Today, some notes about what happened when Catholic Archbishop Thomas Croke endorsed tax resistance in Ireland in .
Cable News From Europe
London, . … Archbishop Croke’s manifesto advising Irishmen not to pay taxes has caused a tremendous sensation not alone in Ireland but throughout the whole United Kingdom. The Irish people hail it with almost frantic joy, regarding it as a sanction by the church of the policy long discussed by political leaders, but always hitherto regarded as a last resort. There seems to be very little doubt felt that a no tax campaign will be organized as soon as the Nationalists can perfect their plans and get the necessary machinery in order for the successful carrying out of such a movement. The plan of campaign, which is really but a revival, with improvements, of the no rent crusade of a few years ago, has been so effective as to embolden those who are now working up the no tax movement. Indeed, as a prominent Irish leader remarked in the hearing of your correspondent, it is only at this late day that the Irish people have taken the hint thrown out by their great countryman Edmund Burke a century ago, when he declared that he knew not how to frame an indictment against a whole people. A hundred tenants may be evicted but not a whole nation. As many persons who refuse to pay taxes can be locked up; but the jails will not accommodate all the people of a country. This is about the argument that is having a good deal of weight in Ireland just now, and though it has its logical defects, it is likely to be a difficult one to disprove in practice. At any rate, there are expressions heard on every side that if the plan of campaign and the plan of no tax fail, the only resort left is that of physical, actual rebellion and open warfare.
Denouncing the Archbishop.
The Unionist press denounce the Archbishop and accuse him of preaching downright rebellion and trying to plunge Ireland into the horrors of a civil war. High Tory organs go further and declare that civil war has already begun, and must be confronted at once with “appropriate methods” — another phrase, of course, for coercion. The Croke letter must, certainly, whether viewed with favor or disapproval, be regarded as the most defiant declaration of opposition to governmental authority that ever issued from any except Anarchistic sources. It is highly probable that the anger and bitterness which it arouses among English Conservatives will prove more than an offset to the enthusiasm evoked by it in Ireland.…
By the San Francisco mail on , we have received the text of the manifesto by Archbishop Croke, which has been twice referred to in our cable news. When enclosing £10 for the Dillon Defence Fund, the Archbishop wrote:– “I opposed the No rent Manifesto six years ago, because, apart from other reasons, I thought it inopportune and not likely to be generally acted upon. Had a manifesto against paying taxes been issued at the time I should have supported it on principle. I am in precisely the same frame of mind now. Our line of action as a people appears to me in this respect both suicidal and inconsistent. We pay taxes to a Government that uses them not for the public good and in accordance with the declared wishes of the taxpayers, but in direct and deliberate opposition to them. We thus supply a stick to beat ourselves with; we put a whip into the hands of men who use it to lash and lacerate us. This is suicidal in presence of the actual state of things in Ireland; it is inconsistent besides just now.
Another version of the letter I have found renders this last sentence differently, in a way that seems to parse better: “This is suicidal. ¶ In presence of the actual state of things in Ireland just now, it is inconsistent besides.”
We run plans of campaign against bad landlords to stop what they call our rent, and we make no move whatever against the Government that pays horse, foot, and dragoons for protecting them, and enforcing their outrageous exactions. Our money goes to fee and feed a gang of needy and voracious lawyers, to purchase bludgeons for policemen to be used in smashing the skulls of our people, and generally for the support of a foreign garrison and of native slaves, who hate and despise everything Irish and every genuine Irishman. The policeman is pampered and paid; the patriot is persecuted. Our enforced taxes go to sustain the one; we must further freely tax ourself to defend the other. How long is this to be tolerated?”
The letter was brought under the notice of the Government by a question asked in the House of Commons when Ministers stated that the letter was under consideration. The subsequent treatment of the letter is apparently conveyed in the following despatch to the “New York World,” dated : “A prominent Parnellite state in the lobby that the Government have caused it to be made known to the Nationalists that Archbishop Croke will not be prosecuted. At the same time it is suspected by the Parnellites that the case has been presented by the Government to the Vatican and an admonition to the Archbishop suggested.”
A few days later (according to a cable despatch of ) the Archbishop repudiated the idea that his letter was intended to incite the Irish people to a general non payment of taxes. No mention of this is made in the American despatches.
The Archbishop’s letter is no doubt a very strong one, but anywhere outside of Ireland it would be regarded as no stronger than men ordinarily employ to denounce a Government which is non-representative of the wishes of the people. We assume that in any explanation which the Archbishop may have made he would insist that the construction to be placed upon the letter was simply that a people ought not to be taxed for a system of government which was obnoxious to them. The language employed was perhaps injudicious considering the excited state of feeling in Ireland, but in any other country it is not considered a very serious matter to urge that obnoxious taxes should be opposed.…
, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine did a feature on “Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church” that reprinted the letter and went on to say:
Mr. [Michael] Davitt saw his opportunity, and lost no time in intrenching himself behind the “brief but priceless letter,” as he called it, of Archbishop Croke. On , at Grangegeith [Freeman’s Journal, .], he delivered a long tissue of audacious treason, in which he argued as follows: The laws which impose taxes have as much moral authority as any law in the statute-book or in common law. If you are free to repudiate the former, if you are morally bound to resist and defy the former, you are free, and you are morally bound to repudiate, resist, and defy all the rest. Such a line of argument Mr. Davitt placed under the shield of Archbishop Croke’s authority.…