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Title: Irish Nationality
Author: Green, Alice Stopford, 1848-1929
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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No. 6





  HISTORY OF WAR AND PEACE                                 G.H. PERRIS

  POLAR EXPLORATION                    DR. W.S. BRUCE, LL.D., F.R.S.E.

  THE FRENCH REVOLUTION                           HILAIRE BELLOC, M.P.

                                                            F.W. HIRST

  IRISH NATIONALITY                               ALICE STOPFORD GREEN

  THE SOCIAL MOVEMENT                        J. RAMSAY MACDONALD, M.P.

                                 SIR COURTNAY ILBERT, K.C.B., K.C.S.I.

  MODERN GEOGRAPHY                  MARION I. NEWBIGIN, D.S.C. (Lond.)

  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE                                   JOHN MASEFIELD

  THE EVOLUTION OF PLANTS              D.H. SCOTT, M.A., LL.D., F.R.S.


                    SIR H.H. JOHNSTON, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., D.SC., F.Z.S.

  MEDIÆVAL EUROPE                                   H.W.C. DAVIS, M.A.

  MOHAMMEDANISM                        D.S. MARGOLIOUTH, M.A., D.LITT.

  THE SCIENCE OF WEALTH                              J.A. HOBSON, M.A.

  HEALTH AND DISEASE                         W. LESLIE MACKENZIE, M.D.


  THE ANIMAL WORLD                          F.W. GAMBLE, D.SC., F.R.S.

  EVOLUTION                               J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A., and
                                                  PATRICK GEDDES, M.A.

  LIBERALISM                                       L.T. HOBHOUSE, M.A.

  CRIME AND INSANITY              DR. C.A. MERCIER, F.R.C.P., F.R.C.S.

*** Other volumes in active preparation










  CHAP.                                                      PAGE

     I THE GAELS IN IRELAND                                     7

    II IRELAND AND EUROPE                                      29

   III THE IRISH MISSION                                       40

    IV SCANDINAVIANS IN IRELAND                                57

     V THE FIRST IRISH REVIVAL                                 77

    VI THE NORMAN INVASION                                     96

   VII THE SECOND IRISH REVIVAL                               111

  VIII THE TAKING OF THE LAND                                 125

    IX THE NATIONAL FAITH OF THE IRISH                        141

     X RULE OF THE ENGLISH PARLIAMENT                         158

    XI THE RISE OF A NEW IRELAND                              182

   XII AN IRISH PARLIAMENT                                    198

  XIII IRELAND UNDER THE UNION                                219

       SOME IRISH WRITERS ON IRISH HISTORY                    255





Ireland lies the last outpost of Europe against the vast flood of the
Atlantic Ocean; unlike all other islands it is circled round with
mountains, whose precipitous cliffs rising sheer above the water stand
as bulwarks thrown up against the immeasurable sea.

It is commonly supposed that the fortunes of the island and its
civilisation must by nature hang on those of England. Neither history
nor geography allows this theory. The life of the two countries was
widely separated. Great Britain lay turned to the east; her harbours
opened to the sunrising, and her first traffic was across the narrow
waters of the Channel and the German Sea. But Ireland had another
aspect; her natural harbours swelled with the waves of the Atlantic,
her outlook was over the ocean, and long before history begins her
sailors braved the perils of the Gaulish sea. The peoples of Britain,
Celts and English, came to her from the opposite lowland coasts; the
people of Ireland crossed a wider ocean-track, from northern France to
the shores of the Bay of Biscay. The two islands had a different
history; their trade-routes were not the same; they lived apart, and
developed apart their civilisations.

We do not know when the Gaels first entered Ireland, coming according
to ancient Irish legends across the Gaulish sea. One invasion followed
another, and an old Irish tract gives the definite Gaelic monarchy as
beginning in the fourth century B.C. They drove the earlier peoples,
the Iberians, from the stupendous stone forts and earthen entrenchments
that guarded cliffs and mountain passes. The name of Erin recalls the
ancient inhabitants, who lived on under the new rulers, more in number
than their conquerors. The Gaels gave their language and their
organisation to the country, while many customs and traditions of the
older race lingered on and penetrated the new people.

Over a thousand years of undisturbed life lay before the Gaels, from
about 300 B.C. to 800 A.D. The Roman Empire which overran Great Britain
left Ireland outside it. The barbarians who swept over the provinces of
the empire and reached to the great Roman Wall never crossed the Irish

Out of the grouping of the tribes there emerged a division of the
island into districts made up of many peoples. Each of the provinces
later known as Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht had its stretch
of seaboard and harbours, its lakes and rivers for fishing, its
mountain strongholds, its hill pastures, and its share of the rich
central plain, where the cattle from the mountains "used to go in
their running crowds to the smooth plains of the province, towards
their sheds and their full cattle-fields." All met in the middle of
the island, at the Hill of Usnech, where the Stone of Division still
stands. There the high-king held his court, as the chief lord in the
confederation of the many states. The rich lands of Meath were the
high-king's domain.

Heroic tales celebrate the prehistoric conflicts as of giants by which
the peoples fixed the boundaries of their power. They tell of Conor
Mac Nessa who began to reign in the year that Mark Antony and
Cleopatra died, and of his sister's son Cuchulain, the champion of the
north, who went out to battle from the vast entrenchments still seen
in Emain Macha near Armagh. Against him Queen Maeve gathered at her
majestic fort of Rathcroghan in Roscommon fifteen hundred royal
mercenaries and Gaulish soldiers--a woman comely and white-faced, with
gold yellow hair, her crimson cloak fastened at the breast with a gold
pin, and a spear flaming in her hand, as she led her troops across the
Boyne. The battles of the heroes on the Boyne and the fields of Louth,
the thronged entrenchments that thicken round the Gap of the North and
the mountain pass from Dundalk and Newry into the plains of Armagh and
Tyrone, show how the soldiers' line of march was the same from the
days of Cuchulain to those of William of Orange. The story tells how
the whole island shared in the great conflict, to the extreme point of
Munster, where a rival of Cuchulain, Curoi son of Dare, had sent his
knights and warriors through all Ireland to seek out the greatest
stones for his fortress, on a shelf of rock over two thousand feet
above the sea near Tralee. The Dublin Museum preserves relics of that
heroic time, the trappings of war-chariots and horses, arms and

Amid such conflicts the Connacht kings pressed eastward from Usnech to
Tara, and fixed there the centre of Irish life.

The Gaelic conquerors had entered on a wealthy land. Irish chroniclers
told of a vast antiquity, with a shadowy line of monarchs reaching
back, as they boasted, for some two thousand years before Christ: they
had legends of lakes springing forth in due order; of lowlands cleared
of wood, the appearance of rivers, the making of roads and causeways,
the first digging of wells: of the making of forts; of invasions and
battles and plagues. They told of the smelting of gold near the Liffey
about 1500 B.C. and of the Wicklow artificer who made cups and
brooches of gold and silver, and silver shields, and golden chains for
the necks of kings; and of the discovery of dyes, purple and blue and
green, and how the ranks of men were distinguished henceforth by the
colour of their raiment. They had traditions of foreign trade--of an
artificer drowned while bringing golden ore from Spain, and of torques
of gold from oversea, and of a lady's hair all ablaze with Alpine gold.
Later researches have in fact shown that Irish commerce went back some
fifteen hundred years before our era, that it was the most famous
gold-producing country of the west, that mines of copper and silver
were worked, and that a race of goldsmiths probably carried on the
manufacture of bronze and gold on what is now the bog of Cullen. Some
five hundred golden ornaments of old times have been gathered together
in the Dublin Museum in the last eighty years, a scanty remnant of what
have been lost or melted down; their weight is five hundred and seventy
ounces against a weight of twenty ounces in the British Museum from
England, Scotland, and Wales.

The earth too was fruitful. The new settlers, who used iron tools
instead of bronze, could clear forests and open plains for tillage.
Agriculture was their pride, and their legends told of stretches of
corn so great that deer could shelter in them from the hounds, and
nobles and queens drove chariots along their far-reaching lines, while
multitudes of reapers were at work cutting the heads of the grain with
the little sickles which we may still see in the Dublin Museum.

But to the Irish the main interest of the Gaels lies in their
conception of how to create an enduring state or nation.

The tribal system has been much derided as the mark of a savage
people, or at least of a race unable to advance beyond political
infancy into a real national existence. This was not true of the
Gaels. Their essential idea of a state, and the mode of its government
and preservation, was different from that of mediæval Europe, but it
was not uncivilised.

The Roman Empire stamped on the minds of its subject peoples, and on
the Teutonic barbarians who became its heirs, the notion of a state
as an organisation held together, defended, governed and policed, by a
central ruler; while the sovereign was supreme in the domain of force
and maintenance of order, whatever lay outside that domain--art,
learning, history and the like--were secondary matters which might be
left to the people. The essential life of the nation came to be
expressed in the will and power of its master.

The Gaelic idea was a wholly different one. The law with them was the
law of the people. They never lost their trust in it. Hence they never
exalted a central authority, for their law needed no such sanction.
While the code was one for the whole race, the administration on the
other hand was divided into the widest possible range of
self-governing communities, which were bound together in a willing
federation. The forces of union were not material but spiritual, and
the life of the people consisted not in its military cohesion but in
its joint spiritual inheritance--in the union of those who shared the
same tradition, the same glorious memory of heroes, the same
unquestioned law, and the same pride of literature. Such an instinct
of national life was neither rude nor contemptible, nor need we
despise it because it was opposed to the theory of the middle ages in
Europe. At the least the Irish tribal scheme of government contained
as much promise of human virtue and happiness as the feudal scheme
which became later the political creed of England, but which was never
accepted in Ireland. Irish history can only be understood by realising
this intense national life with its sure basis on the broad
self-government of the people.

Each tribe was supreme within its own borders; it elected its own
chief, and could depose him if he acted against law. The land belonged
to the whole community, which kept exact pedigrees of the families who
had a right to share in the ground for tillage or in the mountain
pasturage; and the chief had no power over the soil save as the
elected trustee of the people. The privileges of the various chiefs,
judges, captains, historians, poets, and so on, were handed down from
generation to generation. In all these matters no external power could
interfere. The tribe owed to the greater tribe above it nothing but
certain fixed dues, such as aid in road-making, in war, in ransom of
prisoners and the like.

The same right of self-government extended through the whole hierarchy
of states up to the Ardri or high-king at the head. The "hearth of
Tara" was the centre of all the Gaelic states, and the demesne of the
Ardri. "This then is my fostermother," said the ancient sage, "the
island in which ye are, even Ireland, and the familiar knee of this
island is the hill on which ye are, namely, Tara." There the Ardri was
crowned at the pillar-post. At Tara, "the fort of poets and learned
men," the people of all Ireland gathered at the beginning of each
high-king's reign, and were entertained for seven days and
nights--kings and ollaves together round the high-king, warriors and
reavers, together, the youths and maidens and the proud foolish folk
in the chambers round the doors, while outside was for young men and
maidens because their mirth used to entertain them. Huge earthen banks
still mark the site of the great Hall, seven hundred and sixty feet
long and ninety feet wide, with seven doors to east and as many more
to west; where kings and chiefs sat each under his own shield, in
crimson cloaks with gold brooches, with girdles and shoes of gold, and
spears with golden sockets and rivets of red bronze. The Ardri,
supreme lord and arbitrator among them, was surrounded by his
councillors--the law-men or brehons, the bards and chroniclers, and
the druids, teachers and men of science. He was the representative of
the whole national life. But his power rested on the tradition of the
people and on the consent of the tribes. He could impose no new law;
he could demand no service outside the law.

The political bond of union, which seemed so loose, drew all its
strength from a body of national tradition, and a universal code of
law, which represented as it were the common mind of the people, the
spontaneous creation of the race. Separate and independent as the
tribes were, all accepted the one code which had been fashioned in the
course of ages by the genius of the people. The same law was recited
in every tribal assembly. The same traditions and genealogies bound
the tribes together as having a single heritage of heroic descent and
fame. The preservation of their common history was the concern of the
whole people. One of the tales pictures their gathering at Tara, when
before the men of Ireland the ancients related their history, and
Ireland's chief scholars heard and corrected them by the best
tradition. "Victory and blessings attend you, noble sirs," the men of
Erin said; "for such instruction it was meet that we should gather
ourselves together." And at the reciting of the historic glories of
their past, the whole congregation arose up together "for in their
eyes it was an augmenting of the spirit and an enlargement of the

To preserve this national tradition a learned class was carefully
trained. There were schools of lawyers to expound the law; schools of
historians to preserve the genealogies, the boundaries of lands, and
the rights of classes and families; and schools of poets to recite the
traditions of the race. The learned men were paid at first by the
gifts of the people, but the chief among them were later endowed with
a settled share of the tribe land in perpetuity. So long as the
family held the land, they were bound to train up in each generation
that one of the household who was most fit to carry on learning, and
thus for centuries long lines of distinguished men added fame to their
country and drew to its schools students from far and wide. Through
their work the spirit of the Irish found national expression in a code
of law which showed not only extraordinarily acute and trained
intelligence but a true sense of equity, in a literary language of
great richness and of the utmost musical beauty, and in a system of
metrical rules for poets shaped with infinite skill. The Irish nation
had a pride in its language beyond any people in Europe outside of the
Greeks and Romans.

While each tribe had its schools, these were linked together in a
national system. Professors of every school were free of the island;
it was the warrior's duty to protect them as they moved from court to
court. An ancient tale tells how the chiefs of Emain near Armagh
placed sentinels along the Gap of the North to turn back every poet
who sought to leave the country and to bring on their way with honour
every one who sought to enter in. There was no stagnation where
competition extended over the whole island. The greatest of the
teachers were given the dignity of "Professors of all the Gaels."
Learned men in their degrees ranked with kings and chiefs, and
high-professors sat by the high-king and shared his honours. The king,
said the laws, "could by his mere word decide against every class of
persons except those of the two orders of religion and learning, who
are of equal value with himself."

It is in this exaltation of learning in the national life that we must
look for the real significance of Irish history--the idea of a society
loosely held in a political sense, but bound together in a spiritual
union. The assemblies which took place in every province and every
petty state were the guarantees of the national civilization. They were
periodical exhibitions of everything the people esteemed--democracy,
aristocracy, king-craft, literature, tradition, art, commerce, law,
sport, religion, display, even rustic buffoonery. The years between one
festival and another were spent in serious preparation for the next; a
multitude of maxims were drawn up to direct the conduct of the people.
So deeply was their importance felt that the Irish kept the tradition
diligently, and even in the darkest times of their history, down to the
seventeenth century, still gathered to "meetings on hills" to exercise
their law and hear their learned men.

In the time of the Roman Empire, therefore, the Irish looked on
themselves as one race, obedient to one law, united in one culture and
belonging to one country. Their unity is symbolised by the great
genealogical compilations in which all the Gaels are traced to one
ancestry, and in the collections of topographical legends dealing with
hundreds of places, where every nook and corner of the island is
supposed to be of interest to the whole of Ireland. The tribal
boundaries were limits to the material power of a chief and to that
only: they were no barriers to the national thought or union. The
learned man of the clan was the learned man of the Gaelic race. By all
the higher matters of language and learning, of equity and history,
the people of Ireland were one. A noble figure told the unity of
their land within the circuit of the ocean. The Three Waves of Erin,
they said, smote upon the shore with a foreboding roar when danger
threatened the island; Cleena's wave called to Munster at an inlet
near Cork, while Tonn Rury at Dundrum and Tonn Tuaithe at the mouth of
the Bann sounded to the men of Ulster.

The weaknesses of the Irish system are apparent. The numerous small
territories were tempted, like larger European states, to raid
borders, to snatch land or booty, and to suffer some expense of
trained soldiers. Candidates for the chiefdom had to show their
fitness, and "a young lord's first spoil" was a necessary exploit.
There were wild plundering raids in the summer nights; disorders were
multiplied. A country divided in government was weakened for purposes
of offence, or for joint action in military matters. These evils were
genuine, but they have been exaggerated. Common action was hindered,
not mainly by human contentions, but by the forests and marshes, lakes
and rivers in flood that lay over a country heavy with Atlantic
clouds. Riots and forays there were, among a martial race and strong
men of hot passions, but Ireland was in fact no prominent example of
mediæval anarchy or disorder. Local feuds were no greater than those
which afflicted England down to the Norman Conquest and long after it;
and which marked the life of European states and cities through the
middle ages. The professional war bands of Fiana that hired themselves
out from time to time were controlled and recognised by law, and had
their special organisation and rites and rules of war. It has been
supposed that in the passion of tribal disputes men mostly perished by
murder and battle-slaughter, and the life of every generation was by
violence shortened to less than the common average of thirty years.
Irish genealogies prove on the contrary that the generations must be
counted at from thirty-three to thirty-six years: the tale of kings,
judges, poets, and householders who died peacefully in an honoured old
age, or from some natural accident, outruns the list of sudden murders
or deaths in battle. Historical evidence moreover shows us a country
of widening cornfields, or growing commerce, where wealth was
gathered, where art and learning swept like a passion over the people,
and schools covered the land. Such industries and virtues do not
flourish in regions given over to savage strife. And it is significant
that Irish chiefs who made great wars hired professional soldiers from

If the disorders of the Irish system have been magnified its benefits
have been forgotten. All Irish history proved that the division of the
land into separate military districts, where the fighting men knew
every foot of ground, and had an intense local patriotism, gave them a
power of defence which made conquest by the foreigner impossible; he
had first to exterminate the entire people. The same division into
administrative districts gave also a singular authority to law. In
mediæval states, however excellent were the central codes, they were
only put in force just so far as the king had power to compel men to
obey, and that power often fell very far short of the nominal
boundaries of his kingdom. But in Ireland every community and every
individual was interested in maintaining the law of the people, the
protection of the common folk; nor were its landmarks ever submerged
or destroyed. Irish land laws, for example, in spite of the changes
that gradually covered the land with fenced estates, did actually
preserve through all the centuries popular rights--fixity of rates for
the land, fixity of tenure, security of improvement, refusal to allow
great men to seize forests for their chase: under this people's law no
Peasant Revolt ever arose, nor any rising of the poor against their
lords. Rights of inheritance, due solemnities of election, were
accurately preserved. The authority and continuity of Irish law was
recognised by wondering Englishmen--"They observe and keep such laws
and statutes which they make upon hills in their country firm and
stable, without breaking them for any favour or reward," said an
English judge. "The Irish are more fearful to offend the law than the
English or any other nation whatsoever."

The tribal system had another benefit for Irishmen--the diffusion of a
high intelligence among the whole people. A varied education, spread
over many centres, fertilized the general life. Every countryside that
administered its own affairs must of needs possess a society rich in
all the activities that go to make up a full community--chiefs,
doctors, soldiers, judges, historians, poets, artists and craftsmen,
skilled herds, tillers of the ground, raisers and trainers of horses,
innkeepers, huntsmen, merchants, dyers and weavers and tanners. In
some sequestered places in Ireland we can still trace the settlements
made by Irish communities. They built no towns nor needed any in the
modern sense. But entrenchments of earth, or "raths," thickly gathered
together, mark a site where men lived in close association. Roads and
paths great and small were maintained according to law, and boats
carried travellers along rivers and lakes. So frequent were the
journeys of scholars, traders, messengers from tribe to tribe, men
gathering to public assemblies, craftsmen, dealers in hides and wool,
poets, men and women making their circuit, that there was made in
early time a "road-book" or itinerary, perhaps some early form of map,
of Ireland.

This life of opportunity in thickly congregated country societies gave
to Ireland its wide culture, and the incredible number of scholars and
artificers that it poured out over Europe with generous ardour. The
multitudinous centres of discussion scattered over the island, and the
rapid intercourse of all these centres one with another, explain how
learning broadened, and how Christianity spread over the land like a
flood. It was to these country settlements that the Irish owed the
richness of their civilisation, the generosity of their learning, and
the passion of their patriotism.

Ireland was a land then as now of intense contrasts, where equilibrium
was maintained by opposites, not by a perpetual tending towards the
middle course. In things political and social the Irish showed a
conservatism that no intercourse could shake, side by side with eager
readiness and great success in grasping the latest progress in arts or
commerce. In their literature strikingly modern thoughts jostle
against the most primitive crudeness; "Vested interests are shameless"
was one of their old observations. In Ireland the old survived beside
the new, and as the new came by free assimilation old and new did not
conflict. The balance of opposites gave colour and force to their
civilisation, and Ireland until the thirteenth century and very
largely until the seventeenth century, escaped or survived the
successive steam rollings that reduced Europe to nearly one common

In the Irish system we may see the shaping of a true democracy--a
society in which ever-broadening masses of the people are made
intelligent sharers in the national life, and conscious guardians of
its tradition. Their history is throughout a record of the nobility of
that experiment. It would be a mechanical theory of human life which
denied to the people of Ireland the praise of a true patriotism or the
essential spirit of a nation.



_c._ 100--_c._ 600

The Roman Agricola had proposed the conquest of Ireland on the ground
that it would have a good effect on Britain by removing the spectacle
of liberty. But there was no Roman conquest. The Irish remained
outside the Empire, as free as the men of Norway and Sweden. They
showed that to share in the trade, the culture, and the civilisation
of an empire, it is not necessary to be subject to its armies or lie
under its police control. While the neighbouring peoples received a
civilisation imposed by violence and maintained by compulsion, the
Irish were free themselves to choose those things which were suited to
their circumstances and character, and thus to shape for their people
a liberal culture, democratic and national.

It is important to observe what it was that tribal Ireland chose, and
what it rejected.

There was frequent trade, for from the first century Irish ports were
well known to merchants of the Empire, sailing across the Gaulish sea
in wooden ships built to confront Atlantic gales, with high poops
standing from the water like castles, and great leathern sails--stout
hulls steered by the born sailors of the Breton coasts or the lands of
the Loire and Garonne. The Irish themselves served as sailors and
pilots in the ocean traffic, and travelled as merchants, tourists,
scholars and pilgrims. Trading-ships carried the wine of Italy and
later of Provence, in great tuns in which three men could stand
upright, to the eastern and the western coasts, to the Shannon and the
harbours of Down; and probably brought tin to mix with Irish copper.
Ireland sent out great dogs trained for war, wool, hides, all kinds of
skins and furs, and perhaps gold and copper. But this material trade
was mainly important to the Irish for the other wealth that Gaul had
to give--art, learning, and religion.

Of art the Irish craftsmen took all that Gaul possessed--the great
decorated trumpets of bronze used in the Loire country, the fine
enamelling in colours, the late-Celtic designs for ornaments of bronze
and gold. Goldsmiths travelled oversea to bring back bracelets, rings,
draughtboards--"one half of its figures are yellow gold, the others
are white bronze; its woof is of pearl; it is the wonder of smiths how
it was wrought." They borrowed afterwards interlaced ornament for
metal work and illuminated manuscripts. In such arts they outdid their
teachers; their gold and enamel work has never been surpassed, and in
writing and illumination they went beyond the imperial artists of
Constantinople. Their schools throughout the country handed on a great
traditional art, not transitory or local, but permanent and national.

Learning was as freely imported. The Latin alphabet came over at a
very early time, and knowledge of Greek as a living tongue from
Marseilles and the schools of Narbonne. By the same road from
Marseilles Christianity must have come a hundred years or so before
the mission of St. Patrick--a Christianity carrying the traditions
and rites and apocalypses of the East. It was from Gaul that St.
Patrick afterwards sailed for his mission to Ireland. He came to a
land where there were already men of erudition and "rhetoricians" who
scoffed at his lack of education. The tribes of Ireland, free from
barbarian invasions as they had been free from Roman armies, developed
a culture which was not surpassed in the West or even in Italy. And
this culture, like the art, was national, spread over the whole land.

But while the Irish drew to themselves from the Empire art, learning,
religion, they never adopted anything of Roman methods of government in
church or state. The Roman centralized authority was opposed to their
whole habit of thought and genius. They made, therefore, no change in
their tribal administration. As early as the second century Irishmen
had learned from Gaulish landowners to divide land into estates marked
out with pillar-stones which could be bought and sold, and by 700 A.D.
the country was scored with fences, and farms were freely bequeathed by
will. But these estates seem still to have been administered according
to the common law of the tribe, and not to have followed the methods of
Roman proprietors throughout the Empire. In the same way the foreign
learning brought into Ireland was taught through the tribal system of
schools. Lay schools formed by the Druids in old time went on as
before, where students of law and history and poetry grouped their huts
round the dwelling of a famous teacher, and the poor among them begged
their bread in the neighbourhood. The monasteries in like manner
gathered their scholars within the "rath" or earthen entrenchment, and
taught them Latin, canon law, and divinity. Monastic and lay schools
went on side by side, as heirs together of the national tradition and
language. The most venerable saints, the highest ecclesiastics, were
revered also as guardians of Irish history and law, who wrote in Irish
the national tales as competent scribes and not mere copyists--men who
knew all the traditions, used various sources, and shaped their story
with the independence of learning. No parallel can be found in any
other country to the writing down of national epics in their pagan
form many centuries after the country had become Christian. In the same
way European culture was not allowed to suppress the national language;
clerics as well as laymen preserved the native tongue in worship and in
hymns, as at Clonmacnois where the praises of St. Columcille were sung,
"some in Latin, which was beguiling, some in Irish, fair the tale"; and
in its famous cemetery, where kings and scholars and pilgrims of all
Ireland came to lie, there is but one Latin inscription among over two
hundred inscribed grave slabs that have been saved from the many lost.

Like the learning and the art, the new worship was adapted to tribal
custom. Round the little monastic church gathered a group of huts with
a common refectory, the whole protected by a great rampart of earth.
The plan was familiar to all the Irish; every chief's house had such a
fence, and every bardic school had its circle of thatched cells where
the scholars spent years in study and meditation. Monastic "families"
which branched off from the first house were grouped under the name of
the original founder, in free federal union like that of the clans.
As no land could be wholly alienated from the tribe, territory given
to the monastery was not exempted from the common law; it was ruled by
abbots elected, like kings and judges of the tribe, out of the house
which under tribal law had the right of succession; and the monks in
some cases had to pay the tribal dues for the land and send out
fighting men for the hosting.

Never was a church so truly national. The words used by the common
people were steeped in its imagery. In their dedications the Irish
took no names of foreign saints, but of their own holy men. St.
Bridgit became the "Mary of the Gael." There was scarcely a boundary
felt between the divine country and the earthly, so entirely was the
spiritual life commingled with the national. A legend told that St.
Colman one day saw his monks reaping the wheat sorrowfully; it was the
day of the celebration of Telltown fair, the yearly assembly of all
Ireland before the high-king: he prayed, and angels came to him at
once from heaven and performed three races for the toiling monks after
the manner of the national feast.

The religion which thus sprang out of the heart of a people and
penetrated every part of their national life, shone with a radiant
spiritual fervour. The prayers and hymns that survive from the early
church are inspired by an exalted devotion, a profound and original
piety, which won the veneration of every people who came into touch
with the people of Ireland. On mountain cliffs, in valleys, by the
water-side, on secluded islands, lie ruins of their churches and
oratories, small in size though made by masons who could fit and
dovetail into one another great stones from ten to seventeen feet in
length; the little buildings preserved for centuries some ancient
tradition of apostolic measurements, and in their narrow and austere
dimensions, and their intimate solemnity, were fitted to the tribal
communities and to their unworldly and spiritual worship. An old song
tells of a saint building, with a wet cloak about him--

    "Hand on a stone, hand lifted up,
    Knee bent to set a rock,
    Eyes shedding tears, other lamentation,
    And mouth praying."

