Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

The situation of Ireland, in respect to strength, opulence, u prosperity and happiness, was never a subject of exultation or

praise to the humane or reflecting mind. Her destitution of every manufacture but one, her fisheries unexplored, her noble harbours unoccupied, her navigable rivers unheeded, her inland improvements neglected, her unreclaimed bogs and mountains, her uncultivated fields, her unemployed, houseless, starved, un. educated peasantry, had been long the theme of sorrow to the patriot, and of contempt to the unfeeling. That her situation, in many of these respects, had greatly improved within the ten preceding years, could not admit of doubt; but enough still remained to excite considerable discontents in a suffering people, and to deserve the most serious attention from an honest government. Whatever

may

have been the amount of those grievances, they gave rise to very opposite opinions, as to their cause,

Some supposed--what has also been asserted of the negro race--that the Irish were an inferior, semibrutal people, incapable of managing the affairs of their country, and submitted, by the necessity of their nature, to some superior power, from whose interference and strength they must exclusively derive their domestic tranquility, as well as their foreign protection ; and to whose bounty they must owe whatever they can enjoy of trade, commerce, comfort or opulence. Those who enter. tained this opinion, said, that from the insignificant extent and unfortunate locality of Ireland, she was doomed to be dependent either on England or France ; and that, of course, not only gratitude, but policy should make her cling to that state, with whom her interests had been interwoven for

‘and from whose fostering protection she had derived her civil and religiouş liberty, together with all the blessings of which she could boast. These assertions, both of a natural inferiority, and of the immu. table necessity of submission, which had been for ages not uncommon in England, chiefly found their Irish advocates in those who might lay claim to be regenerated by the force of English connexiong and habits, or who, at least, felt themselves qualified, by a peculiar felicity of exception, to fill the offices and enjoy the emoluments of the Irish government.

ages,

connexions

Others, however, whose pride, perhaps, would not permit them to allow a natural inferiority, asserted, that the source of Ireland's misfortunes was to be traced back to remote antiquity. " History, and a knowledge of her laws and government enable

us,” they said, “ to detect the cause of all her calamities. & She was subdued and ruled by the sword; she was depopu#lated by the ravages of war, and wasted by perpetual and « bloody conflicts between settlers and natives ; she was occa6 sionally tranquilised by despoiling from a fresh portion of “ the aboriginal inhabitants, their hereditary properties; and “ repeopled through confiscation and forfeitures. Even the « Reformation itself, by which so many other countries were il. · lustrated and improved, was made an instrument for bruta. « lizing Ireland. Without consulting the opinions of the Irish; « without compassionating or endeavouring by reason to dispel “their errors ; without affording means of improvement, or time “ for those means to operate, their religion was regulated by act “ of parliament, to the precise standard of English faith. Al

though the natives entirely rejected, and scarcely any, even of & the settlers, adopted these new tenets, yet, by force of the act " of uniformity, every man was compelled to attend on, and “ conform to the Protestant worship ; while, by force of a royal “ proclamation, every man was interdicted the exercise of the “ Catholic religion, its clergy were banished, and the severest

penalties denounced against those who dared to give them hoge “ pitality or shelter. Nor was this all, a code of disfranchise« ment, robbery, persécution, oppression and debasement was « further, and in more civilized times, erected as a buttress to “ what might in mockery have been called, the church of Ireland. « The inhabitants of that devoted country, in name a nation, in

fact a province planted with a colony-were studiously kept

[ocr errors]

" at

* at variance and distracted by civil and religious pretexts, that “ they might never coalesce for the attainment of national objects. “ Her government was permitted to extend over the land, only “ in proportion as the English pale was widened ; and even then, “ its members, for the most part, from their birth or dispositions, “ its feelings, legislation and ordinances, were entirely English. “ Whenever a clashing of interests between the two isles was per« ceived or apprehended, Ireland was forced to yield to the over“ bearing ascendancy of an insatiable and jealous rival. Her

commerce was fettered, her manufactures surrendered, her raw “ materials delivered over, her population drained, her resources “ exhausted, her agriculture neglected—all to aggrandize the

power from which her government was derived, and with which “ her governors are connected.

