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Title: Irish History and the Irish Question
Author: Smith, Goldwin, 1823-1910
Language: English
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  Published, November, 1905, n.


A long summer was spent by me in that loveliest of all parks, the
Phoenix, as the guest of Edward Cardwell, then Chief Secretary and real
head of the Irish government. Under Cardwell's roof the Irish Question was
fully discussed by able men, Robert Lowe among the number. But I had a
still greater advantage in constant and lasting intercourse with such
friends as Lord Chancellor O'Hagan, Sir Alexander Macdonald, the head of
the Education Department, and other leading Irish Liberals of the moderate
school, ardent patriots and thoroughgoing reformers though opposed to
violence and disruption. To the teachings of these men in dealing with the
Irish Question, I have always looked back for my best guidance. I did what
I could generally to acquaint myself with the country and its people. I
had the opportunity of seeing something of Maynooth as the guest of its
excellent principal in that day. At that time there was rather a lull in
the agrarian war, but religious antagonism was still marked. The fruit of
my studies was a little book entitled "Irish History and Irish
Character," in which I tried to show that the sources of Ireland's sorrows
were to be found in natural circumstance and historical accident as much
as in the crimes or follies of man in recent times. Upon that text I
preached in favour of charity and reconciliation. I am told that a chord
was touched at the time. But my essay has long been superseded and buried
out of sight by the important works, historical and political, which the
controversy has since produced, as well as by the forty eventful years
which have elapsed since its publication. The subject, however, has
retained all its interest, and my confidence in the wisdom of my Irish
friends and instructors has remained the same, or rather has been
strengthened by the course of events.

I was in Ireland again a good many years afterwards in connection with the
meeting of the Social Science Association, and was the guest of Lord
O'Hagan. The Parnellite Movement was then in full activity; American
Fenianism was at work; and the soil heaved with insurrection. My friend W.
E. Forster was the Secretary, and, much against his own inclination, was
administering measures of repression, the only alternative to which
appeared to be the abdication of the government. On this occasion I was
unlucky enough to draw upon myself a thunderbolt hurled through the
_Times_, but evidently from the skies, by hinting in a public speech that
the Phoenix Park was as worthy to be the occasional residence of royalty
as Osborne or Balmoral. A happy change, attended apparently with the best
effects, has now come in that august quarter.

It is needless to say that this essay does not pretend to be a history of
Ireland. It is an attempt to trace the general course of the history as it
leads up to the present situation.

The works published in recent years to which I have been chiefly indebted
are: Joyce's "Social History of Ancient Ireland," Richie's "Short History
of the Irish People," Bagwell's "Ireland under the Tudors," Froude's "The
English in Ireland," Lecky's "Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland,"
together with the special chapters on Ireland in his general history,
Ingram's "Two Chapters of Irish History" and "History of the Irish Union,"
Ball's "Irish Legislative Systems," T. P. O'Connor's "The Parnell
Movement," and Sir Horace Plunkett's "Ireland in the Twentieth Century,"
with the comments on it by Father O'Riordan.

To Mr. Bagwell's "Ireland under the Tudors" I am specially indebted for
his narrative of the Tudor wars. To Mr. T. P. O'Connor I am specially
indebted for the most vivid accounts of the famine and of the evictions,
as well as for an improved insight into the Parnell Movement and of the
doings which preceded it. Of part of those doings I was myself in some
measure a witness, through my social connections with a circle of English
politicians who were inclining to an Irish alliance.

The annals of the Tudor wars are horrible and heartrending. But history
cannot drop the veil over them. They long left their evil traces on Irish
character and sentiment, explaining and extenuating some terrible things
which ensued. Nor, in truth, have they become obsolete as warnings to us
in general of the acts into which civilized nations may be betrayed when
they make wars of conquest on those whom they deem barbarians.

It seemed that a brief account of the recent land legislation for Ireland
might be useful to readers of an essay of this kind. I append one which
has been prepared for me by my friend, Mr. Hugh J. McCann, B.L., of the
Dublin Bar. Its author is in no way committed to any opinion expressed in
the other part of the work.



     I FROM EARLY TIMES TO EDWARD I (1272)                     1

    II EDWARD I TO HENRY VII (1272-1509)                      19

   III HENRY VIII TO MARY (1509-1558)                         28

    IV ELIZABETH TO JAMES I (1558-1603)                       37

     V JAMES I (1603-1625)                                    55

    VI CHARLES I TO THE PROTECTORATE (1625-1660)              61

   VII THE RESTORATION (1660)                                 80

  VIII THE REVOLUTION (1688)                                  86

    IX THE PENAL CODE (1695-1727)                             91

     X ANNE TO THE REVOLUTION OF 1782 (1702-1782)            105


   XII UNION (1801)                                          148

  XIII DANIEL O'CONNELL (1823-1847)                          164

   XIV GLADSTONE (1868-1893)                                 191

    XV THE PRESENT STATE OF THE QUESTION                     204

       ACCOUNT OF THE IRISH LAND CODE                        227
         By HUGH J. MCCANN, B.L., of the Irish Bar.



Of all histories the history of Ireland is the saddest. For nearly seven
centuries it was a course of strife between races, bloodshed, massacre,
misgovernment, civil war, oppression, and misery. Hardly even now have the
troubles of Ireland come to a close, either for herself or for her
partner. Unrest still reigns in her and, embodied in her Parliamentary
delegation, harasses the Parliament and distracts the councils of Great

The theatre of this tragedy is a large island lying beside one nearly
three times larger, which cuts it off from the continent of Europe, while
on the other side it fronts the wide ocean. The climate is for the most
part too wet for wheat. The pasture is very rich. Ireland seems by nature
to be a grazing country, and a country of large farms; tillage and small
farms have been enforced by the redundance of rural population consequent
on the destruction of urban industries. In coal and minerals Ireland is
poor, while the sister island abounds in them, and in its swarming
factories and mines furnishes a first-rate market for the produce of Irish
pastures; so that the two islands are commercial supplements of each
other. The progress of pastoral countries, political and general, as they
have little city life, is slow. With beauty Ireland is well endowed. The
interior is flat, with large peat bogs and brimming rivers. But the coast
is mountainous and romantic. The western coast especially, where the
Atlantic rolls into deep inlets, has a pensive charm which, when troubles
end and settled peace reigns, may attract the villa as they do the
wanderer now. In early times the island was densely clothed with woods,
which, with the broad and bridgeless rivers, operated like the mountain
barriers of the Scottish Highlands in perpetuating the division of clans,
with their patriarchal system, their rivalries, and their feuds, thus
precluding the growth of a nation. In Ireland there was no natural centre
of dominion. Interest of every kind seems to enjoin the union of the
islands. But in the age of conquest the weaker island was pretty sure to
be marked as a prey of the stronger, while the difficulties of access, the
Channel, broad in the days of primitive navigation, and the Welsh
mountains, combined with the internal barriers of forest and river and
with the naturally wild habits of the people, portended that the conquest
would be difficult and that the agony would be long. Such was the mould of

The people of Ireland when history opens were Celts, kinsmen of the
primitive races of Gaul and Britain, remnants of which are left in Wales
and in the Highlands of Scotland. Their language was of that family, while
cognate words connect it with the general Aryan stock. There are traces of
a succession of immigrations. Too much, no doubt, has been made of the
influence of race. Yet the Teuton is a Teuton and the Celt is a Celt. The
Celt in his native state has everywhere shown himself lively, social,
communicative, impulsive, prone to laughter and to tears, wanting,
compared with the Teuton, in depth of character, in steadiness and
perseverance. He is inclined rather to personal rule or leadership than to
a constitutional polity. His poet is not Shakespeare or Milton, but Tom
Moore, a light minstrel of laughter and tears. His political leader is
O'Connell, a Boanerges of passionate declamation. In war he is impetuous,
as was the Gaul who charged at Allia and the Highlander who charged at
Killiecrankie and Prestonpans. His taste as well as his manual skill in
decoration is shown by the brilliant collection of gold ornaments in the
Celtic Museum at Dublin, as well as in stone carvings and such a paragon
of illuminated missals as the Book of Kells. But it is greater than his
aptitude for high art, that art which treats the human form, in which he
has not shone. His religious tendency, the outcome of his general
character, is either to Catholicism with its fervid faith, its mysteries,
and its ceremonial, as in Ireland; or to the enthusiastic forms of
Protestantism, as in the Highlands and in Wales. Anglicanism, a sober cult
with a balanced creed, suits him not. It was a cruel decree of destiny
that the larger island from which the conqueror would come was peopled by
the Teuton, so that to the usual evils of conquest was added that of a
difference of character inherent in race.

The primitive organization of the Irish Celts was tribal, the underlying
idea being kinship, real or reputed. The ruler with paternal authority was
the chief of the tribe. To avert strife his tanist, or successor, was
elected in his lifetime. In a community of reputed kinsmen there could be
no aristocracy of birth; but there seems to have been a plutocracy, whose
riches in that pastoral country consisted of cattle, which formed the
measure of wealth and command of which made poorer clansmen their
retainers. Under these were the freemen of the tribe. Under the freemen
again were the unfree, wanderers or captives taken in war or slaves from
the English slave-market. The unfree appear to have been the only tillers
of the soil. Thus tillage was marked with a bar sinister from its birth.
The tribal law was a mystical and largely fanciful craft or tradition in
the keeping of the Brehons, or judges, a hereditary order who, though
revered as arbiters, were without power of enforcing their judgments. Like
primitive law in general, it lacked the idea of public wrong. It treated
crime as a private injury, to be compounded by fine. The land was the
common property of the tribe, to which it nominally reverted on the demise
of the holder, though it may be assumed that the chiefs at all events had
practically land of their own and that the tendency in this, as in other
cases, was to private ownership.

What the religion was is not certainly known. Probably it was the same as
that of the Celts of Great Britain and Gaul, Druidism, wild, orgiastic,
and perhaps sanguinary. But there seem to be no remains clearly Druidic in

Life was pastoral, roving, probably bellicose. It appears that women
required to be restrained from taking part in war. The characteristic garb
of the tribesman was a loose saffron mantle, which served as his dress by
day, his coverlet by night. His favourite weapons, often used, were an axe
and a dart. He drew, it seems, a bow weak compared with the long-bow of
England. The gentler side of his character was shown in his passionate
love of the harp and the reverence in which he held the harper, and which
was extended to the bard, whose rude lays saluted the intellectual dawn
and whom we find in later times feared as an author of lampoons. Among his
favourite amusements was chess.

Knowledge of the peculiar system of the Irish, political and legal, is of
more consequence because the opposite system, that of constitutional
government and feudal ownership, having presented itself to him as that of
alien masters and oppressors, tribal peculiarities and sentiments lingered
long. The idea of tribal ownership perhaps was a few generations ago still
faintly present in agrarian agitation. Nor has the general character of
the tribesman long been, if it yet is, extinct. Tribal feuds were until
lately represented in the strange faction fights of the Caravats and
Shanavests, the Two-Year-Olds and Three-Year-Olds, the annual fight of
factions for a legendary stone, and the encounters between bodies of the
peasantry at Irish fairs. Perhaps another feature of character traceable
to tribalism may be the gregarious habit of Irishmen contrasted with the
Englishman's isolation and love of his private home.

Connected apparently with the tribal sentiment were the strange customs of
fosterage and gossipred. Fosterage consisted in putting out the child to
be reared by a tribesman who became its foster-father. Gossipred, a
Christian addition, was a spiritual kinship formed at the font. Both
relations had extraordinary force.

There were, of course, tribal wars. There were leagues or dominations of
powerful tribes which left their traces in the division of the island into
four or five provinces, once petty kingships. There was a supreme
kingship, the seat of which, sacred in Irish tradition and legend, was the
Hill of Tara; but it was probably only when common danger compelled a
union of forces that this kingship became a real power. The features of
the country, combined with the character of the tribal organization based
on kinship, not on citizenship, would prolong the tribal divisions and
prevent union. Nor had nature anywhere fixed a central seat of command.
Only when opposed to an invader and struggling against him for the land
did Celtic Ireland form for the time a united people; even then it could
hardly be called a nation.

The Roman conqueror looked, but came not. It might have been better for
Ireland if he had come. Yet, when he retired, he would probably have left
the Romanized provincial, here as in Britain, too unwarlike to hold his
own against the next invader.

A conqueror of a different kind came. He came in the person, not of a
Roman general, but, if the tradition is true, of a slave. By the preaching
of St. Patrick, according to the common belief, Ireland was added to the
Kingdom of Christ. The conversion was rapid and probably superficial, the
chief of the tribe carrying the tribe over with him, as Ethelbert of Kent
and other English kinglets carried over their people, rather to a new
religious allegiance than to a new faith.

Within the Roman Empire the centres of the Church had been the cities.
Cities were the seats of its bishoprics. The models of its organization
were urban. But in Ireland there were no cities. The episcopate was
irregular and weak, denoting rank rather than authority or jurisdiction.
The life of the Church was monastic and missionary. The weird Round
Towers, believed to have been places of refuge for its ministers and their
sacred vessels, as well as bell-towers, speak of a life surrounded by
barbarism and rapine as well as threatened by the heathen and devastating
Northmen. Partly perhaps owing to its comparative isolation and detachment
at home, the Irish clergy was fired with a marvellous and almost
preternatural zeal for the propagation of the Gospel abroad. It crossed
the sea to Iona, the sacred isle, still to religious memory sacred, from
which the light of the Gospel shone to the wild islesmen and to the rovers
of the Northern Sea. Irish missionaries preached to heathen Germany,
colliding there, it seems, with a more regular episcopate. They played a
part in the conversion of Britain not less important than that of the
missionaries of Rome, before whose authority, however, the Irish Church in
the person of Aidan was at last compelled to retire, the decisive struggle
taking place on the mode of celebrating Easter.

In Ireland itself there arose in connection with the Church a precocious
and romantic passion for learning which founded primitive universities.
Its memory lingers in the melancholy ruins of Clonmacnoise. This was the
delusive brightness of a brief day, to be followed by the darkness of a
long night.

The Church of Ireland seems in its origin to have been national and
neither child nor vassal of Rome. Its theology must have been independent
if Scotus Erigena was its son. But Rome gradually cast her spell, in time
she extended her authority, over it. Its heads looked to her as the
central support of the interests of their order and as their protectress
against the rude encroachments of the native chiefs. Norman Archbishops of
Canterbury served as transmitters of the influence. Still, the Irish
Church was not in Roman eyes perfectly regular. Tithes were not paid, nor
was the rule of consanguinity observed, or the rite of baptism
administered in strict accordance with the ordinances of Rome.

Christianity did not kill the brood of a lively superstition, the fairy,
the banshee, the spectre, charms, amulets, prophecies, wild legends, which
in the times of gloom that followed strengthened their hold upon Irish

Hostile invasion came first in the form of the Northmen, whose piracy and
rapine extended to Ireland as well as to Gaul and Britain. Piracy and
rapine we call them now, but to the Northmen they seemed no more criminal
than to us seems hunting or fishing. The chief objects of the invader's
attack were the monasteries, at once treasuries of Church wealth and
hateful to the people of Odin. Ruthlessly the Northman slew and burned.
His fleet made him ubiquitous and baffled defence, union for which there
was not at first among the tribes. Common danger at last enforced it. A
national leader arose in the person of Brian Boru, who was for Ireland the
military, though not the political, saviour that Alfred was for England.
At the great battle of Clontarf, the host over which the Danish Raven flew
was totally overthrown, and Ireland was redeemed from its ravages. The
Dane, however, did not wholly depart. Exchanging the rover for the trader,
he founded a set of little maritime commonwealths at Dublin, Wexford,
Waterford, and Limerick, germs on a small scale and in a rude way of
municipal as well as commercial life.

But a conqueror, more fell and more tenacious than the Dane, was at hand.
In 1169 a little fleet of Welsh vessels ran into the Bay of Bannow. From
it landed a band of mail-clad soldiery, men trained to war, with a corps
of archers. They were Normans from Wales under the leadership of the
Anglo-Norman rover Fitzstephen, and were the precursors of a larger body
which presently followed, under Richard Strigul, Earl of Pembroke, from
the strength of his arm surnamed Strongbow. Dermot, an Irish chief,
expelled for his tyranny, had brought these invaders on his country as the
instruments of his revenge. Henry II. had, by giving letters of marque,
sanctioned the enterprise, the fruits of which he intended to reap. Early
in his reign the king had obtained from Pope Adrian IV., an Englishman by
birth, a bull authorizing him to take possession of Ireland, which with
other islands the bull declared of right to be an appanage of the Holy
See. Here, as in the case of William's invasion of England, the Papacy
used Norman conquest as the instrument of its own aggrandizement. The
authenticity of the bull is disputed by Irish patriotism, but in vain. No
one questions the share of the Papacy in the Norman conquest of England.

With the aid of his Norman allies, to whom the Irishman with his naked
valour was as the Mexican to the Spaniard, Dermot prevailed and glutted
his revenge by plucking from the triumphal pyramid of hostile heads that
of his chief enemy and tearing it with his teeth. But in this case, as in
that of the alliance of Cortez with the Tlascalans, the ally had
conquered for himself. Declining to be dislodged, he proceeded to
establish himself and to organize a Norman principality.

Now the jealousy of the English king was aroused. He saw an independent
Anglo-Norman kingdom on the point of being founded by Strongbow in
Ireland. He published the papal bull, came over to Ireland in his power,
and held his court at Dublin in a palace of wickerwork run up in native
style for the occasion, where the Irish chiefs bowed their heads, but not
their hearts, before him. He organized a feudal principality with himself
as lord, but having the Pope as its suzerain, and tributary to the Papacy.
He formally introduced the organization of a feudal kingdom. He held at
Cashel a synod like that held by William the Conqueror at Winchester for
the purpose of reforming, that is thoroughly Romanizing, the Church of
Ireland. Irregularities respecting infant baptism and the matrimonial
table of consanguinity were set right. The payment of tithes, that
paramount duty of piety, was enjoined. Rome was installed in full
authority, thus in Ireland, as in England, receiving from her Norman
liegemen her share of their prize. With this pious offering to the Papacy
in his hand, Henry departed to meet his responsibility for the slaying of
Becket. He was presently succeeded for a short time in Ireland by his
hopeful boy, John, whose personal behaviour was an earnest of the future
tenour of his reign. Afterward, as king, John paid Ireland another flying
visit in which, besides pouncing on an enemy, he seems to have made a
fleeting attempt to regulate the government.

Henry, had he not been called away by the storm following the death of
Becket, might have left things in better shape, but nothing could make up
for the permanent absence of the king. Two antagonistic systems henceforth
confronted each other. On one side was the feudal system, with its
hierarchy of land-owners, from lord-paramount to tenant-paravail; its
individual ownership of land; its hereditary succession and primogeniture;
its feudal perquisites, relief, wardship, and marriage; its tribute of
military service; the loyalty to the grantor of the fief which was its
pervading and sustaining spirit; its knighthood and its chivalry; its
Great Council of barons and baronial bishops; its feudal courts of justice
and officers of state; all however highly rude and imperfect. On the other
side was tribalism, with its tie of original kinship instead of
territorial subordination; its tanistry; its Brehon law. But the feudal
system in Ireland lacked the keystone of its arch. It was destitute of
its regulating and controlling power, the king. A royal justiciar could
not fill the part. From the outset the bane of the principality was
delegated rule.

Ireland was a separate realm, though attached to the Crown of England. It
had a Parliament of its own, which followed that of England in its
development, being at first a unicameral council of magnates, lay and
clerical; but after the legislation of Edward I. a bicameral assembly with
a Lower House formed of representatives of counties and boroughs, whose
consent would be formally necessary to taxation. Representatives of
Ireland were at first called to Edward's Parliament at Westminster, but
the inconvenience seems to have been found too great. Weak, however, was
the Parliament of the colony compared with that of the imperial country.
If the Lords ever showed force, the making of a House of Commons was not
there. The representation, as well as the proceedings and the records,
appears to have been very irregular. Nothing worthy of the name of
Parliamentary government seems ever to have prevailed. Among those who
signed the Great Charter was the Archbishop of Dublin; but of chartered
rights Ireland was not the scene. There is no appearance of a separate
grant of subsidies by the clerical estate. The clergy, it seems, were
represented by their proctors in the Lower House, as by the bishops and
abbots in the Upper House. The Parliament appears to have been generally a
tool in the hands of the deputy. The irregularity of its composition seems
to have extended to its meetings.

