William Morris. 1886

"Home Rule and Humbug"

Source: Home Rule and Humbug, Socialist Leaflets No. 7, printed by the Socialist League, January 1886
Note: The original text in Morris's handwriting is in the Huntington Library; made available online by the University of Iowa Morris Archive under the title 'To the Working People of Great Britain and Ireland'. Other than minor changes in punctuation and layout the leaflet was printed directly from this text.
Transcribed: by Graham Seaman, June 2022


To the Working-people of Great Britain and of Ireland

Fellow workers

The people of Ireland are determined to govern themselves and not be under the blunders whims or corruption of the Westminster Parliament and Dublin Castle. After a long long period of blind oppression and scorn they have forced the English government to listen to their demands, and their steadiness of purpose and single-heartedness seems about to earn some reward at least: something which will be called Home Rule will be grudgingly yielded to them: though probably accompanied by a new dose of coercion.

Then comes the question what will that Home Rule be, which will have to be bought at the price of fresh dragooning.? Irishmen, look to it! or else after you have gained the victory you may find yourselves cheated out of its prize.

What is the new government meant to be, if the Landlords and Capitalists of Great Britain and Ireland have their way? A Mockery: an empty dream for the rich of Ireland; to the tenant farmers, peasant labourers of Ireland the old tyranny under a new name. Will this satisfy you? is this what you have struggled so hard for, and given money time, yea liberty and life itself for?

You want to be free. Free of what? The domination of men who have treated you as a conquered country to be fleeced for their benefit? Absentee landlords spending in idleness and luxury in London and Paris the money they have wrung out of starving laborious peasants? Yes indeed from these and from something more: What more then? We will tell you.

The tribute which you are forced to pay to those who have seized upon the soil of Ireland before you are allowed to put a spade into it for your own livelihood.

You must be free from RENT!

It is this which drives you from your native land, coops you up in the slums of London or Liverpool and makes you wretched over-worked slaves instead of free and happy men! What will Home Rule profit you if it still keeps up an armed police, and soldiery to turn you out on the hill-side to live if you can or die if you must, if you will not or cannot give up the livelihood which you have earned by labour to idlers who live by forcing you to labour—for them. If you cannot enjoy the fruits of your labour you are not free whoever rules you. Remember the labourer must be 'free' in this sense as well as the farmer, or else the farmer is the tyrant instead of the landlord.

But perhaps you think there is no danger of your being mocked by this sham freedom, that the matter is in your own hands and that you are safe. Undeceive yourselves — there is danger: the landlords and capitalists are recovering from the stupor which your determination had thrown them into and are seeking out all kind of schemes of SHAM HOME RULE cumbered with absurd checks and restrictions, so that you may be partly cajoled, partly forced, into taking the shadow instead of the substance. At last a man named Giffen has found a notable one which means buying out your landlords at their own price at the expense of the people of Ireland and England, so that that accursed tribute of rent may go on for ever. This impudent proposal has been received by almost the whole capitalist press as a glorious invention, and outlet for the landlord from all his difficulties.

This then is what the landlords and Capitalists mean by Home Rule. Is it what you mean by it? Is this to be the end of your struggles for freedom? Dragooning once more, to usher in a mockery and a humbug.

No surely: surely you mean: We will pay no tribute to be allowed to live: each man must enjoy the fruits of his own labour.

Workmen, labourers, English Scotch and Welsh, a word or two to you: another trick of our 'rulers' is to try to stir up race hatred in you against your Irish brothers: we Socialists beseech you to learn that the Irish workmen cannot be your enemies as long as they are true to themselves, nor you theirs in like manner. Remember in claiming their right to govern themselves, still more in renouncing the accursed tribute of rent for the land they live by they are fighting your battle as well as their own. The time is at hand when you also will be crying out that the land is for those who will use it for feeding themselves and others, not for those who abuse it as an instrument for keeping others poor that they may be rich.

Fellow workmen of these Islands do not let your master, your fleecers, array you into opposing ranks friends against friends: learn that your interests are the same, your enemies the same, and who then shall resist you?


Printed by the Socialist League, 13, Farringdon Road, London, E.C., January 1886
Read The Commonweal, Official Journal of the League, prince One Penny.