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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

William E. Forster

  • [William Edward Forster, born at Bradpole, England, 1818; entered Parliament, 1861; minister of education, 1868–74; carried the Education Act, 1870; chief secretary for Ireland, 1880–82; carried the Irish Land Bill, 1881, followed by a Coercion Bill, and a proclamation declaring the Land League illegal, by which Parnell and many others were imprisoned; died, 1886.]
  • The uncrowned king of Ireland.

  • In a speech in the House of Commons, Feb. 22, 1883, Mr. Forster, in a review of his administration of Irish affairs as chief secretary, referred as follows to the arrest and confinement of Charles Stuart Parnell in Kilmainham jail in October, 1881: “Respectable boycotting did not like Kilmainham, and it [the proclamation against the Land League] enabled me to depose ‘the uncrowned king,’ as the honorable member for Dungarvan called him.” Mr. O’Donnell: “I never said any thing of the kind.” After the release of Mr. Parnell from Kilmainham, Mr. Forster said, in a speech in the House of Commons, May 4, 1882, “A surrender is bad, but a compromise or arrangement is worse. I think we may remember what a Tudor king said to a great Irishman in former times: ‘If all Ireland cannot govern the Earl of Kildare, then let the Earl of Kildare govern all Ireland.’ In like manner, if all England cannot govern the honorable member for Cork [Mr. Parnell], then let us acknowledge that he is the greatest power in Ireland to-day.” Mr. Forster alluded to Thomas Fitzgerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, who twice rebelled against Henry VII., carrying fire and sword through Ireland until taken prisoner to England, where his unabashed demeanor at the council-board led some one to say, “All Ireland cannot govern this Earl.”—“Then let this Earl govern all Ireland,” was the king’s prompt answer. He was sent over, adds Froude (“History of England,” ii. ch. 8), “a convicted traitor: he returned a Knight of the Garter, lord deputy, and the representative of the Crown.”
  • “Boycotting,” alluded to by Mr. Forster, was the name applied to the system of social and commercial ostracism, which was extensively resorted to in Ireland during the land agitation of 1880 and 1881. The word is derived from Capt. Boycott of Lough Mask House, against whom this process of isolation was first employed, because the Earl of Erne, for whom Boycott was agent, had refused the rent offered by his tenants, and had issued ejectment processes. Mr. Parnell, in a speech at Ennis, Sept. 19, 1880, had advised putting a tenant “who bids for a farm from which another tenant has been evicted, into a moral Coventry.” When this statement was brought up against him, he insisted that he had qualified it by the words “unjustly evicted.”
  • Village tyrants.

  • “It is not,” said Mr. Forster, on introducing the first Coercion Bill, Jan. 24, 1881, when speaking of persons who committed agrarian outrages in Ireland, “that the police do not know who these village tyrants are.” John Bright said in this debate, that a Coercion Act “becomes a tyranny in the hands of tyrants.” His assertion in 1880 (vide), that “Force is no remedy,” he said, in 1882, applied “not to outrages, but to grievances.”
  • That the Irish people, to make the world acquainted with their wrongs, should “agitate! agitate! agitate!” was advice given them by the Marquis of Anglesea, when lord-lieutenant of Ireland under Wellington’s administration. Parnell changed it to “organize! organize! organize!” That Dean Swift wrote in the “Dampier Letters,” “Burn every thing that comes from England, except its coals,” seems to have become an article of faith with many writers and most readers, says Justin McCarthy (“The Four Georges,” i. 243); “without much hope of correcting that false impression, we may observe that Swift never said any thing of the kind. This is what he did say: ‘I heard the late Archbishop of Tuam mention a pleasant observation of somebody’s, that Ireland would never be happy until a law were made for burning every thing that came from England, except their people and their coals. I must confess that as to the former, I should not be sorry if they would stay at home, and for the latter, I hope in a little time we shall have no occasion for them.’”
  • Some one having called Ireland “a God-forsaken country,” Lord Chief Justice Cockburn (died 1880) retorted, “It is not at present so much a God-forsaken, as a government-forsaken, country.” Grattan called Ireland “a country ill-governed, and a government ill-obeyed.”