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268 Suicide almost unknown among them.
adversary with as much readiness as he fought him he respected the courage which aimed at his own life; and the strongest friendships were sometimes formed, and frequently regenerated, on the field of battle. It is natural to suppose that this practice should have been noticed and perhaps exaggerated by the English people, whose long enjoyment of police and of industry had endowed them with less punctilious and much more discreet propensities.
"The cowardly crime of suicide, however, which prevailed and prevails so extensively throughout England, was almost unknown among the Irish gentry. Circumstances which would plunge an Englishman into a state of mortal despondency would only rouse the energies of an Irishman to bound over his misfortunes: under every pressure, in every station, in every climate, a lightness of heart and openness of disposition distinguishes him from the inhabitants of every other country.
"A circumstance, not unfrequently injurious to the concerns of Ireland, was that influence which the imposing condescensions of superior rank, and the flattering professions of power and of interest, occasionally acquired over the natural independence of the Irish gentry. This partial imbecillity of mind was but too well ascertained, and often too successfully practised upon, for the political purposes of artful governments; and on that interesting occasion, when every weapon,
Many noble qualities in their nature. 169 which the ingenuity of man could invent, was used to impose the Union on a reluctant people, it will be seen that Ireland lost the active exertions of many a zealous friend, through the insidious blandishments of a noble visitor.
"But this paralysing weakness was far from being universal: numerous instances will occur in the course of this memoir, where the public and individual spirit and integrity of the Irish gentry were tried to their full extent, and proved to be invincible: the reader will see exhibited frequent examples of patriotism too precious to be forgotten, and which it would be ungrateful to the individual, and injustice to the country, not to distinguish and commemorate.
"On the whole of their characters, the Irish gentry, though far from being faultless, had many noble qualities: generous, hospitable, friendly, brave, but careless, prodigal, and indiscreet, they possessed the materials of distinguished men with the propensities of obscure ones; and by their openness and sincerity, too. frequently became the dupes of artifice and the victims of dissimulation.
Among the highest orders of the Irish people the distinguishing features of national character had been long wearing away, and becoming less prominent and remarkable. The manners of the nobility, in almost every European country, verge to one common centre: by the similarity of their education and society they acquire similar habits,
Character of the Irish.
and a constant intercourse with courts clothes their address and language, as it does their persons, in one peculiar garb-disguising the strong points, and concealing the native traits, of their original characters.
"In Ireland the nobility were then in number comparatively few: the policy which the British minister soon afterward so liberally adopted, of diminishing the weight and resistance of the commons by removing their leaders into the lords, had not yet been extensively practised in Ireland."
As the course of this history is now fast approaching to our own times, when it will embrace the conduct of individuals yet living, measures yet operating, and the sufferings as well as the errors of a people still exciting so large a portion of our attention, it could be no improper introduction to such a period, to present the character of that people, drawn by the pen of one who has studied them attentively, and who has viewed their peculiarities in reference to the political institutions and prosperity of the country itself.
Importance of the reign of William. 271
Reign of William-The great importance of this period in reference to the subsequent events of Irish history-Proceedings of the Lord Sydney as Lord-lieutenant of Ireland-Various penal statutes passed against the catholics-The articles of Kilkenny violated by William's ministers-The tolerant disposition of William thwarted by his parliament-History of the seeret proclamation-Attempts of the English government to legislate for Ireland-Resisted by the Irish parliament.
WE have now arrived at that epoch of Trish history when all the events connected with it deserve our serious attention, not only from their own importance, but from the intimate connection which they have with the subsequent periods. Almost all the great leading features of her political character, which occupied the attention of her legislature and of England during the last fifty years, had their origin in the preceding fifty; and no person who wishes thoroughly to understand the struggles for liberty which Ireland successfully made under George III. can neglect the causes and progress of that servitude which began
272 Conduct of England towards Ireland.
under William, promoted by Anne, and was continued under the first two monarchs of the house of Hanover.
The Revolution of 1688, which produced so much good to England, was the source of little advantage to Ireland. That liberty which we so zealously and so nobly acquired for ourselves we refused to communicate to others; and while we revelled in the luxuries of political and civil freedom, we were forging chains, in all the insolence of conquest, for the sister kingdom. Some excuse indeed may be found in the circumstances under which Ireland then appeared. Her catholic population had fought against that liberty which the Revolution was intended to restore and confirm; and the unabated zeal with which the cause of the abdicated and bigoted monarch was upheld in Ireland could not be supposed the most effectual means of securing the protection and favour of the Whig party in England. Personal prejudices have commonly more effect in directing political measures than so.ne theorists scein willing to suppose; and yet, with every allowance for the influence of those prejudices, it cannot be denied, that we legislated for Ireland rather in the spirit of subjection than of conciliation. The great and comprehensive mind of Burke took a just and philosophical view of this period of Irish history.
By the total reduction," says he, in his Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, "of the kingdom of Ireland in 1691, the ruin of the native Irish, and