Interview with the Rev. David Macrae – Home Rule Advocate

“SCOTTISH HOME RULE:

AN INTERVIEW WITH

THE REV. DAVID MACRAE.

—————

   Having met the Rev. David Macrae, of Dundee, during his recent visit to Glasgow, and had a conversation with him about his views on home Rule and Scottish nationality, and having corresponded with him since, we append the remarks which bring out his general position on this question:- 

 

SCOTTISH NATIONALITY.

   ‘Yes, I have been speaking a good deal of late about Scottish nationality,’ Mr. Macrae said, ‘and I wish others would do the same. I wish the papers would take it up. They should fight the battle for Scotland. that, for instance,’ said Mr. Macrae, pointing to the title-page of The Scottish News, ‘I consider a change in the right direction. I am on the other side politically, but that is a recognition of our nationality which I heartily welcomed.’ 

   ‘I attach great importance to the use of “Britain” and “British” instead of “England” and “English,” and with good reason. If that point be surrendered, the whole position of Scotland is weakened. Why should it be surrendered? It is only the assertion of a truth. England is not Britain; it is only a part of it. This fashion of calling the United Kingdom “England,” as if Scotland were a mere English county, is a falsification of history. In English people it is dishonourable as well as inaccurate. It is a violation of the Treaty of Union. The Treaty stipulates as the very first condition of Union, that the United Kingdom shall be called – not England – but Great Britain. Scotland would never have consented to union but for that, and the English public are therefore doing us a wrong, and violating their own solemn pledge when they use “England” for “Britain,” and speak of the Government, or the Empire, or the Parliament, or Imperial affairs, as ”English.” We hear a great deal about the “Constitutional Party.” That party at this point is the most unconstitutional party that exists. There was Salisbury – the leader of it. When Prime Minister lately, he made the Queen in her speech, speak of “England” instead of “Britain,” in violation of the Constitution. I call that treason; and Salisbury made the Queen a party to it. Yet he talks about loyalty to the Constitution.’ 

   To the suggestion that the English people do not understand why there should be any feeling about the mere name, Mr. Macrae said –  

   ‘Don’t they? Just you try. Go and call an Englishman an Irishman! You will soon find that no man on earth is quicker than an Englishman to understand what there is in a name when it touches his own vanity or self-respect. He expects us Scotch people to be content to be called an Irishman? A Scotchman is quite as proud of his nationality as an Englishman is, and with quite as much reason. This English disregard of every national sentiment except their own is a stupendous blunder on the part of the English people.’

 

OUR DIFFICULTY WITH IRELAND.

   ‘Yes, I think the whole policy of disregarding national sentiment has done immeasurable harm. Our difficulty with Ireland is no mere difficulty about bad laws – though some of the laws are bad enough. Ireland is not exceptional in that. We have bad laws here, and bad laws in England too. The deepest root of our difficulty in Ireland is that Irish national sentiment has been persistently irritated and outraged for generations, turning the Irish people both at home and abroad into enemies when they might have been made our friends.’ 

   ‘Certainly, I am in favour of Home Rule for Ireland and for Scotland too. I admit that the Irish people are hostile to us, but it would be folly to refuse them more power, and thus make them more hostile to us than ever.

 

HOME RULE IS A GOOD THING

   in itself. The English fashion of treating the smaller nationalities is creating a necessity for it; for Ireland it has become indispensable, and the only hope of disarming Irish hostility is by showing the Irish people that we are growing wiser and kindlier – that we are prepared to grant their rights and do our best to atone for the errors and cruelties of the past.’ 

   ‘Yes, I do think Ireland would respond if the Orange faction will permit her. She will do it even for her own interest. As soon as she is made responsible for her own government, she will not only see the necessity of proving the capacity for self-government, but see the immense importance of cultivating friendly relations with England and Scotland.’

 

WHAT WILL THE IRISH PROTESTANTS DO?

   ‘What will the Protestants in Ireland do if Home Rule be granted?’ repeated Mr. Macrae. ‘Why, if they are people of sense they will do their duty – they will do what they can to make Ireland prosperous. They will lay aside their religious animosity, which is quite as bad in a Protestant as in a Catholic, and join with the rest of the Irish people in promoting order and peace and progress. If Mr. Parnell, who is a Protestant, can work so harmoniously with the Catholic members of the Irish people, why should not the Ulster Protestants be able to work harmoniously with the Ulster Catholics and the Irish people generally? There isn’t a finer race of people in the world than the Scotch-Irish of Ulster – if they would only turn Orangeism into Christianity, and do by the Catholics as they would like the Catholics to do by them.’

 

HOME RULE FOR SCOTLAND.

   ‘What would Scotland gain by Home Rule? She would be able to deal for herself with Scottish questions, and with larger questions on which she is ahead of England – such, for example, as education, the liquor question, the Church question, and the land question. If we had Home Rule in Scotland, the Crofters Bill would not have been the abortion it is; and we should not see our Highlands turned into mere sporting ground for Mr. Winans and a few idle aristocrats. For another thing, we should be saved the endless trouble, annoyance, and expense of having to carry all our Scottish Parliamentary business up to London, when we want the money at home, and would manage the business itself more easily and better.’

 

A FEDERAL SYSTEM.

   ‘Yes, I would be for a Federal system. I don’t believe in anything else for Ireland either. I don’t see how Mr. Gladstone’s plan of excluding the Irish representatives from the Imperial Parliament would work, except as a mere temporary expedient. It would be in one sense a calamity if it did work; for we want not separation, but a better, and truer, and wider union. I would have Home Rule for England and Wales, as well as for Ireland and Scotland; and I would have all these nationalities represented in an Imperial Parliament – “British,” not “English” – and I would have this general Parliament meet somewhere else than in London, to escape the disturbing influence of that stupendous mass of provincialism.’

 

A STARTLING BUT WISE CHANGE.

   ‘I admit,’ continues Mr. Macrae, ‘that would be a startling change, but it would be a wise one, and it would only be doing in this country what was done so wisely in the United States, where Congress is kept away from huge cities like New York or Philadelphia or Chicago, and meets in Washington – in a district reserved for the purpose – a district not even included in any one State.’

 

THE COLONIES.

   ‘Certainly, I would include the Colonies in the Federal system, and India and Canada and Australia should be represented in the Imperial or general Parliament.’ 

   ‘No, I do not think such a system would be inconsistent with the Monarchy. I don’t see why it shouldn’t work sufficiently well either with a Monarchy or a Republic. But we needn’t trouble about that. Happily, it would not need a revolution now to turn this Empire into a Republic should that form be found best. We have the substance of Republicanism here already.’ ”

– Glasgow Evening Post, Tuesday 4th May, 1886.

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