Front Page Titles (by Subject) FIRST PART: IRELAND, SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND RELIGIOUS. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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FIRST PART: IRELAND, SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND RELIGIOUS. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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IRELAND, SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND RELIGIOUS.
EXTERNAL APPEARANCE OF IRELAND. MISERY OF ITS INHABITANTS.
Ireland, by a fatal destiny, has been thrown into the ocean near England, to which it seems linked by the same bonds that unite the slave to the master.
Its coasts are high; differing from England, the soil of which, elevated in the centre, gradually falls towards the shores; it exhibits in its midland a vast table-country, of which the surrounding peaks seem to form the borders.
This external conformation explains the short and rapid course of its rivers, which, issuing from the mountains, seem only born to perish instantly, and find their tomb in the depth of the seas by the very side of their source.
Nevertheless, there is one great river in Ireland, such as neither England nor Scotland possesses; this is the Shannon, which, by an extraordinary accident in Ireland, rises in the inner table-land of the country; and thus, placed on a level surface surrounded by eminences, it seems, as it were, imprisoned in a great vase, from which it could not escape save by overflowing. But its privileged waters find no obstacle to their passage; a gentle and almost insensible declivity offers to their course no asperities by which it might be precipitated or suspended. Abundant and flowing near its source, where more feeble streams are exhausted,—majestic and tranquil where other rivers are hurried onwards and lost in torrents, the Shannon, in a course of more than two hundred miles, distributes the benefit of its stream to half of Ireland, and gently advances to the ocean, into which it does not throw itself, but imperceptibly mingles with its waters.
Nature seems to have bestowed its most bounteous gifts on Ireland; she has enriched the bowels of its ground with the most precious metals, poured with lavish hand the most fertile soil in the world over the rock that serves as its base; she has bestowed on its maritime commerce the finest harbours, fourteen of which are fit to receive ships of war; and, as if she had destined the country to high fortunes, she has placed it on the west of our continent as an advanced outpost, the depository of the keys of ocean, charged to open to European vessels the highway to America, and to offer the American vessels the first European harbour.
Having made these rich presents, Nature further laboured to embellish the country; she has traced the forms of its mountains with infinite grace, interspersed its valleys with prairies and lakes, and, covering the whole with a brilliant robe of verdure, has desired that it should be called, in the language of the poet, “Green Erin, the lovely Emerald Isle,”
“First flower of the earth, and first gem of the sea.”
Still, in spite of the ornaments it bears, and the treasure that it contains, Ireland is neither a smiling country nor a prosperous land.
The most beautiful natural prospect wants life when it is not animated by the sun. These beautiful mountains, these immense lakes, these endless meadows, these hills as verdant as the vales, doubtless present the most charming landscapes when accidentally seen under a clear sky; but the atmosphere of Ireland is generally dark and clogged with mists and fogs. The west and south-west winds blow on it almost without intermission; they bring to it the storms1 and tempests of the Atlantic; the ocean masters Ireland, and has sovereign rule over its temperature: it is the tyrant of its climate.2
Formerly Ireland was a vast forest; so powerful was the vegetation there, that it was called “the island of wood.”3 It is now almost destitute of trees; and when, on a fine day in spring, it appears, though bare, full of sap and youth, it seems like a young and lovely girl deprived of her hair.
It is not exactly known at what time and by what process this great destruction was effected. We may, however, be assured that it was before the christian era, and probably at a much more distant date. Some attribute it to an extraordinary inundation, which uprooted the trees, levelled the forests, and buried them in the bosom of the earth. Others, whose opinion is better supported by scientific study, believe that the ruin of the forests was the result of violent storms. When the lofty forests that covered the country were compact and entire, they afforded each other mutual support against the violence of the tempests; but, in proportion as man requiring an open space for his house and field, effected clearances here and there, the trees near those that had been cut down were without support against the fury of the hurricane, and fell before blasts that were previously powerless; every ruin occasioned by a tempest produced a thousand others, rendered more easy as they were multiplied: the work of destruction went on, and all the fallen trunks, descending by the natural declivities to the lakes and the marshy parts of the soil, were stopped on this liquid base, where, heaped one above the other year after year, they were mingled together, some preserving their natural form, others decomposing into vegetable matter, until they formed that spongy, combustible substance, sometimes red and sometimes black, of which the vast turf-bogs of Ireland are composed.4
But the greatest convulsions and most terrible shock to Ireland came not from the ocean, from winds, or from tempests—they were the work of man.
We have seen in the foregoing historical introduction to what cruel sufferings Ireland was subject during the three centuries which followed the landing on her shores of the Anglo-Normans, so prompt to invade, so slow to effect a conquest,—how, whilst Ireland was still palpitating from the struggles of the invasion, she endured the terrible shocks and sanguinary trials of a civil and religious war;—finally, how, after having been mutilated and crushed by the arms of Protestant England, Catholic Ireland endured the tyranny of law. The struggles of the conquest have long ceased; the wars of religion are at an end; persecuting laws have disappeared; and, towards the close of the last century, Ireland commenced a new era of independence. Nevertheless, Ireland is unhappy and poor; all the sources of its misery have not been dried up; and amongst the causes of its misery there are some whose consequences still exist, and are destined to a long duration.
I do not believe that there is any country where a conquest of so distant a date has left impressions at once so old and so vivid. It seems that ages as they roll have not healed one of its scars. The soil is still bleeding with its wounds; everywhere war has left its devastations—everywhere confiscation has struck its blows. It is impossible to travel in Ireland without meeting a ruin which was the witness of some sanguinary struggle; it is scarce possible to stir a step without treading on land which, by the fortune of civil war, has not passed through the hands of three or four sets of possessors, the last of which, remaining master, represents the cause that triumphed. The vanquished may be seen beside the conquerors still full of the recollections of more prosperous times. These fields, they tell you, “belonged to our ancestors; Cromwell gave them to one of his soldiers, who has transmitted them to his children. That castle, now occupied by an English lord, whose nobility is of recent date, was confiscated by William III. from an Irishman of illustrious race and royal blood, whose descendants now till the soil over which their ancestors reigned.”
But the wounds made by the wars of religion are those which are still the deepest and most grievous in Ireland.
Everything in Ireland is mingled with religion; the recollections of its history from the time when it was called the Island of Saints, down to the last century, when it was persecuted for its faith,—the struggles of the conquest,—the revolutions that followed it,—the governments which succeeded it,—its social condition in our days,—the classes and political parties that divide it, the passions that animate it,—the character, the manners, and the intellectual developement of its inhabitants, even the geographical distribution of its territories,—all bear the stamp and impress of religion.
We cannot hope to learn the misfortunes of Ireland without thoroughly understanding Ireland in its religious aspect.
It is divided into two distinct zones, the northern Protestant, the southern and western Catholics; the former is limited to Ulster, the second extends over the other three provinces, Leinster, Munster, and Connaught.
Connaught is, in our days, the type of ancient Ireland. It would seem as if Nature had been anxious to distinguish it from the other provinces. The ocean bounds it on the west, the river Shannon girds it on the south and east, forming it into a peninsula separated from the rest of Ireland. It was thither, in the time of Cromwell, that the unfortunate persons were driven, who had to choose between death and that place of retreat. “To hell or Connaught,” said the tyrant to the proscribed. Those who sought shelter in that wretched land brought with them the ancient faith of their ancestors, their banished religion, their exiled country. Since that time, Connaught has not ceased to be the great focus of Catholic Ireland. Nowhere is the remembrance of the civil wars more vivid—nowhere are the Englishman and the Protestant detested with a hatred more religious and more national.5
The characteristic of the north is not merely that it is Protestant, but that it is puritan: Ulster is the Scotland of Ireland. This province has preserved, in all their bitterness, the old antipapal passions which the settlers of James brought with them, and which the soldiers of Cromwell and William III. revived. The inhabitant of Ulster is not merely separated by a river from the native of Connaught, religion has established a still more powerful barrier; and a great length of time must elapse ere the Scotch puritan of the North of Ireland will regard and treat as brethren the Catholics of Connaught. In Connaught, most of the people speak the primitive language of the country; in Ulster, English (or rather Scotch) is the only language. Ulster is the type of Protestant, and Connaught of Catholic Ireland.
In general, the primitive Irish are Catholics, the English Protestants, attached to the Anglican church, and the Scotch also Protestants, but adopting the Presbyterian ritual.
I have said, that in Ireland everything is mingled with religion, that parties and the state of society bear its imprint. Protestantism, which since the age of Elizabeth has been the creed of the conquerors of Ireland, is the religion of the upper classes. The Protestant is rich, the Catholic poor. In general, the former governs; the latter, consigned to an inferior condition, obeys the Protestant as a political master for whom he labours.
The Protestant religion is a sign both of fortune and of power. Not only is the Catholic poor and the Protestant rich, but each seems to think that such is the natural condition of both; the Catholic accepts his humble destiny, and the Protestant places implicit confidence in his pride of place. The latter, in his relations with the Catholics, displays some of that superiority which Europeans in the colonies exhibit to persons of colour who retain traces of their African descent.
The Protestant is not only a descendant of conquerors, the inheritor of their glory and of their power, established by seven centuries of domination, he believes himself of a race superior to that of the Irish; and as in Ireland religion marks the race, Protestantism is regarded as a species of nobility. This opinion, it is true, grows weaker every day, but sufficient traces of it remain in the mutual relations between Protestants and Catholics to allow of its escaping notice.
The Catholic of Ireland is in that dubious state in which a freedman finds himself when first delivered from servitude, and who makes his first essay of liberty—obliged suddenly to change the manners of a slave, that no longer suit him, for the deportment of a free man, which is as yet unknown. In spite of fact and right, he still regards as his master the person who has been so. Vainly does he protest, by external acts, against this inward sentiment: the cry of conscience, depraved by former servitude, gives him the lie within his own bosom; and sometimes the grossness and insolence which he displays in asserting his equality with the Protestant, serve in reality only to place him below the latter.
Nothing is more rare than to find, with the Irish Catholic, a just appreciation of his actual condition; in his intercourse with Protestants, you will always find him take his ground too high or too low; either, forgetting his emancipation, he offers himself in an humble and obsequious attitude to his former master, or, intoxicated by the victory over his oppressors, he is not contented to be their equal, but wishes to prove himself free by oppressing them in his turn.
There is another circumstance in the social condition of Ireland not less remarkable than this aristocracy of race and creed; that is, the feudal aspect which the country offers in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The government of the English in Ireland has been for the last hundred and fifty years a Protestant aristocracy, grafted on a feudal aristocracy. Great reforms have been made in the laws which established the Protestant ascendency, but the feudal base of the edifice has for the most part remained unshaken.
The country, after the religious confiscations, was divided amongst large proprietors, and has still remained in the possession of their descendants, who have received the large estates of their ancestors entire, under the protection of the laws of primogeniture and entail. These lands are cultivated by the Catholic population, theoretically free to detach itself from the soil, but bound to it as the only means of existence, and in reality in a condition worse than that of the serfs during the middle ages.
This state of things presents only a deceptive analogy with England. In the latter country, as in Ireland, the feudal law, doubtless, keeps the property of the soil in a small number of families, who receive and transmit it without the power of dividing estates; but, by the side of these fortunes derived from land, there have risen fortunes made by industry and commerce; whilst the feudal principle operates to maintain the rich in his wealth and the poor in his misery, the industrial and commercial principle is incessantly at work to displace fortune, to diminish the number of the poor, and to raise new men to wealth. These two rival powers are in a state of incessant war, which leaves no repose to the combatants. The industry which creates is superior to the feudal principle which preserves; the rich, armed with his fruitful land, is vanquished by the activity of an industrious producer; between the lord of the soil and the prolétaire, an infinity of new existence is constantly rising, which collectively forms the middle class. This class is almost unknown in Ireland.
Ireland presents an eternal contrast of riches and poverty, of which it is singularly difficult to form a correct idea.
When the traveller, approaching the Lakes of Killarney, halts near Mucruss Abbey, a double spectacle is offered to his view; on one side, uncultivated plains, barren marshes, monotonous flats on which meagre rushes and rickety firs miserably vegetate; extensive heaths, through which appear here and there some rocks of moderate elevation, whose uniform aspect, destitute even of savage beauty, attests only the poverty of nature; it is impossible to imagine a land more indigent or more desolate.
But on the opposite side a far different scene bursts upon the view; at the foot of a chain of mountains, gracefully divided and separated from each other by a series of lovely lakes, are extended rich and fertile plains, verdant and smiling meadows, forests full of sap and vegetation; here there are cool shades, secret grottos, mysterious shelter; there are open spaces, bold peaks, an horizon without bounds; by the side of silver streams are fields covered with yellow ears of corn; abundance, riches, and beauty everywhere;—everywhere the extraordinary of nature as graceful as she is fruitful. Thus, from the same point may be seen two landscapes absolutely opposite; on one side extreme wealth, on the other extreme wretchedness; it is the image of Ireland.
The traveller in Ireland meets only magnificent castles or miserable hovels; but no edifice holding a middle rank between the palace of the great and the cabins of the lowly; there are only the rich and the poor.
The Catholic of Ireland, or the man of the lower class, finds only one profession within his reach, the culture of the soil; and when he has not the capital necessary to become a farmer, he digs the ground as a day labourer.6 Two-thirds of the English population are industrial or commercial, only about a fourth part is agricultural. In Ireland, less than a fourth part is manufacturing or commercial, more than two-thirds are exclusively devoted to agriculture.7 He who has not a spot of ground to cultivate, dies of famine.
From what has been stated, it may be seen that the incredible variety of classes, ranks, and degrees, which infinitely divide the social scale in England, cannot be found in Ireland, where the limit which separates the aristocrat from the prolétaire is marked by a narrow line, on which no intermediate existence can be placed.
The Protestant in Ireland, who has the privilege of rank, of political power, and of wealth, has likewise the monopoly of education. Until very recent times there existed no primary schools, save for the Protestants; even at the present day, Catholics have not the same advantage as Protestants in the establishments consecrated to the higher branches of education. Thus, whilst everything is calculated to develope the intellectual faculties of the rich, the poor man is abandoned to himself, and left in his ignorance.
It may easily be conceived how these two opposite classes, each constituted on an immutable base, must have developed and extended themselves, the one in the sphere of its power, the other in the circle of its misery and sevitude.
It is necessary to reflect long on what has passed during several centuries; it is necessary to represent the rich and poor following invariably for ages two opposite roads, the one leading to extreme wealth, the other to extreme misery; it is necessary to estimate the logical and necessary results of these two principles, the first of perpetual increase, the second of progressive ruin, fortifying each other, and finding a new power of action in each of their consequences; it is necessary, I say, to meditate long on these causes, to comprehend the excess of luxury to which the Irish aristocracy has reached, and the inveterate leprosy of misery that covers poor Ireland.
The revenues of the rich in Ireland sometimes amount to sums that appear chimerical. In this country of misery, the rich man has made for himself a magnificent destiny: he possesses splendid castles, boundless domains, mountains, parks, forests, lakes, and he sometimes possesses them two or three times over.
Whilst millions of unhappy beings ask every day by what means they shall provide for their most imperious necessities, the rich man inquires by what art he can stimulate a passion in his cloyed soul, or awake the half-extinguished appetite of his pampered body. Does he wish to remove his person, wearied of itself, from one place to another? The finest roads, well able to rival those of England, are at his service. Luxury and riches travel, with all their comforts and all their ostentation, across the suffering and the misery of the country.
Such is Ireland, which was created rich! To see Ireland happy, you must carefully select your point of view, look for some narrow isolated spot, and shut your eyes to all the objects that surround it; but wretched Ireland, on the contrary, bursts upon your view everywhere.
Misery, naked and famishing, that misery which is vagrant, idle, and mendicant, covers the entire country; it shows itself everywhere, and at every hour of the day; it is the first thing you see when you land on the Irish coast, and from that moment it ceases not to be present to your view; sometimes under the aspect of the diseased displaying his sores, sometimes under the form of the pauper scarcely covered by his rags; it follows you everywhere, and besieges you incessantly; you hear its groans and cries in the distance; and if the voice does not excite profound pity, it importunes and terrifies you. This misery seems inherent to the soil, and one of its natural products; like some of those endemic scourges that pollute the atmosphere, it blights everything which approaches it, smites the rich man himself, who cannot, in the midst of his joys, separate himself from the miseries of the poor, and makes vain efforts to rid himself of the vermin which he has produced, and which cling to him.
