Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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IRELAND, an island on the western extremity of Europe, constituting a portion of the state known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, lies between the parallels of 51° 26' and 55° 21' north latitude and between 5° 20' and 10° 26' west longitude, Greenwich meridian. It is 306 miles long and 182 broad; its superficial area being about 32,713 square miles, or 20,808,320 British statute acres. The interior of the island is in the main a fertile plateau, but toward the shore on the south, west and north, rugged mountains rise irregularly to a height in some places of over 3,000 feet. The coast, on the west especially, is bold, and in many places precipitous; but is, on every side, except on the southern portion of the eastern shore, deeply indented with bays, fiords and estuaries, affording natural harbors of great capacity. The scenery is strikingly picturesque; in some parts of unsurpassed beauty. The southern and western counties, however, contain many tracts of bleak and desolate country. In the low-lying parts of the island there are vast areas of peat moors or "bogs," embedded in or beneath which are found the remains of primeval forests. There is historical certainty that more than a thousand years ago the island was richly timbered from sea to sea; but the destruction of the woods by the English power in the course of its five centuries of warfare with the natives, has left Irish landscape on the whole exceptionally bare of trees. There are numerous lakes; some of considerable size. The principal river, the Shannon, flows into the Atlantic on the western side of the island; the Lee, the Blackwater, and the combined Suir, Barrow and Nore reach the sea on the south coast; the Bann and the Foyle on the north; and the Slaney, the Liffey and the Boyne on the east. Of the cities and towns of Ireland, few can be deemed important as to size or commercial activity; the principal of them being Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Waterford, Limerick and Derry. The first named city is, as it has been since the reign of King John, in the thirteenth century, the national metropolis and seat of government. The country is politically divided into four provinces; these being subdivided into thirty-two counties.


—The climate of the country is mild and genial; more moist than that of France or Britain, but much less rigorous than that of either in winter. Although coal, iron, copper, lead, silver and gold have at one period or another been mined in Ireland, shafts and adits of long-forgotten times being occasionally discovered, the mineral resources of the country, judged by practical experience, are poor. Manufacturing industries, unless on a very insignificant scale, are almost unknown, outside the province of Ulster; the great bulk of the inhabitants being engaged in agricultural pursuits. The population was, at the last census, 5,159,839; exhibiting a serious and steady decrease since 1841, when it was 8,175,124.*40


—Ireland is governed by a viceroy, subject to the imperial cabinet in London, and is represented in the imperial parliament by 103 members in the house of commons, out of the 652 who constitute that body. Out of 494 princes, peers and bishops, who sit in the house of lords, 28 are titularly Irish.


—Few European countries are possessed of authentic historical data reaching to an age so remote as that to which the ancient records or memorials of Ireland in one shape or another extend. Like all old countries it has its fabulous and legendary periods; but reasonable certainty is attainable at a much earlier period in Irish history than it is in most other cases. The inhabitants of Ireland, of what may be called the native race, belong to the great Celtic family. For two thousand years past they have claimed to be pre-eminently "Milesians," that is to say, descended from an expedition of conquerors, led by the three sons of a military chief named Milesius, who, according to well received tradition, landed and subdued the country some ten or twelve centuries before the birth of Christ. But inasmuch as at least two distinct colonizations had previously been effected, and as the Milesians simply reduced their predecessors into subjection, and did not extirpate them, it is clear the general population in the course of time became more or less a combination of the new elements and the old. The Milesians originally came from a birthplace variously fixed in Persia. Syria and Phœnicia, and indisputably were of eastern origin. They were a race of soldiers and statesmen, conquerors and lawgivers. It was they who virtually organized and constituted the Ireland known to history for the last 1,500 years. The political system they established was a strange mixture of a republican monarchy and a military aristocracy. The country was divided into five sub-kingdoms, an Ard-Ri (literally high-king) being supreme sovereign. This chief-king was elected from the reigning family or dynasty; the electors being the clan chiefs, these latter in then own sphere being elected by the clans. A parliament or "feis" assembled triennially at Tard in which sat the princes, chiefs, judges, high priests, brehons and bards of the whole nation. This legislative body, one of the earliest known in history, revised the old laws and enacted new ones, very much as modern senates and assemblies did. On the introduction of Christianity by St. Patricius or Patrick in the fifth century, the existing code of laws was referred to a commission, consisting of one chief, one brehon and one Christian bishop, with a view to purging it of pagan ideas and adapting the statutes of Erin to Christian principles. The body of laws thus revised and codified are now, by order of the British government, being translated and published, as a rare and valuable treasury of ancient jurisprudence, parliament making an annual grant for the purpose ever since 1852.