Piety did not always vanquish the passions of a turbulent age. There
were local quarrels and battles. In some hot temporal controversy, in
some passionate religious rivalry, a monastic "rath" may have fallen
back to its original use as a fort. Plunderers fell on a trading
centre like Clonmacnois, where goods landed from the Shannon for
transport across country offered a prize. Such things have been known
in other lands. But it is evident that disturbances were not universal
or continuous. The extraordinary work of learning carried out in the
monastic lands, the sanctuary given in them for hundreds of years to
innumerable scholars not of Ireland alone, shows the large peace that
must have prevailed on their territories.

The national tradition of monastic and lay schools preserved to Erin
what was lost in the rest of Europe, a learned class of laymen.
Culture was as frequent and honourable in the Irish chief or warrior
as in the cleric. Gaiety and wit were prized. Oral tradition told for
many centuries of a certain merryman long ago, and yet he was a
Christian, who could make all men he ever saw laugh however sad they
were, so that even his skull on a high stone in the churchyard brought
mirth to sorrowful souls.

We must remember, too, that by the Irish system certain forms of
hostility were absolutely shut out. There is not a single instance in
Irish history of the conflicts between a monastery and its lay
dependents which were so frequent on the continent and in England--as,
for example, at St. Albans, where the monks paved their church with
the querns of the townsfolk to compel them to bring their corn to the
abbey mill. Again, the broad tolerance of the church in Ireland never
allowed any persecution for religion's sake, and thus shut the door on
the worst form of human cruelty. At the invasion of the Normans a
Norman bishop mocked to the archbishop of Cashel at the imperfection
of a church like the Irish which could boast of no martyr. "The
Irish," answered the archbishop, "have never been accustomed to
stretch forth their hands against the saints of God, but now a people
is come into this country that is accustomed and knows how to make
martyrs. Now Ireland too will have martyrs." Finally, the Irish
church never became, as in other lands, the servant, the ally, or the
master of the state. It was the companion of the people, the heart of
the nation. To its honour it never served as the instrument of
political dominion, and it never was degraded from first to last by a
war of religion.

The free tribes of Ireland had therefore by some native instinct of
democratic life rejected for their country the organisation of the
Roman state, and had only taken the highest forms of its art,
learning, and religion, to enrich their ancient law and tradition: and
through their own forms of social life they had made this culture
universal among the people, and national. Such was the spectacle of
liberty which the imperial Agricola had feared.



_c._ 560--_c._ 1000

The fall of the Roman Empire brought to the Irish people new dangers
and new opportunities. Goths and Vandals, Burgundians and Franks,
poured west over Europe to the Atlantic shore, and south across the
Mediterranean to Africa; while the English were pressing northward
over Great Britain, driving back the Celts and creating a pagan and
Teutonic England. Once more Ireland lay the last unconquered land of
the West.

The peoples that lay in a circle round the shores of the German Ocean
were in the thick of human affairs, nations to right and left of them,
all Europe to expand in. From the time when their warriors fell on the
Roman Empire they rejoiced in a thousand years of uninterrupted war
and conquest; and for the thousand years that followed traders, now
from this shore of the German sea and now from that, have fought and
trafficked over the whole earth.

In Ireland, on the other hand, we see a race of the bravest warriors
that ever fought, who had pushed on over the Gaulish sea to the very
marge and limit of the world. Close at their back now lay the German
invaders of Britain--a new wave of the human tide always flowing
westward. Before them stretched the Atlantic, darkness and chaos; no
boundary known to that sea. Even now as we stand to the far westward
on the gloomy heights of Donegal, where the very grass and trees have
a blacker hue, we seem to have entered into a vast antiquity, where it
would be little wonder to see in the sombre solitude some strange
shape of the primeval world, some huge form of primitive man's
imagination. So closely did Infinity compass these people round that
when the Irish sailor--St. Brendan or another--launched his coracle on
the illimitable waves, in face of the everlasting storm, he might seem
to pass over the edge of the earth into the vast Eternity where space
and time were not. We see the awful fascination of the immeasurable
flood in the story of the three Irishmen that were washed on the
shores of Cornwall and carried to King Ælfred. "They came," Ælfred
tells us in his chronicle, "in a boat without oars from Hibernia,
whence they had stolen away because for the love of God they would be
on pilgrimage--they recked not where. The boat in which they fared was
wrought of three hides and a half, and they took with them enough meat
for seven nights."

Ultimately withdrawn from the material business of the continent
nothing again drew back the Irish to any share in the affairs of
Europe save a spiritual call--a call of religion, of learning, or of
liberty. The story of the Irish mission shows how they answered to
such a call.

The Teutonic invaders stopped at the Irish Sea. At the fall of the
Empire, therefore, Ireland did not share in the ruin of its
civilisation. And while all continental roads were interrupted,
traffic from Irish ports still passed safely to Gaul over the ocean
routes. Ireland therefore not only preserved her culture unharmed,
but the way lay open for her missionaries to carry back to Europe the
knowledge which she had received from it. In that mission we may see
the strength and the spirit of the tribal civilisation.

Two great leaders of the Irish mission were Columcille in Great
Britain and Columbanus in Europe. In all Irish history there is no
greater figure than St. Columcille--statesman and patriot, poet,
scholar, and saint. After founding thirty-seven monasteries in
Ireland, from Derry on the northern coast to Durrow near the Munster
border, he crossed the sea in 563 to set up on the bare island of Hii
or Iona a group of reed-thatched huts peopled with Irish monks. In
that wild debatable land, swept by heathen raids, amid the ruins of
Christian settlements, began a work equally astonishing from the
religious and the political point of view. The heathen Picts had
marched westward to the sea, destroying the Celtic churches. The pagan
English had set up in 547 a monarchy in Northumbria and the Lowlands,
threatening alike the Picts, the Irish or "Scot" settlements along the
coast, and the Celts of Strathclyde. Against this world of war
Columcille opposed the idea of a peaceful federation of peoples in the
bond of Christian piety. He converted the king of the Picts at
Inverness in 565, and spread Irish monasteries from Strathspey to the
Dee, and from the Dee to the Tay. On the western shores about Cantyre
he restored the Scot settlement from Ireland which was later to give
its name to Scotland, and consecrated as king the Irish Aidan,
ancestor of the kings of Scotland and England. He established
friendship with the Britons of Strathclyde. From his cell at Iona he
dominated the new federation of Picts and Britons and Irish on both
sides of the sea--the greatest missionary that Ireland ever sent out
to proclaim the gathering of peoples in free association through the
power of human brotherhood, learning, and religion.

For thirty-four years Columcille ruled as abbot in Iona, the high
leader of the Celtic world. He watched the wooden ships with great
sails that crossed from shore to shore; he talked with mariners
sailing south from the Orkneys, and others coming north from the Loire
with their tuns of wine, who told him European tidings, and how a
town in Istria had been wrecked by earthquake. His large
statesmanship, his lofty genius, the passionate and poetic temperament
that filled men with awe and reverence, the splendid voice and stately
figure that seemed almost miraculous gifts, the power of inspiring
love that brought dying men to see his face once more before they fell
at his feet in death, give a surpassing dignity and beauty to his
life. "He could never spend the space of even one hour without study
or prayer or writing, or some other holy occupation ... and still in
all these he was beloved by all." "Seasons and storms he perceived, he
harmonised the moon's race with the branching sun, he was skilful in
the course of the sea, he would count the stars of heaven." He
desired, one of his poems tells us, "to search all the books that
would be good for any soul"; and with his own hand he copied, it is
said, three hundred books, sitting with open cell door, where the
brethren, one with his butcher's knife, one with his milk pail,
stopped to ask a blessing as they passed.

After his death the Irish monks carried his work over the whole of
England. A heathen land lay before them, for the Roman missionaries
established in 597 by Augustine in Canterbury, speaking no English and
hating "barbarism," made little progress, and after some reverses were
practically confined to Kent. The first cross of the English
borderland was set up in 635 by men from Iona on a heather moorland
called the Heaven-field, by the ramparts of the Roman Wall. Columban
monks made a second Iona at Lindisfarne, with its church of hewn oak
thatched with reeds after Irish tradition in sign of poverty and
lowliness, and with its famous school of art and learning. They taught
the English writing, and gave them the letters which were used among
them till the Norman Conquest. Labour and learning went hand in hand.
From the king's court nobles came, rejoicing to change the brutalities
of war for the plough, the forge-hammer, the winnowing fan: waste
places were reclaimed, the ports were crowded with boats, and
monasteries gave shelter to travellers. For a hundred years wherever
the monks of Iona passed men ran to be signed by their hand and
blessed by their voice. Their missionaries wandered on foot over
middle England and along the eastern coast and even touched the
Channel in Sussex. In 662 there was only one bishop in the whole of
England who was not of Irish consecration, and this bishop, Agilberct
of Wessex, was a Frenchman who had been trained for years in Ireland.
The great school of Malmesbury in Wessex was founded by an Irishman,
as that of Lindisfarne had been in the north.

For the first time also Ireland became known to Englishmen. Fleets of
ships bore students and pilgrims, who forsook their native land for
the sake of divine studies. The Irish most willingly received them
all, supplying to them without charge food and books and teaching,
welcoming them in every school from Derry to Lismore, making for them
a "Saxon Quarter" in the old university of Armagh. Under the influence
of the Irish teachers the spirit of racial bitterness was checked, and
a new intercourse sprang up between English, Picts, Britons, and
Irish. For a moment it seemed as though the British islands were to be
drawn into one peaceful confederation and communion and a common
worship bounded only by the ocean. The peace of Columcille, the
fellowship of learning and of piety, rested on the peoples.

Columcille had been some dozen years in Iona when Columbanus (_c._
575) left Bangor on the Belfast Lough, leading twelve Irish monks clad
in white homespun, with long hair falling on their shoulders, and
books hanging from their waists in leathern satchels. They probably
sailed in one of the merchant ships trading from the Loire. Crossing
Gaul to the Vosges Columbanus founded his monastery of Luxeuil among
the ruined heaps of a Roman city, once the meeting-place of great
highways from Italy and France, now left by the barbarians a
wilderness for wild beasts. Other houses branched out into France and
Switzerland. Finally he founded his monastery of Bobio in the
Apennines, where he died in 615.

A stern ascetic, aflame with religious passion, a finished scholar
bringing from Ireland a knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, of
rhetoric, geometry, and poetry, and a fine taste, Columbanus battled
for twenty years with the vice and ignorance of a half-pagan
Burgundy. Scornful of ease, indifferent to danger, astonished at the
apathy of Italy as compared with the zeal of Ireland in teaching, he
argued and denounced with "the freedom of speech which accords with
the custom of my country." The passion of his piety so awed the
peoples, that for a time it seemed as if the rule of Columbanus might
outdo that of St. Benedict. It was told that in Rome Gregory the Great
received him, and as Columbanus lay prostrate in the church the Pope
praised God in his heart for having given such great power to so small
a man. Instantly the fiery saint, detecting the secret thought, rose
from his prayer to repudiate the slight: "Brother, he who depreciates
the work depreciates the Author."

For a hundred years before Columbanus there had been Irish pilgrims
and bishops in Gaul and Italy. But it was his mission that first
brought the national patriotism of Ireland into conflict with the
organisation of Rome in Europe. Christianity had come to Ireland from
the East--tradition said from St. John, who was then, and is still,
held in special veneration by the Irish; his flower, St. John's wort,
had for them peculiar virtues, and from it came, it was said, the
saffron hue as the national colour for their dress. It was a national
pride that their date for celebrating Easter, and their Eastern
tonsure from ear to ear, had come to them from St. John. Peter loved
Jesus, they said, but it was John that Jesus loved--"the youth John,
the foster-son of his own bosom"--"John of the Breast." It was with a
very passion of loyalty that they clung to a national church which
linked them to the beloved apostle, and which was the close bond of
their whole race, dear to them as the supreme expression of their
temporal and spiritual freedom, now illustrious beyond all others in
Europe for the roll of its saints and of its scholars, and ennobled by
the company of its patriots and the glory of Columcille. The tonsure
and the Easter of Columbanus, however, shocked foreign ecclesiastics
as contrary to the discipline of Rome, and he was required to renounce
them. He vehemently protested his loyalty to St. John, to St.
Columcille, and to the church of his fathers. It was an unequal
argument. Ireland, he was answered, was a small island in a far
corner of the earth: what was its people that they should fight
against the whole world. The Europe of imperial tradition had lost
comprehension of the passion of national loyalty: all that lay outside
that tradition was "barbarous," the Irish like the Saxons or the Huns.

The battle that was thus opened was the beginning of a new epoch in
Irish history. St. Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury (597),
was ordered (603) to demand obedience to himself from the Celtic
churches and the setting aside of their customs. The Welsh and the
Irish refused to submit. Augustine had come to them from among the
English, who were still pagan, and still fighting for the
extermination of the Celts, and on his lips were threats of slaughter
by their armies to the disobedient. The demand was renewed sixty years
later, in a synod at Whitby in 664. By that time Christianity had been
carried over England by the Irish mission; on the other hand, the
English were filled with imperial dreams of conquest and supremacy.
English kings settled on the Roman province began to imitate the
glories of Rome, to have the Roman banner of purple and gold carried
before them, to hear the name of "Emperor of the whole of Britain,"
and to project the final subjugation to that "empire" of the Celt and
Pictish peoples. The Roman organisation fell in with their habits of
government and their ambitions. In the synod the tone of imperial
contempt made itself heard against those marked out for
conquest--Celts "rude and barbarous"--"Picts and Britons, accomplices
in obstinacy in those two remote islands of the world." "Your father
Columba," "of rustic simplicity" said the English leader, had "that
Columba of yours," like Peter, the keeping of the keys of heaven? With
these first bitter words, with the condemnation of the Irish customs,
and the sailing away of the Irish monks from Lindisfarne, discord
began to enter in. Slowly and with sorrow the Irish in the course of
sixty years abandoned their traditional customs and adopted the Roman
Easter. But the work of Columcille was undone, and the spiritual bond
by which the peoples had been united was for ever loosened. English
armies marched ravaging over the north, one of them into Ireland
(684), "wasting that harmless nation which had always been most
friendly to the English, not sparing even churches or monasteries."
The gracious peace which had bound the races for a hundred and twenty
years was broken, and constant wars again divided Picts, Scots,
Britons, and Angles.

Ireland, however, for four hundred years to come still poured out
missionaries to Europe. They passed through England to northern France
and the Netherlands; across the Gaulish sea and by the Loire to middle
France; by the Rhine and the way of Luxeuil they entered Switzerland;
and westward they reached out to the Elbe and the Danube, sending
missionaries to Old Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Salzburg and
Carinthia; southwards they crossed the Alps into Italy, to Lucca,
Fiesole, Rome, the hills of Naples, and Tarentum. Their monasteries
formed rest-houses for travellers through France and Germany. Europe
itself was too narrow for their ardour, and they journeyed to
Jerusalem, settled in Carthage, and sailed to the discovery of
Iceland. No church of any land has so noble a record in the
astonishing work of its teachers, as they wandered over the ruined
provinces of the empire among the pagan tribes of the invaders. In the
Highlands they taught the Picts to compose hymns in their own tongue;
in a monastery founded by them in Yorkshire was trained the first
English poet in the new England; at St. Gall they drew up a
Latin-German dictionary for the Germans of the Upper Rhine and
Switzerland, and even devised new German words to express the new
ideas of Christian civilisation; near Florence one of their saints
taught the natives how to turn the course of a river. Probably in the
seventh and eighth centuries no one in western Europe spoke Greek who
was not Irish or taught by an Irishman. No land ever sent out such
impassioned teachers of learning, and Charles the Great and his
successors set them at the head of the chief schools throughout

We can only measure the originality of the Irish mission by comparing
with it the work of other races. Roman civilisation had not inured its
people to hardship, nor given them any interest in barbarians. When
Augustine in 595 was sent on the English mission he turned back with
loathing, and finally took a year for his journey. In 664 no one could
be found in Rome to send to Canterbury, till in 668 Theodore was
fetched from Syria; he also took a year on his way. But the Irish
missionaries feared nothing, neither hunger nor weariness nor the
outlaws of the woods. Their succession never ceased. The death of one
apostle was but the coming of another. The English missions again
could not compare with the Irish. Every English missionary from the
seventh to the ninth century had been trained under Irish teachers or
had been for years in Ireland, enveloped by the ardour of their fiery
enthusiasm; when this powerful influence was set aside English mission
work died down for a thousand years or so. The Irish missionaries
continued without a break for over six hundred years. Instead of the
Irish zeal for the welfare of all peoples whatsoever, the English felt
a special call to preach among those "from whom the English race had
its origin," and their chief mission was to their own stock in Frisia.
Finally, among Teutonic peoples politics went hand in hand with
Christianity. The Teutons were out to conquer, and in the lust of
dominion a conqueror might make religion the sign of obedience, and
enforce it by fire and water, viper and sword. But the Irish had no
theory of dominion to push. A score of generations of missionaries
were bred up in the tribal communities of Ireland, where men believed
in voluntary union of men in a high tradition. Their method was one of
persuasion for spiritual ends alone. The conception of human life that
lay behind the tribal government and the tribal church of Ireland gave
to the Irish mission in Europe a singular and lofty character. In the
broad humanity that was the great distinction of their people
persecution had no part. No war of religion stained their faith, and
no barbarities to man.




For a thousand years no foreign host had settled in Erin. But the times
of peace were ended. About 800 A.D. the Irish suffered their first

The Teutonic peoples, triumphant conquerors of the land, had carried
their victories over the Roman Empire to the edge of the seas that
guarded Ireland. But fresh hordes of warriors were gathering in the
north, conquerors of the ocean. The Scandinavians had sailed out on
"the gulf's enormous abyss, where before their eyes the vanishing
bounds of the earth were hidden in gloom." An old English riddle
likened the shattering iceberg swinging down from Arctic waters to the
terror of the pirate's war-ship--the leader on the prow as it plunged
through the sea, calling to the land, shouting as he goes, with
laughter terrible to the earth, swinging his sharp-edged sword, grim
in hate, eager for slaughter, bitter in the battle-work. They came,
"great scourers of the seas--a nation desperate in attempting the
conquest of other realms."

The Scandinavian campaigns of the ocean affected Ireland as no
continental wars for the creation or the destruction of the Roman
Empire had done. During two hundred years their national life, their
learning, their civilisation, were threatened by strangers. The social
order they had built up was confronted with two new tests--violence
from without, and an alien population within the island. We may ask
how Irish civilisation met the trial.

The Danes fell on all the shores of England from the Forth to the
Channel, the land of the Picts northward, Iona and the country of the
Scots to the west, and Bretland of the Britons from the Clyde to the
Land's End: in Ireland they sailed up every creek, and shouldering
their boats marched from river to river and lake to lake into every
tribeland, covering the country with their forts, plundering the rich
men's raths of their cups and vessels and ornaments of gold, sacking
the schools and monasteries and churches, and entering every great
king's grave for buried treasure. Their heavy iron swords, their
armour, their discipline of war, gave them an overwhelming advantage
against the Irish with, as they said, bodies and necks and gentle
heads defended only by fine linen. Monks and scholars gathered up
their manuscripts and holy ornaments, and fled away for refuge to

These wars brought a very different fate to the English and the Irish.
In England, when the Danes had planted a colony on every inlet of the
sea (_c._ 800), they took horse and rode conquering over the inland
plains. They slew every English king and wiped out every English royal
house save that of Wessex; and in their place set up their own kings
in Northumbria and East Anglia, and made of all middle England a vast
"Danelaw" a land ruled by Danish law, and by confederations of Danish
towns. At the last Wessex itself was conquered, and a Danish king
ruled over all England (1013). In Ireland, on the other hand, the
invincible power of the tribal system for defence barred the way of
invaders. Every foot of land was defended; every tribe fought for its
own soil. There could be no subjection of the Irish clans except by
their extermination. A Norwegian leader, Thorgils, made one supreme
effort at conquest. He fixed his capital at Armagh and set up at its
shrine the worship of Thor, while his wife gave her oracles from the
high altar of Clonmacnois on the Shannon, in the prophetess's cloak
set with stones to the hem, the necklace of glass beads, the staff,
and the great skin pouch of charms. But in the end Thorgils was taken
by the king of Meath and executed, being cast into Loch Nair. The
Danes, who held long and secure possession of England, great part of
Scotland, and Normandy, were never able to occupy permanently any part
of Ireland more than a day's march from the chief stations of their
fleets. Through two hundred years of war no Irish royal house was
destroyed, no kingdom was extinguished, and no national supremacy of
the Danes replaced the national supremacy of the Irish.

The long war was one of "confused noise and garments rolled in
blood." Ireland, whether they could conquer it or not, was of vast
importance to the Scandinavians as a land of refuge for their fleets.
Voyagers guided their way by the flights of birds from her shores; the
harbours of "the great island" sheltered them; her fields of corn, her
cattle driven to the shore for the "strand-hewing," provisioned their
crews; her woods gave timber for shipbuilding. Norwegians and Danes
fought furiously for possession of the sea-ports, now against the
Irish, now against each other. No victory or defeat counted beyond the
day among the shifting and multiplying fleets of new marauders that
for ever swarmed round the coasts--emigrants who had flung themselves
on the sea for freedom's sake to save their old laws and liberties,
buccaneers seeking "the spoils of the sea," sea-kings roaming the
ocean or gathering for a raid on Scotland or on France, stray
companies out of work or putting in for a winter's shelter, boats of
whale-fishers and walrus-killers, Danish hosts driven out of England
or of Normandy. As "the sea vomited up floods of foreigners into Erin
so that there was not a point without a fleet," battle swung
backwards and forwards between old settlers and new pirates, between
Norsemen and Danes, between both and the Irish.

But the Scandinavians were not only sea-rovers, they were the greatest
merchants that northern Europe had yet seen. From the time of Charles
the Great to William the Conqueror, the whole commerce of the seas was
in their hands. Eastward they pushed across Russia to the Black Sea,
and carried back the wares of Asia to the Baltic; westward they poured
along the coasts of Gaul by the narrow seas, or sailed the Atlantic
from the Orkneys and Hebrides round the Irish coast to the Bay of
Biscay. The new-made empire of Charles the Great was opening Europe
once more to a settled life and the possibilities of traffic, and the
Danish merchants seized the beginnings of the new trade. Ireland lay
in the very centre of their seaways, with its harbours, its wealth,
and its traditional commerce with France. Merchants made settlements
along the coasts, and planted colonies over the inland country to
supply the trade of the ports. They had come to Ireland for business,
and they wanted peace and not war. They intermarried with the Irish,
fostered their children, brought their goods, welcomed Irish poets
into their forts, listening to Irish stories and taking new models for
their own literature, and in war they joined with their Irish
neighbours. A race of "Gall-Gaels," or "foreign Irish," grew up,
accepted by the Irish as of their community. Between the two peoples
there was respect and good-will.

The enterprise of the sea-rovers and the merchant settlers created on
Irish shores two Scandinavian "kingdoms"--kingdoms rather of the sea
than of the land. The Norsemen set up their moot on the Mound over the
river Liffey (near where the Irish Parliament House rose in later
days), and there created a naval power which reached along the coast
from Waterford to Dundalk. The Dublin kingdom was closely connected
with the Danish kingdom of Northumbria, which had its capital at York,
and formed the common meeting-ground, the link which united the
Northmen of Scandinavia and the Northmen of Ireland. A mighty
confederation grew up. Members of the same house were kings in Dublin,
in Man, and in York. The Irish Channel swarmed with their fleets. The
sea was the common highway which linked the powers together, and the
sea was held by fleets of swift long-ships with from ninety to a
hundred and fifty rowers or fighting men on board. Dublin, the
rallying-point of roving marauders, became the centre of a wide-flung
war. Its harbour, looking east, was the mart of the merchant princes
of the Baltic trade: there men of Iceland and of Norway landed with
their merchandise or their plunder.

"Limerick of the swift ships," "Limerick of the riveted stones," the
kingdom lying on the Atlantic was a rival even to Dublin; kings of the
same house ruled in Limerick and the Hebrides, and their fleets took
the way of the wide ocean; while Norse settlements scattered over
Limerick, Kerry and Tipperary, organised as Irish clans and giving an
Irish form to their names, maintained the inland trade. Other Munster
harbours were held, some by the Danes, some by the Irish.

The Irish were on good terms with the traders. They learned to build
the new ships invented by the Scandinavians where both oars and sails
were used, and traded in their own ports for treasures from oversea,
silken raiment and abundance of wine. We read in 900 of Irishmen along
the Cork shores "high in beauty, whose resolve is quiet prosperity,"
and in 950 of "Munster of the great riches," "Munster of the swift

On the other hand, the Irish never ceased from war with the sea-kings.
From the time of Thorgils, high-kings of Tara one after another led
the perpetual contest to hold Ireland and to possess Dublin. They
summoned assemblies in north and south of the confederated chiefs. The
Irish copied not only the Scandinavian building of war-ships, but
their method of raising a navy by dividing the coast into districts,
each of which had to equip and man ten ships, to assemble at the
summons for the united war-fleet. Every province seems to have had its
fleet. The Irish, in fact, learned their lesson so well that they were
able to undertake the re-conquest of their country, and become leaders
of Danish and Norse troops in war. The spirit of the people rose
high. From 900 their victories increased even amid disaster. Strong
kings arose among them, good organisers and good fighters, and for a
hundred years one leader followed hard on another. In 916, Niall, king
of Tara, celebrated once more the assembly of Telltown, and led
southern and northern O'Neills to the aid of Munster against the
Gentiles, directing the men of Leinster in the campaign--a gallant
war. Murtagh, king of Ailech or Tirconnell, smote the Danes at
Carlingford and Louth in 926, a year of great danger, and so came
victorious to the assembly at Telltown. Again, in 933, he defeated the
"foreigners" in the north, and they left two hundred and forty heads,
and all their wealth of spoils. In 941 he won his famous name,
"Murtagh of the Leather Cloaks," from the first midwinter campaign
ever known in Ireland, "the hosting of the frost," when he led his
army from Donegal, under shelter of leather cloaks, over lakes and
rivers frozen by the mighty frost, round the entire circuit of
Ireland. Some ten years later, Cellachan, king of Cashel, took up the
fight; with his linen-coated soldiers against the mail-clad
foreigners, he swept the whole of Munster, capturing Limerick, Cork,
Cashel and Waterford, and joining their Danish armies to his own
troops; till he closed his campaign by calling out the Munster fleet
from Kinsale to Galway bay, six or seven score of them, to meet the
Danish ships at Dundalk. The Norsemen used armour, and rough chains of
blue iron to grapple the enemies' ships, but the Irish sailors, with
their "strong enclosures of linen cloth," and tough ropes of hemp to
fling over the enemies' prows, came off victorious. According to the
saga of his triumph, Cellachan called the whole of Ireland to share in
the struggle for Irish freedom, and a fleet from Ailech carried off
plunder and booty from the Hebrides. He was followed by Brian Boru.
"Ill luck was it for the Danes when Brian was born," says the old
saga, "when he inflicted not evil on the foreigners in the day time he
did it in the next night." From beyond the Shannon he led a fierce
guerrilla war. Left with but fifteen followers alive, sleeping on
"hard knotty wet roots," he still refused to yield. "It is not
hereditary to us," he said, "to submit." He became king of Munster in
974, drove out the Danish king from Dublin in 998, and ruled at last
in 1000 as Ardri of Ireland, an old man of sixty or seventy years. In
1005 he called out all the fleets of the Norsemen of Dublin,
Waterford, Wexford, and of the men of Munster, and of almost all of
the men of Erin, such of them as were fit to go to sea, and they
levied tribute from Saxons and Britons as far as the Clyde and Argyle.

