With the nearness of the time when Home Rule must automatically become law, unless something happened to interfere, events began to move rapidly. The Tory Party, largely, I believe, through political considerations, had unalterably taken sides with Ulster. The Liberal Party were irresolute, wavering, pusillanimous. Mr Redmond's followers began to be uneasy - they commenced to falter in their blind faith that they had only to trust Asquith and all would be well.

"In the Ancient Order of Hibernians," Mr Henry tells us, "all sections of Sinn Fein, as well as the Labour Party, saw a menace to any prospect of an accommodation with Ulster. This strictly sectarian society, as sectarian and often as violent in its methods as the Orange Lodges, evoked their determined hostility."

"This narrowing down," wrote Irish Freedom (the organ of Mr P. H. Pearse and his friends), "of Nationalism to the members of one creed is the most fatal thing that has taken place in Irish politics since the days of the Pope's Brass Band," and the Ancient Order was further referred to as "a job-getting and job-cornering organisation," as "a silent, practical riveting of sectarianism on the nation." The Irish Workerwas equally emphatic. "Were it not for the existence of the Board of Erin the Orange Society would have long since ceased to exist. To Brother Devlin and not to Brother Carson is mainly due the progress of the Covenanter Movement in Ulster."

Though no doubt in Ireland religion exercises a considerable influence, it is nevertheless a mistake to think that it was purely a question of religion with those redoubtable Northern Unionists whom Sir Edward Carson led. They attached more importance to their political rights and independent commercial position, which they believed to be endangered; corruption in matters of administration was what they were most in dread of. The Irish Party used to point proudly to the number of Protestants who had been elected as members of their Party. The reply of Ulster was that they owed their election to their accommodating spirit in accepting the Parliamentary policy and not because of their rigid adherence to Protestant principles.

Then came the Lame gun-running expedition, when the Fanny sailed across from Hamburg, under the noses of English destroyers and men-of-war, and, it is said, with the knowledge and connivance of the officers commanding them, safely landed 50,000 German rifles and several million rounds of ammunition, which were distributed within twenty-four hours to the Covenanters throughout the Province. It is clear that at this time extensive negotiations were going on between Germany and the Ulster extremists. The Ulster Provisional Government were leaving nothing to chance. History is entitled to know the full story of all that happened at this most fateful period - what "discussions" took place between the Ulster leaders and the Kaiser, how far Sir Edward Carson was implicated in these matters and how real and positive is his responsibility for the world war that ensued. And it should be borne in mind that these seditious traffickings with a foreign state were going on at a time when there was no Sinn Fein army in existence, and that the man who first showed a readiness not alone to invoke German aid but actually to avail himself of it, was not any Southern Nationalist rebel leader but Sir Edward Carson, the leader and, as he was called, "the Uncrowned King" of Ulster. When critics condemn the Nationalists of the South for their alleged communications with Germany, let them not, in all fairness, forget Sir Edward Carson was the man who first showed the way. To whom then - if guilt there be - does the greater guilt belong? When the news of this audacious gun-running expedition was published, Ireland waited breathless to know what was going to happen. Warships were posted on the Ulster coast, ostensibly to stop further gun-running, and the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that "in view of this grave and unprecedented outrage the Government would take appropriate steps without delay to vindicate the authority of the law."

But in view of what The Westminster Gazette termed "the abject surrender to the Army" of the Government over the Curragh incident, when officers were declared to have refused to serve against Ulster, not much in the way of stern measures was to be expected now. The Government on the occasion of the Curragh incident had declared: "His Majesty's Government must retain their right to use all the forces of the Crown in Ireland or elsewhere to maintain law and order and to support the civil power in the ordinary execution of its duty. But they have no intention whatever of taking advantage of this right to crush political opposition to the policy or principles of the Home Rule Bill."

As Mr Balfour was not slow in pointing out, this statement made "it impossible to coerce Ulster." The officers who had refused to obey orders, including General Gough, were in effect patted on the back, told they were splendid fellows, and that they would not be asked to march against Ulster. It was the same thing over again in the case of the Fanny exploit, Sir Edward Carson unblushingly improving the occasion by laying stress on the weakening of Great Britain's position abroad that followed as a consequence of his own acts. The Irish Party leaders, who had a few months before still persisted in describing the Ulster preparations as "a masquerade" and "a sham," were now in a state of funk and panic. They found the solid ground they thought they had stood on rapidly slipping from under them. There was to be no prosecution of the Ulster leaders, no proclamation of their organisation, nothing to compel them to surrender the arms they had so brazenly and illegally imported.

Why was not Carson arrested at this crisis, as he surely ought to have been by any Government which respected its constitutional forms and authority, not to speak of its dignity? Captain Wedgwood Benn having in the Parliamentary Session of 1919 taunted Sir Edward Carson with his threat that if Ulster was coerced he intended to break every law that was possible, there followed this interchange:

Sir E. Carson: I agree that these words are perfectly correct.

A Labour Member: Anyone else would have been in prison.

Sir E. Carson: Why was I not put in prison?

Mr Devlin: Because I was against it.

Well may Mr Devlin take all the credit that is due to him for preventing Sir Edward Carson's arrest, considering that he and his Order had been mainly the cause of bringing Carson to the verge of rebellion, but that gentleman himself seems to have a different opinion about it if we are to put any credence in the following extract from Colonel Repington's Diary of the First World War, under date 19th November 1915:

"Had a talk with Carson about the Ulster business. He was very amusing and outspoken. He told me how near we were to an explosion, that the Government had determined to arrest the chief leaders; that he had arranged to send the one word H.X. over the wire to Belfast and that this was to be the signal for the seizure of the Customs throughout Ulster. He called to see the King and told Stamfordham exactly what was going to happen and the arrest of the leaders was promptly stopped."

