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INTRODUCTION.

IN REPUBLISHING the following sketches, which first appeared anonymously many years ago, I am yielding in part to the request of many friends in Ireland and elsewhere who have been good enough to regret the difficulty of procuring them; and in part also to a feeling that at the present moment their appearance might not be wholly useless or inopportune. At a time when the Repeal movement which was suspended by the famine is manifestly reviving; when the establishment of religious equality has removed the old lines of party controversy, and prepared the way for new combinations ; when security of tenure, increased material prosperity, the spread of education, and the approaching triumph of the ballot, have given a new weight and independence to the masses of the people ; and when, at the same time, a disloyalty in some respects of a more malignant type than that of any former period has widely permeated their ranks, it is surely not unadvisable to recall the leading facts of the great struggle of Irish nationality. The present of a nation can only be explained by its past; and in dealing with strong sentiments of disloyalty and discontent, it is of the

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utmost importance to trace the historical causes to which they may be due.

There are no errors in politics more common or more fatal than the political pedantry which estimates institutions exclusively by their abstract merits, without any regard to the special circumstances, wishes, or characters of the nations for which they are intended, and the political materialism which refuses to recognise any of what are called sentimental grievances. Political institutions are tially organic things, and their success depends, not merely on their intrinsic excellence, but also on the degree in which they harmonise with the traditions and convictions, and take root in the affections of the people. Every statesman who is worthy of the name will carefully calculate the effect of his measures upon opinion, will esteem the creation of a strong, healthy, and loyal public spirit one of the highest objects of legislation, and will look upon the diseases of public opinion as among the greatest evils of the State.

There is, perhaps, no government in the world which succeeds more admirably in the functions of eliciting, sustaining, and directing public opinion than that of England. It does not, it is true, escape its full share of hostile criticism, and, indeed, rather signally illustrates the saying of Bacon, that the best governments are always subject to be like the finest crystals, in which every icicle and grain is seen which in a fouler stone is never perceived ;' but whatever charges may be brought against the balance of its powers, or against its legislative efficiency, few men will question its eminent success as an organ of public opinion. In England an even disproportionate amount of the

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national talent takes the direction of politics. The pulse of an energetic national life is felt in every quarter of the land. The debates of Parliament are followed with a warm, constant, and intelligent interest by all sections of the community. It draws all classes within the circle of political interests, and is the centre of a strong and steady patriotism equally removed from the apathy of many continental nations in time of calm, and from their feverish and spasmodic energy in time of excitement. Its decisions, if not instantly accepted, never fail to have a profound and a calming influence on the public mind. It is the safety-valve of the nation. The discontents, the suspicions, the peccant humours that agitate the people find there their vent, their resolution, and their end.

It is impossible, I think, not to be struck by the contrast which in this respect Ireland presents to England. If the one country furnishes us with an admirable example of the action of a healthy public opinion, the other supplies us with the most unequivocal signs of its disease. The Imperial Parliament exercises for Ireland legislative functions, but it is almost powerless upon opinion-it allays no discontent, and attracts no affection. Political talent, which for many years was at least as abundant among Irishmen as in any equally numerous section of the people, has been steadily declining; and the marked decadence in this respect among the representatives of the nation reflects but too truly the absence of public spirit in their constituents. The upper classes have lost their sympathy

. with and their moral ascendency over their tenants, and are thrown for the most part into a policy of mere obstruction. The genuine national enthusiasm never flows in the channel of imperial politics. With great multitudes sectarian considerations have entirely superseded national ones, and their representatives are accustomed systematically to subordinate all party and all political questions to ecclesiastical interests; and while calling themselves Liberals, they make it the main object of their home politics to separate the different classes of their fellow-countrymen during the period of their education, and the main object of their foreign policy to support the temporal power of the Pope. With another and a still larger class the prevailing feeling seems to be an indifference to all Parliamentary proceedings; an utter scepticism about constitutional means of realising their ends; a blind, persistent hatred of England. Every cause is taken up with an enthusiasm exactly proportioned to the degree in which it is supposed to be injurious to English interests. An amount of energy and enthusiasm which if rightly directed would suffice for the political regeneration of Ireland is wasted in the most insane projects of disloyalty; while the diversion of so much public feeling from Parliamentary politics leaves the Parliamentary arena more and more open to corruption, to placehunting, and to imposture.

This picture is in itself a very melancholy one, but there are other circumstances which greatly heighten the effect. In a very ignorant or a very wretched population it is natural that there should be much vague, unreasoning discontent; but the Irish people are at present neither wretched nor ignorant. Their economical condition before the famine was indeed such that it might well have made reasonable men despair. With the land divided into almost microscopic farms, with a population multiplying rapidly to the extreme limits of subsistence, accustomed to the very lowest standard of comfort, and marrying earlier than in any other northern country in Europe, it was idle to look for habits of independence or self-reliance, or for the culture which follows in the train of leisure and comfort. But all this has been changed. A fearful famine and the long-continued strain of emigration have reduced the nation from eight millions to less than five, and have effected, at the price of almost intolerable suffering, a complete economical revolution. The population is now in no degree in excess of the means of subsistence. The rise of wages and prices has diffused comfort through all classes.

The greater part of Ireland has been changing from arable into pasture land, for which it is pre-eminently fitted; and this most important transformation, which almost convulsed English society in the sixteenth century, and elicited the bitterest lamentations from Bacon and More, has been of late years effected in Ireland upon a still larger scale without producing any considerable suffering. It is following in the train of a natural movement of emigration, springing no longer from distress or from landlord tyranny, but partly from a healthy spirit of industrial ambition impelling young men to the great fields of enterprise in the new world with which they are no longer unacquainted, and partly from a feeling of natural affection drawing the older members of a family to the distant homes which their children have established. Probably no country in Europe has advanced so rapidly as Ireland within the last ten years, and the tone of general cheerfulness, the improvement of the houses, the dress, and the

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