The physical aspect of the country produces impressions not less saddening. Whilst the feudal castle, after seven centuries, shows itself more rich and brilliant than at its birth, you see here and there wretched habitations mouldering into ruin, destined never to rise again. The number of ruins encountered in travelling through Ireland is perfectly astounding. I speak not of the picturesque ruins produced by the lapse of ages, whose hoary antiquity adorns a country—such ruins still belong to rich Ireland, and are preserved with care as memorials of pride and monuments of antiquity—but I mean the premature ruins produced by misfortune, the wretched cabins abandoned by the miserable tenants, witnessing only to obscure misery, and generally exciting little interest or attention.
But I do not know which is the more sad to see—the abandoned dwelling, or that actually inhabited by the poor Irishman. Imagine four walls of dried mud, which the rain, as it falls, easily restores to its primitive condition; having for its roof a little straw or some sods, for its chimney a hole cut in the roof, or very frequently the door, through which alone the smoke finds an issue. One single apartment contains the father, mother, children, and sometimes a grandfather or grandmother; there is no furniture in this wretched hovel; a single bed of hay or straw serves for the entire family. Five or six half-naked children may be seen crouched near a miserable fire, the ashes of which cover a few potatoes, the sole nourishment of the family. In the midst of all lies a dirty pig, the only thriving inhabitant of the place, for he lives in filth. The presence of the pig in an Irish hovel may at first seem an indication of misery; on the contrary, it is a sign of comparative comfort. Indigence is still more extreme in the hovel where no pig is to be found.
Not far from the cottage extends a little field of an acre or half an acre; it is planted with potatoes; stones heaped on each other, with rushes growing through the interstices, serve it for a fence.
This dwelling is very miserable, still it is not that of the pauper, properly so called; I have just described the dwelling of the Irish farmer and agricultural labourer.
I have already said that there are no small proprietors under the great, and that below the opulent there are none but the poor: but these are wretched in various degrees, and with shades of difference, which I shall endeavour to indicate.
All being poor, the only food they use is the cheapest in the country—potatoes;7 but all do not consume the same quantity: some, and they are the privileged class, eat potatoes three times a day; others, less fortunate, twice; those in a state of indigence only once; there are some still more destitute, who remain one or even two days without receiving the slightest nourishment.8
This life of fasting is cruel, but nevertheless it must be endured under the penalty of still greater evils. He who eats a meal too much, or fasts once too little, is sure to have no clothes; and moreover, this prudence and resignation to suffering are often unavailing.9
Whatever may be the courage of the poor peasant to endure hunger in order to meet other demands, he is in general naked or covered with rags handed down in the family from generation to generation.10
In many poor hovels there is often only one complete suit between two individuals; and hence the priest of the parish is almost always compelled to say several masses on the Sunday. When one of the family has heard an early mass, he returns home, strips off his clothes, and gives them to the other, who goes then to hear the second mass.
I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the condition of unfortunate Ireland. Like the Indian, the Irishman is poor and naked; but he lives in the midst of a society where luxury is eagerly sought, and where wealth is honoured. Like the Indian, he is destitute of the physical comforts which human industry and the commerce of nations procure; but he sees a part of his fellows enjoying the comforts to which he cannot aspire. In the midst of his greatest distress, the Indian preserves a certain independence, which has its dignity and its charms. Though indigent and famished, he is still free in his deserts, and the sense of this liberty alleviates many of his sufferings: the Irishman undergoes the same destitution without possessing the same liberty; he is subject to rules and restrictions of every sort: he is dying of hunger, and restrained by law; a sad condition, which unites all the vices of civilisation to all those of savage life. Without doubt, the Irishman who is about to break his chains, and has faith in futurity, is not quite so much to be bewailed as the Indian or the slave. Still, at the present day, he has neither the liberty of the savage nor the bread of servitude.
I will not undertake to describe all the circumstances and all the phases of Irish misery; from the condition of the poor farmer, who starves himself that his children may have something to eat, down to the labourer, who, less miserable but more degraded, has recourse to mendicancy—from resigned indigence, which is silent in the midst of its sufferings, and sacrifices to that which revolts, and in its violence proceeds to crime.
Irish poverty has a special and exceptional character, which renders its definition difficult, because it can be compared with no other indigence. Irish misery forms a type by itself, of which neither the model nor the imitation can be found anywhere else.
In all countries, more or less, paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers is what never was seen until it was shown in Ireland. To explain the social condition of such a country, it would be only necessary to recount its miseries and its sufferings; the history of the poor is the history of Ireland.
It is necessary to renounce all the notions which in other countries serve to distinguish comfort from poverty, in order to comprehend Irish misery. We are accustomed to call those paupers, who are out of work and driven to beggary. There is not an Irish peasant that abstains from beggary, who is not in want of such a resource. It is impossible to compare the Irish pauper with the pauper of any other country. The independent labourer cannot even be compared with the pauper of England. There is no doubt that the most miserable of English paupers is better fed and clothed than the most prosperous of Irish labourers.
There are sad theories, according to which there is a pretty nearly equal sum of happiness and misery, of comfort and of suffering, in every country; whence it has been inferred, that it is idle to take any thought about evils which man can neither alleviate nor remove. Those who hold such discouraging language, have doubtless never seen the United States nor Ireland; they neither know the country where misery is the common rule, nor the land in which destitution is the exception.
The misery of Ireland descends to degrees unknown elsewhere. The condition which in that country is deemed superior to poverty, would in any other be regarded as a state of frightful distress; the miserable classes in France, whose lot we justly deplore, would in Ireland form a privileged class. And these miseries of the Irish population are not rare accidents; nearly all are permanent, and those which are not permanent are periodic.
Every year, nearly at the same season, the commencement of a famine is announced in Ireland, its progress, its ravages, its decline.
In the month of February, 1838, the French press registered this annual cry of Irish misery, and told the number of persons who, in a single month, had perished by famine. Whether through selfishness or humanity, many persons flattered themselves that the accounts of Irish indigence were exaggerated; and the word famine, employed to describe the misery of Ireland, appeared to them a metaphorical expression for great distress, and not the exact term to express the state of human beings really famishing and perishing from sheer want of food.
It was in England, especially, that persons were pleased to keep themselves in this state of doubt, from which, however, they could be relieved without much difficulty.
In 1727, that is, rather more than a hundred years ago, Primate Boulter, who was the principal agent of the English government, thus wrote from Ireland (to the Duke of Newcastle.)
“Since my arrival in this country (in 1725) famine has not ceased among the poor. There was such a dearth of grain last year, that thousands of families were obliged to quit their dwellings to look for support elsewhere; many hundreds perished.”11
When Bishop Doyle was asked, in 1832, what was the state of the population in the west, he replied, “The people are perishing as usual.”12
In 1817, fevers produced by indigence and famine attacked one million five hundred thousand individuals, of whom sixty-five thousand perished;13 and it was calculated in 1826, that twenty thousand persons were attacked by disease arising from the use of bad food.14
During the important inquiry into the social condition of Ireland, made by the British government in 1835, the following question was addressed by the commissioners to their correspondents in every parish.
“Have you known of any deaths in your parish, during the last three years, arising from urgent want?”
This inquiry established a multitude of deaths, occasioned solely by sheer destitution. Here were wretches manifestly killed by famine, there miserable beings whose end was hastened by misfortune. The former sank from long exhaustion, the latter were victims to famine and disease together.15
It would be a painful task to go through this immense report, which extends to ten folio volumes, some of which contain nine hundred pages, every page, line, and word of which establish Irish misery, but where, nevertheless, all the miseries of Ireland are not reported.
The commissioners entrusted with this inquiry calculate that there are in Ireland nearly three millions of individuals who are subject every year to the chances of absolute destitution. These three millions are not only poor, they are indigent.16 Besides the three millions of paupers, there are millions of unhappy beings, who, as they do not die of famine, are not counted.
The author of this book, to whom such evidence ought to have sufficed, still was anxious to see with his own eyes what his reason hesitated to believe. Twice, in 1835 and 1837, whilst travelling through Ireland, he visited the counties where famine is accustomed to rage with most violence, and he verified the facts. Shall he relate what he saw?—No. There are misfortunes so far beyond the pale of humanity, that human language has no words to represent them. Besides, were he to recal the scenes of sadness and desolation he has witnessed;—to repeat the howlings and yells of despair he has heard;—were he required to relate the anguishing tone of a mother’s voice refusing a portion of food to her famishing children;—and if, in the midst of such extreme misery, he were required to portray the insulting opulence which the rich ostentatiously displayed to all eyes;—the immensity of those demesnes where the hand of man has created artificial waters, vales, and hills;—the magnificence of the lordly palace sustained by columns of the finest marble from Greece or Italy, and which the gold of America, the silks of France, and the tissues of India, vie to decorate;—the splendid residence designed for servants, the still more superb building destined for horses;—all the wonders of art, all the inventions of industry, and all the caprices of vanity, accumulated on a spot where the owner does not even deign to reside, but makes his visits “few and far between;”—the sumptuous and indolent life of the wealthy landlord, who knows nothing of the misery of which he is the author;—never has glanced at it;—does not believe its existence;—draws from the sweat of the industrious poor his 20,000l. a year;—every one of whose senseless and superfluous luxuries represents the ruin or destitution of some unfortunate being;—who every day gives his dogs the food of a hundred families, and leaves those to perish by hunger who support him in this life of luxury and pride;—if the author of this book were required to recal the sinister impressions produced by such contrasts, and the terrible question which such appositions raised in his soul, he feels that the pen would fall from his hands, and that he would not have courage to complete the task which he has undertaken to accomplish.
A BAD ARISTOCRACY IS THE PRIMARY CAUSE OF ALL THE EVILS OF IRELAND.—THE FAULTS OF THIS ARISTOCRACY ARE, THAT IT IS ENGLISH AND PROTESTANT.
We have just seen how wretched is the condition of Ireland. The first anxiety felt at the aspect of such misery is to discover its cause; and this anxiety is the greater, because, in order to remedy an evil, it is necessary to know its origin and nature.
Let us begin, then, by declaring the cause of the ill; we shall afterwards seek the remedy.
It is impossible to observe Ireland attentively, to study its history and its revolutions, to consider its habits, and analyse its laws, without recognising that its misfortunes, to which so many sad accidents and fatal circumstances have contributed, had, and still have, one principal cause,—a cause primary, permanent, radical, which predominates over all others,—and this cause is a bad aristocracy.
All aristocracies founded on conquest and on inequality, doubtless contain many inherent vices, but all do not possess the same, nor in equal number.
Suppose conquerors, who, after the first convulsions of the conquest, were fast endeavouring to efface the memory of it, by mingling with the conquered people, assuming their language, adopting a portion of their habits, appropriating to themselves most of their laws, and practising the same forms of religious worship; suppose that these conquerors, formed into a feudal society, having to struggle against powerful and tyrannical kings, sought an auxiliary in the conquered population; and that afterwards, united by the bonds of mutual interest, the conquerors and conquered blended their cause in struggling against the common enemy; suppose that these struggles lasted during several centuries, and that the lords in their quarrels with the kings never failed to make stipulations in favour of the rights of the people whenever they conquered privileges for themselves; finally, suppose that these conquerors, after having thrown the violence of the conquest into oblivion by a rapid fusion with the vanquished, continually laboured to redeem the injustice of their privileges by the benefits of patronage; that, superior in rank, wealth, and political power, they incessantly showed themselves equally superior in talents and virtue; that taking in hand the affairs of the people, they mingled in all their assemblies, discussed all their interests, directed all their enterprises, sacrificed half their revenues to banish poverty from their domains, gave instruction to one, capital to another, enlightened, charitable, and benevolent support to all;—that, placed at the head of a commercial society, they admirably comprehended genius and its requirements, gave it, with the freedom of industry, all the civil and political liberties which are the soul of that freedom; and in order to procure for that society a magnificent destiny, they opened for it the markets of the entire world, established for it flourishing colonies, founded for it colossal empires in India, rendered its vessels sovereign on every sea, and made the nations of the earth its tributaries; and that, finally, after having opened all the paths of fortune to commercial industry, these same men, throwing down the barrier which separated them from the prolétaire, should say to the latter, “Get rich, and you may become a lord:” without doubt, such an aristocracy may conceal within itself many germs of oppression, and more than one principle of ruin; still it is easy to comprehend how such an aristocracy may for a long time maintain itself in strength and prosperity, and that even succeeding to a conquest, and charged with all the injustice of feudal privilege, it may give to the country it holds under its sway the illusion, if not the absolute reality, of a just and national government. It is easy to conceive the long and brilliant rule of the English aristocracy.
Suppose, on the contrary, conquerors who, instead of arresting the violent outrages of conquest, should lend all their efforts to the perpetuation of them—should open a hundred times the wounds of the conquered country—instead of uniting with the vanquished, should force them to keep separate—refuse to adopt their laws or impart their own—suppose this conquering race to preserve its language, its habits, and to erect an insurmountable barrier between itself and its subjects, by declaring it a kind of high treason to celebrate a marriage between the descendants of the victors and the offspring of the vanquished; suppose that having been thus constituted in the face of the conquered people, as a faction distinct by race and power, the conquerors are still further separated by a deeper cause, difference of religion; that not content with having deprived a people of national existence, they should endeavour to wrest from it its creed;—that having spent centuries in despoiling it of its political independence, they should pass a second series of centuries in disputing its religious faith; suppose that these conquerors, political tyrants, despising the conquered nation because of its race, hating it because of its creed, should be placed in such an extraordinary position that it has no interest in the protection of the people, and no peril in their oppression;—it may well be conceived, that an aristocracy composed of such elements could only produce selfishness, violence, and injustice on one side—hatred, resistance, degradation, and misery on the other. Such is the picture of the aristocracy of Ireland.
The English aristocracy, clever and national as it is, would not perhaps have been able to maintain itself, if, while it concealed its defects by splendid virtues, it had not been protected by fortunate accidents.
Subject like all aristocracies, whose principle is privilege to employ its strength for the promotion of selfish interests, it has carried to excess the resources by which it is supported, and disproportionately concentrated in its hands the property of the soil, which has become the monopoly of a very small number; the landed proprietors of England form so small a minority compared to the non-proprietors, that landed property might be placed in peril, if it were a desirable object in the eyes of the people.
But, by a fortunate event rather than any result of wise policy, the soil of England has not hitherto excited the envy of the lower classes; the English people leaves its aristocracy the monopoly of the land, so long as it resigns to them the monopoly of industry. The immense estates of a peer excite no unpleasant feeling in the mind of a merchant to whom the commerce of the whole world presents an unlimited arena, and who thinks that if he makes a great fortune, he may perhaps some day obtain the estates of a lord with the title and honours.
The English agriculturist cares little about a political system whose effect is to drive the peasantry from the country into the towns, when this labourer, removed from the soil, finds in the factory equally regular work, and much better pay. This, we must confess, is the great guarantee of the English aristocracy, a frail and feeble guarantee, which will only last so long as English industry will supply the world with its products.
The Irish aristocracy, full of defects from which that of England is free, far from being aided like it by favourable circumstances, has to struggle against pernicious accidents.
It is a fatal chance for the Irish aristocracy that has placed Ireland in such close proximity to England; for this aristocracy has never ceased to be English in heart and almost in interest. Here is the cause why the aristocracy has always resided, and at the present day resides, more in England than in Ireland; and this material fact, which most frequently divides it from the people subjected to its sway, is in its case the source of the evil most fatal to every aristocracy, which really exists only on the condition of governing. It is common to hear all the evils of Ireland attributed to absenteeism, but this is to mistake a consequence of the evil for the evil itself. The aristocracy of Ireland is not bad because it is absentee; it is absentee because it is bad, because nothing attaches it to the country, because it is retained there by no sympathy. Why should it, loving neither the country nor the people, remain in Ireland, when it has England near, inviting it by the charms of more elegant and refined society, which attract it back to its original country?
In general, every aristocracy contains within itself the corrective which tempers, if it does not arrest, its aberrations and its selfishness. It usually happens, that the very class which does not love the people fears them, or at least has need of them; it then performs from calculation what it would not do from sympathy, It does not oppress too far, through fear of revolt; it spares the national strength from which it derives profit; it may even happen that it appears generous when it is only clear-sighted and interested.
