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again spilt in these foolish encounters, and the peasantry, entangled in the meshes of the law by their wonted headlong impetuosity, again conceived that their defeats in the courts of justice were contrived at the Castle. It is quite true that justice had, for ages, been rarely attainable between Catholic and Protestant. For some years, indeed, the superior tribunals bad undergone a progressive purification ; but it is the jury which decides in criminal cases, and the nomination of juries lay almost exclusively with the Protestants. Catholics could not always be in the wrong; yet Catholic prisoners were almost uniformly condemned, as Protestants were almost uniformly acquitted. This was an evil that the wisest and honestest ministry could not remedy at a blow. It had grown out of the long-established internal organization of the country, which had been inevitably founded on the pecuniary and legal supremacy of the Protestants. Rich in landed property, and in possession of the magistracy and of the minor functions of government aud police, the Protestant party were too strong to be suddenly ousted from their usurpations ; and they retained large means of distracting the councils and palsying the energies of the most powerful and determined Cabinet. The first duty of the emancipating administration should have been to impose on this mass, which it could not suddenly enchain by a countenance of firmness and temper, and by the instant removal from place and favour of the first great functionary who should violate the spirit of the government's directions. T'he sheriffs more particularly should have been called to a strict account for any unfairness in the striking of juries. Nothing, or next to nothing, of this sort was done ; and the Wellington administration bore the whole odium of that injustice, which it could not under any circumstances have entirely prevented. A re-action of sentiment thus engendered, rapidly followed on the momentary gratitude produced by the Bill. The waters of bitterness were again troubled, and a new field was opened for the disappointed ambition of the lovers of their own speeches, and the aspirants to political notoriety. War was declared in form by O'Connell; the repeal question was started to annoy the government; and the Belgian revolution quickening this random spark into a flame, a series of harsh but necessary measures was adopted to repress a movement pregnant with incalculable mischief, but which a small portion of common prudence might have anticipated and prevented. That the Duke of Northumberland meant fairly and kindly to Ireland cannot be doubted; for his nature is gentle and honest. That Sir Henry Hardinge was the best secretary that the country had long seen, is a truth now almost universally admitted. With a heart to feel for the distresses of the people, and with courage, assiduity, and official talents equal to the discovery and application of statistical remedies, Sir Henry, hąd time been given him, would have effected the greatest practical good compatible with the political theories of his party. But the hour was passed in which those theories could longer be endured in action, and his reign was abruptly ended, before it could be seen how far personal merit could prevail against the vices of a system.
Concurrently with these changes in public opinion, the war against rents and tithes was gradually spreading, and becoming more formidable. The tendency to over-population, peculiar to a potato-fed
community, had been much increased by the political ambition of landlords, who parcelled their estates with reference to the number of their freeholders, rather than with a view to a profitable culture of the soil. The abolition of the forty-shilling franchise suddenly removed this motive, and the Sub-letting Act enabled unfeeling proprietors to get rid of a superfluous tenantry now become burthensome. Estates formerly in cultivation were at this time laid down in grass, as a more profitable employment of the land ; and families were driven by hundreds from their humble homes, to seek employment and shelter where they could find them. This evil, at first scarcely perceived except by the immediate sufferers, soon effected a violent and extensive dislocation of interests. Wages fell, employment failed, the exiles took refuge in the suburbs of every town and village, and contended for their morsel of food in the labour-market with the old inhabitants. Many wretches lingered by the way-side, and lived or died in the ditches, as chance or individual benevolence directed; and the face of the country was covered with mendicancy. To judge of the extent of this crime (for it can be called no less) an instance will suffice. An Irish nobleman about this time came into possession of a small tenement situated in the outskirts of a town, which had fallen out of lease, and he found it occupied with considerably more than a hundred inhabitants ! The too-prevalent feeling of hostility between landlord and tenant, if not altogether excited, has been terribly aggravated by this cause; and it is not too much to assert, that in the more disturbed parts of the country it has ripened into a hope of expelling the proprietors, and of obtaining forcible possession of the fee-simple by the occupant. Of tithes it is scarcely necessary to speak. They are every where a grievance; but in Ireland, where poverty is excessive, and the population derives not the remotest service from the church it feeds so extravagantly, they are an insufferable nuisance, and the hatred they excite is fast ripening to an open explosion.