A greater struggle still lay before the Irish. Powerful kings of
Denmark, in the glory of success, began to think of their imperial
destiny; and, to round off their states, proposed to create a
Scandinavian empire from the Slavic shores of the Baltic across
Denmark, Norway, England and Ireland, to the rim of the Atlantic, with
London as the capital. King Sweyn Forkbeard, conqueror of all England,
was acknowledged in 1018 its king. But the imperial plan was not yet
complete. A free Irish nation of men who lived, as they said, "on the
ridge of the world"--a land of unconquered peoples of the open plains
and the mountains and the sea, left the Scandinavian empire with a
ragged edge out on the line of the Atlantic commerce. King Cnut sent
out his men for the last conquest. A vast host gathered in Dublin bay
"from all the west of Europe," from Norway, the Baltic islands, the
Orkneys, Iceland, for the landing at Clontarf. From sunrise to sunset
the battle raged, the hair of the warriors flying in the wind as thick
as the sheaves floating in a field of oats. The Scandinavian scheme of
a northern empire was shattered on that day, when with the evening
floodtide the remnant of the broken Danish host put to sea. Brian
Boru, his son, and his grandson lay dead. But for a hundred and fifty
years to come Ireland kept its independence. England was once again,
as in the time of the Roman dominion, made part of a continental
empire. Ireland, as in the days of Rome, still lay outside the new
imperial system.

At the end, therefore, of two hundred years of war, the Irish emerged
with their national life unbroken. Irish kingdoms had lived on side by
side with Danish kingdoms; in spite of the strength of the Danish
forces, the constant irruptions of new Danes, and the business
capacity of these fighters and traffickers, it was the Irish who were
steadily coming again to the top. Through all perils they had kept
their old order. The high-kings had ruled without a break, and, except
in a few years of special calamity, had held the national assemblies
of the country at Telltown, not far from Tara. The tribesmen of the
sub-kingdoms, if their ancient place of assembly had been turned into
a Danish fort, held their meeting in a hidden marsh or wood. Thus when
Cashel was held by the Norsemen, the assembly met on a mound that rose
in the marshy glen now called Glanworth. There Cellachan, the rightful
heir, in the best of arms and dress, demanded that the nobles should
remember justice, while his mother declared his title and recited a
poem. And when the champions of Munster heard these great words and
the speech of the woman, the tribes arose right readily to make
Cellachan king. They set up his shout of king, and gave thanks to the
true magnificent God for having found him. The nobles then came to
Cellachan and put their hands in his hand, and placed the royal
diadem round his head, and their spirits were raised at the grand
sight of him.

Throughout the wars, too, the tribes had not lost the tradition of
learning. King Ælfred has recorded the state of England after the
Danish wars; he could not bethink him of a single one south of the
Thames who could understand his ritual in English, or translate aught
out of Latin, and he could hear of very few north of the Thames to the
Humber, and beyond the Humber scarce any, "so clean was learning
decayed among the English folk." But the Irish had never ceased to
carry on schools, and train men of distinguished learning. Clonmacnois
on the Shannon, for example, preserved a truly Irish culture, and
between its sackings trained great scholars whose fame could reach to
King Ælfred in Wessex, and to Charles the Great in Aachen. The Irish
clergy still remained unequalled in culture, even in Italy. One of
them in 868 was the most learned of the Latinists of all Europe.
Another, Cormac, king and bishop (+905), was skilled in Old-Irish
literature, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Welsh, Anglo-Saxon and Norse--he
might be compared with that other great Irishman of his time, John
Scotus, whom Charles the Bald had made head of his school. Irish
teachers had a higher skill than any others in Europe in astronomy,
geography and philosophy. Side by side with monastic schools the lay
schools had continued without a break. By 900 the lawyers had produced
at least eighteen law-books whose names are known, and a glossary. A
lay scholar, probably of the ninth century, compiled the instructions
of a king to his son--"Learning every art, knowledge of every
language, skill in variegated work, pleading with established
maxims"--these are the sciences he recommends. The Triads, compiled
about the same time, count among the ornaments of wisdom, "abundance
of knowledge, a number of precedents." Irish poets, men and women,
were the first in Europe to sing of Nature--of summer and winter, of
the cuckoo with the grey mantle, the blackbird's lay, the red bracken
and the long hair of the heather, the talk of the rushes, the
green-barked yew-tree which supports the sky, the large green of an
oak fronting the storm. They sang of the Creation and the Crucifixion,
when "dear God's elements were afraid"; and of pilgrimage to
Rome--"the King whom thou seekest here, unless thou bring Him with
thee thou dost not find"; of the hermit's "shining candles above the
pure white scriptures ... and I to be sitting for a while praying God
in every place"; of the great fidelities of love--"the flagstone upon
which he was wont to pray, she was upon it until she died. Her soul
went to heaven. And that flagstone was put over her face." They
chanted the terror of the time, the fierce riders of the sea in
death-conflict with the mounting waves: "Bitter is the conflict with
the tremendous tempest"--"Bitter is the wind to-night. It tosses the
ocean's white hair; I do not fear the fierce warriors of Norway
coursing on the Irish sea to-night." And in their own war of
deliverance they sang of Finn and his Fiana on the battlefield, heroes
of the Irish race.

Even the craftsmen's schools were still gathered in their raths,
preserving from century to century the forms and rules of their art;
soon after the battle of Clontarf we read of "the chief artificer of
Ireland." The perfection of their art in enamel and gold work has been
the wonder of the old and of the modern world. Many influences had
come in--Oriental, Byzantine, Scandinavian, French--and the Irish took
and used them all, but their art still remained Gaelic, of their
native soil. No jeweller's work was ever more perfect than the Ardagh
chalice of the ninth or tenth century, of pure Celtic art with no
trace of Danish influence. The metal-workers of Munster must have been
famous, from the title of "king Cellachan of the lovely cups"; and the
golden case that enclosed the Gospel of Columcille in 1000 was for its
splendour "the chief relic from the western world." The stone-workers,
too, carried on their art. There were schools of carvers eminent for
skill, such as that of Holy Island on Lough Derg. One of the churches
of Clonmacnois may date from the ninth century, five others from the
tenth; finely sculptured gravestones commemorated saints and scholars;
and the high-cross, a monolith ten feet high set up as a memorial to
king Flann about 914, was carved by an Irish artist who was one of the
greatest sculptors of northern Europe.

The temper of the people was shown in their hero-king Brian Boru,
warrior and scholar. His government was with patience, mercy and
justice. "King Brian thrice forgave all his outlaws the same fault,"
says a Scandinavian saga, "but if they misbehaved themselves oftener,
then he let them be judged by the law; and from this one may mark what
a king he must have been." "He sent professors and masters to teach
wisdom and knowledge, and to buy books beyond the sea and the great
ocean, because the writings and books in every church and sanctuary
had been destroyed by the plunderers; and Brian himself gave the price
of learning and the price of books to every one separately who went on
this service. Many churches were built and repaired by him, bridges
and roads were made, the fortresses of Munster were strengthened."

Such was the astonishing vitality of learning and art among the Irish.
By their social system the intellectual treasures of the race had
been distributed among the whole people, and committed to their care.
And the Irish tribes had proved worthy guardians of the national
faith. They had known how to profit by the material skill and
knowledge of the Danes. Irishmen were willing to absorb the
foreigners, to marry with them, and even at times to share their wars.
They learned from them to build ships, organise naval forces, advance
in trade, and live in towns; they used the northern words for the
parts of a ship, and the streets of a town. In outward and material
civilisation they accepted the latest Scandinavian methods, just as in
our days the Japanese accepted the latest Western inventions. But in
what the Germans call culture--in the ordering of society and law, of
life and thought, the Irish never abandoned their national loyalty.
During two centuries of Danish invasions and occupations the Gaelic
civilisation had not given way an inch to the strangers.




After the battle of Clontarf in 1014 the Irish had a hundred and fifty
years of comparative quiet. "A lively, stirring, ancient and
victorious people," they turned to repair their hurts and to build up
their national life.

Throughout the Danish wars there had been a growth of industry and
riches. No people ever made a successful national rally unless they
were on the rising wave of prosperity. It is not misery and
degradation that bring success. Already Ireland was known in France as
"that very wealthy country in which there were twelve cities, and wide
bishoprics, and a king, and that had its own language, and Latin

But the position of the Gaels was no longer what it had been before
the invasions. The "Foreigners" called constantly for armed help from
their people without, and by political alliances and combinations
fostered war among the Irish states themselves. Nearly a hundred years
after Clontarf king Magnus of Norway (1103) led the greatest army that
ever marched conquering over Ireland. In a dark fen the young giant
flamed out a mark for all, with his shining helmet, his golden hair
falling long over his red silken coat, his red shield, and laid
thereon a golden lion. There he fell by an Irish axe. The glory and
terror of "Magnus of the swift ships," "Magnus of the terrible
battles," was sung in Ireland for half-a-dozen centuries after that
last flaring-up of ancient fires.

The national life, moreover, was now threatened by the settlement of
an alien race, strangers to the Irish tradition, strangers to the
Irish idea of a state, and to their feeling of a church. The sea-kings
had created in Dublin an open gateway into Ireland, a gateway like
Quebec in Canada, that commanded the country and that the country
could never again close from within. They had filled the city with
Scandinavian settlers from the English and Welsh coasts--pioneers of
English invasion. A wealthy and compact community living on the
seaboard, trading with all Europe, inclined to the views of their
business clients in England and the Empire, their influence doubled
the strength of the European pressure on Ireland as against the Gaelic

To the division of peoples within the Irish state the Danes added also
the first division in the Irish church. Olaf Cuaran, overlord of
northmen of Dublin and York, had been baptized (943) in Northumberland
by the archbishop of Canterbury, in presence of the English king. He
formed the first converted Danes into a part of the English Church, so
that their bishops were sent to be ordained at Canterbury. Since the
Irish in 603 had refused to deal with an archbishop of the English,
this was the first foothold Canterbury had got in Ireland. It was the
rending in two of the Irish tradition, the degrading of the primacy of
Armagh, the admission of a foreign power, and the triumph of the
English over the Gaelic church.

In church and state, therefore, the Danes had brought the first
anti-national element into Irish life. The change is marked by a
change of name. The Danes coined the name "_Ire_-land," a form of Eriu
suited to their own speech; the people they called "Irish," leaving
the name of "Scots" only to the Gaels who had crossed the sea into
Alban. Their trading ships carried the words far and wide, and the old
name of Erin only remained in the speech of the Gaels themselves.

Clontarf, too, had marked ominously the passing of an old age, the
beginning of a new. Already the peoples round the North Sea--Normans,
Germans, English--were sending out traders to take the place of the
Scandinavians; and the peoples of the south--Italians and Gauls--were
resuming their ancient commerce. We may see the advent of the new men
in the names of adventurers that landed with the Danes on that low
shore at Clontarf--the first great drops of the storm--lords from
Normandy, a Frenchman from Gaul, and somewhere about that time Walter
the Englishman, a leader of mercenaries from England. In such names we
see the heralds of the coming change.

The Irish were therefore face to face with questions of a new
order--how to fuse two wholly different peoples into one community;
how to make a united church within a united nation; and how to use
foreign influences pouring in on all sides so as to enrich without
destroying the national life. Here was the work of the next hundred
and fifty years. Such problems have been solved in other lands by
powerful kings at the heads of armies; in Ireland it was the work of
the whole community of tribes. It is in this effort that we see the
immense vitality of the Gaelic system the power of its tradition, and
the spirit of its people.

After Brian's death two learned men were set over the government of
Ireland; a layman, the Chief Poet, and a devout man, the Anchorite of
all Ireland. "The land was governed like a free state and not like a
monarchy by them." The victory of Clontarf was celebrated by a
renascence of learning. Eye-witnesses of that great battle, poets and
historians, wrote the chronicle of the Danish wars from first to last,
and sang the glories of Cellachan and of Brian Boru in the greatness
of his life and the majesty of his death. A scholar put into Irish
from Latin the "Tale of Troy," where the exploits and battle rage of
the ancient heroes matched the martial ardour of Irish champions, and
the same words are used for the fights and armour and ships of the
Trojan as of the Danish wars. Another translated from Latin a history
of the Britons, the neighbouring Celtic races across the Channel. In
schools three or four hundred poetic metres were taught. The glories
of ancient Erin were revived. Poets wrote of Usnech, of Tara, of
Ailech, of the O'Neills on Lough Swilly in the far north, of Brian
Boru's palace Kincora on the Shannon, of Rath Cruachan of Connacht.
Tales of heroes, triumphs of ancient kings, were written in the form
in which we now know them, genealogies of the tribes and old hymns of
Irish saints. Clerics and laymen rivalled one another in zeal. In
kings' courts, in monasteries, in schools, annals of Ireland from the
earliest to the latest time were composed. Men laboured to satisfy the
desire of the Irish to possess a complete and brilliant picture of
Ireland from all antiquity. The most famous among the many writers,
one of the most learned men in all Europe in wisdom, literature,
history, poetry, and science, was Flann the layman, teacher of the
school of Monasterboice, who died in 1056--"slow the bright eyes of
his fine head," ran the old song. He made for his pupils synchronisms
of the kings of Asia and of Roman emperors with Irish kings, and of
the Irish high-kings and provincial chiefs and kings of Scotland.
Writings of that time which have escaped destruction, such as the
_Book of Leinster_, remain the most important relics of Celtic
literature in the world.

There was already the beginning of a university in the ancient school
of Armagh lying on the famous hill where for long ages the royal tombs
of the O'Neills had been preserved. "The strong burh of Tara has
died," they said, "while Armagh lives filled with learned champions."
It now rose to a great position. With its three thousand scholars,
famous for its teachers, under its high-ollave Gorman who spent
twenty-one years of study, from 1133 to 1154, in England and France,
it became in fact the national university for the Irish race in
Ireland and Scotland. It was appointed that every lector in any church
in Ireland must take there a degree; and in 1169 the high-king
Ruaidhri O'Conor gave the first annual grant to maintain a professor
at Armagh "for all the Irish and the Scots."

A succession of great bishops of Armagh laboured to bring about also
the organisation of a national church under the government of Armagh.
From 1068 they began to make visitations of the whole country, and
take tribute and offerings in sign of the Armagh leadership. They
journeyed in the old Irish fashion on foot, one of them followed by a
cow on whose milk he lived, all poor, without servants, without money,
wandering among hills and remote hamlets, stopping men on the roadside
to talk, praying for them all night by the force only of their piety
and the fervour of their spirit drawing all the communities under
obedience to the see of Patrick, the national saint. In a series of
synods from 1100 to 1157 a fixed number of bishops' sees was marked
out, and four archbishoprics representing the four provinces. The
Danish sees, moreover, were brought into this union, and made part of
the Irish organisation. Thus the power of Canterbury in Ireland was
ended, and a national church set up of Irish and Danes. Dublin, the
old Scandinavian kingdom, whose prelates for over a hundred years had
been consecrated in England (1036-1161), was the last to hold out
against the union of churches, till this strife was healed by St.
Lorcán ua Tuathail, the first Irish bishop consecrated in Dublin. He
carried to that battleground of the peoples all the charity, piety,
and asceticism of the Irish saint: feeding the poor daily, never
himself tasting meat, rising at midnight to pray till dawn, and ever
before he slept going out into the graveyard to pray there for the
dead; from time to time withdrawing among the Wicklow hills to St.
Kevin's Cave at Glendalough, a hole in the cliff overhanging the dark
lake swept with storm from the mountain-pass, where twice a week bread
and water were brought him by a boat and a ladder up the rock. His
life was spent in the effort for national peace and union, nor had
Ireland a truer patriot or wiser statesman.

Kings and chiefs sat with the clergy in the Irish synods, and in the
state too there were signs of a true union of the peoples. The Danes,
gradually absorbed into the Irish population, lost the sense of
separate nationality. The growing union of the peoples was seen in the
increasing power of the Ardri. Brian's line maintained at Cachel the
title of "kings of Ireland," strengthening their house with Danish
marriages; they led Danish forces and were elected kings of the Danes
in Dublin. But in the twelfth century it was the Connacht kings who
came to the front, the same race that a thousand years before had
spread their power across the Shannon to Usnech and to Tara. Turlough
O'Conor (1118-1156) was known to Henry I of England as "king of
Ireland"; on a metal cross made for him he is styled "king of Erin,"
and a missal of his time (1150) contains the only prayer yet known for
"the king of the Irish and his army"--the sign, as we may see, of
foreign influences on the Irish mind. His son, Ruaidhri or Rory, was
proclaimed (1166) Ardri in Dublin with greater pomp than any king
before him, and held at Athboy in Meath an assembly of the "men of
Ireland," archbishops and clergy, princes and nobles, eighteen
thousand horsemen from the tribes and provinces, and a thousand Danes
from Dublin--there laws were made for the honour of churches and
clergy, the restoring of prey unjustly taken, and the control of
tribes and territories, so that a woman might traverse the land in
safety; and the vast gathering broke up "in peace and amity, without
battle or controversy, or any one complaining of another at that
meeting." It is said that Rory O'Conor's procession when he held the
last of the national festivals at Telltown was several miles in

The whole of Ireland is covered with the traces of this great national
revival. We may still see on islands, along river-valleys, in lonely
fields, innumerable ruins of churches built of stone chiselled as
finely as man's hand can cut it; and of the lofty round towers and
sculptured high crosses that were multiplied over the land after the
day of Clontarf. The number of the churches has not been counted. It
must be astonishing. At first they were built in the "Romanesque" style
brought from the continent, with plain round arches, as Brian Boru made
them about A.D. 1000; presently chancels were added, and doors and
windows and arches richly carved. These churches were still small,
intimate, suited to the worship of the tribal communities; as time went
on they were larger and more richly decorated, but always marked with
the remembrance of Irish tradition and ornament, and signed by Irish
masons on the stones. There was a wealth of metal work of great
splendour, decorated with freedom and boldness of design, with inlaid
work and filigree, and settings of stones and enamels and crystal; as
we may see in book-shrines, in the crosiers of Lismore and Cachel and
Clonmacnois and many others, in the matchless processional cross of
Cong, in the great shrine of St. Manchan with twenty-four figures
highly raised on each side in a variety of postures remarkable for the
time. It was covered with an embroidery of gold in as good style, say
the Annals, as a reliquary was ever covered in Ireland. Irish skill was
known abroad. A French hero of romance wore a fine belt of Irish
leather-work, and a knight of Bavaria had from Ireland ribbon of
gold-lace embroidered with animals in red gold.

The vigour of Irish life overflowed, indeed, the bounds of the
country. Cloth from Ireland was already sold in England and it was
soon to spread over all Europe. It is probable that export of corn and
provisions had already begun, and of timber, besides hides and wool.
And the frequent mention of costly gifts and tributes, and of
surprisingly large sums of gold and silver show a country of steadily
expanding wealth. From the time of Brian Boru learned men poured over
the continent. Pilgrims journeyed to Compostella, to Rome, or through
Greece to Jordan and Jerusalem--composing poems on the way, making
discourses in Latin, showing their fine art of writing. John, bishop
of Mecklenburg, preached to the Vandals between the Elbe and the
Vistula; Marianus "the Scot" on his pilgrimage to Rome stopped at
Regensburg on the Danube, and founded there a monastery of north
Irishmen in 1068, to which was soon added a second house for south
Irishmen. Out of these grew the twelve Irish convents of Germany and
Austria. An Irish abbot was head of a monastery in Bulgaria. From time
to time the Irish came home to collect money for their foundations
and went back laden with gold from the kings at home. Pope Adrian IV
(1154) remembered with esteem the Irish professor under whom he had
studied in Paris University. Irishmen were chaplains of the emperor
Conrad III (+1152) and of his successor Frederick Barbarossa.
Strangers "moved by the love of study" still set out "in imitation of
their ancestors to visit the land of the Irish so wonderfully
celebrated for its learning."

While the spirit of Ireland manifested itself in the shaping of a
national university, and of a national church, in the revival of the
glories of the Ardri, and in vigour of art and learning, there was an
outburst too among the common folk of jubilant patriotism. We can hear
the passionate voice of the people in the songs and legends, the
prophecies of the enduring life of Irishmen on Irish land, the popular
tales that began at this time to run from mouth to mouth. They took to
themselves two heroes to be centres of the national hope--Finn the
champion, leader of the "Fiana," the war-bands of old time; and
Patrick the saint. A multitude of tales suddenly sprang up of the
adventures of Finn--the warrior worthy of a king, the son of wisdom,
the mighty hunter of every mountain and forest in Ireland, whose death
no minstrel cared to sing. Every poet was expected to recite the fame
in life of Finn and his companions. Pedigrees were invented to link
him with every great house in Ireland, for their greater glory and
authority. Side by side with Finn the people set St. Patrick--keeper
of Ireland against all strangers, guardian of their nation and
tradition. It was Patrick, they told, who by invincible prayer and
fasting at last compelled Heaven to grant that outlanders should not
for ever inhabit Erin; "that the Saxons should not dwell in Ireland,
by consent or perforce, so long as I abide in heaven:" "Thou shalt
have this," said the outwearied angel. "Around thee," was the
triumphant Irish hope, "on the Day of Judgment the men of Erin shall
come to judgment"; for after the twelve thrones of the apostles were
set in Judæa to judge the tribes of Israel, Patrick himself should at
the end arise and call the people of Ireland to be judged by him on a
mountain in their own land.

As in the old Gaelic tradition, so now the people fused in a single
emotion the nation and the church. They brought from dusky woods the
last gaunt relics of Finn's company, sad and dispirited at the falling
of the evening clouds, and set them face to face with Patrick as he
chanted mass on one of their old raths--men twice as tall as the
modern folk, with their huge wolf-dogs, men "who were not of our epoch
or of one time with the clergy." When Patrick hesitated to hear their
pagan memories of Ireland and its graves, of its men who died for
honour, of its war and hunting, its silver bridles and cups of yellow
gold, its music and great feastings, lest such recreation of spirit
and mind should be to him a destruction of devotion and dereliction of
prayer, angels were sent to direct him to give ear to the ancient
stories of Ireland, and write them down for the joy of companies and
nobles of the latter time. "Victory and blessing wait on thee,
Caeilte," said Patrick, thus called to the national service; "for the
future thy stories and thyself are dear to me"; "grand lore and
knowledge is this thou hast uttered to us." "Thou too, Patrick, hast
taught us good things," the warriors responded with courteous
dignity. So at all the holy places of Ireland, the pillar-stone of
ancient Usnech, the ruined mounds of Tara, great Rath-Cruachan of
Connacht, the graves of mighty champions, Pagan hero and Christian
saint sat together to make interchange of history and religion, the
teaching of the past and the promise of the future. St. Patrick gave
his blessing to minstrels and story-tellers and to all craftsmen of
Ireland--"and to them that profess it be it all happiness." He mounted
to the high glen to see the Fiana raise their warning signal of heroic
chase and hunting. He saw the heavy tears of the last of the heroes
till his very breast, his chest was wet. He laid in his bosom the head
of the pagan hunter and warrior: "By me to thee," said Patrick, "and
whatsoever be the place in which God shall lay hand on thee, Heaven is
assigned." "For thy sake," said the saint, "be thy lord Finn mac
Cumhall taken out of torment, if it be good in the sight of God."

In no other country did such a fate befall a missionary coming from
strangers--to be taken and clothed upon with the national passion of
a people, shaped after the pattern of their spirit, made the keeper of
the nation's soul, the guardian of its whole tradition. Such legends
show how enthusiasm for the common country ran through every hamlet in
the land, and touched the poorest as it did the most learned. They
show that the social order in Ireland after the Danish settlements was
the triumph of an Irish and not a Danish civilisation. The national
life of the Irish, free, democratic, embracing every emotion of the
whole people, gentle or simple, was powerful enough to gather into it
the strong and freedom-loving rovers of the sea.

On all sides, therefore, we see the growth of a people compacted of
Irish and Danes, bound together under the old Irish law and social
order, with Dublin as a centre of the united races, Armagh a national
university, a single and independent church under an Irish primate of
Armagh and an Irish archbishop of Dublin, a high-king calling the
people together in a succession of national assemblies for the common
good of the country. The new union of Ireland was being slowly worked
out by her political councillors, her great ecclesiastics, her
scholars and philosophers, and by the faith of the common people in
the glory of their national inheritance. "The bodies and minds of the
people were endued with extraordinary abilities of nature," so that
art, learning and commerce prospered in their hands. On this fair hope
of rising civilisation there fell a new and tremendous trial.




After the fall of the Danes the Normans, conquerors of England,
entered on the dominion of the sea--"citizens of the world," they
carried their arms and their cunning from the Tweed to the
Mediterranean, from the Seine to the Euphrates. The spirit of conquest
was in the air. Every landless man was looking to make his fortune.
Every baron desired, like his viking forefathers, a land where he
could live out of reach of the king's long arm. They had marked out
Ireland as their natural prey--"a land very rich in plunder, and famed
for the good temperature of the air, the fruitfulness of the soil, the
pleasant and commodious seats for habitation, and safe and large ports
and havens lying open for traffic." Norman barons were among the
enemy at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. The same year that Ireland
saw the last of the Scandinavian sea kings (1103) she saw the first of
the Norman invaders prying out the country for a kingdom. William
Rufus (1087-1100) had fetched from Ireland great oaks to roof his Hall
at Westminster, and planned the conquest of an island so desirable. A
greater empire-maker, Henry II, lord of a vast seacoast from the Forth
to the Pyrenees, holding both sides of the Channel, needed Ireland to
round off his dominions and give him command of the traffic from his
English ports across the Irish Sea, from his ports of the Loire and
the Garonne over the Gaulish sea. The trade was well worth the

Norman and French barons, with Welsh followers, and Flemings from
Pembroke, led the invasion that began in 1169. They were men trained
to war, with armour and weapons unknown to the Irish. But they owed no
small part of their military successes in Ireland to a policy of
craft. If the Irish fought hard to defend the lands they held in civil
tenure, the churches had no great strength, and the seizing of a
church estate led to no immediate rising out of the country. The
settled plan of the Normans, therefore, was to descend on defenceless
church lands, and turn them into Norman strongholds; in reply to
complaints, they pleaded that the churches were used by the hostile
Irish as storing places for their goods. Their occupation gave the
Normans a great military advantage, for once the churches were
fortified and garrisoned with Norman skill the reduction of the
surrounding country became much easier. The Irish during this period
sometimes plundered church lands, but did not occupy, annex, or
fortify them. The invaders meanwhile spread over the country. French
and Welsh and Flemings have left their mark in every part of Ireland,
by Christian names, by names of places and families, and by loan-words
taken into Irish from the French. The English who came over went
chiefly to the towns, many of them to Dublin through the Bristol
trade. Henry II himself crossed in 1171 with a great fleet and army to
over-awe his too-independent barons as well as the Irish, and from the
wooden palace set up for him in Dublin demanded a general oath of
allegiance. The Normans took the oath, with some churchmen and
half-a-dozen Irish chiefs.