Note the scandalous implication here! What does it amount to? That Sir Edward Carson went to Buckingham Palace, held the threat of civil war over the King, and intimidated His Majesty into using his exalted office to screen the Orange leader and his chief advisers from prosecution! If it does not bear this meaning, what other can it bear? And what are we to think of its relation to constitutional authority and right usage?

But this is not the only occasion on which Sir Edward Carson shows up in Colonel Repington's pages. Under date 19th October 1916:

"Carson told me that a man who had been on board the Fanny was writing the story of the famous voyage and the gun-running exploit."

We have not got that story yet. When it is published it would be an advantage if we could also have the full account of the circumstances under which Baron von Kuhlman went over to Ireland to prospect as to the imminence of civil war, who it was he saw in Ulster, what arrangements and interviews he had with the Ulster Volunteers and their leaders, who were the other prominent people he met there and, above all, how the Fanny's cargo of German rifles was arranged and paid for? Surely these are questions vital to an understanding of the extent of Sir Edward Carson's culpability for the outbreak of war.

Loyalist Ulster - the Ulster of law and order - was now openly defiant of the law. Mr P.H. Pearse summed up the situation rather neatly in an article in Irish Freedom:

"One great source of misunderstanding" (he wrote) "has now disappeared; it has become clear within the last few years that the Orangeman is no more loyal to England than we are. He wants the Union because he imagines it secures his prosperity, but he is ready to fire on the Union flag the moment it threatens his prosperity.... The case might be put thus: Hitherto England has governed Ireland through the Orange Lodges - she now proposes to govern Ireland through the Ancient Order of Hibernians. You object: so do we. Why not unite and get rid of the English? They are the real difficulty; their presence here the real incongruity."

I quote this to show it was not the All-for-Irelanders alone who saw that the Board of Erin was the real stumbling-block in the way of a national settlement. And now when matters were to be put to the test the Government showed a monstrous culpability. It does not avail them to say that the Irish Party had been guilty of treachery to Ireland, that it misled the Ministry as to the extent and depth of Ulster's irreconcilability, and that it had betrayed its own supporters by reposing a childish faith in Liberal promises. The Government must bear their own responsibility for allowing Sir Edward Carson and the Ulster Covenanters to defy and thwart them at every point, for permitting what amounted to a mutiny in the army, for ordering the Channel Fleet and the soldiers to Ulster "to put these grave matters to the test even if the red blood should flow," and then withdrawing them again, for issuing a proclamation forbidding the importation of arms and allowing the Covenanters to spit at it in mockery, and finally for admitting, in the famous Army Order I have quoted, the Right of Rebellion as part of the constitutional machinery of the State.

"The gigantic game of bluff" - as the Ulster preparations were termed - had won outright. The political gamesters, who would not surrender an inch to Ulster when it could be negotiated with, were now willing to surrender everything, including the principle of an indivisible Irish nationhood. "Conversations" between the various leaders went on during the early months of 1914 to arrange a compromise and a settlement, the gigantic crime of Partition as a substitute for Irish Freedom was traitorously perpetrated by Ireland's own "representatives" and by the so-called "Home Rule Government," and Ireland woke up one fine morning to find that the Home Rule Act even when on the Statute Book might as well not be there - all the bonfires that were lighted in Ireland to hail its enactment nothwithstanding - that "Dark Rosaleen," the mother that they loved so well, was to be brutally dismembered, and that "A Nation Once Again" was to mean, in the words of Sir Horace Plunkett: "Half Home Rule for three-quarters of Ireland." The Prime Minister had proposed the partition of Ireland - three-fourths to go to the Nationalists and one-fourth to the Orangemen - and the Irish Party had accepted the proposal, nay, more, they summoned a Conference of Northern Nationalists and compelled them to pass a resolution, strongly against their inclination, in favour of the proposal, under threat of the resignation of Messrs Redmond, Dillon and Devlin if the resolution were not adopted.

An Amending Bill was immediately introduced into Parliament (23rd June 1914), which provided for the exclusion of such Ulster counties as might avail themselves of it. This measure was transformed by the House of Lords so as permanently to exclude the whole of Ulster from the operations of the Home Rule Act.

By people forgetful of the facts, it is sometimes supposed that the Partition was agreed to by the Irish Party under the pressure of war conditions. This is not so. The Party have not even this poor excuse to justify their betrayal, which was the culminating point in the steep declivity of their downfall. The All-for-Ireland Party resisted with all the strength at their command the violation of Ireland's national unity. We spoke against it, voted against it, did all we could to rouse the conscience of the people as to its unparalleled iniquity. But though a proposal more offensive to every instinct of national feeling could not be submitted, the Irish Party determined to see the thing through - they seemed anxious to catch at any straw that would save them from an irretrievable doom. On account of the deadlock between the Lords and Commons on the question of exclusion, and with a view to the adjustment of differences, it was announced that the King had summoned a Conference of two representatives from each Party - eight in all - to meet at Buckingham Palace. It is believed that this Conference was initiated by His Majesty but taken with the knowledge and consent of the Ministry. Messrs Redmond and Dillon represented the Irish Party, and thus the man (Mr Dillon) who had been for ten years denouncing any Conference with his own countrymen went blithely into a Conference at Buckingham Palace, where the only issue to be discussed was as to whether Sir Edward Carson should have four or six counties for his kingdom in the North. On this point the Conference for the moment disagreed, but nothing can ever undo the fact that a body of Irishmen claiming to be Nationalists had not only ignobly agreed to the Partition of their native land but, after twelve months for deliberation, agreed to surrender six counties, instead of four, to the Covenanters. And the time came when it was remembered for them in an Ireland which had worthier concepts of Nationality than partition and plunder.