If, in one instance, a brilliant exception cheers the afflicted

memory, to what is it to be attributed—to the military array “ of Ireland to the transitory display of something like na“ tional energy in the Irish people-to the alarm of England “ to the panic of its government, lest another oppressed province “ should imitate the example of America, and assert its indepen" dence, in alliance with France. The restrictions on the Irish “ trade were repealed by the English parliament itself, in « the moment of consternation and weakness : their removal

was not a gift from liberality or affection, but a restoration « from fear. Even the constitutional arrangements of 1782, in“ significant as subsequent experience has shewn them to be, “ were solely produced by the momentary influence of the Irish people, on the English government. The parliament of Ire. “ land constantly resisted every proposal for asserting the na“tional independence, so long as that resistance was agreeable “ to the ministers of England; nor did its cameleon colour « change, until the object on which its undeviating eyes were “ fixed had assumed a short-lived splendour.

“ Those

1

“ Those arrangements, however, gave to Ireland no more " than the meer name of independence. She is still a province, “ and still destitute of a national government. Her rulers are “ English, and totally divested of all kind of Irish responsibility. “ Her legislature is devoted to the English ministry, and practie “cally unconnected with the Irish nation. On the lords it “ would be absurd to bestow a thought ; nor are the commons “ deserving of more attention. Three-fourths of the people are “ formally excluded, by the Catholic laws, from being counted among

their constituents; and the other fourth is but as dust “ in the balance. Exclusive of private adventurers in the polie 6 tical market, about thirty individuals, principally lords, pos“sess the power of returning a majority in the house of com« mons, and even two-thirds of the representation are engrossed sc by less than one hundred persons. These wholesale dealers as “ regularly sell their members as a country grazier does his cate “ tle, and the steady purchaser is the British agent. Such is « the Irish government.

“ As to inferiority of nature," added they, “it is peculiarly « absurd, when asserted of a people composed of settlers from “ so many different countries. It is obviously false of the Irish, “ who, even at home, though deprived of whatever stimulus to

genius or industry may result from trade and commerce ; “ though nearly interdicted from education by law, and for the “ most part, debarred from it by poverty ; though brayed and “ crushed under the weight of so many vicious institutions, yet “ show themselves sagacious, brave, warm-hearted and enter“prising: but when abroad, they are released from the op

pressions of their native land, and can enter into the career of “ fair and honourable competition; then, even unsupported by & interest or connexions, they prove themselves worthy of the “ utmost confidence, and of the highest distinctions in council “ and in the field.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ As to the natural necessity of seeking protection from a « superior state, it is scarcely credible," said they,“ of a country « which is intersected with navigable rivers and indented with

the finest bays; which is blest with a temperate climate, a * diversified and fruitful soil, productive mines and inexhaustible (< fisheries; which is also situated in one of the most advan

tageous points for universal commerce, particulariy since the 6 rapidly encreasing demands of America, seem to open an in. e calculable market. The assertion cannot be true of a coun

try, which, in itself protected by its insular situation, contains

19,000 square miles : which, by being sacrificed' to the ag« grandisement of England, and turned into its best markets « instead of its most formidable competitor, has probably en““ creased the capital and opulence of that kingdom by almost “ one third ; which, notwithstanding repeated wars, constant “ emigrations, and the want of trade, manufactures, or agricul« ture, has been able to create and support a population of " five millions; which furnishes to Europe some of her most “ distinguished officers, to the British army about one half of « its soldiers, and to her navy almost two thirds of its seamen ; 6 and which, after paying the expences of its own extravagant “ government, and many useless establishments, is able to pour “ without reserve or return, four millions annually into the lap “ of Britain--even perhaps an infinitely larger sum, if a fair ess timate could be made of the enormous rents, unproductively « remitted to Irish absentees--and of the losses, that Ireland still u sustains, to the benefit of England, by the slowly disappearing 6 effects of those commercial restrailits, which for a century, an*5 nihilated her trade, in every article but linen ; and which, by, • their surviving consequences, still continue to surrender her fo“ reign and domestic markets to a country, in patural produc• tions, as well as in every commercial and manufacturing point " of view, essentially her rival."

Scarcely aify, however, of those who entertained these senti

ments,

« ÖncekiDevam »