The Irish aristocracy has always had the misfortune of fearing nothing, and hoping nothing, from the people subject to its yoke; supported by England, whose soldiers have always been placed at its disposal, it has been enabled to give itself up to tyranny without reserve: the groans, the complaints, the menaces of the people have never tempered its oppressions, because popular clamour had for it no terrors. Did insurrections break forth in Ireland? The aristocracy of the country never stirred; it was English artillery that subdued the insurgents; and when everything was restored to order, the aristocracy continued to receive the revenue of its lands as before.
The Irish aristocracy has exercised an empire of which no other country furnishes an example; during six centuries it has reigned in Ireland, under the authority of England, which abandoned to that body half the advantages of its dominion, and spared it all the expense. Furnished with rights, privileges, and constitutional guarantees, it has employed all these instruments of freedom to practise oppression; Ireland has thus been constantly the prey of two tyrannies, the more dangerous as they mutually protected each other. The Irish aristocracy, regarding itself as the agent of England, for that reason granted itself absolution for all its excesses and all its personal injustice; and England, whose rights this aristocracy exercised, was contented to throw upon that body the blame of any abuse of its power.
There are few countries in which the governors have not an interest, greater or less, in inducing the people subject to their laws to cultivate the arts of industry and commerce. Of what use, in fact, would large revenues be to the rich man, unless they served to obtain the objects fit to render his life pleasant and comfortable? And how could he procure them if the people did not work? But it is an additional fatality of the Irish aristocracy that it is abundantly supplied with all the most precious productions of art and commerce, though no industrial employment exists in Ireland; it has ready to its hand the products of English industry to satisfy its wants and caprices, as well as armed regiments to ensure the payment of its rents. In order to possess comfort and elegance, it has no need of exciting the people to industrial labour. Commerce and industry are, nevertheless, the means by which the lower classes may escape from their misery. Thus, the people of Ireland, to whom the land is inaccessible, see in the hands of the aristocracy an immense privilege for which they possess no equivalent. Thus the asistocracy of Ireland, deficient in all the primary bases on which that of England rests, is also deprived of that condition of existence without which probably the English aristocracy could not sustain itself. It is immovable and closed. As a principle, its ranks are open to all, but, in fact, access to them is nearly impossible; to enter them, it is necessary to become rich; but what means are there of becoming rich in a country where commerce and industry are dead? So that this aristocracy, motionless in its wealth, living on the life of others, has for its support a population also motionless in its misery: in Ireland, poverty is a caste. Finally, this aristocracy, attached by no natural sentiment to the people, has the misfortune to be further removed from it by difference of creed.
Religious sympathy is, beyond contradiction, the most powerful tie that unites men together; it has not only the power of bringing nations together, but, what is still more difficult, of mingling classes and ranks, raising the most humble to the level of the most proud, mingling the rich and the poor; it is religion that invests alms with the dignity of christian charity, and which, stripping the benefit of its pride, renders the bestower and the recipient both equal. But, in the absence of religious sympathy, what is there to unite the rich and the poor, the Englishman and the Irishman, the race of the conquerors and that of the vanquished? What power shall bring them together when religion herself separates them? And in a country where all the laws are made against the poor for the profit of the rich, what will be the result if religion, instead of checking the powerful, actually fortifies it, and, instead of supporting the feeble, crushes him to the earth?
The Irish aristocracy has two inherent vices, which include all others; it is English by origin, and has never ceased to be thus alien: it became Protestant, and has had to govern a people that remained Catholic.
These two vices contain the principle of all the evils of Ireland; in them are the key to all its miseries, and all its embarrassments: if this starting point be attentively considered, all the extraordinary circumstances, whose causes will be vainly sought elsewhere, will be found to flow from it as natural consequences. These consequences are of three sorts; the first, which we may call civil, because they relate to habits and manners; the second political, because they concern institutions; the third religious, because they arise from difference of creeds. The first more especially affect the relations between rich and poor, between landlord and tenant; the second, the reciprocal relations between the governors and the governed; and the third, the mutual position of Catholics and Protestants.
Extreme misery of the farmers—Accumulation of the population on the soil—Absenteeism—Middlemen—Rack-rents—Want of sympathy between landlord and tenant.
In England and Ireland the lower classes cultivate the soil under the same title—they either take a farm from the rich man, or hire out to him their daily labour.1 Theoretically, their condition is the same in both countries. Whence does it arise that in reality their lot is so dissimilar? Why is the one as happy as the other is miserable? How does it happen that the first is well lodged, well clothed, well fed, surrounded by a family prosperous like himself, living in comfort and contentment, scarcely imagining a lot more fortunate than his own; whilst the other, covered with rags, lives on potatoes when he is not forced to fast, has no other shelter than the filthy hovel which he shares with his pig, and sees during the winter his poor children perishing from cold, without being able to clothe them, and hears during the whole year their cries of hunger which he cannot appease?
It is because that in England the large proprietor is the patron of the soil and its inhabitants; he does not limit himself to receiving his rents and claiming his rights; he also fulfils his duties, and believes that he is bound to return a portion of what he receives. And in the first place, engaging, in some sort, his fortune in the land that he possesses, he invests in it considerable capital. See what a residence he prepares for his tenant. It is composed of several buildings; nothing is wanting to render the life of the resident pleasant and comfortable: it is the centre of an extensive culture; round it extend vast domains that depend on it; the best agricultural implements are there waiting for the hand that is to employ them. After he has formed this great farm, he keeps an eye on its fortune. Watching the efforts of his tenants, he rejoices in his success, and compassionates his reverses; and by a sympathy as enlightened as it is generous, he soothes the misfortunes which, if they remained unredressed, would prove injurious to himself. He is not always liberal, but he is rarely destitute of intelligence. Thus the relations between landlord and tenant have for their primary base the wisdom or the benevolence of the one, whence naturally arise the deference and respect of the other.
Matters are not managed in this way in Ireland. The proprietor, as we have said, is often an absentee; it often happens that he is unacquainted with his own estates; he knows vaguely that he possesses some hundred, or hundred and fifty thousand acres in the county of Cork or Donegal; that it is bounded on one side by the sea, and on the other by the loftiest mountain perceptible in the horizon. Desirous of deriving from these possessions the greatest profit possible, he is also resolved not to spend a single farthing in improving their value. He or his ancestors obtained this vast tract by confiscation; who knows but some new revolution may take away what the preceding revolution has thrown into his family? This reasoning of the absent proprietor is very nearly repeated by the resident landlord; for though he touches the soil, he rarely takes root in it, and Ireland is not the country to which he believes that his cares and sacrifices are due.—Thus a large proprietor in Ireland generally aims at managing his estate without any expenditure of capital; that is to say, he expects to reap without having sowed. But how is he to obtain the smallest profit without some preliminary expense?—Here is the way in which he solves the problem. He gives up the rental of his domain to an agent, either for a round sum at once, or an annual payment, of which the amount is secured by penalty of forfeiture. This undertaker, a rich capitalist, residing either in London or Dublin, does not take Irish land to turn farmer, but he takes it on lease as a matter of speculation; and when the bargain is concluded, he aspires only to transmitting the culture of the land to another, on condition of his being insured a beneficial interest. It is then usual to divide the estate into a certain number of lots of a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand acres, which he farms out to secondary agents, called Middlemen. Sometimes the resident proprietor makes this division of his estate himself, which he lets out to the secondary agents.
But how will these agents of the first or second degree derive profit from the land they take on lease? Will each establish a large farm?—If he did so, he would have to risk a large capital. Now, how could an agent have more confidence in the land than the lord of the soil himself?—What then does he do?—He establishes no farms on the land he has taken, small or great; he in general limits himself to manuring the surface. When this work is done, he subdivides his lot, (on what is called in Ireland the cornacre system,) and lets it out at the highest rent he can get, in parcels of five, ten, and twenty, acres to the poor peasants of the country, the only persons who take ground with the intention of cultivating it;2 that is to say, on the most moderate advance of capital he expects to realise the highest profit.
But how will all these petty agriculturists cultivate the land they have taken? Where will they establish themselves? Will the proprietor or agent take care to erect a dwelling on each of the small allotments?—Assuredly not: this building would require capital, which no one is inclined to advance. The land is then given to them entirely naked;—but where are they to lodge? They build for themselves a shapeless mass of mud, wood, and straw, which they call their cabin! At least, do they find any agricultural implements at their disposal? Not one; they are left to procure them the best way they can.
Thus, in England, the landed proprietor furnishes his tenant with a house and agricultural implements. In Ireland, the poor man who takes a “bit of ground,” must build his own dwelling, and find all his own farming implements.
It may be asked, when the rich do not supply capital, how is the poor peasant to procure it? It must be answered, that for the most part he does not obtain it, and that he only applies brute force to an enterprise for the success of which capital would be necessary. He cultivates badly, because the means of cultivation are wanting. Now, how can he, cultivating badly, pay the exorbitant rents demanded by the proprietor, the middleman, and the subordinate tenants? For it is the poor tiller of the ground who must bear the weight of all the successive engagements of which the land has been the object. The chief proprietor, who leases his land to an undertaker, receives from him a sum of money, which he gets back again with profit from the inferior middlemen; and these again, subletting to small farmers, not only receive what they have paid the undertaker, but realise a profit-rent; so that the actual tillers of the soil have to pay a rent in the first place, equivalent to the sum which the undertaker pays the proprietor, and to which must be added the profits of the undertaker, and the beneficial interest of all the intermediate rates. It is in vain that the poor agriculturists of Ireland labour to satisfy all these interests, and at the same time to derive from the land a sufficiency for the sustenance of themselves and families. However fruitful the land of Ireland may be, it cannot give all that is required of it; incessantly, in spite of all his efforts and his labours, the poor Irish peasant finds it impossible to pay his rents. What then happens? The middleman or the proprietor ejects him from his land, seizes his few moveables, and sells them by auction. And what becomes of the peasant, whose entire crime is having attempted an impossibility? As no other branch of industry is open to him but the land, he goes to seek a small farm elsewhere, and until he finds it, he, his wife, and children, beg or starve.
Here is doubtless a great misery, which appears particularly enormous when viewed in contrast with the comfort and prosperity of English farmers. But it would be a great mistake to attribute the entire to undertakers, agents, and middlemen. These middlemen are an effect, and not a cause. Assuredly they are an evil,3 and nothing can be imagined more disastrous than these successive transactions, of which the first effect is to give up the soil to speculators who feel no interest in the property, and take the culture of a farm as a temporary employment; and of which the no less immediate consequence is, to place between the proprietors and tillers of the soil three or four traffickers, who only come upon the land for hire. But who is the real author of this evil? Is it not he who, in his indifference for the country and those who cover it, has delivered the soil and its inhabitants into alien and avaricious hands?
Whether the Irish agriculturists have to deal with the owner of the soil, or his agent, there is no difference in their condition. They find no sympathy in one or the other; the same spirit of cupidity animates both, the same selfishness hardens and blinds them; both have only one object—to get the highest rent out of the land they can. The moral and physical condition of the tenant is equally indifferent to both. They feel and display the same insensibility in presence of his prosperous efforts or barren toils, his successes or his reverses; the man occupies their ground, but still is to them as a stranger. Provided he pays, it is all they require. Thus, when they see him weak and broken down, they leave him in his distress, and turn away their eyes; they only come to ask him for the rent that has fallen due; or if, by any accident, relations are established between the landlord and the tenant—if, by any chance, the latter works for the former, or sells him any article, it is certain that the landlord will take a gross and unfair advantage of the poor agriculturist’s simplicity, and that the latter will always be the dupe in the bargain.4
And of what importance are these miseries of the wretched peasant to the middleman, who only sees them in his hasty transit, and who will fly the country of the miserable beings he has tortured so soon as he has made his fortune. “What do you want with me?” the proprietor exclaims at the sight of these frightful evils; “I have ceded my rights to my agents, who must exercise them as they please.” But most frequently the proprietor does not pronounce these words of regret, for he does not see the misery of which he is the author. Secluded in his mansion in London, he does not hear the cries of despair which issue from the Irish cabin; under the pure and serene sky of Italy, he knows not that a storm in Ireland has destroyed the poor man’s harvest; he knows not at Naples that, for want of a genial sun, the fruits of the earth have failed in cold Hibernia: if, by any unexpected event, the poor peasants that cover his estate have fallen into distress, he is ignorant whether any unexpected blow of fortune has struck down the wretches, such as a long sickness of the head of the family, or the loss of agricultural cattle; he knows none of these things, and it would be inconvenient for him to know them. What he knows well is, that £20,000 are annually due to him from his Irish estates; that his mode of life is regulated by the amount; that this sum must be paid at every term; and that if the payment were delayed for a single day, it would trouble the order of his habits and the arrangement of his pleasures.
Besides, whether he manages his affairs personally or by agents, whether he is absentee or resident, you may be well assured that the proprietor who has no “bowels of compassion” for the country, and for whom his country has no voice; who does not regard as fellow-citizens the peasants by whom his land is cultivated, will never be beneficent to the soil or its inhabitants. This is a starting-point of which sight is constantly lost, but which must be kept steadily in view, unless we wish to go astray.
Nothing is more common than to attribute the misery of the Irish peasant to defects in the agricultural systems practised in Ireland. If we believe some, the leases are too long, which destroys the proprietor’s interest and care of his property; according to another, leases are too short; their brief duration renders the farmer’s condition precarious; the evil, says a third, arises from there being no leases, which places the tenant completely at the mercy of his landlord.
There is no disputing the pernicious or beneficent effect that different systems of agriculture may exercise on the fortune of the proprietor and the condition of the tenant; but what is not less certain is, that, under the best agricultural management, the farmer’s lot may be miserable, whilst, in spite of the most defective method, his condition may be enviable and prosperous. I have seen counties in England and Scotland where leases are long, and others where they are short; I have even seen some where the land is held by tenants at will; but I have not remarked that these diversities in the form of engagement, which doubtless have some influence on agricultural produce, modify to any extent the condition of the farmer, which I have found everywhere uniformly prosperous.
Whatever may be the terms of the law between landlord and tenant,—whatever the text of the contract by which they are united,—whatever attention may be bestowed in assuring to the poor agriculturist rights, sureties, and guarantees,—the letter of the engagement will always be barren, unless the spirit give it life. Now the spirit, the soul of the obligations by which a landlord is bound to his tenants, is good-will—the only shield of the feeble against the strong, of the poor against the rich. The abstract right will be more cruel than the sympathy. No law, however liberal, can supply the place of absent charity; and there is no law so cruel as not to be alleviated by charity; this is the reason why the poor Irish peasant, who finds in his landlord neither kindness nor pity, is so miserable.
Competition for land—Whiteboyism—Social evils—Inutility of coercive measures—Terror in the country—Disappearance of landlords and capitals.
We have just seen how, by the effect of the selfishness or carelessness of the rich, the land in Ireland is covered with a number of petty cultivators, between whom it is divided into portions of five, ten, or twenty acres. If it be asked, how it was possible to find such a number of agriculturists, I would reply, that it is easy to lead all the inhabitants of a country to tillage where there absolutely exists no other form of industry. It was doubtless at first a great advantage to the proprietor to find such a multitude of petty farmers at his disposal; for without them he could not obtain any profit from his estates, unless he made an outlay of capital which he was unwilling to risk.
However, a time came when all these lands were occupied; and this was not long in coming, for all the Catholic population, excluded from public employments, liberal professions,1 prohibited from becoming proprietors, incapable through poverty of engaging in commerce or manufacture, even if it had not been prevented by the political condition of the country, having absolutely no career open but that of farming,—this population, I say, precipitated itself on the offered land, and overwhelmed it as the overflow of a torrent soon covers a vast plain with its waters.
But in a country where the land is the sole means of existence, what is the fate of those to whom land is wanting? What becomes of an ejected tenant, if he can find a farm nowhere else? What is to become of his children? Here is a little plot on which a poor peasant procured a moderate subsistence; he has five children, (an inconsiderable number in an Irish family;) his only thought and his only ambition is to find a farm for each; but he cannot succeed, because all the farms are occupied. What then is to become of his children? Observe that the question is rigorously put, for tillage, as I said before, is the only resource, the only available employment, to an Irishman; and yet the land fails him; nevertheless, employment is most wanting to the poor in a country where the rich possess no charity. The peasant must possess a plot of ground, or starve.
