Conservative Party accused of being ‘committed to naked revolution’
'King at Arms': the satirical Punch Magazine's interpretation of Carson's status in the wake of the Larne gun running Photo: Punch, 6 May 1914

Conservative Party accused of being ‘committed to naked revolution’

Churchill attacks Carson in debate

Published: 29 April 1914

A motion laid down by the Conservative Party demanding an impartial and public inquiry into the events around the Curragh Mutiny was rejected by the government in the House of Commons last night, amidst scenes of uproar.

In a trenchant speech against the motion, Winston Churchill - referring to the Larne gun running - said: ‘It was uncommonly like a vote of censure on the police by the criminal classes.’

Mr. Churchill continued by saying that the first maxim of English jurisprudence is that complainants should come to court with clean hands, but here we get Sir Edward Carson and Captain Craig fresh from their gunrunning exploits!

In response to those words, Sir Edward Carson interjected: ‘You behave like a cad!’

The interjection brought disruption to the debate, but when Mr. Churchill resumed he said that he thought it most peculiar that Ulster unionists, fresh from their exploits in Ireland, should demand a public inquiry into the conduct of those responsible for the maintenance of law and order.

Turning to the rest of the opposition benches, he said that the Conservative Party was committed to naked revolution, to armed violence, and utter defiance of lawful authority, to tampering with the discipline of the army and mavy, to obstructing the highways and telegraphs, overbearing the police, coastguards and customs officers, to the smuggling of arms by moonlight, to the practical seizure of ships and to the unlawful imprisonment of the King’s servants.

Mr. Churchill continued: ‘The use now being made of the Orange Army was far outside any question connected with Ulster. The purpose was to rupture and destroy the whole movement of Liberal and Radical legislation.’

He then said that he did not believe that rebellion would come, but if it did the government would put it down, and if civil war came the government would do their best to conquer.

Mr. Churchill finished by saying that Sir Edward Carson was running great risks for strife and he asked was he now prepared to take risks for peace. He invited Sir Edward to suggest amendments to ‘safeguard the dignity and interests of Protestant Ulster’.

The Labour leader, Ramsay Macdonald, said that if the motion had asked for a judicial inquiry he would have supported it, but the reason the Conservative Party had not asked for such an inquiry was because their own leader had by wicked words encouraged those proceedings in Ulster.

More than that, members of the party had subscribed money to fund disloyalty and the Tory press had whipped up sentiment in Ulster.

In his contribution to the debate, Col. Seely - the former Minister of State for War - said: ‘The civil power has been impeded in the execution of its duty on a gigantic scale.’

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