« ForrigeFortsæt »
FROM THE ACCESSION OF QUEEN VICTORIA TO THE DEATH
OF DANIEL O'CONNELL. A.D. 1837 TO A.D. 1847.
The propriety of introducing a poor law into Ireland had long been discussed. The frequent recurrence of years of famine pleaded strongly for the interference of the Legislature. At length, in 1838, a Poor Law bill obtained the sanction of the Legislature. Under this Act workhouses were built, and Boards of Guardians were entrusted with their management. Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian chaplains formed part of the staff of these establishments. The chaplains were provided and paid, under the direction of Government Commissioners appointed to superintend the whole machinery
The Irish Temperance Reform, inaugurated in 1829 by Professor Edgar, of Belfast, continued to make progress; and, from the first, the members of the Society of Friends took a deep interest in its advancement. A Quaker named William Martin, who carried on business at Cork, was one of its most zealous advocates. In the same city lived the Rev. Theobald Mathew-a Capuchin Friar, of respectable lineage, well known to the whole community. Father Mathew was recommended by a handsome person, pleasing manners, and a
i The Act entitled, “An Act for the More Effectual Relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland,” is the Ist and 2nd of Victoria, chap. Ivi. A report on the state of the poor in Ireland, in 1836, stated that there were 2,385,000 persons in the country in sufficiently provided with the common necessaries of life, and requiring relief for thirty weeks in the year, owing to want of work.- Memoir of Drummond, by McLennan, p. 308.
wonderful amount of the milk of human kindness.
He delighted to go in and out among the poor; and no scene of squalor or infection could repel his approach. In 1832— when cholera appeared in Cork and swept away many of the population-Father Mathew signalized himself by the untiring devotion with which he ministered to the wants of the sufferers. With the utmost fearlessness and assiduity, he visited the hospitals and other places where the plague was raging; and, on a certain occasion, when the attendantssupposing life to be extinct—had carried away the body of a young man to the dead house, and were about to nail up the coffin, the good friar, suspecting a mistake, followed them into the apartment where corpses ready for interment lay all around; discovered that the heart had not ceased to beat; and saved the patient from being buried alive !1 It was not extraordinary that the Capuchin was a universal favourite. William Martin marked his growing influence; admired his philanthropy; and cultivated his acquaintance. It occurred to the shrewd Quaker that he would confer a signal benefit on society, could he induce Father Mathew to become the leader of the Temperance Reformation. He did not fail to urge his views as often as he had an opportunity ; and he eventually succeeded. One evening, in the beginning of April, 1838, he was invited to visit his clerical friend at his own residence; and, when he arrived, he heard the welcome announcement that his assistance was required to organize a Temperance Association.
On the oth of April, 1838, the Society, with Father Mathew as President, was formally established. Its members were pledged to abstain entirely from all intoxicating liquors. The use of a large covered building-known as the Horse Bazaar-capable of containing 4,000 persons, was soon secured ; and there, from time to time, the advocates of the cause, in the presence of immense auditories, expounded and enforced their principles. Their success far exceeded expec
1 Father Mathew. A Biography by John Francis Maguire, M.P., London, 1864.
• Maguire's Father Mathew, p. 106.
tation. The President, who had now reached the mature age of forty-eight, had long been a public favourite ; he was regarded by the bulk of the people with deep reverence; and multitudes were prepared to look approvingly on any scheme which he patronized. In three months the members amounted to 25,000; in five months, to 130,000; in nine months, to upwards of 150,000; and before the close of January, 1839, they had increased to 200,000. Many from distant places travelled on foot all the way to Cork to take the pledge; it was administered to every one by the President himself; and not a few, on their return home, could tell wonderful tales of his sanctity, affability, and kindness. He disclaimed the power of working miracles; but the whole community, as if by some mysterious influence, was thrown into a fever of excitement; and crowds refused to believe that he had no supernatural endowments. In many localities his adherents provided themselves with drums, fifes, and other instruments of sound; and on festive occasions, the temperance band entertained the company with rude and boisterous music. Father Mathew distributed medals—a few of silver, but most of less costly metal—to the initiated; and these badges of membership were preserved with peculiar care by his admiring disciples. His fame rapidly extended; the inhabitants of cities and towns all over the island solicited his presence; and he visited almost every part of Ireland on his mission as the apostle of temperance. In a few years he gave the pledge to perhaps two millions of the Irish people.