This is the secret of that extraordinary rivalry of which land is the object in Ireland. The land in the country resembles a fortress eternally besieged and defended with indefatigable ardour; there is no safety unless within its precincts; he who makes good his entrance, leads a life of labour, privation, and peril, but still he lives; he holds fast to the rampart—he clings to it; and in order to remove him, it is necessary to tear him limb from limb. The condition of the unfortunate being who has failed in attaining this object is lamentable; for, unless he yields himself to starvation, he must either beg or rob.
What is the consequence? The farmer who is anxious to ensure the existence of his family, has no resource but to subdivide his little farm into as many parts as he has chileren; each of them, then, possesses four or five acres, instead of the twenty which the father held, and several mud cabins are built on the farm instead of one. The son has children himself; he must do for them just what his father did; and thus, from generation to generation, this fractional division at length reaches a half or even a quarter of an acre for each family, and the occupant of the soil finds it physically impossible to live on so restricted a portion. This is the reason why, at the present day, three or four hundred cottiers are found crowded and living miserably on some domain which formerly contained a very small number.2 In spite of this accumulation, it often happens that a time comes when space is physically wanting, and a certain quantity of those born on the ground must quit it.
They remove from the land, and nevertheless the land alone can support them. What follows? That the number of farmers being greater than the number of farms, the competition immeasurably raises the rents. The Irish peasant must have an acre or half an acre of ground, or die; he must have it at any price, or on any conditions, however severe they may be. The reasonable rent of this acre would be four pounds; I offer the landlord double; another offers ten pounds; I raise my bidding to twenty; the land is adjudged to me; at the rent-day I will not be able to pay;—what matter?—I shall have lived, or tried to live, for a whole year.
Thus he who already pays an exorbitant rent, is obliged by competition, in order to keep his farm, to pay a still higher sum.3 To be sure, he is free to refuse any increase of rent; but a two-edged sword is suspended above his head; if he resists the demand of the landlord, he is ejected from his farm; if he submits to the severe conditions, it is nearly certain that he will be unable to fulfil his rash engagements, and that he will soon be dismissed by the landlord, perhaps at the instigation of some other competitor. After all, the worse condition is to quit the ground in a country where ground is the only means of livelihood; he remains then on his farm—consents to everything; he knows that scarcely one in a thousand succeeds in such an enterprise, and he resigns himself to the chances of this cruel lottery.
The competition of the farmers perhaps raises rents higher than the avidity of the landlord or the middleman. A worse condition cannot be imagined than that of all these poor labourers vegetating on the ground, clinging to it like vermin, and adding to their misery by their supernatural efforts to overcome it. This misery is augmented in the exact proportion of the increase of population,4 until there are, in our day, two million six hundred thousand paupers; that is to say, two million six hundred thousand persons destitute of land, or having too small a portion of land for their support.5
This lamentable condition of the farmer is not profitable to the landlord; he or his agent, deceived at first by the promises of the competitors, soon discovers the falsehood; he receives but little from the land thus highly rented, and he is disgusted by rigorous proceedings, in which his profits are swallowed by the legal expenses; he discovers that by ruining his tenants he has not enriched himself. Sometimes he says, “All the mischief has risen from this accumulation of cottiers, who devour the soil instead of fertilising it. The evil would cease if a few large farms were substituted for this multitude of small holdings; this is the agricultural system in England and Scotland; the time is favourable for imitating it in Ireland; the age of revolutions is gone, their remembrance is effaced; the soil, once so precarious, is now secure; capital may with safety be invested in land.”6
His plan is then fixed; he is about to substitute some large farms for a multitude of small holdings; but how is this end to be attained? By ejecting the cottiers that cover his land, and proceeding to a new distribution of property; that is to say, after having made use of the cottier tenants during the period when from want of capital he had need of them, he casts them off at the moment when the return of capital affords him the means of establishing a more lucrative means of cultivation. But what is to become of the two or three hundred peasants who in one day receive an order to quit their cabins? The blow is fatal. For here it is necessary to observe, that this is no common removal; usually the outgoing tenant succeeds some one else—here hundreds of peasants depart, two or three only remain, no one comes in; so that three hundred desperate wretches are created by a single blow, whose removal does not open any opportunity for the relief of other unfortunates.7
We can now see what contrary interests and what different passions control the possession of land in Ireland. The order to quit being given to the poor tenant, he resists it; this order is to him a sentence of death; he sees rising before him the hideous spectre of hunger, which is ready to seize upon him, his wife, and his children; he then contemplates the entire extent of his misfortunes, passes from grief to despondency, and from despondency to utter despair. Still one ray of hope comes to illumine his forehead: “If I went to the master,” says he, “and showed him the misery which overwhelms us—if he saw my wife pining with hunger, my children pale and famishing, surely he would feel for us, and would leave us our little cabin at least for a few days longer!” The wretch is mistaken—he throws himself at the feet of his master, he supplicates, he implores in vain; the rich in Ireland have no compassion for the poor. In that country, the poor man may preserve his pride, for he humbles himself unprofitably before the rich, who rejoice in his abasement without alleviating his misery. The poor peasant, harshly repulsed, regains his cabin in silence, brings back there an additional sorrow, and, struck with a misfortune too great to be combated and too great to be endured, crosses his arms and remains immovable. The proprietor then claims the assistance of the law, which at great cost pronounces sentence, by which the poor agriculturist is condemned to quit his land; the judgment triples the sum which the wretch before had to pay. He had been ejected for not being able to pay his rent; how is he now to raise three times that sum? He soon sees two constables appear, bearing a sentence in proper form, according to the tenor of which he must immediately leave the place; and at once these agents of public power begin by seizing every article which they can find in the cabin. It is very necessary that the lawyers, without whose aid justice cannot be had, should be paid for their trouble. All this is done amidst the most heart-rending cries, which burst forth from the cabin; imprecations are heard, which if they reached the ear of the rich man would mingle remorse with his pleasures: but, finally, justice takes its course—everything is seized and sealed in the farmer’s dwelling; the bailiffs are its masters, the poor family is gone.8 The constables disappear with their plunder. The next morning the farmer and his family are again in possession of the poor cabin; force alone removed them, they reappear when that force is withdrawn. They have been driven from their land, but since this land is their only means of subsistence, they must of sheer necessity return. The proprietor then takes the only means that can rid him of these obstinate wretches—he pulls down the cabin, and thus gets rid of its inhabitants.
These rigours accumulate, these cruelties are multiplied; the poor occupants of the soil are pursued from cottage to cottage, thrown with their families out on the public road, everywhere exposed to the same legal violence, to the same extremity of misfortune.9
Some day or other a voice is raised amongst these poor formers, which exclaims—
“The earth alone supplies us with food, let us cling to it closely, and not quit it. The landlord or agent bids us depart—let us stay. The courts of justice order it—still let us stay; an armed force is sent to compel us—let us resist it; let us oppose all our forces to an unjust force, and in order that the injustice should not reach us, let us enact the most terrible penalties against those by whom it is committed.
“Be it enacted,—
“That whoever shall attempt, directly or indirectly, to deprive us of our farms, shall be punished with death.
“That the landlord, middleman, or agent, who shall eject a tenant from his estate, shall be punished with death.
“That the landlord who demands a higher rent than that which we have fixed, shall be punished with death.
“That he who bids a higher rent for a farm, takes the place of an ejected tenant, purchases by auction or otherwise goods that have been distrained, shall be punished with death.
“Let us strike the culpable, not only in their persons, but in their dearest interests and affections; let not only their cattle be houghed, their houses burned, their land turned up, their harvests destroyed, but let their friends and relations be devoted to death, their wives and daughters to dishonour.10
“And as, in order to be strong, it is necessary that we should have arms, let us haste to seize the arms of which we have been deprived. Hitherto isolation has been our weakness; let us associate—let us solemnly engage to enforce our laws, and, in order that the engagement should be sacred and inviolable, let us give it the sanction of an oath—let us cover it with the veil of inviolable secrecy11 —let us extend our confederation over the entire country—let whoever refuses to join us be regarded as an enemy, and treated as such; and, in order that our laws should not be idle commands, let us solemnly promise, that whichever of us shall be appointed to execute the punishment for a breach of our code, shall instantly obey and execute in all its rigour the prescribed sentence.”
These are, doubtless, dreadful laws,—they are those of the Whiteboys,12 an atrocious savage code, worthy of a semi-barbarous population, which, abandoned to itself, has no light to guide its efforts, finds no sympathy to assuage its passions, and is reduced to look to its rude instincts for the means of safety and protection.
Terror then spreads through the country; dangerous plots are formed in darkness; strange figures appear here and there; houses are attacked during the night; every one is obliged to fortify his dwelling;13 but all resistance is vain—sometimes it is necessary to give up arms, sometimes to take oaths. These are banditti of a singular kind; to obtain arms or vengeance, they commit all sorts of outrages, while they abstain from the gold and silver under their hands. A murder is committed; it is soon discovered that the victim is a proprietor whose tenant has been ejected the evening before.14 The perpetrators have been seen, but no one in the country knows them, and everything proves that they have been brought from a distance to execute vengeance for another. A second similar crime is committed; it is the murder of a middleman who has seized his tenant’s goods. The whole proprietary class is alarmed, an appeal is made to the laws, it issues its mandates, but no one points out the traces of the guilty; justice discovers them after an active search; they resist, she seizes them, but an insurrection rescues them from her hands; at length she seizes them again; the guilty are under lock and key. It is then necessary to search for witnesses; all who are summoned declare that they have seen nothing: one presents himself and tells the truth. Two days afterwards it is discovered that this witness has been assassinated. What is to be done? It is very necessary that justice should have its course. The witnesses do not appear. Well, they must be arrested and brought before justice by force; but there, they refuse to give evidence. It is necessary to purchase their evidence. Their existence is menaced; it is necessary to protect them. How is this to be done? No one will give them an asylum. Well, they must be committed to gaol. But what reward will be sufficient to induce a witness to make a declaration which endangers his life, and the first effect of which is to deprive him of liberty? However high his price, he must be paid in full. But who will admit the sincerity of a witness under the double influence of the money which he receives, and the death which he dreads? Necessity, however, decides that he must be believed. But will not this witness, dismissed after the trial, be assassinated? No, he will leave the prison and leave Ireland at the same time. Thus, the condition of every witness for the prosecution in criminal affairs must be, to remain in prison until the trial, and afterwards go into exile. But what honest man will be a witness? Honest witnesses will be dispensed with—stern necessity demands it. But what honest man will act as judge? . . . . . Thus have we gone from consequence to consequence, until we have reached the sad alternative, that justice must either be powerless or immoral—must either acquit the accused for want of witnesses, or condemn by the aid of purchased witnesses. Finally, the verdict is given, the guilty man is sentenced and put to death. The informer and the witness go into exile. Next day it is found that the brother of the informer, the mother or sister of the witness, have been assassinated.15
When you have reached this point, you may be well assured that all rigorous means to restore peace and order will be useless. In vain will you employ a Draconian code to repress atrocious outrages; in vain will you enact cruel laws to arrest the course of revolting excesses; in vain will you affix the penalty of death to minor crimes;16 in vain, actuated by the terrors of weakness, will you suspend the ordinary course of law, and proclaim entire counties under the Insurrection Act;17 in vain will you violate the principle of individual liberty,18 create martial law and special commissions,19 and, to produce a salutary impression of terror, multiply to excess capital executions.
All these rigours will be vain; instead of healing the wound, they will irritate it, and render it more painful and dangerous. The peasants who, in 1760, revolted against a bad social system, under the name of Whiteboys, renewed the insurrection some years after under the name of Oakboys; in 1772, under that of Steelboys;20 in 1788 they were called Rightboys; at a later period they took the name of Rockites andri Clasts, subjects of Captain Rock and Lady Clare;21 in 1806 they called themselves the Thrashers; in 1811, 1815, 1820, 1821, 1823, and 1829, they resumed the name of Whiteboys; in 1831 they were Terry-Alts; in 1832, 1833, and 1837, Whitefeet and Blackfeet;22 and under these various denominations you may see them actuated by the sense of the same miseries, committing the same acts of violence, followed by the same cruel means of repression, which have been always powerless.
All your vigorous measures to restore peace and order will be abortive, because the order you design to make supreme is actual discord; because the peace you wish to establish is violence and oppression. This violence, this oppression, this disorder, have produced a state of war; and this social war is not between the honest man and the malefactor, between the labourer and the idler, between the industrious man and the robber,—it is a war between the rich and the poor, between the master and the slave, between the proprietor and the cultivator; and this war has arisen because the selfishness of the rich has been carried to an excess which necessarily drove the poor to revolt.23
Now say what are the means to escape from this vicious circle? Here is an aristocracy that, either by its faults or its vices, has allowed such a mass of evil to accumulate in the country entrusted to its care, that the wretches on whom the burden presses, shake it off from sheer inability to sustain it longer. There is no longer a social state: it is war—it is anarchy.
What is the consequence? Half of the resident gentry depart; many, not driven away by terror, remove from the aspect of such great evils, which it is not in their power to alleviate; the attempt at a remedy is no longer a feasible enterprise, and the sight of so much misery is especially dreadful to the compassionate: hence it follows, that those whose presence would be a blessing to the country, have not the courage to remain there.
Still there are some whom social war and its horrors do not drive from the land; but whilst they remain, they feel their hatred for a population already detested continually increase; and their severity continually adds to the distress of the people, and its thirst for vengeance.
Capital is wanting; the terror which reigns in the country, drives it farther away. Industry alone could raise from indigence the multitude of cottiers that contend for the land; and capital, without which no industry is possible, has fled from poor Ireland for ever.
Thus, the sources of Irish misery mutually increase, and reciprocally produce each other; all proceed from one common cause, and ascend in uninterrupted chains to the first link—a bad aristocracy.
But it is especially in the political institutions of Ireland that we incessantly discover traces of the fatal principle which has vitiated the aristocracy of that country.
Those who imagine that they can explain all the evils of Ireland by the despotism of England, fall into a great error, for this absolute despotism has never existed.
We have seen, in the Historical Introduction, how the conquerors of Ireland, having established a feudal society in the country, the only one of which men hadany notion in those times, this society, by the mere fact of its institution, found itself in possession of rights, privileges, and franchises which England could not dispute.
We have seen how, after the conquest of Ireland, the English, wishing to introduce the reformed religion into the country, founded there a Protestant society, to which England could still less refuse the civil and political liberties already enjoyed by the feudal society.
Finally, we have seen how the native Irish, at first as a vanquished people, and afterwards as Catholics, were excluded from the benefit of these institutions; in what manner this exclusion ceased, and how at present the laws of the country recognise no inequality founded on race or creed.
Dependent, then, as Ireland is upon England, she has always possessed her own free institutions.
It would be a great error to look upon Ireland as making with England one and the same people, subject to the same government and the same laws. We have seen, in the same Introduction, that Ireland has always had her own government and peculiar laws. Thus, Ireland not only possesses free institutions, but, though united to England, she has still her own peculiar institutions. These free and distinct institutions which Ireland preserves, seem exactly modelled from those of England.
Like England, Ireland is in possession of all the essential rights on which the civil and political liberties of nations rest, such as trial by jury, independence of the judges, responsibility of public functionaries, the right of petition, the right of union and association, individual liberty, freedom of the press, and such like.1
In both countries the organisation of the different political powers presents, at least externally, a perfectly similar though distinct aspect.
The supreme authority, which in England is vested in the sovereign, is in Ireland entrusted to the viceroy.
The government of which the viceroy is chief, employs in its executive similar instruments to those used by the English government.2 With both nations there are connected with the central power four supreme courts of justice, which are, as it were, the soul and source of public power in countries where justice and administration are perpetually confounded; these are the courts of Chancery, Queen’s Bench, Exchequer, and Common Pleas.
Both countries are equally divided into counties, over which the state preserves rather than exercises its sovereignty: and in both, the agents by which the central power displays its authority are the same. The principal representatives of the state in an Irish county are the lord lieutenant, the sheriff, and the justice of the peace.
In Ireland, as in England, there are within the state, but independent of the counties, a certain number of incorporated cities or boroughs which do not depend on the central government for their administration, because they have received the privilege of self-government: these are called municipal corporations.
