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18

Geographical position of Ireland.

both nations, namely, Ireland and Scotland, came promiscuously to be called Scotland; and even then, all correct writers, in mentioning the two countries, distinguished them by Vetus et Nova Scotia, major or minor, ulterior and citerior." Ireland, in fact, retained the name of Scotia until the 15th century, for at that period it is mentioned as such by foreign writers; but shortly after the appellation of Scotia was appropriated exclusively to modern Scotland, and the ancient name of Hibernia began to reassume its honours. This name, and the Gothic denomination Ireland, are both of them supposed to derive their origin from the native term Erin, which implies the country of the west.

Ireland lies, according to Pinkerton, (Mod. Geog. vol. i. p. 213.) between 51° 19′ and 55° 23′ north latitude, and between 5° 19′ and 10° 28′ west longitude. Its greatest length, measured on a meridian, is from the Stags of Cork harbour, to Bloody Farland Point in the county of Donegal, which comprises a space of about 235 miles; and the greatest breadth, measured nearly on a parallel of latitude, is from the western point of Mayo, to the mouth of Strangford Lough, 182 miles. The breadth, however, is very unequal, in consequence of the deep indentations on the western coast so that Galway and Dublin Bays are not 120 miles distant from each other; and it is computed that there is not a spot in the island more than about 60 miles from the sea. The superficial contents may be estimated at 30,370 square miles,

Original population of the country. 19

or 19,436,000 acres; and the population being about four millions, if we admit the calculations of Pinkerton, there will be about 130 inhabitants to each square mile. More recent estimates, however, fix the population at above five millions, which is probably nearer the actual number; but in the census which was taken in 1802 and in 1812, the population of Ireland was studiously omitted; for what political purpose it is not easy to say. In consequence, however, of the exertion of Sir John Newport, late Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, and the unwearied assertor of the rights of Ireland in the British parliament, some progress will probably be made in fixing this dubious point. The only data upon which we can now go, and that data very uncertain, is the number of houses which there were according to the official return in 1791. They were computed at above 700,000, and allowing six inhabitants only to each house the population would exceed four millions, which, however, is certainly below the actual number.

The original population of Ireland probably passed from Gaul, and was afterwards increased by the emigration of the Guydil from England. Ireland, however, was so much crowded with Celtic tribes, who were expelled from the continent and from Britain by the progress of the German Goths, that the Belgae almost lost their native speech and distinct character.

All antiquarian minuteness would be essentially

20

Modern division into Counties.

foreign to the professed object of this work, whose general purposes of utility will be better attained by an enumeration here of its modern divisions into provinces and counties, rather than by any specification of those obscure ones which are to be derived from an inspection of Ptolemy's map of Ireland. It may be premised, however, that its present division into counties was not completely effected until the reign of Charles I. and that the first survey of the island by Sir William Petty, the result of which was contained in his maps of the several counties, published in 1685, has been the ground-work of all subsequent maps of that country.

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In passing from the modern state of Ireland and its modern divisions, to a rapid view of its ancient history, it may be necessary to observe, that the greatest diversity of opinion prevails upon that subject. While the English writers regard the whole of its traditional, and even its written records of early times with a fastidious degree of incredulity, the native historian never fails to raise both them and the manners of the ancient Irish, as Dr. Leland has observed, to "an illustrious eminence above all the European coun

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Incredulity of British historians.

tries." One reason, perhaps, why this incredulity has been strengthened in British writers may be found in the fact, that none of them were sufficiently masters of the Irish language to understand the authors in their native tongue. I cannot think, however, that the most profound and ingenious knowledge of the vernacular idiom of Ireland could materially tend to strengthen our belief in events and circumstances so strongly marked with a fabulous character as those which belong to the primitive ages of Irish history; nor perhaps could any thing but the bigotry of patriotism wish to claim for them that respect which is denied to the remote transactions of every other nation.

Whoever is acquainted with Irish history, or whoever has had opportunities of mixing with the natives of that country, cannot be ignorant that they claim a descent from a long race of Milesian kings, who reigned over them for 13 centuries before the Christian era, The stock from which this long line of monarchs emanated is traced to a pretended Milesian colony, which is supposed to have emigrated from Spain into Ireland under the conduct of Heremon and Heber. The most rational enquirers, however, into the subject consider it as nothing more than a tissue of imaginary events originating in the fertile fancies of their bards. A very brief and general abstract of this contested part. of Irish history shall be given in the words of Mr. Plowden.

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