Free Trade and Other Fundamental Doctrines of the Manchester School
By Francis W. Hirst
DURING the last decade it has been the fashion to talk of the Manchester School with pity or contempt as of an almost extinct sect, well adapted, no doubt, for the commercial drudgery of a little, early Victorian England, but utterly unfitted to meet the exigencies or satisfy the demands of a moving Imperialism. Many of the authors and abettors of public extravagance, and especially of what is called imperial expenditure upon war and armaments, believed themselves to be champions of free trade. It never occurred to them that protection would trickle into the ship, if the plank of economy were removed. But the commercial system of free trade depends for its political safety upon public thrift, because the more the revenue that is required the stronger is the demand of the governing classes that indirect taxation, which bears most heavily upon the poor, shall be increased. During the last three years we have seen indirect taxation increased–‘a widening of the basis’ it is called–and we have seen how this policy led at last to the revival of protection in the shape of a shilling duty on corn. But the corn tax has only lasted a year. The principle which triumphed in 1846 has survived the challenge of 1902 and received a triumphant vindication in the Budget of 1903. In each case the instrument of victory was a Conservative Premier, under whom the party, the interests, and the opinions opposed to the Manchester School were arrayed in a hostile and apparently invincible phalanx…. [From the Introduction]
First Pub. Date
London: Harper and Brothers
Collected essays and speeches by various writers, including Richard Cobden and John Bright, 1820-1896
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
- Part I, Essay 1
- Part I, Essay 2
- Part I, Essay 3
- Part II, Essay 1
- Part II, Essay 2
- Part II, Essay 3
- Part II, Essay 4
- Part II, Essay 5
- Part II, Essay 6
- Part II, Essay 7
- Part II, Essay 8
- Part II, Essay 9
- Part II, Essay 10
- Part II, Essay 11
- Part II, Essay 12
- Part III, Essay 1
- Part III, Essay 2
- Part III, Essay 3
- Part III, Essay 4
- Part III, Essay 5
- Part III, Essay 6
- Part IV, Essay 1
- Part IV, Essay 2
- Part IV, Essay 3
- Part IV, Essay 4
- Part V, Essay 1
- Part V, Essay 2
- Part V, Essay 3
- Part V, Essay 4
- Part V, Essay 5
Part I, Essay II
WHILST, within the last twenty years, our sympathies have gone forth over the whole of Europe, in quest of nations suffering from, or rising up against the injustice of their rulers; whilst Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Portugal, Turkey, Belgium, and Poland, have successively filled the newspapers with tales of their domestic wrongs; and whilst our diplomatists, fleets, and armies have been put in motion at enormous cost, to carry our counsel, or, if needful, our arms, to the assistance of the people of these remote regions: it is an unquestionable fact, that the population of a great portion of our own empire has, at the same time, presented a grosser spectacle of moral and physical debasement than is to be met with in the whole civilized world.
If an intelligent foreigner, after having travelled through England, Scotland, and Wales, and enjoyed the exhibition of wealth, industry, and happiness, afforded everywhere by the population of these realms, were, when upon the eve of departing for the shores of Ireland, to be warned of the scenes of wretchedness and want that awaited him in that country, he would naturally assume the cause in some such question as this:—’The people are no doubt indolent, and destitute of the energy that belongs to the English character?’ If it were answered, that, so far from such being the case, the Irish are the hardiest labourers on earth; that the docks and canals of England, and the railroads of America, are the produce of their
toil; in short, that they are the hewers of wood and drawers of water for other nations—then the next inquiry from this stranger would probably be in some such form as this:—’But their soil no doubt is barren, and their climate inhospitable: nature has, besides, probably denied to them the rivers and harbours which are essential to commerce?’ What would be his surprise to be answered, that, in natural fertility, and in the advantages of navigable streams, lakes, and harbours, Ireland is more favoured than England, Scotland, or Wales.
Where, then, shall we seek for the causes of the poverty and barbarism that afflict this land? How shall we be able to account for the fact, that commerce and civilization, which have, from the earliest ages, journeyed westward, and in their course have even stayed to enrich the marshes of the Adriatic and the fens of Holland, should have passed over, in their rapid flight to the New World, a spot more calculated by nature than almost any besides, to be the seat of a great internal and external trade?
We do not profess to be able to disclose all the precise causes of the depressed fate of Ireland; still less do we pretend to offer a panacea for all the ills that afflict her. Our object in introducing the subject here is, to show the absurdity and injustice of that policy which leads us to seek amongst other nations for objects of compassion and care, and to neglect the urgent demands that are made upon us at our very door.
The strongest ground of grievance that we have ever heard alleged against us by intelligent Irishmen, unimbued with party feelings, is the total neglect and ignorance of their country that prevail amongst the people of England. To the middle classes of this country, as to an impartial tribunal, untainted by the venom of their political and religious factions, a large portion of the Irish people look for the probable regeneration of their unhappy country. Without this tardy effort of justice at our hands, they will never be able to escape from the vortex of their social distractions. This patriotic party, including so much of the intelligence and industry of Ireland, claim from their fellow-subjects on this side of the Channel (and they have a right to claim it), such a consideration of their country, its population and resources, its history, institutions, and geography—in fact, just such a study of Ireland as shall give them a knowledge of its anomalous physical and moral state.
It is almost incredible how little is known of this, one of the largest both in area and population of the four divisions of the kingdom. Let any one of our readers take a person of average intelligence, and ask him which is the finest river in the United Kingdom: he will answer, probably, the Thames, the Humber, or the Severn; it is ten to one against his naming the Shannon. We will venture to say that there are as many individuals in England conversant with the city of New York and the course of the Hudson, as there are who are acquainted with the topography of Limerick, and the banks of the largest river in the British empire.
The past fate of Ireland, like the present condition of its people, presents to our view an anomaly that has no parallel in the history of nations. During all that period of time which has sufficed to enable the other States in Europe to emerge from barbarism—some to attain their zenith of glory and again decay, others to continue at the summit of prosperity—Ireland
has never enjoyed one age of perfect security or peace. She has, consequently, unlike every other nation, no era of literature, commerce, or the arts to boast of; nay, she does not exhibit, in her annals, an instance in which she has put forth in war a combined force to merit even the savage honours of military or naval fame.
Poets have feigned a golden age for this, as for every other country; but it never existed, except in the pages of romance. Ireland never was, at any known period of her history, more tranquil or happy than at this day. She has, from the first, been the incessant prey of discord, bloodshed, and famine.
We, who are fond of digging deep into the foundations of causes, incline to assign, as one reason of the adverse condition of this island, the circumstance of the Romans never having colonized it. That people, by deposing the petty chiefs, and gathering and compressing their septs into one communion—by inoculating the natives with a love of discipline—by depositing amongst them the seeds of the arts, and imparting a taste for civilization—would, probably, have given to them that unity and consistency, as one people, the want of which has been the principal source of all their weakness and misfortune. Had the Romans occupied for three centuries such a country as this, they would perhaps have left it, on their departure from Britain, more advanced, in all respects, than it proved to be in the sixteenth century.
But whatever were the causes of the early degradation of this country, there can be no doubt that England has, during the last two centuries, by discouraging the commerce of Ireland—thus striking at the very root of civilization—rendered herself responsible for much of the barbarism that at the present day afflicts it.