In Henry's view this oath was a confession that the Irish knew
themselves conquered; and that the chief renounced the tribal system,
and handed over the land to the king, so that he as supreme lord of
all the soil could allot it to his barons, and demand in return the
feudal services common in Normandy or in England. No Irish chief,
however, could have even understood these ideas. He knew nothing of
the feudal system, nor of a landlord in the English sense. He had no
power to hand the land of the tribe over to any one. He could admit no
"conquest," for the seizing of a few towns and forts could not carry
the subjection of all the independent chiefdoms. Whatever Henry's
theory might be, the taking of Dublin was not the taking of an Irish
capital: the people had seen its founding as the centre of a foreign
kingdom, and their own free life had continued as of old. Henry's
presence there gave him no lordship: and the independent temper of
the Irish people was not likely, after their Danish experience, to be
cowed by two years of war. Some cunning explanation of the oath was
given to the Irish chiefs by the subtle Angevin king and his crafty
Norman counsellors--that war was to cease, that they were to rule as
fully and freely as before, and in recognition of the peace to give to
Henry a formal tribute which implied no dominion.

The false display at Dublin was a deception both to the king and to
the Irish. The empty words on either side did not check for a month
the lust of conquest nor the passion of defence.

One royal object, however, was made good. The oath, claimed under
false pretences, yielded under misunderstanding, impossible of
fulfilment, was used to confer on the king a technical legal right to
Ireland; this legal fiction became the basis of the royal claims, and
the justification of every later act of violence.

Another fraud was added by the proclamation of papal bulls, which
according to modern research seem to have been mere forgeries. They
gave the lordship of the country to Henry, and were readily accepted
by the invaders and their successors. But they were held of no account
among Irish annalists and writers, who make no mention of the bulls
during the next three hundred years.

Thus the grounds of the English title to Ireland were laid down, and
it only remained to make good by the sword the fictions of law and the
falsehoods of forgers. According to these Ireland had been by the act
of the natives and by the will of God conferred on a higher race.
Kings carved out estates for their nobles. The nobles had to conquer
the territories granted them. Each conquered tract was to be made into
a little England, enclosed within itself, and sharply fenced off from
the supposed sea of savagery around it. There was to be no trade with
the Irish, no intercourse, no relationship, no use of their dress,
speech, or laws, no dealings save those of conquest and slaughter. The
colonists were to form an English parliament to enact English law. A
lieutenant-governor, or his deputy, was set in Dublin Castle to
superintend the conquest and the administration. The fighting
garrison was reinforced by the planting of a militant church--bishops
and clergy of foreign blood, stout men of war, ready to aid by
prayers, excommunications, and the sword. A bishop of Waterford being
once sent by the Lord Justice to account to Edward I for a battle of
the Irish in which the king of Connacht and two thousand of his men
lay dead, explained that "in policy he thought it expedient to wink at
one knave cutting off another, and that would save the king's coffers
and purchase peace to the land"; whereat the king smiled and bade him
return to Ireland.

The Irish were now therefore aliens in their own country. Officially
they did not exist. Their land had been parted out by kings among
their barons "till in title they were owners and lords of all, so as
nothing was left to be granted to the natives." During centuries of
English occupation not a single law was enacted for their relief or
benefit. They were refused the protection of English law, shut out
from the king's courts and from the king's peace. The people who had
carried the peaceful mission of a spiritual religion over England and
Europe now saw that other mission planted among themselves--a
political church bearing the sword of the conqueror, and dealing out
anathemas and death in the service of a state which rewarded it with
temporal wealth and dominion.

The English attack was thus wholly different from that of the Danes:
it was guided by a fixed purpose, and directed by kings who had a more
absolute power, a more compact body of soldiers, and a better filled
treasury than any other rulers in Europe. Dublin, no mere centre now
of roving sea-kings, was turned into an impregnable fortress, fed from
the sea, and held by a garrison which was supported by the whole
strength of England--a fortress unconquerable by any power within
Ireland--a passage through which the strangers could enter at their
ease. The settlers were no longer left to lapse as isolated groups
into Irish life, but were linked together as a compact garrison under
the Castle government. The vigilance of Westminster never ceased, nor
the supply of its treasure, its favoured colonists, and its ablest
generals. From Henry II to Elizabeth, the aim of the English
government was the same. The ground of Ireland was to be an immediate
holding, "a royal inheritance," of the king. On an issue so sharp and
definite no compromise was possible. So long as the Irish claimed to
hold a foot of their own land the war must continue. It lasted, in
fact, for five hundred years, and at no moment was any peace possible
to the Irish except by entire renunciation of their right to the
actual soil of their country. If at times dealings were opened by the
English with an Irish chief, or a heavy sum taken to allow him to stay
on his land, this was no more than a temporary stratagem or a local
expedient, and in no way affected the fixed intention to gain the
ownership of the soil.

Out of the first tumult and anarchy of war an Ireland emerged which
was roughly divided between the two peoples. In Ulster, O'Neills and
O'Donnells and other tribes remained, with only a fringe of Normans on
the coast. O'Conors and other Irish clans divided Connacht, and
absorbed into the Gaelic life the incoming Norman de Burghs. The
Anglo-Normans, on the other hand, established themselves powerfully in
Munster and Leinster. But even here--side by side with the great lords
of the invasion, earls of Ormond, and Desmond, and Kildare--there
remained Irish kingdoms and the remnants of old chiefdoms,
unconquered, resolute and wealthy--such as the O'Briens in the west,
MacCarthys and O'Sullivans in the south, O'Conors and O'Mores in the
middle country, MacMurroughs and O'Tooles in Leinster, and many more.

It has been held that all later misfortunes would have been averted if
the English without faltering had carried out a complete conquest, and
ended the dispute once for all. English kings had, indeed, every
temptation to this direct course. The wealth of the country lay spread
before them. It was a land abounding in corn and cattle, in fish, in
timber; its manufactures were famed over all Europe; gold-mines were
reported; foreign merchants flocked to its ports, and bankers and
money-lenders from the Rhineland and Lucca, with speculators from
Provence, were carrying over foreign coin, settling in the towns, and
taking land in the country. Sovereigns at Westminster--harassed with
turbulent barons at home and wars abroad--looked to a conquered
Ireland to supply money for their treasury, soldiers for their armies,
provisions for their wars, and estates for their favourites. In haste
to reap their full gains they demanded nothing better than a conquest
rapid and complete. They certainly cannot be charged with dimness of
intention, slackness in effort, or want of resource in dilemmas. It
would be hard to imagine any method of domination which was not
used--among the varied resources of the army, the church, the lawyers,
the money-lenders, the schoolmasters, the Castle intriguers and the
landlords. The official class in Dublin, recruited every few years
with uncorrupted blood from England, urged on the war with the dogged
persistence of their race.

But the conquest of the Irish nation was not so simple as it had
seemed to Anglo-Norman speculators. The proposal to take the land out
of the hands of an Irish people and give it to a foreign king, could
only have been carried out by the slaughter of the entire population.
No lesser effort could have turned a free tribal Ireland into a
dependent feudal England.

The English kings had made a further mistake. They proposed, like
later kings of Spain in South America, to exploit Ireland for the
benefit of the crown and the metropolis, not for the welfare of any
class whatever of the inhabitants; the colonists were to be a mere
garrison to conquer and hold the land for the king. But the
Anglo-Norman adventurers had gone out to find profit for themselves,
not to collect Irish wealth for London. Their "loyalty" failed under
that test. The kings, therefore, found themselves engaged in a double
conflict, against the Irish and against their own colonists, and were
every year more entangled in the difficulties of a policy false from
the outset.

Yet another difficulty disclosed itself. Among the colonists a little
experience destroyed the English theory of Irish "barbarism." The
invaders were drawn to their new home not only by its wealth but by
its beauty, the variety and gaiety of its social life, the
intelligence of its inhabitants, and the attraction of its learning
and art. Settlers, moreover, could neither live nor till the lands
they had seized, nor trade in the seaports, nor find soldiers for
their defence, without coming to terms with their Irish neighbours. To
them the way of wealth lay not in slaughter but in traffic, not in
destroying riches but in sharing them. The colonists compromised with
"the Irish enemy." They took to Irish dress and language; they
recognised Irish land tenure, as alone suited to the country and
people, one also that gave them peace with their farmers and
cattle-drivers, and kept out of their estates the king's sheriffs and
tax-gatherers; they levied troops from their tenants in the Irish
manner; they employed Irishmen in offices of trust; they paid
neighbouring tribes for military service--such as to keep roads and
passes open for their traders and messengers. "English born in
Ireland," "degenerate English," were as much feared by the king as the
"mere Irish." They were not counted "of English birth"; lands were
resumed from them, office forbidden them. In every successive
generation new men of pure English blood were to be sent over to serve
the king's purpose and keep in check the Ireland-born.

The Irish wars, therefore, became exceedingly confused--kings, barons,
tribes, all entangled in interminable strife. Every chief, surrounded
by dangers, was bound to turn his court into a place of arms thronged
by men ready to drive back the next attack or start on the next foray.
Whatever was the burden of military taxation no tribe dared to disarm
any more than one of the European countries to-day. The Dublin
officials, meanwhile, eked out their military force by craft; they
created and encouraged civil wars; they called on the Danes who had
become mingled with the Irish to come out from them and resume their
Danish nationality, as the only means of being allowed protection of
law and freedom to trade. To avert the dangers of friendship and peace
between races in Ireland they became missionaries of disorder,
apostles of contention. Civil wars within any country exhaust
themselves and come to a natural end. But civil wars maintained by a
foreign power from without have no conclusion. If any strong leader
arose, Anglo-Norman or Irish, the whole force of England was called
in, and the ablest commanders fetched over from the French wars, great
men of battle and plunder, to fling the province back into weakness
and disorder.

In England the feudal system had been brought to great perfection--a
powerful king, a state organised for common action, with a great
military force, a highly organised treasury, a powerful nobility, and
a dependent people. The Irish tribal system, on the other hand, rested
on a people endowed with a wide freedom, guided by an ancient
tradition, and themselves the guardians of their law and of their
land. They had still to show what strength lay in their spiritual
ideal of a nation's life to subdue the minds of their invaders, and to
make a stand against their organised force.




The first Irish revival after the Danish wars showed the strength of
the ancient Gaelic civilisation. The second victory which the genius
of the people won over the minds of the new invaders was a more
astonishing proof of the vitality of the Irish culture, the firm
structure of their law, and the cohesion of the people.

Henry II in 1171 had led an army for "the conquest" of Ireland. Three
hundred years later, when Henry VII in 1487 turned his thoughts to
Ireland he found no conquered land. An earthen ditch with a palisade
on the top had been raised to protect all that was left of English
Ireland, called the "Pale" from its encircling fence. Outside was a
country of Irish language, dress, and customs. Thirty miles west of
Dublin was "by west of English law." Norman lords had married
daughters of Irish chiefs all over the country, and made combinations
and treaties with every province. Their children went to be fostered
in kindly houses of the Irish. Into their own palisaded forts, lifted
on great mounds of earth, with three-fold entrenchments, came Irish
poets singing the traditions, the love-songs, the prayers and hymns of
the Gaels. A Norman shrine of gold for St. Patrick's tooth shows how
the Norman lord of Athenry had adopted the national saint. Many
settlers changed their names to an Irish form, and taking up the clan
system melted into the Irish population. Irish speech was so universal
that a proclamation of Henry VIII in a Dublin parliament had to be
translated into Irish by the earl of Ormond.

Irish manners had entered also into the town houses of the merchants.
Foreign traders welcomed "natives" to the seaports, employed them,
bought their wares, took them into partnership, married with them,
allowed them to plead Irish law in their courts--and not only that,
but they themselves wore the forbidden Irish dress, talked Irish with
the other townsfolk, and joined in their national festivities and
ceremonies and songs. Almost to the very gates of Dublin, in the
centre of what should have been pure English land, the merchants went
riding Irish fashion, in Irish dress, and making merry with their
forbidden Irish clients.

This Irish revival has been attributed to a number of causes--to an
invasion of Edward Bruce in 1315, to the "degeneracy" of the Normans,
to the vice of the Irish, to the Wars of the Roses, to the want of
energy of Dublin Castle, to the over-education of Irish people in
Oxford, to agitation and lawyers. The cause lay far deeper. It lay in
the rich national civilisation which the Irish genius had built up,
strong in its courageous democracy, in its broad sympathies, in its
widespread culture, in its freedom, and in its humanities. So long as
the Irish language preserved to the people their old culture they
never failed to absorb into their life every people that came among
them. It was only when they lost hold of the tradition of their
fathers and their old social order that this great influence fell
from them, and strangers no longer yielded to their power.

The social fusion of Normans and Irish was the starting-point of a
lively civilisation to which each race brought its share. Together
they took a brilliant part in the commerce which was broadening over
the world. The Irish were great travellers; they sailed the Adriatic,
journeyed in the Levant, visited the factories of Egypt, explored
China, with all the old love of knowledge and infinite curiosity. They
were as active and ingenious in business as the Normans themselves.
Besides exporting raw materials, Irish-made linen and cloth and cloaks
and leather were carried as far as Russia and Naples; Norman lords and
Irish chieftains alike took in exchange velvets, silks and satins,
cloth of gold and embroideries, wines and spices. Irish goldsmiths
made the rich vessels that adorned the tables both of Normans and
Irish. Irish masons built the new churches of continental design,
carving at every turn their own traditional Irish ornaments. Irish
scribes illuminated manuscripts which were as much praised in a Norman
castle as in an Irish fort. Both peoples used translations into Irish
made by Gaelic scholars from the fashionable Latin books of the
Continent. Both races sent students and professors to every university
in Europe--men recognised of deep knowledge among the most learned men
of Italy and France. A kind of national education was being worked
out. Not one of the Irish chiefdoms allowed its schools to perish, and
to these ancient schools the settlers in the towns added others of
their own, to which the Irish also in time flocked, so that youths of
the two races learned together. As Irish was the common language, so
Latin was the second tongue for cultivated people and for all men of
business in their continental trade. The English policy made English
the language of traitors to their people, but of no use either for
trade or literature.

The uplifting of the national ideal was shown in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries by a revival of learning like that which followed
the Danish wars. Not one of the hereditary houses of historians,
lawyers, poets, physicians, seems to have failed: we find them at work
in the mountains of Donegal, along the Shannon, in lake islands,
among the bare rocks of Clare, in the plains of Meath, in the valleys
of Munster. In astronomy Irishmen were still first in Europe. In
medicine they had all the science of their age. Nearly all our
knowledge of Irish literature comes from copies of older works made by
hundreds of industrious scribes of this period. From time to time
Assemblies of all the learned men were called together by patriotic
chiefs, or by kings rising into high leadership--"coming to Tara," as
the people said. The old order was maintained in these national
festivals. Spacious avenues of white houses were made ready for poets,
streets of peaked hostels for musicians, straight roads of smooth
conical-roofed houses for chroniclers, another avenue for bards and
jugglers, and so on; and on the bright surface of the pleasant hills
sleeping-booths of woven branches for the companies. From sea to sea
scholars and artists gathered to show their skill to the men of
Ireland; and in these glorious assemblies the people learned anew the
wealth of their civilisation, and celebrated with fresh ardour the
unity of the Irish nation.

It was no wonder that in this high fervour of the country the
Anglo-Normans, like the Danes and the Northumbrians before them, were
won to a civilisation so vital and impassioned, so human and gay. But
the mixed civilisation found no favour with the government; the "wild
Irish" and the "degenerate English" were no better than "brute
beasts," the English said, abandoned to "filthy customs" and to "a
damnable law that was no law, hateful to God and man." Every measure
was taken to destroy the growing amity of the peoples, not only by
embroiling them in war, but by making union of Ireland impossible in
religion or in education, and by destroying public confidence. The new
central organisation of the Irish church made it a powerful weapon in
English hands. An Englishman was at once put in every archbishopric
and every principal see, a prelate who was often a Castle official as
well, deputy, chancellor, justice, treasurer, or the like, or a good
soldier--in any case hostile to every Irish affection. A national
church in the old Irish sense disappeared; in the English idea the
church was to destroy the nation. Higher education was also denied to
both races. No Irish university could live under the eye of an English
primate of Armagh, and every attempt of Anglo-Normans to set up a
university for Ireland at Dublin or Drogheda was instantly crushed. To
avert general confidence and mutual understanding, an alien class was
maintained in the country, who for considerations of wealth, power, a
privileged position, betrayed the peace of Ireland to the profit of
England. No pains, for example, were spared by the kings to conciliate
and use so important a house as that of the earls of Ormond. For
nearly two hundred years, as it happened, the heirs of this house were
always minors, held in wardship by the king. English training at his
court, visits to London, knighthoods and honours there, high posts in
Ireland, prospects of new conquests of Irish land, a winking of
government officials at independent privileges used on their estates
by Ormond lords--such influences tied each heir in turn to England,
and separated them from Irish interests--a "loyal" house, said the
English--"fair and false as Ormond," said the people of Ireland.

Both races suffered under this foreign misrule. Both were brayed in
the same mortar. Both were driven to the demand for home rule. The
national movement never flagged for a single generation. Never for a
moment did the Irish cease from the struggle; in the swell and tumult
of that tossing sea commanders emerged now in one province, now in
another, each to fall back into the darkness while the next pressed on
to take his place. An Anglo-Norman parliament claimed (1459) that
Ireland was by its constitution separate from the laws and statutes of
England, and prayed to have a separate coinage for their land as in
the kingdom of England. Confederacies of Irish and Anglo-Normans were
formed, one following another in endless and hopeless succession.
Through all civil strife we may plainly see the steady drift of the
peoples to a common patriotism. There was panic in England at these
ceaseless efforts to restore an Irish nation, for "Ireland," English
statesmen said, "was as good as gone if a wild Irish wyrlinge should
be chosen there as king."

For a time it seemed as if the house of the Fitzgeralds, the most
powerful house in Ireland, might mediate between the peoples whose
blood, English and Irish, they shared. Earl Gerald of Desmond led a
demand for home rule in 1341, and that Ireland should not be governed
by "needy men sent from England, without knowledge of Ireland or its
circumstances." Earl Gerald the Rhymer of the same house (1359) was a
patriot leader too--a witty and ingenious composer of Irish poetry,
who excelled all the English and many of the Irish in the knowledge of
the Irish language, poetry, and history, and of other learning. A
later Earl Gerald (1416), foster-son of O'Brien and cousin of Henry
VI, was complimented by the Republic of Florence, in a letter
recalling the Florentine origin of the Fitzgeralds, for the glory he
brought to that city, since its citizens had possessions as far as
Hungary and Greece, and now "through you and yours bear sway even in
Ibernia, the most remote island of the world." In Earl Thomas (1467)
the Irish saw the first "foreigner" to be the martyr of their cause.
He had furthered trade of European peoples with Irishmen; he had
urgently pressed union of the races; he had planned a university for
Ireland at Drogheda (Armagh having been long destroyed by the
English). As his reward he was beheaded without trial by the earl of
Worcester famed as "the Butcher," who had come over with a claim to
some of the Desmond lands in Cork. His people saw in his death "the
ruin of Ireland"; they laid his body with bitter lamentations by the
Atlantic at Tralee, where the ocean wind moaning in the caverns still
sounds to the peasants as "the Desmond's keen."

Other Fitzgeralds, earls of Kildare, who had married into every
leading Irish house, took up in their turn the national cause. Garrett
Mor "the great" (1477-1513), married to the cousin of Henry VII, made
close alliances with every Irish chief, steadily spread his power over
the land, and kept up the family relations with Florence; and by his
wit, his daring, the gaiety of his battle with slander, fraud, and
violence, won great authority. His son Garrett inherited and enlarged
his great territory. Maynooth under him was one of the richest earls'
houses of that time. When he rode out in his scarlet cloak he was
followed by four hundred Irish spearmen. His library was half of Irish
books; he made his English wife read, write, and speak perfectly the
Irish tongue; he had for his chief poet an Irishman, "full of the
grace of God and of learning"; his secretary was employed to write for
his library "divers chronicles" of Ireland. The Irish loved him for
his justice, for his piety, and that he put on them no arbitrary tax.
By a singular charm of nature he won the hearts of all, wife, son,
jailor in London Tower, and English lords.

His whole policy was union in his country, and Ireland for the Irish.
The lasting argument for self-government as against rule from over-sea
was heard in his cry to Wolsey and the lords at Westminster--"You hear
of a case as it were in a dream, and feel not the smart that vexeth
us." He attempted to check English interference with private subjects
in Ireland. He refused to admit that a commission to Cardinal Wolsey
as legate for England gave him authority in Ireland. The mark of his
genius lay above all in his resolve to close dissensions and to put
an end to civil wars. When as deputy he rode out to war against
disturbed tribes, his first business was not to fight, but to call an
assembly in the Irish manner which should decide the quarrel by
arbitration according to law. He "made peace," his enemies said, and
the nightmare of forced dissension gave way before this new
statesmanship of national union.

Never were the Irish "so corrupted by affection" for a lord deputy,
never were they so obedient, both from fear and from love, so Henry
VIII was warned. In spite of official intrigues, through all eddying
accidents, the steady pressure of the country itself was towards

The great opportunity had come to weld together the two races in
Ireland, and to establish a common civilisation by a leader to whom
both peoples were perfectly known, whose sympathies were engaged in
both, and who as deputy of the English king had won the devoted
confidence of the Irish people.

There was one faction alone which no reason could convert--the alien
minority that held interests and possessions in both islands, and
openly used England to advance their power and Ireland to increase
their wealth. They had no country, for neither England nor Ireland
could be counted such. They knew how to darken ignorance and inflame
prejudice in London against their fellow-countrymen in Ireland--"the
strange savage nature of the people," "savage vile poor persons which
never did know or feel wealth or civility," "having no knowledge of
the laws of God or of the king," nor any way to know them save through
the good offices of these slanderers, apostles of their own virtue.
The anti-national minority would have had no strength if left alone to
face the growing toleration in Ireland. In support from England it
found its sole security--and through its aid Ireland was flung back
into disorder.




Henry VIII, like Henry II, was not concerned to give "civilisation" to
Ireland. He was concerned to take the land. His reasons were the same.
If he possessed the soil in his own right, apart from the English
parliament, and commanded its fighting-men and its wealth, he could
beat down rebellion in England, smite Scotland into obedience, conquer
France, and create an empire of bounds unknown--and in time of danger
where so sure a shelter for a flying sovereign? Claims were again
revived to "our rightful inheritance"; quibbles of law once more
served for the king's "title to the land"; there was another great day
of deception in Dublin. Henry asked the title of King of Ireland
instead of Lord, and offered to the chiefs in return full security for
their lands. For months of subtle preparation his promises were
explicit. All cause of offence was carefully taken away. Finally a
parliament was summoned (1541) of lords carefully bribed and commons
carefully packed--the very pattern, in fact, of that which was later
called to vote the Union. And while they were by order voting the
title, the king and council were making arrangements together to
render void both sides of the bargain. First the wording of the title
was so altered as to take away any value in the "common consent" of
parliament, since the king asserted his title to Ireland by
inheritance and conquest, before and beyond all mandate of the popular
will. And secondly it was arranged that Henry was under no obligation
by negotiations or promises as to the land. For since, by the
council's assurance to the king on the day the title was passed, there
was no land occupied by any "disobedient" people which was not really
the king's property by ancient inheritance or by confiscation, Henry
might do as he would with his own. Royal concessions too must depend
on how much revenue could be extracted from them to keep up suitably
the title of king--on whether it was judicious to give Irishmen titles
which they might afterwards plead to be valid--on whether Henry would
find the promised grants convenient in case he chose later to proceed
to "conquest and extermination."

Parliament was dismissed for thirteen years, Henry, in fact, had
exactly fulfilled the project of mystification he proposed twenty
years before--"to be politically and secretly handled." Every trace of
Irish law and land tenure must finally be abolished so that the soil
should lie at the king's will alone, but this was to be done at first
by secret and politic measures, here a little and there a little, so
that, as he said, the Irish lords should as yet conceive no suspicion
that they were to be "constrained to live under our law or put from
all the lands by them now detained." "Politic practices," said Henry,
would serve till such time as the strength of the Irish should be
diminished, their leaders taken from them, and division put among
themselves so that they join not together. If there had been any truth
or consideration for Ireland in the royal compact some hope of
compromise and conciliation might have opened. But the whole scheme
was rooted and grounded in falsehood, and Ireland had yet to learn how
far sufferings by the quibbles and devices of law might exceed the
disasters of open war. Chiefs could be ensnared one by one in
misleading contracts, practically void. A false claimant could be put
on a territory and supported by English soldiers in a civil war, till
the actual chief was exiled or yielded the land to the king's
ownership. No chief, true or false, had power to give away the
people's land, and the king was face to face with an indignant people,
who refused to admit an illegal bargain. Then came a march of soldiers
over the district, hanging, burning, shooting "the rebels," casting
the peasants out on the hillsides. There was also the way of
"conquest." The whole of the inhabitants were to be exiled, and the
countries made vacant and waste for English peopling: the sovereign's
rule would be immediate and peremptory over those whom he had thus
planted by his sole will, and Ireland would be kept subject in a way
unknown in England; then "the king might say Ireland was clearly won,
and after that he would be at little cost and receive great profits,
and men and money at pleasure." There would be no such difficulty,
Henry's advisers said as those of Henry II had said before, to "subdue
or exile them as hath been thought," for from the settled lands
plantation could be spread into the surrounding territories, and the
Irishry steadily pushed back into the sea. Henceforth it became a
fixed policy to "exterminate and exile the country people of the
Irishry." Whether they submitted or not, the king was to "inhabit
their country" with English blood. But again as in the twelfth century
it was the king and the metropolis that were to profit, not any class
of inhabitants of Ireland.

A series of great Confiscations put through an enslaved Pale
parliament made smooth the way of conquest. An Act of 1536 for the
attainder of the earl of Kildare confiscated his estates to the king,
that is, the main part of Leinster. In 1570 the bulk of Ulster, as
territory of the "traitor" Shane O'Neill, was declared forfeited in
the same way. And in 1586 the chief part of Munster, the lordship of
the "traitor" earl of Desmond. Another Act of 1536 forfeited to the
crown all ancient claims of English lords to lands which had been
granted to them, and afterwards recovered by the original Irish
owners. Another in 1537 vested in the king all the lands of the
dissolved monasteries. By these various titles given to the crown, it
was hard for any acres to slip through unawares, English or Irish. An
Act of 1569 moreover reduced all Ireland to shire land; in other
words, all Irish chiefs who had made indentures with the crown were
deprived of all the benefits which were included in such indentures,
and the brehon or Irish law, with all its protection to the poor, was

These laws and confiscations gave to the new sovereigns of the Irish
the particular advantage that if their subjects should resist the
taking of the land, they were legally "rebels," and as such outside
the laws of war. It was this new fiction of law that gave the Tudor
wars their unsurpassed horror. Thus began what Bacon called the "wild
chase on the wild Irishmen." The forfeiture of land of the tribe for
the crime of a chief was inconceivable in Irish law; the claim of the
commonalty to unalterable possession of their soil was deeply engraven
in the hearts of the people, who stood together to hold their land,
believing justice and law to be on their side, and the right of near
two thousand years of ordered possession. At a prodigious price, at
inconceivable cost of human woe, the purging of the soil from the
Irish race was begun. Such mitigations as the horrors of war allow
were forbidden to these "rebels" by legal fiction. Torturers and
hangmen went out with the soldiers. There was no protection for any
soul; the old, the sick, infants, women, scholars; any one of them
might be a landholder, or a carrier on of the tradition of the tribal
owners, and was in any case a rebel appointed to death. No quarter was
allowed, no faith kept, and no truce given. Chiefs were made to "draw
and carry," to abase them before the tribes. Poets and historians were
slaughtered and their books and genealogies burned, so that no man
"might know his own grandfather" and all Irishmen be confounded in the
same ignorance and abasement, all glories gone, and all rights lost.
The great object of the government was to destroy the whole tradition,
wipe out the Gaelic memories, and begin a new English life.