—Such was the constitution and polity which prevailed in Ireland down to the sixteenth century, a period of more than 2,000 years. From about the year 200 B. C. to A. D. 800, the Ireland of ancient history may be said to have attained its zenith of power and reputation. In the three centuries which followed the introduction of Christianity, the country was pre-eminently the great centre of scholastic and missionary enterprise in western Europe. To its free schools and universities flocked students from every part of christendom, and Irish missionaries and teachers spread throughout the known world. With the incursions of the fierce and savage Northmen or Danes, plundering and desolating hordes of pagan marauders, which began about the close of the eighth century, commenced the disorganization and wreck of the Milesian nation. These hordes, just then the scourge of western Europe, never were able to conquer the country as they did the neighboring island of Britain; but an intermittent war of utter barbarism, prolonged through 300 years, utterly demoralized it, and almost extinguished a civilization that had been the light of western Europe in its time. From A. D. 900 to A. D. 1170, with the exception of a brilliant interval of a few years under Brian I., who broke forever the Danish power, disintegration rapidly made way. The idea of a common national interest or a central national authority was almost totally discarded. Each sub-king fought for his own hand, and the post of Ard Ri was claimed by various competitors in reckless and exhausting contests that bathed the land in blood.


—Meanwhile, England, that had yielded more or less easily to every invader, Saxon, Dane and Roman, once more received a new yoke. Its new conquerors were the Normans, who, fortunately for its future welfare, were strong enough to weld, albeit by ruthless process, the Danish, Saxon and British kingships and communities of England into a single political system. By the middle of the twelfth century the Normans had well consolidated their new kingdom, while Ireland had been steadily breaking into fragments. One of the Irish sub-kings, MacMurrough, prince of Leinster or Lagenia, revolting against the Ard-Ri, who had indeed deposed him, applied to Henry II. of England for help in his quarrel. Henry gave him permission to seek auxiliaries or mercenaries among the Norman English knights and free-lances. One of these, surnamed Strongbow, accepted MacMurrough's terms, and swiftly landing a powerful force on the Leinster shore, succeeded in restoring him to his principality. These Norman adventurers, brave, skillful and highly disciplined, saw a splendid opportunity for pushing their fortunes in the distracted and faction-torn condition of Ireland. They helped now one chief, now another, always on terms of payment highly advantageous to themselves, and soon their marvelous success and their daring ambition excited the jealousy and anger of King Henry. He called on them to return to England. Strongbow made various excuses for disobeying, and Henry, to the great satisfaction of the Irish princes, announced that he would proceed to Ireland in person to investigate the conduct of the Norman adventurers. He did so come to Ireland, and at once assumed the rôle of arbitrator or authoritative regulator of affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, pretending, as to the latter especially, that he had got a bull from his countryman, Pope Adrian, commissioning him to restore order in Ireland. The Irish princes did not quite realize all that this exercise of quasi-friendly offices involved, until long after Henry had returned to England. When they did, that is to say, when they found the Norman auxiliaries, one of their own body, converted into the garrison of a foreign king, they were dismayed. Some at once resisted; others diplomatized; a few submitted. Some felt the reality of the change; others did not. For centuries after the so-called "conquest" by Henry II. most of the native chiefs ruled their principalities or made war on one another, just as they did before a Norman had set foot on the Irish shore. Fitfully but gradually the Anglo-Normans pushed their power; but it was not until the close of the sixteenth century, or more than four hundred years after Henry's landing, that the struggle of native Irish sovereignty against English rule closed in the tacit surrender of Ireland to James I.


—During the latter half of the last century of the above period, a new element of antagonism was imported into the conflict. Religious animosity was added to race hatred and national hostility. The English peers and people followed Henry VIII. into the reformation: followed Queen Mary out of it, and Queen Elizabeth into it again. The Irish, on the other hand, clung more devotedly than ever to the Catholic faith; a circumstance of contrast which has largely contributed ever since to keep the two peoples distinct, and which, allied with race influences and national traditions, marks each with a separate individuality. With the reign of James I. began the political system which, with little variation, still exists in the union of Ireland under one crown with Scotland and England. England came in by succession to the Scottish king, and by a remarkable coincidence or concurrence Ireland at the same moment virtually surrendered to the sovereignty of a Gaelic prince, sprung from a race kindred to its own. Throughout the whole Stuart period, from 1600 to 1700, the national feeling and actions of Ireland, with a loyalty fatal to Irish welfare, were displayed on the side of the dynasty thus accepted. In the victorious rebellion of the English republicans against the duplicity of Charles I., as well as in the still more successful English revolt against the despotism of James II., the Irish remained steadfast to the royalist cause; and, in the result, paid a dreadful penalty for such disastrous fidelity. The soil of the country was declared forfeit by the existing owners, and was parceled out as spoil among the soldiery of the Cromwellian and Williamite armies; hundreds of thousands of acres were bestowed on the mistresses and on the natural offspring of William and the early Hanoverian kings, while the native gentry, beggared and homeless, were banished and proscribed, and the general body of the people reduced to a condition little short of outlawry. Under what is known as the "penal code" from 1700 to 1775, the bulk of the population were forbidden to educate their children, to attend religious worship, to carry arms, to learn a trade, or to hold property. The schoolmaster and the priest had each a price on his head; and statutes of George I. and George II. went so far as to make it felony to send an Irish child abroad to receive the education forbidden at home. There was one circumstance, which, apart from the shocking barbarity of the "penal code," has made it rankle in the breasts of the Irish to the present hour; namely, that it was laid upon them in flagrant violation of a solemn treaty signed between the English and Irish commanders, duly countersigned by royal commissioners on king William's part, at the close of the Williamite struggle in 1691. Although the splendid army of Scandinavians, Dutch, Swiss, Prussians, Hugue-not-French and English, which the prince of Orange led into Ireland, had defeated the raw levies of the Irish royalists at the Boyne, and, more by happy accident than generalship, driven them from their position at Aughrim, he was again and again defeated before the walls of Limerick, which city was defended by Gen. Sarsefield, in command of the Irish armies of King James.