The first restrictions put upon the Irish trade, were in the reign of Charles II.; and from that time, down to the era when the United Volunteers of Ireland stepped forward to rescue their country from its oppressors (the only incident, by the way, in the chronicles of Ireland, deserving the name of a really national effort), our policy was directed, incessantly, to the destruction of the foreign trade of that country. Every attempt at manufacturing industry, with one exception, was likewise mercilessly nipped in the bud. Her natural capabilities might, for example, have led the people to the making of glass; it was enacted, that no glass should be allowed to be exported from Ireland, and its importation, except from England, was also prohibited. Her soil, calculated for the pasturing of sheep, would have yielded wool equal to the best English qualities; an absolute prohibition was laid on its exportation, and King William, in addressing the British Parliament, declared that he would ‘do everything in his power to discourage the woollen manufacture of Ireland.’ Down to the year 1779, we find that the export of woollen goods from that island remained wholly interdicted.
Not only was her commerce with the different ports of Europe fettered by the imposition of restrictions upon every valuable product that could interfere with the prosperity of England; not only was all trade with Asia and the east of Europe excluded by the charters which were granted to the companies of London; but her ports were actually sealed against the trade of the American colonies. Although Ireland presented to the ships of North America the nearest and the noblest havens in Europe, and appeared to be the natural landing-place for the products of the New World, her people were deprived of all benefit—nay, they were actually made to suffer loss and inconvenience from their favoured position; laws were passed, prohibiting the importation of American commódities into Ireland, without first landing them in some port of England or Wales, whilst the export of Irish products
to the colonies, excepting through some British port, was also interdicted.
If we add to this, that a law was enacted, preventing beef or live cattle from being exported to England, some idea may be formed of the commercial policy of this country towards Ireland—a policy savouring more of the mean and sordid tyranny of the individual huckster over his poorer rival, than of any nobler oppression that is wont to characterize the acts of victorious nations.
Need we wonder that, at this moment, the entire foreign commerce of Ireland does not much exceed the trade of one second-rate port of Scotland?
There are those who think the Irish genius is unsuited to that eager and persevering pursuit of business which distinguishes the English people; and they argue that, but for this, the natives of a region in all respects so favourable to commerce, must have triumphed over the obstacles that clogged their industry.
There is, we believe, one cause existing, less connected with the injustice of England, and to which we are about to allude, why Ireland is below us, and other Protestant nations, in the scale of civilization; yet, if we look to the prosperity of her staple manufacture—the only industry that was tolerated by the Government of this country—it warrants the presumption, that, under similar favouring circumstances, her woollens, or, indeed, her cottons, might, equally with her linens, have survived a competition with the fabrics of Great Britain.
But there exists, apart from all intolerant or party feelings on the question, a cause, and we believe a primary one, of the retrograde position, as compared with England and Scotland, in which we find Ireland at the present day, in the circumstance of the Roman Catholic religion being the
faith of its people. Let us not be misunderstood—our business does not lie in polemics, and far be it from us to presume to decide which mode of worship may be most acceptable to the great Author of our being. We wish to speak only of the tendency, which, judging from facts that are before us, this Church has to retard the
secular prosperity of nations.
Probably there is no country in which the effects of the Catholic and Reformed religions upon the temporal career of communities may be more fairly tested than in Switzerland. Of twenty-two cantons, ten are, in the majority of the population, Catholic; eight, Protestant; and the remaining four are mixed, in nearly equal proportions of Protestants and Catholics. Those cantons in which the Catholic faith prevails are wholly pastoral in their pursuits, possessing no commerce or manufacturing industry, beyond the rude products of domestic labour. Of the mixed cantons, three
*22 are engaged in the manufacture of cotton; and it is a remarkable feature in the industry of these, that the Catholic portion of their population is wholly addicted to agricultural, and the Protestant section to commercial pursuits. All the eight Protestant cantons are, more or less, engaged in manufactures.
Nor must we omit to add, which every traveller in Switzerland will have seen, that, in the education of the people, the cleanliness of the towns, the commodiousness of the inns, and the quality of the roads, the Protestant cantons possess a great superiority over their Catholic neighbours—whilst such is the difference in the value of land, that an estate in Friburg, a Catholic canton, possessing a richer soil than that of Berne, from which it is divided only by a rivulet, is worth one-third less than the same extent of property in the latter Protestant district. Such are the circumstances, as we find them in comparing one portion of the Swiss territory with another.
The facts are still more striking if we view them in relation to the States immediately around them.
Switzerland, being an inland district, far removed from the sea, is compelled to resort to Havre, Genoa, or Frankfort, for the supply of the raw materials of her industry; which are transported by land, three, four, or five hundred miles,
through Catholic States, for the purpose of fabrication; and the goods are afterwards reconveyed to the same ports for exportation to America or the Levant; where, notwithstanding this heavy expense of transit, and although Switzerland possesses no mineral advantages, they sustain a prosperous competition with their more favoured, but less industrious neighbours and rivals.
If we refer to France, we shall find that a large
depôt of manufacturing industry has been formed upon the extreme inland frontier of her territory on the Rhine, where her best cottons are fabricated and printed, and conveyed to the metropolis, about three hundred miles off, for sale. Alsace, the Protestant district we allude to, contains no local advantages, no iron or coals; it is upwards of four hundred miles distant from the port through which the raw materials of its manufactures are obtained, and from whence they are conveyed, entirely by land, passing through Paris, to which city the goods are destined to be again returned. Thus are these commodities transported, over-land, more than seven hundred miles, for no other assignable reason, except that they may be subjected to the labour of Protestant hands.
Germany gives us additional facts to the same purport. If we divide this empire into north and south, we shall find the former, containing Prussia, Saxony, etc., to be chiefly Protestant, and to comprise nearly all the manufacturing and commercial interests of the country; whilst the latter are principally Catholic, and almost wholly addicted to agriculture. Education, likewise, follows the same law here as in Switzerland; for, whilst the Catholics amount to about twenty millions, and possess but five universities, the Protestants support thirteen, with only a population of fourteen millions.
If we turn to Catholic Italy, where there is very little manufacturing of any kind, we yet find that the commerce of the country is principally in the hands of foreigners. The merchants of Genoa, Naples, Trieste, etc., are chiefly British, Swiss, or Germans, whose houses, again, have their own agents in the principal interior cities; so that the trade of the Italian States is in great part transacted by Protestants. We need scarcely add to these statements the fact, which all are acquainted with, that, in Ireland, the staple manufacture is almost wholly confined to the Protestant province.
We shall probably be reminded of the former commercial grandeur of Spain and the Italian republics. This was, however, to a great extent the effect of monopolies, which must, from their nature, be of transient benefit to nations; and, moreover, they flourished prior to the complete triumph of the Reformation; and our object is merely to exhibit a comparison between Protestant and Catholic communities of the same period. Besides, Spain and Italy have left no evidences of the enlightened industry of their people; such as are to be seen, for example, to attest the energy of the Dutch, in the canals and dykes of Holland.