But even with all legal aids to extermination the land war proved more
difficult than the English had expected. It lasted for some seventy
years. The Irish were inexhaustible in defence, prodigious in courage,
and endured hardships that Englishmen could not survive. The most
powerful governors that England could supply were sent over, and
furnished with English armies and stores. Fleets held the harbours,
and across all the seas from Newfoundland to Dantzic gathered in
provisions for the soldiers. Armies fed from the sea-ports chased the
Irish through the winter months, when the trees were bare and naked
and the kine without milk, killing every living thing and burning
every granary of corn, so that famine should slay what the sword had
lost. Out of the woods the famishing Irish came creeping on their
hands, for their legs would not bear them, speaking like ghosts crying
out of their graves, if they found a few water-cresses flocking as to
a feast; so that in short space there were none almost left and a most
populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man and beast--a
place where no voice was heard in ears save woe and fear and grief, a
place where there was no pause for consolation nor appearance of joy
on face.

Thus according to the English king's forecast was "the strength of the
Irish diminished and their captains taken from them." One great house
after another was swept out of Irish life. In 1529 the great earl of
Kildare died of a broken heart in the Tower at the news that his son
had been betrayed by a forged letter into a rising. His five brothers
and his son, young Silken Thomas, captured by a false pledge of
safety, were clapped all six of them into the Tower and hanged in
London. The six outraged corpses at Tyburn marked the close of the
first and last experiment in which a great ruler, sharing the blood of
the two races, practised in the customs of both countries, would have
led Ireland in a way of peace, and brought about through equal
prosperity and order a lasting harmony between the English and Irish
people. Three hundred years later an old blackened pedigree kept in
the Tower showed against the names of half the Fitzgeralds up to that
time the words "Beheaded" or "Attainted"--so terrible were the long
efforts to extinguish the talent and subdue the patriotism of that
great family.

Ormond, too, was "to be bridled." It was said his house was in no mood
to hand over the "rule and obedience" of south Ireland to the king. At
a feast at Ely House in Holborn (1547) the earl and seventeen of his
followers lay dead out of thirty-five who had been poisoned. No
inquiry was made into that crime. "God called him to His mercy," the
Irish said of this patriot Ormond, "before he could see that day after
which doubtless he longed and looked--the restitution of the house of
Kildare." His son was held fast in London to be brought up, as far as
education could do it, an Englishman.

The third line of the Anglo-Norman leaders was laid low. The earl of
Desmond, after twenty-five years of alternate prison and war, saw the
chief leaders of his house hanged or slain, before he himself was
killed in 1583: and his wretched son, born in the Tower, was brought
from that prison to be shown to his heart-broken people--stunted in
body, enfeebled in mind, half an idiot, a protestant--"the Tower
Earl," "the Queen's Earl," cried the people.

The Irish chiefs were also broken by guile and assassination. O'Brien
was separated from his people by a peerage (1543), an English
inauguration without the ancient rites as head of his lands, and an
English guard of soldiers (1558). That house played no further part in
the Irish struggle.

The chief warrior of the north and terror of Elizabeth's generals was
Shane O'Neill. The deputy Sidney devised many plots to poison or kill
the man he could not conquer, and at last brought over from Scotland
hired assassins who accomplished the murder (1567). A map made in the
reign of Elizabeth marked the place of the crime that relieved England
of her greatest fear--"Here Shane O'Neill was slain." After him the
struggle of the north to keep their land and independence was
maintained by negotiation and by war for forty years, under the
leading of the greatest of Irish statesmen and generals Hugh O'Neill
earl of Tyrone, and the soldier-patriot Aedh Ruadh O'Donnell earl of
Tirconnell. English intrigue triumphed when Red Hugh was poisoned by a
secret agent (1602) and when by a crafty charge of conspiracy his
brother Rory O'Donnell and Hugh O'Neill were driven from their country
(1607). The flight of the earls marked the destruction by violence of
the old Gaelic polity--that federation of tribes which had made of
their common country the storehouse of Europe for learning, the centre
of the noblest mission-work that the continent ever knew, the home of
arts and industries, the land of a true democracy where men held the
faith of a people owning their soil, instructed in their traditions,
and themselves guardians of their national life.

Henry VIII had found Ireland a land of Irish civilisation and law,
with a people living by tribal tenure, and two races drawing together
to form a new self-governing nation. A hundred years later, when
Elizabeth and James I had completed his work, all the great leaders,
Anglo-Irish and Irish, had disappeared, the people had been half
exterminated, alien and hostile planters set in their place, tribal
tenure obliterated, every trace of Irish law swept clean from the
Irish statute-book, and an English form of state government
effectively established.

Was this triumph due to the weakness of tribal government and the
superior value of the feudal land tenure? How far, in fact, did the
Irish civilisation invite and lend itself to this destruction?

It has been said that it was by Irish soldiers that Irish liberties
were destroyed. The Tudors and their councillors were under no such
illusions. Their fear was that the Irish, if they suspected the real
intention of the English, would all combine in one war; and in fact
when the purpose of the government became clear in Ireland an English
army of conquest had to be created. "Have no dread nor fear," cried
Red Hugh to his Irishmen, "of the great numbers of the soldiers of
London, nor of the strangeness of their weapons and arms." Order after
order went out to "weed the bands of Irish," to purge the army of all
"such dangerous people." Soldiers from England and from Berwick were
brought over at double the pay of the Irish. For warmth and comfort
they were clothed in Irish dress, only distinguished by red crosses on
back and breast; and so the sight was seen of English soldiers in
Irish clothing tearing from Irish men and women their Irish garments
as the forbidden dress of traitors and rebels. Some official of
Elizabeth's time made a list to please the English of a few names of
Irishmen traitorously slain by other Irishmen. There were murderers
who had been brought up from childhood in an English house, detached
from their own people; others were sent out to save their lives by
bringing the head of a "rebel." The temper of the Irish people is
better seen in the constant fidelity with which the whole people of
Ulster and of Munster sheltered and protected for years O'Neill and
Desmond and many another leader with a heavy price on his head. Not
the poorest herdsman of the mountains touched the English gold.

The military difficulties of the Irish, however, were such as to
baffle skill and courage. England had been drilled by the kings that
conquered her, and by the foreign wars she waged, into a powerful
military nation by land and sea. Newly discovered gunpowder gave Henry
VII the force of artillery. Henry VIII had formed the first powerful
fleet. The new-found gold of Brazil, the wealth of the Spanish main,
had made England immensely rich. In this moment of growing strength
the whole might of Great Britain was thrown on Ireland, the smaller
island. The war, too, had a peculiar animosity; the fury of Protestant
fanaticism was the cloak for the king's ambition, the resolve of
English traders to crush Irish competition, the greed of prospective
planters. No motive was lacking to increase its violence. Ireland, on
the other hand, never conquered, and contemplating no conquest on her
part, was not organised as an aggressive and military nation. Her
national spirit was of another type. But whatever had been her
organisation it is doubtful whether any device could have saved her
from the force of the English invasion. Dublin could never be closed
from within against enemies coming across the sea. The island was too
small to give any means of escape to defeated armies while they were
preparing for a new defence. They could not disappear, for example,
like the Dutch of the Cape Colony into vast desert regions which gave
them shelter while they built up a new state. Every fugitive within
the circuit of Ireland could be presently found and hunted down. The
tribal system, too, which the Tudor sovereigns found, was no longer in
full possession of Ireland; the defence was now carried on not by a
tribal Gaelic people but by a mixed race, half feudal and half tribal
by tradition. But it was the old Irish inheritance of national freedom
which gave to Ireland her desperate power of defence, so that it was
only after such prodigious efforts of war and plantation that the
bodies of her people were subdued, while their minds still remained
free and unenslaved.

If, moreover, the Irish system had disappeared so had the English. As
we shall see the battle between the feudal tradition and the tribal
tradition in Ireland had ended in the violent death of both.



_c._ 1600--_c._ 1660

We have seen already two revivals of Irish life, when after the Danish
settlement, and after the Norman, the native civilisation triumphed.
Even now, after confiscations and plantations, the national tradition
was still maintained with unswerving fidelity. Amid contempt,
persecution, proscription, death, the outcast Irish cherished their
language and poetry, their history and law, with the old pride and
devotion. In that supreme and unselfish loyalty to their race they
found dignity in humiliation and patience in disaster, and have left,
out of the depths of their poverty and sorrow, one of the noblest
examples in history.

Their difficulties were almost inconceivable. The great dispersion had
begun of Irish deported, exiled, or cast out by emigration. Twenty
thousand Irish were reported in a single island of the West Indies in
1643; thirty thousand were said to be wandering about Europe; in 1653
four thousand soldiers were transported to Flanders for the war of the
king of Spain. Numbers went to seek the education forbidden at home in
a multitude of Irish colleges founded abroad. They became chancellors
of universities, professors, high officials in every European state--a
Kerry man physician to the king of Poland; another Kerry man confessor
to the queen of Portugal and sent by the king on an embassy to Louis
XIV; a Donegal man, O'Glacan, physician and privy councillor to the
king of France, and a very famed professor of medicine in the
universities of Toulouse and Bologna (1646-1655); and so on. We may
ask whether in the history of the world there was cast out of any
country such genius, learning, and industry, as the English flung, as
it were, into the sea. With every year the number of exiles grew. "The
same to me," wrote one, "are the mountain or ocean, Ireland or the
west of Spain; I have shut and made fast the gates of sorrow over my

As for the Irish at home, every vestige of their tradition was
doomed--their religion was forbidden, and the Staff of Patrick and
Cross of Columcille destroyed, with every other national relic; their
schools were scattered, their learned men hunted down, their books
burned; native industries were abolished; the inauguration chairs of
their chiefs were broken in pieces, and the law of the race torn up,
codes of inheritance, of land tenure, of contract between neighbours
or between lord and man. The very image of Justice which the race had
fashioned for itself was shattered. Love of country and every
attachment of race and history became a crime, and even Irish language
and dress were forbidden under penalty of outlawry or excommunication.
"No more shall any laugh there," wrote the poet, "or children gambol;
music is choked, the Irish language chained." The people were wasted
by thousands in life and in death. The invaders supposed the
degradation of the Irish race to be at last completed. "Their youth
and gentry are destroyed in the rebellion or gone to France," wrote
one: "those that are left are destitute of horses, arms and money,
capacity and courage. Five in six of the Irish are poor, insignificant
slaves, fit for nothing but to hew wood and draw water." Such were the
ignorant judgments of the new people, an ignorance shameful and

The Irish, meanwhile, at home and in the dispersion, were seeking to
save out of the wreck their national traditions. Three centres were
formed of this new patriotic movement--in Rome, in Louvain, and in
Ireland itself.

An Irish College of Franciscans was established in Rome (1625) by the
efforts of Luke Wadding, a Waterford man, divine of the Spanish
embassy at Rome. The Pope granted to the Irish the church of St.
Isidore, patron of Madrid, which had been occupied by Spanish
Franciscans. Luke Wadding, founder and head of the college, was one of
the most extraordinary men of his time for his prodigious erudition,
the greatest school-man of that age, and an unchanging and impassioned
patriot. He prepared the first full edition of the works of the great
Irish scholastic philosopher Duns Scotus, with the help of his
fellow-countrymen, Thomas Strange, Anthony Hickey, John Ponce of Cork,
Hugh MacCawell of Tyrone; and projected a general history of Ireland
for which materials were being collected in 1628 by Thomas Walsh,
archbishop of Cashel. The College was for the service of "the whole
nation," for all Irishmen, no matter from what province, "so long as
they be Irish." They were bound by rule to speak Irish, and an Irish
book was read during meals.

No spot should be more memorable to Irishmen than the site of the
Franciscan College of St. Antony of Padua at Louvain. A small
monastery of the Frères de Charité contains the few pathetic relics
that are left of the noble company of Irish exiles who gathered there
from 1609 for mutual comfort and support, and of the patriots and
soldiers laid to rest among them--O'Neills, O'Dohertys, O'Donnells,
Lynches, Murphys, and the rest, from every corner of Ireland. "Here I
break off till morning," wrote one who laboured on a collection of
Irish poems from 1030 to 1630, "and I in gloom and grief; and during
my life's length unless only that I might have one look at Ireland."
The fathers had mostly come of the old Irish literary clans, and were
trained in the traditional learning of their race; such as Father
O'Mulloy, distinguished in his deep knowledge of the later poetic
metres, of which he wrote in his Latin and Irish Grammar; or
Bonaventura O'h'Eoghasa, trained among the poets of Ireland, who left
"her holy hills of beauty" with lamentation to "try another trade"
with the Louvain brotherhood. Steeped in Irish lore the Franciscans
carried on the splendid record of the Irish clergy as the
twice-beloved guardians of the inheritance of their race. "Those
fathers," an Irish scholar of that day wrote, "stood forward when she
(Ireland) was reduced to the greatest distress, nay, threatened with
certain destruction, and vowed that the memory of the glorious deeds
of their ancestors should not be consigned to the same earth that
covered the bodies of her children ... that the ancient glory of
Ireland should not be entombed by the same convulsion which deprived
the Irish of the lands of their fathers and of all their property."
More fortunate than scholars in Ireland they had a printing-press; and
used it to send out Irish grammars, glossaries, catechisms, poems.
Hugh Mac an-Bhaird of Donegal undertook to compile the _Acta
Sanctorum_, for which a lay-brother, Michael O'Clery, collected
materials in Ireland for ten years, and Patrick Fleming of Louth
gathered records in Europe. At Hugh's death, in 1635, the task was
taken up by Colgan, born at Culdaff on the shore of Inishowen (+1658).
The work of the fathers was in darkness and sorrow. "I am wasting and
perishing with grief," wrote Hugh Bourke to Luke Wadding, "to see how
insensibly nigher and nigher draws the catastrophe which must inflict
mortal wounds upon our country."

Ireland herself, however, remained the chief home of historical
learning in the broad national sense. Finghin Mac Carthy Riabhach, a
Munster chief, skilled in old and modern Irish, Latin, English, and
Spanish, wrote a history of Ireland to the Norman invasion in the
beautiful hand taught him by Irish scribes; it was written while he
lay imprisoned in London from 1589 to 1626, mad at times through
despair. One of a neighbouring race of seafaring chiefs, O'Sullivan
Beare, an emigrant and captain in the Spanish navy, published in 1621
his indignant recital of the Elizabethan wars in Ireland. It was in
hiding from the president of Munster, in the wood of Aharlo, that
Father Geoffrey Keating made (before 1633) his Irish history down to
the Norman settlement--written for the masses in clear and winning
style, the most popular book perhaps ever written in Irish, and copied
throughout the country by hundreds of eager hands. In the north
meanwhile Michael O'Clery and his companions, two O'Clerys of Donegal,
two O'Maelchonaires of Roscommon, and O'Duibhgeanain of Leitrim, were
writing the _Annals of the Four Masters_ (1632-6); all of them
belonging to hereditary houses of chroniclers. In that time of sorrow,
fearing the destruction of every record of his people, O'Clery
travelled through all Ireland to gather up what could be saved,
"though it was difficult to collect them to one place." There is still
preserved a manuscript by Caimhin, abbot of Iniscaltra about 650,
which was given to O'Clery by the neighbouring Mac Brodys who had kept
it safe for a thousand years. The books were carried to the huts and
cottages where the friars of Donegal lived round their ruined
monastery; from them the workers had food and attendance, while Fergal
O'Gara, a petty chieftain of Sligo descended from Olioll, king of
Munster in 260, gave them a reward for their labours. Another O'Clery
wrote the story of Aedh Ruadh O'Donnell, his prisons and his battles,
and the calamity to Ireland of his defeat. "Then were lost besides
nobility and honour, generosity and great deeds, hospitality and
goodness, courtesy and noble birth, polish and bravery, strength and
courage, valour and constancy, the authority and the sovereignty of
the Irish of Erin to the end of time."

In Galway a group of scholars laid, in Lynch's words, "a secure
anchorage" for Irish history. Dr. John Lynch, the famous apologist of
the Irish, wrote there his historical defence of his people. To spread
abroad their history he translated into Latin Keating's book. For the
same purpose his friend, Tuileagna O'Maelchonaire, a distinguished
Irish scholar, translated the _Annals of Ulster_ into English.
O'Flaherty of Moycullen in Galway, a man of great learning, wrote on
Irish antiquities "with exactness, diligence and judgment." "I live,"
he said, "a banished man within the bounds of my native soil, a
spectator of others enriched by my birthright, an object of condoling
to my relations and friends, and a condoler of their miseries." His
land confiscated (1641), stripped at last of his manuscripts as well
as of his other goods, he died in miserable poverty in extreme old age
(1709). To Galway came also Dualtach Mac Firbis (1585-1670), of a
family that had been time out of mind hereditary historians in north
Connacht. He learned in one of the old Irish schools of law in
Tipperary Latin, English, and Greek. Amid the horrors of Cromwell's
wars he carried out a prodigious work on the genealogies of the clans,
the greatest, perhaps, that exists in any country; and wrote on their
saints, their kings, their writers, on the chronicles and on the laws;
in moderate prosperity and in extreme adversity constantly devoted to
the preservation of Irish history. In his old age he lived, like other
Irish scholars, a landless sojourner on the estates that had once
belonged to his family and race; the last of the hereditary sennachies
of Ireland he wandered on foot from house to house, every Irish door
opened to him for his learning after their undying custom, till at the
age of eighty-five he was murdered by a Crofton when he was resting in
a house on his way to Dublin. In Connacht, too, lived Tadhg O'Roddy of
Leitrim, a diligent collector of Irish manuscripts, who gathered
thirty books of law, and many others of philosophy, poetry, physic,
genealogies, mathematics, romances, and history; and defended against
the English the character of the old law and civilisation of Ireland.

It would be long to tell of the workers in all the Irish
provinces--the lawyers hiding in their bosoms the genealogies and
tenures of their clans--the scribes writing annals and genealogies,
to be carried, perhaps, when Irishmen gathered as for a hurling-match
and went out to one of their old places of assembly, there to settle
their own matters by their ancient law. No printing-press could be set
up among the Irish; they were driven back on oral tradition and
laborious copying by the pen. Thus for about a hundred years Keating's
_History_ was passed from hand to hand after the old manner in copies
made by devoted Irish hands (one of them a "farmer"), in Leitrim,
Tipperary, Kildare, Clare, Limerick, Kilkenny, all over the country;
it was only in 1723 that Dermot O'Conor translated it into English and
printed it in Dublin. It is amazing how amid the dangers of the time
scribes should be found to re-write and re-edit the mass of
manuscripts, those that were lost and those that have escaped.

The poets were still the leaders of national patriotism. The great
"Contention of the Poets"--"Iomarbhagh na bhfiledh"--a battle that
lasted for years between the bards of the O'Briens and the O'Donnells,
in which the bards of every part of Ireland joined--served to rouse
the pride of the Irish in their history amid their calamities under
James I. The leader of the argument, Tadhg Mac Daire, lord of an
estate with a castle as chief poet of Thomond, was hurled over a cliff
in his old age by a Cromwellian soldier with the shout, "Say your rann
now, little man!" Tadhg O'h'Uiginn of Sligo (+1617), Eochaidh
O'h'Eoghasa of Fermanagh, were the greatest among very many. Bards
whose names have often been forgotten spread the poems of the Ossianic
cycle, and wrote verses of several kinds into which a new gloom and
despair entered--

    "Though yesterday seemed to me long and ill,
    Yet longer still was this dreary day."

The bards were still for a time trained in "the schools"--low thatched
buildings shut away by a sheltering wood, where students came for six
months of the year. None were admitted who could not read and write,
and use a good memory; none but those who had come of a bardic tribe,
and of a far district, lest they should be distracted by friends and
relations. The Scottish Gaels and the Irish were united as of old in
the new literature; Irish bards and harpers were as much at home in
the Highlands and in the Isles as in Ireland, and the poems of the
Irish bards were as popular there as in Munster. Thus the unity of
feeling of the whole race was preserved and the bards still remained
men who belonged to their country rather than to a clan or territory.
But with the exile of the Irish chiefs, with the steady ruin of "the
schools," poets began to throw aside the old intricate metres and the
old words no longer understood, and turned to the people, putting away
"dark difficult language" to bring literature to the common folk:
there were even translations made for those who were setting their
children to learn the English instead of their native tongue. Born of
an untold suffering, a burst of melody swept over Ireland, scores and
scores of new and brilliant metres, perhaps the richest attempt to
convey music in words ever made by man. In that unfathomed experience,
they tell how seeking after Erin over all obstacles, they found her
fettered and weeping, and for their loyalty she gave them the last
gift left to her, the light of poetry.

In Leinster of the English, "the cemetery of the valorous Gael," Irish
learning had a different story. There it seemed for a moment that it
might form a meeting-point between the new race and the old, joining
together, as the Catholics put it, "our commonwealth men," a people
compounded of many nations, some Irish by birth and descent, others by
descent only, others neither by descent nor by birth but by
inhabitation of one soil; but all parts of one body politic,
acknowledging one God, conjoined together in allegiance to one and the
same sovereign, united in the fruition of the selfsame air, and tied
in subsistence upon this our natural soil whereupon we live together.

A tiny group of scholars in Dublin had begun to study Irish history.
Sir James Ware (1594-1666), born there of an English family,
"conceived a great love for his native country and could not bear to
see it aspersed by some authors, which put him upon doing it all the
justice he could in his writings." He spared no cost in buying
valuable manuscripts, kept an Irish secretary to translate, and
employed for eleven years the great scholar O'Flaherty whose help gave
to his work its chief value. Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, also born
in Dublin, devoted himself to the study of Irish antiquities. Baron
d'Aungier, Master of the Rolls, put into writing every point which he
could find in original documents "which for antiquity or singularity
might interest this country." The enthusiasm of learning drew together
Protestant and Catholic, Anglo-Irish and Irish. All these men were in
communication with Luke Wadding in Rome through Thomas Strange the
Franciscan, his intimate friend; they sent their own collections of
records to help him in his Catholic history of Irish saints, "being
desirous that Wadding's book should see the light," wishing "to help
him in his work for Ireland," begging to see "the veriest trifle" that
he wrote. The noblest English scholar was Bishop Bedell, who while
provost established an Irish lecture in Trinity College, had the
chapter during commons read in Irish, and employed a Sheridan of Cavan
to translate the Old Testament into Irish. As bishop he braved the
anger of the government by declaring the hardships of the Catholic
Irish, and by circulating a catechism in English and Irish. Bitterly
did Ussher reproach him for such a scandal at which the professors of
the gospel did all take offence, and for daring to adventure that
which his brethren had been "so long abuilding," the destruction of
the Irish language. The Irish alone poured out their love and
gratitude to Bedell; they protected him in the war of 1641; the
insurgent chieftains fired volleys over his grave paying homage to his
piety; "sit anima mea cum Bedello!" cried a priest. He showed what one
just man, caring for the people and speaking to them in their own
tongue, could do in a few years to abolish the divisions of race and

The light, however, that had risen in Dublin was extinguished.
Sympathies for the spirit of Irishmen in their long history were
quenched by the greed for land, the passion of commerce, and the
fanaticism of ascendancy and dominion.




The aim which English kings had set before them for the last four
hundred years seemed now fulfilled. The land was theirs, and the
dominion. But the victory turned to dust and ashes in their hands. The
"royal inheritance" of so many hopes had practically disappeared; for
if the feudal system which was to give the king the land of Ireland
had destroyed the tribal system, it was itself dead; decaying and
intolerable in England, it could no longer be made to serve in
Ireland. Henry's dream of a royal army from Ireland, "a sword and
flay" at the king's use against his subjects in Great Britain,
perished; Charles I did indeed propose to use the Irish fighting-men
to smite into obedience England and Scotland, but no king of England
tried that experiment again. James II looked to Ireland, as in
Henry's scheme, for a safe place of refuge to fly to in danger; that,
again, no king of England tried a second time. As for the king's
revenues and profits, the dream of so many centuries, that too
vanished: confiscations old and new which the English parliament
allowed the Crown for Irish government left the king none the richer,
and after 1692 no longer sufficed even for Irish expenses. The title
of "King of Ireland" which Henry VIII had proclaimed in his own right
with such high hopes, bred out of its original deception other
deceptions deeper and blacker than the first. The sovereign saw his
absolute tyranny gradually taken out of his hands by the parliament
and middle class for their own benefit; the rule of the king was
passing, the rule of the English parliament had begun.

Thus past history was as it were wiped out. Everything in Ireland was
to be new. The social order was now neither feudal nor tribal, nor
anything known before. Other methods had been set up, without custom,
tradition, or law behind them. There were two new classes, English
planters and Irish toilers. No old ties bound them, and no new
charities. "From the Anglo-Irish no man of special sanctity as yet is
known to have sprung," observed a Gael of that day. Ancient patrimony
had fallen. The new aristocracy was that of the strong hand and the
exploiter's greed. Ordinary restraints of civilised societies were not
yet born in this pushing commercial throng, where the scum of Great
Britain, broken men or men flying from the law, hastened--"hoping to
be without fear of man's justice in a land where there was nothing, or
but little as yet, of the fear of God." Ireland was left absolutely
without guides or representatives. There were no natural leaders of
the country among the new men, each fighting for his own hand; the
English government permitted none among the Irish.

England too was being made new, with much turmoil and confusion--an
England where kings were yielding to parliaments, and parliaments were
being subdued to the rising commercial classes. The idea of a separate
royal power and profit had disappeared and instead of it had come the
rule and profit of the parliament of England, and of her noble-men,
ecclesiastics, and traders in general.

This new rule marked the first revolution in the English government of
Ireland which had happened since Henry II sat in his Dublin palace. By
the ancient constitution assured by compacts and grants since English
laws were first brought into that country, Ireland was united to the
Crown of England as a free and distinct kingdom, with the right of
holding parliaments subject only to the king and his privy council;
statutes of the English parliament had not force of law there until
they had been re-enacted in Ireland--which indeed was necessary by the
very theory of parliaments, for there were no Irish representatives in
the English Houses. Of its mere will the parliament of England now
took to itself authority to make laws for Ireland in as free and
uncontrolled a manner as if no Irish parliament existed. The new
ruling classes had neither experience nor training. Regardless of any
legal technicalities they simply usurped a power unlimited and
despotic over a confused and shattered Ireland. Now was seen the full
evil of government from over-sea, where before a foreign tribunal,
sitting at a distance, ignorant and prejudiced, the subject people had
no voice; they could dispute no lie, and could affirm no truth.

