Irish Unionists Threaten to Refuse to Pay Taxes Under Home Rule

Irish Unionist Protestants learned from the experience of their Catholic co-islandists (see ’s Picket Line) and considered a tax resistance campaign of their own against the Irish government when “home rule” was pending. This report comes from the New York Times:

A Last Means of Protection

For the Ulster Unionists’ Convention, which opens in this city on , an enormous pavilion has been erected on a large piece of vacant ground at the intersection of College Park Avenue and Rugby Road, and very convenient to the Botanic Gardens, where the outdoor demonstrations will be held.

Among the papers to be presented to the convention is one entitled “Passive Resistance; or, The Position of Ulster in Certain Contingencies.” The writer is himself a delegate to the convention, but his identity is not revealed. The pamphlet is of special interest to America on account of the parallels the writer constantly draws between the possible situation in Ulster and that of America in . He declares that in the event of the establishment of a separate Irish Parliament and an Executive:

We have resolved that we will meet its laws, its administration, and its taxes imposed, with passive resistance. It will be necessary for the constituencies of Ulster to actively ignore the new authority by refusing to allow elections to take place. This refusal must be put in force through their returning officers. The Mayor of Belfast and the Sheriffs of the well-affected counties, on receiving writs for elections, should abstain from acting on them, and it would be right, so as to have no mistake, that they should publicly burn the writs.

Perhaps, in such a case as we are contemplating, an application might be made to the superior courts in Dublin for a mandamus, and perhaps the courts might grant one, when the next form of the passive resistance of Ulster would come into play, as we have determined that we will not recognize a judicature that is nominated by and subject to the new authority. By this rump of the Dublin Parliament — that is, a Parliament of Ireland minus Ulster and minus the revenue that Ulster produces, (the customs of Belfast are more than two millions a year,) — would have no resource but the employment of physical force to compel elections to be held.

But it is a maxim of constitutional practice, having the moral force of enacted law, and having indirectly the actual force of enacted law, too, that there must be no forcible interference with elections. It is not too much to say, besides, that it is not the business of the army to assist in the suppression of even actual resistance against a colonial Government, and Ireland would become a colony in the event of Home Rule being granted.

The author then proceeds to consider the methods of procuring money to carry on the passive resistance movement. He says:

There are no direct taxes in Ireland, with the exception of the income tax and stamps, if those are classed as direct. But those taxes and the customs, and the inland revenue in general, are the Queen’s. It is impossible that loyal subjects should refuse to pay the Queen’s taxes, levied by the lawful authority of the Imperial Parliament, and collected by servants of the Queen’s Executive Government. As for taxes levied by authority of the Dublin Parliament, of course that is a different thing, and resistance is not only unobjectionable, but necessary.

It may be, however, (but this is only matter of conjecture,) that the whole customs and inland revenue of Ireland, under the home rule scheme, would be handed over to the new Irish Government. In that case there would be no difficulty as to our rights; the question being, under this supposition, Should we begin our passive resistance by refusing to pay those customs, income tax, &c.? Or should we seize the Custom Houses of the ports, Belfast, Derry, Larne, and Newry? Or should we postpone action of this nature till other passive resistance should have failed to checkmate the new Government?

Leaving this question unanswered, the author considers the position of Ulster, in the event of her policy bringing on civil war, and points out that, while numerically it is inferior to the rest of Ireland, in physical resources and wealth it is superior. For borrowing money, too, its credit would be much better than the south of Ireland. Continuing, the writer says:

Geographically, Ulster is better placed for the defense of itself from the south than the south is placed for defense from Ulster. Our metropolis and principle port is almost unassailable, while Dublin could be laid open to a direct and immediate attack. On the whole, our merely military strategical position is a very great deal better than the strategical position of the three southern provinces.

With reference to the Ulster troops and their necessary training, the pamphlet says:

We must have no Bull Run. Better to wait for months till our soldiers shall have acquired discipline than incur such a danger. We must not begin serious work with a scratch army, although we should have nothing but a scratch army to fight.