We have thus briefly glanced at the comparative conditions of the Catholic and Protestant interests in Europe; and disclaiming, as we do, any theological purpose, we trust we may demand for our argument what is not often accorded to this invidious topic, the candid attention of our readers. The above facts, then, go far to prove that, in human affairs at least, the Reformed faith conduces more than Catholicism to the prosperity of nations.
We shall not argue that the welfare of States, any more than of individuals, afford proofs of spiritual superiority; we will admit that it does not; but, if it can be proved from facts (as we think even our intelligent and ingenious Roman Catholic readers will agree we have done), that the Protestant is, more than the Catholic faith, conducive to the growth of national riches and intelligence, then there must be acknowledged
to exist a cause, independent of misgovernment, for the present state of Ireland, as compared with that of Great Britain, for which England cannot be held altogether responsible.
The deficient education of a people is, no doubt, a circumstance that must tend, in these days, when the physical sciences and the arts are so intimately blended with manufacturing industry, and when commerce itself has become a branch of philosophy, to keep them in the rear rank of civilized nations; but we think the abhorrence of change that characterizes Catholic States, and which we shall find not merely to affect religious observances, but to pervade all the habits of social life, has even a more powerful influence over their destinies.
In proof of this, if we take the pages of Cervantes and Le Sage, and compare the portraits and scenes they have depicted, with the characters, costumes, and customs of the present day, we shall find that the Spanish people are, after the lapse of so many ages, in even the minutest observances, wholly unchanged. On the other hand, if we look into Shakespeare, or examine the canvas of Teniers, we shall find that, during the same interval of time, the populations of Holland and England have been revolutionized in all the modes of life, so as scarcely to leave one national feature of those ages for recognition in our day.
Ireland has clung tenaciously to her characteristics of ancient days.
‘There is a great use among the Irish,’ says Spenser, writing more than two hundred years ago, ‘to make great assemblies together upon a rath or hill, there to parley, as they say, about matters and wrongs between township and township, or one private person and another.’
*23 Now, no person could, by possibility, pass six months in the south of Ireland, during the present year, but he would be certain to witness some gatherings of this nature. But who, that has
travelled in that island, can have failed to be struck with that universal feature in the dress of the people—the greatcoat? ‘He maketh his mantle,’ says Spenser, speaking of the Irish peasant of his time, ‘his house; and under it covereth himself from the wrath of heaven, from the offence of the earth, and from the sight of men. When it raineth it is his pent-house; when it bloweth, it is his tent; when it freezeth, it is his tabernacle. In summer, he can wear it loose; in winter, he can wrap it close; at all times, he can use it; never heavy, never cumbersome.’
*24 We have ourselves seen the Irish of our own day, in the midst of winter, wrapping the mantle close, and we have seen them spreading it loosely in summer; we have seen the peasant, whilst at plough, obliged to quit one of the stilts every minute for the purpose of adjusting the greatcoat that was tucked clumsily round his loins; and we have beheld the labourer at work, with his mantle thrown inconveniently over his arms and shoulders; but we have never witnessed it thrown aside. In truth, it is still the mantle that ‘hides him from the sight of men;’ for, like charity, it cloaks a multitude of defects in the garments beneath.
But it is not in mere externals that we shall find the character of Irish society unchanged. In the manifestations of the passions, in the vehement displays of natural feeling, there is, amidst the general amelioration of the surrounding world, alas! no improvement here. To quote again from the pages of Spenser, an eye-witness:—’I saw an old woman, which was his foster-mother, take up his head, whilst he was quartered, and sucked up all the bloode that runne thereoute, saying, that the earthe was not worthy to drinke it; and, therewith, also steeped her face and breast, and tore her hair crying out and shrieking most terribly.’
Let us compare the above scene, which was enacted at the execution of one of the turbulent natives of the sixteenth century, with the following incident that occurred at the late Rathcormac tithe tragedy:—
‘I went up to inspect the haggart where the carnage occurred, and so awful a spectacle I never witnessed; the straw, all saturated with human gore, so that blood oozed through on the pressure of the foot; and, shocking to relate, the widow Collins was seen to kiss the blood of her sons, imprecating God’s vengeance on the murderers of her children.’—
Dublin Evening Post, Dec. 23, 1834.
Who would imagine that more than two centuries have elapsed between the dates when these parallel occurrences took place in one and the same country?
Viewing, as we confessedly do, the Roman Catholic religion to be a great operating cause against the amelioration of the state of Ireland, it becomes an interesting question, how it happens that we find its dogmas to be professed with so much zeal at the present day in that country. How does it arise, that whereas, during the last three centuries, history exhibits nation after nation yielding up its religion to those reforms which time had rendered necessary, until nearly the whole of northern and western Europe has become Protestant—Ireland, notwithstanding so much contiguous change, still clings, with greater devotion than ever, to the shattered tiara of Rome? That such is the case is proved by the evidence of a trustworthy author, whose recent travels in Ireland we shall have occasion to allude to.
We fervently believe that persecution—perhaps honestly devised, but still persecution—has done for this Church what, under the circumstances, nothing besides could have achieved: it has enabled it to resist, not only unscathed, but actually with augmented power, the shocks of a free press, and the
liberalizing influence of the freest constitutional government in Europe.
We shall be told that the epithet persecution no longer applies, since all civil disabilities are removed from our Catholic fellow-subjects; but, we ask, does it not still apply as much in principle, though not in degree, to the present condition of the Irish Church—where six millions of Catholics are forced to see the whole tithe of their soil possessed by the clergy of one million of Protestants—as it did to the persecutions of the ancient martyrs, or to the
autos-de-f’e of modern Spain? Is not the spirit of persecution the same, but modified to meet the spirit of the age?
If we would bring this case home to our own feelings, let us suppose that the arms of the United States of America were to achieve the conquest of Great Britain; we will further suppose that that country possessed an established Church, differing in faith from our own—for instance, let it be imagined to be of the Unitarian creed. Now, then, we put it to the feelings of our countrymen, would they, or would they not, regard it as persecution, if they saw the whole of the tithes of England diverted from their present uses, to be applied to the support of a faith which they abhorred? Would it not be felt as persecution to be compelled, not only to behold their cathedrals and churches in the hands of the ministers of a (by them) detested creed, but the lands and revenues which appertain to them, wrested from their present purposes, by the force of a government on the other side of the ocean? And, seeing these things, would it not be felt and suffered as persecution, if the people of England, still clinging to a man to their national Church, were impelled by conscience to erect other temples of worship, and out of their own pockets to maintain their ejected and despised ministers?
But, to come to the still more important question, we appeal to the breasts of our readers, would they, under such circumstances, be likely to become converts to the religion of their spoilers and oppressors; or, would they not, more
probably, nourish such a spirit of resentment and indignation as would render impossible a calm or impartial examination of its dogmas? And would not their children and their children’s children be taught to abhor, even before they could understand, the very name of Unitarianism? But, pursuing our hypothesis, supposing all this to occur in England, and that the nation were compelled, by the presence of a sufficient army, to submit—what would the probable effects of such a state of things be upon the peace and prosperity of the community? However excellent might be the laws and institutions, however liberal and enlightened the policy, in other respects, of the government set over us by the Americans, whatever commercial advantages might be derived from a complete incorporation with the United States—would the people, the church-loving people of those realms be found to be quietly and successfully pursuing their worldly callings, forgetting the grievances of their consciences? We hope not! For the honour of our countrymen we fervently believe that all worldly pursuits and interests would be, by them, and their sons, and their sons’ sons, even down to the tenth generation, abandoned; that agitation would be rife in the land, and that every county in England would put forth its O’Connell, wielding the terrible energies of combined freemen, until the time that saw such monstrous tyranny abated!
