« AnkstesnisTęsti »
of wheat, beef, butter, &c., worth, we should suppose, at least, four millions sterling, per annum, now sent out of Ireland to pay absentee landlords, that country receives no return except receipts for rent. The hungry population of Ireland are doomed to stand idly by, and see a vast proportion (probably not less than onehalf) of the whole produce of the country exported from its different harbors, to be expended, by absentee landlords, on foreign domestics and artisans. The meal is taken away, while the mouths into which it ought to go are left behind."
The evil complained of may be considered as owing, in some degree, to the history of landed property in Ireland. Nearly the whole of the land in Ireland has been confiscated, at different periods, and some of it several times over, under the pretext of treason or rebellion, in the native occupants or their chiefs, against the English government. Confiscated lands are considered in England, as our readers know, as the property of the crown, and the Irish lands were granted in immense tracts to favorites, generally to Englishmen.
A great portion of the new proprietors were absentees; and their Irish estates were managed by agents, or middlemen, and commonly let in small parcels; the most valuable part of the produce having to be sent out of the kingdom on account of the absentee landlords, leaving the tenant a bare subsistence, and that, commonly, a very poor one.
The common practice of the great proprietors of Irish estates is very different from that of English landlords. The former build ‘no houses for their tenants, expend no money, and make no improvements on their lands. The rent is paid for the natural power of the soil, without any expense to the owner.
It appears from the latest accounts that much land in Ireland, heretofore cultivated, has been recently abandoned and left entirely waste. This is the case with more than one hundred thousand acres in the single county of Mayo. The taxes, and especially the enormous pauper-rates, have driven off the farmers, who, with what personal property they can save, are emigrating. “In parts of this county,” says one of the poor-law inspectors, “ so wasted are the people by want and disease, that an able-bodied man is hardly to be seen.”
It has been lately stated in Parliament that the expense for the support of the paupers was much reduced, in consequence of the great diminution of the population by conflagration and disease.
There must be some great defects in the government and social state of a community, when such things are seen in so fine a country as Ireland.
The Established Church of Ireland, maintained as it is, may justly be considered a great grievance to the Catholics. Archbishop Magee, in his charge to his clergy, says that the Presbyterians have a religion without a church, and the Catholics a church without a religion ; the Episcopal establishment happily combines the advantages of both a church and a religion! An advantage, not mentioned by the worthy prelate, is that of having all the wealth appropriated by the state to the support of religion, and of being one of the richest churches in Christendom. In Ireland, the Protestant church has the tithes, and the Catholic church the people. The one has all the church's wealth, but all the moral and religious instruction received by five-sixths of the people comes from the other. The annual income of the Established Church in Ireland is said, upon good authority, to have been about one million pounds; the annual average of the benefices to be eight hundred pounds. Three archbishops, having no property originally, have died within a few years, leaving no less a sum than eight hundred thousand pounds. One might suppose that these wealthy prelates were of opinion either that godliness is great gain, or that great gain is godliness.
It may be truly said that the Irish Catholics have never, or but very imperfectly, enjoyed the protection of law. They have generally, at least until a recent period, known government and law only as enemies, until they have come habitually to regard them as such.
How should they do otherwise ? That collection of statutes called the “ Popery Code," passed in the reigns of William and Anne, was specially directed against the Catholics, comprising from three-fourths to seven-eighths of the inhabitants. The great object plainly was to deprive of their property all Catholics who had any, and to prevent them, and all other Catholics, from acquiring any property in future. So rapidly was this effect produced that Burke supposes that the Catholics, comprising such a vast majority of the people, had not one-twentieth part of the property in Ireland.
Dean Swift describes, with much coolness, the condition of the Irish Catholics in his time :
“ We look upon them to be altogether as inconsiderable as the women and children. Their lands are almost entirely taken from them, and they are rendered incapable of acquiring any more ; and, for the little that remains, provision is made by the late act against Popery that it will daily crumble away. In the mean time, the common people, without leaders, without discipline or natural courage, being little better than hewers of wood and drawers of water, are out of all capacity of doing any mischief, if they were ever so well inclined.”
So far as the object of the Popery Code was to convert the Irish to the Protestant faith, there never was a more complete failure, the proportion of Catholics being much larger now than when the Code was enacted.
The successive confiscations of landed property in Ireland are probably without a parallel in any other country. In addition to those that took place before, the various confiscations during the reigns of the Stuarts, and in the time of the Commonwealth, amounted to nearly or quite as many acres as are contained in the island.
In the political contests of the English nations, whatever course was taken by the Irish, they seem in general to have been considered as rebels by the party in power, whether royalists or republicans, and treated accordingly. One of the largest confiscations was in the time of the Commonwealth, and the land was parcelled out by Cromwell among his soldiers.
