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The Framework of Home Rule

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My purpose in this volume is to advocate a definite scheme of self-government for Ireland. That task necessarily involves an historical as well as a constructive argument. It would be truer, perhaps, to say that the greater part of the constructive case for Home Rule must necessarily be historical. To postulate a vague acceptance of the principle of Home Rule, and to proceed at once to the details of the Irish Constitution, would be a waste of time and labour. It is impossible even to attempt to plan the framework of a Home Rule Bill without a tolerably close knowledge not only of Anglo-Irish relations, but of the Imperial history of which they form a part. The Act will succeed exactly in so far as it gives effect to the lessons of experience. It will fail at every point where those lessons are neglected. Constitutions which do not faithfully reflect the experience of the sovereign power which accords them, and of the peoples which have to live under them, are at the best perilous experiments liable to defeat the end of their framers. I shall enter into history only so far as it is relevant to the constitutional problem, using the comparative method, and confining myself almost exclusively to the British Empire past and present. For the purposes of the Irish controversy it is unnecessary to travel farther. In one degree or another every one of the vexed questions which make up the Irish problem has arisen again and again within the circle of the English-speaking races. As a nation we have a body of experience applicable to the case of Ireland incomparably greater than that possessed by any other race in the world. If, from timidity, prejudice, or sheer neglect, we fail to use it, we shall earn the heavy censure reserved for those who sin against the light. For the comparative sketch I shall attempt, materials in the shape of facts established beyond all controversy are abundant.

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