Persecution may be, as it often has been, the buttress of error; but all history proves that it can never aid the cause of truth.
What has preserved the Jews a distinct people, scattered as they have been amidst all the nations of the earth? No miracle, certainly; for they are now dissolving into the ranks of Christians before the sun of American toleration;
*27 and our country, but especially the spot where we write, gives us a
similar beneficent example in comparison with other States. Nothing more than the universal and unintermitted series of oppressions that characterized the conduct of every Government towards that despised people, from the destruction of Jerusalem down to the last century, can be necessary to account for the fact, that the Hebrew people exceed, perhaps, at this moment, in numbers, the population of Judæa, at the most flourishing period of its history. Nor, if it were desired, during the eighteen centuries to come, to preserve the Jews a separate people, could the wit or the philosophy of man devise a scheme to prevent their amalgamating with the nations of the earth, other than by persevering in the same infallible course of persecution.
Let them search the annals of religious persecution (and it is the most humiliating chapter in the history of poor human nature), and we will challenge the advocates of coercive dealings in matters of conscience, to produce an instance where violence, bribery, or secular power in any form, has ever aided the cause of true religion. To the honour of the immaterial portion of our being, although the body may be made to yield to these influences, the soul, disdaining all mortal fetters, owes no allegiance but to itself and its Maker.
So long then as the Church of England possesses the whole of the religious revenue of Ireland, there cannot be—nay, judging of the case as our own there ought not to be—peace or prosperity for its people; and what is of still more vital importance, there can be, judging by the same rule, no chance of the dissemination of religious truth in that country.
Let us not be met by those unthinking persons who view tithes as religion, with the cry about the destruction of the Protestant Church. We are of that Church, and we reckon it amongst the happiest circumstances of our destiny that Providence has placed us in a Protestant land. In our opinion—and we have endeavoured to prove it from the homely but incontrovertible arguments of facts—no greater temporal misfortune can attach to a people of the
present age than to profess the Roman Catholic religion: and it is in order to give the Irish an opportunity of considering with that
indifferency which we believe with Locke is the indispensable prelude to the successful search after truth, the doctrines of our reformed faith, that we would do them the justice in the first place of putting them on a perfectly equal footing, as respects matters of conscience with their Protestant fellow-subjects.
We are not visionary enough to shut our eyes to the vast impediments in the way of such a consummation as we have jumped to. These, however, do not in the least affect the question as to its justice or expediency. The obstacles lie in the House of Peers, and probably in the breast of the King. If the conscience of the latter should be affected with scruples as to the binding nature of the coronation oath, precautions might be taken to prevent a similar future obstacle on the demise of the crown. With respect to the House of Lords, difficulties of a less august nature will have to be encountered; for why should the fact be concealed that the church question in whichever way agitated is one that concerns the
interests of the aristocracy? Hence is the difficulty: that whereas we sincerely believe if a canvass were made from house to house throughout Great Britain, four-fifths of the middle classes of its people would be found at once not interested in the temporalities of the Irish Church, and willing to grant to their Catholic fellow-subjects of Ireland, a complete equality of religious privileges; on the contrary, if an appeal were to be made to the votes of the House of Peers, four-fifths of that assembly would very likely oppose such a measure of justice and peace; and probably that great majority of its members would be found to be immediately or remotely interested in the revenues of that Church.
We would recommend the most ample concessions to be made to countervail the obstacles of self-interest. There is no present sacrifice of a pecuniary nature that will not be an ultimate gain to the middle and working-classes of England, if it only tend to pacify and regenerate Ireland.
Viewing the subject as a question of pounds, shillings, and pence (and it partakes a great deal more of that character than folks are aware of), the people of England would be gainers by charging the whole amount of the church revenue of Ireland to the consolidated fund, if by so doing they were only to escape the expense of supporting an enormous army
*28 for the service of that country.
But we are from another motive of self-interest far more deeply concerned in the tranquillity and improvement of the sister kingdom: for it ought to be borne in view and impressed upon the minds of the industrious classes of this country, that unless we can succeed in laying the foundations of some plan for elevating the people of Ireland to an equality with us, they will inevitably depress us to a level with themselves.
There cannot permanently be in a free community two distinct castes or conditions of existence, such as are now to be found in this united empire. Already is the process of assimilation going on; and the town in which we write furnishes amongst others a striking example of the way in which the contagion of Irish habits is contaminating whilst the
competition of that people is depressing the working classes of Britain.
Manchester is supposed to contain fifty thousand Irish, or the immediate descendants of Irish. The quarter in which they congregate is like the district of St. Giles’ of London, a nursery of all the customs that belong to savage life. In the very centre of our otherwise civilized and wealthy town, a colony which has acquired for its
locale the title of Little Ireland, exhibits all the filth, depravity, and barbarism that disgrace its patronymic land. Nor is the evil confined within such limits. Its influences are felt in the adulteration of character, and the lowering of the standard of living of our artisans generally: it is a moral cancer that in spite of the efforts of science or philanthropy to arrest its progress, continues to spread throughout the entire mass of our labouring population.
No part of England or Scotland is exempt from its share in the natural consequences of this terrible state of degradation to which the people of Ireland are reduced. There is not a village or parish of the kingdom into which its famine-impelled natives do not, at certain periods of the year, penetrate to share the scanty wages of our peasantry; thus dragging them down to their own level, and, in return, imparting to them the sad secrets of their own depraved modes of life.
But great as this evil has hitherto been, it is only a subject of astonishment to us, that the immigration of the Irish people into this portion of the empire has not been more extensive: sure we are, from the accounts we have of the present state of the southern portion of that island, that nothing short of Berkeley’s wall of brass can, for the future, save us from an overwhelming influx of its natives.
Let those who are incredulous of our opinion, consult the recent work on Ireland, from which we are about to offer an extract or two for the perusal of our readers.
We look upon every writer who directs the attention of the people of England to the
facts connected with the present state of Ireland, as a benefactor of his country. Even should
an author, for the sake of being read, or for party purposes, like Cobbett, throw some exaggeration into his pictures of the horrors of this land, we still view him in the useful capacity of a watchman, sounding the alarm of danger, scarcely too loud, to the indifferent minds of Great Britain. Though, like the hydro-oxygen microscope, when applied to physical objects, his descriptions magnify its social monsters, till their magnitude terrifies the beholder—still the monsters are there: they are only enlarged, and not created. In the purer elements of English society, such evils could not, through whatever exaggerating medium, be discovered.