From the first the relation between the feudal realm and that of the
tribes was border war. They were alien to each other in race, language,
and social habits, as well as in political institutions. The Norman could
not subdue the Celt, the Celt could not oust the Norman. The conquest of
England by William of Normandy had been complete, and had given birth to a
national aristocracy, which in time blended with the conquered race and
united with it in extorting the Great Charter. The Norman colony in
Ireland was left to its feeble resources, and to a divided command, while
the monarchy was far away over sea, was squandering its forces in French
fields, and could not even project a complete conquest. Besides, there
were the difficulties which the country, with its broad rivers, its bogs,
its mountains and forests, opposed to the heavy cavalry of the
Anglo-Norman. There was the mobility of a pastoral people, presenting no
cities or centres of any kind for attack, driving its cattle to the woods
on the approach of the invader, and eluding his pursuit like birds of the
air. Thus the Anglo-Norman colony failed to become a dominion and
presently dwindled to a pale. Between the Pale and the Celt incessant war
was waged with the usual atrocity of struggles between the half-civilized
and the savage. Fusion there could be none. There was not the bond of
human brotherhood or that of a common tongue. On neither side was the
murder of the other race a crime. Never was there a more inauspicious
baptism of a nation.

Anglo-Norman and Celt, feudalist and tribesman, alike were Catholics. A
common religion might have been a bond, a common clergy might have been a
mediating power. But race and language prevailed over religion. The
Churches, though outwardly of the same faith, remained inwardly separate,
and not only separate but hostile to each other, the clergy on both sides
sharing the spirit and the atrocities of race enmity and frontier war. The
Church of the tribes was still very rough and irregular. The Norman on his
part was devout. He was a founder of monasteries, thereby discharging his
conscience of a load not seldom heavy. Whatever of religious life and
activity there was in the Pale seems to have been monastic. Our glimpses
of the secular clergy show that they were secular indeed. Among them not
neglect of duty only but criminality appears to have been rife.

In the little commercial towns of Danish foundation on the coast which had
been taken over by the Norman, life was probably rather more civilized;
but they were too diminutive to exert any influence beyond their gates.
Galway in time became the port of an active trade with Spain which is
supposed to have left a Spanish trace on its architecture and a Spanish
strain in the blood of its people.


It was not likely that the colony, in the state in which it was, would
gain by emigration from England. It was probably losing by depletion.
English kings drew soldiers from it for their wars. There being no
university or means of education, youths who wanted to study went to
Oxford, where, though they were not native Irish, they seem to have played
in academical brawls the part which native Irish might have played. Thus
the colony was emptied of its intellect. Fiefs by feudal rule of descent
passed to absentees and to women, weakening its military force. In every
way the life-blood of the English and feudal settlement was being
continually withdrawn. Of the kings of England, Richard I. was away on
crusade, John and Henry III. were wrestling with rebellion at home. The
thoughts of Edward I. were turned to Ireland; but his energies were
absorbed by Scotland, Wales, and Gascony. He too drew soldiers from

The Anglo-Norman element, however, was united, while inveterate disunion
reigned among the native tribes. It was occupying the posts of vantage
with the castles characteristic of its military rule. It seems to have
been rather gaining ground when the island was invaded by Edward Bruce,
the brother of Robert, who, emulous of his brother's success in Scotland,
came over on the invitation of Irish tribes to carve out a kingdom for
himself. Bruce gained successes and committed great ravages, but was at
length met at Dundalk by the Anglo-Norman army under John de Bermingham,
overthrown, and slain. He had estranged his Irish allies. According to one
of their chroniclers, the day on which he was slain was the happiest of
days for the Irish people. The Irish appeal to the Pope against English
misrule on this occasion is in form a national manifesto, but was probably
less than national in its source.

Still Bruce's invasion seems to have dealt the Norman colony a heavy blow
and thrown back into the hands of the native tribes districts which it had
conquered and over which its settlements had spread. Degeneration set in
amongst its people. They took to the strange native custom of fosterage,
to the Irishman's saffron mantle and his long moustache, to his weapons,
to his mode of riding, even to his language, and countenanced license by
confusing the Brehon with the feudal law.

A strange compound of feudalism with tribalism ensued, in the shape of
mongrel chieftaincies, henceforth the predominant powers. English barons
doffed their baronial character, donned that of the tribal chief, and made
themselves independent lords of wide domains peopled by native Irish. It
seems that they retained the Norman instinct of command. Many of them
changed their Anglo-Norman for Irish names; Bourke, O'Neill, O'Brien,
O'Connor. They kept in their pay troops of bravos, gallowglasses and
kernes. Their rule seems to have combined the extortions of the feudal
lord with those of the native chiefs. Bonaught was a tax imposed by a
chief for the support of his mercenaries. Sorohen was an obligation on
lands to support the chief with his train one day in a quarter or one in a
fortnight. Coshery was a chief's right to sponge upon his vassals with as
many followers as he pleased. Cuddies, or night suppers, were due by lands
upon which the chief might quarter himself and his train for four days
four times a year. Shragh and mart were yearly exactions in money and
kine, apparently imposed at will. But worst of all was coyne and livery,
horse-meat and man-meat taken at will. This, it seems, was not an Irish
but an Anglo-Norman invention introduced at first as the means of coping
with Edward Bruce, but, like the income tax, perpetuated when the special
need was past. The chiefs deemed themselves independent princes,
renouncing openly or practically allegiance to the English Crown. It is
with these potentates and the forces which their restless and rebellious
ambition could command that the Crown henceforth in its struggle with the
Irish difficulty has to deal. Had they been united, they might have
prevailed; but they were always at feud with each other, while policy,
though not loyalty, led some of them to side with the Crown. Of the septs,
the three most powerful were the Geraldines of the north, close to Dublin,
the head of which became afterward Earl of Kildare; the Geraldines of the
south in Munster, the head of which became Earl of Desmond; and the
Butlers, also in the south, whose head became the Earl of Ormonde. The
O'Neills in Ulster were another powerful sept. The Butlers, less
Hibernized than their rivals, were almost always on the side of the Crown.

To put a stop to degeneration and restore order in the Pale by the
talismanic influence of royalty, Edward III. sent over his son Lionel,
Duke of Clarence. Under the duke's influence the Irish Parliament passed
the statute of Kilkenny, drawing a sharp line of division between the two
races; declaring marriage, fosterage, gossipred, and even concubinage with
the Irish high treason; pronouncing the same penalties against supplying
horses and armour to Irishmen or furnishing them with provisions in time
of war; commanding Englishmen to speak English, to bear English names
only, and to ride and dress in the English fashion; providing for the
arming of the colony against Irish enemies; separating in every way the
native Irishman from the Englishman and even forbidding the admission of
Irish priests to livings in the English Church or to the English
monasteries. There are severe regulations against the entertainment of
Irish story-tellers and bards. An article declaring the English born in
Ireland and in England to be equal and forbidding them to call each other
English Hobbe or Irish Dog on pain of a year's imprisonment and a fine at
the king's pleasure shows that there was a social division in the colony
on that line. The statute betrays despair of a fusion of races or of a
subjection of the whole island to English rule and law. At the same time
it seems to restrain English aggression and decree peace between the

Piqued, we are told, by a taunt of his impotence as lord of Ireland which
stung his pride, Richard II. twice came over to Ireland with a large army.
His armies were wrecked by the difficulties of the country and the
passionate weakness of their commander. From his second visit Richard was
recalled by the knell of his own doom.

The Pale was drawn into the troubles of the Roses. Before the outbreak the
Duke of York had come over to Ireland as vicegerent, won the heart of the
people, asserted the independence of the Irish Parliament, and seemed
disposed to make himself king. He had been recalled by the Civil War, but
he had left behind him a Yorkist party which adhered to the White Rose
after Bosworth, recognized the two pretenders, Lambert Simnel and Perkin
Warbeck, and fought for the lost cause by the side of Martin Schwartz and
his German hackbut-men at Stoke.

The Anglo-Norman colony or "Pale" was now at its nadir. Much of its
manhood had been drawn away by the kings to their Scottish and French
wars. It was reduced to a circle of two counties and a half round Dublin,
defended by a ditch. Had the chiefs of tribes been unanimous, it would
almost certainly have been destroyed. But the chiefs of tribes were very
far from being unanimous, and thanks to their dissensions Strongbow in his
tomb at Christ Church still slept undisturbed on the field of his victory.
In the Pale itself reigned corruption, disorder, and misrule. "There is no
land in all this world that has more liberty in vices than Ireland and
less liberty in virtue." Such, as reported to Henry VIII., was the
internal condition of the colony; and the description extended in its full
force to the Church.

The hostility of the Pale to the Red Rose probably combined with
distractions at home in leading Henry VII. to try the policy of winning
the great Irish chiefs to allegiance by marks of confidence and honour and
of governing Ireland through them. He tried it with the Earl of Kildare,
the head of the great Geraldine clan, saying, as the story went, when he
was told that all Ireland could not govern that man, "then that man shall
govern all Ireland." Kildare, deported to England as a suspected traitor,
but there winning favour and confidence by the artful address in which his
kind were seldom wanting, was sent back to Ireland as lord deputy. The
policy had a show of success. Kildare as deputy harried the lands of his
own enemies and reported execution done on the enemies of the Crown. He
gained one signal victory of that kind. But the attempt to employ restless
and lawless ambition as the regular mainstay of orderly government could
not be a permanent success. The sept of Butler alone was true to the
Crown. The next reign saw Kildare's son and successor as deputy in the
Tower, and his grandson, Silken Thomas, raising a madcap rebellion which
was made impious by the murder of an archbishop. The execution of Silken
Thomas and his five uncles closed the experiment of governing Ireland
through that house. There was left one boy whom faithful guardians carried
abroad and to whom the heart of the sept still turned.

To make an end of the aspirations to independent nationality which had
budded under the Duke of York, and bring Irish legislation completely
under the control of the Crown, the Lord Deputy Poynings caused to be
carried through the Parliament of the Pale the pair of acts which bore his
name, subjecting Irish legislation to the control of the English Council.
The first act ordained that in future no Parliament should be held in
Ireland "but at such season as the King's Lieutenant-in-Council there
first do certify the King under the great seal of that land the causes and
considerations, and all such acts as then seemeth should pass in the said
Parliament." Should the king in council approve, the Irish Parliament was
to be summoned under the great seal of England and not otherwise. The
second act provided that all public statutes "late made within the realm
of England" should be in force in Ireland. This it was decided applied to
all English acts prior to the tenth year of Henry VII. Ireland was thus
practically turned from a separate principality into a political
dependency of England. The work of Poynings was long afterwards completed
by the act of George I. affirming the right of the British Parliament to
legislate for Ireland.


During the early part of the reign of Henry VIII. the policy of the
English government was a continuation of that of Henry VII. It was a
policy of conciliation and of ruling through the great Irish chiefs, the
heads of the Butlers, the Geraldines, and the O'Neills, who were gratified
by the bestowal of English titles of nobility, with flattering marks of
confidence, and by a change in the tenure of their land from tribal to
feudal, which invested them with full ownership. The Irish chief and the
feudal baron of the Pale now sat in Parliament together for the first and
last time. There appears to have been an inclination on the part of the
Crown to favour the native Irish, it being still remembered perhaps that
the Anglo-Irish had supported the Yorkist pretenders. The king himself
penned a sage and benevolent manifesto, in the shape of a despatch to the
Lord Deputy Surrey, on the blessings of civilization. The policy of
conciliation was in fact necessary as well as laudable; for the king,
plunged by his diplomacy into continental embroilments and lavishing his
father's hoard on a Field of the Cloth of Gold, had not the means of
subduing Ireland. It would have been vain to look in those days for the
philosophy which could make allowance for a diversity of national ideas
and habits. The O'Neill, upon his elevation to the earldom of Tyrone, is
required with his heirs to forsake the name of O'Neill, to use English
habits and the English language. The age, however, was one of growing
light. Education was a passion of the hour. A decree in favour of the
establishment of a system of free schools in Ireland went forth. Unhappily
it remained a decree. No homilies, no peerages, no flatteries or marks of
confidence could permanently avail to quiet the intractable ambition of
the great chiefs. They took the titles, which tickled their vanity; but
they preferred the state of a chieftain with his gallowglasses and with
his despotic power over the sept to that of a baron under royal rule, with
feudal restraints and obligations. They were always at feud with each
other, waging private war and ravaging each others' territories with the
ruthlessness of the most cruel invader. Murders among them were frequent.
Conspiracies were always on foot. Thus the catastrophe of the house of
Kildare ended what may be called the early Tudor policy of native
government and conciliation. The policy of conquest with colonization in
its train prevailed once more.

The instrument of that policy was to be a line of English deputies; able
men on the whole and zealous in the public service, but generally
incapable of understanding any national character or any institutions but
their own. A deputy had also to contend with desperate difficulties, utter
insufficiency of military force, an empty exchequer, a service full of
jobbery and corruption, hostile intrigue both at Dublin and in the court
at home.

The line was opened by Skeffington, a good though somewhat decrepit
soldier, before whose artillery fell the redoubtable native fortress of
Maynooth. The Crown had now a new and formidable force upon its side in
the cannon, which it alone could afford to maintain. In Ireland as
elsewhere the end of the feudal fortress had come.

At the same time there were forfeited to the Crown great tracts of land
held by absentees, the feudal principle still prevailing and military
service being still a condition of the ownership of land. The Crown
thereby became a landowner on a vast scale, with the means of planting
settlements in all the districts under its power. Thus a wide field was
opened for Crown colonization.

But now comes an event most momentous in itself and fraught with future
woe to Ireland. Henry VIII., enraged at the refusal of the Pope to let him
put away his wife and marry another woman, breaks with the Papacy, carries
his kingdom out of its dominion, declares himself supreme head of a
national Church, dissolves the monasteries, seizes their estates, and half
reforms the church in a Protestant sense, breaking the worshipped images,
closing the shrines, expurgating the liturgy, and licensing the
translation of the Bible. He seizes into his own hands under the mask of a
_congé d'élire_ the appointments to the bishoprics. Wavering to the last
in opinion between Catholicism and Protestantism according as the party of
the old or that of the new aristocracy prevailed in his councils, he in
the upshot practically ranges his kingdom on the Protestant side in the
grand struggle that was to come between the Catholic and the Protestant

In Ireland there was one religion but there were two Churches: that of the
Pale and that of the native Irish; divided from each other, not by
doctrine or ritual, but by race and language, practically treating each
other as not within the pale of Christendom, hardly within the pale of
humanity. No Irishman could be admitted to church preferment or to a
monastery in the Pale. Nor did the churches ever act together as one
Church. Both were in a most miserable condition. The edifices were in
ruins, the services were unperformed. Monasteries however abounded. They
were the refuge of the peaceful in that world of strife and blood. That
some of them were on a large scale stately ruins prove. It is surmised
that they may have been wealthy, if not in lands, in orchards, fish-ponds,
mills, or the labour which seems to have been sheltered within their ample
walls. Like the English monasteries, they impropriated the tithes of
parishes, thus helping to kill the parochial system. The character of the
clergy was still scandalously low, not seldom criminal. Among the people
religion was almost dead; the remnant of it, as well as the remnant of
education, was kept alive by the poor Franciscan friars. In neither Church
was there the making of martyrs.

In the little maritime towns there was more religion, as well as something
more like civilization. But in this as in other respects their influence
was confined to their own gates.

There was no opposition in the Irish Parliament to the change of the
king's title from _Dominus_ to _Rex_, whereby the sovereignty of the Pope
was cancelled, to any article in the king's assumption of autocratic power
over the Church, or to his taking to himself the appointment of bishops. A
show of resistance made by the proctors of the clergy in the House of
Commons was promptly met by their extrusion. Nor was there the slightest
unwillingness on the part of any lord or chief to take his share of the
plunder of the monasteries, which, as in England, were suppressed, with
confiscation of revenue and goods, including the impropriated tithes of
parishes which they had served. A plea put in by the deputy on behalf of
six friaries in consideration of their special services to education and
their hospitality was not heard.

The iconoclastic part of the revolution, attacking the material objects of
popular worship, relics, wonder-working images, and venerated shrines,
seems to have encountered some natural resistance, and it appears that the
government failed to put an end to pilgrimages, which were the religious
pleasure-trips of the people.

The leader of the Reform movement, and specially of iconoclasm, in
Ireland, under Henry VIII., was Archbishop Browne, a fervid but
apparently not discreet man. He had a rather restive coadjutor in Bishop
Staples. No counterpart of Cranmer, Latimer, or Ridley appeared.

The members of the council of Edward VI., being men of the new official
aristocracy, opposed to the old houses, attached themselves to the party
of movement in religion. In England they completed the work of
confiscation, carried iconoclasm a step farther, and made Protestant
reforms in the religious system, the last in conjunction with foreign
reformers. Their policy in Ireland was the same. They sent over the
prayer-book of Edward. But the effect appears to have been small. The way
had not been prepared by the advent of Lutheranism or by the use of
translations of the Bible. Besides, there was no religious feeling on
which it could act. The Deputy St. Leger was a shrewd man of the world,
who, while he was ready to put the law in force, disliked all religious
agitation. "Tut, tut," he said to the earnest reformer, "your religious
matters will spoil all." The way of the new liturgy was effectually
blocked by the Erse language, and no missionary effort appears to have
been made.

The military policy of Edward's government had a very able though rather
grim representative in Bellingham, if he had only been backed by a
sufficient force. But the foreign complications of England being what they
were, no sufficient force could ever be sent. The system of regular
hostings against the natives is now on foot. Bellingham having stormed a
position, there ensues a butchery of wood kerne, the equal of which
Bellingham supposed there had never been. "Such," the deputy says, "was
the great goodness of God to deliver them into our hands." Puritanism with
its ruthlessness is making its appearance in the lists, on one side, while
on the other side enters its mortal foe the Jesuit.

The government incurred deserved hatred in Ireland as in England by
carrying to further lengths the debasement of the coin which had been the
disgraceful shift of the spendthrift Henry VIII. A petition sent to the
king upon the subject, in setting forth the folly of debasement, stated
with an accuracy remarkable for the time the function of the precious
metals as a medium of exchange. Wholesale fraud on the part of government
was not likely to help the cause of the Reformation.

Beyond the English Pale the change of religion never reached the people.
Antagonism of religion was henceforth added to estrangement of race.
Protestantism was to be the religion of the conqueror; Catholicism was to
be the religion of the conquered. The Pope became a rival in sovereignty
to the king of England, claiming the allegiance at once of piety and
patriotism. Instead of the torpid clergy of the old native Church, now
came upon the scene active emissaries of Rome with the Jesuit, master of
intrigue, at their head, to do the joint work of propagandism and
rebellion. Presently will appear the crusading soldiery of Catholic Spain.

With Mary comes an interlude of reaction. The sovereignty was not restored
to the Pope. Grantees of abbey lands in Ireland, as in England, Catholics
though they might be, held fast their prey. But the old ritual was for a
time legally revived, and the hand of iconoclasm was stayed. Protestantism
was rabbled; but Smithfield fires, the martyr's spirit being absent, there
were none.

A story is told of an envoy sent by Mary to Ireland with a warrant of
persecution, whose commission a clever Protestant woman, in whose house he
put up by the way, stole and replaced by a pack of cards, so that when the
deputy opened the wallet at the council board nothing came forth but the
pack of cards with the knave of clubs uppermost.


Thus the day of the Elizabethan era which dawned so brightly upon England
came on in heavy clouds for the unhappy dependency. The religious
compromise which it brought to England was adapted by the English
statesmen who framed it to the religious condition and temperament of
their own people. To the condition and temperament of the Irish people
there was no such adaptation. To the Catholic lords of the Pale the
Elizabethan religion was alien; to the native Celts it was not only alien,
but utterly abhorrent. It presented itself, not as the religion of
Ireland, but as the religion of the conqueror.