Finally, in both countries, we find at the base of the powers already mentioned, that of the parish; a power sovereign in its sphere, independent of all the rest, and which, in both nations, presents the same external structure.3
Not only is the political edifice, which appears to view, the same in England as in Ireland, but furthermore, the authorities are instituted on the same basis; they bear the same names; all are theoretically created for the same object; they exercise their power according to the same laws; they are nominally subject to the same rules, and restricted by the same limits. And in both countries, the aristocracy is the fundamental principle of all public power.
Whence, then, does it arise, that, with similar institutions, the two nations have had such different fortunes, and that one has fallen into a state of abasement and misery, with a form of government which has placed and kept the other at the summit of greatness and prosperity?
It is because that, though the form is important in political institutions, the spirit is still more important. Now the institutions of Ireland present to the eye the same body as those of England; what is wanting is the soul. The Protestant aristocracy, which in England is the very heart of all political powers, seems in Ireland to be their cancer.
Let any person examine the government of Ireland in all its parts successively, in the state, the county, the municipal corporation, and the parish, and he will find that the same original and permanent vice which corrupts civil society, carries the same corruption into political society; he will find that the same causes which poison the relations between rich and poor, landlord and tenant, do not less materially affect the mutual relations of the governors and the governed.
Influence of the English and Protestant Aristocratic principle on the Powers of the State—Hatred of the People to the Laws—A public accuser in Ireland—The unanimity of the Jury in Ireland—Why Ireland has several official Institutions not found in England.
The Irish viceroy endeavours to reproduce the image of royalty; he holds a brilliant court in Dublin, the etiquette of which is regulated by that of London; he has two palaces, a splendid staff, and his salary, with the allowances, is about 30,000l. annually.1
The viceroy of Ireland, like the sovereign of England, has a privy council; he nominates to all the public offices, which in England are in the gift of the sovereign; he has the same right of pardoning or commuting punishment; and he is equally invested with the singular power of suspending the law, under certain grave circumstances, at his discretion, for which he is responsible only to parliament.2 The Irish viceroy possesses also some extraordinary powers which the sovereign has not in England, but which the peculiar circumstances of Ireland have rendered necessary to its first magistrate.3
Until 1800, Ireland had its own parliament, consisting of hereditary lords and elected commons; for it never enters into any Englishman’s head that any human law could be framed unless by two houses, of which one should be called Commons, and the other Lords.
The legislative power of Ireland was, therefore, composed of three powers designed to balance each other, as in the English constitution. But is not the fundamental error of such an organisation, applied to Ireland, at once apparent? Is it not manifest, that these powers, instead of controlling, would mutually support each other, and that their harmony would not be a union of rival powers, but that of accomplices banded together for a single and common object, the enslavement of the people? In the days of the Tudors, the parliament did what the viceroy pleased; after William III., the viceroy did what the parliament pleased. England had full confidence in the aristocracy of Ireland, and entrusted to it the entire government of the country. It might then be said, that the laws were made in full freedom by the two parliamentary bodies that represented Ireland, but who does not immediately see that such a system of representation was a falsehood?
Who does not at once comprehend the spirit in which laws were made by those lords who, English and Protestant by birth, were the natural enemies of Catholic Ireland; and by this house of commons, which, not less English and Protestant at heart, was in reality a mere creature of the lords, though it was presumed to be elected by the people?
No one could sit in either house, unless he gave proof of his “having taken the Lord’s supper,” according to the Anglican ritual. Could such a parliament, framing laws for a Catholic country, be anything else but the representative of a faction; a mere instrument to maintain the power of a narrow oligarchy, and furnish it with constitutional means of practising oppression?
Having once established this starting point, need we be surprised that the Irish legislature, during the entire course of its long existence, cruelly tyrannised over the country, formed a selfish compact with England, of which poor Ireland paid all the costs; abandoned to England the political and commercial liberties of Ireland, on condition of being maintained in its own domination over the Catholics; subjected the people that it governed to an anti-social code, the cruel and ingenious system of which has been exposed in the Introduction; and finally, by a course of falsehood and blunders, went so far as to proclaim that there were legally “no Papists in Ireland;” in other words, that a nation was blotted from existence! The Irish aristocracy terminated its parliamentary career by an act which pictures its entire life.
One day,4 England came to the resolution that it was bad for Ireland to have its own parliament, deeming it better that the country should be ruled by laws emanating directly from herself; she therefore resolved to abolish the Irish parliament; but how was this to be accomplished? Ireland possessed the right of making laws, and who could take this right away? At the instant of the proposal, all Ireland was in movement; the parliament of Ireland was anti-national, but the right to have a parliament was a national right.5 The aristocracy itself, usually so obedient to the English government, turned restive; for it was about to be deprived of its power of giving law to Ireland.
The difficulty was great, and yet it was easily overcome. The self-same aristocracy, which at the outset disputed with England the right of taking away its privileges, suddenly abandoned them; and, in a short time after it protested against the attempt upon its life, the Irish parliament put an end to its own existence. Why did it commit this suicide? The explanation is simple; the principal parliamentary undertakers, the chiefs of parties, sold their privileges to England for the sum of 1,260,000l. paid down in hard cash, and renounced their parliamentary prerogatives. After all, what cared they for the legislative independence of Ireland, which was never their real country? Besides, the existence of an Irish parliament was not exempt from annoyance. Did it not oblige them every year to spend at least a few months in Ireland? After the union, they would no longer be burdened by this charge; some became peers of England, others members of the British house of commons; all could pass their lives in London, all be delivered from Ireland. They then renounced their rights for the stipulated price; an infamous bargain, in which the corruption of those who bought was surpassed by the baseness of those who sold themselves; a worthy end of a parliament which, during the course of its existence, was rarely independent, almost always servile, never national; and which, when condemned to perish, disposed of its carcass like a criminal selling his body for dissection.6 It was this bargain which brought about the legislative union between England and Ireland, in the opening of the present century.
Since that time, Ireland has had no parliament, but we must not conclude that she has no parliamentary representation. By the articles of union, a part of her lords sit in the English house of peers;7 and the counties, cities, and boroughs of Ireland elect members to the British house of commons;8 these members are elected by the people, according to a system nearly the same as that of England;9 and under which the Irish aristocracy formerly exercised considerable influence over the elections; but this influence, though it has not quite ceased, has been greatly weakened.
Thus, for the last forty years, the Irish aristocracy has ceased to give laws to Ireland, and this is one evil the less, no doubt; but nearly all the laws which were the work of that aristocracy still exist; and if it no longer makes the laws, it still retains their administration.
We have seen, in the Historical Introduction, that the act of union had no other effect than to abolish the Irish parliament, and confer its legislative privileges on the British parliament, which has not only continued the ancient peculiar institutions of Ireland, but has continued to give the country special laws, adapted to these institutions, though analogous to the laws of England. Thus the legislative power of Ireland has been displaced, but no change has been made in the mode of administering the laws.
Of all the general interests with which the state is charged, there is doubtless none more important than the judicial administration; let us take this as an example of the influence produced on government in Ireland by the radical defects of the aristocracy.
The judicial organisation of Ireland is precisely the same as that of England.
The four supreme courts are quite independent of those of England; they are the sovereign guardians of individual liberty, which is placed in their hands by the habeas corpus act; their jurisdiction has the same extent, they administer justice by the same rules, their independence is secured by the same guarantees, for the judges of Ireland, like those of England, are irremovable.
As in England, the Irish judges go circuit to assizes twice a year; the juries are impanelled, and the verdict given strictly in the English form. In Ireland as in England, besides the periodical administration of justice, there is a daily kind which may be called local, though administered by justices of the peace who derive their authority in England from the sovereign, and in Ireland from the viceroy.
But though the most perfect similarity exists between the magistracy charged with the administration of justice in the two countries, still the execution of this justice is very different in the two countries.
Criminal law in England is doubtless not free from faults; it has even preserved some feudal traditions which might be deemed barbarous by a superficial observer. Thus, in certain cases, the prisoner cannot be defended by counsel;10 and he cannot, even by payment, obtain copies of the informations, which the crown-lawyers may use at their pleasure. Finally, the evidence of approvers is admitted against the accomplices of their guilt. These laws are certainly rigorous, and yet, in England, the administration of criminal law displays nothing painful to the friend of humanity; in that country, mild habits correct severe laws; every accused finds in the magistrates, if not benevolence, at least unalterable impartiality. Feelings of equity, and sometimes of indulgence, animate all those who are engaged in the administration of English law; they guide the justices of peace when taking informations; they guide the sheriff in his selection of a jury; they inspire the depositions of the witness, the verdict of the jury, the sentence of the judge, the pardon of the sovereign.
See, on the other hand, the condition of the accused in Ireland. Suppose an unfortunate Irish Cathelic arrested, not for a political crime which might provoke magisterial indignation, but for some ordinary offence,—theft for instance. He is brought before the nearest Protestant magistrate,11 a man of English descent, full of contempt and hatred for the poorer classes of Irish. Now can you suppose that this justice of peace, before whom the poor Irishman is dragged, will examine the proofs of innocence as carefully as the indications of guilt? Do you think, that if the prisoner offers bail, the justice will be as ready to accept it as if the accused were a Protestant? Still the investigation is continued; it depends on the justice of peace whether it shall be fast or slow; but how can he show any anxiety to accelerate it, when he is influenced by no sympathy; when, performing gratuitous functions, he is not interested in displaying zeal; when, on the other hand, not being subject to the superintendence of a superior, he has neither praise to hope, nor censure to fear, for his conduct? It may be conceived, that in such a situation, not stimulated by the consciousness of public duties, and surrounded by absorbing private interests, he will forget what is due to the Papist, who, after all, will be safer under lock and key. In truth, the inquiry, retarded by this negligence, will not be ready at the assizes or quarter-sessions; the affair will be put off for three, or perhaps six months, and the accused must remain all that time in prison, awaiting his trial.12
That day at length comes. A hundred or a hundred and fifty jurors have been summoned by the sheriff; but, in the first place, with very few exceptions, the Protestant sheriff has chosen Protestant jurymen. Out of the hundred, twelve are to be chosen to administer the law—the panel is called—scarcely is the name of a Catholic juror pronounced when he is peremptorily set aside by the clerk of the crown.13 The accused is given in charge to twelve Protestant jurors, for the most part rich persons, equally the enemies of his class and his creed. Now what impartiality can he expect, who perceives in every one of his judges a religious or political adversary? Who can believe that such judges would be animated by the pure love of truth, which is the very first condition of justice? And moreover, how many strange obstacles beset the judge in the trial over which he presides! Frequently in Ireland the accused, being of Celtic race, speaks a language which neither the judge nor the jury, being of English race, can comprehend; hence the necessity of employing an interpreter, who translates to the judge the words of the prisoner, and to the prisoner those of the judge; here consequently is a prime source of confusion. This is not all—as every accused person in Ireland is looked upon as a victim by the people of his class, that is to say, the lower orders, false witnesses abound, and hence a new source of error is opened to the judge and jury. In the midst of this darkness it would be difficult, even with the best inclinations, to be strictly just. How then will matters stand when love of justice is not the predominant passion? For my part, I have been present at many criminal trials in Ireland, and it is impossible to describe the painful feelings with which such a spectacle filled my mind.
It is a sad truth, that, in every Irish court of justice, there are, as it were, two hostile encampments within sight of each other; the accused on one side, the judge and jury on the other. Amongst the spectators, the people is for the accused; the tribunal is supported by the soldiers, the constables, and the wealthy. As, in Ireland, the aristocracy is engaged in an open contest with the people, all that depends on the aristocracy, or sympathises with it, comes to support it on this terrible field of battle, where the strong exterminate the weak in the name of justice and the laws. The prejudices and malevolent passions of which the accused is the object, are displayed on every side; they may be heard in the accent of the judge, seen in the emotions as well as the passiveness of the jury; the very language of the counsel for the defence reveals them. It is difficult to form an idea of the tone of contempt and insolence in which the members of the Irish bar speak of the people and the lower classes. Thus, in spite of the formalities of procedure—in spite of all the legal solemnities which surround the accused in the presence of his judge, there is an inward feeling, that this is not a deliberation of judgment, but a preparation of vengeance; this lie of forms, promising equitable chastisement, but concealing a kind of vengeance, is endured; but, when the judge pronounces the terrible sentence of death, it might be deemed the signal for a fierce engagement between the party of the judge and the party of the accused, were not the court filled with armed policemen, whose presence prevents the parties from coming to blows.
In England, the magistrate sees in every accused person an unfortunate fellow-citizen, a person charged with a crime of which he may be innocent, an Englishman invoking the sacred rights of the constitution. In Ireland, the justices of the peace, the judges, and the jury, treat the accused as a kind of idolatrous savage, whose violence must be subdued, as an enemy that must be destroyed, as a guilty man destined beforehand to punishment. In England, the penal laws are sanguinary, the forms of proceeding are in some respects barbarous, but the manners of the people are humane, the jury is clement, and the judge merciful. In Ireland the penal code is more sanguinary than that of England; all the bad principles of English legislation are practised, and the magistrate is as severe as the law.14
Hatred of Law by the People.
Who now will be astonished to learn that the Irish population, which hates and despises its magistrates, hates and despises the laws of which they are the organs,15 that in Ireland this hatred of the law is universal? Who will be astonished at the horror with which any share in its administration inspires the community?16
Sentence of death was once pronounced at Waterford, the culprit was ordered for execution, but even in that country of paupers no one could be found, at any price, to perform the revolting office, and the first officer of the crown was obliged himself to hang the criminal.17
Who now will be astonished at the public abhorrence which pursues not only every complainant and informer, but also every witness in a criminal trial? Who does not see, that hence results the impossibility of obtaining witnesses without buying them? Who does not comprehend that this contempt and hatred for criminal law produces the most anti-social disposition that can exist amongst any people, the habit of having recourse to violence? Who does not foresee that this consequence of social evil might, if combined with political passions or circumstances, produce a violent revolution?
Will anybody be now astonished at the sympathy which every criminal excites in Ireland? And if matters have reached such a height that murders are committed in the noonday, persons looking on from their windows, and allowing the murderers quietly to escape; if, when the constables have arrested the guilty, the crowd will pounce upon the officers of justice and rescue their prey; if everybody believes that he will sanctify his dwelling by offering a refuge to the malefactor; and if a universal confederation exist in the land, to save from the penalty of law all those pursued by justice; who, I say, can be astonished?
The office of Public Accuser is wanting in Ireland.
The social evil whose influence is observed in the execution of justice, is not only manifested by the passions that it raises in the magistrates and those subject to their jurisdiction; it attacks also judicial institutions in the first principle of their organization, and where it does not make them fatal, renders them unavailing. Thus, for instance, the theory or custom which generally leaves to private interest the care of prosecuting for crime or misdemeanour, is the same in England and Ireland. But who cannot comprehend, that though this system or mode is exempt from peril in England, it is full of danger for Ireland?
It may be conceived, that in a society like that of England, where the sovereignty of the law, the omnipotence of the judges, and the impartiality of the magistrates, are established in all the manners and customs; amongst a people, where all is life, activity, movement,—it may be conceived, I say, that in such a country it would be possible to dispense with permanent functionaries connected with judicial bodies, to enforce the suppression of all infractions of the public peace; in such a society it might be safe to trust private interest with the care of avenging violations of the law. The citizens, accustomed to exercise their civil and political rights, habituated also to the equity of their magistrates, will doubtless be prompt to claim spontaneously the justice which is their right, and will prosecute every attempt on property, liberty, and life, with as much zeal as they assert their right to vote at an election. Thus, society will find a sure defence in the sentiment which will impel everybody to seek his own private redress. In such a country, probably, the citizens will become more skilful in protecting themselves when they will not expect official protection from any authority. Perhaps from this abandonment of private interests to themselves, a new element of power and action will cause a more imperious necessity for a knowledge of the laws, a greater skill in their application; in every heart a more profound sense of its rights, a more enlightened love of its liberty, and thus a principle of social and political power may be derived from that which was at first an imperfection, if not a glaring omission, in the law.
