Jfr. 35] 'I AM VERY IGNORANT1 269
redressed, and peace would be restored; but no amount of coercion would force the Irish people to submit to unjust and cruel laws. Let evictions be stopped and crime would disappear. * What a spectacle have we ? Two great English parties united for one purpose only —to crush, put down, and bully a poor, weak, and starving nation; a nation they did not attempt to assist in her hour of famine and suffering. In this state of things the duty of the Irish members is plain. They are bound to use every form of the House to prevent the first stage of the Bill. We shall have no indecent haste. We must have full and fair discussion; and the Irish members are the best judges of the extent and value of the resistance which they ought to make to the measure of coercion.*
'We are bound to prevent the first stage of the Bill.' This was a frank avowal of policy; obstruction, not argument, was the weapon on which the Irish leader relied. Indeed, he never tried to make a secret of his contempt for argument in the House of Commons. * Don't embarrass the Government/ was the cry of the complacent Irish Whig. ' Embarrass the Government ' was the mandate of Parnell.
During the six nights' debate on the first reading I spent some hours with him walking up and down the corridors of the House. He was always anxious to learn anything of Irish history which had any practical bearing on the issues of the day. He now wished to know something of the previous fights over coercion. I told him the story of the struggle over Grey's Coercion Bill. *By Jove,' he would say, 'that's good—and O'Connell too ! They are always holding O'Connell up to me as a model, but you make him out to be as bad as I am. Can I get all this in books ? You see I