It was under these critical circumstances that Lord Anglesea resumed the government of Ireland; and he returned an inheritor of all the consequences of Tory mismanagement-loaded with the preliminary task of quelling an agrarian insurrection, and of suppressing the seditious assemblies of the Repealers. Thus placed between the two fires of the Orangemen and the ultra-radical Catholics, that nobleman, by the force of his personal character—by a course of single-mindedness, candour, firmness, and decision unexampled in Irish affairs, has succeeded in producing a temporary calm, and in giving to the imperial government a moment of breathing time, which, happily employed, may avert impending calamities, and lead to the purification of the Irish atmosphere without the miserable intervention of a revolutionary hurricane. On this one point the destiny of the country vibrates with tremulous uncertainty. If the national impatience allow an interval for the reformed Parliament to come into play, no experience of the past can measure the benefits to be expected from the future ; but to obtain this delay is an enterprise of no common delicacy and difficulty.1 The existing tranquillity is
I Much will depend upon the character of the Irish Reform Bill; and, unfortunately, there is little chance of its being sufficiently democratic to please the predominant powers among the people.
hollow, deceptive, and superficial. All the causes of disturbance remain in fearful activity; a spark, an accident the most unlookedfor, may cause a fatal and irreparable renewal of turbulence and anarchy. The friends of order look for the maintenance of peace to the possibility of curbing the restlessness, or bribing the inaction, of Mr. O'Connell. This is a false and an inadequate view of the case. Mr. O'Connell, with all his abilities and all his influence, is but an accident. He is the creature of the circumstances which he seems so peremptorily to control. It is the uneasy condition of the people, the million of unemployed peasants, the pressure of high rents and the intolerable burden of tithes, the contests between the Orangemen and Catholics, and the imbecile fanaticism of the saints, that constitute the real danger. If Mr. O'Connell were removed altogether from the scene of action, other leaders would not be wanting, less talented perhaps, but, if so, more headlong—" to ride the whirlwind and direct the storm.' It is not that this or that man is indisposed to the government, and is willing to run the chances of a revolution. It is the existence of an unbalanced democracy, divested of capital and of employment, unenlightened, impatient, awake to grievances, but ignorant of the appropriate reniedies, turbulent, and excited—a democracy that cannot rest where it is, nor march securely to where it should be, that constitutes the real urgency of the impending crisis. A power which can neither be restrained by law nor by force, nor conciliated by reforms less than gigantic, is hurried forward by events to a conclusion which itself does not anticipate. Mr. O'Connell has professed that he agitated repeal as a means to an end. The people do not so understand it. If he be sincere, and act on this profession, he will be at once distrusted, and his influence will be at an end. The people are in earnest. They watch continental events, they witness the success of the Belgians, they sympathise with the Poles; they see neither the difficulties nor the dangers of separation, nor the miseries to which it would lead. If England were itself to cast loose the painter, and leave Ireland to float down the current of a separate destiny, the actual power of the populacea power already tried and proved—would render the Irish Parliament a Jacobin club. A civil war with the Protestants, confiscations, and a disgraceful dependency on some foreign power, converting Ireland into a foreign garrison and a debating-ground for voiding European quarrels, are events scarcely less than desirable to a nation of proletarians, who have every thing to gain and nothing but valueless lives to lose, in the turning of Fortune's wheel. The education and the wealth of the country, it is true, are banded almost to a man in favour of British connexion ; but is the power of this small part of the community equal, either politically or militarily, to contend with the mass ? The experience of the past warrants at least the conclusion, that the upper classes can neither prevent the frequent discussion of the repeal question, nor hinder the return of such members to Parliament as must force concession from the most reluctant legislature.
This is, at the present moment, the condition of Ireland—a condi.
I Witness the return of Mr. H. Grattan for Meath.
tion amounting substantially to revolution. Property and population are placed in fierce and immediate opposition, and the government can only re-establish peace by legislating boldly in accordance with the necessities of the contingency. In one word, it must do for Ireland what it is doing for England by the Reform Bill-it must adopt the circumstances of the country, and act on them. It is the hesitation of the government about going at once to the bottom of the evil-in not boldly despising preceding usages, and clearing away grievances—in listening to Mr. Secretary this or that, instead of the numerous persons around him, sent to represent Irish interests, who know the real truth.