But what will be the consequence if no such public amnesty exists in such a country as Ireland, where private individuals, long deprived of all political rights, and almost all poor, have besides an invincible repugnance to invoke the authority of the judge; where the law as well as the judge is hated; where the feeling of right is extinct; where no confidence is reposed in justice or its organs? It must happen, that private zeal will not supply the want of public activity, and that the greater number of the crimes committed will remain unpunished from not being brought under cognizance of the magistrates. It is not merely through pity for the criminal or distrust of the judge that complaint will be hushed, it will be omitted through ignorance of the right. No prosecutions will then be witnessed but such as are instituted through passion rather than interest. Hate alone will instigate prosecutions in a country where it is too often by the same sentiment that they are tried. Recourse must then be had to the most immoral means to effect the discovery of crime. Not only will public rewards be occasionally offered to informers, but the law will be found formally consecrating the right of every indigent person to a pecuniary reward for discovering a crime, or aiding in the conviction of a criminal.18 How strange a means of inculcating justice, which violates the most simple laws of morality!
Unanimity of the Jury in Ireland.
It is in England a fundamental law of the institution of a jury, that the unanimity of its members is necessary to a verdict. Although at first sight it seems difficult to imagine any subject on which twelve reasoning men could perfectly agree without a single dissentient, still we find the principle of the jury work in England without much embarrassment; and all collisions between contrary and violent opinions end in the triumph of the sentiment which is mildest and most humane.
In Ireland the same principle exists, but how is it to be put in practice? Will you compose the jury exclusively of Protestants? Then, doubtless, unanimity will be established as easily as in an English jury. But if an Irish Catholic be at the bar, there is reason to fear that this unanimity, sometimes so difficult, may be rather too prompt in returning a verdict of guilty.
Will you, instead of Protestants, place none but Catholics on the jury? Then it is intelligible that unanimity will be easy; but this time it is for the accused Protestant that fears must be entertained. Perhaps you will compose the jury of Protestants and Catholics indifferently, the only just course in such a case. But then, how are men, separated far more by political passions and prejudices of caste than by difference of creed, to arrive at unanimity of opinion?
This is a difficulty which seems to increase the more it is investigated. Does the judge refuse to deliver the jury, and lock them up until they agree upon their verdict? Such a proceeding is a sentence of death upon those jurors whose health is not so sound as their conscience. Perhaps, seeing that there is no chance of agreement, the judge will dismiss them without requiring a verdict; in such a case, the trial not being completed, must be adjourned to the next assizes, and the accused must remain three or four months in prison waiting for a second jury, which will perhaps be no less discordant than the first.
Thus one of two things almost always happens; either the unanimity obtained is marked by passion and party spirit, or it is not obtained at all. Justice is not possible when its source is thus tainted.1920
It is thus that political and social circumstances may render a principle of civil legislation evil in one country, which has been proved beneficial in another.
How and why it has been found necessary to create in Ireland a certain number of Official Functionaries which do not exist in England.
Of all the cares which an aristocracy really anxious to govern takes charge, there is doubtless none which demands more knowledge, more zeal, and more constant efforts, than the administration of justice; and when we consider the variety of duties that devolve on justices of peace in England and Ireland,—all the usages that they must know, all the statutes that they must apply, all the objects of police entrusted to their vigilance,—the multitude of judgments that they pronounce in civil matters,—the gravity of the sentences which they have sometimes to pronounce with all the severity of judicial forms,—finally, all the responsibilities that result from each of their actions,—we can scarcely conceive it possible for large proprietors, men of business, occupied with their own affairs, and not versed in the study of the law, could discharge such complicated functions with any success. In England, nevertheless, the difficulty, if not overcome, has been fairly combated; and although English justices of the peace are neither exempt from errors nor faults, justice is never wanting in the country, and magistrates are rarely wanting at the petty sessions, where ordinary business is transacted. The spectacle presented by a court of quarter sessions in England is often worthy of admiration.
But the task of administering the law was too severe for the justices of peace in Ireland; it could not be executed by an incapable and indifferent aristocracy. It constantly happened that, on the day of the week fixed for granting summonses and other magisterial duties, two justices were not found in attendance, and the course of law was suspended for want of magistrates. Often also, when the justices of peace assembled at quarter sessions, there was not one of them qualified to act as chairman: and here it was not the absence, but the incapacity of the judge, which rendered justice impossible.
The evil long remained without remedy; the Irish continued loaded with a burden which it had neither spirit nor strength to bear, until at length the central government, taking pity on its weakness and inefficiency, came to its assistance. A law was passed in 1796, authorising the executive power to employ stipendiary magistrates, and place them in all the localities where gratuitous justices of the peace were not sufficient for the administration of justice. And to aid the justices of peace at the quarter sessions, the same law commanded the executive power to send to these assemblies a member of the bar to guide and direct their deliberations, and to assist in their judicial functions, whence he is called the assistant barrister. Although, according to law, the justices of peace are not bound to choose this barrister as their chairman, they very rarely elect any other person, so deep is their sense of their own weakness and their own incapacity.
Finally, as this aristocracy, destitute of all moral influence over the minds of the people, required the aid of physical force to produce obedience, the law has created a large corps of agents, half civil and half military, analogous to the gendarmerie of France, called the constabulary force; these are placed under the control of justices of the peace, charged with executing the mandates of the magistrates, and protecting them in their functions; and government has conferred on the chief constables the power of executing, themselves, all the functions of judicial police, which in England can only be performed by justices of the peace.
It is a sad and perilous condition for an aristocracy to be under the necessity of invoking and receiving the aid of the central government. In fact, which of the powers created for its support may not be employed to attack it? An aristocracy can only remain masters of its powers by personally exercising them; it has no real existence, and no true power, but when it brings to its functions of government knowledge and virtue. Now, how can it be skilful when it does not impose upon itself the cares of government? How can it be generous when, for both the country and the people, it neither feels affection nor sympathy?
Influence of the same principle on the institutions of the county.
In Ireland, as in England, the state is divided into counties. As in both countries, the central power neither directly nor by agents occupies itself with the details of government; it is naturally in the county, which is the principal division of the state, that the administration of public affairs, properly so called, is made. Though the state cannot properly be said to administer the affairs of the county over which it is in principle the sovereign administrator, the state nevertheless has its own officers in the county, the chief of which are the sheriff, the lord lieutenant, and the justices of the peace.
These officers of the central government discharge in the county two sets of functions; the first may be called general, as they interest the entire country, the most important of which, the administration of justice, has been explained in the preceding chapter; the second may be named local, because they are specially directed to the affairs of the county in which they reside.
There are many things connected with the administration of an Irish county which in England belong to other bodies. For instance, it is the county that in Ireland undertakes most of the public labours undertaken in England by parliamentary boards of trust and commissioners, such as canals, &c. The county also regulates all the roads small and great, which in England are either turnpike trusts, or managed by the parish.1 There was little public charity in Ireland previous to the introduction of the New Poor Law; but the few charitable institutions, infirmaries, and dispensaries belonged to the counties, whiilst in England all public charity belongs to the parish.
In England, the special interests of the county are regulated at the quarter sessions; in Ireland, the magistrates at quarter sessions are limited to the administration of justice. At special sessions and road sessions they discuss county interests: but their examination of them is merely preparatory: they recommend rather than decide. The final decision must be controlled and sanctioned by the grand jury, a body which in Ireland plays the chief part in the administration of the county.
The grand jury in Ireland is at once a judicial and administrative body; it assembles twice a year, and then administers those affairs which in England are managed at the quarter sessions. The body that regulates the affairs of an English county deliberates, decides, and acts in perfect independence; whilst the administrative functions of an Irish grand jury are to a certain extent under the control of the judge, whose fiat is necessary to the execution of their presentments.2
Though the grand jury ceases to exist with the assizes, yet the same persons are generally summoned by the sheriff at the ensuing assizes. The judge might certainly oppose obstacles to an Irish grand jury which are not encountered by the English court of quarter sessions; but the central power has been so closely connected with the aristocracy, that few sheriffs or judges have been chosen in opposition to its will; practically, therefore, the Irish grand jury may be deemed as free in its actions as the English court of quarter sessions.
A moment’s reflection will sufficiently show that the same moral causes, which render the same judicial institution beneficial in one country and pernicious in the other, are, for much stronger reasons, capable of exercising the same influence over the administrative functions.
The rich Protestant, who, as a justice of peace, acts in the capacity of judge, is doubtless subject to passions that bias his judgment; but still in his sympathies for the Protestant, and in his enmity to the Catholic, he is fettered by judicial forms, and obliged to cover his most iniquitous proceedings by a mantle of equity, which sometimes fails him, and from want of which he must either stop short, or compromise his character. His administrative functions are not thus embarrassed; he has no need to prove the same equity in his acts, and he is more easily unjust, because his injustice is less subject to publicity. Thus the arbitrary decisions arising from favour or hatred, and the oppression resulting from selfishness, are more easily practised by the administrator than by the judge: consequently we must not be astonished if the great landlords of Ireland, who as justices of the peace give such sad specimens of justices, should exhibit in general the most barefaced selfishness in their administration, and if it be difficult to find in their acts any views of public interest, or any trace of generous sentiment.
Invested with the exorbitant right of taxing the county, they bear heavily on the poor, and lightly on the rich. When these rates are levied, to what purpose are they applied? They are spent to promote the interests of the rich, and they are never applied to the profit of the poor. If they have any assistance to bestow, it is given to the Protestant, and not to the Catholic, though the former be rich and the latter poor. Does any one suppose that, when they create an office, it is for the general interest? Not at all; it is instituted to provide for some favourite. Authority is, in their hands, only a means of advancing their own affairs. If a road is to be made, they consider their own personal convenience, not the wants of the country; and the county will pay a heavy tax, not to join some important centres of population, but to make an easy and agreeable communication between the houses of two rich proprietors. But at least, in this country of misery and ignorance, will they not found schools and hospitals? No. What then will they do for the people? They will provide barracks and prisons, almost the only splendid buildings in Ireland. Finally, they will commit such enormous abuses, such gross frauds, and such monstrous excesses, as to reader “Irish grand jury jobs” proverbial in England.
The rich in Ireland, masters of the entire administration, hold in their hands all the powers of society. How then shall they set bounds to their own authority? “It is,” said Montesquieu, “proved by invariable experience, that every man invested with power is tempted to abuse it; even virtue itself has need of limits.” If limits be wanting to virtue itself, how far will that selfishness advance which has none?
If the best aristocracy is not exempt from faults, it may be fairly said that a bad aristocracy is the worst of governments; and nowhere are its vices more clearly displayed than in the daily administration of the laws. If an aristocracy feels sympathy with the population, its members, dispersed among the people, will be more inclined to protect the weak and succour the poor, as they will be continually witnesses of the weakness of the one and the indigence of the other; and the more powerful and rich they are, the more capable will they be, while maintaining their own privileges, of defending the rights of their inferiors. But when this aristocracy is the natural enemy of the people, its power no longer affords tutelary aid; should it be sufficiently strong and clever to preserve its own prerogatives, it will not extend the benefits of its strength; all its members will keep their privileges, but those beneath them will not have their rights. In such a state, there will be all the subjection of inequality, with all the evils of servitude.
Nowhere will the oppression of the people be so easy and certain as in such a society, for nowhere will the oppressed be so much within reach of the oppressor. In a country where every landlord is at once an enemy of the people and a public functionary, it may be said that tyranny is everywhere.
If all things unite to render pernicious an aristocracy whose principle is vicious, it must be added that they equally tend to render it odious. When an aristocracy is not rejected by the national and religious sentiments, it has, in the eyes of the people it governs, one singular merit, exaggerated perhaps, but still a great glory and a great power,—that of exercising its functions gratuitously. It doubtless finds in the social state by which it is supported, advantages and privileges which amply indemnify it for its labours; but then its members do not positively receive a salary; and there is in this apparent disinterestedness a something that singularly affects the mind of the multitude, and induces the many to honour the character of those whose generosity they admire, at the same time that they recognise the superiority of their intelligence. But this merit of an aristocracy is changed into a grievance, when, instead of being popular, it is odious to the nation.
In fact, it seems as if oppression were more readily pardoned to a salaried magistrate or judge, who, in practising it, seems only to perform the task by which he gains his livelihood. It may be supposed that this functionary is only a passive agent, who in his heart laments the evil that his hand produces; but when he is an unpaid agent, it is naturally supposed that he takes a pleasure in oppression, and that he practises with all his heart the tyranny of which society does not defray the expenses.
Influence of the same Principle in the Municipal Corporations.
Having examined the vicious principles of the Irish aristocracy on the powers of the state and the administration of the county, we are about to consider the influence of the same principles on the government of cities and towns, called municipal corporations.
Neither in Ireland nor England are all the towns incorporated, and also there are municipal corporations to which we could scarcely give the name of towns; for instance, the borough of Naas. A town is not a corporation because it contains a certain number of inhabitants, but because it possesses a charter: it is incorporated, not by right, but by privilege, the only universal and invariable privilege which existed in all societies of feudal origin.
The differences between the English and Irish corporations are not less striking than those between the English and Irish counties. In Ireland, the unchartered towns are the best governed. How, then, does it come to pass that in Ireland, where we have seen all public powers so open to abuse, municipal corporations should enjoy a bad pre-eminence for extravagance, jobbing, and tyranny? How happens it that we scarcely find in them a single one of the original principles on which their institution is based?
Thus the first and fundamental principle is, that the corporation should be composed of all persons contained within the precincts of the city, and that all should concur in the choice of the body by which the city is represented. Nevertheless, in most Irish municipalities, the great majority of the population is excluded from the right of citizenship.1 Who would believe that Belfast, that large and magnificent town, does not legally contain more than fifteen or twenty citizens?2 It is another fundamental condition of municipal institutions, that the body representing the city should be composed of those who are most identified with its interests, and most capable of comprehending them. Nevertheless, in most of the Irish cities, the representative body is in a great degree formed of persons destitute of fortune and education, and sometimes of non-residents.3 There are mendicants in the corporation of Dublin, while the most wealthy merchants are refused admission into that body. It is also an essential principle of corporations, that the body representing the city, the freemen, should be themselves represented by the officers who act in their name; nevertheless, corporate officers are not so elected in Ireland; by an incredible abuse, these officers have acquired the right of nominating each other.4 When an alderman’s place is vacant, the other aldermen choose his successor; and these aldermen, whom the citizens have not elected, nominate the mayor, the sheriffs, and all the officers of the city. Thus not only is the city non-represented by the corporation, but, in addition, the corporation is not represented by its own officers. In these corporations several offices are grasped by the same functionary; the governing body multiplies sinecures for the profit of its members; the grossest acts of selfishness are perpetrated without shame; the corporations of Trim and Kells alienated their lands, that two or three of their members might purchase them at a nominal price; the corporation of Naas granted to a noble lord one of its members’ lands, worth five hundred pounds, for twelve pounds; and at Drogheda, the corporation ruled that the charitable funds belonging to the city should be exclusively expended for the profit of members of the corporation and their families.5
And why all these contradictions?—why this violation of all principle?—why this assemblage of abuses? A principal cause supplies the explanation. It was necessary in the beginning to exclude the Irish from the cities in order to preserve the monopoly of commerce and wealth to the English settlers, and consequently laws and regulations were made, which excluded the natives, as Irish, from the corporate body. It was similarly necessary to exclude the Catholics from the right of citizenship, in order to maintain the Protestant ascendency in Irish towns.6 Consequently the laws required that before a person should be admitted as a freeman, he should take the oaths of supremacy and abjuration. For cities where there were no Protestants worthy of representing the city, either from want of fortune or personal merit, it was necessary to invite to this representation either strangers devoted to the aristocracy, or poor persons sold to it. Finally, it was necessary to restrain as much as possible the number of freemen and corporate officers, in order that the aristocracy should have less trouble in their corruption, and less expense in their purchase.
Vainly have most of the laws which consecrated these exclusions been abolished: their spirit has survived their text. The emancipating law of 1793 opened the corporations to Irish Catholics, and rendered them eligible to the body of freemen; but this law is a dead letter. Catholics are admissible; but the admission depending on the body of freemen, these, being Protestants, refuse to receive Catholics. Thus in Dublin, where more than one half of the population is Catholic, there is not a single Catholic in the corporation.
The emancipation act of 1829 declared that, for the future, Catholics might not only be admitted as freemen into the municipalities, but moreover that they should be eligible to all the civil and judicial offices at the disposal of the corporation. But how can Protestant bodies, refusing to recognise Catholics as their fellow-citizens, elect one of them a magistrate?