When the English Revolution came, another large confiscation took place, and the Irish, for adhering to King James the Second, whom the English had set over them, were deemed rebels and traitors to William and Mary. Most of the confiscations were for treason, charged to have been committed the very day that the Prince and Princess of Orange accepted the crown, though the news of that event could not possibly have reached Ireland on the same day, and the Lord Lieutenant of James was then in Ireland, with an army, and in possession of the government.
It is admitted by all writers that the poverty, wretchedness, and suffering of the people are without a parallel.
It has been also admitted, with nearly the same unanimity, that their miserable condition was owing to the oppression and misgovernment of that unfortunate country by England, for nearly seven centuries past, or ever since the connection of the two countries. On this point, we believe there has been little or no difference of opinion. All parties — Tories, Whigs, and Radicals; Englishmen and Irishmen; Protestants and Catholics ; Episcopalians and Dissenters; who agreed in hardly any thing else --- were unanimous in opinion as to the tyranny practised on the Irish people, or on the great majority, amounting to five-sixths of the population, that it was without example in any state in Christendom. Not only Whig and Radical publications, but the London Quarterly Review and other Tory organs have concurred on this point. Quotations abundantly proving this might be made.
But, lately, a different tone has been assumed by the Quarterly Review, and it has just been discovered that, though the English have generally acquiesced in the charges of misgovernment of Ireland, yet that they are totally unfounded; that England has been, in fact, the great benefactor of Ireland :
“ The better we love the real Ireland, the more strong is our conviction of the duty of endeavoring to rescue her from the deplorable extremity to which she has been reduced, not more, we are satisfied, by the unexpected inflictions of Providence than by the extravagant, the almost incredible obstinacy, apathy, and perversity of her own people.
“And why should we hesitate to tell the truth? The Irish patriots, as they call themselves, accuse England of all the misfortunes and miseries of Ireland. Even the other day, when we sent them ten millions of alms, they told us it was only a paltry, ungracious, and forced restitution of a long series of robberies; and whenever they are driven to admit that there is any thing wrong, either in the habits or feelings of their countrymen, they compensate the reluctant avowal by charging it all on the selfish policy and jealous tyranny of England. Why, therefore, are we not to retaliate on such wild misrepresentations by statements of the sober truth? Why are we not to insist on a fact, — notorious to all who are not blinded by national vanity or deceived by popular declamation and delusion, — namely, that all of civilization, arts, comfort, wealth that Ireland enjoys, she owes exclusively to England, — all her absurdities, errors, misery, she owes to herself, — and not accidentally, but by a dogged and unaccountable obstinacy in rejecting not merely the counsels, not merely the example of England, but in disputing, thwarting, and intentionally defeating all the attempts that England and Englishmen have, with most patient and prodigal generosity, been for nearly a century, and especially for the last fifty years, making for her advantage? This unfortunate result is mainly attributable to that confusion of ideas, that instability of purpose, and, above all, that reluctance to steady work, which are indubitable features of the national character; but also, no doubt, in a most important degree, to the adverse influence of the Roman Catholic priests, who have always been jealous of any improvement or instruction, even in the ordinary arts of life, proffered by the Saxon, which they — not illogically, we must own — have looked on with apprehension as likely to diminish their own influence, and as the probable forerunners of light and education in other directions.”
If the statement of the Quarterly Review is well founded, the prospect of America as well as of England, so far as relates to the Irish, is dismal indeed, and we may well despair of any regeneration. If the Irish, for seven centuries, have obstinately and perversely resisted all the efforts of a wise and paternal government for their improvement, and remain ungrateful for all the lavish generosity of the English, they must be given up as incurable. But if there is reason to agree with most writers on this subject, English as well as others, in ascribing their degradation to persecution, oppression, and misgovernment, then it may be hoped that a different treatment may produce some improvement in their character.
In opposition to the Quarterly Review, we quote the opinion of the Rev. Sydney Smith, so well known in various walks of literature, as expressing substantially, though in pretty strong phrase, the general opinions of both English and Irish writers on this subject :
“We think the conduct of the English to Ireland to have been a system of atrocious cruelty and contemptible meanness. With such a climate, such a soil, and such a people, the inferiority of Ireland to the rest of Europe is directly chargeable to the long wickedness of the English government."
Nothing, we believe, can be more unfounded, and more directly the reverse of the truth, than the statements in the Quarterly Review. Any one who will take the trouble to examine the history of Ireland, during its whole connection with England, will be abundantly satisfied of this. The measures of the English government in relation to Ireland, and especially the laws against Catholics, in operation during nearly the whole of the last century, will go very far towards accounting for the present poverty and degradation of the Irish people, without supposing any peculiar faults in their national character.
We have but little reliable information concerning Ireland prior to the reign of Henry the Second, about the middle of the twelfth century. According to Tacitus, whose information must have been derived chiefly from his father-in-law Agricola, of whom he has left such a beautiful memorial, the inhabitants