*41 At length, William, who was a brave soldier and a statesman, saw the wisdom of arranging terms with such a foe; and accordingly, on Oct. 3, 1691, articles of capitulation were negotiated, whereby the Irish army, retaining its arms, colors, bands and transport stores, marched out with the honors of war, free either to enter the service of King William or to sail for France where King James now resided as guest and ally of Louis XIV. The "civil articles" of the treaty of Limerick stipulated, in substance, that there was to be no proscription, no confiscation, no disarmament, and that the exercise of the Catholic religion should be as free as it had been in the reign of King Charles II. After the rough draft had been agreed upon, but before the fair copy was signed by Gen Sarsefield, the arrival of a French fleet with considerable aid in men, money and stores was announced to the Irish commander, and he was entreated not to sign the treaty; he replied, sorrowfully, that the news reached him an hour too late, that his honor and the honor of Ireland were pledged, and should not be broken. No sooner, however, had the Irish army sailed away to France than the treaty covenants, despite the protests and endeavors of King William, were cast to the winds. Angered at the idea of having no spoil by confiscation to divide, the anti-Stuart faction, now dominant in the Irish parliament, refused to approve the king's treaty, and, by stopping the supplies, compelled William to yield. Thereupon commenced the proscriptive legislation, known as the "penal code." The more severe these enactments grew, the more alarmed the dominant party became lest the Irish masses should rebel against them; and thus further and further severity was deemed necessary, as repression and alarm acted and reacted on one another. As a matter of fact, not even during the memorable Scottish risings of 1715 and 1745, which so nearly restored the Stuart line, did the Irish at home give pretext or justification for such a policy. The self-expatriated Irish battalions, however, now serving as an Irish brigade in the service of France, took heavy reprisals on the English power, confronting it on every battle-field, and deciding by their impetuous valor the fortunes of many an eventful day. At Fontenoy, fought May 11, 1745, by a French army of 45,000 men under Marshal Saxe, in presence of the king and the dauphin, against an English force of 65,000 men under the duke of Cumberland, victory was snatched from the British commander at the close of the day by a decisive charge of the Irish regiments. It was on the arrival of the dispatches which announced the fate of Fontenoy, that George II., much of a soldier and little of a bigot, is said to have exclaimed. "Curse upon the laws that deprive me of such subjects."


—In the minds of many besides King George, a reaction against the terrible rigor of the "penal code" had, by this time, set in: and events were drawing near, which rendered its continuance impossible. According to the political constitution, which the Anglo Norman sovereigns conferred on their colony in Ireland, that country was annexed to the British crown, but not placed under the legislative action of the English parliament. On the contrary, it had a parliament of its own, supreme as to Irish affairs. When Henry VII. was strengthening his royal prerogative and generally centralizing his government, he had a statute passed by a subservient Anglo-Irish parliament at Drogheda, known as "Poynings Law," rendering the Irish parliament subject to the control of the English legislature The unconstitutionality of this law was always asserted, and "Poynings Act" was disregarded by Irish parliaments in the reigns of Charles I., Charles II. and James II. The Williamite parliament in London, however, from the first claimed the power to bind Ireland; a claim from time to time contested by jurists and public writers on the Irish side, who, though thoroughly Protestant, and attached to the new dynasty and the English connection, vehemently repudiated the idea of such subjection in legislative matters. The dispute was embittered by the manner in which the London government repressed Irish trade and manufactures. An address to William III., from English manufactures, complaining of too successful Irish competition, elicited from that monarch a remarkable promise that "he would do all that in him lay to discourage manufactures in Ireland." This royal pledge unhappily was only too well fulfilled. The Irish parliament of 1719, in the midst of its penal legislation against the conquered Catholics, openly resisted the doctrine of subordination. The Irish house of lords for bade the sheriff of Kildare to execute a decree of the English peers; whereupon the latter body retaliated by reaffirming "Poynings Law" in still more galling terms. The controversy, with little respite, went on up to 1775, when there rolled across the Atlantic a tocsin of liberty in the echoes of Bunker Hill. By this time a patriot party had appeared in the Irish parliament, a parliament in which no Catholic was allowed to sit, led by Lord Charlemont. Lord Kildare, Flood, Hussey-Burgh, Sir Lucius O'Brien and Ponsonby, later on by the man, the splendor of whose fame truly illumines this page of Ireland's history, the illustrious Henry Grattan. Encouraged by the conduct of the American colonists, they grappled boldly with the oppressions and corruptions of the government; their earliest efforts being devoted successfully to the liberation of Irish trade from the fetters that had crippled and well nigh destroyed it. They next claimed the restoration of the ancient freedom of the Irish parliament. King