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Means by which subjugated countries are held in
chains. Protestant ascendency. Code of demoralization, tyranny, oppression, rapine, and murder. Robbery of father, mother, sister, and brother, invited by acts of Parliament. Prohibition of education. Horse thieves excited and protected by law.
IN every subjugated country, there is always a small body of the natives, who make a regular contract, not written, but well understood, and duly carried into effect, by which they sell the nation to its oppressors, and themselves as slaves, for the sorry privilege of tyrannizing over their fellow slaves. This has ever been the surest foundation on which the dominion of one country over another is perpetuated. The base and miserable oligarchs who subserve the interests of the ruling nation, indemnify themselves for the chains which they drag about, by the superior weight and pressure of those they impose.
When the English Henrys overran and subdued France; had the crown placed on their heads, in Paris; and enjoyed a flattering prospect of
permanently securing its descent to their posterity,
it was not by any means through the force of English skill or English valour, though both were of the highest grade at that period, that they achieved the conquest. They had at all times in their armies hosts of traitorous Frenchmen, who paved the way for the conquest and slavery of their country. Such, too, was the Roman policy, -such the means whereby that all-grasping and devastating government extended its empire over the then known world.
But the case of Ireland is probably among the most forcible illustrations of this maxim that history affords. A herd of wretched oligarchs have for centuries existed there, who have bartered their country's dearest rights and interests, for the privilege of trampling down their countrymen, over whom they have exercised the most galling tyranny that the mind of man can conceive.
Whenever an attempt has been made to shake off the yoke of foreign power, to emancipate the nation, this oligarchy has always had its spies, and pimps, and informers, among the friends of their country, by whose agency the attempt was baffled, and the patriots betrayed to the gallows.
“Oh for a tongue to curse the slave,
Whose treason, like a deadly blight,
And blasts them in their hour of might!
With joys, that vanish while he sips,
Like Dead-Sea fruits, that tempt the eye,
But turn to ashes on the lips !
Just Prophet, let the damned one dwell
Beholding heaven, and feeling hell!"500 This oligarchy now styles itself, as we have more than once stated, “ the Protestant ascendency;" and is composed of the professors of the established religion. Its oppression has always extended over the Protestant dissenters, as well as over the Roman Catholics; but with very great disparity of effect. The principal grievance of the Protestant dissenter, which he bears in common with the Catholic, is, that he is obliged to support the ministers of two different religions,— his own and the dominant one. In other respects, he stands on nearly the same ground as the professor of the established religion.
The tyranny exercised by this oligarchy over the Catholics, has displayed itself in the form of a barbarous code of laws, the professed object of which was “to prevent the growth of Popery ;" but the real one, to plunder those on whom they were to operate, of their property, and to divest
560 Lalla Rookh.
them of their most sacred rights and privileges; and the direct effect of which was to demoralize the nation ; to reduce it to a state of the most deplorable wretchedness and misery, not exceeded throughout the wide world ; and to legalize an odious system of rapine and fraud.
“ Just Alla! what must be thy look,
When such a wretch before thee stands
Turning the leaves with blood-stained hands,
Which from the sunniest flowers that glad
Draw venom forth that drives men mad !"561 This odious and oppressive system was about a century in maturing. Hardly a session of the Irish Parliament took place, in which there was not devised some new penalty, some new forfeiture, or some new disqualification, to crush, to prey on, and to immolate the wretched Roman Catholics. The utmost ingenuity of fraud and rapine was constantly tortured, to add to the weight of their clanking chains.
The most odious and wicked provisions of this code have been repealed; and an opinion too generally prevails, that it is nearly annihilated. This is a most egregious error. There are numberless harassing and vexatious disqualifications and incapacities still in full force. There is a
561 Lalla Rookh,
most valuable volume now before us, of above three hundred and fifty pages, which contains a detail of those disqualifications, and is wholly confined to that subject. It was our intention to have given a sketch of them; but our limits forbid the fulfilment of this purpose.
Various causes conspired to produce the salutary effect of mitigating the severity of this vile code. The first stroke it received arose from the spirit of volunteering in Ireland, which was the con
quence of the declared inability of the British government to protect that country, during the war against the United States, France, Spain, and Holland. Every description of religionists mixed in the ranks of the volunteers, which gave rise to an enlarged and liberal spirit of national feeling. The Irish Catholic and the Irish Protestant, as well as the Protestant dissenter, were amalgamated into one common mass of friends to their common country. Many links of the chains of the nation at large, as well as of the proscribed Catholics, were then knocked off. The increasing liberality of the age has successively removed others. But it is disgraceful and dishonourable, that much remains yet to be done.
It may be thought a work of supererogation, at this time, to revive the remembrance of a code so odious, so detestable, and so infamous. But this work would be very incomplete, and the reader would have a very imperfect idea of the state of Ireland, and the horrible tyranny under which