The ecclesiastical polity comprised in the Act of Uniformity and the
Thirty-nine Articles was, however, formally extended to Ireland, and the
Crown resumed the powers which it had assumed in the time of Henry VIII.
or his son, including the appointment of bishops, in this case without the
veil, retained in England, of the _congé d'élire_. In the dependency as
in England, the State assumed supreme power of religious legislation,
overriding and almost treating as null the authority of the ecclesiastical
Convocation. Propagation of the Anglican liturgy beyond the Pale continued
to be blocked by the language.

Burleigh and the other statesmen of Elizabeth's Council could not fail to
turn their minds to the Irish problem, enhanced as its gravity had been by
the progress of religious revolution in Europe and the danger of a
conflict with the Catholic powers. Trinity College is a noble monument of
their policy. In Ireland, as in England, they restored the coin, though
the benefits of that wise measure were offset by protectionist enactments
carried in the Parliament of the Pale, which bore the usual fruits. They
sent commissioners of inquiry to give them more trustworthy information
than they could get from the despatches of the deputies or the tattling
intriguers of the Pale. They formed a plan for the institution of
provincial presidencies to lengthen the arm of government and form local
centres of civilization, which, had it taken effect, might have been the
best solution of the problem. But the necessary means of giving effect to
any policy failed them. Churches and schools, which were named by a
reformer at the time as the indispensable instruments of civilization,
could in the case of Ireland be named only in mockery. An ordinance for
the general establishment of schools more than once went forth, but an
ordinance still it remained. The Pale, reduced as it was in extent and
weakly defended, was in itself a nest of misrule, jobbery, and corruption.
Nothing could have been done without a military force in the hands of the
central government sufficient to enforce law and order. Such a force the
counsellors of Elizabeth had no means of maintaining. Continental war drew
heavily on the exchequer. The queen was unwisely parsimonious. She was
seized with spasms of frugality. Militia on the spot of any value there
was none. The service was very unpopular in England, and the men enlisted
or pressed for it as soldiers were apt to be of the Falstaffian kind,
better at preying on the people for whose protection they were sent and at
indulging in the general license of the camp than at facing the perils and
hardships of "hostings" in the Irish wilds. Their pay was almost always in

The service was not inviting. "The deputy, according to his commission,
marched into the north. But, alas, he neither found France to travel in
nor Frenchmen to fight withal. There were no glorious towns to load the
soldiers home with spoils, nor pleasant vineyards to refresh them with
wine. Here were no plentiful markets to supply the salary of the army if
they wanted, or stood in need; here were no cities of refuge, nor places
of garrison to retire into, in the times of danger and extremity of
weather; here were no musters ordered, no lieutenants of shires to raise
new armies; here was no supplement of men or provisions, especially of
Irish against Irish; nor any one promise kept according to his
expectation; here were, in plain terms, bogs and woods to be in, fogs and
mists to trouble you, grass and fern to welcome your horses and corrupt
and putrefy your bodies; here was killing of kine and eating fresh beef,
to breed diseases; here was oats without bread, and fire without food;
here were smoky cabins and nasty holes; here were bogs on the tops of
mountains, and few passages, but over marshes, or through strange places;
here was retiring into fastnesses, glens, and no fighting, but when they
pleased themselves; here was ground enough to bury your people in being
dead, but no place to please them while alive; here you might spend what
you brought with you, but be assured there was no hopes of relief; here
was room for all your losses, but scarce a castle to receive your spoil
and treasure. To conclude: here was all glory and virtue buried in
obscurity and oblivion, and not so much as a glimmering hope that how
valiantly soever a man demeaned himself it should be registered or

The deputies sent in command might do their best according to their
lights. They generally did. But the lights of all of them were not the
same, and the web of Penelope woven by one was always in danger of being
unwoven by his successor. One of them only, Sussex, was large-minded
enough to think of acknowledging the Brehon law, reducing it to a system,
and making it a bridge across which the Irish might pass to legal
civilization. All the deputies had to contend more or less with local
opposition and intrigue.

The consequences to Ireland of this policy of government by deputies were
disastrous. The presence of royalty might have had some effect on the
Irish heart. It could hardly have failed, at all events, to reveal the
real state of things. But it was never tried.

Elizabeth, Protestant by circumstance and profession, Catholic in her real
leanings, hating nothing so much as a Puritan, unless it were a
clergyman's wife, and an autocrat to the core, had no desire of breaking
with the Papacy or with Spain. But when a Pope excommunicated and deposed
her, the die was cast. Ireland was drawn into the European war between
Catholicism and Protestantism which was also that between despotism and
freedom; she became a point of military danger in a national and religious
struggle for life or death. There is now an end of the policy of
conciliation or of colonization with a civilizing object. The policy
henceforth is that of conquest, and when resistance is obstinate, of

The reign was filled with successive wars between the English and the
natives, the first slightly, the last two more deeply, identified on the
side of the natives with papal suzerainty and the Catholic cause. The
first was that with Shane O'Neill, elective head of the great Ulster sept
of O'Neill and pretender to the royal earldom of Tyrone. The tribal
headship was unquestionably elective; to the earldom Shane's claim was
doubtful, the question being partly one between the English and the Brehon
law. It was presently settled by the murder of Shane's rival. Shane was,
in fact admitted himself to be, a barbarian, brutal, drunken, and cruel,
all in a high degree. He made his prisoners wear an iron collar fastened
by a short chain to gyves on their ankles so that they could neither stand
nor lie. At the same time he was able, crafty, and daring. He made himself
supreme in Ulster, baffled the English in war, and was so formidable that
the Lord Deputy Sussex, once at least, if not more than once, attempted to
get rid of him by assassination. He intrigued with Philip of Spain. At
another time he coquetted with the Queen's government and paid a visit to
the court, where he and his gallowglasses, with their axes, their Irish
heads of hair and moustaches, their wide-sleeved saffron shirts, short
tunics, and shaggy cloaks of fur or frieze, produced a sensation among the
courtiers. Master of dissimulation, Shane fell on his knees before the
Queen and confessed his rebellion in the Irish language "with howling."
Returning to Ulster, he recommenced the game there, plundering and
burning, slaying man, woman, and child. He was at last stabbed in a brawl
with the Scottish raiders with whom he had intrigued. These marauding
immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and isles were now a formidable
addition to the elements in the cauldron of Irish anarchy and ruin.

Shane was an Irish leader of the thoroughly Celtic type. Perhaps the
next, though in a widely different guise and sphere, may be said to have
been Daniel O'Connell.

As a mover of disturbance on a large scale there succeeded James
Fitzmaurice, kinsman of the Earl of Desmond, the head of the southern sept
of Geraldines. Fitzmaurice, whether from conviction or policy, gave
rebellion a more religious character and connected it with Rome and
Madrid, which he visited on missions of intrigue. In this work he had a
compeer in Stukely, an adventurer of the kind then common, who also
intrigued with the Catholic powers. If their aim was an Irish crown on a
Catholic head, it came to nothing. But Fitzmaurice brought with him to
Ireland a regular proclamation from the Pope, and had made formidable
headway in his appeal to the forces of disorder when he was killed. The
leadership of the movement passed to the Earl of Desmond, who with a
little aid from Spain raised in Munster a rebellion on a large scale. He
was a feeble though respectable leader, and his rising in the end bore no
fruits but a renewal of slaughter and devastation.

The aid of Rome and Spain promised to the Irish Catholics was long in
coming. Ever tardy and vacillating was the mind of the Spanish king. But
at the time of Desmond's rebellion the aid came. In concert with the
insurgent Irish a force of Italians and Spaniards landed and established
itself in a fortalice at Smerwick. The deputy at that time was Lord Grey,
a Puritan most pronounced and militant, the Artegal, the Knight of
Justice, in Spenser's "Faerie Queene," bent on the overthrow of the false
Duessa and the extermination of her brood. He invested Smerwick. The Irish
allies of the invader failed to relieve the place, and the garrison was
compelled to surrender at discretion. Grey then butchered the whole of
them in cold blood. Raleigh, as the officer in command, it is to be feared
directed the slaughter. Alva or Parma would have done the same, and
Elizabeth in approving incurred no special infamy.

The poor Irish in this rebellion showed that fidelity to a chief which was
one of their small stock of political virtues. They afterwards showed
their love of legend, of melancholy legend especially, by telling that
Desmond's ghost, mounted on a phantom steed with silver shoes, rose at
night from the water on the bank of which he had been slain, and fancying
that in the moaning of the wind they heard the Desmond howl.

The attainder of the Earl of Desmond was followed by the sweeping
confiscation of a vast tract of land to the Crown, on the assumption that
as the domain of an earl it had been a fief and the property of its lord;
whereas under native law and according to native ideas it was the property
of the tribe. Spenser was one of the grantees of the Crown and settlers on
the conquered land. He had been the secretary of Lord Grey. The author of
the "Faerie Queene" thus encountered the religion of the false Duessa, his
hatred of which was not likely to be diminished when he was afterwards by
a great outbreak of insurrection ejected from his grant.

Now along the dangerous western coast of Ireland were driven in dire
distress a number of great ships of war, with the troops and much of the
power and chivalry of a mighty kingdom on board. These were the miserable
remnants of the Invincible Armada. About a score of the ships were cast
ashore or wrecked. The crews for the most part perished. On one strand of
less than five miles in length were counted above eleven hundred corpses
cast up by the sea. On two miles of strand in Sligo there lay wrecked
timber enough to build five first-rate ships, besides mighty great boats,
cables and other cordage, and masts of extraordinary size. Of those who
struggled to land, many were killed by the English, not a few by the
native Irish, who stripped and robbed those whom they did not kill,
skipping and capering at the sight of such glorious plunder. The Armada
had come to liberate the native Irish from the heretical yoke; but love of
plunder overcame in their simple souls regard for a political and
ecclesiastical alliance, their appreciation of which, perhaps, had never
been very clear.

One Spaniard, Cuellar, after being stripped and narrowly escaping with his
life, spent some time in an Irish cabin, and has left his notes on native
Irish life and character, valuable as those of a neutral.

"The habit of those savages," he says, "is to live like brutes in the
mountains, which are very rugged in the part of Ireland where we were
lost. They dwell in thatched cabins. The men are well made, with good
features, and as active as deer. They eat but one meal, and that late at
night, oatcake and butter being their usual food. They drink sour milk
because they have nothing else, for they use no water, though they have
the best in the world. At feasts it is their custom to eat half-cooked
meat without bread or salt. Their dress matches themselves--tight
breeches, and short hose jackets of very coarse texture; over all they
wear blankets, and their hair comes over their eyes. They are great
walkers and stand much work, and by continually fighting they keep the
queen's English soldiers out of their country, which is nothing but bogs
for forty miles either way. Their great delight is robbing one another, so
that no day passes without fighting, for whenever the people of one hamlet
know that those of another possess cattle or other goods, they immediately
make a night attack and kill each other. When the English garrisons find
out who has lifted the most cattle, they come down on them, and they have
but to retire to the mountains with their wives and herds, having no
houses or furniture to lose. They sleep on the ground upon rushes full of
water and ice. Most of the women are very pretty, but badly got up, for
they wear only a shift and a mantle, and a great linen cloth on the head,
rolled over the brow. They are great workers and housewives in their way.
These people call themselves Christians, and say Mass. They follow the
rule of the Roman Church, but most of their churches, monasteries, and
hermitages are dismantled by the English soldiers, and by their local
partisans, who are as bad as themselves. In short there is no order nor
justice in the country, and every one does that which is right in his own

"Savages" Cuellar calls the natives; what but savages could they be when
not only had all the means of civilization been withheld from them, but
they were hunted like beasts of prey? That the women are "great workers
and housewives in their way" is a redeeming feature in the picture. The
whole land, English and Irish alike, was a wreck. The secretary of a lord
deputy reports that the people had no conscience, but committed crimes
freely; that they even changed wives among themselves; that bridges were
falling down, churches roofless; there were no charities, no schools; law
was jobbery, and the judicial bench was filled with ignorance; every lord
hated the restraints of law and made himself an Irish chief; and disorders
were as great among English soldiers as among Irish kernes.

The third rebellion, and the most formidable of all, was that of the Earl
of Tyrone, head of the O'Neills of Ulster. It stirred the general forces
of revolt, national and religious, beyond Ulster, in Connaught and
elsewhere. Tyrone gave his movement distinctly the character of a holy
war, and received aid from Spain. Unlike Desmond, he was an able leader.
He gained a victory over the English at the Yellow Ford which filled
Dublin with panic. To put him down, Elizabeth sent her favourite Essex,
with forces greater than her parsimony allowed to an ordinary deputy.
Essex went forth with great pomp and amidst high expectations. But he
totally lacked steadiness of character and policy. He failed and went home
to run mad courses and die on the scaffold, faintly recalling the Irish
history of Richard II.

Essex was succeeded by Mountjoy, able, iron-willed, and ruthless, who made
it a war of extermination and devastation. The Spaniards brought tardy aid
to their Irish allies. They landed in force at Kinsale, and for a moment
the fortune of war seemed to waver, but it soon inclined again to the side
of the deputy and England. The force of the rebellion was broken, and
Tyrone was compelled to surrender.

Of all the wars waged by a half-civilized on a barbarous and despised
race, these wars waged by the English on the Irish seem to have been about
the most hideous. No quarter was given by the invader to man, woman, or
child. The butchering of women and children is repeatedly and brutally
avowed. Nothing can be more horrible than the cool satisfaction with which
commanders report their massacres. "I was never," said Captain Woodhouse,
"so weary with killing of men, for I protest to God for as fast as I
could I did but hough and paunch them." "The number of their fighting men
slain and drowned that day," says another commander, "were estimated and
numbered to be fourteen hundred or fifteen hundred, besides boys, women,
churls, and children, which could not be so few as many more and upwards."
Over and over again massacres of people of both sexes and all ages are
reported with similar coolness. Another ruffian seems to have put to death
children who were held as hostages.

Mountjoy especially used famine deliberately as his instrument of war, and
with signal effect. After his work, multitudes lay dead in the ditches of
towns and other waste places, with their mouths coloured green by eating
docks and nettles. Children were seen eating their mother's corpse. Old
women, we are told, lit fires in the woods and ate the children who came
to warm themselves. Not only were horses killed and eaten, but cats and
dogs, hawks and kites. The wolves, driven by hunger from the woods, killed
the enfeebled people. The dead lay unburied or half-buried, the survivors
not having strength to dig graves, and dogs ate the remains.

It must be said that the native Irish not only retaliated these cruelties
on the English whenever they could, but committed them on each other.
Edward Butler, for example, invades Arra, the district of another clan,
harries the country far and wide, breaks open the churches to which the
frightened women had fled in the vain hope of sanctuary, and gives the
region up for forty-eight hours to plunder and rape, sparing neither age
nor condition. The lately gathered corn is destroyed, and famine stares
the whole population in the face. The raid is presently repeated, the
cattle are driven off, and a house full of women and children is given to
the flames. In the English settlement of Munster, overrun by the native
Irish, English children are taken from their nurses' breasts and dashed
against walls; an Englishman's heart is plucked out in his wife's
presence, and she is forced to lend an apron to wipe the murderer's
fingers. Of the English fugitives who flocked into Youghal some had lost
their tongues and noses. Irish tenants and servants that yesterday fed in
the settlers' houses were conspicuous by their cruelty.

What was called law was almost as murderous as war. Men were hanged at
assizes by scores, and these massacres were reported by the deputy with
satisfaction as gratifying proof of the increased influence of public
justice. A bishop witnesses them with complacency. Respect for human life
must have perished. Such was the training which in the formative period of
national character the Celtic Irish received, and which must be borne in
mind when we come to atrocities committed by them at a not very much later

At the same time we do not see the back of destiny's cards. The
subjugation of barbarous clans by a foreign conqueror, himself
half-civilized, was horrible. Would a series of tribal wars among the
clans themselves have been less horrible? When Strongbow landed there had
been hardly any sign of permanent union or of the foundation of a settled
polity. Nor afterwards does there appear to have been any attempt or
tendency of the kind.

Tyrone, on his submission, had been restored to rank and great part of his
estate. But he, as well as his confederate, the O'Donnell, created Earl of
Tyrconnell, afterwards finding themselves objects of aversion and
suspicion, fled the country. Their flight and the suppression of a futile
outbreak of tribal insurrection under another O'Donnell finished the work.
The whole island was now conquered, but the heart of the people, as
presently appeared, was very far from being won. The hold of the Papacy
and the Catholic Church upon their liegemen had been growing stronger
under the long struggle and was not impaired by its close. It formed
henceforth a religious substitute for nationality.


Ireland, conquered, now became shire land, at least in contemplation of
law. The law of England, in the eyes of its professors the consummation of
human wisdom, ousted the Brehon law. The feudal system of land tenure
supplanted the tribal system. Freehold and leasehold, primogeniture and
entail, took the place of tribal ownership and tanistry. Justice was
henceforth to be administered in English courts, and judges were to go
circuit as in England. The change at first seemed to be well received.
Perhaps novelty itself impressed. An English chief justice, going circuit
through the newly Anglicized districts, could complacently report that
multitudes had flocked to his court; whence he drew the cheerful inference
that the Irish after all, like other men, loved justice. So they did, and
do; but it was not the justice of the king's bench and Coke. Nor did they
love its administration by an alien conqueror. It was probably curiosity
as much as confidence that drew them to the court of Chief Justice Davies;
so the event proved.

The whole machinery of government, as well as the law and the judiciary,
was at the same time assimilated, formally at least, to the English model.
The corporate towns received new charters. The place of the military
deputy was taken by the head of a civil government with his officials.

Unhappily the ecclesiastical polity of England, with its tests and its
recusancy law, compelling attendance at the services of the State Church,
was at the same time thrust upon people to whom it was in itself and in
its associations abhorrent. Under Elizabeth there had been a politic
laxity. Now fines for recusancy are exacted. Intolerance of Catholic
dissent from the royal religion could not fail to be increased by the
Gunpowder Plot.

James I., with all his pedantry, his absurdities, and his stuffed
breeches, was not without something of the largeness of mind which culture
generally imparts. He could understand Bacon. His Irish policy, evidently
inspired by Bacon, was colonization, plantation as it then was called. For
this there was ample room on the forfeited lands of Tyrone and other
attainted chiefs, so far as legal ownership in the contemplation of
English law was concerned. But the attainders of the chiefs had not
cleared the lands of the members of their septs, in whose minds tribal
ownership was rooted. This was the weak point of the transplantation
policy, as in the sequel tragically appeared. Extensive grants, however,
were made to a colony formed by English and Scottish settlers, undertakers
as they were called. Of Scottish settlers there had before been not a few.
The city of London invested largely in the enterprise. Thus was formed in
Ulster, and in Ulster has continued to exist to the present time, a sort
of Protestant pale. Bacon's philosophic eye ranges complacently over the
prospect of a people of barbarous manners "brought to give over and
discontinue their customs of revenge and blood and of dissolute life and
of theft and rapine, and to give ear to the wisdom of laws and
governments; whereupon immediately followeth the cutting of stones for
building and habitation, and of trees for the seats of houses, orchards,
enclosures, and the like." Beyond doubt this settlement was an improvement
in material respects. Nor, though the new settlers might domineer, was
their domination likely to be more oppressive and insolent than that of
the native chief, with his gallowglasses and his coyne and livery. The
tribal ownership of land had probably become almost a fiction, the chief
treating the land as his own. Little, therefore, was actually lost in
that way by the tribesman, while there was an end of coyne and livery and
the other extortions of the chiefs. On the other hand the chief, however
oppressive, was nominally one of the tribe and a kinsman, and the land was
still tribal in the fancy of the sept. The tribesman was not liable to
eviction. Nor was improvement in agriculture or even in advancement of law
and order likely to be so fascinating to the native Irish, especially to
gallowglasses and kernes, as to Bacon. The adventurers were apt to be of a
sordid class, ravenous, close-fisted, little likely to make themselves
beloved. The eagles of enterprise spread their wings for the Spanish main;
the vultures swooped upon Ireland. The medley of Brehon law and English
law, with the variety of titles, some by forfeiture for treason, others by
ancient grants from the Crown, formed an element in which the art of the
predatory pettifogger had full play. By legal chicane, the chicane of an
alien law, many an Irish Naboth may have been dispossessed. There was,
moreover, the antagonism of religion, greatly intensified by the long
struggle in which the natives, fighting for independence, had looked up to
Rome for support and been fired at heart by the active zeal of her

The government meant well. It sent over an able lord deputy in the person
of Chichester, who did his best for healing and improvement. In
improvement he was somewhat hasty and procrustean. He might have done
better had he only imbibed Bacon's spirit of philosophic toleration, and
not fancied that for Irish barbarism Protestantism of the Anglican type
was the sovereign cure. Bacon, as one of his three specifics for the
recovery of the hearts of the people, had recommended a toleration,
partial and temporary at least, of the Catholic religion, which was to be
combined "with the sending over of some good preachers, especially of that
sort which are vehement and zealous persuaders and not scholastical, to be
resident in principal towns." The government issued a politic manifesto,
promising to all native Irish of the poorer class equal protection and
complete immunity from any oppressive claims of chiefs. But let the
government charm as wisely as it might, it could not charm away the
difference of race, language, and character, the antagonism of religion,
the memories of the long and murderous struggle, the ravenous cupidity and
overbearing attitude of the alien adventurer, the anguish of the native
who saw the stranger in possession of his land.