George and his cabinet resisted while they could, but the concession was inevitable. Sorely straitened by the effort to subjugate Washington and his colonial levies, the London government had to withdraw the troops from Ireland, which was now garrisoned and guarded by a national volunteer army of 150,000 men. The volunteers, who were citizens as well as soldiers, enthusiastically sustained the movements of Grattan. A thoroughly national spirit was aroused through out the island. The long-oppressed Catholic millions clasped hands with the long dominant Protestant colony or garrison. With the capitulation of the British armies to Washington and the recognition of American independence, vanished the last hope of successfully combating the Irish demand for a free parliament. A solemn treaty, in the form of a statute of the British parliament, 22 Geo. III., chap. 28, renounced "forever" the usurpation of "Poynings Law," and covenanted that the ancient constitutional right of Ireland to be bound only by laws of a free Irish parliament should henceforth be "unquestioned and unquestionable" The effect of this measure of national liberty seemed to be magical. In the ten years that followed, Irish trade and commerce expanded in a degree never known before or since. The spirit of tolerance also for a moment prevailed, and some of the most grievous of the penal laws were repealed. The country seemed to go forward on the road of progress by leaps and bounds under the guardianship of the free parliament won by Grattan and the volunteers. This great victory, as well as the previous recovery of commercial freedom, was long retarded by the restricted franchise and anomalous usages under which the parliament of the period was returned The representation of many boroughs was literally owned by aristocratic proprietors; and presentation to a seat in the house of commons was bought and sold like any other marketable title or commodity. The national party under Grattan now directed their attention to a reform of a system so fatal to public liberty. The British minister, on the other hand, the American war being over, had his hands free, and he determined to maintain a system which would enable him in a few years, by the expenditure of money in purchase of seats, to subvert all that Grattan had accomplished and overturn the treaty arrangement of 22 Geo. III, chap. 28. The struggle progressed for seven years with increasing earnestness on each side, when suddenly an event occurred which threw the great game totally into the hands of the British minister and swept the Irish popular party into a situation that proved disastrous. The French revolution of 1789 burst forth like the blaze of a tremendous conflagration. The governing classes all over Europe were stunned with horror and dismay. The friends of popular liberty hailed the event with joy. In Ireland, the property classes, flinging all other considerations aside, rallied to the side of governmental authority, so as to strengthen the bulwark against republican principles. The government, thus re-enforced, at once assumed a stern and haughty attitude toward anything in the nature of popular discontent or democratic manifestations. The Irish national reform movement, after struggling for a few years with such a state of things, eventually broke to pieces: its leaders differing widely on the new doctrines or principles launched in Paris. Some sided with the government, rather than embarrass the arm of authority at such a moment; others were for pushing the movement forward on still broader lines; while many. Grattan himself included, retired from the scene, as if foreseeing what was about to happen. The advanced section, driven from their open movement, all aflame with the new gospel of liberty, equality and fraternity, and infuriated by the English minister's design of betraying or subverting the settlement of 1782, enrolled themselves in a secret revolutionary conspiracy for the overthrow of British rule in Ireland. Although their main reliance was naturally on the bulk of the population, who were Catholics, the original founders and earliest adherents of the enterprise were Protestants; chiefly Ulster Presbyterians. Later on, men of all religious creeds, and unquestionably men of the purest motives and loftiest character, embraced the design. Lord Edward Fitzgerald, son of the duke of Leinster, was at the head of affairs; its ablest organizer, Theobald Wolfe Tone, being stationed in Paris as accredited agent or ambassador to the French directory. The government early discerned the advantage which an abortive insurrection would give them in persuading the property classes to "draw closer to the centre of power and authority" by consolidating the parliaments; and for a time the proceedings of the revolutionists were viewed with secret satisfaction. By the end of 1796, however, this feeling gave place to alarm when it was found that the French directory had determined seriously to assist the Irish party. This determination was made plain by the dispatch of a powerful expedition under Gen. Roche toward the close of the year. A storm dispersed Roche's flotilla, only a few vessels of which reached the bay of Bantry on the southwest coast of Ireland. The government now sought to force the hand of Lord Edward, by compelling him to take the field before another expedition could be prepared. To this end "martial law" was proclaimed, and shocking means were used to goad the populace quickly into a rising. While it was yet uncertain how far these tactics would succeed, an over whelming blow fell on the revolutionary party. Their central council or directory were surprised and seized in the very act of deliberating on the question of immediate operations; and a few days subsequently Lord Edward was captured, after a desperate struggle, in which he was mortally wounded. Less by concerted action than as an impulse of desperation, the insurrection now broke forth in four or five of the Irish counties—Antrim, Wexford, Wicklow, Kildare and Carlow. In Wexford the outburst was almost entirely the result of the forcing process above referred to. The people, half-armed and wholly undisciplined, took the field in rude array. Destitute as they were of military leaders, equipment or resources, they nevertheless through several months fought a fierce campaign which the entire available strength of the government forces barely sufficed eventually to subdue. Like all other bursts of popular passion this rising was marked by some lamentable excesses; or rather, in a struggle in which "no quarter for rebels" was the watchword on the one side, and in which discipline in the popular