But the traveller from whom we are about to quote, gives intrinsic evidences of not only competent intelligence, but strict impartiality, and a sincere love of truth. We do not think that he possesses, in an eminent degree, the organ of causality, as the phrenologists call it; for he attributes, as the ultimate cause of the miseries of Ireland, the want of employment for its people; not recollecting that this evil must have its cause: but in the qualities of a careful and experienced observer of facts, he is, unquestionably, a competent authority. These are his words, in speaking of the remuneration of labour in Ireland:—’I am quite confident, that, if the whole yearly earnings of the labourers of Ireland were divided by the whole number of labourers, the result would be under this sum—fourpence a-day for the labourers of Ireland.’ Again, in speaking of the habitations of the peasantry of Ireland, the following is the description given by the same author:—
‘The only difference between the best and the worst of the mud cabins is, that some are water-tight, and some are not; air-tight, I saw none; with windows, scarcely any; with chimneys—that is, with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape through—as many perhaps with it as without it. As for furniture, there is no such thing; unless a broken stool or two, and an iron pot, can be called furniture. I should say that, in the greater part of Leinster and Munster, and in the flat districts of Connaught, bedsteads are far from general, and bed-clothing is never sufficient.’
Let us reflect for a moment on what would be the effects upon the condition of our industrious population, if they were brought down to share one common average with these labourers; a fate which, we repeat, they are doomed to suffer; unless, by imparting peace and prosperity to Ireland, we shall succeed in elevating her people to our own level.
This intelligent traveller sums up his recital of all that he witnessed during a tour of many months throughout the island (great part of which time he spent in unrestrained intercourse with the peasantry) in these words, which, along with every other portion of his volumes, do equal honour to his moral courage and philanthropy:—
‘I, Henry David Inglis, acting under no superior orders; holding no government commission; with no end to serve, and no party to please; hoping for no patronage, and fearing no censure; and with no other view than the establishment of truth—having just completed a journey throughout Ireland, and having minutely examined, and inquired into the condition of the people of that country—do humbly report, that the destitute, infirm, and aged, form a large body of the population of the cities, towns, and villages of Ireland: that, in the judgment of those best qualified to know the truth, three-fourth parts of their number die through the effects of destitution, either by the decay of nature accelerated, or through disease induced by scanty and unwholesome food, or else by the attacks of epidemics, rendered more fatal from the same causes: that the present condition of this large class is shocking for humanity to contemplate, and beyond the efforts of private beneficence to relieve, and is a reproach to any civilized and Christian country.’
A Christian country, does he say? Posterity will doubt it! There is no such picture as this of a permanent state of national existence to be found in any authentic history, ancient or modern, Christian or Pagan. We shall search the volumes of the most accredited travellers in Russia,
*30or India, and find no description of a people that is not enviable, in comparison with the state of millions of our fellow-subjects in Ireland. The natives of Moldavia and Wallachia, which provinces have been the battle-field for Turks and Christians for centuries, are now living in happiness and plenty, when compared with the fate of the inhabitants of a country that has known no other invader but England.
We lavish our sympathies upon the serfs of Poland, and the slaves of Turkey; but who would not prefer to be one of these, to the perishing with hunger under the name of freeman? We send forth our missionaries to convert the heathen; but well might the followers of Mahomet or Zoroaster instruct us in the ways of charity to our poor Christian brethren! Far be it from us to say, with a celebrated French writer, that we distrust the philanthropy of all those who seek in distant regions for objects of their charity; but we put it to our countrymen, whether, in lending themselves to any scheme, having benevolence for remote nations in view, whilst such a case as this stands appealing at their doors, they are not, in the emphatic words of Scripture, ‘taking the children’s meat and casting it to the dogs.’
We shall be told that the hundreds of thousands of pounds that are sent annually to remote regions are for the promotion of religion. But there cannot be religion where there is not morality; and can morals survive in a starving community such as exists in Ireland? No! and therefore we say, until the above proclamation of her desperate sufferings be controverted (and who will gainsay it?), a copy of it ought to be
affixed to every public building, and to the doors of every church and chapel in particular of England; and all attempts, of whatever description, to subsidize the charity of this country, in behalf of alien nations, whilst this member of our own family, in the extremity of want, supplicates for succour at our hands, should be denounced and put aside by the common sense and humanity of the nation.
If not, if for more fanciful, because more distant, projects of benevolence, we neglect our obvious duty towards these our fellow-countrymen, then will the sins and omissions of their fathers be visited upon the future generations of Englishmen; for assuredly will the accumulated ills of Ireland recoil upon their heads, until one common measure of suffering shall have been meted out to both!
But we will not forget that our object in entering upon the consideration of this subject, was to illustrate the impolicy and injustice of the statesmen of this country, who have averted their faces from this diseased member of our body-politic; and, at the same time, have led us, thus maimed, into the midst of every conflict that has occurred upon the whole continent of Europe. To give one example, let us only recur to the year 1823, when the French invasion of Spain drew forth those well-known powerful appeals of Brougham to the ever-ready-primed pugnacity of his countrymen, in which he exhausted his eloqnence in the cause of war against France; declaring, amongst similar flights, that we ought to spend our last shilling in behalf of Spanish independence; whilst, at the very same moment of time, famine, pestilence, and insurrection were raging, even to an unparalleled extent, in Ireland, whose natives were driven to subsist on the weeds of the fields, and for whom a subscription fund, amounting to more than a quarter of a million, was that very year raised by the people of Great Britain.
Subsequently, as our readers know, our Government dispatched an armament to the succour of Portugal. We witnessed the departure of those troops from London, and
well do we remember the enthusiasm of the good citizens on that occasion. In the next meeting of Parliament, it was stated that this display of our power and magnanimity towards an old ally cost upwards of a million sterling. Here was a sum that would have sufficed to employ the starving peasantry of Ireland in constructing a railroad fifty miles in length. What fruits have we to exhibit, in the present state of the Peninsula, that can be said to have grown out of this expenditure?
But the worst effects of an intermeddling policy are, that we are induced, at all times, to maintain an
attitude, as it is termed, sufficiently formidable, in the face of Europe. Thus, the navy—which after the peace was very properly reduced, so that in 1817 it comprised only 13,000 seamen and 6000 marines—was, under the plea of the disturbed state of Europe, from time to time augmented; until, in 1831, the estimate amounted to 22,000 seamen and 10,000 marines: whilst the army, which, in 1817, had been cut down to 69,000 men, was, by successive augmentations, raised to 88,000 in 1831.
Our limits do not allow us to go further into details upon this portion of our task. But we cannot dismiss the subject altogether, without a few observations upon the remedies which are proposed for the present state of Ireland. That ‘every quack has his nostrum for the cure of poor Erin,’ is a common remark with her people; and although we find the doctors, as usual, differ exceedingly in opinion, there are two prescriptions which have been very numerously recommended—we allude to a law against absenteeism, and a poor-law.