The career of Father Matthew is, in many ways, remarkable.
1 Maguire's Father Mathew, pp. 113, 120.
Maguire, pp. 140, 141, 261. According to Dr. Barter, a medical gentleman, in whose establishment he resided for some months, Father Mathew possessed in a large degree the power of animal magnetism. On this principle, Dr. Barter accounts for many of his cures. Maguire, p. 530-1. His touch, or the imposition of his hand seems, in some cases, to have had a beneficial effect on the nervous system of invalids. The power of imagination over many forms of disease is well known.
Maguire, pp. 137, 309, 313 ; Pictorial History of England, vii. 500-1. On the occasion of a visit to Waterford, no less than 80,000 persons, in three days, received the pledge at his hands. Maguire, p. 134.
His labours affected the revenue of Ireland ; as the consumption of ardent spirits soon prodigiously diminished. From 1839 to 1843 the sale of whiskey decreased from twelve millions to little more than five millions of gallons. At the same time the statistics of crime exhibited a wonderful improvement. A disciple of Father Mathew rarely appeared before the judge or assistant barrister, at the assizes or quarter sessions. There was a large increase, during the very first year, in the depositors at the savings banks; and in thousands of cases the dwellings of the humbler classes revealed an appearance of comfort which they had never before presented. Distilleries were obliged to give up business ;; and many who were engaged in the spirit trade found themselves suddenly bankrupt. Almost all who took the pledge from Father Mathew belonged to the Church of Rome; but he wished it to be distinctly understood that the movement was not connected either with Popery or politics; and on one occasion, when Daniel O'Connell joined a Temperance procession in Cork, the good friar was considerably annoyed; as he did not wish to identify his mission with the proceedings of the chief of Derrynane. Shortly afterwards, when “the monster meetings" for the repeal of the Union were held throughout Ireland, and when tens or hundreds of thousands assembled in obedience to the summons of the great Agitator, the effects of the Temperance Reformation were impressively displayed. The immense multitudes, with their Temperance Bands, and without one drunken man among them, marched to the chosen ground; performed their respective parts in the demonstration; and, without committing any acts of violence, returned to their homes in peace.
Had it not been for the labours of Father Mathew, such results would have been impossible.
The marvellous change now brought about in the habits of so many of the Irish people, had no claim to the character of a religious reformation. Those who joined the Temperance
Maguire, p. 202. See a somewhat different statement, but rather strorger, in the Pictorial History of England, vii. 502.
? Pictorial History of England, vii. 502. 3 Ibid. vii. 501.
Maguire, pp. 231, 234.
Society remained as ignorant, as superstitious, and as unsanctified as ever. Father Mathew administered the pledge to many who, at the time, were in a state of inebriety ;' and yet, strange to say, not a few of them long adhered to their engagement. They had an idea that some terrible evil would befall them if they did not keep a vow made before the holy priest ; and the multitudes, who crowded simultaneously into the association, stimulated each other to fidelity. But a revolution, accomplished under such circumstances, wanted the elements of permanence. Some persevered in their abstinence from strong drink; and current delusions respecting the virtues of whiskey were dissipated; but, in the end, the masses returned to their wonted indulgence. In many parts of the country, when a few years had passed away, the good fruits of the labours of the Apostle of Temperance could scarcely be recognized.
About the time when Father Mathew entered on his Temperance career, the British Legislature gave its sanction to a measure which put an end to the disturbances connected with the collection of tithes in Ireland. This Act? changed the tithe into a rent charge-payable to the incumbent of the parish by the landlord; so that the occupiers of the soil could not henceforward come into collision with rectors or tithe proctors. The landlord was entitled to expect a corresponding increase of rent from his tenantry; but they were relieved from the annoyance of a separate claim from the Protestant parson ; and they were no longer subject to the irritation, created by the demand of payment for clerical services, of which they did not feel at liberty to avail themselves. As most of the Irish landlords were members of the Established Church, they could not well object to the arrangement-more especially as it conferred on them a pecuniary benefit ; for, in consideration of the increased security and comfort of the new mode of payment, the incumbent was required to submit to a reduction of 25 per cent from his previous income. In
1 Maguire, pp. 122, 135, 136.
? The ist and 2nd of Victoria, chap. cix. “An Act to Abolish Composition sor Tithes in Ireland, and to Substitute Rent Charge in lieu thereof."
3 Under the same Act Government was empowered to advance to incumhents