This despotism grew up regardless of any theory of law or
constitution. The intention was unchanged--the taking of all Irish
land, the rooting out of the old race from the country. Adventurers
were tempted by Irish wealth; what had once been widely diffused among
the Irish tribes was gathered into the hands of a few aliens, who
ruthlessly wasted the land for their own great enrichment. Enormous
profits fell to planters, who could get three times as much gain from
an Irish as from an English estate by a fierce exploiting of the
natural resources of the island and of its cheap outlawed labour.
Forests of oak were hastily destroyed for quick profits; woods were
cut down for charcoal to smelt the iron which was carried down the
rivers in cunning Irish boats, and what had cost £10 in labour and
transport sold at £17 in London. The last furnace was put out in Kerry
when the last wood had been destroyed. Where the English adventurer
passed he left the land as naked as if a forest fire had swept over
the country.

For the exploiter's rage, for the waster's madness, more land was
constantly needed. Three provinces had been largely planted by
1620--one still remained. By a prodigious fraud James I, and after him
Charles I in violation of his solemn promise, proposed to extirpate
the Irish from Connacht. The maddened people were driven to arms in
1641. The London parliament which had just opened the quarrel with the
king which was to end in his beheading, seized their opportunity in
Ireland. Instantly London City, and a House of Commons consisting
mainly of Puritan adventurers, joined in speculations to buy up
"traitors' lands," openly sold in London at £100 for a thousand acres
in Ulster or for six hundred in Munster, and so on in every province.
It was a cheap bargain, the value of forfeited lands being calculated
by parliament later at £2,500 for a thousand acres. The more rebels
the more forfeitures, and every device of law and fraud was used to
fling the whole people into the war, either in fact or in name, and so
destroy the claim of the whole of them to their lands. "Wild
Irishmen," the English said to one another, "had nothing but the human
form to show that they were men." Letters were forged and printed in
England, purporting to give Irish news; discountenanced by parliament,
they still mark the first experiment to appeal in this way to London
on the Irish question. Parliament did its utmost to make the contest a
war of extermination: it ended, in fact, in the death of little less
than half the population.

The Commons' auction of Irishmen's lands in 1641, their conduct of a
war of distinguished ferocity, these were the acts by which the Irish
first knew government by an English parliament. The memory of the
black curse of Cromwell lives among the people. He remains in Ireland
as the great exemplar of inhuman cruelties, standing amid these scenes
of woe with praises to God for such manifest evidence of His
inspiration. The speculators got their lands, outcast women and
children lay on the wayside devoured by wolves and birds of prey. By
order of parliament (1653) over 20,000 destitute men, women, and
children from twelve years were sold into the service of English
planters in Virginia and the Carolinas. Slave-dealers were let loose
over the country, and the Bristol merchants did good business. With
what bitter irony an Irishman might contrast the "civilisation" of the
English and the "barbarism" of the Irish--if we talk, he said, about
civility and a civil manner of contract of selling and buying, there
is no doubt that the Anglo-Irish born in cities have had more
opportunity to acquire civility than the Old Irish; but if the
question be of civility, of good manners, of liberality, of
hospitality, and charity towards all, these virtues dwelt among the

Kings were restored to carry out the will of parliament. Charles II at
their bidding ignored the treaty of his father that the Irish who
submitted should return to their lands (1661): at the mere appearance
of keeping promise to a few hundred Catholic landowners out of
thousands, the Protestant planters sent out their threats of
insurrection. A deeper misery was reached when William III led his
army across the Boyne and the Shannon (1690). In grave danger and
difficulty he was glad to win peace by the Treaty of Limerick, in
which the Irish were promised the quiet exercise of their religion.
The Treaty was immediately broken. The English parliament objected to
any such encouragement of Irish Papists, and demanded that no pardons
should be given or estates divided save by their advice, and William
said no word to uphold the public faith. The pledge of freedom of
worship was exchanged for the most infamous set of penal laws ever
placed on a Statute-book.

The breaking of the Treaty of Limerick, conspicuous among the
perfidies to Ireland, inaugurated the century of settled rule by the
parliament of England (1691-1782). Its first care was to secure to
English Protestants their revenues in Ireland; the planters,
one-fourth of the people of Ireland, were established as owners of
four-fifths of Irish soil; and one-half of their estates, the land
confiscated under Cromwell and William, they held by the despotic
grant of the English parliament. This body, having outlawed four
thousand Irishmen, and seized a million and a half of their acres,
proceeded to crush the liberties of its own English settlers by
simply issuing statutes for Ireland of its sole authority. The acts
were as tyrannical in their subject as in their origin. One (1691),
which ordered that no Catholic should sit in the Irish Houses,
deprived three-fourths of the people of representatives, and left to
one-fourth alone the right of citizens. Some English judges decided,
without and against Irish legal opinion, that the privy councils in
Dublin and London had power to alter Irish bills before sending them
to the king. "If an angel came from heaven that was a privy councillor
I would not trust my liberty with him one moment," said an English
member of that time.

All liberties were thus rooted out. The planters' rights were
overthrown as pitilessly as those of the Irish they had expelled.
Molyneux, member for Dublin university, set forth in 1698 the "Case of
Ireland." He traced its constitution for five centuries; showed that
historically there had never been a "conquest" of Ireland, and that
all its civil liberties were grounded on compact and charter; and
declared that his native land shared the claims of all mankind to
justice. "To tax me without consent is little better, if at all, than
downright robbing me. I am sure the great patriots of liberty and
property, the free people of England, cannot think of such a thing but
with abhorrence." "There may be ill consequences," he cried, "if the
Irish come to think their rights and liberties were taken away, their
parliaments rendered nugatory, and their lives and fortunes left to
depend on the will of a legislature wherein they are not parties." The
"ill consequences" were seen seventy years later when Molyneux' book
became the text-book of Americans in their rising against English
rule; and when Anglo-Irish defenders of their own liberties were
driven to make common cause with their Irish compatriots--for "no one
or more men," said Molyneux, "can by nature challenge any right,
liberty, or freedom, or any ease in his property, estate, or
conscience which all other men have not an equally just claim to." But
that day was far off. For the moment the Irish parliament deserved and
received entire contempt from England. The gentry who had accepted
land and power by the arbitrary will of the English House of Commons
dared not dispute the tyranny that was the warrant of their property:
"I hope," was the ironic answer, "the honourable member will not
question the validity of his title." With such an argument at hand,
the English parliament had no need of circumspection or of soft words.
It simply condemned Molyneux and his remonstrance, demanded of the
king to maintain the subordination of Ireland, and to order the
journals of its parliaments to be laid before the Houses at
Westminster; and on the same day required of him, since the Irish were
"dependent on and protected by England in the enjoyment of all they
had," to forbid them to continue their woollen trade, but leave it
entire to England. In 1719 it declared its power at all times to make
laws which should bind the people of Ireland.

Thus an English parliament which had fought for its own liberties
established a hierarchy of tyranny for Ireland: the Anglo-Irish tied
under servitude to England, and the Irish chained under an equal
bondage to the Anglo-Irish. As one of the governors of Ireland wrote a
hundred years later, "I think Great Britain may still easily manage
the Protestants, and the Protestants the Catholics." Such was the
servile position of English planters. They had made their bargain. To
pay the price of wealth and ascendency they sold their own freedom and
the rights of their new country. The smaller number, said Burke, were
placed in power at the expense of the civil liberties and properties
of the far greater, and at the expense of the civil liberties of the

Ireland was now degraded to a subject colony. The government never
proposed that Englishmen in Ireland should be on equal terms with
English in England. Stringent arrangements were made to keep Ireland
low. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended while the English parliament
ruled. Judges were removable at pleasure. Precautions were taken
against the growth of "an Irish interest." By a variety of devices the
parliament of English Protestants was debased to a corrupt and ignoble
servitude. So deep was their subjection that Ireland was held in
England to be "no more than a remote part of their dominion, which was
not accustomed to figure on the theatre of politics." Government by
Dublin Castle was directed in the sole interest of England; the
greatest posts in the Castle, the Law, the Church, were given to
Englishmen, "king-fishers," as the nickname went of the churchmen. "I
fear much blame here," said the English premier in 1774, "...if I
consent to part with the disposal of these offices which have been so
long and so uniformly bestowed upon members of the British
parliament." Castle officials were expected to have a single view to
English interests. In speeches from the throne governors of Ireland
formally spoke of the Irish people, the majority of their subjects, as
"the common enemy"; they were scarcely less suspicious of the English
Protestants; "it is worth turning in your mind," one wrote to Pitt,
"how the violence of both parties might be turned on this occasion to
the advancement of England."

One tyranny begot another. Irish members, having no liberties to
defend, and no country to protect, devoted themselves to the security
of their property--its security and increase. All was quiet. There was
no fear in Ireland of a rising for the Pretender. The Irish, true to
their ancient horror of violence for religion, never made a religious
war, and never desired that which was ever repugnant to the Irish
spirit, temporal ascendency for a spiritual faith. Their only prayer
was for freedom in worship--that same prayer which Irish Catholics had
presented in the parliament of James I (1613), "indented with sorrow,
signed with tears, and delivered in this house of peace and liberty
with our disarmed hands." Protestants had never cause for fear in
Ireland on religious grounds. In queen Mary's persecution Protestants
flying from England had taken shelter in Ireland among Irish
Catholics, and not a hand was raised against them there. Bitter as
were the poets against the English exterminators, no Irish curse has
been found against the Protestant for his religion, even through the
black time of the penal laws. The parliament, however, began a series
of penal laws against Irish Catholics. They were forbidden the use of
their religion, almost every means of livelihood, every right of a
citizen, every family affection. Their possessions were scattered,
education was denied them, when a father died his children were
handed over to a Protestant guardian. "The law," said the leading
judges, "does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman
Catholic." They were only recognised "for repression and punishment."
Statutes framed to demoralise and debase the people, so as to make
them for ever unfit for self-government, pursued the souls of the
victims to the second and third generation. In this ferocious violence
the law-makers were not moved by fanaticism. Their rapacity was not
concerned with the religion of the Irish, but only with their property
and industry. The conversion of a Catholic was not greatly desired; so
long as there were Papists the planters could secure their lands, and
use them as slaves, "worse than negroes." Laws which would have
sounded infamous if directed openly to the seizing of property, took
on a sacred character as a religious effort to suppress false
doctrine. One-fiftieth part of Ireland was all that was left to Irish
Catholics, utterly excluded for ever from the inheritance of their
fathers. "One single foot of land there is not left us," rose their
lament, "no, not what one may make his bed upon." "See all that are
without a bed except the furze of the mountains, the bent of the
curragh, and the bog-myrtle beneath their bodies. Under frost, under
snow, under rain, under blasts of wind, without a morsel to eat but
watercress, green grass, sorrel of the mountain, or clover of the
hills. Och! my pity to see their nobles forsaken!"

And yet, in spite of this success, the Anglo-Irish had made a bad
bargain. Cut off from their fellow-countrymen, having renounced the
right to have a country, the Protestant land-hunters were no more
respected in England than in Ireland. The English parliament did with
them as it chose. Their subjection tempted the commercial classes. To
safeguard their own profits of commerce and industry English traders
made statutes to annihilate Irish competition. They forbade carrying
of cattle or dairy stuff to England, they forbade trade in soap or
candles; in cloth, in glass, in linen save of the coarsest kind; the
increase of corn was checked; it was proposed to stop Irish fisheries.
The wool which they might not use at home must be exported to England
alone. They might not build ships. From old time Ireland had traded
across the Gaulish sea: her ports had seen the first discoverers of
America. But now all her great harbours to the west with its rising
American trade were closed: no merchant ship crossing the Atlantic was
allowed to load at an Irish port or to unload. The abundance of
harbours, once so full of commerce, were now, said Swift, "of no more
use to us than a beautiful prospect to a man shut up in a dungeon." In
1720 all trade was at a stand, the country bare of money, "want and
misery in every face." It was unfortunate, Englishmen said, that
Ireland had been by the act of God doomed to poverty--so isolated in
geographical position, so lacking in industrial resources, inhabited
by a people so indolent in tillage, and unfitted by their religion to
work. Meanwhile they successfully pushed their own business in a
country which they allowed to make nothing for itself. Their
manufacturers sent over yearly two millions of their goods, more than
to any other country save their American colonies, and took the raw
material of Ireland, while Irish workers were driven out on the
hillsides to starve. The planters' parliament looked on in barren
helplessness. They had no nation behind them. They could lead no
popular resistance. They had no call to public duty. And the English
knew it well. Ministers heaped up humiliations; they quartered on
Irish revenues all the pensioners that could not safely be proposed to
a free parliament in England--the mistresses of successive kings and
their children, German relations of the Hanoverians, useful
politicians covered by other names, a queen of Denmark banished for
misconduct, a Sardinian ambassador under a false title, a trailing
host of Englishmen--pensions steadily increasing from £30,000 to over
£89,000. Some £600,000 was at last yearly sent over to England for
absentees, pensions, government annuities, and the like. A parliament
servile and tyrannical could not even pretend to urge on the
government that its measures, as a patriot said, should sometimes
"diverge towards public utility." It had abandoned all power save that
of increasing the sorrows of the people.

A double corruption was thus proceeding. The English parliament
desired to make the Irish houses for ever unfit for self-government.
The Irish parliament was seeking to perform the same office for the
Irish people under it. The old race meanwhile, three-fourths of the
dwellers in Ireland, were brought under consideration of the rulers
only as objects of some new rigour or severity. Their cry was unheard
by an absent and indifferent "conqueror," and the only reform the
country ever knew was an increase in the army that maintained the
alien rulers and protected their crimes. In neither parliament had the
Irish any voice. In courts where the law was administered by
Protestant landlords and their agents, as magistrates, grand juries,
bailiffs, lawyers, and the rest--"full of might and injustice, without
a word for the Irish in the law," as an Irish poem said, who would not
even write the Irish names, but scornfully cried after all of them
Teig and Diarmuid--the ancient tongue of the people and their despised
birth left them helpless. Once a chief justice in Tipperary conducted
trials with fairness and humanity: "for about ten miles from Clonmel
both sides of the road were lined with men, women, and children, who,
as he passed along, kneeled down and supplicated Heaven to bless him
as their protector and guardian angel." The people poured from "this
sod of misery" across the sea. In the service of France alone 450,000
Irish soldiers were reckoned to have died between 1691 and 1745.
Uncounted thousands from north and south sailed to America. Irish
Catholics went there in a constant stream from 1650 till 1798. The
Protestant settlers followed them in the eighteenth century.

Like the kings of England, the parliament of the English aristocracy
and commercial magnates had failed to exploit Ireland to their
advantage. For a hundred years (1691-1782) they ruled the Irish people
with the strictest severity that human ingenuity could devise. A
"strong government," purely English, was given its opportunity--prolonged,
undisturbed, uncontrolled--to advance "the king's service," the
dependency of Ireland upon England, and "the comfort or security of any
English in it." A multitude of statesmen put their hands to the work.
Commercial men in England inspired the policy. English clergy were sent
over to fill all the higher posts of the church, and were the chief
leaders of the secular government. Such a power very rarely falls to
the rulers in any country. And in the end there was no advantage to any
party. Some astute individuals heaped up an ignoble wealth, but there
was no profit to Ireland, to England, or to the Empire. The Irish
people suffered a long agony unmatched, perhaps, in European history.
Few of the Protestant country gentry had established their fortunes;
their subservience which debarred them from public duty, their
privilege of calling in English soldiers to protect them from the
results of every error or crime, had robbed them of any high
intelligence in politics or science in their business of land
management, and thus doubly impoverished them. England on her part had
thrown into the sea from her dominion a greater wealth of talent,
industry, and bravery than had ever been exiled from any country in the
world: there was not a country in Europe, and not an occupation, where
Irishmen were not in the first rank--as field-marshals, admirals,
ambassadors, prime ministers, scholars, physicians, merchants, founders
of mining industries, soldiers, and labourers. In exchange for this an
incompetent and inferior landed gentry was established in Ireland.
Instead of profit for the government there was plain bankruptcy--"England,"
it was said, "must now either support this kingdom, or allow her the
means of supporting herself." As for the Empire, the colonies had been
flooded with the men that England had wronged. Even the Protestant
exiles from Ulster went to America as "Sons of St. Patrick." "To shun
persecution and designed ruin" by the English government, Protestants
and Catholics had gone, and their money, their arms, the fury of their
wrath, were spent in organising the American War. Irishmen were at
every meeting, every council, every battle. Their indignation was a
white flame of revolt that consumed every fear and vacillation around
it. That long, deep, and bitter experience bore down the temporisers,
and sent out men trained in suffering to triumph over every adversity.
Brigadier-General Owen Sullivan, born at Limerick during the siege, was
publicly thanked by Washington and by the congress. Commodore John
Barry, a Wexford man, "Father of the American Navy," was Washington's
commander-in-chief of the naval forces of the States. Charles Thompson
of Strabane was secretary of the Continental Congress. Eight Irishmen,
passionate organisers of the revolt, signed the Declaration of
Independence. After the war an Irishman prepared the Declaration for
publication from Jefferson's rough draft; an Irishman's son first
publicly read it; an Irishman first printed and published it.

We have seen the uncontrolled rule of English kings and English
Parliaments. Such was the end of their story. There was another
experiment yet to be tried.




It might have seemed impossible amid such complicated tyrannies to
build up a united country. But the most ferocious laws could not
wholly destroy the kindly influences of Ireland, the essential needs
of men, nor the charities of human nature. There grew up too the union
of common suffering. Once more the people of Ireland were being
"brayed together in a mortar" to compact them into a single

The Irish had never lost their power of absorbing new settlers in
their country. The Cromwellians complained that thousands of the
English who came over under Elizabeth had "become one with the Irish
as well in affinity as in idolatry." Forty years later these
Cromwellians planted on Irish farms suffered themselves the same
change; their children could not speak a word of English and became
wholly Irish in religion and feeling. Seven years after the battle of
the Boyne the same influence began to turn Irish the very soldiers of
William. The civilisation, the piety, the charm of Irish life told as
of old. In the country places, far from the government, kindly
friendships grew up between neighbours, and Protestants by some device
of goodwill would hide a Catholic from some atrocious penalty, would
save his arms from being confiscated, or his children from being
brought up as Protestants. The gentry in general spoke Irish with the
people, and common interests grew up in the land where they lived

The Irish had seen the fires of destruction pass over them, consuming
the humanities of their law, the honour of their country, and the
relics of their fathers: the cry of their lamentation, said an Italian
in 1641, was more expressive than any music he had heard of the great
masters of the continent. The penal days have left their traces. We
may still see in hidden places of the woods some cave or rock where
the people gathered in secret to celebrate mass. There remain
memorials of Irishmen, cast out of their lands, who to mark their
final degradation had been driven to the livelihood which the new
English held in the utmost contempt--the work of their hands; their
dead bodies were carried to the ruined abbeys, and proudly laid in the
roofless naves and chancels, under great sculptured slabs bearing the
names of once noble families, and deeply carved with the instruments
of the dead man's trade, a plough, the tools of a shoemaker or a
carpenter or a mason. In a far church in Connemara by the Atlantic, a
Burke raised in 1722 a sculptured tomb to the first of his race who
had come to Connacht, the figure in coat of mail and conical helmet
finely carved in limestone. Monuments lie heaped in Burris, looking
out on the great ocean; and in all the sacred places of the Irish. By
their industry and skill in the despised business of handicrafts and
commerce the outlaws were fast winning most of the ready money of the
country into their hands.

It would be a noble achievement, said Swift, to abolish the Irish
language, which prevented "the Irish from being tamed." But Swift's
popularity with the native Irish was remarkable, and when he visited
Cavan he was interested by verses of its poets and wrote an English
ballad founded on the Plearáca Ui Ruairc; he helped the rector of Anna
(Belturbet) in his endeavours to have prayers read in Irish in the
established churches in remote places. The Protestant bishops and
clergy in general, holding that their first duty was not to minister
to the souls of Irishmen, but rather as agents of the government to
bring Irish speech "into entire disuse," refused to learn the only
language understood by the people. Clergy and officials alike knew
nothing whatever of the true life of Ireland. Now and then there was a
rare exception, and the respect which Philip Skelton showed for the
religious convictions of a country-bred maidservant should be
remembered. But in general the clergy and all other political agents
opposed kindly intercourse of the two races. The fiction of complete
Irish barbarism was necessary to maintain the Protestant ascendency,
and in later days to defend it. The whole literature of the Irish was
therefore cast aside as waste refuse. Their race is never mentioned in
histories of the eighteenth century save as an indistinct and obscure
mass of wretchedness, lawlessness, and ignorance, lying in
impenetrable darkness, whence no voice ever arose even of protest or
complaint, unless the pains of starvation now and again woke the most
miserable from their torpor to some wild outrage, to be repressed by
even more savage severity. So fixed and convenient did this lying
doctrine prove that it became a truism never challenged. To this day
all manuscripts of the later Irish times have been rejected from
purchase by public funds, to the irrevocable loss of a vast mass of
Irish material. By steadily neglecting everything written in the
native tongue of the country, the Protestant planters, one-fourth of
the inhabitants, secured to themselves the sole place in the later
history of Ireland. A false history engendered a false policy, which
in the long run held no profit for the Empire, England, or Ireland.

Unsuspected by English settlers, the Irish tradition was carried
across the years of captivity by these exiles in their own land.
Descendants of literary clans, historians and poets and scribes were
to be found in farmhouses, working at the plough and spade. Some wrote
prose accounts of the late wars, the history of their tribe, the
antiquities of their province, annals of Ireland, and geography. The
greatest of the poets was Dáibhí O'Bruadair of Limerick, a man knowing
some English and learned in Irish lore, whose poems (1650-1694)
stirred men of the cabins with lessons of their time, the laying down
of arms by the Irish in 1652, Sarsfield and Limerick, the breaking of
the treaty, the grandsons of kings working with the spade, the poor
man perfected in learning, steadfast, well proved in good sense, the
chaffering insolence of the new traders, the fashion of men fettering
their tongues to speak the mere ghost of rough English, or turning
Protestant for ease. Learned men showed the love of their language in
the making of dictionaries and grammars to preserve, now that the
great schools were broken up, the learning of the great masters of
Irish. Thus the poet Tadhg O'Neachtain worked from 1734 to 1749 at a
dictionary. Another learned poet and lexicographer, Aodh Buidh
MacCurtin, published with Conor O'Begly in Paris a grammar (1728) and
a dictionary (1732); in his last edition of the grammar he prayed
pardon for "confounding an example of the imperative with the
potential mood," which he was caused to do "by the great bother of the
brawling company that is round about me in this prison." There were
still well-qualified scribes who copied the old heroic stories and
circulated them freely all over Ireland. There were some who
translated religious books from French and Latin into Irish. "I wish
to save," said Charles O'Conor, "as many as I can of the ancient
manuscripts of Ireland from the wreck which has overwhelmed everything
that once belonged to us." O'Conor was of Sligo county. His father,
like other gentlemen, had been so reduced by confiscation that he had
to plough with his own hands. A Franciscan sheltered in a peasant's
cottage, who knew no English, taught him Latin. He attended mass held
secretly in a cave. Amid such difficulties he gained the best
learning of his unhappy time. Much of the materials that O'Clery had
used for his _Annals_ had perished in the great troubles, and O'Conor
began again that endless labour of Irish scholars, the saving of the
relics of his people's story from final oblivion. It was the passion
of his life. He formed an Irish library, and copied with his own hand
large volumes of extracts from books he could not possess. Having
obtained O'Clery's own manuscript of the _Annals_, he had this immense
work copied by his own scribe; and another copy made in 1734 by Hugh
O'Mulloy, an excellent writer, for his friend Dr. O'Fergus of Dublin.
He wrote for the learned, and delighted the peasants round him with
the stories of their national history. It is interesting to recall
that Goldsmith probably knew O'Conor, so that the best English of an
Irishman, and the best learning of an Irishman at that time, were thus

It was the Irish antiquarians and historians who in 1759 drew Irishmen
together into "the Catholic Committee"--Charles O'Conor, Dr. Curry,
and Wyse of Waterford. O'Conor by his learning preserved for them the
history of their fathers. Dr. Curry, of a Cavan family whose estates
had been swept from them in 1641 and 1691, had studied as a physician
in France, and was eminent in Dublin though shut out from every post;
he was the first to use his research and literary powers to bring
truth out of falsehood in the later Irish history, and to justify the
Irish against the lying accusations concerning the rising of 1641.
These learned patriots combined in a movement to win for the Irish
some recognition before the law and some rights of citizens in their
own land.

Countless poets, meanwhile, poured out in verse the infinite sorrow of
the Gaels, recalling the days when their land was filled with
poet-schools and festivals, and the high hospitality of great
Irishmen. If a song of hope arose that the race should come to their
own again, the voice of Irish charity was not wanting--"Having the
fear of God, be ye full of alms-giving and friendliness, and
forgetting nothing do ye according to the commandments, shun ye
drunkenness and oaths and cursing, and do not say till death 'God
damn' from your mouths." Riotous laughter broke out in some; they
were all, in fact, professional wits--chief among them Eoghan Ruadh
O'Sullivan from Kerry, who died in 1784; a working man who had
laboured with plough and spade, and first came into note for helping
his employer's son, fresh from a French college, with an explanation
of a Greek passage. Jacobite poems told of the Lady Erin as a
beautiful woman flying from the insults of foreign suitors in search
of her real mate--poems of fancy, for the Stuarts had lost all hold on
Ireland. The spirit of the north rang out in a multitude of bards,
whose works perished in a century of persecution and destruction.
Among exiles in Connacht manuscripts perished, but old tradition lived
on the lips of the peasants, who recited in their cabins the
love-songs and religious poems of long centuries past. The people in
the bareness of their poverty were nourished with a literature full of
wit, imagination, feeling, and dignity. In the poorest hovels there
were men skilled in a fine recitation. Their common language showed
the literary influence, and Irish peasants even in our own day have
used a vocabulary of some five thousand words, as against about eight
hundred words used by peasants in England. Even the village dancing at
the cross-roads preserved a fine and skilled tradition.

Families, too, still tried to have "a scholar" in their house, for the
old learning's sake. Children shut out from all means of education
might be seen learning their letters by copying with chalk the
inscriptions on their fathers' tombstones. There were few candles, and
the scholar read his books by a cabin fire in the light given by
throwing upon it twigs and dried furze. Manuscripts were carefully
treasured, and in days when it was death or ruin to be found with an
Irish book they were buried in the ground or hidden in the walls. In
remote places schools were maintained out of the destitution of the
poor; like that one which was kept up for over a hundred years in
county Waterford, where the people of the surrounding districts
supported "poor scholars" free of charge. There were some in Kerry,
some in Clare, where a very remarkable group of poets sprang up. From
all parts of Ireland students begged their way to "the schools of
Munster." Thus Greek and Latin still found their way into the
labourer's cottage. In county Cork, John Clairech O'Donnell, in
remembrance of the ancient assemblies of the bards of all Ireland,
gathered to his house poets and learned men to recite and contend as
in the old days. Famous as a poet, he wrote part of a history of
Ireland, and projected a translation of Homer into Irish. But he
worked in peril, flying for his life more than once before the
bard-hunters; in his denunciations the English oppressor stands before
us--plentiful his costly living in the high-gabled lighted-up mansion
of the Irish Brian, but tight-closed his door, and his churlishness
shut up inside with him, there in an opening between two mountains,
until famine clove to the people and bowed them to his will; his gate
he never opened to the moan of the starving, "and oh! may heaven of
the saints be a red wilderness for James Dawson!"

