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Parnellites under Mr. Healy, but the attitude of the larger section owning the leadership of Mr. Dillon was uncertain. Its chief was preoccupied, among other things, with the interests of the United Irish League. That organisation was started in the congested districts of the west in 1897 by Mr. W. O'Brien, for the ostensible object of securing the augmentation of peasants' holdings by the division among them of large grass farms, and generally as a means of affording a basis of militant union among the Nationalists of the country districts. In the course of 1899 it made appreciable progress, its propaganda being pushed, and obtaining a considerable amount of clerical support, in several counties to the south and east of those of Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim in which lay its chief strength. Its methods, though they had not borne fruit in actual outrage, were often distinctly intimidating. Resolutions passed at public meetings “inviting" by name large grass farmers to give up their farms by a certain date for the benefit of the neighbouring peasantry recalled the old land league days, and were suggestive of more than the force of argument or moral suasion. Mr. Redmond and Mr. Healy had held entirely aloof from this movement and its leading supporters, including Mr. Dillon and Mr. Davitt, looked with misgiving upon any amalgamation in which those politicians bore prominent parts.
The Irish landlords, on their side, were by no means satisfied with the treatment which they received at the hands of the Government in 1899. On April 27 the Irish Lord Chancellor (Lord Ashbourne) explained at some length in the House of Lords the changes of procedure which the Land Commission had introduced, in deference to the recommendations of the Fry Commission. They embraced such points as the better instruction of the assistant commissioners with regard to legal decisions pronounced by the Land Commission and by the Court of Appeal, and regulating the cases coming before the sub-commissions; the more satisfactory inspection of drains; and the revived practice of communicating the valuer's report. He took a very cheerful view of the working of these and other changes. As to the recommendation, on which the Fry Commission had laid so much stress, of an improvement in the tenure of the assistant commissioners, Lord Ashbourne said that it would be practically impossible to make them all permanent officials, the work varying so enormously. But they had all been practically given a tenure of three years, that was until March 31, 1902. Also, a system of examinations had been instituted, which would insure that persons obtaining these appointments bad the necessary qualifications, and the old system of associating two lay assistant commissioners with each legal assistant commissioner would be returned to. Lord Ashbourne also gave figures showing that the land purchase system was working vigorously. These declarations seemed to hold out a certain, though doubtless limited, prospect of improvement in the administration of the Land Acts. But the past was unaffected by the changes enumerated by Lord Ashbourne. The landlords asserted that their grievances had been more or less acknowledged, and that some material set-off ought to be made. The Tithe Rent Charge Bill, introduced (May 12) by the Chief - Secretary, promised an immediate and appreciable diminution in the burdens of many landlords, whose resources had been greatly reduced by the operation of the Land Acts. But that measure was dropped before the end of the session, as those to be benefited by it thought, without sufficient cause. The result was a rally led by Lord Inchiquin in the House of Lords, in support of a resolution declaring that it was incumbent on Parliament to consider the claims of Irish landlords to compensation from the State for the losses they had sustained through the administration of the Land Acts. This was carried against the Government by 39 votes to 34—a rather barren triumph, but probably tending to reinforce the assurance offered by the Government before the division that every effort would be made in the ensuing session to pass the Tithe Rent Charge Bill into law.
Other features of a more cheerful character remain to be noticed. Commerce and agriculture were prosperous during 1899. There was an excellent harvest, with no potato failure, and the “harvest of the sea ” was also generally good. The Ulster linen trade did well, and the Belfast shipbuilding industry very well indeed. The annual review of Irish affairs in the Times gave the following gratifying particulars as to the progress of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. “In March, 1898, the number of societies under its control was 243. At the end of 1899 it controlled 420, of which 210 were dairy societies and about 110 agricultural societies. The estimated trade done by the dairy societies during 1899 amounted to over 500,0001., the average price received for butter having been 983d. per lb. The total membership of the various societies was approximately 41,000. Lord Monteagle was appointed President of the Agricultural Organisation Society in the place of Mr. Horace Plunkett, who resigned office on his appointment as VicePresident of the new Department of Agriculture and Industries." This new department had been created under an act of 1899, which was passed in view of representations made to Government in the previous year by Irishmen of all parties interested in the material progress of their country. It was to have at its disposal from various sources, including, of course, the Church surplus, nearly 170,0001. a year, and its operations were to be influenced by boards representative in part of the County Councils. It was hoped that it might do much in various ways to promote the enlightened development of agriculture and manufactures, and in doing so to enlist the further co-operation of men of all parties in useful work for their common country.
FOREIGN AND COLONIAL HISTORY.
FRANCE AND ITALY.
When the year opened it was not only parliamentary government in France which seemed in peril, but it was the very existence of the republic which was at stake, and many doubted if it would find defenders. The Army seemed ready to rise against the nation. The constitution of 1875 was apparently so unable to bear the strain upon its provisions that M. de Marcère, a former minister of Marshal MacMahon, opened a campaign in favour of its revision. The enemies of the republic openly pushed forward their plans, and day after day an unbridled press cried aloud for a military coup d'état. Throughout the provinces discharged soldiers formed themselves into groups or federations, taking their instructions from the central committee, composed of the leading Nationalists, whilst in order to get hold of the nouvelles couches of the electorate they got hold of the younger men as they were released from military service.
