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PARNELL AND IRELAND." (E. Review, 1807.)
Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics. By William Parnell, Esquire. Fitzpatrick, Dublin, 1807.
IF ever a nation exhibited symptoms of downright madness, or utter stupidity, we conceive these symptoms may be easily recognised in the conduct of this country upon the Catholic question. A man has a wound in his great toe, and a violent and perilous fever at the same time; and he refuses to take the medicines for the fever, because it will disconcert his toe 1 The mournful and folly-stricken blockhead forgets that his toe cannot survive him; — that if he dies, there can be no digital life apart from him: yet he lingers and fondles over this last part of his body, soothing it madly with little plasters, and anile fomentations, while the neglected fever rages in his entrails, and burns away his whole life. If the comparatively little questions of Establishment are all that this country is capable of discussing or regarding, for God's sake let us remember, that the foreign conquest, which destroys all, destroys this beloved toe also. Pass over freedom, industry, and science — and look upon this great empire, by which we are about to be swallowed up, only as it affects the manner of collecting tithes, and of reading the liturgy — still, if all goes, these must go too; and even, for their interests, it is worth while to conciliate Ireland, to avert the hostility, and to employ the strength of the Catholic population. We plead the question as the sincerest friends to the Establishment;-as wishing to it all the prosperity and duration its warmest advocates can desire, but remembering always, what these advocates seem to forget, that the Establishment cannot be threatened by any danger so great as the perdition of the kingdom in which it is established. We are truly glad to agree so entirely with Mr. Parnell upon this great question; we admire his way of thinking; and most cordially recommend his work to the attention of the public. The general conclusion which he attempts to prove is this;– that religious sentiment, however perverted by bigotry or fanaticism, has always a tendency to moderation; that it seldom assumes any great portion of activity or enthusiasm, except from novelty of opinion, or from opposition, contumely, and persecution, when novelty ceases; that a government has little to fear from any religious sect, except while that sect is new. Give a government only time, and, provided it has the good sense to treat folly with forbearance, it must ultimately prevail. When, therefore, a sect is found, after a lapse of years, to be illdisposed to the Government, we may be certain that Government has widened its separation by marked distinctions, roused its resentment by contumely, or supported its enthusiasm by persecution. The particular conclusion Mr. Parnell attempts to prove is, that the Catholic religion in Ireland had sunk into torpor and inactivity, till Government roused it with the lash : that even then, from the respect and attachment which men are always inclined to show towards Government, there still remained a large body of loyal Catholics; that these only decreased in number from the rapid increase of persecution; and that, after all, the effects which the resentment of the Roman Catholics had in creating rebellions had been very much exaggerated. In support of these two conclusions, Mr. Parnell takes a survey of the history of Ireland, from the conquest under IIenry, to the rebellion under Charles the First,
* I do not retract one syllable (or one iota) of what I have said or written upon the Catholic question. What was wanted for Ireland was emancipation, time and justice, abolition of present wrongs; time for forgetting past wrongs, and that continued and even justice which would make such oblivion wise. It is now only difficult to tranquillise Ireland, before emancipation it was impossible. As to the danger from Catholic doctrines, I must leave such apprehensions to the respectable anility of these realms. I will not meddle with it.
|. very rapidly over the period which preceded the eformation, and dwelling principally upon the various rebellions which broke out in Ireland between the Reformation and the grand rebellion in the reign of Charles the First. The celebrated conquest of Ireland by Henry the Second, extended only to a very few counties in Leinster; nine-tenths of the whole kingdom were left, as he found them, under the dominion of their native princes. The influence of example was as strong in this, as in most other instances; and great numbers of the English settlers who came over under various adventurers, resigned their pretensions to superior civilisation, cast off their lower garments, and lapsed into the nudity and barbarism of the Irish. The limit which divided the possessions of the English settler from those of the native Irish, was called the pale; and the expressions of inhabitants within the pale, and without the pale, were the terms by which the two nations were distinguished. It is almost superfluous to state, that the most bloody and pernicious warfare was carried on upon the borders—sometimes for something—sometimes for nothing—most commonly for cows. The Irish, over whom the sovereigns of England affected a sort of nominal dominion, were entirely governed by their own laws; and so very little connection had they with the justice of the invading country, that it was as lawful to kill an Irishman as it was to kill a badger or a fox. The instances are innumerable, where the defendant has pleaded that the deceased was an Irishman, and that therefore defendant had a right to kill him;-and upon the proof of Hibernicism, acquittal followed of course. When the English army mustered in any great strength, the Irish chieftains would do exterior homage to the English Crown; and they very frequently, by this artifice, averted from their country the miseries of invasion: but they remained completely unsubdued, till the rebellion which took place in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, of which that politic woman availed herself to the complete subjugation of Ireland. In speaking of the Irish about the reign of Elizabeth, or James the First, we must not draw our comparisons from England, but from New Zealand; they were not civilised men, but savages; and if we reason about their conduct, we must reason of them as savages.