camp could be but slender, episodes of savage vengeance were in a sense inevitable. The rising in Ulster had been quickly and easily suppressed, and all the other counties of Ireland lay quiescent during the Wexford revolt. Disaffection and desire to rebel was intense; but a conviction prevailed that insurrection single-handed against Great Britain must absolutely fail, and another French expedition was expected. When it did arrive, under Gen. Humbert, who landed at Killala in the northwest of Ireland in August, 1798, with a force of a little over 1,000 men, the government was flushed with victory and the populace utterly overawed. Humbert defeated a force of nearly 5,000 opposing British troops at Castlebar; but eventually had to surrender to an overwhelming force under Lord Cornwallis. The after-scenes of this insurrection were barely less tragic than the struggle in the field. The scaffold and the executioner long plied their dreadful work, completing what the fusillade began. It was at such a moment Pitt produced his long meditated scheme for breaking the treaty of 1782, and abolishing the Irish parliament. Even amid the gloomy horrors of 1799 his proposal was at first defeated in the Irish parliament; the constitutional nationalists under Grattan, Curran, Charlemont, Parnell, Ponsonby and Plunkett making a last desperate effort of resistance. By the next year, however, Pitt had expended nearly £2,000,000 in buying up what were called "proprietary boroughs," and otherwise purchasing votes sufficient to secure a majority, and in 1800 his scheme of "union" was carried through. By this time Bonaparte had become the terror, as he subsequently very nearly became the conqueror of Europe. England alone successfully defied and victoriously encountered him. On English soil alone it may be said constitutional government for the time dared to exist in the old hemisphere. For fifteen years all other political issues seemed abandoned or forgotten in view of the titanic struggle which culminated and closed at Waterloo. Beyond a madly hopeless attempt of the youthful enthusiast, Robert Emmett, in 1803, to renew the insurrectionary enterprise of 1798, Ireland may be said to have lain sullenly dormant, through the eventful years that saw the meteoric course of Napoleon. When next an Irish question challenged public attention, new elements of political power, new leaders, new tactics, came into view. Hitherto the Irish Catholics, nine-tenths of the population, being for-bidden the rights of citizenship, had to depend for public advocacy on those noble-minded Protestants, like Grattan and Curran and Parnell, who, from a pure love of justice, espoused their cause. The Ireland which had legal or political existence in the eighteenth century was merely the handful of Anglo-Irish Protestants settled in the country. The millions of Celtic bondsmen around them counted for nothing in the state, except as material for taxation. The bondsmen now arose and strode into the political arena to determine their own fortunes. The political Ireland that appeared with the nineteenth century was a Celtic Ireland; or, rather, an Ireland that excluded none and embraced all Irish-born men of whatever race or class or creed. The question of Catholic emancipation had early enlisted the efforts of Grattan and other of the Protestant patriot leaders in Ireland; and even in 1799 had made such way in England that Pitt pledged himself to make it one of the first measures the united parliament would pass. George III. absolutely refused, however, to entertain the question, and it was put aside. Forth from the ranks of the Irish Catholics there came a leader of their own race and faith destined to make king and cabinet alike feel his power. This was Daniel O'Connell, who, for nearly half a century, was the foremost political figure in Irish history. He aroused and combined the masses of the people; he covered the country with the network of a vast organization, and soon six millions of people, fired with enthusiasm and determined to be free, were disciplined to obey his will. The government sternly combated the movement; forbade it, proclaimed it, persecuted it, punished it—all in vain. O'Connell was no sooner suppressed in one shape than he reappeared in another. Again and again the king and the government declared that no concession could be made to demagogues and agitators; that the law would be vindicated, and established institutions in church and state upheld. Although no actual outbreak occurred, the state of affairs in Ireland was critical in the extreme. In 1829 the duke of Wellington, who had taken office expressly on a pledge of opposition to emancipation, announced to the king that it was a choice between its concession or civil war, civil war in which a vast body of English popular opinion would side with the Irish people and in which the Irish regiments of the army dare not be called upon to act against their countrymen. King, cabinet and parliament forthwith saw the question in a new light, and the penal code was in effect expunged from the statute book. From this period may be said to date a series of efforts on the part of British statesmen to grapple with the more prominent or pressing of Irish grievances; seldom or never, however, until popular complaint of them, long neglected or resisted, had developed into disorder, disaffection and violence. Between 1829 and 1835 the country was convulsed with a struggle against "tithes." The Protestant clergy were authorized to levy on the agricultural inhabitants, nearly all of them Catholics, a tenth of the produce of the land. After three or four years of stormy agitation, disfigured by deplorable outrage and violence, the people at length combined in a national "strike" against tithes. This proved effectual. A law was passed abolishing tithes in form; that is to say, adding them to the landlords' rent, and compelling the landlord, to whom the amount was paid in rent, to pay it over to the clergy minus 25 per cent. for the trouble of collection. These victories encouraged O'Connell to undertake an enterprise more serious and more formidable than any he had yet attempted, namely, an endeavor to recover the separate parliamentary constitution of Ireland subverted by Pitt in 1800, or, as it was called, to "repeal the union." The Irish masses were now full of confidence in the ability of their leader to accomplish anything he took in hand. Their social and physical condition was still painfully low. The grinding exactions of exorbitant land rent left the agricultural population, as a royal commission of inquiry under Lord Devon declared them to be, "the worst housed, the