James called a Parliament for all Ireland, Catholic as well as Protestant.
It was packed for the Crown, which created boroughs for that purpose.
Still, it was something more like a national assembly than Ireland had
ever seen or in fact was destined again to see. The elections to it were
fiercely contested between the races and religions. Its first sitting was
characteristic. There was a division on the election of a speaker. One
party went out into the lobby. In its absence the other party seated its
man in the chair. The party which had gone out, returning and finding what
had been done, seated their man in the other man's lap. The importance of
this Parliament, however, is extolled by Sir John Davies, and one act, at
all events, stands to its credit. It repealed the statute of Kilkenny and
all other laws recognizing and perpetuating distinctions of race,
declaring that their cause had ceased, since the inhabitants of the
kingdom without distinction were henceforth under the protection of the
Crown, and the best way of settling peace was to allow their intercourse
and intermarriage so that they might grow into one nation. There was a
transient ray of sunlight on the dark scene. Efforts were made to improve
Trinity College, and learning shone forth in the person of Usher.


There was still in Ireland a mine charged with the wrath of the
dispossessed added to the hatred of race and religion, the religious
hatred being the more deadly because, the Protestants of Ireland being
Calvinist, the antagonism was extreme. The match was applied to the mine
by the outbreak of revolution in England under Charles I. Strafford,
having passed from the ranks of patriotism to the place left vacant by the
death of Buckingham in the councils of the king, came with his dark look
of command as viceroy to play the part of beneficent despot in Ireland,
and at the same time to raise an army there for his master. The part of
despot he played to perfection, making the Irish Parliament the tool of
his will, applying to it and to the government in general his own and
Laud's high royalist policy of Thorough. The part of beneficent despot he
played to a considerable extent. He set his heel on the rapacity of the
adventurers, compelling the chief of them, the Earl of Cork, to disgorge.
He enforced order and put down piracy, which in the general disorder had
become rife. He fostered the cultivation of flax and the linen trade,
though he paid blackmail to English protectionism by prohibiting the
woollen manufacture. He did his best to reform the State Church, which he
found sunk in torpor, sinecurism, and simony, while its edifices were
ruins and piggeries. Unluckily he was a strict Anglican, whereas the only
Protestantism in Ireland which had life in it was the Calvinistic
Protestantism represented by Usher. He made a mortal enemy by turning the
sumptuous monument of Lady Cork off the place of the high altar. But to
find means of raising an army for his king he had to resort to violent
measures. He dragooned the Parliament into granting extraordinary
supplies. The king had pledged himself in the form of "graces" to respect
and quiet titles to large tracts of land. These graces Strafford thrust
aside. By legal chicane and intimidation of juries he, in defiance of the
king's plighted word, confiscated a great part of the land of Connaught. A
legal raid of the Crown on the estates which the city of London had
purchased in Ulster made the lord deputy another formidable enemy. He
added to the number by trampling on the pride of men of rank and
influence. Strafford had formed his army. That he intended it as a
support to the arbitrary government of Charles is beyond question; his
betrayal of that intention by some loose words uttered in council formed
the most damaging piece of evidence against him; and though the army broke
up on his departure, fears of it continued to haunt the English mind and
to intensify English feeling against the Irish. The Irish Parliament
joined in the impeachment of the man who had trampled on it, and when
Strafford pleaded in defence of his arbitrary measures, that Ireland was a
conquered country, Pym's retort was, "They were a conquered nation! There
cannot be a word more pregnant or fruitful in treason than that word is.
There are few nations in the world that have not been conquered, and no
doubt but the conqueror may give what law he pleases to those that are
conquered; but if the succeeding pacts and agreements do not limit and
restrain that right, what people can be secure? England hath been
conquered, and Wales hath been conquered, and by this reason will be in no
better case than Ireland. If the king by the right of a conqueror gives
laws to his people, shall not the people by the same reason be restored to
the right of the conquered to recover their liberty if they can?"

Revolution was in the air. It stirred the heart of the Catholic cowering
under the penal law, who saw the foot of his arch-enemy the Puritan on the
steps of power. It stirred still more the heart of the disinherited
native, especially on the forfeited domain of Tyrone. One of those great
popular conspiracies of which the Irish have the gift was formed under the
leadership of Phelim O'Neill, who ranked among his countrymen as head of
the great sept of O'Neill, and cherished ancestral traditions of vast
domains and princely power. With Phelim O'Neill was a better man, Roger
Moore, one of the disinherited, a deadly enemy of England. The rebellion
posed as royalist, declaring for the king against the Puritan and
revolutionary Parliament; its aims were Ireland for the Irish, and
Catholicism as the Irish religion. Phelim O'Neill was not a man to
restrain from crime. But the people, once launched in insurrection, were
probably beyond control. They rose upon the English settlers in Ulster,
drove them from their homes, and massacred some thousands with the usual
cruelty, women and children taking part in the fiendish work. Many were
stripped naked and exposed to perish in the cold. Dublin was full of
shivering and famished fugitives. The capital itself narrowly escaped
through fortunate betrayal of the plot, such as in an Irish conspiracy
seldom fails. It was natural that panic should exaggerate the number
murdered, as it was that panic and superstition together should see the
spectres of the English who had been drowned by the rebels at Portadown.
The effect upon the English, above all upon the Puritan mind, was like
that of the Sepoy mutiny and the massacre of Cawnpore. Ruthless
retaliation followed. Where the Protestants got the upper hand, Irish men,
women, and children were butchered without mercy. Thenceforth the Irishman
was to the Puritan a wild beast or worse. All Irishmen who landed in
England to fight for the king, with the women who followed their camps,
were put to the sword. An Irishwoman left behind by a Munster regiment at
the siege of Lyme was torn to pieces by the women of the place.

The English Parliament at once, being short of money, passed, to provide
for the Irish war, an act confiscating in advance two and a half millions
of acres of rebel land as security for a loan; a measure, to say the
least, extreme and sure to make the conflict internecine. The act passed
without a dissentient voice, and was one of the last that received the
assent of Charles.

In Ireland against the dark clouds of the storm one rainbow appeared. The
Protestant Bishop Bedel, though a proselytizer, had by his beneficence won
the love of his Catholic neighbours. He and his family were not only
spared by the rebels, but treated with loving-kindness, and when he died a
farewell salute was fired over his grave.

Thus commenced a course of mutual slaughter which lasted eleven years,
and, according to Sir William Petty, cost, by sword, plague, and famine,
the lives of a third part of the population. A great pasture country was
reduced to the importation of foreign meat. A traveller could ride twenty
or thirty miles without seeing a trace of human life, and wolves, fed on
human flesh, multiplied and prowled in packs within a few miles of Dublin.
Numbers abandoned the country and enlisted in foreign services. Slave
dealers plied their trade and shipped boys and girls to Barbados.

Strafford's place as deputy not having been filled, the government
remained in the hands of the Puritan Lords Justices Parsons and Borlase,
the first an intriguer and jobber, the second a worn-out soldier and a
cipher. They had prorogued the Parliament by which they might have been
restrained. The commander of the army on the king's side and the
representative of the king's interest was Ormonde, the head of the
loyalist house or sept of Butler, a man thoroughly honourable as well as
able and wise, whose character stands out nobly amidst the dark carnival
of evil.

It is difficult to say to which of the contending parties the palm of
atrocity is to be awarded. Probably to that of the government, which knew
no measure in the extermination of Catholics and rebels. Where Ormonde
commanded there was sure to have been comparative mercy. Mercy there
certainly was on the side of the insurgents when they were commanded by
Owen O'Neill, a genuine soldier trained in foreign service and observant
of the rules of civilized war. But a papal legate who was in the Catholic
camp gleefully reports that after a battle won by the confederates no
prisoners had been taken. By the soldiery of the government at least
children were butchered, the saying being that "nits make lice."

The anti-Catholic policy of the Puritan government and the castle had
driven into the arms of insurrection the Catholic lords of the Pale,
English in blood, normally hostile to the tribes though they were. The
Confederation formed at Kilkenny a provisional government with an assembly
of priests and laity combined, which elected a council of war. The
assembly was presently joined by a papal nuncio, Rinuccini, who brought
money from Rome and it seems at the same time encouragement of the
rebellion from Richelieu. The nuncio sought to control everything in the
paramount interest of the Papacy, which thus once more appears as a power
of temporal ambition. The assembly was not unanimous. Of the clergy and
the nuncio the chief aims were the ascendency of the Catholic Church and
the recovery of the confiscated Church lands. The chief aims of the lay
lords were lay; they wanted relief from political disabilities and
recovery of their political power. Restoration to the Church of the abbey
lands, of the grantees of which they were the heirs, was by no means to
their mind.

Of the origin of the rebellion in Ulster King Charles was perfectly
innocent, though he drew suspicion on himself by some careless words.
Nothing worse for his cause could have happened. But when in his wrestle
with the Puritan he was thrown, he began to cast a longing eye on the
forces in Ireland which, though rebel and Catholic, were at all events
hostile to the Puritan. There ensued a series of tangled intrigues with
the Confederates, in the course of which Charles showed his usual
weakness and duplicity, while he was fatally committed by the mingled
rashness and tergiversation of his envoy, Glamorgan, the result being a
disclosure very injurious to the poor king's character and cause. The
Confederacy was divided between a party which was for treating and a party
which was for war to the knife. For war to the knife was the nuncio, an
ecclesiastical termagant of the Becket stamp, inflated with notions of his
own spiritual power and reckless in the pursuit of his own end, which was
to lay Ireland at the feet of the Pope. In all this the high-minded
Ormonde sadly stooped to take a part for his royal master's sake. When the
cause of his royal master was finally lost, he surrendered his command to
the Parliament and left Ireland.

After the execution of Charles the scene shifted again. Abhorrence of
regicide brought about a junction of the more moderate Protestants with
the more moderate Confederates, uniting different parties and sections
under a common profession of loyalty. Ormonde then returned to lead a
mixed and not very harmonious force against Michael Jones, the Republican
commander. He advanced to the attack of Dublin, but was totally defeated
by Jones.

Now on the wings of victory came Cromwell with ten thousand of the New
Model. His proclamation on landing promised to all who would keep the
peace, peace and protection for themselves. That proclamation, the first
utterance of law and order heard in those parts for ten years, was
strictly carried into effect. A soldier was hanged for robbing a native of
a fowl. No disorder, rapine, or outrage upon women is laid to the charge
of the Puritan army in Ireland. Cromwell sat down before Drogheda, which
was held by a large royalist garrison, partly English. The garrison having
refused to surrender on summons, he stormed. Two attacks failed; a third,
led by himself, took the town. He put the garrison to the sword. That a
garrison refusing to surrender on summons and standing a storm might be
put to the sword was the rule of war in those days; it was the law, though
not the rule, of war even in the days of Wellington. Nevertheless, this
was a fell act for a commander who was generally humane in war, and at
Worcester risked his life in persuading Royalists to take quarter. Of this
Cromwell was himself sensible, and he spoke of it with compunction. "I am
persuaded," he said in his despatch to the Parliament, "that this is a
righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches who have imbrued
their hands in so much innocent blood; and that it will tend to prevent
the effusion of blood for the future; which are the satisfactory grounds
to such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret." Were
remorse and regret ever breathed by Alva, Parma, or Tilly? What did the
soldiery of those Catholic commanders do when it stormed a Protestant
town? What did the British soldiery, maddened by the recollection of a
massacre far less than that of 1641 do, not only to the Sepoy mutineer,
but to the insurgent people of Oude? When Rupert stormed Leicester, the
town was sacked, and women and children were found among the dead. The
Royalist Carte, in his life of Ormonde, commenting on the slaughter of the
garrison of Drogheda, says, "This was certainly an execrable policy in
that regicide. But it had the effect he proposed. It spread abroad the
terror of his name; it cut off the best body of the Irish troops and
disheartened the rest to such a degree that it was a greater loss in
itself and much more fatal in its consequences than the rout at
Rathmines." This is not a defence, nor much of an excuse. But it testifies
to a motive other than mere thirst of blood and shows that Cromwell spoke
the truth.

There was cruel slaughter again at the storming of Wexford, but it does
not appear that it was ordered by Cromwell. The defences having been
carried, the combat was renewed within the town by the townspeople, who,
it is stated, had provoked wrath by their piracy and by drowning a number
of Protestants in a hulk. The city had been summoned to surrender on fair

Cromwell was at once called away to the war with Scotland. He left the war
in Ireland to be finished by Ireton and Ludlow, who gradually extinguished
organized resistance, leaving only something between guerilla warfare and
brigandage called "Toryism," a name presently transmitted to a great
political party in England which bore it as a name of honour, in
opposition to that of Whig, on every hypothesis equally humble in its

The two races and religions had fought for the land, and the Saxon and
Protestant had won. It is surely simple to suggest that the winner ought
to have invited the loser to take the prize, especially after such a
display of that loser's sentiments and intentions as the massacre of 1641.
Had it not been made fearfully clear that the two races and religions
could not dwell together in peace? The victorious Puritan drove the
Catholic into Connaught. The Catholic, if he could, would have driven the
Puritan into the sea. The original decree of "To Hell or Connaught," the
hateful sound of which still rings in Irish ears, seems to have been
somewhat mitigated as the wrath of the victor cooled. At all events the
sentence extended to landowners only, not to artisans and labourers, who
were to remain where they were and to be disciplined and civilized by
English masters. A great number of those who had fought on the losing side
were sent away to foreign service, ridding Ireland of a manifest danger
and forming the first instalment of the grand Irish element in the armies
of Catholic Europe. There was also a large deportation to Barbados,
including probably families left behind by the military emigration. This
was cruel work, the more so as there was terrible suffering in the
passage. The whole business was horrible and deplorable. But in passing
sentence on the winner we must remember what the loser, had he been the
winner, would have done. The shadow of an evil destiny was over all.
Deportation was not to slavery for life, but to terminable bondage, one
degree less cruel.

To cast all on Cromwell is most unfair. He had nothing specially to do
with Ireland till he came to put an end to the war. He left it forever
when he had struck his decisive blow. He could no more have given back the
contested land to the Catholics than he could have turned the Shannon to
its source. The act under which the land had been forfeited in advance and
a loan on it raised had been passed by the unanimous vote of Parliament
and had received the assent of the king. The soldiers who held land-scrip
for their pay presented their claims. As little would it have been
possible for Cromwell, even if he had desired it, to license the
celebration of the Mass, which in Puritan eyes was a sign, not only of
idolatry, but of allegiance to a foreign power, that power the mortal
enemy, not of the Protestant religion only, but of the Protestant State.
With liberty of conscience Cromwell declared that he would not interfere.
This was something in an age when the rack and the stake of the
Inquisition were still at work and when Irish troopers in the service of a
Catholic power were butchering the Protestant peasantry of Savoy. If the
Nuncio Rinuccini had got the upper hand in Ireland, a retirement of heresy
into the sanctuary of conscience would scarcely have saved it from the
stake. Cromwell does not appear to have persecuted in Ireland or to have
given the word for persecution.

The Protector united Ireland as well as Scotland to England, thus bringing
the factions under the control of a strong government, Ireland's only hope
of peace. Union assured her free trade with Great Britain and the
dependencies, an inestimable boon, not in the way of material wealth only,
but in that of commercial civilization, as its withdrawal afterwards
fatally proved. Her shipping was at the same time assured of exemption
from the disabilities of the Navigation Laws. The Protector sent her a
good governor in the person of his son Henry, who seems to have identified
himself with the welfare of her people. He sent her a liberal law reformer
in the person of Chief Justice Coke, proposing to himself to treat her as
a blank paper, whereon he could write reforms such as professional bigotry
debarred him from effecting in England. His mortal enemy Clarendon, after
dilating on the iniquities of the settlement, says, "And, which is more
wonderful, all this was done and settled within little more than two years
to that degree of perfection that there were many buildings raised for
beauty as well as use, orderly and regular plantations of trees, and
fences and enclosures raised throughout the kingdom, purchases made by
one from the other at very valuable rates, and jointures made upon
marriages, and all other conveyances and settlements executed, as in a
kingdom at peace within itself, and where no doubt could be made of the
validity of titles." If these material improvements were at first limited
to the domain and race of the victor, they would in time have spread.

Cromwell's own letter to Sadler on the administration of justice in
Ireland breathes anything but the ferocity ascribed to him. About religion
he speaks in his unctuous Puritan way, but in a tone far from savage.
"First let me tell you, in divers places where we come, we find the people
very greedy after the Word, and flocking to Christian meetings; much of
that prejudice that lies upon poor people in England being a stranger to
their minds. And truly we have hoped much of it is done in simplicity; and
I mind you the rather of this because it is a sweet symptom, if not an
earnest of the good we expect."[1]

His words on the social question in the same letter show tenderness of
feeling. "Sir, it seems to me we have a great opportunity to set up until
the Parliament shall otherwise determine, a way of doing justice among
these poor people, which for the uprightness and cheapness of it may
exceedingly gain upon them who have been accustomed to as much injustice,
tyranny, and oppression from their landlords the great men, and those that
should have done them right as (I believe) any people in that which we
call Christendom.... Sir, if justice were freely and impartially
administered here, the foregoing darkness and corruption would make it
look so much the more glorious and beautiful and draw more hearts after
it." This is not the language of hatred, much less of extermination.

Critics of Cromwell fail to notice that his mind opened as he rose,
notably in the way of religious toleration. The Ironside had now become a
great statesman. "Savage" the writer of his domestic letters surely can
never have been.

The representatives of Ireland in the Parliament of the Protectorate, it
is true, were nominees. A popular election on the morrow of the Civil War,
and with its embers still glowing, would have been out of the question.
The union of the Parliaments effected, and representation granted, popular
election would have come in time. Meantime, there was the sheltering and
controlling authority of the Protector and the Council of State.

To charge Cromwell with having misunderstood the genius of the Irish
nation and wronged it by his policy seems absurd. There was, in reality,
no Irish nation. There was an island inhabited partly by the wreck of
Celtic tribes, partly by conquerors and colonists of another race, the two
races differing widely in character, speaking different languages, having
antagonistic religions, not alien only, but desperately hostile to each
other. Deadly experience had shown that, left to themselves, they could
not live at peace. There was no political union, no attachment to a native
dynasty, no tradition or sentiment truly national among the wreckage of
the septs. The religious bond, it is true, had been greatly strengthened
among them by the conflict, and formed something like a national tie. But
adaptation of his policy to Catholic character and sentiment could hardly
be expected of a Puritan chief in the age of the Spanish Inquisition.

The European war between Catholicism and Protestantism, and the consequent
mingling of religious with political strife, were everywhere a fatal
stumbling-block to statesmanship in that day. It does not seem that
Cromwell dealt with the difficulty in England or Ireland less wisely and
liberally than did statesmanship elsewhere. Perhaps the greater share of
liberality was his. The signs of his personal inclination were certainly
on the liberal side.