The Clerical propaganda, undertaken by the Assumptionist Fathers, at the same time made war to the knife on all loyal servants of the republic throughout the country. With the aid of furious newspapers, which adopted the names of the ancient provinces (La Croix du Maine, de Bourgogne, de Guienne), they hoped to familiarise their readers with the idea of a return to the ancien régime. The conspirators managed so well that they made it seem ridiculous for any one to call himself a Republican ; and in a country like France where fashion reigns supreme this symptom was most serious. Above all the Government was presided over by a politician who had not shrunk from making himself in Parliament the apologist of political inconsistency, and who had taken credit to himself for the promptness with which he had shifted his rifle from one shoulder to the other. It would be doing no wrong to M. Dupuy's Cabinet to say that it was despised by all parties. It was believed to be capable of resorting to any subterfuges to save itself, and the public discovered that the only way to stir it to action was to threaten its existence.
Unfortunately the same might be said of the chief of the State. M. Félix Faure, with his love of parade and his besetting “snobbishness,” inspired perhaps even more distrust than the shiftiness of his Prime Minister.
In both camps there existed a firm conviction that it was only necessary to find a general prepared to take the initiative of a pronunciamento and the republic would have to give place to Cæsarism. The Governor of Paris, General Zurlinden, was daily denounced by the Republican press as the head of the military party, which resisted the supremacy of the civil power. His speech to President Faure at the New Year's reception was bitterly criticised : “ The Government may count more than ever upon the absolute devotion of our troops to uphold the law.” It was sententiously remarked that the general made no reference to his own intention of upholding it. It was, however, General Metzinger, commanding the 15th Corps at Marseilles, who was regarded as one of the most active members of the military party, and the most eager to take part in any attack upon the established order. The Nationalists consequently singled him out as the special object of their noisy acclamations every time he appeared in public, especially on the occasion of his being decorated (Jan. 7) by the President.
These manifestations found their counterpart across the Mediterranean, where Max Regis, the “King of Algiers," on his return to the capital was received with wild enthusiasm by the Anti-Semitic crowd. The horses were taken out of his carriage, and he was drawn in triumph to the Hotel de Ville, where from the balcony he denounced the Chamber of Deputies at Paris as the off-scourings of a sewer. This speech, however, cost M. Max Regis his place as Mayor of Algiers, but as he was immediately succeeded by one of his own partisans, the change brought no cessation to the disorders of which Algiers was the scene.
The state of affairs in the capital was not less serious. The violent ruled in the streets, the cynics in the press. The anniversary of the death of the old revolutionist, Blanqui (Jan. 8), was the occasion of a regular fight between the Socialists and the friends of M. Rochefort. The latter had just captured a new ally, for the same day M. Quesnay de Beaurepaire, president of the Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation, had suddenly thrown up his office, and in the columns of the Echo de Paris had commenced an outrageous campaign against his colleagues of the Criminal Chamber, whom he charged with having made up their minds to annul the Dreyfus judgment. He insisted, therefore, that the case should be transferred from that body. The arguments he brought forward were singularly inconclusive, coming as they did from a former procureur-général, whose appointment had been the immediate cause of Boulanger's flight. His only evidence was idle gossip of doubtful authenticity, overbeard by office clerks or inferior police officers. Nevertheless these slight conjectures sufficed to frighten the Ministry, and to bring it to take a step of exceptional gravity. A commission of inquiry composed of M. Mazeau, senator and first President of the Court of Cassation, and MM. Dareste and Voisin, members of the same court, was appointed to interrogate M. de Beaurepaire's witnesses, and the judges. A fortnight later (Jan. 27) the President handed in a report, not less extraordinary than the rest of the proceedings. After rendering full justice to the capability and rectitude of the incriminated judges, he concluded that it was requisite to withdraw from them the right of deciding alone whether the trial should be revised.
At the same time the Nationalists were mustering their forces, the streets were abandoned to them, the police supported them, and the Ministry, thoroughly cowed, capitulated.
In the interval the session had been opened, M. Paul Deschanel being re-elected President of the Chamber by 323 votes to 187 given to the Radical candidate M. Henri Brisson. On taking the chair M. Deschanel expressed his hope and belief that it would be in his power to reconcile the two noble aspirations of the country-the Army and justice. In the Senate no opposition had been raised to the re-election of M. Loubet.
The earlier part of the session was devoted to the discussion of the Budget-mingled with a few interpellations in which the movers themselves displayed but little interest. The “affair” was still the all-absorbing topic. The Ministry made the first move in the matter by requesting the Chamber to appoint a committee to inquire if there were not grounds for amending the code of criminal procedure in cases of revision of sentences. The step was a grave one, for it openly violated the recognised principle of non-retro-action in criminal enactments. Nevertheless even this concession was regarded as inadequate by the Nationalists. In an open letter to the President of the Council, M. Jules Lemaitre insisted that an inquiry carried on by judges publicly suspected and regarded by their chiefs as open to suspicion was from the outset branded as unsatisfactory, and therefore he called upon the Ministry to begin the proceedings afresh. Simultaneously out-of-door manifestations were organised in order to force the hand of the Ministry. At Marseilles the Anti-Semites and the Republicans interchanged revolver shots. At Algiers the Municipal Council invited M. Henri Rochefort, once a Radical and Communist, but now the most reckless leaderof the Anti-Semite faction. His arrival, as was to be expected, was the signal for the most disgraceful rioting, resulting in the wholesale suspension of the Municipal Council by the prefect, M. Lutaud. Disorders were reported from numerous centres, and were reflected in the confusion which reigned at Paris. The Committee of the Chamber reported