We should hail any measure that promised the slightest relief to the wretched people of this country. But it is necessary to ask, Could these plans, through any law, be efficaciously enforced? There is, we think, much raving after impracticable legislation nowadays. Let us see if these be not specimens of it. We never yet met with a person who professed to understand how an Act of Parliament could be framed, that, without committing the
most grievous injustice and cruelty, would be more than a dead letter against Irish absenteeism. Let us imagine that a law was enacted to compel every owner of an estate in Ireland to reside upon his property. Well, this would be imprisonment for life. No, is the answer: he might range over the whole island, and even reside on the sea-coast, or, for a portion of the year, in Dublin. Good: then he must have a passport, and at every move his person must be cognized; and for this purpose a police, similar to the French gensdarmerie, must be organized throughout the country. But the traders, the farmers, the professional men, the tourists, the beggars, the commercial travellers, the strangers—all these, we suppose, would be subjected to the like
surveillance? Oh! no! must be the reply: that would be to obstruct the entire business of the country. Thus this law falls to the ground, since the landowner might elude it under any of these disguises.
But to approach the subject in another way. The enactment would not, of course, be passed without some clauses of exceptions. It would be barbarous, for example, to prohibit a man from changing his abode, if illness demanded it, or if his wife or children were in that extremity. What, then, would be the market price of a doctor’s certificate, to transport a
malade imaginaire to France or Italy? Again, if a Milesian landlord pined for a trip to London, would not a subpœna to attend some law process be a favourite resource? Or a friend might summon him before a parliamentary committee, or find him comfortable apartments in the rules of the Fleet. Fictitious conveyances, nominal divisions of property, and a thousand other expedients, might be named, for rendering nugatory this law, each one of which would, to a reasonable mind, prove the impracticability of such a measure.
Let those who think that a poor’s-rate, sufficient to operate as a relief to the pauper population, could be levied in the south of Ireland, peruse Inglis’s description of the present state of the province of Connaught. How would the rate be agreed upon, when no one of the wretched farmers would come
forward to fix the amount? Or, if they did agree to a levy who would be bold enough to collect the rate? Who would distribute it, where all are needy of its assistance? But, for the sake of contemplating the probable effects of such a law, let us suppose that these difficulties were got over. We believe that those who recommend a poor’s-law as a remedy for Ireland, are imperfectly acquainted with its desperate condition.
The poor’s-rate of England had, two years ago, in various districts, reached fourteen shillings in the pound; and, in one instance, it absorbed the entire rental of the land; and this occurred in Buckinghamshire, within fifty miles of London, and where there are rich farmers and landowners.
What, then, would be the effects of any poor-law in a country where parish after parish, throughout vast districts, contains not an inhabitant who tastes better food than potatoes, or knows the luxury of shoes and stockings, or other shelter than a mud cabin? We dread to contemplate the results which, in our judgment, would follow such an attempt to ameliorate the lot of this population. As soon as a competent provision for the poor were ordered—such as a Christian legislature must assign, if it touch the subject at all—the starving peasantry of Ireland, diverted from their present desperate resources of emigration or partial employment in towns, would press upon the occupiers of the soil for subsistence, with such overwhelming claims as to absorb the whole rental in less than six months. What must follow, but that every person owning a head of cattle or a piece of furniture, would fly to the cities; leaving the land to become a scramble to the pauper population, which, in turn, abandoned to its own passions, and restrained by no laws or government, would probably divide itself once more into septs, under separate chieftains (the elements of this savage state are still in existence in many parts of the south of Ireland), and commence a war of extermination with each other. The days of the Pale and all its horrors would be again revived: famine would soon, of necessity, ensue; the towns would be assailed by these barbarous and starving clans; and the British
Government would once more be called on to quell this state of rapine with the sword.
Such, we conscientiously believe, would be the inevitable consequences of a measure which, to the eye of the uninformed or unreflecting philanthropist, appears to be the most eligible plan for the peace and prosperity of Ireland.
What remedies, then, remain for this suffering country?
We shall pass by the cry for the repeal of the Union; because everybody knows that to have been only used as an engine for the purpose of acquiring a power to coerce England into other acts of justice. A Parliament in Dublin would not remedy the ills of Ireland. That has been tried, and found unsuccessful; for all may learn in her history, that a more corrupt, base, and selfish public body than the domestic legislature of Ireland never existed; and the very first declaration of the United Volunteers, when, in 1781, they took the redress of her thousand wrongs into their own hands, was to the effect, that they resolved to use every effort to extirpate the corruptions that so notoriously existed in the Irish Parliament; and one of the first acts of the same patriotic body, was to invest the Parliament House in Dublin, and, at the point of the bayonet, to extort from those native legislators a redress of their country’s grievances.
To come, next, to the scheme of emigration. All must regard with feelings of suspicion and disfavour any attempt to expatriate a large body of our fellow-countrymen; and we hold such an antidote to be only like removing the slough which has arisen from a wound, whilst the disease itself remains untouched.
But, unhappily, the maladies of Ireland have taken such deep root, that legislation cannot hope, for ages to come, effectually to eradicate them; whilst here is a mode by which hundreds of thousands of our fellow-creatures are eager to be enabled to escape a lingering death. Surely, under such circumstances, this plan, which would leave us room to administer more effectually to the cure of her
social disorders, deserves the anxious consideration of our legislature.
Here let us demand why some forty or fifty of our frigates and sloops of war, which are now, at a time of peace, sunning themselves in the Archipelago, or anchoring in friendly ports, or rotting in ordinary in our own harbours, should not be employed, by the Government, in conveying these emigrants to Canada, or some other hospitable destination? The expense of transporting an individual from Limerick to the shores of America, by such a method, would, probably, not exceed two pounds. On arrival, the government agents might, probably, find it necessary to be at the charge of his subsistence for a considerable time—perhaps, not less than twelve months.
Altogether, however, the expense of a project of emigration, on a scale of magnitude, must be enormous. But, again we say, that any present sacrifice, on the part of the people of this country, by which the Irish nation can be lifted from its state of degradation, will prove an eventual gain.
Contemporary with any plan of emigration, other projects for the future amelioration of the fate of that miserable people must be entered upon by the British Parliament; and we should strongly advocate any measure of internal improvement, which, by giving more ready access to the southern portion of the island, would throw open its semi-barbarous region to the curiosity and enterprise of England. Steam navigation has already given a powerful stimulus to the industry of the eastern maritime counties; and if, by means of railroads, the same all-powerful agent could be carried into the centre of the kingdom, there can be no doubt that English capital and civilization would follow in its train. Every one conversant with the subject, is aware how greatly the pacification and prosperity of the Scotch Highlands were promoted by carrying roads into these savage districts; and still more recently, how, by means of the steam navigation of the lakes, and the consequent influx of visitors, the people have been enriched and civilized. Similar effects
would doubtless follow, if the facilities of railroad travelling were offered to Ireland, whose scenery, hardly rivalled in Europe, together with the frank and hilarious temperament of its people, could not fail to become popular and attractive with the English traveller.
We will here introduce a scheme to the notice of our readers, which, whilst we gladly acknowledge with gratitude the source from whence it originated, we think deserves the notice of our Government.