The death of the Protector before his hour, and the military anarchy which
ensued, brought on the Restoration. The Restoration brought claims on the
part of dispossessed Royalism for restitution in both countries. The
occupants of confiscated lands in Ireland, seeing what must come, had
under the leadership of opportunist politicians, such as Broghill and
Cork, worshipped with politic rapture the return of the Royal Sun. The
disinherited on the other hand clamorously pressed their claim to
restitution. To that claim honour bade and sympathy inclined Charles II.
to give ear. But the adventurers were a formidable body, and while their
professions were fervently loyal their hands were on their swords. Nor did
Protestant England, even in its hot fit of loyalty, love the Irish
Catholic or forget the massacre of 1641. There ensued a vast controversy,
desperately embarrassing to Clarendon, Charles's chief adviser, to Charles
himself no doubt an insufferable bore. Intrigue and corruption, in which
the possessors were strong, contended with argument in the fray. The
government at last took refuge in the appointment of a commission
instructed to decide claims to restitution on the principle of complicity
or non-complicity in the rebellion of 1641; a criterion rather difficult
of application, since Charles I. had on the one hand assented to the Act
of Forfeiture, and on the other hand by treating with the Confederates had
practically recognized their loyalty to the crown. The upshot was an Act
of Settlement with a supplementary Act of Explanation, under which the
possessors retained about two-thirds of the lands, the disinherited
getting the other one-third, eked out with scraps, which by escheat or
forfeiture for regicide were at the disposal of the crown. The Act of
Settlement was thenceforth in the eyes of the Protestant possessor the
great charter of proprietary right, to be upheld at whatever cost; in the
eyes of the dispossessed Catholic, the hateful muniment of proprietary
wrong, to be cancelled whenever he had the power. The net result of the
Act of Settlement and Explanation was that Ulster was left, as it remains,
a Protestant pale.

The Anglican State Church recovered all its possessions and privileges,
and was once more planted on the neck of a Catholic people. It is sad to
learn that Jeremy Taylor, who, when under persecution, had eloquently
defended liberty of prophesying, as a bishop of the restored Irish
establishment defended that liberty no more. But how could a hierarch of
the State Church of Ireland fail to don its spirit with his mitre?

The whole of the Protector's work was undone. The union of Scotland and
Ireland with England was broken. Ireland was again reduced to the state of
a dependency, and of a dependency unloved and unrespected, whose interests
were to be always sacrificed to those of the country which was the seat of
power. Of this she was soon made fatally sensible. Protectionism was the
creed of that dark age. Ireland as a fine grazing country had been doing a
profitable export trade with England in cattle, pork, bacon, and dairy
produce. The English grazier demanded of his Parliament protection against
the free importation of food, denounced by him as a "nuisance." On his
demand an act was passed prohibiting the trade. Good sense and the public
interest struggled hard. The debate was unusually fierce. Ominous
expressions of contempt for the Irish were heard, and led to a challenge.
The king had the good sense to disapprove the measure, but gave way, as he
was sure to do. The patriotic policy of the grazier triumphed. Irish fish
narrowly escaped prohibition at the same time. This was the first of a
line of prohibitive acts fatal to the commerce of Ireland and to her
commercial civilization. At the same time she came under the Navigation
Laws, which were fatal to her shipping trade.

Ireland, however, had the good fortune to be during the greater part of
the reign of Charles II. under the government of that Duke of Ormonde who
had commanded for the king in the Civil War. The duke was a statesman,
like Clarendon and Southampton, of the old and honourable cavalier school,
untainted by the political profligacy or the social dissoluteness of the
men of the Cabal. He governed as impartially as the anti-Catholic laws and
his own strict Anglicanism would let him; did his best to keep the peace
between the factions, political and religious; promoted manufactures and
trade, encouraged and endowed education, founded a college of medicine,
organized a national militia. He heartily identified himself with Irish
interests, and opposed the Cattle Act with an energy and a force of
argument which entitle his memory to the respect of free traders. It is
the sad truth that of Irish history between the Conquest and the Union the
one bright period is the viceroyalty of Ormonde.

Ireland unhappily, though her interests were out of the pale of English
care, was not out of the pale of English faction and revolution. The
Stuart brothers, plotting with their French patron the subversion of
English religion and liberty, looked to Catholic Ireland for help in their
plot. They cultivated the Catholic interest there, and against the law
promoted Catholics to office and command. Richard Talbot, lying Dick,
afterwards Duke of Tyrconnel, one of the lowest of their wonderfully low
agents, as well as about the most violent, appeared upon the scene. It was
probably by thwarting or refusing to promote this conspiracy that Ormonde,
a strict Protestant though of the Anglican school, and constitutional
though a monarchist, incurred temporary dismissal from his viceroyalty.
Possibly in the same quarter may be sought the explanation of the
mysterious attempt at murdering him by Blood, of the criminal connection
of the court with whom there can be little doubt. On the other hand, the
cruel anti-Catholic panic, created in England by the well-founded
suspicion of danger to Protestantism from Stuart intrigue with France
which gave birth to the Popish plot, extended its rage to Ireland. The
last and most pitiable of the innocent victims of that frenzy was the
Catholic Archbishop Plunket.


Signs of preparation for the Stuart attack on Protestantism and liberty
were visible in Ireland as well as in England in the last years of Charles
II. But the blow was suspended during the life of the Merry Monarch, who
preferred the calm of the seraglio to the stir of a great enterprise, and
did not want to go again upon his travels. With the accession of Charles's
fanatical and blundering brother, the crisis came. The Viceroy Clarendon,
a Tory of Tories, but an Anglican, was deposed from the viceroyalty, and
quitted Ireland with a stream of Protestant refugees in his train. Into
his place vaulted Dick Talbot, now Duke of Tyrconnel, drunk with the fury
of Romanizing and despotic reaction. A Catholic reign of terror set in.
Protestants were disarmed; driven from places of authority, political,
judicial, or municipal; practically outlawed, plundered, outraged,
compelled to fly for their lives. The country seethed with a general orgie
of insurrection and revenge. The people swarmed to the standard of
Catholic and agrarian revolution, rather than to that of the English
king, for whom they cared little and who cared little for them. Presently
came James, ejected from England, with the power of his French patron at
his back. Under him a packed Parliament repealed the Act of Settlement by
which the Protestants held their lands, proclaiming reconfiscation and
expulsion on a vast scale. Not satisfied with this, the Parliament passed
a monstrous Act of Attainder against a large portion of the Protestant
proprietary. Nor can it be assumed that the frantic hatred which inspired
this act would have confined itself to spoliation, for which the repeal of
the Act of Settlement might have pretty well sufficed. A long lifetime had
not yet passed since 1641. James, who was not an Irish patriot but an
English king out of possession, would have vetoed the Act of Attainder had
he dared. But he dared not. He even suffered himself in this case to be
divested of the royal prerogative of pardon. Another prerogative, that of
regulating the coin, he exercised by sanctioning a base issue on a large
scale, which, being made legal tender, completed the ruin of the
Protestant trader.

But Protestantism, the stern Protestantism of the Calvinist, rallied on
its own ground, and behind the mouldering walls of Derry made against a
Catholic host one of the heroic defences of history, a worthy theme in an
after time for the most brilliant of historians. In the battle of Newtown
Butler, Protestantism again triumphed over odds. Succour at length came
from England. It came first in the person of the renowned Schomberg, whose
army, however, made up of raw recruits, ill supplied by fraudulent
contractors, and filled with disease by the moisture of the climate,
miserably rotted. At last the bonfires of jubilant Protestantism announced
that William of Orange had landed. On the Boyne he gained a small battle
but a great victory, which decided that the Protestant Saxon, not the
Catholic Celt, should be master of Ireland. James fled to the luxurious
asylum of his French master, and with him fled the last hope of the
Catholic cause.

Once more, however, at Aghrim, the Catholic, under the command of the
French General St. Ruth, accepted the wager of battle in open field. He
fought well, and the fortune of the day wavered, when a cannon shot took
off St. Ruth's head. Protestantism owed its victory largely to a regiment
of French Huguenots exiled by the bigoted tyranny of their own king.

All was over in the field. The irresistible Marlborough reduced Cork and
Kinsale. But in Limerick, by soldiers pronounced untenable, Catholicism
had its Derry. Its hero Sarsfield, by a daring march, cut off William's
siege artillery, and, after a fierce assault, gallantly repulsed, William
was fain to raise the siege. After his departure Ginkell again invested
the place, and Sarsfield, finding that the last hour of the last Catholic
stronghold had come, capitulated on terms. The military terms of the
surrender were strictly observed. The political terms, securing a measure
of religious liberty to Catholics, though endorsed by William in his wise
Dutch love of toleration, were repudiated by Parliament. The "violated
treaty of Limerick" was an ugly business, though there seems to have been
no protest at the time. But James had fled. The garrison of Limerick had
no status but a military one, to which surrender put an end. Politically
they were merely insurgents. Could any political terms made with them have
bound the sovereign authority of the Irish and British Parliaments in
dealing with their own citizens forever? Can Sarsfield have thought that
they did?

A crowd of Irish women and children lined the shore at Limerick, watching
with tearful eyes the receding sails of the fleet which bore away their
husbands and fathers, the garrison of the last Catholic stronghold, to
service in foreign lands. The defenders of Limerick were thus exchanged
for the Huguenot exiles who had charged and conquered at Aghrim. Those
men, with many an exile from Catholic Ireland who followed in their track,
went to form the Irish brigade and to redeem on foreign fields battles
lost in their own land.


In that mortal struggle, had the Catholic won, he would have deprived the
Protestant certainly of his land, perhaps of his life. The Protestant,
having won, proceeded at once to avenge and secure himself by binding down
his vanquished foe with chains of iron. Chains of iron indeed they were.
By the series of enactments called the Penal Code, passed by the Irish
Parliament with some assistance from that of England, the Irish Catholic
was reduced to helotage political and social, while measures were taken
for the extirpation of his religion. To crush him politically he was
excluded from Parliament, from the franchise, from municipal office, from
the magistracy, from the jury box, as well as from public appointments of
all kinds, and even from the police force. To crush him socially he was
excluded from all the higher callings but that of medicine, from the
bench, from the bar, and from the army. He was denied the armorial
bearings which denoted a gentleman. To divorce him from the land, he was
forbidden to acquire freehold or a lease beneficial beyond a certain
rate; he was debarred from bequeathing his estate; and his estate was
broken up by making it heritable in gavelkind. The gate of knowledge was
closed against him. He was shut out of the university; forbidden to open a
school; forbidden to send his children abroad for education. That he might
never rise against oppression, he was disarmed and prohibited from keeping
a horse of more than five pounds' value. He might not even be a gamekeeper
or a watchman.

The law, without actually prohibiting the Catholic religion, provided, as
was hoped, for its extirpation. All priests were required to be
registered, and were forbidden to perform service out of their own parish.
All Catholic archbishops and bishops were banished, and were made
punishable with death if they returned, so that in future there could be
no ordinations. Monks and friars also were banished. Catholic chapels
might not have bells or steeples. There were to be no pilgrimages or
wayside crosses. Rewards were offered to informers against Catholic
bishops, priests, and schoolmasters, and their trade was lauded as
honourable service to the state. Marriage of a Catholic with a Protestant
was prohibited; to perform it was a capital offence; so was conversion of
a Protestant to Catholicism. Religious hatred outraged domestic affection
by enacting that if the son of a Catholic turned Protestant the
inheritance should at once vest in him, his father being reduced to a life
interest; that the wife of a Catholic turning Protestant should be set
free from her husband's control and entitled to a settlement; that a
Catholic could not be a guardian, so that, dying, he had to leave his
children to the guardianship of an enemy of their faith.

Representatives of the government designated the Catholics officially as
"our enemies." The Irish Parliament was exhorted to put an end to all
distinctions except that between Protestant and Papist. To such a relation
between races under the same government history can scarcely show a
parallel, unless it be the case of the Moriscos in Spain.

"It was," says Burke, "a complete system full of coherence and
consistency; well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a
machine of wise and elaborate contrivance and was as well fitted for the
oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people and the debasement
in them of human nature itself as ever proceeded from the perverted
ingenuity of man." It was the panic rage of a garrison which had narrowly
escaped extermination, and less cruel than the treatment of the Huguenots
by the Catholic king at the instigation of the Jesuit and with the
approbation of the Catholic Church in France. The fires of the Inquisition
were still burning, and continued for some time to burn. If the British
Parliament shares the guilt of the Penal Code, twice had an army of Irish
Catholics been raised for the destruction of English liberties. When last
those liberties were in the extremity of peril, a force of Irish Catholics
had been encamped at Hounslow. Nor was Catholicism merely a religion. It
was allegiance to a power which claimed the suzerainty of Ireland, which
had launched the decree of deposition against Elizabeth, which, after the
rising of 1641, had sent its nuncio to the rebel council of Kilkenny.
These memories on both sides ought long ago to have been consigned to a
common grave.

At the same time it was deplorable that the settlement of the Catholic
provinces after their reconquest should have been left to the Protestants
of Ireland, transported with rage and fear. The true course, had it been
possible, was the union of Ireland with England. Representatives of the
loyal districts of Ireland might have been called at once to the
Parliament at Westminster. The rest of the island might have been placed
under a strong government of pacification and settlement, till peace and
the reign of law had been thoroughly restored. It is needless to say that
such a solution could not even suggest itself to the mind of any statesman
at that time.

In extirpating the Catholic religion the policy of the Penal Code failed.
To the faith which was their only comfort and sole redemption from utter
degradation the people more than ever clung. The priests braved the law,
celebrated mass in hiding-places, furtively ordained, several hands being
laid on at once that the man ordained might be able to swear that he did
not know who had ordained him. They taught in hedge schools, and, though
but coarsely educated themselves, preserved the scantling there was of
knowledge and civilization among the people. In their celibacy they had a
great advantage for such work. Interested conversions among Catholics of
the higher class, especially as passports to the bar, seem not to have
been uncommon. An old lady of an ancient line is said to have embraced
Protestantism avowedly against her conscience, saying that it was better
that one old woman should burn than that the estates of the house of
Tomond should go out of the family. But disinterested conversions there
were none. On the other hand Protestants in isolated settlements were
turned Catholic by social contagion.

Other parts of the code took deadly effect. The Catholics generally ceased
to own land. Of their landed gentry, some went into exile. The people,
bereft of their natural leaders, sank into apathetic helotage and mute
despair. Neither in 1715 nor in 1745, when a pretender again unfurled the
banner of the House of Stuart, was there the slightest political movement
among them. Socially, the iron had entered their souls and they cowered
under the yoke of the ascendancy. Once, an informer having tendered a
Catholic the legal ten pounds for his pair of fine horses, the Catholic
drew his pistol and shot the pair. But this was a rare spark of
self-respect on the part of the helot.

The cup of woe was not yet full. In England, with revolution principles,
the mercantile party had mounted to power, and commerce in those days was
everywhere ridden by the fallacy of protectionism, which killed the only
good articles in the Treaty of Utrecht, those opening free trade with
France. Ireland, the English protectionist regarded as a foreign country,
and a particularly dangerous enemy to his interest. The cattle trade
having been killed by the act of Charles II., the Irish had taken to the
export trade in wool and to woollen manufactures. The wool grown on Irish
sheepwalks was of the finest, and was eagerly purchased by France and
Spain. This industry also English monopoly killed by prohibiting the
exportation of wool to foreign countries and the importation of Irish
woollen goods into England. The same jealous rapacity seems to have
successively killed or crippled the cotton industry, the glove-making
industry, the glass industry, the brewing industry, to each of which
Ireland successively turned; English greed being bent, not only on
excluding the Irish competitor from its own market, but on keeping the
Irish market to itself. Ireland had been promised free enjoyment of the
linen trade, which Strafford had encouraged by promoting the growing of
flax while he discouraged the wool trade; yet even this promise Irish
financiers could accuse England of eluding by tricks of the tariff.
England needing more bar iron than she could produce, the importation of
bar iron from Ireland was allowed; but the consequence was a consumption
of timber for smelting which denuded Ireland of her forests.

Cromwell's union would have secured to Ireland exemption from the
disabilities of the Navigation Laws. The Restoration imposed them. They
killed her trade with the colonies and killed her shipping interest at the
same time. "The conveniency of ports and harbours," said Swift, "which
nature has bestowed so liberally upon this kingdom, is of no more use to
us than a beautiful prospect to a man shut up in a dungeon."

In all this Ireland was treated as a colony, meant only to be a feeder to
the imperial country. But her position was worse than that of the
colonies, in which commercial restrictions generally were loosely
enforced, and which, when strict enforcement was attempted by Grenville,
rose in arms. The colonies, moreover, were regarded with pride and
affection. Popish Ireland was regarded with contempt and hatred.

The lawful trade in wool with foreign countries England had suppressed.
Its place was partly taken by a smuggling trade, for which the inlets of
the Irish coast afforded the best of havens, and which had the people
everywhere for confederates. Thus, in every line, religious, social,
educational, and commercial, the Irishman found the law his inveterate
enemy. Could he fail to be an inveterate enemy of the law?

Cut off from manufactures and from trade, the people were thrown for
subsistence wholly on the land, and land for the most part better suited
for pasture than for tillage. For the land they competed with the
eagerness of despair, undertaking to pay for their little lots rents which
left them and their families less than a bare subsistence. On such a scene
of misery as the abodes of the Irish cotters the sun has rarely looked
down. Their homes were the most miserable hovels, chimneyless, filthy. Of
decent clothing they were destitute. Their food was the potato; sometimes
they bled their cattle and mixed the blood with sorrel. The old and sick
were everywhere dying by cold and hunger, and rotting amidst filth and
vermin. When the potato failed, as it often did, came famine, with disease
in its train. Want and misery were in every face; the roads were spread
with dead and dying; there were sometimes none to bear the dead to the
grave and they were buried in the fields and ditches where they perished.
Fluxes and malignant fevers followed, laying whole villages waste. "I have
seen," says a witness, "the labourer endeavouring to work at his spade,
but fainting for want of food, and forced to omit it. I have seen the
helpless orphan exposed on the dunghill, and none to take him in for fear
of infection. And I have seen the hungry infant sucking at the breast of
the already expired parent."[2] There was an enormous amount of vagrancy
and mendicity, as there was in Scotland before the union. This was under
the government of the first of free nations, and in the era of Newton,
Addison, and Pope.

Reduced to living like beasts, the people multiplied their kind with
animal recklessness. The result was fatal overpopulation, the pressure of
which, aggravated by occasional failures of the treacherous potato, could
be relieved only by the tragic remedy of emigration on an immense scale.

Of the landowners, who might have had compassion on their serfs, many were
absentees; residence in Ireland, especially when agrarian war began, being
hardly pleasant. Their place was taken by the middleman, through whose
ruthless agency they extorted their rents and who frequently sublet,
sometimes even three or four deep, so that the cotter groaned under a
hierarchy of extortion. From the ranks of the middlemen were partly drawn
the upstart gentry, or squireens, a roistering, debauched, drinking, and
duelling crew, whose tyrannical insolence scandalized Arthur Young,
ruling with the horse-whip a peasantry cowering under the lash and
hopeless of redress by the law. The peasantry still largely spoke Erse,
another badge of their social inferiority, and a further barrier between
them and the ruling class.

To the extortion of the middleman was added that, even more hated, of the
tithe proctor. The Protectorate had at all events relieved Ireland of the
Anglican State Church. That incubus the monarchy reimposed, and the
peasant was compelled out of the miserable produce of his potato field or
patch of oats, besides the exorbitant rent, not only to provide for his
own priest, but to pay tithe to a clergy whose mission was to extirpate
the peasant's religion. The Anglican bishoprics were rich. The rectories
for the most part were miserably poor, so that pluralism might be
necessary to make an income. But pluralism of the most scandalous kind
also prevailed, and we have a dean holding two groups of livings, fourteen
livings in all, one group twelve miles away from the other. Some of the
clergy, on the plea that there were no glebe houses for them, were drawing
their tithes in the pump room and at the card tables of Bath. Bishops were
sometimes non-resident as well as scandalously secular and inert. Most of
them were English, and appointed to keep up the English interest. There
were bright exceptions, such as Bolter, King, above all Berkeley, but they
were few. Swift could say of Irish bishops that government no doubt
appointed good men, but they were always murdered on Hounslow Heath by the
highwaymen, who took their credentials, personated them, and were
installed in their place. There have been worse institutions than the
State Church of Ireland; there was never a greater scandal. Even if
Anglicanism had been less alien to the Irish heart, what chance would such
missionaries as these have had against the devoted emissaries of Rome?
What must have been the feelings of the Irish peasant when of his crop of
potatoes, all too scanty for him and his children, the tithe proctor came
to claim a tenth part in the name of a Christian minister?