“After reading every account of Irish history' (says Mr. Parnell), “one great perplexity appears to remain : How does it happen, that, from the first invasion of the English, till the reign of James I., Ireland seems not to have made the smallest progress in civilisation or wealth ?
‘That it was divided into a number of small principalities, which waged constant war on each other, or that the appointment of the chieftains was elective, do not appear sufficient reasons, although these are the only ones assigned by those who have been at the trouble of considering the subject: neither are the confiscations of property quite sufficient to account for the effect. There have been great confiscations in other countries, and still they have flourished; the petty states of Greece were quite analogous to the chiefries (as they were called) in Ireland; and yet they seemed to flourish almost in proportion to their dissensions. Poland felt the bad effects of an elective monarchy more than any other country; and yet, in point of civilisation, it maintained a very respectable rank among the nations of Europe; but Ireland never, for an instant, made any progress in improvement, till the reign of James I.
‘It is scarcely credible, that in a climate like that of Ireland, and at a period so far advanced in civilisation as the end of Elizabeth's reign, the greater part of the natives should go naked. Yet this is rendered certain by the testimony of an eyewitness, Fynes Moryson. “In the remote parts,” he says, “where the English laws and manners are unknown, the very chief of the Irish, as well men as women, go naked in the winter time, only having their privy parts covered with a rag of linen, and their bodies with a loose mantle. This I speak of my own experience; yet remember that a Bohemian baron coming out of Scotland to us by the north parts of the wild Irish, told me in great earnestness, that he, coming to the house of O'Kane, a great lord amongst them, was met at the door by sixteen women all naked, excepting their loose mantles, whereof eight or ten were very fair; with which strange sight his eyes being dazzled, they led him into the house, and then sitting down by the fire, with crossed legs, like tailors, and so low as could not but offend chaste eyes, desired him to sit down with them. Soon after, O'Kane, the lord of the country, came in all naked, except a loose mantle and shoes, which he put off as soon as he came in ; and, entertaining the Baron after his best manner in the Latin tongue, desired him to put off his apparel, which he thought to be a burden to him, and to sit naked. * “To conclude, men and women at night going to sleep, lie thus naked in a round circle about the fire, with their feet towards it. They fold their heads and their upper parts in woollen mantles, first steeped in water to keep them warm ; for they say, that woollen cloth, wetted, preserves heat (as linen, wetted, preserves cold), when the smoke of their bodies has warmed the woollen cloth.” “The cause of this extreme poverty, and of its long continuance, we must conclude, arose from the peculiar laws of property, which were in force under the Irish dynasties. These laws have been described by most writers as similar to the Kentish custom of gavelkind; and indeed so little attention was paid to the subject, that were it not for the researches of Sir J. Davis, the knowledge of this singular usage would have been entirely lost. “The Brehon law of property, he tells us, was similar to the custom (as the English lawyers term it) of hodge-podge. When any one of the sept died, his lands did not descend to his sons, but were divided among the whole sept ; and, for this purpose, the chief of the sept made a new division of the whole lands belonging to the sept, and gave every one his part according to seniority. So that no man had a property which could descend to his children; and even during his own life, his possession of any particular spot was quite uncertain, being liable to be constantly shuffled and changed by new partitions. The consequence of this was, that there was not a house of brick or stone, among the Irish, down to the reign of Henry VII. ; not even a garden or orchard, or well-fenced or improved field; neither village or town, or in any respect the least provision for posterity. This monstrous custom, so opposite to the natural feelings of mankind, was probably perpetuated by the policy of the chiefs. In the first place, the power of partitioning being lodged in their hands, made them the most absolute of tyrants, being the dispensers of the property as well as of the liberty of their subjects. In the second place, it had the appearance of adding to the number of their savage armies ; for, where there was no improvement or tillage, war was pursued as an occupation. “In the early history of Ireland, we find several instances of chieftains discountenancing tillage; and so late as Elizabeth's reign, Moryson says, that “Sir Neal Garve restrained his