The enthusiasm of the Irish touched some of the planters. A hereditary
chronicler of the O'Briens who published in 1717 a vindication of the
Antiquities of Ireland got two hundred and thirty-eight subscribers,
divided about equally between English and Gaelic names. Wandering
poets sang, as Irish poets had done nine hundred years before, even in
the houses of the strangers, and found in some of them a kindly
friend. O'Carolan, the harper and singer, was beloved by both races. A
slight inequality in a village field in Meath still after a hundred
and fifty years recalls to Irish peasants the site of the house where
he was born, and at his death English and Irish, Protestant and
Catholic, gathered in an encampment of tents to do honour to his name.
The magic of Irish music seems even to have stirred in the landlords'
parliament some dim sense of a national boast. An English nobleman
coming to the parliament with a Welsh harper claimed that in all
Ireland no such music could be heard. Mr. Jones of Leitrim took up the
challenge for an Irishman of his county who "had never worn linen or
woollen." The Commons begged to have the trial in their House before
business began, and all assembled to greet the Leitrim champion.
O'Duibhgeanain was of an old literary clan: one of them had shared in
making the _Annals of the Four Masters_; he himself was not only a
fine harper, but an excellent Greek and Latin scholar. He came, tall
and handsome, looking very noble in his ancient garb made of beaten
rushes, with a cloak or plaid of the same stuff, and a high conical
cap of the same adorned with many tassels. And the House of Commons
gave him their verdict.

James Murphy, a poor bricklayer of Cork, who became an architect and
studied Arabian antiquities in Portugal and Spain, gives the lament of
Irish scholars. "You accuse their pastors with illiterature, whilst
you adopt the most cruel means of making them ignorant; and their
peasantry with untractableness, whilst you deprive them of the means
of civilisation. But that is not all; you have deprived them at once
of their religion, their liberty, their oak, and their harp, and left
them to deplore their fate, not in the strains of their ancestors, but
in the sighs of oppression." To the great landlords the Act of 1691
which had given them wealth was the dawn of Irish civilisation.
Oblivion might cover all the rest, all that was not theirs. They
lived in a land some few years old, not more than a man's age might

By degrees, however, dwellers in Ireland were forced into some concern
for its fortunes. Swift showed to the Protestants the wrongs they
endured and the liberties which should be theirs, and flung his scorn
on the shameful system of their slavery and their tyranny (1724). Lord
Molesworth urged (1723) freedom of religion, schools of husbandry,
relief of the poor from their intolerable burdens, the making
parliament into a really representative body. Bishop Berkeley wrote
his famous _Querist_--the most searching study of the people's grief
and its remedies.

Gradually the people of Ireland were being drawn together. All classes
suffered under the laws to abolish Irish trade and industry. Human
charities were strong in men of both sides, and in the country there
was a growing movement to unite the more liberal of the landowners,
the Dissenters of the north, and the Catholics, in a common
citizenship. It had proved impossible to carry out fully the penal
code. No life could have gone on under its monstrous terms. There were
not Protestants enough to carry on all the business of the country
and some "Papists" had to be taken at least into the humbler forms of
official work. Friendly acts between neighbours diminished

"Let the legislature befriend us now, and we are theirs forever," was
the cry of the Munster peasantry, organised under O'Driscoll, to the
Protestant parliament in 1786.

Such a movement alarmed the government extremely. If, they said,
religious distinctions were abolished, the Protestants would find
themselves secure of their position without British protection, and
might they not then form a government more to the taste and wishes of
the people--in fact, might not a nation begin again to live in

The whole energy of the government was therefore called out to avert
the rise of a united Irish People.




The movement of conciliation of its peoples that was shaping a new
Ireland, silent and unrecorded as it was, can only be understood by
the astonishing history of the next fifty years, when the spirit of a
nation rose again triumphant, and lesser passions fell before the love
of country.

The Protestant gentry, who alone had free entry into public life, were
of necessity the chief actors in the recorded story. But in the
awakening country they had to reckon with a rising power in the
Catholic Irish. Dr. Lucas, who in 1741 had begun to stir for reform
and freedom, had stirred not only the English settlers but the native
Irish. Idolised by the Irish people, he raised in his _Citizens'
Journal_ a new national protest. The pamphlet war which
followed--where men argued not only on free trade and government, but
on Ireland itself, on its old and new races, on its Irish barbarism,
said some, its Irish civilisation, said others--spread the idea of a
common history of Ireland in which all its inhabitants were concerned.
In parliament too, though Catholics were shut out, yet men of old
Irish race were to be found--men of Catholic families who had accepted
Protestantism as a means of entering public life, chiefly by way of
the law. They had not, save very rarely, put off their patriotic
ardour with their old religion; of the middle class, they were braver
in their outlook than the small and disheartened Catholic aristocracy.
If their numbers were few their ability was great, and behind them lay
that vast mass of their own people whose blood they shared.

It was an Irishman who first roused the House of Commons to remember
that they had a country of their own and an "Irish interest"--Antony
Malone. This astonishing orator and parliamentarian invented a
patriotic opposition (1753). A great sea in a "storm" men said of him.
Terror was immediately excited at his Irish origin and his national
feeling. Dublin Castle feared that he might mean emancipation from the
English legislature, and in truth the constitutional dependency upon
England was the object upon which Malone's eye was constantly fixed.
He raised again the protest of Molyneux for a free parliament and
constitution. He stirred "the whole nation" for "the last struggle for
Ireland." They and their children would be slaves, he said, if they
yielded to the claim of the government that the English privy council
could alter the money bills sent over by the Irish parliament, or that
the king had the right to apply at his will the surplus funds in the

Malone was defeated, but the battle had begun which in thirty years
was to give to Ireland her first hopes of freedom. A fresh current of
thought poured through the House--free trade, free religion, a Habeas
Corpus Act, fewer pensions for Englishmen, a share in law and
government for Irishmen, security for judges, and a parliament elected
every seven years. Successors of Malone appeared in the House of
Commons in 1761--more lawyers, men said, than any one living could
remember, or "than appears in any history in this or any other kingdom
upon earth." They depended, not on confiscation, but on their own
abilities; they owed nothing to government, which gave all the great
posts of the bar to Englishmen. Some freedom of soul was theirs, and
manhood for the long struggle. In 1765 the issue was clearly set. The
English House of Commons which had passed the Stamp Act for the
American colonies, argued that it had the right to tax Ireland without
her consent; and English lawyers laid down the absolute power of
parliament to bind Ireland by its laws. In Ireland Lord Charlemont and
some other peers declared that Ireland was a distinct kingdom, with
its own legislature and executive under the king.

In that same year the patriots demanded that elections should be held
every seven years--the first step in Ireland towards a true
representation, and the first blow to the dominion of an aristocracy.
The English government dealt its counter-stroke. The viceroy was
ordered to reside in Dublin, and by making himself the source of all
favours, the giver of all gratifications, to concentrate political
influence in the English Crown. A system of bribery began beyond all
previous dreams; peerages were made by the score; and the first
national debt of nearly two millions created in less than thirty
years. The landowners who controlled the seats in the Commons were
reminded that "they held by Great Britain everything most dear to
them, their religion, their pre-eminence, their property, their
political power"; that "confiscation is their common title." "The
king's business," as the government understood it, lay in "procuring
the supplies which the English minister thought fit to ask, and
preventing the parliament from examining into the account of previous

Meanwhile misery deepened. In 1778 thirty thousand Irishmen were
seeking their living on the continent, besides the vast numbers flying
to America. "The wretches that remained had scarcely the appearance of
human creatures." English exports to Ireland sank by half-a-million,
and England instead of receiving money had to send £50,000 for the
payment of troops there. Other dangers had arisen. George Washington
was made commander-in-chief of the forces for the American war in
1775, and in 1778 France recognised American independence. The shores
of Ireland lay open to attack: the country was drained of troops.
Bands of volunteers were formed for its protection, Protestant troops
led by landlords and gentry. In a year 40,000 volunteers were enrolled
(1779). Ireland was no longer unarmed. What was even more important,
she was no longer unrepresented. A packed parliament that had obscured
the true desires of the country was silenced before the voice of the
people. In the sense of a common duty, landlord and tenant, Protestant
and Catholic, were joined; the spirit of tolerance and nationality
that had been spreading through the country was openly manifested.

In those times of hope and terror men's minds on both sides moved
quickly. The collapse of the English system was rapid; the government
saw the failure of their army plans with the refusal of the Irish to
give any more military grants; the failure of their gains from the
Irish treasury in the near bankruptcy of the Irish state, with the
burden of its upkeep thrown on England; the failure of the prodigious
corruption and buying of the souls of men before the new spirit that
swept through the island, the spirit of a nation. "England has sown
her laws in dragons' teeth, and they have sprung up in armed men,"
cried Hussey Burgh, a worthy Irish successor of Malone in the House of
Commons. "It is no longer the parliament of Ireland that is to be
managed or attended to," wrote the lord-lieutenant. "It is the whole
of this country." Above all, the war with the colonies brought home to
them Grattan's prophecy--"what you trample on in Europe will sting you
in America."

The country, through the Volunteers, required four main reforms. They
asked for justice in the law-courts, and that the Habeas Corpus Act
should be restored, and independent judges no longer hold their places
at pleasure. They asked that the English commercial laws which had
ruined Irish industry and sunk the land in poverty and idleness should
be abandoned; taught by a long misery, Irishmen agreed to buy no
manufactures but the work of Irish hands, and Dublin men compelled
members to swear that they should vote for "the good of Ireland," a
new phrase in politics. A third demand was that the penal laws which
divided and broke the strength of Ireland should cease. "The Irish
Protestant," cried Grattan, "could never be free till the Irish
Catholic had ceased to be a slave." "You are now," said Burke,
"beginning to have a country." Finally a great cry for the
independence of their parliament rose in every county and from every

The demands for the justice of free men, for free trade, free
religion, a free nation, were carried by the popular passion into the
parliaments of Dublin and London. In three years the Dublin parliament
had freed Protestant dissenters from the Test Act and had repealed the
greater part of the penal code; the English commercial code had fallen
to the ground; the Habeas Corpus Act was won. In 1780 Grattan proposed
his resolutions declaring that while the two nations were inseparably
bound together under one Crown, the King, Lords, and Commons of
Ireland could alone make laws for Ireland.

The claim for a free parliament ran through the country--"the epidemic
madness," exclaimed the viceroy. But the Irish had good reason for
their madness. At the first stirring of the national movement in 1778
"artful politicians" in England had revived a scheme favourably viewed
there--the abolition of an Irish parliament and the union of Ireland
with England. "Do not make an union with us, sir," said Dr. Johnson to
an Irishman in 1779; "we should unite with you only to rob you." The
threat of the disappearance of Ireland as a country quickened anxiety
to restore its old parliament. The Irish knew too how precarious was
all that they had gained. Lord North described all past concessions as
"resumable at pleasure" by the power that granted them.

In presence of these dangers the Volunteers called a convention of
their body to meet in the church of Dungannon on Feb. 15, 1782--to
their mind no unfit place for their lofty work.

"We know," they said, "our duty to our sovereign and our loyalty; we
know our duty to ourselves and are resolved to be free." "As
Irishmen, as Christians, and as Protestants" they rejoiced in the
relaxation of penal laws and upheld the sacred rights of all to
freedom of religion. A week later Grattan moved in the House of
Commons an address to the king--that the people of this country are a
free people; that the crown of Ireland is an imperial crown; and the
kingdom of Ireland a distinct kingdom with a parliament of her own,
the sole legislature thereof. The battle opened by Molyneux a hundred
years before was won. The Act of 1719, by which the English parliament
had justified its usurpation of powers, was repealed (1782). "To set
aside all doubts" another Act (1783) declared that the right of
Ireland to be governed solely by the king and the parliament of
Ireland was now established and ascertained, and should never again be
questioned or questionable.

On April 16, 1782, Grattan passed through the long ranks of Volunteers
drawn up before the old Parliament House of Ireland, to proclaim the
victory of his country. "I am now to address a free people. Ages have
passed away, and this is the first moment in which you could be
distinguished by that appellation.... Ireland is now a nation. In that
character I hail her, and bowing in her august presence, I say _esto
perpetua!_" The first act of the emancipated parliament was to vote a
grant for twenty thousand sailors for the English navy.

That day of a nation's exultation and thanksgiving was brief. The
restored parliament entered into a gloomy inheritance--an authority
which had been polluted and destroyed--an almost ruined country. The
heritage of a tyranny prolonged through centuries was not to be got
rid of rapidly. England gave to Ireland half a generation for the

Since the days of Henry VIII the Irish parliaments had been shaped and
compacted to give to England complete control. The system in this
country, wrote the viceroy, did not bear the smallest resemblance to
representation. All bills had to go through the privy council, whose
secret and overwhelming influence was backed by the privy council in
England, the English law officers, and finally the English cabinet.
Irish proposals were rejected not in parliament, but in these secret
councils. The king had a veto in Ireland, not in England. The English
cabinet, changing with English parties, had the last word on every
Irish bill. There was no Irish cabinet responsible to the Irish
Houses: no ministry resigned, whatever the majority by which it was
defeated. Nominally elected by about one-fifth of the inhabitants, the
Commons did not represent even these. A landlords' assembly, there was
no Catholic in it, and no merchant. Even the Irish landlords were
subdued to English interests: some hundred Englishmen, whose main
property was in England but who commanded a number of votes for lands
in Ireland, did constantly override the Irish landlords and drag them
on in a policy far from serviceable to them. The landlords' men in the
Commons were accustomed to vote as the Castle might direct. In the
complete degradation of public life no humiliation or lack of public
honour offended them. The number of placemen and pensioners equalled
nearly one-half of the whole efficient body: "the price of a seat of
parliament," men said, "is as well ascertained as that of the cattle
of the field."

All these dangers might with time and patience be overcome. An Irish
body, on Irish soil, no matter what its constitution, could not remain
aloof from the needs, and blind to the facts, of Ireland, like
strangers in another land. The good-will of the people abounded; even
the poorer farmers showed in a better dress, in cleanliness, in
self-respect, how they had been stirred by the dream of freedom, the
hope of a country. The connection with England, the dependence on the
king, was fully accepted, and Ireland prepared to tax herself out of
all proportion to her wealth for imperial purposes. The gentry were
losing the fears that had possessed them for their properties, and a
fair hope was opening for an Ireland tolerant, united, educated, and
industrious. Volunteers, disciplined, sober, and law-abiding, had
shown the orderly forces of the country. Parliament had awakened to
the care of Ireland as well as the benefit of England. In a few years
it opened "the gates of opulence and knowledge." It abolished the
cruelties of the penal laws, and prepared the union of all religions
in a common citizenship. It showed admirable knowledge in the method
of restoring prosperity to the country, awakening its industrial life,
increasing tillage, and opening inland navigation. Time was needed to
close the springs of corruption and to bring reform to the parliament

But the very success of parliament woke fears in England, and alarm in
the autocratic government of Ireland. Jealous of power, ministers set
themselves to restore by corruption an absolute authority, and recover
by bribery the prerogative that had been lost.

The first danger appeared in 1785, in the commercial negotiations with
England. To crush the woollen trade England had put duties of over £2
a yard on a certain cloth carried from Ireland to England, which paid
5-½d. if brought from England to Ireland; and so on for other goods.
Irish shipping had been reduced to less than a third of that of
Liverpool alone. Pitt's proposal of free trade between the countries
was accepted by Ireland (1785), but a storm of wrath swept over the
British world of business; they refused Pitt's explanation that an
Ireland where all industries had been killed could not compete
against the industrial pre-eminence of England; and prepared a new
scheme which re-established the ascendency of the British parliament
over Irish navigation and commerce. This was rejected in Ireland as
fatal to their Constitution. Twice again the Irish parliament
attempted a commercial agreement between the two countries: twice the
Irish government refused to give it place; a few years later the same
ministers urged the Union on the ground that no such commercial
arrangement existed. The advantages which England possessed and should
maintain were explained by the viceroy to Pitt in 1792. "Is not the
very essence of your imperial policy to prevent the interest of
Ireland clashing and interfering with the interest of England?... Have
you not crushed her in every point that would interfere with British
interest or monopoly by means of her parliament for the last century,
till lately?... You know the advantages you reap from Ireland.... In
return does she cost you one farthing (except the linen monopoly)? Do
you employ a soldier on her account she does not pay, or a single
ship more for the protection of the British commerce than if she was
at the bottom of the sea?"

The Catholic question also awakened the Castle fears. The penal laws
had failed to diminish the "Papists": at the then rate of conversion
it would take four thousand years to turn the people into Protestants.
A nobler idea had arisen throughout Ireland. "The question is now,"
Grattan said, "whether we shall be a Protestant settlement or an Irish
nation ... for so long as we exclude Catholics from natural liberty
and the common rights of man we are not a people." Nothing could be
more unwelcome to the government. A real union between religious
bodies in Ireland, they said, would induce Irish statesmen to regulate
their policy mainly by the public opinion of their own country. To
avert this danger they put forth all their strength. "The present
frame of Irish government is particularly well calculated for our
purpose. That frame is a Protestant garrison in possession of the
land, magistracy, and power of the country; holding that property
under the tenure of British power and supremacy, and ready at every
instant to crush the rising of the conquered."

Finally the pressing question of reform, passionately demanded by
Protestant and Catholic for fifteen years, was resisted by the whole
might of the Castle. "If," wrote the lord-lieutenant to Pitt, "as her
government became more open and more attentive to the feelings of the
Irish nation, the difficulty of management had increased, is that a
reason for opening the government and making the parliament more
subservient to the feelings of the nation at large?"

To the misfortune both of Ireland and of England the Irish government
through these years was led by one of the darkest influences known in
the evil counsels of its history--the chancellor Fitzgibbon, rewarded
by England with the title Earl of Clare. Unchecked by criticism,
secret in machinations, brutal in speech, and violent in authority, he
had known the use of every evil power that still remained as a legacy
from the past. By working on the ignorance of the cabinet in London
and on the alarms and corruptions of Ireland, by using all the secret
powers left in his hands through the privy council, by a system of
unexampled bribery, he succeeded in paralysing the constitution which
it was his business to maintain, and destroying the parliamentary
rights which had been nominally conceded. The voice of the nation was
silenced by the forbidding of all conventions. In the re-established
"frame of government" Fitzgibbon was all-powerful. The only English
viceroy who resisted him, Lord Fitzwilliam, was recalled amid the
acclamations and lamentations of Ireland--all others yielded to his
force. Government in his hands was the enemy of the people, parliament
a mockery, constitutional movements mere vanity. Law appeared only as
an instrument of oppression; the Catholic Irish were put out of its
protection, the government agents out of its control. The country
gentry were alienated and demoralised--left to waste with "their inert
property and their inert talents." Every reform was refused which
might have allayed the fears of the people. Religious war was secretly
stirred up by the agents of the government and in its interest,
setting one part of the country to exterminate the other. Distrust
and suspicion, arrogance and fear, with their train of calamities for
the next hundred years distracted the island.

A system of absolute power, maintained by coercion, woke the deep
passion of the country. Despair of the constitution made men turn to
republicanism and agitation in arms. The violent repression of freedom
was used at a time when the progress of the human mind had been
prodigious, when on all sides men were drinking in the lessons of
popular liberties from the republics of America and France. The system
of rule inaugurated by Fitzgibbon could have only one end--the revolt
of a maddened people. Warnings and entreaties poured in to the Castle.
To the very last the gentry pleaded for reform to reassure men
drifting in their despair into plots of armed republicanism. Every
measure to relieve their fears was denied, every measure to heighten
them was pursued. Violent statesmen in the Castle, and officers of
their troops, did not fear to express their sense that a rebellion
would enable them to make an end of the discontented once for all, and
of the Irish Constitution. The rising was, in fact, at last forced by
the horrors which were openly encouraged by the government in 1796-7.
"Every crime, every cruelty, that could be committed by Cossacks or
Calmucks has been transacted here," said General Abercromby, sent in
1797 as commander-in-chief. He refused the barbarities of martial rule
when, as he said, the government's orders might be carried over the
whole kingdom by an orderly dragoon, or a writ executed without any
difficulty, a few places in the mountains excepted; and demanded the
maintenance of law. "The abuses of all kinds I found here can scarcely
be believed or enumerated." "He must have lost his senses," wrote
Clare of the great soldier, and "this Scotch beast," as he called him,
was forced out of the country as Lord Fitzwilliam had been. Abercromby
was succeeded by General Lake, who had already shown the ferocity of
his temper in his command in Ulster, and in a month the rebellion
broke out.

That appalling tale of terror, despair, and cruelty cannot be told in
all its horror. The people, scared into scattered risings, refused
protection when their arms were given up, or terms if they
surrendered, were without hope; the "pacification" of the government
set no limits to atrocities, and the cry of the tortured rose
unceasingly day and night.

The suppression of the rebellion burned into the Irish heart the
belief that the English government was their implacable enemy, that
the law was their oppressor, and Englishmen the haters of their race.
The treatment of later years has not yet wiped out of memory that
horror. The dark fear that during the rebellion stood over the Irish
peasant in his cabin has been used to illustrate his credulity and his
brutishness. The government cannot be excused by that same plea of
fear. Clare no doubt held the doctrine of many English governors
before him, that Ireland could only be kept bound to England by the
ruin of its parliament and the corruption of its gentry, the perpetual
animosity of its races, and the enslavement of its people. But even in
his own day there were men who believed in a nobler statesmanship--in
a union of the nations in equal honour and liberties.




The horror of death lay over Ireland; cruelty and terror raised to a
frenzy; government by martial law; a huge army occupying the country.
In that dark time the plan for the Union with England, secretly
prepared in London, was announced to the Irish parliament.

It seemed that England had everything to gain by a union. There was
one objection. Chatham had feared that a hundred Irishmen would
strengthen the democratic side of the English parliament; others that
their eloquence would lengthen and perhaps confuse debates. But it was
held that a hundred members would be lost in the British parliament,
and that Irish doctrines would be sunk in the sea of British common

In Ireland a union was detested as a conspiracy against its liberties.
The parliament at once rejected it; no parliament, it was urged, had a
right to pass an act destroying the constitution of Ireland, and
handing over the dominion to another country, without asking consent
of the nation. Pitt refused to have anything to say to this Jacobin
doctrine of the sovereignty of the people--a doctrine he would oppose
wherever he encountered it.

The Union, Pitt said, was no proposal to subject Ireland to a foreign
yoke, but a voluntary association of two great countries seeking their
common benefit in one empire. There were progresses of the viceroy,
visits of political agents, military warnings, threats of eviction, to
induce petitions in its favour; all reforms were refused--the
outrageous system of collecting tithes, the disabilities of
Catholics--so as to keep something to bargain with; 137,000 armed men
were assembled in Ireland. But amid the universal detestation and
execration of a Union the government dared not risk an election, and
proceeded to pack the parliament privately. By official means the
Commons were purged of sixty-three opponents, and safe men put in,
some Englishmen, some staff-officers, men without a foot of land in
Ireland. There were, contrary to one of the new laws, seventy-two
place-holders and pensioners in the House. Fifty-four peerages were
given to buy consciences. The borough-holders were offered 1-¼
millions to console them for loss in sale of seats. There was a host
of minor pensions. Threats and disgrace were used to others. Large
sums were sent from London to bribe the Press, and corrupt the
wavering with ready money. Pitt pledged himself to emancipation.

Thus in 1800, at the point of the sword, and amid many adjurations to
speed from England, the Act of Union was forced through the most
corrupt parliament ever created by a government: it was said that only
seven of the majority were unbribed. An Act "formed in the British
cabinet, unsolicited by the Irish nation," "passed in the middle of
war, in the centre of a tremendous military force, under the influence
of immediate personal danger," was followed, as wise men had warned,
by generations of strife. A hundred years of ceaseless agitation, from
the first tragedy of Robert Emmet's abortive rising in 1803,
proclaimed the undying opposition of Irishmen to a Union that from the
first lacked all moral sanction.

An English parliament, all intermediate power being destroyed, was now
confronted with the Irish people. Of that people it knew nothing, of
its national spirit, its conception of government or social life. The
history and literature which might reveal the mind of the nation is so
neglected that to this day there is no means for its study in the
Imperial University, nor the capital of Empire. The _Times_ perceived
in "the Celtic twilight" a "slovenly old barbarism." Peel in his
ignorance thought Irishmen had good qualities except for "a general
confederacy in crime ... a settled and uniform system of guilt,
accompanied by horrible and monstrous perjuries such as could not be
found in any civilised country."

Promises were lavished to commend the Union. Ministers assured Ireland
of less expenditure and lighter taxation: with vast commerce and
manufactures, a rise in the value of land, and a stream of English
capital and industry. All contests being referred from the island to
Great Britain--to a body not like the Irish influenced by prejudices
and passions--Ireland would for the first time arrive at national
union. The passing over to London of the chief part of Irish
intelligence and wealth would give to Ireland "a power over the
executive and general policy of the Empire which would far more than
compensate her"; and would, in fact, lead to such a union of hearts
that presently it would not matter, Pitt hoped, whether members for
Ireland were elected in Ireland or in England. Ireland would also be
placed in "a natural situation," for by union with the Empire she
would have fourteen to three in favour of her Protestant
establishment, instead of three to one against it as happened in the
country itself; so that Protestant ascendency would be for ever
assured. The Catholics, however, would find in the pure and serene air
of the English legislature impartial kindness, and the poor might hope
for relief from tithes and the need of supporting their clergy. All
Irish financiers and patriots contended that the fair words were
deceptive, and that the Union must bring to Ireland immeasurable

Any discussion of the Union in its effect on Ireland lies apart from a
discussion of the motives of men who administered the system in the
last century. The system itself, wrongly conceived and wrongly
enforced, contained the principles of ruin, and no good motives could
make it work for the benefit of Ireland, or, in the long run, of

Oppressive financial burdens were laid on the Irish. Each country was
for the next twenty years to provide for its own expenditure and debt,
and to contribute a sum to the general expenses of the United Kingdom,
fixed in the proportion of seven and a half parts for Great Britain
and one part for Ireland. The debt of Ireland had formerly been small;
in 1793 it was 2-¼ millions; it had risen to nearly 28 millions by
1801, in great measure through the charges of Clare's policy of
martial law and bribery. In the next years heavy loans were required
for the Napoleonic war. When Ireland, exhausted by calamity, was
unable to pay, loans were raised in England at heavy war-rates and
charged to the public debt of Ireland. In 1817 the Irish debt had
increased more than fourfold, to nearly 113 millions. No record was
made in the books of the Exchequer as to what portion of the vast sums
raised should in fairness be allotted to Ireland; there is no proof
that there was any accuracy in the apportionment. The promised lighter
taxation ended in a near bankruptcy, and the approach of an appalling
famine in 1817. Bankruptcy was avoided by uniting the two treasuries
to form one national debt--but the burden of Ireland remained as
oppressive as before. Meanwhile the effect of the Union had been to
depress all Irish industries and resources, and in these sixteen years
the comparative wealth of Ireland had fallen, and the taxes had risen
far beyond the rise in England. The people sank yet deeper under their
heavy load. The result of their incapacity to pay the amount fixed at
the Union was, that of all the taxes collected from them for the next
fifty-three years, one-third was spent in Ireland, and two-thirds were
absorbed by England; from 1817 to 1870 the cost of government in
Ireland was under 100 millions, while the contributions to the
imperial exchequer were 210 millions, so that Ireland sent to England
more than twice as much as was spent on her. The tribute from Ireland
to England in the last ninety-three years, over and above the cost of
Irish administration, has been over 325 millions--a sum which would
probably be much increased by a more exact method both of recording
the revenue collected from Ireland and the "local" and "imperial"
charges, so as to give the full Irish revenue, and to prevent the
debiting to Ireland of charges for which she was not really liable.
While this heavy ransom was exacted Ireland was represented as a
beggar, never satisfied, at the gates of England.