worst fed and the worst clad peasantry in Europe." They retained, however, the hopeful buoyancy of their Celtic nature, and the marvelous success of the total abstinence or "temperance" movement under Father Mathew (a Catholic priest of Cork city) had enormously elevated their morale. The abolition of the Irish parliament in 1800 had at the time been vehemently resisted by the ultra-Protestant party in Ireland; but when, in 1840. O'Connell, the Catholic leader, took up the question of its recovery, it was found that their attitude had totally changed. The parliament an 1 the nation which they had contended for was one from which papists were excluded. So far from favoring legislative restoration now that the Catholics had been emancipated, they ardently implored the government to maintain the union, and not to deliver them up to "popish ascendency." O'Connell's movement, therefore, though it was sustained by more than three-fourths of the people of Ireland, encountered from the outset the mistrust, the dread or the hostility of the Irish Protestants. The full power of England was pledged to oppose it as an at tempt to dismember the empire. The Irish leader found himself in a critical position. The government, so far from yielding to the popular demand, plainly meant to encounter it by force. Were England engaged at that moment in any serious foreign complication, concession would have been inevitable. But never in her history was she more great, more powerful or more strong. She was at peace with all foreign nations, and, possessed of a giant's strength, was ready to use it in stamping out once and forever this dangerous Irish idea of national autonomy. O'Connell's embarrassment was all the greater because there had now grown up around him a race of young men who scorned his exaggerated love of the peaceful ways of moral suasion, and who held the lawfulness of Ireland recovering the rights she claimed by armed resort if practicable. This conflict between the "moral force" and "physical force" principles of what were called respectively the "Old Ireland" and "Young Ireland" parties, rent the great Irish movement in twain. In the midst of the controversy there fell on the country a calamity that buried all political though or effort for the time. This was the Irish famine of 1847-9. In the autumn of 1846 the potato crop, which formed almost the sole support of the population, was struck with blight and rotted in the ground. All could see the awful consequences that were at hand; yet the action of the government was disastrously tardy, circumlocutory, blundering and impotent. The people perished in hundreds of thousands amid scenes of anguish and horror beyond human power adequately to portray. Howsoever culpable the inefficient action of the government in coping with the difficulty, the conduct of the English people was truly noble. They poured princely subscriptions into the treasuries of various relief associations, and did the best that private effort could achieve to mitigate the dreadful affliction. Nearly every country in the world joined in the Samaritan endeavor; but foremost and first—far outstripping all the rest, England included—was the land that long had been the free asylum and happy home of expatriated Irishmen, the United States of America—O'Connell died, aged and heart-broken, in May, 1847. In February, 1848, revolution in Paris once more sent the impulse of insurrection through Europe; and once more Ireland yielded to its influence. The Young Ireland party took the field, or rather vainly attempted to do so, under William Smith O'Brien. The leaders of this abortive movement were everything but good revolutionists. They were men of genius, poets, scholars artists, orators; men of the purest and loftiest aims, fired with the generous enthusiasm of youth, maddened by the famine scenes around them. But they were utterly incompetent as military conspirators, and their attempt broke down on the threshold. It cost Ireland, however, a heavy penalty in the dispersion of a school of intellectual culture and activity, even the early-checked labors of which have left a deep imprint on the literature and the politics of that country. There followed upon the famine of 1847 and the abortive insurrection of 1848, a period of utter prostration. To the dreadful havoc of the famine there was now added wholesale eviction and expatriation of the ruined tenantry. In many parts of the island "clearances," as they were called, swept away the entire human population of the district, in order that vast bullock-ranges, sheep runs or grouse-moors might take the place of homesteads and villages. The human suffering involved in this policy can only be estimated by those who know how passionately the Irish peasant clings to the spot, however humble, which has been the birthplace and the home of his forefathers. In truth, the eviction scenes of that period, 1849 to 1860, rendered inevitable the events that have convulsed Irish society for the last twenty years. Hundreds of thousands of the eviction victims perished by the roadsides or in the pauper barracks. Other hundreds of thousands fled or were deported to America. They went with bursting hearts, ready to embrace any enterprise, no matter how wild and hopeless, that promised vengeance on the power that had driven them forth. As early as 1858 some of the exiled Young Ireland leaders conceived the idea of utilizing for revolutionary purposes this feeling on the part of the American Irish. The result was the organization of the Fenian conspiracy by Mr. James Stephens and Col. John O'Mahoney. Keenly alive to the causes of failure in 1848, the Fenian leaders aimed at careful preparation and extensive military organization. Notwithstanding the strong opposition of the Catholic clergy, and the dissuasions or protests of those nationalists who believed insurrection impracticable and mischievous, they pushed their enrollment with intense ardor and earnestness, and succeeded in establishing the most wide-spread and formidable revolutionary movement known in Irish history since 1798. In armament they were utterly deficient, but their organization and discipline were on the whole remarkably perfect. The government throughout was kept well informed by its spies in the conspiracy, and in 1865 swooped suddenly down on the leaders in Dublin, seizing the subordinates simultaneously all over the country. The organization never recovered from this fatal blow, although for fully two years subsequently it made desperate and persistent efforts to reconstitute itself, and at length, in March, 1867, gave the signal for a national uprising. The moment the long