There are certain radical vices in institutions against which the laws are powerless, when they are protected by usage and custom.
Formerly, in England, the municipal corporations presented in their government a portion of the vices and abuses which we have pointed out in those of Ireland. These vices and abuses were less pernicious in England than in Ireland, because, in the former country, they were subservient to an aristocracy which, after all, is not unpopular; whilst, in the latter, they only exist for the profit of an aristocracy odious to the nation. A recent law has thoroughly reformed the English corporations, and re-established them on a new and popular base. In Ireland, on the contrary, the old feudal and Anglican system of corporations has been left standing as the inviolable sanctuary of aristocratic privilege and Protestant monopoly.7
Influence of the same principle on the parish.
It only remains to examine the effects of the same principle on the parish, where it exercises perhaps a still more potent influence than over all the other powers.
Irish parishes are, in theory, constituted on the very same principles as those of England; the parish in both countries has a democratic foundation, and forms an equal anomaly amidst institutions derived from feudality.
The powers mentioned above, that of the state, that of the counties, that of the municipal corporations, have all the same origin: they all proceed from the sovereign, the only source of power in a feudal society: the municipal corporations themselves have a free and democratic constitution, only because they have received from the sovereign the privilege of thus constituting themselves. The parish has a principle absolutely opposite: it proceeds from the people.
This double source of political institutions in England explains better, perhaps better than anything else, the perpetual conflict between two adverse principles which we encounter in English society, and which we find in perpetual war; the one authority, the other liberty; the former drawing all power to a centre, the latter diffusing it amongst the people: the first supported, sometimes by the sovereign, sometimes by the parliament; the second taking its root in the parish: one a Norman principle, the other a Saxon principle.1
When William the Conqueror and his Norman knights succeeded in the conquest of England, they found the Saxon parish established there, the free principle of which was then in perfect harmony with that of all the other powers. William and his successors destroyed those institutions which placed power in the hands of the people, and seized on all authority themselves; still, in this general destruction, one power was spared, that of the parish, which was, perhaps, respected on account of its semi-religious character, and became, under the tyranny of the Normans and the Tudors, the only asylum where the old Saxon liberties found a shelter.
When the Anglo-Normans conquered Ireland they brought with them the Saxon parish as well as the Norman county; there is not a single constituent principle of an English parish which may not be equally found in an Irish parish. How comes it to pass that the Irish parish, so similar in theory, should in practice be so different from one in England?
In England, the parish is full of movement an life; it is the centre of a multitude of great interests; it gives life and vigour to the principles of popular liberty, which are shaded by the aristocratic edifice.
A great social inequality doubtless reigns in England; but it is necessary to be present at a vestry meeting in that country to judge to what extraordinary liberty this inequality is allied. There may be seen with what independence of language and thought an obscure English citizen opposes a lord to whom he bowed down a moment before. He is not his equal:—but within the limits of his right he is equally free, and he is conscious of the fact. His right is to discuss the interests of the parish, and this right he exercises not only with liberty, but with a prudence and skill which it is astonishing to find in an orator whose stained hands and coarse habits prove him to be an artisan, or a man of the lowest class. The English institutions, collectively, form no doubt an aristocratic government, but there is not a parish in England which does not constitute a free republic.
In Ireland, on the contrary, the parish, which presents to the eyes the same external appearance as the English parish, has nothing of its life: possessing the same organs, it is languishing and inert, if not quite dead. Whence is this difference? One principal cause explains it.
Without doubt, the Irish parish did not, at its origin, find the same favourable circumstances which cradled the parish in England. When once the tempest of the Norman conquest was passed, the English parish raised its head, and continued to grow and develope itself in a country where it had taken root. The institution of a parish was introduced into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans, who carried with them the body rather than the spirit of the Saxon institutions; it necessarily suffered from transplantation into a land which had not given it birth: it wanted the Saxon soil, and it may be doubted whether, under the most propitious circumstances, it would have acquired the vigorous existence possessed only by institutions that sprang from a country and its habits.2 But a pernicious influence was superadded, which at once blighted its growth,—that of the Protestant principle, violently introduced into the centre of the Catholic population.
The first attribute of the parish, the very essence of its institution, is the support of public worship, the building and repairing of the church, providing salaries for its officers, &c. Now, what took place in Ireland, a country profoundly Catholic, when the English, having turned Protestant, undertook to make their new creed predominant in that country? In the first place, they forbade those parishes in which there were no Protestants to assemble in vestry, and provide for the support of their religion, the exercise of which was declared a crime. By this single act, three-fourths of the parishes of Ireland were at once despoiled of their first interest. Their next proceeding was to order that every parish in which there were any Protestants should be bound to pay for the support of worship what had been formerly contributed to the Catholic church; so that not only the vestry of a parish composed exclusively of Catholics could not assemble to vote money for the support of their own church, but it was further obliged to assemble, deliberate, and vote the expenses necessary for the support of the Anglican faith, simply because it was the creed of two or three members. Such a requisition was palpably absurd. How, in fact, could men persecuted on account of their religion willingly tax themselves to support the creed of their persecutors? The Catholics refused a vote which it was sheer madness to ask.
What then was to be done? It was required that the entire parish should defray the expenses of the Protestant church; but the vestry, the majority of which was Catholic, refused the rate.
In such a state of things, as it was impossible to force the conscience of the Catholics, it was resolved to violate the essential principle on which the parochial institution rests; and a law was passed, depriving Catholics of the right of voting on all questions concerning the Anglican church, and giving the Protestants, however few in number, the exclusive right of forming the vestry, voting the sums necessary for the expenses of their church, and raising the amount by a rate levied equally on Catholics and Protestants. Thus, in the greater number of parishes, Catholics had nothing to do with providing for worship; and in the parishes where a few Protestants had been raised, a different religious interest, an almost imperceptible minority, gave laws to the majority. Thus, in the greater number of instances, the parish in Ireland was deprived of its proper functions; and in the others it only preserved them at the price of violating its fundamental principle, and perpetrating gross injustice.
Still the law which excluded Catholics from the vestry, where provision was made for the Protestant worship, left them access to those which were assembled for any other purpose. But when once religious interests were set aside, what remained to be done in an Irish parish?
One of the greatest interests under the management of the parish in England is public charity. It is in England a fixed principle, that every indigent person has a right to the assistance of society, and the aid thus claimed by the poor is for the most part given by the parish.3 This is an abundant source of immense duties and endless cares; for this obligation of providing for the wants of the poor brings with it, in England, a multitude of accessory charges. After having given bread to the poor man, the English parish deems it necessary to provide a residence if he wants one, clothes if they be required, medicine if necessary: if the poor man has children, the parish not only offers them the same aid, but further believes that it is bound to support and educate them; so that, in England, parochial charity comprehends not only food for the hungry, but moreover houses of refuge, hospitals and schools.
Why is it that in Ireland we find the parishes undertaking no such charge? The reason is sufficiently plain, and it is found in the English and Protestant character of the aristocracy. The poor-law dates from the reign of Elizabeth. Now, at that period, the sentiment which induced the rich in England to aid the poor had no existence in Ireland, where the rich were English and Protestants; and the poor, Irish and Catholics. The long resistance of the vanquished had inspired the conquerors with too much rancour to leave them accessible to the ordinary feelings of humanity; and on the day when the conquerors became, as Protestants, the religious enemies of the Catholics, it may be said that the sources of charity were dried up in Ireland. This is the reason why, in this country of paupers, a poor-law is but of very recent introduction; why, until now, public charity has never been instituted in the face of the most excessive misery imaginable. Whilst in England it is a principle that every pauper has a right to legal support, in Ireland the principle is rather, that the rich owes nothing to the poor; and hence the management of public charity, which has so greatly extended the sphere of parochial business in England, has added nothing to it in Ireland, where it was already so destitute.
The Irish parish, which was deprived of its most natural functions to advance the Protestant interest, has recently been deprived of its principal and almost its only rights, as a boon to the opposite interest.
The injustice of subjecting the Catholic population of parishes to the vote of an exclusively Protestant vestry having been finally recognised, a law was passed in 1833, prohibiting the levying of church-rates, and the parish has consequently abandoned all care of religious interests. Thus, the Irish parish, possessing the same powers and invested with the same forms as the English parish, is, by the effect of one single principle, so essentially different, that whilst the one is the very heart of political society, the other is almost inanimate power. It is with difficulty that any object can be found to engage the attention of an Irish parish; it is not power that is wanting, but functions; at present its only business is to elect its officers, the clerk, the churchwardens, the beadle, &c., and to provide for their salaries. But when these officers are elected and their stipends voted, they are no doubt legally instituted, but they have nothing to do.4
Influence of the same principle on an institution common to all public powers,—judicial authority, the only supreme administrative power.
The most striking feature in the political powers of society in England and France is the almost total absence of an organised system. It is true that the houses of parliament enact supreme laws destined for all parts of the empire, but no state-authority attends to their execution. The parish acts by its officers, the corporation by its magistrates, and though there are state-agents in the counties, such as the lord lieutenant, the sheriff, and the justices of peace, yet their functions are gratuitous, and it is difficult to establish any durable direction given by superior power to unsalaried agents. The trustees of roads and canals are only controlled by parliament, and a deliberative assembly is obviously unfit to superintend the execution of the laws. In England and in Ireland, the only authority that has really a right to exercise a direct control over all these various powers, is the judicial authority.
The tribunal which in this respect exercises the widest and most potent jurisdiction is the Court of Queen’s Bench, which in both countries is considered the supreme representative of the executive power. But this court does not and cannot interfere, save on the requisition of the interested parties. Such a system of administration, though perhaps good for England, cannot but be defective in Ireland.
The object of a system which places the control over all administrative bodies and agents in the judicial authority, is to give inviolable guarantees to the liberty and property of the citizens. But, in the first place, what can be the protection of this authority in a country where it is so difficult for the judge to be just, and where the person in need of justice is so little capable of demanding it? Such a system, we must see, is singularly complicated; it requires not only the confidence of suitors and good feelings in the judge towards the suitor, but also that the latter should have sufficient intelligence to comprehend the wrongs they sustain from power, and sufficient fortune to defray the expenses of a suit. Now the justice that is open to all is expensive, its forms are tutelary, but singularly slow, and the abuses of authority must have become excessive before persons will apply to law for redress.
It is easy to conceive that such a system might be applicable to a country like England, where the law is sufficiently popular for the citizens to seek its protection, and where these citizens are sufficiently enlightened and sufficiently rich to have recourse to justice. It may happen that several frauds and abuses of power will be committed in such a country, without the injured parties making a formal complaint; but there will, nevertheless, be always a sufficiently large number of suits instituted by personal interest or passion to bind public functionaries to the observance of the law.
But what must be the effect of such a system in a country where law is hated as hostile to the people, where the citizens, unaccustomed to defend their rights, are nearly all indigent? Of what value to a nation of paupers, long kept under the yoke, is a principle which, to be put in practice, requires great wealth and old habits of freedom? How can the judge, who is often unable to preserve his impartiality in the trial of an ordinary crime, because the prosecutor and accused are of a different religion, or because he looks upon them as of distinct races,—how, I say, can he decide, without favour or affection, a quarrel between public authority and a private individual? The plaintiff is a Catholic! the defendant is a Protestant! and is not the Catholic population in a state of war, not only against the Protestants, but against all authority? The functionary inculpated is rich; the plaintiff is poor; and is not the poor man in Ireland at war with the rich? The Protestant and wealthy functionary must therefore be supported against the poor Catholic complainant. When once his part is taken, the magistrate will not be in want of legal excuses to justify it: even supposing that those obstacles which shut the heart of the judge against complainants did not exist, can it be supposed that this population, which, as we have seen above, is scarcely able to demand justice for ordinary crimes, would be better able to establish its grievances against the agents of public authority, and distinguish at a glance the limits, often so hard to be discovered, between the legitimate exercise of power and its abuse? Assuredly, if ever there was a country in which the administration ought to act alone,—without demanding any money from the people, or requiring from it any cognizance of its rights,—by agents all whose movements should be spontaneous,—that country is Ireland. The Irish functionary, menaced by the possibility of a judicial suit, is in general little restrained by this fear, when the abuse of his authority is directed against some unfortunate being with whose ignorance and poverty he is acquainted; and yet does he not easily persuade himself that his conduct has been irreproachable, since it has never been made the subject of a trial? Thus, at the same time that redress is offered in the sanctuary of the laws to all who have reason to complain of public functionaries, a thousand obstacles render its attainment almost impossible to the people. Judicial authority is the sovereign guarantee of all rights—he who is charged with its administration does not dispense it,—he who needs it does not demand it. This is the reason why, with a principle designed to protect the property of the rich and the liberty of all, we find in Ireland liberty without defence, property without guarantees, and security for nobody.6
Legal and official Establishment of Protestant Worship in the midst of Catholic Ireland—The University and the Protestant Schools.
We have seen the influence exercised by the English and Protestant origin of the Irish aristocracy on civil and political society; it only remains to examine the consequences of the same principle on religious society. Thus, having considered how this principle affected the mutual relations of the rich and the poor, governors and subjects, we are about to consider its influence on the reciprocal relations of Catholic and Protestant.
We have already noticed under what circumstances England became Protestant, and how, when she made the change, she was anxious that Ireland should do the same. This anxiety was not merely the consequence of a religious passion, it was also the result of a political principle. No one in the sixteenth century could comprehend the complete separation of the temporal from the spiritual power; but, perhaps, in no country was the union of secular government and religious authority more close than in England, because nowhere else was the head of the state also the head of the church. It is easy, then, to see why the English, having based their own government on Protestantism, should have laid a similar foundation for the government of Ireland. The church and state were then but one. At a later period, a race of kings was hurled from the throne on suspicion of Catholicism; it was then required not only to be Protestant, but Anglican, in order to reign. This is sufficient to show that the English must have wished not only to render Ireland Protestant, but Anglican.
In the same way, as it is generally impossible to comprehend the existence of a religion without a system of public worship, the aristocracy could not understand a church without wealth and privileges; it was resolved that the church of Ireland should be wealthy and splendid, and that the aristocracy of Ireland should have an aristocratic church.
In England, the Catholic church was deprived of its lands and rights, which were transferred to the Protestant church. This spoliation might have been unjust, but it was effected for the advantage of a creed accepted by the majority of the nation. In Ireland, the same means of endowing the new church were adopted. It obtained the confiscated church-lands, and a right to the tithe of all Irish produce; but whilst the aristocracy introduced and established the new creed in Ireland, the people of the country clung to the ancient faith; so that a Protestant church was established at great expense in the midst of a Catholic population. Hence arose a forced alliance between the Anglican church and the aristocracy; the latter being naturally attached to the religious system it had founded, and by which it alone profited; the former being entirely devoted to the political power that had created it, and which could alone protect it from the common enemy. We shall hereafter see that the links which united them from their cradle were drawn closer together: although the king ceased not to be the head of the church and state, the aristocracy soon domineered over both; the rich managed the state, and the bishops the church. Perhaps we may be permitted to see, in this parity of origin and precocious confusion of church and state, the germ of a common destiny.
From the time of this union the invasion of Ireland was not simply political, it was also religious. Ireland was not only covered with an army of soldiers and greedy conquerors, but also with a spiritual militia of archbishops, bishops, and Protestant ministers, who came with the avowed intention of changing the national creed; and the people, from the very outset, saw their religion menaced by the pious auxiliaries of those who had taken away their country.
England, which had been, turn about, Catholic and Protestant at the caprice of Henry VIII., which returned to Catholicism under Mary, became Protestant under Elizabeth, Puritan under the republic, and Anglican after the restoration of Charles II.—England, I say, without doubt, believed it sufficient to establish a religious creed in Ireland, supported by the civil law, to effect the conversion of the country. The Anglican church was therefore instituted under the presumption that Ireland would shortly become Protestant. We have already seen the evils that were derived from this delusion; we have seen the persecutions, the massacres, and the cruelties perpetrated by the church and the civil government, in order to convert Ireland to Protestantism. All these rigours have been vain; Ireland has remained Catholic, and it is now a truth established by the irresistible evidence of statistical documents, that the Protestants of Ireland are fewer in proportion to the Catholics than they were two centuries ago. Their ratio to the Catholics in 1672 was as three to eight—at present it does not exceed three to twelve.1 Thus Ireland is more Catholic after the persecution than it was before; a consoling result to every one who is the enemy of violence, and superior to the efforts of tyranny.
