Marx-Engels Correspondence 1886

Engels To Eduard Bernstein


Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 349-50;
Transcribed: by Einde O'Callaghan.

May 22, 1886

I am sending you Thursday’s Parliamentary debates (Daily News) on the Irish Arms Bill, which restricts the right of the Irish to own and carry arms. Hitherto it was directed only against the nationalists, but now it is to be turned also against the Protestant braggarts of Ulster, who threaten to rebel. [353] There is a remarkable speech by Lord Randolph Churchill, the brother of the Duke of Marlborough, a democratising Tory; in the last Tory cabinet he was Secretary for India and is thus a member of the Privy Council for life. In face of the feeble and cowardly protestations and assurances made by our petty-bourgeois socialists regarding the peaceful attainment of the goal under any circumstances, it is indeed very timely to show that English ministers, Althorp, Peel, Morley and even Gladstone, proclaim the right to revolution as a part of constitutional theory — though only so long as they form the opposition, as Gladstone’s subsequent twaddle proves, but even then he does not dare to deny the right as such — especially because it comes from England, the country of legality par excellence. A more telling repudiation could hardly be found for our Vierecks.


353. The debates on the Irish Arms Bill mentioned by Engels were held during its second reading in the House of Commons on May 20, 1886. The Bill was to prolong the ban established by the 1881 law on the sale, import and carrying of arms in some districts of Ireland. John Morley, the Secretary for Ireland, in bringing the Bill before Parliament, said that it was particularly important for Northern Ireland (Ulster), where open agitation was being conducted among the Protestant population for the organisation of armed resistance against the introduction of self-government in Ireland on a Home Rule basis. Randolph Churchill said in his speech that these actions were legitimate and referred to Althorp and Robert Peel, who in 1883 had said that civil war could be morally justified in the face of a threat to the integrity of the British Empire. In his reply Gladstone reproached Churchill for supporting resistance to government measures. The Bill was passed in the House of Commons by 353 votes to 89.