To give employment to the peasant, to develope a middle class, to break down the overgrown fortunes, and divide the produce of the soil in some fair proportion between the proprietor, the cultivator, and the labourer,—no ordinary reforms will suffice. All the usually admired remedies--poor-laws, absentee-taxes, colonization foreign or domestic, public grants, protecting duties, &c. &c. &c. are either worse than useless, or are inapplicable to the emergency from the slowness of their operation. The repealing of the Sub-letting and Vestry Acts, however urgently necessary, would not replace the country in the status quo. To abate particular abuses is most desirable, but to look to any such partial act as a means of tranquillizing Ireland is a most lame and impotent conclusion. If there be any one measure which by its magnitude and importance (as a direct benefit to the country, and as a satisfactory pledge that Ireland will in future be fairly dealt by) would be equal to the emergency, it is a prompt and a sweeping reform in the Church. One single step taken in this much-wanted measure, before Parliament separates for the recess, would arrest the arm of agitation in all its departments; and it would save the country, for the coming winter at least, from the chances of a renewed discussion of the repeal question and the reopening of the agrarian contest. For this reform, opinion is ripe; and none, save the beneficiaries, would refuse to support the attempt. The Irish Church can indeed no longer be maintained as it is. The payment of tithes is at this moment all but actually suspended ; and their collection, where possible, is attended by such horrors, such murders, and such violence, that, in the very interest of the incumbents, an instant reform is necessary.
In Ireland no national church is admissible, but the clergy of all denominations should be paid equally and modestly, according to the professed humility of their calling. The staff of the establishment being reduced to something like a due proportion to the wants of the people, the lands of the Church would afford ample means for this purpose, and would leave a surplus which, sold by the government in small lots, and under conditions suited to the circumstances of the small farmer, would call into profitable action much of the unoccupied industry of the people, and form the nucleus of a middle class. The abolition of tithe, by rendering available large districts, at present incapable of bearing the charges of culture, would liberate considerable capitals now vested in foreign countries, or otherwise locked up; and, above all, the divorce of that unnatural connexion between Church and State, in a country where seven-eighths are not of the State religion,
and which has been for centuries productive of such misery, would close for ever the wounds of religious disagreement and sectarian hate.
It has been said that this reform would go exclusively to the benefit of the landlord ; and so probably it would, as long as land remains a subject of such desperate competition. This only proves that other measures are requisite. Upon these other measures it is difficult to speak with prudence, or, in the present state of opinion, with effect. To tamper with the tenure of property is a proposition which will excite instant alarm; yet if that tenure be incompatible with the happiness of the people, there is no solid reason why it should be deemed absolutely inviolable. It is a circumstance peculiar to Ireland, that a large portion of its soil is held by conquests and confiscations, by fraud and violence, which have destroyed the natural balance of properties, and parcelled the land in another manner than that which industry and the healthful operations of society would have effected. It has given whole districts more especially to English proprietors, who can never reside on their estates, being bound by duties to their own country, incompatible with those they owe to their Irish tenantry. It becomes therefore a question of policy to consider if any, or what measures can be taken to induce these proprietors to sell their lands; and whether the government could so interfere, as to make their estates available to the purpose of creating an independent yeomanry. Nor is this all;-considering the urgent and instant necessity of giving the people a greater interest in established order, may it not be just and wise to abolish altogether the right of primogeniture in Ireland,' with a view to breaking up the great properties, and rendering absenteeship more rare and difficult ? It might not be hard to show that such a measure will soon be adopted all over Europe. The population of the more civilized countries has increased, and is increasing so rapidly, that an expensive aristocracy cannot be maintained; and the feudal families are gradually squeezed out of their exclusive wealth by the pressure of the general mass. This is the ultimate fact upon which the great revolutionary movement now proceeding virtually depends. It is an inevitable necessity; and wisdom should teach all governments to direct the movement into legal and constitutional channels. In Ireland, while the resources of industry do not keep pace with the increasing population, while fortunes are diminishing, education (good or bad) is making rapid advances; to expect that this is a state which can long endure, is the extreme of political ignorance. It is vain to say that such measures as those here proposed are revolutionary.
Mankind are not now to be frightened by a sound, which has already caused the shipwreck of so many empires.
If it be shown that in the actual condition of things there is no security for any property, or for any civil right, the argument implied in the word revolution is refuted. If England had nothing to do but to misgovern Ireland, the case might be somewhat different; but in the present condition of Europe, there is not security for a six months' duration of existing systems. The
According to the ancient laws of Ireland, this right was unknown ; the land universally descended by gavel.