Later, in 1852, Gladstone began to carry out the second part of the
Union scheme, the indiscriminate taxation of the two countries. In a
few years he added two and a half millions to Irish taxation, at a
moment when the country, devastated by famine, was sinking under the
loss of its corn trade through the English law, and wasting away by
emigration to half its former population. In 1896 a Financial
Commission reported that the Act of Union had laid on Ireland a burden
she was unable to bear; and that, in spite of the Union pledge that
the ability of Ireland to pay should always be taken into account, she
was paying one-eleventh of the tax revenue of the United Kingdom while
her taxable capacity was one-twentieth or less. While Great Britain
paid less than two shillings in every pound of her taxable surplus,
Ireland paid about ten shillings in every pound of hers. No relief was

Under this drain of her wealth the poverty or Ireland was intensified,
material progress was impossible, and one bad season was enough to
produce wide distress, and two a state of famine. Meanwhile, the cost
of administration was wasteful and lavish, fixed on the high prices of
the English scale, and vastly more expensive than the cost of a
government founded on domestic support and acceptable to the people.
The doom of an exhausting poverty was laid on Ireland by a rich and
extravagant partner, who fixed the expenses for English purposes,
called for the money, and kept the books.

The Union intensified the alien temper of Irish government. We may
remember the scandal caused lately by the phrase of a great Irish
administrator that Ireland should be governed according to Irish
ideas. Dublin Castle, no longer controlled by an Irish parliament,
entrenched itself more firmly against the people. Some well-meaning
governors went over to Ireland, but the omnipotent Castle machine
broke their efforts for impartial rule or regard for the opinion of
the country. The Protestant Ascendancy openly reminded the Castle that
its very existence hung on the Orange associations. Arms were supplied
free from Dublin to the Orangemen while all Catholics were disarmed.
The jobbing of the grand juries to enrich themselves out of the
poor--the traffic of magistrates who violated their duties and their
oaths--these were unchanged. Justice was so far forgotten that the
presiding judge at the trial of O'Connell spoke of the counsel for the
accused as "the gentleman on the other side." Juries were packed by
the sheriffs with Protestants, by whom all Orangemen were acquitted,
all Catholics condemned, and the credit of the law lowered for both by
a system which made the juryman a tool and the prisoner a victim. It
is strange that no honest man should have protested against such a use
of his person and his creed. In the case of O'Connell the Chief
Justice of England stated that the practice if not remedied must
render trial by jury "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare"; but
jury-packing with safe men remained the invariable custom till 1906.

Nothing but evil to Ireland followed from carrying her affairs to an
English parliament. The government refused the promised emancipation,
refused tithe reform. Englishmen could not understand Irish
conditions. The political economy they advocated for their own country
had no relation to Ireland. The Irish members found themselves, as
English officials had foretold in advocating the Union, a minority
wholly without influence. Session after session, one complained,
measures supported by Irish members, which would have been hailed with
enthusiasm by an Irish parliament, were rejected by the English.
Session after session measures vehemently resisted by the Irish
members were forced on a reluctant nation by English majorities. When
Ireland asked to be governed by the same laws as England, she was told
the two countries were different and required different treatment.
When she asked for any deviation from the English system, she was told
that she must bow to the established laws and customs of Great
Britain. The reports of royal commissions fell dead--such as that
which in 1845 reported that the sufferings of the Irish, borne with
exemplary patience, were greater than the people of any other country
in Europe had to sustain. Nothing was done. Instead of the impartial
calm promised at the Union, Ireland was made the battle-cry of English
parties; and questions that concerned her life or death were important
at Westminster as they served the exigencies of the government or the

All the dangers of the Union were increased by its effect in drawing
Irish landlords to London. Their rents followed them, and the wealth
spent by absentees founded no industries at home. A land system
brought about by confiscation, and developed by absentees, meant
unreclaimed wastes, lands half cultivated, and neglected people.
Landlords, said an indignant judge of wide experience in a charge to a
jury in 1814, should build their tenants houses, and give them at
least what they had not as yet, "the comforts of an English sow." To
pay rent and taxes in England the toilers raised stores of corn and
cattle for export there, from the value of eight million pounds in
1826 to seventeen million pounds of food stuffs in 1848, and so on.
They grew potatoes to feed themselves. If the price of corn fell
prodigiously--as at the end of the Napoleonic war, or at the passing
of the corn laws in England--the cheaper bread was no help to the
peasants, most of whom could never afford to eat it; it only doubled
their labour to send out greater shiploads of provisions for the
charges due in England. On the other hand, if potatoes rotted, famine
swept over the country among its fields of corn and cattle. And when
rent failed, summary powers of eviction were given at Westminster
under English theories for use in Ireland alone; "and if anyone would
defend his farm it is here denominated rebellion." Families were flung
on the bogs and mountain sides to live on wild turnips and nettles, to
gather chickweed, sorrel, and seaweed, and to sink under the fevers
that followed vagrancy, starvation, cold, and above all the broken
hearts of men hunted from their homes. In famine time the people to
save themselves from death were occasionally compelled to use blood
taken from live bullocks, boiled up with a little oatmeal; and the
appalling sight was seen of feeble women gliding across the country
with their pitchers, actually trampling upon fertility and fatness, to
collect in the corner of a grazier's farm for their little portion of
blood. Five times between 1822 and 1837 there were famines of lesser
degree: but two others, 1817 and 1847, were noted as among the
half-dozen most terrible recorded in Europe and Asia during the
century. From 1846 to 1848 over a million lay dead of hunger, while in
a year food-stuffs for seventeen million pounds were sent to England.
English soldiers guarded from the starving the fields of corn and the
waggons that carried it to the ports; herds of cattle were shipped,
and skins of asses which had served the famishing for food. New
evictions on an enormous scale followed the famine, the clearance of
what was then called in the phrase of current English economics "the
surplus population," "the overstock tenantry." They died, or fled in
hosts to America--Ireland pouring out on the one side her great stores
or "surplus food," on the other her "surplus people," for whom there
was nothing to eat. In the twenty years that followed the men and
women who had fled to America sent back some thirteen millions to keep
a roof over the heads of the old and the children they had left
behind. It was a tribute for the landlords' pockets--a rent which
could never have been paid from the land they leased. The loans raised
for expenditure on the Irish famine were charged by England on the
Irish taxes for repayment.

No Irish parliament, no matter what its constitution, could have
allowed the country to drift into such irretrievable ruin. O'Connell
constantly protested that rather than the Union he would have the old
Protestant parliament. "Any body would serve if only it is in
Ireland," cried a leading Catholic nationalist in Parnell's time; "the
Protestant synod would do." In the despair of Ireland, the way was
flung open to public agitation, and to private law which could only
wield the weapons of the outlaw. All methods were tried to reach the
distant inattention of England. There were savage outbursts of men
often starving and homeless, always on the edge of famine--Levellers,
Threshers, and the like; or Whiteboys who were in fact a vast trades
union for the protection of the Irish peasantry, to bring some order
and equity into relations of landlord and tenant. Peaceful
organisation was tried; the Catholic Association for Emancipation
founded by O'Connell in 1823, an open society into which Protestants
and Catholics alike were welcomed, kept the peace in Ireland for five
years; outrage ceased with its establishment and revived with its
destruction. His Association for Repeal (1832-1844) again lifted the
people from lawless insurrection to the disciplined enthusiasm of
citizens for justice. A Young Ireland movement (1842-1848) under
honoured names such as Thomas Davis and John Mitchel and Gavan Duffy
and Smith O'Brien and others with them, sought to destroy sectarian
divisions, to spread a new literature, to recover Irish history, and
to win self-government, land reform, and education for a united people
of Irish and English, Protestant and Catholic. The suppression of
O'Connell's peaceful movement by the government forced on violent
counsels; and ended in the rising of Smith O'Brien as the only means
left him of calling attention to the state of the country. The
disturbances that followed have left their mark in the loop-holed
police barracks that covered Ireland. There was a Tenant League (1852)
and a North and South League. All else failing, a national physical
force party was formed; for its name this organization went back to
the dawn of Irish historic life--to the Fiana, those Fenian national
militia vowed to guard the shores of Ireland. The Fenians (1865)
resisted outrage, checked agrarian crime, and sought to win
self-government by preparing for open war. A great constitutionalist
and sincere Protestant, Isaac Butt, led a peaceful parliamentary
movement for Home Rule (1870-1877); after him Charles Stewart Parnell
fought in the same cause for fourteen years (1877-1891) and died with
victory almost in sight. Michael Davitt, following the advice of Lalor
thirty years before, founded a Land League (1879) to be inevitably
merged in the wider national issue. Wave after wave of agitation
passed over the island. The manner of the national struggle changed,
peaceful or violent, led by Protestant or Catholic, by men of English
blood or of Gaelic, but behind all change lay the fixed purpose of
Irish self-government. For thirty-five years after the Union Ireland
was ruled for three years out of every four by laws giving
extraordinary powers to the government; and in the next fifty years
(1835-1885) there were only three without coercion acts and crime
acts. By such contrasts of law in the two countries the Union made a
deep severance between the islands.

In these conflicts there was not now, as there had never been in their
history, a religious war on the part of Irishmen. The oppressed people
were of one creed, and the administration of the other. Protestant
and Catholic had come to mean ejector and ejected, the armed Orangeman
and the disarmed peasant, the agent-or clergy-magistrate and the
broken tenant before his too partial judgment-seat. In all cases where
conflicting classes are divided into two creeds, religious incidents
will crop up, or will be forced up, to embitter the situation; but the
Irish struggle was never a religious war.

Another distinction must be noted. Though Ireland was driven to the
"worst form of civil convulsion, a war for the means of subsistence,"
there was more Irish than the battle for food. Those who have seen the
piled up graves round the earth where the first Irish saints were
laid, will know that the Irishman, steeped in his national history,
had in his heart not his potato plot alone, but the thought of the
home of his fathers, and in the phrase of Irish saints, "the place of
his resurrection."

If we consider the state of the poor, and the position of the millions
of Irishmen who had been long shut out from any share in public
affairs, and forbidden to form popular conventions, we must watch
with amazement the upspringing under O'Connell of the old idea of
national self-government. Deep in their hearts lay the memory carried
down by bards and historians of a nation whose law had been maintained
in assemblies of a willing people. In O'Connell the Irish found a
leader who had like themselves inherited the sense of the old Irish
tradition. To escape English laws against gatherings and conventions
of the Irish, O'Connell's associations had to be almost formless, and
perpetually shifting in manner and in name. His methods would have
been wholly impossible without a rare intelligence in the peasantry.
Local gatherings conducted by voluntary groups over the country;
conciliation courts where justice was carried out apart from the
ordinary courts as a protest against their corruption; monster
meetings organised without the slightest disorder; voluntary
suppression of crime and outrage--in these we may see not merely an
astonishing popular intelligence, but the presence of an ancient
tradition. At the first election in which the people resisted the
right of landlords to dictate their vote (1826), a procession miles
in length streamed into Waterford in military array and unbroken
tranquillity. They allowed no rioting, and kept their vow of total
abstinence from whisky during the election. A like public virtue was
shown in the Clare election two years later (1828) when 30,000 men
camped in Ennis for a week, with milk and potatoes distributed to them
by their priests, all spirits renounced, and the peace not broken once
throughout the week. As O'Connell drew towards Limerick and reached
the Stone where the broken Treaty had been signed, 50,000 men sent up
their shout of victory at this peaceful redeeming of the violated
pledges of 1690. In the Repeal meetings two to four hundred thousand
men assembled, at Tara and other places whose fame was in the heart of
every Irishman there, and the spirit of the nation was shown by a
gravity and order which allowed not a single outrage. National hope
and duty stirred the two millions who in the crusade of Father Mathew
took the vow of temperance.

In the whole of Irish history no time brought such calamity to Ireland
as the Victorian age. "I leave Ireland," said one, "like a corpse on
the dissecting table." "The Celts are gone," said Englishmen, seeing
the endless and disastrous emigration. "The Irish are gone, and gone
with a vengeance." That such people should carry their interminable
discontent to some far place seemed to end the trouble. "Now for the
first time these six hundred years," said _The Times_, "England has
Ireland at her mercy, and can deal with her as she pleases." But from
this death Ireland rose again. Thirty years after O'Connell Parnell
took up his work. He used the whole force of the Land League founded
by Davitt to relieve distress and fight for the tenants' rights; but
he used the land agitation to strengthen the National movement. He
made his meaning clear. What did it matter, he said, who had
possession of a few acres, if there was no National spirit to save the
country; he would never have taken off his coat for anything less than
to make a nation. In his fight he held the people as no other man had
done, not even O'Connell. The conflict was steeped in passion. In 1881
the government asked for an act giving them power to arrest without
trial all Irishmen suspected of illegal projects--a power beyond all
coercion hitherto. O'Connell had opposed a coercion act in 1833 for
nineteen nights; Parnell in 1881 fought for thirty-two nights.
Parliament had become the keeper of Irish tyrannies, not of her
liberties, and its conventional forms were less dear to Irishmen than
the freedom of which it should be the guardian. He was suspended, with
thirty-four Irish members, and 303 votes against 46 carried a bill by
which over a thousand Irishmen were imprisoned at the mere will of the
Castle, among them Parnell himself. The passion of rage reached its
extreme height with the publication in _The Times_ (1888) of a
facsimile letter from Parnell, to prove his consent to a paid system
of murder and outrage. A special commission found it to be a forgery.

With the rejection of Gladstone's Home Rule bills in 1886 and 1893,
and with the death of Parnell (1891), Irish nationalists were thrown
into different camps as to the means to pursue, but they never
faltered in the main purpose. That remains as firm as in the times of
O'Connell, Thomas Davis, John O'Leary, and Parnell, and rises once
more to-day as the fixed unchanging demand, while the whole Irish
people, laying aside agitations and controversies, stand waiting to
hear the end.

The national movement had another side, the bringing back of the
people to the land. The English parliament took up the question under
pressure of violent agitation in Ireland. By a series of Acts the
people were assured of fair rents and security from eviction. Verdicts
of judicial bodies tended to prove that peasants were paying 60 per
cent. above the actual value of the land. But the great Act of 1903--a
work inspired by an Irishman's intellect and heart--brought the final
solution, enabling the great mass of the tenants to buy their land by
instalments. Thus the land war of seven hundred years, the war of
kings and parliaments and planters, was brought to a dramatic close,
and the soil of Ireland begins again to belong to her people.

There was yet another stirring of the national idea. In its darkest
days the country had remained true to the old Irish spirit of
learning, that fountain of the nation's life. In O'Connell's time the
"poor scholar" who took his journey to "the Munster schools" was sent
out with offerings laid on the parish altars by Protestants and
Catholics alike; as he trudged with his bag of books and the fees for
the master sewn in the cuff of his coat, he was welcomed in every
farm, and given of the best in the famishing hovels: "The Lord prosper
him, and every one that has the heart set upon the learning." Bards
and harpers and dancers wandered among the cottages. A famous bard
Raftery, playing at a dance heard one ask, "Who is the musician?" and
the blind fiddler answered him:

    "I am Raftery the poet,
    Full of hope and love,
    With eyes that have no light,
    With gentleness that has no misery.

    Going west upon my pilgrimage,
    Guided by the light of my heart,
    Feeble and tired,
    To the end of my road.

    Behold me now,
    With my face to a wall,
    A-playing music
    To empty pockets."

Unknown scribes still copied piously the national records. A Louth
schoolmaster could tell all the stars and constellations of heaven
under the old Irish forms and names. A vision is given to us through a
government Ordnance Survey of the fire of zeal, the hunger of
knowledge, among the tillers and the tenants. In 1817 a dying farmer
in Kilkenny repeated several times to his sons his descent back to the
wars of 1641 and behind that to a king of Munster in 210
A.D.--directing the eldest never to forget it. This son took his
brother, John O'Donovan, (1809-1861) to study in Dublin; in Kilkenny
farmhouses he learned the old language and history of his race. At the
same time another Irish boy, Eugene O'Curry (1796-1862), of the same
old Munster stock, working on his father's farm in great poverty,
learned from him much knowledge of Irish literature and music. The
Ordnance Survey, the first peripatetic university Ireland had seen
since the wanderings of her ancient scholars, gave to O'Donovan and
O'Curry their opportunity, where they could meet learned men, and use
their hereditary knowledge. A mass of material was laid up by their
help. Passionate interest was shown by the people in the memorials of
their ancient life--giants' rings, cairns, and mighty graves, the
twenty-nine thousand mounds or moats that have been counted, the raths
of their saints and scholars--each with its story living on the lips
of the people till the great famine and the death or emigration of the
people broke that long tradition of the race. The cry arose that the
survey was pandering to the national spirit. It was suddenly closed
(1837), the men dismissed, no materials published, the documents
locked up in government offices. But for O'Donovan and O'Curry what
prodigies of work remained. Once more the death of hope seemed to call
out the pieties of the Irish scholar for his race, the fury of his
intellectual zeal, the passion of his inheritance of learning. In the
blackest days perhaps of all Irish history O'Donovan took up Michael
O'Clery's work of two hundred years before, the Annals of the Four
Masters, added to his manuscript the mass of his own learning, and
gave to his people this priceless record of their country (1856).
Among a number of works that cannot be counted here, he made a
Dictionary which recalls the old pride of Irishmen in their language.
O'Curry brought from his humble training an incredible industry,
great stores of ancient lore, and an amazing and delicate skill as a
scribe. All modern historians have dug in the mine of these men's
work. They open to Anglo-Irish scholars such as Dr. Reeves and Dr.
Todd, a new world of Irish history. Sir Samuel Ferguson began in 1833
to give to readers of English the stories of Ireland. George Petrie
collected Irish music through all the west, over a thousand airs, and
worked at Irish inscriptions and crosses and round towers. Lord
Dunraven studied architecture, and is said to have visited every
barony in Ireland and nearly every island on the coast.

These men were nearly all Protestants; they were all patriots. Potent
Irish influences could have stirred a resident gentry and resident
parliament with a just pride in the great memorials of an Ireland not
dead but still living in the people's heart. The failure of the hope
was not the least of the evils of the Union. The drift of landlords to
London had broken a national sympathy between them and the people,
which had been steadily growing through the eighteenth century. Their
sons no longer learned Irish, nor heard the songs and stories of the
past. The brief tale of the ordnance survey has given us a measure of
the intelligence that had been wasted or destroyed by neglect in
Ireland. Archbishop Whately proposed to use the new national schools
so as to make this destruction systematic, and to put an end to
national traditions. The child who knew only Irish was given a teacher
who knew nothing but English; his history book mentioned Ireland
_twice_ only--a place conquered by Henry II., and made into an English
province by the Union. The quotation "This is my own, my native land,"
was struck out of the reading-book as pernicious, and the Irish boy
was taught to thank God for being "a happy English child." A Connacht
peasant lately summed up the story: "I suppose the Famine and the
National Schools took the heart out of the people." In fact famine and
emigration made the first great break in the Irish tradition that had
been the dignity and consolation of the peasantry; the schools
completed the ruin. In these, under English influence, the map of
Ireland has been rolled up, and silence has fallen on her heroes.

Even out of this deep there came a revival. Whitley Stokes published
his first Irish work the year after O'Curry's death; and has been
followed by a succession of laborious students. Through a School of
Irish Learning Dublin is becoming a national centre of true Irish
scholarship, and may hope to be the leader of the world in this great
branch of study. The popular Irish movement manifested itself in the
Gaelic League, whose branches now cover all Ireland, and which has
been the greatest educator of the people since the time of Thomas
Davis. Voluntary colleges have sprung up in every province, where
earnest students learn the language, history, and music of their
country; and on a fine day teacher and scholars gathered in the open
air under a hedge recall the ancient Irish schools where brehon or
chronicler led his pupils under a tree. A new spirit of self-respect,
intelligence, and public duty has followed the work of the Gaelic
League; it has united Catholic and Protestant, landlord and peasant.
And through all creeds and classes a desire has quickened men to
serve their country in its social and industrial life; and by
Agricultural Societies, and Industrial Development Societies, to
awaken again her trade and manufactures.

The story is unfinished. Once again we stand at the close of another
experiment of England in the government of Ireland. Each of them has
been founded on the idea of English interests; each has lasted about a
hundred years--"Tudor conquest," Plantations, an English parliament, a
Union parliament. All alike have ended in a disordered finance and a
flight of the people from the land.

Grattan foretold the failure of the Union and its cause. "As Ireland,"
he said, "is necessary to Great Britain, so is complete and perfect
liberty necessary to Ireland, and both islands must be drawn much
closer to a free constitution, that they may be drawn closer to one
another." In England we have seen the advance to that freer
constitution. The democracy has entered into larger liberties, and has
brought new ideals. The growth of that popular life has been greatly
advanced by the faith of Ireland. Ever since Irish members helped to
carry the Reform Acts they have been on the side of liberty, humanity,
peace, and justice. They have been the most steadfast believers in
constitutional law against privilege, and its most unswerving
defenders. At Westminster they have always stood for human rights, as
nobler even than rights of property. What Chatham foresaw has come
true: the Irish in the English parliament have been powerful
missionaries of democracy. A freedom-loving Ireland has been
conquering her conquerors in the best sense.

The changes of the last century have deeply affected men's minds. The
broadening liberties of England as a free country, the democratic
movements that have brought new classes into government, the wider
experience of imperial methods, the growing influence of men of
good-will, have tended to change her outlook to Ireland. In the last
generation she has been forced to think more gravely of Irish
problems. She has pledged her credit to close the land question and
create a peasant proprietary. With any knowledge of Irish history the
religious alarm, the last cry of prejudice, must inevitably disappear.
The old notion of Ireland as the "property" of England, and of its
exploitation for the advantage of England, is falling into the past.

A mighty spirit of freedom too has passed over the great Colonies and
Dominions. They since their beginning have given shelter to outlawed
Irishmen flying from despair at home. They have won their own pride of
freedom, and have all formally proclaimed their judgment that Ireland
should be allowed the right to shape her own government. The United
States, who owe so much to Irishmen in their battle for independence,
and in the labours of their rising prosperity, have supported the
cause of Ireland for the last hundred years; ever since the first
important meeting in New York to express American sympathy with
Ireland was held in 1825, when President Jackson, of Irish origin, a
Protestant, is said to have promised the first thousand dollars to the
Irish emancipation fund.

In Ireland itself we see a people that has now been given some first
opportunities of self-dependence and discipline under the new
conditions of land ownership and of county government. We see too the
breaking up of the old solid Unionist phalanx, the dying down of
ancient fears, the decaying of old habits of dependence on military
help from England, and a promise of revival of the large statesmanship
that adorned the days of Kildare and of Grattan. It is singular to
reflect that on the side of foreign domination, through seven hundred
years of invasion and occupation, not a single man, Norman or English,
warrior or statesman, has stood out as a hero to leave his name, even
in England, on the lips or in the hearts of men. The people who were
defending their homes and liberties had their heroes, men of every
creed and of every blood, Gaelic, Norman, English, Anglican, Catholic,
and Presbyterian. Against the stormy back-ground of those prodigious
conflicts, those immeasurable sorrows, those thousand sites
consecrated by great deeds, lofty figures emerge whom the people have
exalted with the poetry of their souls, and crowned with love and
gratitude--the first martyr for Ireland of "the foreigners" Earl
Thomas of Desmond, the soul of another Desmond wailing in the Atlantic
winds, Kildare riding from his tomb on the horse with the silver
shoes, Bishop Bedell, Owen Roe and Hugh O'Neill, Red Hugh O'Donnell,
Sarsfield, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Robert Emmett, O'Connell, Davis,
Parnell--men of peace and men of war, but all lovers of a free nation.

In memory of the long, the hospitable roll of their patriots, in
memory of their long fidelities, in memory of their national faith,
and of their story of honour and of suffering, the people of Ireland
once more claim a government of their own in their native land, that
shall bind together the whole nation of all that live on Irish soil,
and create for all a common obligation and a common prosperity. An
Irish nation of a double race will not fear to look back on Irish
history. The tradition of that soil, so steeped in human passion, in
joy and sorrow, still rises from the earth. It lives in the hearts of
men who see in Ireland a ground made sacred by the rare intensity of
human life over every inch of it, one of the richest possessions that
has ever been bequeathed by the people of any land whatever to the
successors and inheritors of their name. The tradition of national
life created by the Irish has ever been a link of fellowship between
classes, races, and religions. The natural union approaches of the
Irish Nation--the union of all her children that are born under the
breadth of her skies, fed by the fatness of her fields, and nourished
by the civilisation of her dead.


  JOYCE, P.W.--Social History of Ancient Ireland. 2 vols. 1903.
     This book gives a general survey of the old Irish
     civilisation, pagan and Christian, apart from political

  FERGUSON, SIR SAMUEL.--Hibernian Nights' Entertainments. 1906.
     These small volumes of stories are interesting as the effort of
     Sir S. Ferguson to give to the youth of his time an impression
     of the heroic character of their history.

  GREEN, A.S.--The Making of Ireland and its Undoing (1200-1600).
     1909. An attempt is here made to bring together evidence, some
     of it unused before, of the activity of commerce and
     manufactures, and of learning, that prevailed in mediaeval
     Ireland, until the destruction of the Tudor wars.

  MITCHELL, JOHN.--Life and Times of Aodh O'Neill. 1868. A small
     book which gives a vivid picture of a great Irish hero, and of
     the later Elizabethan wars.

  TAYLOR, J.F.--Owen Roe O'Neill. 1904. This small book is the best
     account of a very great Irishman; and gives the causes of the
     Irish insurrection in 1641, and the war to 1650.

  DAVIS, THOMAS.--The Patriot Parliament of 1689. 1893. A brief but
     important study of this Parliament. It illustrates the Irish
     spirit of tolerance in 1689, 1843, and 1893.

  BAGWELL, RICHARD.--Ireland under the Tudors and the Stuarts. 5
     vols. 1885, 1910. A detailed account is given of the English
     policy from 1509 to 1660, from the point of view of the English
     settlement, among a people regarded as inferior, devoid of
     organisation or civilisation.

  MURRAY, A.E.--Commercial Relations between England and Ireland.
     1903. A useful study is made here of the economic condition of
     Ireland from 1641, under the legislation of the English
     Parliament, the Irish Parliament, and the Union Parliament.

  LECKY, W.E.H.--History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century. 5
     vols. 1892. The study of the independent Parliament in Ireland
     is the most original work of this historian, and a contribution
     of the utmost importance to Irish history. Mr. Lecky did not
     make any special study of the Catholic peasantry.

  Two Centuries of Irish History (1691-1870). Introduction by JAMES
     BRYCE. 1907. These essays, mostly by Irishmen, give in a
     convenient form the outlines of the history of the time. There
     is a brief account of O'Connell.

  O'BRIEN, R. BARRY.--Life of Charles Stewart Parnell. 1898. 2 vols.
     This gives the best account of the struggle for Home Rule and
     the land agitation in the last half of the nineteenth century.

  D'ALTON, E.A.--History of Ireland (1903-1910). 3 vols. This is the
     latest complete history of Ireland.

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