The age of the religious wars is past; the throats of Papists are no longer cut in Ireland; banishments to Connaught are no longer in force; the penal laws against Catholics have been successively abolished. Persecution has disappeared, but the Anglican church remains. At the present day, as in the first age of the Reformation, there is in Ireland a Protestant militia spread over the whole surface of the country.
The Anglican church envelops Ireland in a vast administrative net; four provinces, thirty-two dioceses, thirteen hundred and eighty-seven benefices, two thousand four hundred and fifty parishes—such is the religious division of the country. The parish is only an administrative fraction of the benefice which constitutes the smallest ecclesiastical unity; the Protestant worship has establishments everywhere, even where there is no Protestant congregation. Thus, there are in Ireland eighty-two benefices and ninety-eight parishes in which there is not a single member of the Anglican church to be found. The services of the church are not dispensed in the ratio of the Protestant population, but a Catholic country is partitioned in reference to the Anglican church. There are entire dioceses where the population is almost exclusively Catholic, but this does not hinder them from possessing a complete establishment suited to Protestantism. To cite only one example, the diocese of Emly contains ninety-five thousand seven hundred inhabitants, of whom only twelve hundred belong to the Established Church; all the rest, to the amount of more than ninety-four thousand, are Catholics. Nevertheless, the Anglican form of worship has in this diocese fifteen churches, seventy-one benefices, and thirty-one salaried ministers.
The establishment of the Anglican church is naturally divided into the higher and lower clergy; four archbishops,2 twenty-two bishops, three hundred and twenty-six dignitaries, such as deans, prebendaries, archdeacons, &c., compose the higher clergy; the inferior or parochial clergy comprises thirteen hundred and thirty-three beneficed ministers, to which must be added seven hundred and fifty-two curates.3 A great number of the Anglican ministers possess benefices exclusively tenanted by Catholics, consequently they have nothing to do, and hence are frequently non-resident. It was calculated, in 1830, that out of thirteen hundred and five beneficed clergy, there were three hundred and seventy-seven absent from their posts, and in 1835 there were a hundred and fifty benefices without a resident rector or curate.
The clerical body in Ireland is nevertheless magnificently endowed. Besides its right to tithes, it possesses six hundred and seventy thousand acres of land. On the most moderate and authentic calculation its annual revenues amount to about a million sterling, and all these revenues go to the maintenance of the clergy.4 The higher clergy, most of whose employments are sinecure, possesses immense wealth,—it takes to itself alone more than 320,000l. annually. The Primate or Archbishop of Armagh has over fourteen thousand a year; the revenue of the Dean of Derry is three thousand seven hundred pounds.5
Here, then, is a country where half of the population is annually famishing, and where a million of money is spent every year on the ministers of a creed which is not that of the people!
Whatever objections may be made to the great wealth of a clerical body, it may still be conceived that a church endowed with large property may be popular and beneficial, when the creed that it represents is that of the entire population.
A religious nation may derive pleasure from surrounding the priests of its faith with splendour and magnificence. The more elevated the notions of the sacerdotal office are, the more such a nation desires to aggrandise its ministers. Among a believing people, the priest is the sacred intermediate between God and man. Without him there is no public worship, no solemn devotion. The priest blesses man in his cradle, pronounces the benediction on his union when he takes a companion, stands by him in all the changes of life; he knows nothing of the joys of the rich, but he is never wanting in the hour of misery: the priest hears the first and the last cry of man. It is he who instructs the people in the duties of this life, and the requisites for that which is to come. The people receiving from the priest the knowledge of things human and divine, bestow on him in turn a merited and splendid support.
Besides, there is commonly in the fortunes of the church a principle of charity expressed or understood, which protects them against the apparent scandal of their enormity: this principle is, that the church has only the wardship and distribution of the property entrusted to it. The church is the natural patron of the indigent. It seems as if it could not be made too rich, because its riches are those of the poor. Whatever may be the liberality of political institutions, there is a multitude of individual miseries that escape them, and which charity alone can discover and relieve. A church is religious charity personified. Thus understood, the opulence of the church is easily comprehended, if it be not justified.
But how are we to explain the immense riches of a church which is not that of the people? How are we to understand the immense revenues of a clergy instituted for the cure of souls, as its canons declare, and placed in the midst of a population to which its spiritual aid is odious? What means this charge of instructing the people entrusted to men whose teaching the people rejects? What is the sense of entrusting public charity to a clergy which cannot feel sympathy for the temporal distress of its religious enemies?
The Established Church of Ireland is, in reality, useful only to the small number of Anglican Protestants whose religious wants it supplies, and who pay just so much less for the expense and support of their religion as they compel the entire population, hostile to their creed, to contribute. If the members of the Church of England in Ireland, who amount to about eight hundred thousand, were to support their own church themselves, it would cost each of them, on the average, one pound sterling annually; but, by distributing the charge over six millions and a half of Catholics, and six hundred thousand dissenters, the cost to each member of the Anglican church is only two shillings. What a singular foundation for a church is a system which plunders the poor in order to assist the rich!
A generous or wise aristocracy would endow a church out of its own property, in order that this church, its ally and its friend, might be an intermediate between it and the Pope, and alleviate to the people the injustice and rigours of an aristocracy; but here is an aristocracy seeking its support in a church, useful only to itself, and the burden of which is thrown upon the people.
Such, nevertheless, is the institution with which the fate of the Irish aristocracy is linked.
The bond that unites both, is not only moral, political, and religious, it is also judical; the Protestant ministers have not only the same creed, the same interests, the same passions as the landlords, but they moreover discharge the same administrative and judicial functions.
A great many clergymen of the Church of England are justices of the peace;6 that is to say, in other words, the Catholics are placed under the civil jurisdiction of churchmen, whose religious jurisdiction they reject. Thus the Irish Catholic, who only knows the Protestant ministers by the tithes he pays them, finds them on the bench, as judges at petty sessions and quarter sessions, meets them at the assizes, sharing in every process, whether civil or criminal, where favour prevails over right, where the rich condemn the poor. It is bad, as a general principle, to unite temporal and spiritual power in the same hand; it is bad that the voice of the pious minister, which proclaims pardon in the name of the All-merciful, should be charged with the application of a law which does not pardon. And what will be the rule of the priest that is a magistrate? Will he judge crime as a sin, or sin as a crime? Whatever efforts his conscience may make, will he be able to separate one from the other? Will he not condemn, from pious motives, what the law will command him to absolve? and will not christian charity render him indulgent to faults, for which the law prescribes punishment? But, if it is bad to entrust a clergyman with the office of condemning or absolving those whom his religious conscience judges differently from his reason as a magistrate, what will be the result if this minister be the pious enemy of those whom he is to punish in the name of the laws,—that is to say, if counsels of severity be found at the very source of charity; if, even without his own knowledge, every legal severity he inflicts on a misdoer flatters the first passion of his heart; if this same man, who, as a Protestant minister, levies tithes on the Catholics, sends them to prison as a justice of the peace? It must follow, that a church so constituted will excite universal hatred, and will have the power of rendering not less odious than itself, every authority of which it is the auxiliary or the friend.
The University and the Protestant Schools.
In England, the Established Church not only distributes amongst the people spiritual succour for the soul, it believes also that it has a right to direct the faculties of the mind; it not only regulates the form by which prayers are to ascend to heaven, it aims at guiding man in the efforts he makes to perfect his intelligence, and thus raise himself towards the Divinity. The church believes that it is called to superintend instruction as well as worship.
In England, the church and the university are sisters, and this explains the strict union between the university and the aristocracy. The university is bound to the aristocracy by the same link which unites that to the church. In Ireland, the church and the university are joined by the same bonds, and consequently so are the university and the aristocracy. But it is easy to understand that the same causes which have rendered the establishment of the Anglican church in Ireland a grievance, must exercise the same influence on the university, which is an integral part of that church.
The university of Dublin was founded by Queen Elizabeth, on the same principles as the English universities, and endowed with the confiscated lands of Catholic monasteries, and has at present a revenue of about eighty thousand pounds annually. It is just, however, to state, that it is less intolerant than the English universities, and that its statutes not only admit students of every creed, but that it grants degrees in all the faculties, (except divinity,) without any distinction as to the religion of the candidates.
But is it now necessary to state what renders an institution vicious in Ireland, which, though more exclusive in England, presents there some advantages in the midst of monstrous abuses? Can we not discover, at the first glance, that this institution, which entrusts the highest degree of instruction to a Protestant church, can only excite in Ireland sentiments of repugnance and hatred? What Irish Catholic, supposing him wealthy, will be inclined to incur for his son the expenses of an education, of which Protestantism is the foundation?7 Who will tranquilly entrust his son to the bosom of an establishment which is regarded in Ireland as the very focus of Protestant proselytism? Who does not understand that the Irish university, which in principle is, perhaps, less defective than the universities of England, is in point of fact a thousand times worse?
The university of Dublin is open to persons of every denomination, but, from the nature of its institutions, it is only suited to a minority. On one side, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge attract, by their greater fashion and celebrity, all the young Irishmen of wealthy families; and on the other, the principles and passions which the Irish university conceals within its bosom, repel from it the children of the Irish Catholics; so that, in a country almost exclusively Catholic, the Protestants alone receive the higher instruction requisite for the discharge of public functions. Moreover, the Protestants, to whom this instruction is given, do not belong to the upper ranks of society. Thus, the University of Dublin does not correspond with the purpose of its foundation; it has never been national, and it has lost the aristocratic character which belongs to the English universities. It is, in fact, nothing but a seminary of candidates for the ministry of the Church of England: in this respect it is far from being abandoned; all who aspire to enter the church flock to the university, enticed by the numerous benefices and magnificent livings which it has at its disposal.8
We see, then, that this institution has nothing of a university but the name; it was, at the very outset, paralysed, as an instructing body, by its union with the church. It was founded, like the Anglican church itself, on the presumption that Ireland would cease to be Catholic. Nevertheless, Ireland has remained such, and the university on its side has continued Protestant.
The fate of the Irish university, which is nothing more than a school for superior instruction directed by the upper classes, explains the nature and destiny of the other schools which the church has founded in that country. Once the Protestant church said to the poor Catholics of Ireland, “Entrust your children to us, we will educate them in the principles of pure morality and the knowledge of the true religion.”9 The Catholic population gave credit to the offer, and sent its children to the charter-schools founded by the Established Church, but they were soon withdrawn with horror, when it was found that in these schools the children were taught nothing but hatred of their own creed, and respect for the hostile creed. A second experiment was made; several benevolent Protestants, sincere in their intentions, instituted schools for the education of poor Catholics, from which it was professed that the spirit of proselytism would be rigorously excluded; the enterprise was noble, it was pursued with ardour, good faith, and charity,10 but success was impossible. In spite of themselves, or rather in consequence of their living and ardent faith, these Protestants could not remain impartial between their own faith and that of the young Catholics entrusted to their charge; and for such impartiality, even if it were possible, the people would not give them credit.
Thus, the Anglican church in Ireland, by the operation of one single principle, finds insuperable obstacles to the execution of everything which it accomplishes in England. This principle renders even charity impossible; and the benefits which the church dispenses in England, and which procure for it the respect and sympathy of the lower classes, become in Ireland new causes of hostility from the people.
END OF VOL. I.
printed by ibotson and palmer, savoy street.
[1.]Wakefield’s Ireland, i. 416.
[2.]Campion’s Irish Histories, 13.
[3.]Mason’s Survey, ii. 501.
[4.]Bogs are sometimes confounded with marshes; but the latter are always in low levels, while some of the Irish bogs have an elevation of more than five hundred feet above the sea.
[5.]The Irish language is also more generally spoken in Connaught than in the other provinces.
[6.]Surlly’s Penal Laws, 143.
[7.]Third Report of the Irish Poor Inquiry, 1836. The disadvantages of the potato as a staple food are, difficulty of transport, difficulty of preservation, and the small proportion of nutritive matter.
[8.]Selections from the evidence received by the Irish Poor Inquiry Commissioners, 220.
[11.]Baulter’s Letters, i. 181.
[12.]Tithes Inquiry, House of Lords, second report, 95.
[13.]Irish Poor Inquiry, 1836, p. 4.
[15.]Wakefield, i. 224.
[16.]Beaumont adopts the calculations of the first Commission for Inquiry into the State of the Irish Poor. He rejects the calculations of Mr. Nicholls, because he believes that gentleman to have been influenced by English prejudices.
[1.]The class of farmers called yeomen in England, is almost unknown in Ireland.
[2.]Larger farms are sometimes held in joint-tenancy
[3.]There are sometimes six or seven removes between the landlord and the occupying tenant.
[4.]Wakefield’s Ireland, i. 237. A decided change for the better is in progress during the last three years.
[2.]Lewis’s Irish Disturbances, 79 and 320.
[3.]Farms are too often let to the highest bidder, without any previous investigation of his character or solvency.
[4.]The supply of labour in Ireland is so limited, that the peasants are for the most part without employment during six months of the year.
[5.]Third Report of Irish Poor Commission, passim.
[6.]This evil is fearfully on the increase: Lord Courtown has just commenced a clearance which will consign hundreds to starvation.
[7.]Inquiry of 1832 into the State of Ireland, 471.
[8.]Lewis’s Irish Disturbances, 225.
[15.]See Historical Introduction for an account of the Whiteboys.
[16.]See Whiteboy Act of 1775.
[17.]Lewis’s Irish Disturbances, 43.
[18.]By the Insurrection Act, persons found out of their houses between sunset and sunrise are liable to be arrested.
[19.]See Coercion Bill of 1833.
[20.]Those were chiefly in Ulster.
[21.]An imaginary queen.
[22.]There are many other names, such as Carders, Shanavests, Caravats, Blackhens, Magpies, &c.
[23.]Religion is but slightly mingled with agrarian revolts.
[1.]The exercise of these rights is, however, more jealously watched in Ireland than in England.
[2.]There are some differences which are noted in a subsequent page.
[3.]The Irish parish is now of little importance.
[1.]This sum is, however, barely adequate to the necessary expenses of his station.
[2.]The exercise of the prerogative of mercy by an Irish lord-lieutenant was never questioned until the present year. It might be asked, of the expiring Orange faction as it was of Edward I.,
[3.]He can proclaim counties or baronies, and thus put them under the restrictions of the Coercion Bill.
[5.]The Union was a most unpopular measure.
[6.]One of the supporters of the Union being asked, “Will you sell your country?” replied, “Yes, and thank God I have a country to sell!”
[7.]Twenty-eight peers chosen for life.
[8.]One hundred and five commoners.
[9.]Forty-shilling freeholders have been deprived of the elective franchise in Ireland.
[10.]This law has been greatly modified.
[11.]This description of the Irish magistracy is greatly exaggerated.
[12.]In this respect the administration of justice has been recently improved.
[13.]The abominable system of packing juries was abandoned under Lord Normanby’s administration; but recent efforts have been made to revive it by Lords Brougham and Roden.
[14.]The criminal law is more penal in Ireland than in England.
[15.]Confidence in the magistracy has greatly increased of late.
[16.]Law is more respected than it used to be.
[17.]Sir Richard Musgrave, the libeller of the Irish Catholics, was the sheriff.
[18.]Grand Jury Act, sect. 105.
[19.]Such cases are now becoming rare.
[20.]See Parliamentary Inquiry into the Administration of Justice in Ireland.
[1.]The country has also the care of public canals, bridges, &c.
[2.]This fiat is often refused.
[1.]First Report of the Municipal Corporations Inquiry.
[2.]First Report of the Municipal Corporations Inquiry.
[3.]First Report of the Municipal Corporations Inquiry.
[4.]First Report of the Municipal Corporations Inquiry.
[5.]First Report of the Municipal Corporations Inquiry.
[6.]Protestants, however, are excluded as well as Catholics.
[7.]This abuse cannot continue another year.
[1.]The Saxon institutions were more free than those of the other Germanic tribes.
[2.]The translator does not share in the author’s doubt; parochial self-government is well suited to the Irish character.
[3.]The new poor law limits the right of the English parish
[4.]They regulate the economy of the church and churchyard.
[6.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[1.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[2.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[3.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[4.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[5.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[6.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[7.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[8.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[9.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[10.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]