There were prelates of a better stamp who sought to do well by the people.
Under their auspices were set up the chartered schools, to give poor Irish
children an industrial education. But the work of charity was marred by
bigotry. The children were taken from their Catholic parents and forcibly
brought up as Protestants, whereby the heart of the Catholic parent was
filled with anguish, and more bitter offence, it seems, was given than by
any other kind of repression. The schools at last became a sink of abuse,
inhumanity, and corruption.

Rural Ireland was a recruiting ground for the armies of the Continent. On
some lonely hillside the recruiting agent reviewed the youth of the
neighbourhood, picked out the strong, the flower of the population, and
turned back the feeble to their miserable homes.

If anything was to be done for the extension of Protestantism, union among
the Protestant minority was indispensable, and the enthusiasm of the
Calvinist, sombre as it was, might have had its attractions for the Celt,
as it had for the Celts of the Scottish Highlands, among whom it gave
birth to the hill preachers, and for those of Wales with whom Calvinistic
Methodism prevailed. But the bishops of the State Church hated the
Presbyterian even more bitterly than they hated the Catholic. After their
brief and hollow alliance with the Nonconformists, when their own interest
was threatened, they had speedily relapsed into High Anglicanism, and
under the not unsuitable leadership of the infidel Bolingbroke had taken
to persecuting Nonconformity in England. They extended the persecution to
Ireland, excluding by the Sacramental Test the defenders of Derry from
municipal office and military service. They imported the Schism Act,
forbidding Nonconformists to open schools. They threatened interference
with Presbyterian worship, Ireland having no Toleration Act. They disputed
the validity of Presbyterian marriage. They thus set flowing a stream of
Presbyterian emigration from the north of Ireland to the American
colonies. The stream was afterwards swelled by the rapacity of Lord
Donegal and other landed proprietors of Ulster, who, being owners of great
estates, when the leases of their tenants ran out, instead of renewing
them to the tenant, put them up to the highest bidder. Starving Catholics,
in the desperate competition for land, outbidding the Protestants, a
number of Protestant families were driven from their homes. The
consequence was, first, aggressive insurrection under the names of the
Heart of Oak Boys and the Steel Boys, ultimately emigration to America.
Thus the Church and the landlord between them were charging the mine of
American revolution.


Presently, too, inexorable nature made her voice heard, proclaiming that
Ireland, with its rich pastures and watery skies, was in the main not an
arable but a grazing country. There was a good market for meat.
Speculators began buying up land and throwing it into large grazing farms.
The cotter was ejected and driven to the bogs and mountains. This
overtaxed even a cotter's submission, and there broke out an agrarian war,
the most deadly perhaps in history, the canker and disgrace of British
government, protracted in varying phases and with fluctuating intensity
almost from that day to this. Companies of men, wearing white shirts over
their clothes, and thence afterwards called Whiteboys, harried the grazing
farms by night, and the stillness of the night air was broken by the
bellowings and moanings of hamstrung cattle.

Irish outrage has been essentially agrarian, rather than religious. The
division of churches coincided generally with the social division. The
middleman was necessarily Protestant, since, under the penal law, no
Catholic could acquire a beneficial lease; and the antagonism of religion
and language emphasized and embittered that of class and interest. But a
Catholic generally suffered like a Protestant if he provoked the wrath of
the people. A Protestant settling in a Catholic district, if he was in any
way obnoxious, was especially liable to maltreatment. Later on there was a
hideous instance of this in the case of a Protestant schoolmaster settling
and opening his school in a Catholic district. He and his family were
mangled with horrible cruelty.

Nor can it be said that the landlords as a class were the objects of
hatred and outrage apart from the agrarian quarrel. A landlord who resided
and did not oppress his tenantry, especially if he were affable, jovial,
and hospitable, was generally the object of a clannish affection, though
his mansion might be a "Castle Rack-rent" and his serious duties might be
very indifferently performed.

The commercial restrictions and the Navigation Acts were fatal to the
prosperity of the whole island, while the penal inability of the Catholics
to invest could not fail to lower the value of land. This would be felt
by the conquering as well as by the conquered race and sect. Scotland, cut
off by the repeal of Cromwell's union from trade with England and the
dependencies, had so suffered commercially and industrially that she
swarmed with vagrants, and the ardent patriot, Fletcher of Saltoun,
proposed slavery as a remedy for the evil. The union, opening free trade
with England, brought commercial prosperity in its train. The English in
Ireland stretched out their hands to the British government for a union
like that which was being made with Scotland, and were coldly repelled. To
English protectionism the chief blame for the refusal no doubt is due. But
unwillingness to incorporate a large Catholic population may also have
played its part. Let the cause have been what it may, there is hardly
anything in the records of British statesmanship more deplorable than this
refusal of union to Ireland. Protectionism here again pleads the excuse of
universal delusion, and in no case is the excuse more needed.

Moreover, the Protestants of Ireland, British in blood and, as lords over
a subject race in their own country, more than British in pride, were
denied the enjoyment of British freedom. A Parliament they had; but that
Parliament could legislate only by grace of the English council and of a
council named by the lord lieutenant in Ireland. Its control even of money
bills was not recognized, while the Crown had a hereditary revenue which
made it almost independent of Parliamentary grants. In the Upper House,
owing to the large absenteeism of lay lords, the bench of bishops,
nominees of the Crown and agents of the British interest, largely held
sway. Of the three hundred seats in the House of Commons more than half
were filled by nominees of the patrons of pocket boroughs, which the Crown
had been always creating at its will, and the nominations were sold like
common merchandise. The House, moreover, swarmed with placemen and
pensioners. The Parliament was elected for a whole reign, so as to be
scarcely responsible even to such a constituency as it had. The Irish
Parliament of George II. continued for thirty-three years. There was a
session only in every other year. The English House of Lords arrogated to
itself the jurisdiction of final appeal. The judges held only during
pleasure. There was no annual Mutiny Act. There was no Habeas Corpus.
There were large sinecures, instruments of corruption in the hands of the
government. The pension list, swollen beyond bounds, was a privy fund for
kings' mistresses and for jobs too dirty for the English list. The high
appointments, ecclesiastical, administrative, and judicial, were treated
as patronage by the English government and generally reserved for
Englishmen. The face of their king the Irish never saw. The viceroy
resided only during a small part of his term, and his place was filled in
his absence by lords justices who were often bishops, English themselves,
and bent above all things on securing the ascendancy of the English
interest. Three archbishops in succession practically ruled Ireland.
Presbyterians and other Protestant Dissenters, victims of episcopal
intolerance, had crying wrongs of their own.

Union with England had been refused, and the protection of England being
no longer so manifestly indispensable to her garrison in Ireland as it had
been, a craving for self-government took its place. Molyneux, and after
him Lucas, alarmed and exasperated authority by writing in favour of the
independence of the Irish Parliament. But a far more potent artificer of
discord appeared in Swift, who, balked of preferment in England by the
wreck of his political party, exiled to a native land which he abhorred,
was eating his heart, and ripe for mischief, especially for any mischief
which could avenge him on the Whig government, above all on Walpole, its
chief, by whom it seems the path of this model Christian and pure writer
to a bishopric had been crossed. That a feeling of justice and of pity for
the sufferings of the Irish people, which Swift has vividly described, had
their place in his heart beside malice and vengeance, may be true; though
his sense of justice was not strong enough to prevent him, profane and
really sceptical as he was, from vehemently upholding the Penal Code and
the Sacramental Test; while his pity for the people led to no
philanthropic effort of a practical kind, and was not very tenderly
expressed in his satirical suggestion that they should appease their
hunger by eating their babies. His proposal to exclude English goods would
gratify his malice as well as his patriotism, and had it been adopted
would probably have led to a large increase of smuggling.

One of the grievances of Ireland was that there was no Irish mint. A new
copper coinage was needed. The contract was given by the English
government to the king's mistress, and by her sold to Wood, a respectable
manufacturer. As the coinage was approved by Sir Isaac Newton, then master
of the mint, it can hardly have been very bad. But Irish jealousy cast
suspicion upon its character. Then rose a storm of popular fury, improved
by Swift into a whirlwind on which he rode in his glory. Swift's "Drapier
Letters" are monuments of his genius for pamphleteering, his intense
malice, and his freedom from the restraints of truth. They produced an
immense effect, made him the idol of Dublin for the rest of his days, and
forced Walpole to give way and call in the halfpence. Their author did not
mention among the evils of an English connection that he and the members
of his State Church were enabled by the support of the British power to
set their feet upon the necks of four-fifths of the Irish people and to
wring from the starving Catholic the income of the dean of St. Patrick.
The letters ranged far beyond the immediate occasion, and appealed
strongly to the growing desire of independence, which we may be pretty
sure that Swift, had he been nominated by Bolingbroke to an English
bishopric, would have fiercely opposed. The Parliament to which his
revolution would have consigned Ireland is described by himself as a den
of thieves of which he devoutly desired the extirpation.

Presently there arose a patriot party in the Irish Parliament. It found a
leader in Flood, a man of solid ability and powerful in debate, while the
purity of his patriotism was not so clear. At Flood's side, or rather
perhaps, as the event proved, on his flank, there presently arose the far
more illustrious Grattan, whose purity and patriotism were unquestionable,
whose oratory was brilliant, his admirers thought divine. The objects
sought by the patriots were reduction of the duration of Parliaments,
control of money bills, an annual Mutiny Bill, Habeas Corpus, tenure of
the judges during life or good behaviour, reduction of the pension list,
exclusion of placemen and pensioners from the House of Commons, taxation
of the rents of absentees. On the first and most important point they
succeeded through a bargain with the Crown on the amount of the military
force. The duration of Parliament was cut down to eight years, that number
being preferred to seven, because it was only in alternate years that
Parliament sat. This was a very important change. War, with imperfect
success, was waged on the question of money bills. On the other points
reform made no way, the English government clinging obstinately to all its
powers and using its veto, while the lord lieutenant was able to avert a
crash by buying up a majority in the Irish Parliament. Taxation of the
rents of absentees, a measure very popular and much pressed, was vetoed
by the English government. The protest of the absentees against it was
evidently the work of Burke, whose patron, Lord Rockingham, had an estate
in Ireland. Burke argued that the double land-ownership was a link of
union between the two countries; which it might have been if the residence
as well as the proprietorship had been shared. The advocates of the tax
might have cited the original character of land grants to which feudal
service was annexed and which were forfeited by the failure of absentees
to perform it. Chatham supported the tax. For a moment, unhappily for a
moment only, his thoughts were turned to Ireland. A far greater service he
would have rendered his country by pacifying Ireland as he pacified the
Highlands than by his conquest of Canada, of which the loss of the
American colonies was the result. In the background there was a growing
sentiment in favour of independence, the flag of which was by Grattan
presently unfurled.

It was not in Ireland as it was in England, where the regular party system
prevailed and the minority changed with the majority in Parliament. The
Castle called to the council whom it pleased, without regard to the
existence of a political connection among them, though it was, of course,
under the necessity of calling those who could bring it support at the
time. The party tie was accordingly very loose and connections were
shifting. Flood had no scruple in providing for himself, apart from his
friends, by acceptance of a rich sinecure under the government. Hely
Hutchinson, a free lance, could use his personal influence in forcing the
government to make him provost of Trinity College.

For a time the Castle put itself into the hands of a junto of great lords
and owners of Parliamentary boroughs, who undertook to supply it with a
majority at the price of patronage and power. To break this ring and
restore the free action of government, an effort was made by the Lord
Lieutenant Townshend. But Townshend's boisterous energy, successful for a
time, in the end failed, and the Castle fell back into the routine of
government by intrigue and corruption, aided by viceregal dinners and

Chatham's glory dazzled Ireland as well as England. But presently came the
quarrel ending in war, with the American colonies, whose commercial
grievances were the same in kind as those of Ireland, practically less
severe. Ireland at once showed sympathy with American revolt. Presently
the island was divested of troops by the demands of the war, and its
coasts were left open to the attacks of privateers. There was no national
militia. Under the leadership of Lord Charlemont a body of volunteers,
almost entirely Protestant, was raised and reached at last the number of
forty thousand. There was, no doubt, in the movement a good deal of claret
and fanfaronade. But it included the leading gentry, and for its purpose
was very strong. Formed ostensibly, at first really, for defence against
the Americans, it presently fell politically into their track and demanded
of the British government, now prostrated by misfortune in the war and by
the combination of European powers against it, first freedom from the
commercial restrictions, then legislative independence. North made
commercial concessions; he would have made them on a much more liberal
scale and possibly have satisfied the volunteers. But again monopolist
greed, strong in the commercial cities of England, vetoed, and Burke lost
his seat at Bristol for advocating the policy of free trade. The victories
of Rodney and Eliot, had they come in time, might have strengthened the
hands of the British government and saved it from an ignominious
capitulation. As it was, the British government surrendered at discretion.
First the commercial restrictions were swept away; then the legislative
supremacy of England, embodied in the Poynings Act and the Act of the
Sixth of George I., affirming the right of the British Parliament to
legislate for Ireland, was renounced. Flood, the patriot with a bend
sinister, insisted on pushing the humiliation of England still further and
compelling her by a declaratory act solemnly to bind her own hands for the
future, while Grattan, the patriot without reproach, took the more
generous line. Thus England underwent the deepest humiliation in her
history at the hands of an Irish party which owed its land, its
ascendancy, probably its very existence, to her protecting power. Such was
the condign punishment of a long course of ignorant, blundering, and
corrupt misgovernment, a punishment not the less calamitous and degrading
because it was deserved.

So Grattan in the Irish Parliament was able, in a transport of rhetorical
rapture, to worship "the newborn nation," a nation which comprised a
fraction of the people of the country, the rest being still political
helots. Had he adored an uncontrolled Ascendancy, his deity would have
been real.

The volunteers, having felt their strength, were inclined to vote
themselves permanent, overawe Parliament, and enforce Parliamentary
reform. Flood was so misguided as to take that line. But the incarnation
of violent counsels was the bishop of Derry, an English nobleman holding
an Irish bishopric, a most absurd figure, and probably half insane. His
Right Reverence avowed that he looked forward to blood. He paraded before
the door of Parliament in a coach and six, dressed in purple with long
white gloves and gold tassels depending from them, and with a guard of
horse, looking as if he meant to be king. But the Parliament was firm, and
Lord Charlemont and other sane leaders were able to control the body,
which was drawn, not from a Faubourg St. Antoine, but from the
property-owning class under aristocratic leading. Still revolutionary
excitement did not die.

What was now the state of things? There were two independent Parliaments,
each with full powers of legislation, under the same Crown; that Crown not
being invested with authority to control and harmonize the action of the
two Parliaments, but being a Crown upon a cushion or little more. The
commercial and even the international relations of the two Parliaments
might point different ways. There might be a divergence on a question of
peace or war; one Parliament declaring for war, the other refusing to vote
the supplies. On general questions, such as commercial and criminal law,
opposition was possible to any extent; and considering the feelings
towards each other with which the partners set out, was not unlikely to
occur. Ireland might even refuse currency to English coin. The monarchical
link itself was not quite firm. On the question of the regency, when
George III. went mad, the two Parliaments did actually fly apart; the
Irish Parliament recognizing, while the British Parliament refused to
recognize, the claim of the Prince of Wales to the regency by virtue of
his birth. Only the king's recovery averted a collision. Adopted in haste
and in a rush of revolutionary ardour, the system was in fact unworkable
and must have ended in confusion. Grattan was unquestionably true to
British connection. But Grattan was not Ireland, and even he had led in no
very loyal attitude the defiance of the British Parliament on the regency
question. His statesmanship can hardly have been profound if he fancied
that the constitution of 1782 would work.

It is moreover always to be borne in mind that this Parliament was the
Parliament of a Protestant ascendancy, representing not one-quarter of the
people of Ireland, and that with all its high talk of independence, it
still owed, and knew that it owed, to British protection its power, its
privileges, its political pelf, perhaps even the safe possession under the
Act of Settlement of lands on which the disinherited still cast a longing
and vindictive eye.

How then was the policy of Ireland to be kept from breaking away from that
of Great Britain? The practical answer was, by corruption, the means of
which at the command of the Castle were, besides office, sinecures, some
of them very rich; commands in the army; pensions; bishoprics, with other
Church patronage; and peerages. The peerages, though lavishly created,
seem to have retained their value. The Parliament, the body on which
corruption had to operate, was a Parliament of rotten boroughs, the
nominations for which were sold in open market. The House of Commons
continued to swarm with placemen and pensioners, whose votes were at the
command of government. In the House of Lords the Anglican bishops were

Appended to a report made to Pitt on the political situation in Ireland is
the following schedule of corruption:--

     "H---- H----, son-in-law to Lord A----, and brought into Parliament
     by him. Studies the law; wishes to be a commissioner of barracks, or
     in some similar place. Would go into orders and take a living.

     "H---- D----, brother to Lord C----. Applied for office; but, as no
     specific promise could be made, has lately voted in opposition. Easy
     to be had if thought expedient. A silent, gloomy man.

     "L---- M----, refuses to accept £500 per annum; states very high
     pretensions from his skill in House of Commons management; expects
     £1,000 per annum. N.B.-- Be careful of him.

     "J---- N----, has been in the army and is now on half pay; wishes a
     troop of dragoons on full pay. States his pretensions to be fifteen
     years' service in Parliament. N.B.--Would prefer office to military
     promotion; but already has, and has long had, a pension. Character,
     especially on the side of truth, not favourable.

     "R---- P----, independent, but well disposed to government. His four
     sisters have pensions; and his object is a living for his brother.

     "T---- P----, brother to Lord L----, and brought in by him. A captain
     in the navy; wishes for some sinecure employment."


There was no lack, say apologists of the Irish Parliament, of useful
legislation on subjects with which a landed gentry was qualified to deal.
There was a fatal lack of legislation on one momentous subject with which
a land-owning gentry ought to be qualified to deal, but from which the
Irish Parliament resolutely turned its eyes. For half a century before the
union, that body steadfastly abstained from inquiring into the causes of
disaffection among the peasantry. It even repressed a report upon the
subject which the chairman of the committee had begun to read.

The condition of the peasantry was still horrible and heartrending. The
revolution of 1782, by loosening the fetters of trade, had brought
increase of prosperity to the merchant and manufacturer. It had brought no
relief to the tiller of the soil. A little before this Arthur Young had
travelled in Ireland and had been shocked at seeing the insolent despotism
of the petty country gentlemen, whom he called the vermin of the kingdom,
over their serfs; the horsewhip freely used, the serf not daring to lift
his hand in defence, the total denial of legal redress, since a justice of
the peace presuming to issue a summons would at once have been called out.
Landlords of consequence had assured Young that many of their cotters
would think themselves honoured by having their wives and daughters sent
for to the bed of their masters. He had even heard of the lives of people
being made free with. The middleman and the tithe-proctor were ruthless as
ever. To the payment of tithes a drop of bitterness had been added by the
exemption, through an abuse of political influence, of the grazing farms,
which left the whole burden of maintaining a hostile Church on the back of
the cotter. The peasantry, on the other hand, maddened by suffering, took
a fearful revenge on the oppressor or his agents. Agrarian murder and
outrage prevailed. There were cruelties worse than murder. Middlemen and
tithe-proctors were "carded"; that is, lacerated with boards full of nails
drawn down their backs, buried up to their necks in pits full of thorns,
made to ride on saddles stuck with spikes, their ears and noses cut off. A
clergyman was met riding in great agony with his head wrapped up; his ears
and cheeks were found nailed to a post. That the Irish when excited are
capable of dark atrocities is a feature of their character which it is
useless to disguise. Debility when excited is apt to be most cruel. The
trait showed itself plainly in the hamstringing of soldiers and the
houghing of cattle, as well as in the torturing of middlemen and
tithe-proctors. Law and police were paralyzed. The peasantry were one vast
conspiracy bound together by awful pledges, the betrayal of which was
death. No evidence could be obtained though there might be plenty of
eye-witnesses. Perjury in the common cause was no sin.