formidable secret society came out into the open, its great spell was shattered. It was found to be just as deficient as the much-blamed Young Ireland movement of 1848 in the most elementary conditions of military existence. The fortitude, devotion and heroism exhibited by its members in the dock and in the dungeon enlisted for them the sympathy of thousands who had condemned that enterprise; and even among English statesmen the feeling spread that the Irish question must be dealt with by remedial, not by repressive, measures. Mr. Gladstone, as leader of the liberal party of England, gave eloquent expression to this conviction; and announced that, to begin with, the Irish state church, as a badge of conquest and an oppressive burden. must be swept away. In the general election of 1868 he was returned to office with an enormous majority, and, well fulfilling his promise, he forth with carried through parliament an act for disendowing and disestablishing the Irish Protestant state church. Practically, the measure was one of disestablishment alone; for as to endowment, he was able so skillfully to arrange the financial portion of his scheme that not a shilling less income than before was secured to the church. This reform be followed up in 1870 by an act which aimed at settling the still more important and much more exigent question of land tenure in Ireland. The latter attempt fell lamentably short of the real necessities of the situation; a short-coming which occasioned great disappointment Meanwhile, in the twelvemonth that followed on the disestablishment of the church, there ensued the most remarkable transformation ever witnessed in Irish politics. The Protestant "conservative" party—peers and commoners, land lords, merchants and aristocrats—reached out hands to the Catholic millions, and openly offered to join them in a national movement for the restoration of Irish parliamentary independence. This, no doubt, was in some degree through resentment on their part against England for selfishly throwing them over and repealing the union between the churches. But it was also largely through genuine conviction that a wise compromise between total separation by rebellion, and national extinction by the domination of the London parliament, ought to be presented to a people so plainly determined not to acquiesce in the existing state of things. Mr. Isaac Butt, an Irish Protestant barrister of great eminence, may be said to have negotiated the remarkable alliance or fusion of parties, creeds and sections, which, under the name of the "Irish Home Rule Association," made its appearance in 1870. The programme of this movement was, on the one hand, reconciliation between Catholic and Protestant Irishmen, between peers and peasants, liberals and conservatives; and, on the other, reconciliation between Ireland and England, on the basis of a federal union, whereby Ireland should enjoy such legislative and administrative autonomy as is possessed by a state in the American republic. Even among the Fenian or separatist party this experiment was favorably regarded as presenting the minimum of a satisfactory compromise, and in a few years the movement took such hold on Irish public opinion that, tried by every test known to constitutional countries—parliamentary, municipal and township elections—the national will has, ever since, year by year, with more and more determination declared itself for "Home Rule," as the scheme is called. In 1872 the old system of election procedure was replaced by ballot-voting, whereby for the first time the Irish people were enabled freely to manifest their views in the election of representatives. In the next following general election of members to the imperial parliament in 1874, the home rule party carried fifty-seven out of one hundred and three Irish seats. In the elections of 1880 they carried sixty-five, and it is computed that on the next occasion they will return at least seventy five or eighty members. Despite the strong parliamentary majority from Ireland in favor of national autonomy, the cabinet of Mr. Disraeli in 1874, and down to 1880, backed by their powerful following in parliament, imperiously refused every measure of reform or amelioration which the Irish party demanded. With especial earnestness and perseverance the Irish members year by year besought the government to deal with the land question as one which might any day lead to a catastrophe. Their warnings were disregarded; their efforts at remedial legislation were haughtily overborne by enormous majorities of British and Scotch votes. In 1878 the harvest was a failure in Ireland and in England. In 1879 it was almost a total loss in the former country; and a gloom of terror darkened the land. A repetition of 1847 seemed at hand. Now, however, there was seen a startling change in the spirit and action of the people, as compared with their conduct in that year. In stern and resolute tones they announced that the subsistence of a toiling population was a first charge on the land, and on the earliest whisper of landlord preparations for a gigantic eviction campaign, the whole island sprang to action with a cry that the hour had come when feudal landlordism must-fall. Throughout 1880 and 1881 there raged in Ireland a fierce and implacable social war, with such evil concomitants of incidental disorder, violence and outrage as usually attend upon popular convulsions Mr. Gladstone and the liberal party were restored once more to power by the general election of 1880 In 1881 the great English statesman took the Irish question in hand; bringing in a coercion bill in January, and a land bill in April of that year. The former added fuel to the flame in Ireland, by its Draconian severity, exceeding anything known outside of Russia. The land bill, on the other hand, was a measure of noble and comprehensive character. It did not "disendow and disestablish" Irish landlordism, but it stripped it of the despotic power it had so mercilessly and disastrously used in the past. Justly irritated by the coercion act, and bitterly disappointed that the new land law did not wholly abolish landlordism, the Irish tenant-farmers at first received the latter measure in a sullen and almost hostile temper. The disposition manifested by Mr Gladstone, however, in 1882, to supplement its beneficent provisions wherever needful, and the growing conviction that the measure could be worked so as to accomplish before many years the gradual establishment of a "peasant proprietary," may be said to have brought the people of Ireland to recognize in the land act of 1881 a charter of liberty and a guarantee of a peaceful and happy future.


