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cultivation in Ireland, is now difficult to determine. The fact however is certain, that in no land did the Gospel make such rapid progress, or was so slightly opposed at its first introduction : and it is remarkable, that within the short space of five years after St. Patrick had opened his mission, he was summoned to sit and assist in the convention or parliament of Tarah. He was appointed of the fimous Committee of Nine, to whom was entrusted the reform of the antient civil history of the nation, so as to render it instructive to posterity. Christian schools and seminaries were established in opposition to those of the Druids ; and Paganism declined in proportion as the institutions and doctrines of Christianity flourished; insomuch that from the fifth to the latter end of the ninth century the Irish nation was pre-eminently distinguished in Europe as the chief seat of literature and science. Venerable Bede not only contirms this fact, but states, that the youth of the most respectable families of every nation in Europe were sent to Ireland to receive their education, on account of the pre-excellence of the learning of the Irish clergy. The same writer adds, that such of the AngloSaxons as went over to Ireland, either for education, improvement, or for an opportunity of living up to the strict ascetic discipline, were maintained, taught, and furnished with books, without fee or reward. Several illustrious persons received their education there. Among the other virtues which the establishment of Christianity fostered and extended among the Irish, the generous spirit of hospitality, for which from the earliest periods they were characterized, was peculiarly enforced. “The most holy men of heaven,” say the Irish laws,
“ were remarkable for hospitality; and the Gospel commands tis to receive the sojourner, to entertain him, and to relieve his wants."
We have thus seen that the Irish were a people endowed with great powers of body and mind, lovers of the arts and sciences, and enthusiastic encouragers of talent, attached to religion and its ministers, and, in a word, supereminently gifted by nature with all those active principles of public virtue, which, if properly directed, ensure the at.tainment of national happiness, prosperity, and importance. But unhappily it has ever been the bane of Ireland to be distracted with civil discord.
The latter part of the Irish history, immediately preceding the invasion of the kingdom by the English, presents one continued scene of intestine dissension, turbulence, and faction. They experienced during several centuries the miserable etfecta resulting from their want of union among them. selves, in the success of the repeated formidable invasions of their island by the Danes, Norwegians, and other Scandinavian adventurers, who ruled about in search of settlements. Ireland became to these piratical hordes a most inviting object, as - the country was fertile, and the inhabitants by their intestine divisions rendered feeble defenders of their soil. Such was the situation of Ireland, with little variation of feature in its history, during a period of nearly four hundred years. Abont the yi ar of Christ 1166 Rodcric O'Connor; of undubted Mesian stock, was raised to the monarchy with the general consent of the nation. H: prospect of a happy reign was soon cloud.ed by us revolt of several petty kings and princes who L. sworn allegiance to bim. Scarcely had he re
duca duced them to obedience, when he was called upon by O'Rourke, king of Breffiiy, to assist hiin in avenging himself of Dermod, king of Leinster, by whom he had been grossly injured. While O'Rourke was absent on a pilgrimage, his wife, who had long conceived a criminal passion for the king of Leinster, eloped with him, and lived in public adultery. There could not have existed a greater excitement to revenge in the breast of an Irish prince, whose spotless purity of blood was their highest glory. O'Rourke succeeded in rousing the monarch to avenge his cause, and immediately led a powerful force to his assistance. The whole kingdom took fire at the perfidy and iniquity of Dermod, who looked in vain for support from his own subjects. He was hated for his tyranny, and the chieftains of Leinster not only refused to enlist under his banner in such a cause, but openly renounced their allegiance. Dermod, thus deserted by his subjects, was inflamed with rage at the disappointment, and resolved to sacrifice every thing to the gratification of his personal revenge. Unable to meet the approaching storm, he took shipping secretly, and repaired to Henry II. of England, who was then in France, to solicit his protection and aid in accomplishing his revengeful intentions.
Dermod made a most humiliating address, and canting hypocritical representation of his sufferings, to Henry, whom he found in Aquitaine; promising that, if through his powerful interposition he should recover his lost dominions, he would hold them in vassalage of Henry and his successors for ever. Such an offer accorded well with the ambitious views of the British munarch; but his situation at that time prevented him from engaging personally in the cause of the guilty fugitive. He however encouraged him by promises of vigorous support, and gave him letters of credit and service to such of his subjects as might be willing to assist him in the recovery of his dominions. With these credentials Dermod repaired to Bristol, which was in those days the chief port of communication between England and Ireland.
From the Invasion of Ireland under Henry II. to
the Reign of Henry VIII. of England. THAT Henry had conceived the design of in
vading Ireland previously to the degrading application of Dermod, is unquestionable. A very superficial knowledge of the state of Ireland at that period was sufficient to excite the ambition of a powerful and popular sovereign, in those days when it was deemed reproachful to a prince to be unemployed in some scheme of gallant enterprise.
A pretence alone was wanting to give some colour of justice to the design; and the courtiers of Henry were fertile in their invention of imaginary claims to the throne, which they asserted the kings of England possessed by inheritance from the time of Arthur, and even earlier. But the sagacity of Henry, or the suggestion of an interested ecclesiastic, soon supplied the necessary pretence for a free indulgence of his ambition. The papal power was at this epoch gradually advancing to a formidable height, and extending its influence even to the extremity of the British islands. Imaginaion can scarcely invent a pretext why the bishop of Rome should exceed the line of his spiritual power by the formal assumption of temporal authority ver independent states. Such, however, has been he magnitude of the power exercised by the ropes, that we are not more: astonished at the arngance and impiety of their decrees, than at the ubject and humiliating submission of emperors, X 3