It was supposed that the Whiteboys had their meetings in Catholic chapels.
But there is no ground for taxing the Catholic Church as a body with any
share in the criminal part of the movement. The Catholic clergy of Ireland
were then, as they are now, a peasant clergy, sympathizing with their
class. They depended on that class for their stipends. Some of them their
sympathy might betray into complicity, more or less active, with agrarian
crime. More of them might be guilty of failure to exert their religious
authority as ministers of the sacraments, the confessional, and death-bed
absolution, on the side of law. But their record on the whole appears to
have been as clear as, considering what persecution they had undergone,
and that the law was their enemy as well as the enemy of the peasant, it
was reasonable to expect.

The mansion of an unpopular landlord became a besieged fortress.
Absenteeism of course increased. To a rather later date belongs the story
of an agent who, having complained to his absentee landlord that his life
had been threatened, received the reply, "Tell the villains that they need
not hope to intimidate me by shooting you."

     "I am well acquainted," said a statesman not oversensitive to popular
     wrongs, "with the Province of Munster, and I know that it is
     impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable
     tenantry of that province. I know that the unhappy tenantry are
     ground to powder by relentless landlords. I know that far from being
     able to give the clergy their just dues, they have not food and
     raiment for themselves; the landlord grasps the whole. Sorry I am to
     add that, unsatisfied with present extortion, some landlords have
     been so base as to instigate the insurgents to rob the clergy of
     their tithes, not in order to alleviate the distresses of the
     tenantry, but that they might add the clergy's share to the cruel
     rack-rents already paid. Sir, I fear it will require the utmost
     ability of Parliament to come to the root of these evils. The poor
     people of Munster live in a more abject state of poverty than human
     nature can be supposed able to bear. Their miseries are intolerable;
     but they do not originate with the clergy; nor can the legislature
     stand by and see them take the redress into their own hands. Nothing
     can be done for their benefit while the country remains in a state of

The miseries might not originate with the clergy, but the popular wrath
did originate specially with the exactions of the tithe-proctor. Grattan
proposed commutation. But then the tithe of pasture agistment, as it was
called, could no longer have been evaded. That simple reform was put off
for more than a generation, with the most calamitous results.

Dublin was gay, mansions rose, claret flowed, wit sparkled, the dance went
round. Nor was there lack of social polish or of culture of the classical
kind. On the other hand, there were extravagance, waste, and debt. Wild
and spendthrift characters appear among the leaders and mirrors of
society. Beauchamp Bagenal, as Sir Jonah Barrington tells us, "had visited
every capital of Europe, and had exhibited the native original character
of the Irish gentleman at every place he visited. In the splendour of his
travelling establishment, he quite eclipsed the petty potentates with whom
Germany was garnished. His person was fine, his manners open and generous,
his spirit high, and his liberality profuse. During his tour, he had
performed a variety of feats which were emblazoned in Ireland, and
endeared him to his countrymen. He had fought a prince; jilted a princess;
intoxicated the doge of Venice; carried off a duchess from Madrid; scaled
the walls of a convent in Italy; narrowly escaped the Inquisition at
Lisbon; concluded his exploits by a celebrated fencing match at Paris; and
he returned to Ireland with a sovereign contempt for all continental men
and manners, and an inveterate antipathy to all despotic kings and
arbitrary governments."

Duelling was the social law. The attorney-general fought a duel; the
provost of Trinity College fought a duel. Refusal of a challenge was
social death. The viceroy's secretary, when challenged by a disappointed
applicant for place, deemed it necessary to go to the field of honour.
Robert Fitzgerald was so addicted to duelling that he wore a chain shirt
under his vest.

What can have produced such characters? Was it anything in Irish blood or
air, or was it the absence of the commercial element with its sobering
influence? The story of Robert Fitzgerald, nephew of the bishop of Derry,
seems to bespeak a wild domestic despotism exercised by the squires.
Fitzgerald is said to have confined his father in a cave with a muzzled
bear. He put to death one of his household, for which, however, he was
hanged. The matrimonial adventurer from Ireland was also a figure well
known in the sister isle.

Of intellectual fruit there was not much except oratory, pamphlets, and
pasquinades. Swift was an Englishman born in Ireland and banished to the
place of his birth. Burke's genius as well as his physiognomy was one-half
Irish, and his Irish half had its share in that splendid but mischievous
outburst, his essay on the French Revolution. His heart turned to Ireland,
and some of his best thought was given to her case. But he hardly belongs
to the Irish Pantheon.

Oratory, both Parliamentary and forensic, flourished. Grattan, Flood,
Yelverton, Foster, Fitzgibbon (afterwards Lord Clare), Curran, are great
names in their different ways. Nor was the oratory all in the style
supposed to be Hibernian. Foster's style, for example, was grave and
weighty. So generally was that of Flood.

In Parliament there were lively scenes. Grattan and Flood having parted
company in politics, and Flood having defamed Grattan, Grattan poured upon
Flood a furious torrent of the most personal invective; telling him that
his talents were not so great as his life was infamous; that he had been
silent for years and silent for money; that he might be seen passing the
doors like a guilty spirit waiting the moment at which he might hop in and
give his venal vote; that he was a kettledrum, battering himself into
popularity to catch the vulgar; that he might be seen hovering over the
dome like an ill-omened bird of night, with sepulchral note and broken
beak (Flood having a broken nose); and winding up by telling him in the
face of the country, before all the world, and to his beard, that he was
not an honest man. Flood retorted with equal fury, and a wild scene
ensued. It is not difficult to believe in the genius or the patriotism of
these orators; but it is difficult to believe in their unimpassioned

The Penal Code had ere this lost much of its cruelty. Time, security, and
intercourse had softened the feeling of the Protestants against the
Catholics, whose passive loyalty had been proved by their inaction when
Great Britain was twice invaded by Stuart pretenders. The most odious
enactments of the code, those which involved personal degradation and
outrage on family affection, had fallen into desuetude or been evaded.
Protestant friends would hold land for a Catholic in confidential trust,
and ostensibly assume the guardianship of his children, leaving the real
guardianship to the kin. The attempts of informers to take advantage of
forfeitures were discouraged by the courts. Protestant fanaticism was
dying out everywhere except in rural Ulster, and was giving way among the
educated to indifference and even to scepticism. The spirit of Voltaire
was abroad. Chesterfield, as viceroy, brought it with him, laughing at
religious intolerance, and saying that the only Catholic of whom he was
afraid was the reigning beauty of Dublin. The whole system of the Catholic
Church, though still nominally subsisting only by connivance, was openly
and securely carried on. Conspicuous Mass houses were built. The Catholic
hierarchy and priesthood were forming friendly relations with a government
which had once designated all Catholics as enemies. Catholics of the upper
class educated in France came back from the land of the Encyclopædists
tinctured with its liberalism. Catholics were admitted by connivance into
Trinity College. A central committee had been formed to guard Catholic
interests, which in the penal era would have been treason. After 1782,
relief bills were passed. Catholicism was recognized by law. All
restrictions upon the maintenance of the hierarchy, freedom of ordination,
or additions to the priesthood were abrogated. Catholics were made capable
of acquiring property in land, though under the guise of leases for nine
hundred and ninety-nine years. The Gavelling Act, passed to break up
their estates, was repealed. It was unfortunately too late to restore the
Catholic gentry, which had been decimated by the Penal Law. In 1783 a bill
was passed opening to Catholics the profession of the law in all its
branches and grades except the rank of king's counsel and the judicial
bench, repealing the law against the intermarriage of Catholics with
Protestants, that against foreign emigration, that making an Anglican
license necessary for schools, and that restricting the number of
apprentices permitted in Catholic trade. The laws against the possession
of arms and the exclusion from command in the army were left. Otherwise of
the Penal Code the political disabilities almost alone remained.

The principal relief bill was introduced by Sir Hercules Langrishe, the
friend and correspondent on Irish politics of Burke, who pleaded the cause
of the Irish Catholics with all the vehemence of his nature, a measure of
sympathy with the religion probably mingling in his heart with love of
freedom and justice. Burke had less feeling for the grievances of
Protestant Dissenters or of Anglican clergymen liberally inclined, who
sought the relaxation of tests. He afterwards sent his son, whose ability
he fondly overrated, as his representative to Ireland, in the affairs of
which the aspiring youth meddled, and with farcical results.

The Presbyterians of Belfast had before this been relieved of the Test Act
and their other religious bonds and humiliations. But the relief had come
too late to turn them into good friends of the Anglican Church or of
British connection. Revolutionary and republican sentiment had, with
religious scepticism, taken root in Belfast.

The revolution of 1782 had not been democratic. The Volunteers were
property holders and their leaders were peers. But the withdrawal of the
Volunteers was not followed by political calm. Among the populace of
Dublin, especially, excitement continued and showed itself detestably by
hamstringing British soldiers. The cry was now for two drastic measures of
change: the political emancipation of the Catholics, and a reform of
Parliament substituting freedom of election for nomination and clearing
the legislature of pensioners and placemen. The two combined evidently
meant death to Protestant ascendancy and to oligarchy, both of which
naturally shrank from suicide.

The struggle grew fierce, and now not only was the American Revolution
fresh in recollection, but the French Revolution, advancing with thunder
tread, was filling the minds of the people everywhere, and especially
those of the oppressed and suffering, with vague visions and hopes of
change. Even to the hovel of the Irish serf, a vague hope, not of a
society regenerated on the principles of Rousseau, but of deliverance from
the middleman, from the tithe-proctor, and from the English connection,
which he thought was at the bottom of all his sufferings, had begun to
make its way.

Of reform, the leader was Grattan. Opposition to reform found a mighty
champion in Fitzgibbon, afterwards Lord Clare, a strong man, fearless as
he was able, and a very powerful speaker, but violent and overbearing, as
well as reactionary to a degree which charms the reactionary historian.
Fitzgibbon had a very coarse but rather effective shield-bearer in Dr.
Duigenan, the son of a Catholic farmer intended for the priesthood, but
captured by the Protestant clergyman of his parish.

Grattan and the reform party failed to get admission for Catholics to
Parliament. They failed to purify the House itself by substituting free
election for nomination boroughs, or by the effective exclusion of
pensioners and placemen from the House. They succeeded in extending the
electoral franchise to all holders, whether Catholic or Protestant, of
forty-shilling freeholds. Unfortunately, they could hardly have done worse
than by giving political power to the mass without its natural leaders.
Protestant demagogues playing for the Catholic vote were certain to
appear. Another bad effect of the measure was the multiplication of cotter
holdings by land-owners who would absolutely control the cotter's vote. On
the other hand, to ask the Protestant oligarchy to part with its exclusive
possession of Parliament was to ask it, not only to resign power, but even
to cast a shadow on its property, for the Act of Settlement had hardly
even yet become perfectly sacred as the title-deed of proprietary right.
Not all the advocates of Parliamentary reform were in favour of Catholic
emancipation. Flood among others was opposed to it.

Of the British government Pitt was now absolute master. Early in his reign
he had glanced at Irish politics and it seems had thought of union. But
the Channel was still wide and Irish government was still left to the
Castle. Pitt, however, had tendered Ireland a commercial agreement framed,
like his commercial treaty with France, in the spirit of the first
statesman who read Adam Smith. Introduced by him with great ability and at
first with general acceptance, his measure in the end was wrecked by a
combination of British protectionism, Whig faction, and Irish jealousy on
the subject of legislative independence; to the last of which Fox, carried
away by faction, scrupled not to appeal. Commercial union would have
strengthened the political connection, and by furthering commercial
prosperity might have done something to allay Irish discontent. Latterly,
Pitt's thoughts had been engrossed by the struggle with France. They were
now turned perforce to the political state of Ireland, which was evidently
becoming very perilous; at that time, unfortunately, with no happy result.

The Whigs opposed to the French Revolution, Portland, Spencer,
Fitzwilliam, and Windham, had coalesced with Pitt without renouncing their
general principles, which they wished to apply to Ireland, regarding that
field, it seems, as especially their own. At their instance Fitzwilliam
was sent over as viceroy, believing, and it seems with reason, that he
bore Catholic emancipation and general reform in his hand; though he had
no written instructions, nor, it appears, any verbal instructions
sufficiently clear. He went hastily to work, opened his budget of
concessions prematurely, and too promptly brandished the besom of
administrative reform, dismissing from office one of the great
place-hunting house of Beresford, which by assiduous intrigue had filled
the public service with its nominees. The Beresford carried his plaint to
the headquarters of the Tory party in London, and told Pitt that
Fitzwilliam was turning out all the faithful supporters of the government.
What followed is still a mystery. There was a long, unaccountable, and
apparently inexcusable silence on the part of Portland, broken at last by
disclaimer, rebuke, and recall. Fitzwilliam, stung to fury at this
treatment, trampled on official rules and did serious mischief by his
publication of confidential letters betraying an incipient design of
union, which to Irish patriotism at that time was maddening. At the bottom
of all the misunderstanding and trouble was the king, into whose miserable
mind had been instilled, it appears by Fitzgibbon, the belief that by
consenting to Catholic emancipation he would break his coronation oath.
The two great Tory lawyers, Eldon and Kenyon, to their honour, told the
king the truth. It seems probable, however, that the union of the
coalition government was imperfect, as that of coalition governments is
apt to be, and that this may be the account both of the want of clearness
in Fitzwilliam's original instructions and of the strange silence, ending
at last in an abrupt dismissal, which ensued.

Fitzwilliam left Dublin amidst passionate demonstrations of popular
disappointment and grief. His place was taken by Lord Camden, one of the
Tory section of the Pitt government, who came to face Irish rebellion
aided by Revolutionary France, while England, placed in extreme peril by
French victories and the secession of her allies, was struggling for her
life and was unable to afford military support to the government of

Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament, had Fitzwilliam been
allowed to grant them, would, Grattan thought, have averted the crisis.
They might have staved it off, but it would probably have come in another
form. That the new power thus called into being would be as loyal as
Grattan himself to British connection was a highly precarious assumption.
The course of the French Revolution would have not been stayed, nor would
the wild hopes which it excited have been extinguished. The aspirations of
Tom Paine's disciples at Belfast would not have ceased. The cotter's
hunger would not have been appeased nor would he have been reconciled to
the payment of tithe and Church cess. The blind hatred of British
connection as the supposed source of all evil to Ireland would have
continued to work. The State Church would at once have been attacked. The
Castle government, bereft of its two supports, nomination boroughs and
patronage, would inevitably have lost its hold. Chaos would then have
come. Material order might have been preserved by a sufficient military
force. Otherwise there was apparently nothing for it but union.

In Presbyterian Belfast, hatred of the State Church and the English
government which supported it, bred by Episcopal intolerance, had
developed, especially among the young men, into rationalism and acceptance
of the doctrines, both religious and political, of Tom Paine. The
connection of sympathy with the exiles in America had been kept up, and
the spirit of the American was combined with that of the French
Revolution. Thus was formed the circle of United Irishmen. The professed
aim of this association, perhaps originally its real aim, was only the
reform of Parliament. But it soon became revolutionary, aiming at
independence of England and the foundation of an Irish republic, to be
brought about by the aid of revolutionary France. Its soul was Wolfe Tone,
a young man of talent, literary and practical, and of generous instincts,
wild, dissipated, recklessly adventurous, burning with hatred of England.
Other leading members of the circle were Jackson and Emmett. Most of the
set were plebeian. But there was one recruit from the aristocracy, Lord
Edward Fitzgerald, son of the Duke of Leinster, fired, like Lafayette,
with the enthusiasm of liberty, but distinguished and made an object of
sentimental interest only by his rank and by his tragical end.

The outbreak was now imminent. Grattan, with his few steadfast adherents,
seceded from Parliament, where he had better have stayed to moderate as
far as he could the fury of repression. This he owed to the country on
which he had imposed the constitution of 1782, a system fraught, as he
might have seen, with disruption and capable of being worked only as it
had been worked, by Castle influence. The bond of loyalty to England,
which was strong in his own breast, he assumed to be general. Neither he
nor, with reverence be it said, Burke, excellent as the general principles
of both might be, correctly read the situation, which was one of a very
special kind. Burke's letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe on the subject of
religious emancipation is accounted one of the greatest of his works. But
Fitzgibbon might with reason have replied to it that of the real Irish
problem it offered no practical solution. It did not show how a national
Parliament of Ireland, with a great Catholic majority, and uncontrolled by
Castle patronage and influence, to which reform would have put an end,
could be kept in secure harmony with the Parliament of Great Britain.
Burke, however, now and then, glances timidly at the policy of union.
Grattan could think of nothing but his two Parliaments linked by eternal
affection. After Grattan's secession, the oligarchy closed its ranks, and
the Parliament thenceforth went thoroughly with the government, or even
beyond it, in the policy of repression.

The Castle understood its danger. In Irish conspiracies the informer is
never lacking. Besides, there were Catholics, who though patriots, wishing
to avert civil war, communicated with the government, and furnished it
with information for that purpose. Among these may fairly be numbered
Arthur O'Leary, on whose connection with the government and acceptance of
a small pension from it, lately revealed, prejudice pounces as a proof
that the best reputed and most eminent of Irish Liberals was a rogue.
Arthur O'Leary wrote well, and the spirit of his writings was thoroughly
liberal as well as loyal. Nothing seems to have been expected of him
beyond general information of Catholic tendencies and movements such as
one who desired to avert civil war might honestly give. By its secret
intelligence the government was enabled at a critical moment to seize some
of the leaders of the conspiracy, while Lord Edward Fitzgerald met his
death in resisting arrest.

The fire, smouldering everywhere, burst into a flame in Armagh, a
Protestant district into which Catholics had intruded by outbidding
Protestant holders of farms whose leases had expired. The Protestants,
banding together under the name of Peep o'Day Boys, proceeded to oust the
intruders, burning some of their houses. The Catholics combined for mutual
protection under the name of Defenders. Outrages were committed on both
sides. In a pitched battle, on a small scale, called the battle of the
Diamond, the Catholics were worsted and a number of them were killed. Many
Catholics were driven from their homes, and the fugitives spread through
the country the belief that the Protestants were bent on extermination.

The United Irishmen, disciples of Tom Paine, cared nothing for the
quarrels of sects. But disaffection of any kind was grist to their
revolutionary mill. They coalesced with Defenderism, and by superior
intelligence got control of the movement, which they organized as an
expectant army of revolution. Their task was made easy by the habits of
conspiracy formed among the peasantry in the agrarian war. There were
secret oaths, passwords, military gradations of command. There were even
reviews under pretence of digging the potatoes of patriots who were in
prison. Everything was ready for a rising as soon as French succour should
appear. All the blacksmiths were making pike-heads, the young trees were
being everywhere cut down for the shafts. Muskets in plenty would come
with the auxiliary army from France. Wolfe Tone had visited Paris, of
which in its revolutionary phase he gives a lively picture, and received a
promise of aid; Hoche, with whom he had an interview, being eager for the

Among the people generally the rebellion was agrarian rather than
religious, religious only as the Catholic peasantry believed that they saw
in Protestantism a badge of general enmity. But that belief made the war
between the sects internecine. It does not appear that any but a few of
the lowest and coarsest of the priesthood took an active part in the
rebellion. The order, as a whole, could hardly look with pleasure for the
conquest of Ireland by an atheist revolution. The French, in fact, had
they become masters of Ireland for a time, would probably in the end have
found themselves there, as in Spain, confronted by a hostile priesthood
carrying with it the people.

In the extremity of danger, surrounded by gathering rebellion, Castle
government had now to strike or fall. It struck, practically proclaiming
martial law. But it was without the only safe means of military
repression. Of regular soldiers it had few. Those few behaved well. Some
of them earned by their conduct the blessings of the people. But in the
main repression had to be entrusted to yeomanry and fencibles, little
controlled by discipline, and infected, as a militia is always apt to be,
and as in this case they were in an extreme degree, by the passions of the
hour. These men, sent forth to disarm the people, in their search for
concealed arms burned, slew, pitch-capped, flogged without stint or mercy,
and turned a great district of the north and midland into a hell. The
people retaliated with equal atrocity where they had the power. A large
number of suspects were arbitrarily shipped on board the fleet, where it
was believed they helped by their infection to beget the mutiny at the
Nore. Lord Moira, a patriot Irish nobleman, protested vehemently in the
House of Lords, but his exaggeration and partiality broke the force of his
appeal. To control the excesses of repression and restore military
discipline, the gallant Abercrombie was put in command; but he lost his
self-control, reviled the troops in an imprudent manifesto, broke with the
government, and left matters worse than they had been before.

