevertheless, the letter stirred up the Administration at Washington to call upon the Government representatives for proper action in such cases. When Mr. George returned to the United States he was invited by Secretary of State Frelinghuysen to put in a claim for damages, but he declined, saying that all he asked for was protection to the citizen in his proper rights abroad.
In a letter to Mr. Shaw (September 12) Mr. George wrote with some amusement:
"'Well,' said Appleton, 'one man who buys it is a friend of yours – Francis G. Shaw. He bought a thousand, and then he came back and bought another thousand."
"'Goodness!' exclaimed Lowell – or words to that effect; 'he is a dear, good friend of mine, but – but, he must be getting eccentric!'
"I brought a letter to Lowell from John Russell Young, but never presented it."
The incident of Mr. George's arrest and the Parliamentary questioning relative to it were noticed by all the newspapers in Great Britain and Ireland, all of which fell in most aptly with George's plans to "start the revolution." The press had just been noticing "The Irish Land Question" pamphlet very liberally and now at last the English printers had the sixpenny edition of "Progress and Poverty" ready. Twelve thousand copies were printed in the first edition, and two thousand were distributed free. Within a few days there was, perhaps, reason for his joyous words to Shaw, "I feel as though we are really beginning to 'move the world,'" for the London "Times" set an example to the British newspapers and periodicals by seriously reviewing "Progress and Poverty" in a five-column article – an example that brought reviews tumbling in. Kegan Paul sold all the copies of the book he had on hand by the afternoon of the day on which the "Times" article appeared. John Russell Young, then United States Minister to China, sent George congratulations from Pekin, saying that the fact of such a lengthy review, was, regardless of its spirit, the "blue ribbon of critical approbation," and that it ranked George "at once among the thinkers of the age," whose words were "worth heeding in England." No one more fully appreciated the significance of the article than the author himself, and he wrote to his San Francisco friend, Dr. Taylor (September 16): "I send you the 'Times' notice. The book which the 'Alta California' said never would be heard of is at last, it is now safe to say, famous. The cheap edition is going off well. One house in Melbourne took 1,300 copies and 300 went to New Zealand." To Mr. Young, he wrote shortly after returning to New York (January 17, 1883):
Then, too, came encouragement from another quarter. Early in 1882 the Land Nationalisation Society had been started in London. The eminent Alfred Russell Wallace was at its head and his recent book, "Land Nationalisation," ostensibly embodied its aim. It contained in its membership those who like Wallace desired to take possession of the land by purchase and then have the State exact an annual quit-rent from whoever held it; those who had the socialistic idea of having the State take possession of the land with or without compensation and then manage it; and those who with Henry George repudiated all idea either of compensation or of management and would recognise common rights to land simply by having the State appropriate its annual value by taxation. Such conflicting elements could not long continue together, and soon those holding the George idea withdrew and organised on their own distinctive lines, giving the name of the Land Reform Union to their organisation. But meanwhile the Land Nationalisation Society invited Mr. George to lecture under the auspices of a working men's audience in Memorial Hall on September 6, Professor Wallace presiding. This was Henry George's first public speech in London and he addressed the class he was very anxious to reach. For as he said in April in writing to Mr. Shaw: "I have little hope of the literary class here – never at all of the men who have made their reputations. It is the masses whom we must try to educate, and they are hard to get at through ordinary channels."
This working men's lecture was followed by a meeting on the afternoon of the 19th that gave him real satisfaction – a meeting of Church of England clergymen. The proceedings had much the nature of a conference, Mr. George making a few preliminary remarks explanatory of his principles and then answering questions. He wrote to Mr. Shaw (September 21): "The meeting of clergymen was most remarkable. It occupied three hours. The ball has surely commenced to roll." That evening he was honoured with a two shilling working men's banquet, and then he bade adieu to his English friends and started for Dublin and home.
On the eve of his departure from Dublin, Mr. George was entertained at a banquet by T.D. Sullivan, M.P., Dwyer Gray, owner of the "Freeman's Journal," Michael Davitt, Dr. James E. Kelly, Father Behan, Dr. Joseph Kenny, and other well-known citizens; and then, the eldest daughter who had been ill with typhoid fever being strong enough to travel, the family proceeded to Queenstown and on October 4 embarked on the National liner Helvetia for New York.
But before leaving Dublin Mr. George wrote to Mr. Shaw (September 26):
"Our English friends are very earnest for me to stay; but I know the movement will go ahead without me. No man is necessary to it now. We may help a little; but whether we help or not, it will go on.
"Hope to have a twenty thousand new edition of 'Progress and Poverty' printed by next Monday."