New York Courier and Enquirer newspaper of December 24th, 1834, appeared a letter headed ‘Traverse Atlantic,’ which after stating that the writer, on a recent visit to Europe, had suffered a delay of ten days in ascending the French Channel, from Finisterre to Havre, and of eight days in descending the Irish Channel, from Liverpool to Cape Clear, says he ‘believes that on an average, one-third or one-fourth of the time is wasted, upon every transatlantic voyage, in getting into, or out of, the European ports now resorted to.’ The writer then proceeds as follows:—
‘The commerce of America chiefly centres in the ports of Hamburgh, Havre, London, and Liverpool. Each of these is distant from the ocean, and difficult of access. On the western coast of Ireland, there are several harbours far superior in every requisite. As, for instance, the island of Valencia, which is the nearest point of land in Europe to America. Between it and the main, reposes an excellent receptacle for shipping of any burden, approached by two easily practicable inlets, completely landlocked, capacious, and safe. Situated immediately on the brim of the Atlantic, a perfectly straight line can be drawn from this harbour to the port of New York, the intervening transit unobstructed by islands, rocks, or shoals. The distance being less than two thousand seven hundred miles, may be traversed by steam in about eight days; and the well-known enterprise of the American merchants, renders it unnecessary for me to do more than to intimate that they will avail themselves of every opening or inducement that may arise, to establish the first link of intercourse by a line of packet boats….
‘The extent of this undertaking has been stated as beyond the
means of those likely to engage in it. This seems to me incredible, when I advert to the facts, that Ireland has a population of eight millions, multitudes of whom are in beggary for want of work, with wages at from fourpence to one shilling a-day, and money, on the average, not worth more than three per cent.; and recollect, at the same time, that the state of South Carolina, one of the smallest in the American confederation, with a population of three hundred thousand, wages at five shillings sterling a-day, and capital at seven per cent. interest, has, unaided, and by private enterprise, constructed a railroad from Charleston to Augusta, one hundred and forty-five miles in extent, at present the longest in the world, which is travelled by locomotive engines in the course of ten hours.
‘The advantages to accrue to Ireland in particular, by thus opening a regular communication from New York to London in twelve, and to Paris in fifteen days, are incalculable. That island would become, of necessity, the thoroughfare between the two hemispheres; and the occupation of the public mind in such an enterprise, and the constantly increasing fruits of its progress, would do more to pacify the fearful dissensions of the people, and ameliorate their most lamentable condition, than any legislation of even the best disposed Parliament.’
The above project, which, in the affluence of their enterprise, our American friends have suggested for the benefit of Ireland, merits the attention of all landowners and patriots concerned for the welfare of her people.
It has long been decided, by the merchants and nautical men engaged in the intercourse between Liverpool and America, that steam boats
*31 would be found capable of navigating the Atlantic with perfect safety; and the more sanguine amongst those interested in increasing the facilities of communication between the two countries, have gone so far as to predict that, in a dozen years’ time, we may hope to witness the arrival and departure of steamers twice a-week between England and the United States.
As any scheme of this nature must necessarily require that the vessels should take their departure from the nearest points
of approximation of the two hemispheres, Ireland would thus become the starting-place for all Europe; and it is scarcely possible to conceive anything that would be more calculated to enrich and civilize that country, than by thus irrigating it, as it were, with the constant tide of emigration to and from America.
A railway, for the purpose here alluded to, would pass through the centres of Leinster and Munster; intersecting the counties of Kildare, Queen’s County, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork, and Kerry; and would pass within twenty miles of the port of Limerick, and thirty miles from that of Cork, to both of which cities, it might reasonably be expected, that branches would be carried by public subscription; thus, not only would these two great commercial havens be connected with Dublin, but by opening a direct communication with each other, it would afford a medium for traffic, by steam, between the fifteen counties that are washed by that noble stream, the Shannon, and the ports of Cork and Bristol; and, ultimately, by means of the Great Western Railway, with London.
Railroads are already begun for connecting Liverpool with Southampton, by way of Birmingham and London. The French have long been engaged in making surveys for a railway from Havre, by way of Rouen (the Manchester of France) to Paris: and although characteristic delays may arise to retard the completion of this as of other projects of mere usefulness, with that fanciful people; yet, as it is, perhaps the only line in all France that would prove a remunerative speculation, there can be no doubt that it will be the first that is undertaken in that country.
Presuming this to be effected, then, by means of such a plan as is here recommended, for constructing a line from
Dublin to the extreme point of Munster, a traveller would be enabled to transport himself from the French metropolis,
viâ Havre, Southampton, London, Liverpool, and Dublin, to Valencia Island, or any other point of embarkation on that coast, in about sixty hours; and, as the voyage to New York would be accomplished in about eleven or twelve days, the whole distance from Paris to America, which now, upon an average, occupies forty days in the passage, would be accomplished by the agency of steam, in about a third of that time.
That such a project, if completed, would secure the preference of voyagers to all parts of North America, not only from Britain, but from every quarter of Europe, must be apparent; that all we have recommended is perfectly practicable, we have no difficulty in believing: and that a traffic, of such magnitude as is here contemplated, would have the effect of imparting wealth and civilization to the country through which it passed, all experience proves to be unquestionable.
But it is not merely the future benefit that must accrue to Ireland, from the construction of a railroad through her provinces, that we should alone regard. The present support of her unemployed peasantry is another cogent motive for some such undertakings: for, unless a diversion of the surplus labour from the land be effected, through the employment of English capital amongst its population, no change can be attempted in the agricultural economy of Ireland. There is not absolutely, in the present densely crowded state of her rural inhabitants, elbow-room, so to speak, sufficient for readjusting their position. Yet there are reforms indispensably requisite to the agricultural prosperity of the island. The farming implements of its people are, for example, notoriously inferior, requiring twice the labour, both of men and cattle, of our own; yet, how shall we hope to see any improvements effected in these, by which the demand for labour shall be temporarily diminished, whilst one half of the peasantry is perishing for want of work?
Again: the farms are so minutely subdivided, to meet the
desperate competition of a people who possess no resource but the land to preserve them from famine, that their occupiers are destitute altogether of capital, and aim at no other end but to secure a daily subsistence on potatoes.
Under a better system, the cultivation of flax might be extended almost indefinitely. At present, the estimated value of the annual production of this raw material of their staple manufacture is about £1,500,000, which is yielded from one hundred thousand acres of land—not one-tenth of the area of a moderate-sized county.
*33 But how can we apply a remedy to these, or the other evils of the soil, amidst a ferocious and lawless community, that visits with fire and sword
*34 the prædial reformer?
We confess we see no hope for the eventual prosperity of this country, except in the employment of a portion of its people, through the instrumentality of English capital, in the pursuit of manufactures or commerce. Of capital they are literally more destitute, in some parts of the west coast of the island, than are the North American Indians on the banks of the Mississippi; as an instance in proof of which, it may be stated that, in a recent Government survey of that quarter, a vessel of war was the first to discover some of the finest fishing stations to be found in the British waters; and yet the natives of the neighbouring shores possess not the means of procuring boats or nets, through which to avail themselves of these treasures!
Capital, like water, tends continually to a level; and, if any great and unnatural inequality is found to exist in its distribution over the surface of a community, as is the case in this
United Kingdom, the cause must, in all probability, be sought for in the errors or violence of a mistaken legislation. The dominant Church,
opposed to the national religion, is, we conscientiously believe, in this case, the primary existing cause of this discrepancy. Capitalists shrink with all the susceptibility of the barometer in relation to the natural elements, from the storms and tempests of party passion; but how infinitely beyond all other motives must this privileged class be impelled, by the impulses of feeling and taste, to shun that atmosphere where the strife of religious discord rages with a fury unheard of in any other land !