—The character, temperament and habits of the Irish people have naturally been influenced by the vicissitudes of their stormy history. Among the peasantry the regretable effects of their furtive life in the penal times can even still be discovered in various ways. It is only within the past half century that the two races—the Anglo-Irish and Celtic Irish—have fused in any marked degree. The people are brave, naturally quick-witted and intelligent hardy, laborious, inured to toil, patient in privation, hospitable, warm in their affection, devoted in their fidelity to friends; but dangerously fierce and quick in anger, easily aroused and quickly allayed. Their deeply religious fervor and their passionate love of country are perhaps the most prominent traits in their character. In public life they are capable of great achievements under the influence of enthusiasm, hope or confidence; but are impatient of results, exhibit a lack of plodding perseverance and cool, methodical action. In fine, the buoyant and volatile temperament of the Celt largely prevails; yet their more extensive intercourse with other peoples of late has considerably developed in them a steadiness and seriousness of purpose which has attracted general attention. Since 1830 education has made great progress among the Irish people; and their material condition has on the whole been vastly improved; but the start was from a point painfully low. It must be long before they can fully recover from the dreadful effects of those not remote centuries during which education was "felony by law." Throughout the period that gave to English literature the works of Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton, Bacon and "Rare Ben Johnson," of Dryden, Pope and Addison—the period during which it may be said the intellect of the modern English nation was being formed and cultivated and its civilization moulded and refined—Ireland was having the eyes of the mind put out, and intellectual blindness and habits and tastes of barbarism forced upon her. That dreadful policy has been abandoned, and at length the Irish race are being allowed access to the blessings of education. Between 1831 and 1840 a system of primary schools was established by the government, which, although ill recommended in many respects to popular confidence and favor, has been almost universally availed of; it may now be said that in every cottage in Ireland the school and the printing press have wrought or are working a marvelous revolution.


—Despite all disadvantages, Ireland makes a goodly show on the roll of scholars, poets, authors, sarants, soldiers and statesmen of the world. Swift, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Moore, Banin, Griffin, Carleton and Lever, in literature; Burke, Grattan, Curran, Plunkett, Richard Lalor Shiel, O'Connell, Duffy, Magee (bishop of Peterborough), Butt and Lord Dufferin, in oratory, statesmanship and politics, are familiar names. In the last generation Wellington, and in the present the only two capable generals England has in command, Sir Garnet Wolseley and Gen. Roberts, have been contributed by Ireland. Hogan, Foley, McDowell and Farrell, as sculptors; Maclise and O'Connor, as painters; Balfe and Wallace, as musical composers; Prof. Tyndall and Dr. Haughton, as scientists—all Irishmen, are honorably known. The two most competent historians of our own times in the English language, Mr. Lecky and Mr. Justin McCarthy, are Irishmen. In the camps and courts and cabinets of friendly foreign states, from Vienna to Madrid, and from Paris to St. Petersburg, men of Irish race have long been marked to eminence and fame. Finally, it may be said that the labor, industry and enterprise of Irishmen have largely contributed to the prosperity and power of those comparatively new states in the western and southern hemispheres that promise to exercise potential influence on the future of the world.—(See GREAT BRITAIN.)


Notes for this chapter

It is calculated that in 1847 the population was about 9,500,000.
A worthy counterpart to this defense of Limerick was the heroic conduct of the Protestant Williamite garrison and population of Derry, who, despite the most cruel privations, gallantly kept the city against a Stuart-Irish besieging force, until the arrival of a relieving expedition.

Footnotes for ITALY

End of Notes

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