*35 There cannot be prosperity for Ireland, until the law, by equalizing the temporalities of Catholics and Protestants, shall have removed the foundation of this hideous contention.
To this consummation we must be ultimately driven; for nothing short of this will content the people of Ireland, because less would be short of the full measure of justice. We advocate no spoliation: let the vested rights of every individual be respected—especially let no part of the tithes fall to the merciless grasp of the landlords of Ireland, who, with many exceptions, may be regarded as the least deserving body of its people. But let the British Parliament assert the right to the absolute disposal of the Irish Church revenues, excepting in cases of private property; and let an equal government grant be applied to the religious instruction of both faiths,
according to the numbers of each, as is the rule in France and Belgium
*36 at the present day.
Such a regulation, by preventing Englishmen from holding benefices in Ireland (there would be no longer the temptations of rich livings and sinecures), would lead to a beneficial influence of the Protestant ministers in that country: for what could so much tend to destroy all hope of their proselyting the poor Catholics, what in fact could be so much calculated to make those ministers ‘despised and rejected,’
*37 as to send amongst them, as is now the case, and ever has been, strangers, who, whatever may be their worth (and we believe the Church of England clergy,
as a class, to be at this moment about the best body of men in Ireland), are ignorant of the character and habits, nay, even of the very language of the people?
What chance have these in competition with the Roman Catholic priesthood, who, drawn from the middle or lower ranks of their countrymen, after an appropriate education in Maynooth College (where are always four or five hundred of such students), are sent back to, perhaps, their native village, to resume the personal and familiar acquaintance of its inhabitants.
Would the spiritual interests of the Scotch people be consulted by displacing their present excellent native pastors in favour of the younger sons of English noblemen?
If it be objected that the English establishment is involved in the fate of the Church of Ireland, we answer, that the circumstances of the two are of as opposite a complexion as light is to darkness. In England, the national Church comprises within its pale a great majority of the people; whilst in Ireland we behold a state religion, upheld for the exclusive benefit of one-seventh of its population. Can we, on the face of the earth, find another example of an established Church opposed to the consciences of six-sevenths of its supporters; for although the revenues may not go directly from their pockets,
could the present income of the Protestant Church be raised without the Catholic population ?
What should we say if the Government of Austria, Russia, or Turkey (for each of these has a State religion, differing from ours, and from one another, and yet pronounced by the law of the land to be the only true belief), were found to be applying the whole of the religious revenues of its country to the service of the faith of one-seventh of its subjects? What should we think if the Russian Government were to bestow the entire of the property of the Greek Church upon the Catholic or Armenian fraction of its people? In every country we find the established religion in harmony with the consciences of its people; excepting in Ireland, which, in this, as in other respects, presents to us an anomaly which has no resemblance amongst the nations of the world.
In concluding our observations upon this portion of ou
task, we shall briefly ask—Does not the question of Ireland, in every point of view, offer the strongest possible argument against the national policy of this country, for the time during which we have wasted our energies and squandered our wealth upon all the nations of the Continent; whilst a part of our own empire, which, more than all the rest of Europe, has needed our attention, remains to this hour an appalling monument of our neglect and misgovernment? Add to this, that our efforts have been directed towards the assistance of states for whose welfare we are not responsible; whilst our oppression and neglect have fallen upon a people over whom we are endowed with the power and accountable privileges of government—and the extent of the injustice of our statesmen becomes fully disclosed.
The neglect of those duties which, in such a case, devolve upon the governor, as in the instance of every infringement of moral obligations, bears within it the seeds of self-chastisement. The spectacle of Ireland, operating like a cancer in the side of England—of Poland, paralyzing one arm of the giant that oppresses her—of the two millions of negroes in the United States, whose future disposal baffles the ingenuity of those statesmen and philanthropists who would fain wash out this indelible stain upon their religion and government:—these are amongst the lessons, which, if viewed properly, serve to teach mankind that no deed of guilt or oppression can be perpetrated with impunity, even by the most powerful—that, early or late, the invincible cause of truth will triumph against every assault of violence or injustice.
Commercial Dictionary, which Cobden constantly used at this time (cf. p. 27,
note), the total value of Irish exports in 1834 was £336,000.
Travels in Ireland. See the same traveller’s description of Patrick’s Purgatory, Loch Dergh. It adds weight to the testimony of this writer upon such a subject, when it is recollected that he is the author of
Travels in Spain.
United Service Journal). Those marked thus* are depôts of Regiments. 3rd Dragoon Guards, Dublin; 4th Dragoon Guards, Cork; 7th do., Limerick; 9th Lancers, Newbridge; 10th Hussars, Dundalk; 14th Light Dragoons, Longford; 15th Hussars, Dublin; 3rd batt. Grenadier Guards, Dublin; 1st Foot, 1st batt. Londonderry;* 2nd batt. Athlone; 7th, Drogheda;* 9th, Youghal;* 14th, Mullingar; 18th, Limerick; 24th, Kinsale;* 25th, Armagh;* 27th, Dublin; 29th, Kinsale; * 30th, Clonmel;* 43rd, Cork; 46th, Dublin; 47th, Boyle;* 52nd, Enniskillen; 56th, Cork;* 60th, Nenagh; 2nd batt. Kilkenny; 67th, Cashel;* 69th, Clare Castle;* 70th, Cork;* 74th, Belfast; 76th, Boyle;* 81st, Dublin; 82nd, Belfast; 83rd, Newry; 85th, Galway; 89th, Fermoy; 90th, Naas; 91st, Birr; 94th, Cork; 95th, Templemore; 69th, Kinsale.
Here is an array of bayonets that renders it difficult to believe that Ireland is other than a recently conquered territory, throughout which an enemy’s army has just distributed its encampments. Four times as many soldiers as comprise the standing army of the United States are at this time quartered in Ireland!
so as it may not be hated before it be understood, and their professors despised and rejected: And therefore it is expedient that some discreete ministers of their owne countrymen, be first sent over amongst them, which, by their meeke persuasions and instructions, as also by their sober lives and conversations, may draw them first to understand, and afterwards to imbrace the doctrine of their salvation; for if that the auncient godly fathers which first converted them, when they were infidells, to the faith, were able to pull them from idolatry and paganisme to the true beliefe in Christ, as St. Patrick and St. Colomb, how much more easily shall godly teachers bring them to the true understanding of that which they already professed? Wherein is the great wonder to see the oddes that is betweene the zeale of Popish priests and the ministers of the gospell; for they spare not to come out of Spaine, from Rome, and from Remes, by long toyle and dangerous travayling hither, where they know perill of death awayteth them, and no reward or riches is to be found, only to draw the people unto the Church of Rome. Whereas some of our idle ministers, having a way for credite and estimation thereby opened unto them, and having the livings of the country offered unto them, without peines and without perile, will neither for the same nor any love of God nor zeale of religion, nor for all the good they may doe by winning soules to God, bee drawne foorth from their warme nestes to look out into God’s harvest, which is even ready for the sickle and all the fields yellow long ago; doubtless those good olde godly fathers will (I fear mee) rise up in the day of judgment to condemne them.’—Spenser.
Part I, Essay III