In Ulster, fraternities of strong Protestants, which had existed
informally since 1689, were now formally organized as Orange Lodges. They
embodied an intensely sectarian feeling and committed their share of
outrages, but they lent the government powerful aid.

Conspicuous among the ruthless agents of repression was the head of the
Beresfords, whose riding-house at Dublin was a daily scene of torture.
Conspicuous also was Judkin Fitzgerald, the field of whose operations was
Tipperary. Fitzgerald's apologists plead that his policy was successful.
It might be so, but the cause of public order does not gain in the end by
outraging that law of natural justice on respect for which public order
must ultimately depend. Fitzgerald, savagely flogging a man on whom he had
found a note in the French language, which not knowing French himself he
could not read, was presently assured by one who could read the note that
it was perfectly harmless. He nevertheless continued the torture of the
lash till the victim nearly expired. Such a case seems to defy apology.
Fitzgerald, however, was not only protected from question by an Act of
Indemnity, but rewarded with a title. On both sides all hearts were fired
with the satanic madness of civil war.

French aid had been promised. To the unspeakable discredit of the British
admiralty, it came. An expedition which had long been in preparation under
Hoche was allowed to sail from Brest and unopposed to make the coast of
Ireland at Bantry Bay. A storm which prevented a landing, the bad
seamanship of the French, whose naval service had been shattered by the
revolution, and the separation of the frigate which had the general on
board from the rest of the fleet, saved Ireland from temporary conquest
and Great Britain from the consequences of that disaster. It is remarkable
that the peasantry in the neighbourhood of Bantry Bay received the
soldiers of the government well and shared their potatoes with them. Was
this loyalty or fear? Had the French landed, would the potatoes have been
still more hospitably shared? An expedition afterwards fitted out in
Holland, now a vassal of France, at the very crisis of the mutiny at the
Nore, was weatherbound till the mutiny was over and was then crushed by
Duncan at Camperdown. A small French force under Humbert afterwards
landed, and at Castlebar put the militia to shameful flight. But it was
presently surrounded by superior numbers and forced to surrender. There
were still some faint demonstrations, in one of which the arch-enemy of
England, Wolfe Tone, met his doom. He imprudently betrayed his identity to
his captors. His French commission availed him not. He escaped the gallows
by suicide. He was a genuine enthusiast, and he was at all events on one
of the only two practicable lines of action. Separation was the sole
alternative to union. But had Tone got the upper hand, with his fanaticism
and a savage peasantry thirsting for Protestant and English blood at his
back, the political millennium in Ireland, as in France, would have opened
with a reign of terror.

Disappointed of aid from France, the rebellion took the field by itself.
There was a great rising in Wexford, headed by Father Murphy, a fighting
priest, a compound of Wat Tyler and John Ball, who gave himself out as a
supernatural personage, and persuaded the people that he could catch
bullets in his hands. The father showed a natural genius for war. His
peasants fought desperately, and the Irish pike proved a formidable weapon
in their hands. The rebels gained one or two successes in the field, and
took the city of Wexford. They perpetrated fiendish cruelties. At
Scullabogue they burned or butchered a barn full of Protestants. At
Wexford they dragged their prisoners to the bridge, stripped them naked,
hoisted them up on the points of their pikes, and threw them into the
river. At Vinegar Hill, a name of ghastly memory, the rebel headquarters,
a batch of Protestants was every day brought out after a mock trial to be
massacred. The people being here under priestly leadership, the character
of a religious crusade was given to their warfare, and every Protestant
was a mark for their murderous fury. On the other hand, Protestants in the
north who at the outset had been revolutionary, seeing the rebellion
assume the character of a Catholic crusade, passed to the side of
government and repression. One or two men of property were forced into
leadership by the rebels; otherwise property was entirely on the side of
the government.

After Scullabogue, Wexford, and Vinegar Hill, there could not fail to be
a terrible outpouring of vengeance. It came in full measure, as we learn
from the correspondence of Cornwallis, a soldier of high distinction and
character, who was sent in place of Camden as viceroy to close the scene.
He is much afraid, he says, that any man in a brown coat who is found
within several miles of the field of action is butchered without
discrimination. The Irish militia, he says, are totally without
discipline, contemptible before the enemy when any serious resistance is
made to them, but ferocious and cruel in the extreme when any poor
wretches either with or without arms come within their power. In short,
murder appears their favourite pastime. The conversation of the principal
persons of the country all tends to encourage the system of blood, and the
conversation even at his own table, where he does all he can to prevent
it, always turns on shooting, burning, hanging. If a priest has been put
to death, the greatest joy is expressed by the whole company. "Who fears
to speak of '98?" said a patriot bard in other days. The answer is, every
one who is not utterly lost to reason and humanity. These militia men, it
is to be borne in mind, were Irish, not English, and their murderous
enmity was the enmity of one section of Ireland to another.


Pitt now resolved on a legislative union of Ireland with England and
Scotland, thus reverting to the policy of the Commonwealth. But union had
been the ideal of Molyneux, and since the revolution of 1782 it had found
many advocates, among them Adam Smith. An Irish government of sectarian
ascendancy and oligarchy combined, controlled, and held in precarious
subordination to the government of Great Britain by intrigue and
corruption, had ended in murderous and ruinous conflict of political
parties, social classes, and religious sects. In its realm people had been
refusing to eat pork because the swine might have fed on human flesh.
Foreign invasion had been invited. It had come, and only by repeated
miracles had Great Britain as well as Ireland been saved in the last
extremity of peril. Nor had that peril ceased. It was much to be deplored
that Pitt could not, like Cromwell and the Council of State, effect the
union by simply calling representatives of Ireland to the Parliament at
Westminster. Situated as Pitt was, he had, as Castlereagh laconically put
it, "to buy the fee simple of Irish corruption." The price he paid was
compensation in money to the owners of pocket boroughs and profuse grants
of peerages. The process was not edifying. Cornwallis, who had come at
once to put an end to havoc and to carry the union, having a strict sense
of honour, might well recoil from his task. Bribery with money has not
been brought home to the government, though in one case at least it has
been brought home to the opposition. From that stain the union is free. A
pretty large sum was needed to tune the press and for campaign expenses.
Pocket boroughs in those days were deemed property, and had been so
treated in Pitt's Reform Bill for England. The compensation paid the
owners of boroughs was not above the market price, and it was paid to the
opponents as well as to the supporters of the union; Lord Downshire, the
most powerful opponent of the union, as it happened, receiving the largest
sum of all. Foster, who made the greatest speech in Parliament against the
union, received seventy-five hundred pounds for his half share of a pocket
borough. In the absence of such compensation the owners of pocket boroughs
and the purchasers of seats for them would have been virtually bribed by
their private interest apart from any political consideration to oppose
the bill. Something was needed to induce a powerful and selfish oligarchy
to part with the field of its ascendancy and its ambition. For that
purpose the lavish creation of peerages was used. It cost the nation
nothing, and titles which had been openly used as bribes were not capable
of much degradation. Pitt is upbraided for not having taken the sense of
the nation by means of a general election. The sense of a nation of which
at least three-quarters were not eligible to Parliament! The sense of the
proprietors of nomination boroughs on the question of depriving them of
their property and its influence! The sense of a nation, the passions of
which had not had time to cool after a furious civil war, a civil war the
ashes of which still fiercely glowed and might by the excitement of a
general election have been fanned again into a flame! It is ever to be
lamented that the thing could not have been done in a simpler and less
questionable way. But it had to be done. Venality was venal, and, its
consent being necessary to the salvation of the state, had to be bought.
The purity of Pitt's motives or of those of his colleagues cannot be
questioned. The idea that he had provoked rebellion to make way for union
is a slander which only political frenzy could fabricate or believe.

What was the feeling in Ireland at large it is very hard to determine.
There were addresses and declarations on both sides, but we cannot tell
how they were got up. Cornwallis made a canvassing tour. His opinion at
first was that Dublin was furiously opposed but the rest of the country
was favourable. This estimate changed as the struggle went on. Dublin, of
course, was the centre of excitement. At the outset it was the scene of a
riot. The capital could not like to lose the seat of government and the
social centre; nor could the Irish bar like the transfer of the supreme
jurisdiction to Westminster, or the severance of the Parliamentary from
the forensic career; the two, while Parliament sat in Dublin, having been
habitually, and often brilliantly, combined. Cork, on the other hand, was
flattered with the prospect of becoming a second Glasgow. It seems strange
that the Orangemen should then have been against the union, of which they
have since been the staunchest supporters. But they no doubt scented the
approach, with the union, of Catholic emancipation. The Catholic
hierarchy, headed by Archbishop Troy, was strongly for the union, and
unquestionably drew with it a large following both of clergy and laity.
The hope was undoubtedly held out of Catholic emancipation, possibly
accompanied by a provision for the Catholic priesthood, as a sequel to the
union; though no positive pledge was or could be given. At the same time
it is to be borne in mind that the general sympathy of a Catholic
priesthood would be with the British government as the chief antagonist of
an atheist France. The terrible tension of '98 had probably been followed
in many quarters by collapse and readiness to acquiesce in anything that
could hold out to life and property the protection of a strong government.
The "Annual Register" for 1802 says that at the first election of Irish
members to the United Parliament no supporter of the union lost his
election or was even upbraided on that account; that in the county of
Dublin alone did a candidate think his opposition to the union such a
claim to popular favour as to make it worth his while to allude to it; and
that some of the largest and most independent counties returned strong
supporters of the union. Cornwallis reports that in Dublin, the chief
centre of opposition, when at last the royal assent was given to the bill,
not a murmur was heard nor, as he believed, was there any expression of
ill-humour throughout the whole city.

The Established Church of Ireland would be willing to support a measure
which, by identifying it with the English establishment, converted it from
the Church of a small minority into a limb of the Church of a great
majority, thus giving it a tenable ground of existence and a pledge of
support which it fondly hoped would never fail.

The campaign of opinion, at all events, was conducted on both sides with
perfect freedom. There is no pretence for alleging that the union was
carried by military force. The affair at Dublin was a street riot, for the
repression of which it was necessary to call in the troops. Nothing like
military terrorism in fact is alleged. Twelve months before the passing of
the union, and in the middle of the struggle, Cornwallis said that "the
force remaining in Ireland was sufficient to maintain peace, totally
inadequate to repel foreign invasion."

There were historic debates in the Irish Parliament. Grand speeches were
made in the nationalist and patriotic vein by opponents of the union.
Grattan, the author of the constitution of 1782, came in his volunteer
uniform to bedew its hearse with his oratoric tears. The dramatic effect
was enhanced by the bodily infirmity of the great patriot and orator,
which obliged him to speak sitting. Plunket put forth to the utmost those
powers of debate which led Lord Russell to pronounce him of all the many
speakers whom he had heard the most convincing. Foster produced a profound
effect by his mastery of commercial and financial detail, though in this
part of the field he had to contend with the supreme and unclouded
judgment of Adam Smith left on record in favour of union. As strong an
argument as any was that Ireland would be in danger of losing her leading
men, who would be drawn away to England. But absenteeism was already rife,
and was likely to be in the main diminished rather than increased by any
measure which made Ireland a happier abode. To the spirit of nationality
telling appeals could not fail to be made; but to what the nationality
amounted, whether it was nominal or real, of the heart or merely of local
boundary, had with terrible clearness appeared. In the speeches of the
opposition there seems to have been much more of political argument of a
general kind and of patriotic sentiment than of reference to the actual
working of the Constitution of 1782 and the consequences to which it had

Of all the opponents of the union on the high patriotic ground, the most
fervid was Plunket. "For my own part," he exclaimed, "I will resist it to
the last gasp of my existence, and with the last drop of my blood, and
when I feel the hour of my dissolution approaching I will, like the father
of Hannibal, take my children to the altar and swear them to eternal
hostility against the invaders of their country's freedom." It is to be
hoped that Plunket's children, if they took the oath, found absolution;
for the father soon afterwards, sitting in the united Parliament of which
he was a distinguished member, had so far changed his sentiments as to say
of the union; "As an Irishman I opposed that union; as an Irishman I avow
that I did so openly and boldly, nor am I now ashamed of what I then did.
But though in my resistance to it I had been prepared to go the length of
any man, I am now equally prepared to do all in my power to render it
close and indissoluble. One of the apprehensions on which my opposition
was founded, I am happy to say, has been disappointed by the event. I had
been afraid that the interest of Ireland, on the abolition of her separate
legislature, would come to be discussed in a hostile Parliament. But I can
now state--and I wish when I speak that I could be heard by the whole of
Ireland--that during the time that I have sat in the united Parliament I
have found every question that related to the interests or security of
that country entertained with indulgence and treated with the most
deliberate regard."

Grattan too sat in the united Parliament enjoying a Nestorian dignity and
at first, Parliamentary reformer though he was, for a nomination borough.
He voted for one of those measures of coercion, the necessity for which
unhappily soon made itself felt. The most telling speech of all against
union in the Irish Parliament was that of Foster; and Foster too sat in
the united Parliament, was reconciled to Pitt, was by him made chancellor
of the Irish exchequer, and became a peer of the United Kingdom.

The cause of the union in debate was pleaded by Clare and Castlereagh,
inferior to their opponents in eloquence, though Clare was a very
formidable speaker as well as a very strong man.

Through the British Parliament the union was carried by overwhelming
majorities, though opposed by Grey, who afterwards, as prime minister,
became its firm upholder, and by Sheridan, far less sage than brilliant,
while Fox refused to attend the debates, throwing out a hint that he
preferred something in the way of federation; what, he did not say. In the
Irish Parliament at first the measure was defeated. It was carried at
length by dead-lift effort on the part of Clare and Castlereagh, who,
leading for the government, did unquestionably make unlimited and by no
means scrupulous use of such expedients as in those days were more freely
employed by governments to push vital measures through the House. That
such expedients should have prevailed is to be deplored as a stain on the
origin of the union. At the same time it proves the rottenness of the
assembly then on trial for its life. Nor should it be forgotten that on
the side of opposition to the union were arrayed purely local and personal
interests not more respectable in themselves than were the methods by
which their resistance was overcome.

Let Irish patriots, when they bewail the extinction of the independent
Parliament of Ireland, remember that its last days had been marked by
eager support of the most ruthless and sanguinary measures of repression.

No serious exception appears to have been taken to the political bargain
which gave Ireland one hundred representatives in the House of Commons
and thirty-two representatives, including four bishops sitting by
rotation, in the House of Lords. The party system has never been
constitutionally recognized, and it was not observed that the
representative peers, elected by their own order, would always be Tory, to
the total exclusion of the other party. About the fiscal bargain questions
are raised. These affect not the political issue.

Viceroyalty, with Castle executive, was retained. This may be said to be a
relic of dependence. But the need of a separate administration
unfortunately has never ceased. When, in 1850, it was moved to abolish the
lord-lieutenancy, Ireland protested, and in deference to her veto the
measure was withdrawn. Ireland retained her separate judiciary and for
some time her separate department of finance.

It was in regard to the religious question that the union was for the time
a failure. Pitt kept his word. He proposed Catholic emancipation to his
cabinet and pressed it on the king. He was foiled by the rogue and
sycophant Wedderburn, who for his personal ends played on the king's
morbid conscience and was aided in his work by the influence of two
archbishops, through whom a state church once more rendered its political
service to the nation. Pitt paid the debt of honour by resignation. It is
said that if he had persevered he would have prevailed, and the king would
have submitted, as he did in other cases, such as the acknowledgment of
American independence, the dismissal of Thurlow, the permission to Lord
Malmesbury to treat with France, the recall of the Duke of York, and the
admission of Fox to the government. But not one of these was a case of
religious conscience, nor in one of them had the king a great body of
national sentiment on his side, as he had, and knew that he had, in his
resistance to Catholic emancipation. He afterwards turned out the
Grenville ministry, which proposed to admit Catholics to military command,
and in so doing was manifestly sustained by the nation. After all, Pitt
must have known best what could be done with the king. That his
resignation was less of a sacrifice, because he thus escaped the necessity
of treating for peace with France, is conjecture, and does not affect the
actual propriety of his course. The king having in consequence of the
excitement been threatened with a recurrence of his malady, Pitt waived
the Catholic question for the king's lifetime, and, when called by the
extreme need of the country, returned to power on that understanding. He
would have done little good, and not have gratified the nation by driving
the king mad and transferring the government in the midst of the great war
to the Prince of Wales as Regent and the revellers of Carlton House. In
criticising the action of public men at this period, we must always bear
in mind the overmastering exigencies of the war. Pitt, though he waived
his principle on the subject of Catholic emancipation, never renounced it.
It passed to his pupil Canning, and within a generation prevailed.

The only concession made at this time to the Catholics was the endowment
of Maynooth as a seminary for the Catholic priesthood of Ireland, cut off
from the seminaries of the continent by the war.

Since the union, there has been much that was deplorable in the state of
Ireland and in the relations of the two islands, the main source of which,
however, as will presently appear, was not political. There has been a
hateful series of coercion acts. But there have been no Tudor hostings;
there has been no 1641; no 1689; no 1798. No fleet of an invader has
anchored in Bantry Bay. Belfast, once the seed-plot of revolution, has
prospered and been content. Two years afterwards revolution flamed up
again for a moment in the abortive rising of Emmet. Then it died down, to
break forth seriously, at least as civil war, no more.

The union must be taken to have been a union in the full sense of the
term, putting an end to separate identity, not merely a standing contract
between two parties, each of which retained the right of enforcing the
contract against the other. On this understanding Parliament has acted,
and is likely again to act in the case of the representation, as well as
in the disestablishment of the Irish Church. The United Kingdom cannot be
hide-bound forever by the terms which, necessarily having reference to the
circumstances of its formation, must, like those circumstances, have been
deemed liable to change.

It is unfortunate that no common name for the united nationality could be
found. "British" excludes the Irish, "English" both the Irish and the
Scotch, and separatist sentiment is fostered by the retention of the old
national name.

Victory over the French Revolution and Napoleon was accompanied by an
ascendancy of Toryism, which kept Liverpool at the head of the government
for fourteen years. In this both islands fared alike. But the Cabinet was
divided on the subject of Catholic emancipation. Plunket, still a Liberal
though now a Unionist, showed his power as a debater in the Catholic
cause. Castlereagh and Canning were on the Liberal side. Emancipation was
carried in the Commons, thrown out in the lords, while old Eldon drank to
the thirty-nine peers who had saved the Thirty-nine Articles, little
thinking how soon he was to be smitten in the house of his friends. On
Liverpool's death there were a few months of Canning and a brief interlude
of Goodrich. Then power reverted to the Tory and anti-Catholic section of
the Liverpool combination, at the head of which were Wellington and Peel.
Peel, in whom hereditary Toryism was combined with natural openness of
mind and practical sagacity, as well as with supreme skill in
administration, seemed specially sent to carry England safely by the
bridge of Conservatism over the gulf between the old era and the new. He
had been one of the anti-Catholic section of the Liverpool government, and
in that character had been elected to Parliament by the clerical and then
Protestant University of Oxford. But he had administered Ireland for six
years; had seen the state of things there; had been impressed and shown
symptoms of a change of sentiment. He dealt liberally with Catholics in
the matter of patronage. He and Wellington now acquiesced in the relief of
the Dissenters by the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. Probably
they were hesitating on the brink of Catholic emancipation when they were
impelled by a new force. The Catholic cause had found for itself a
first-rate leader, organizer, and orator, Daniel O'Connell.


Daniel O'Connell, whose figure fills the next page in Irish history, was a
Dublin barrister who, having gained a unique reputation as a skilful or
more than skilful winner of verdicts, passed from the forensic to the
political field. He was of pure Irish blood, Irish in physiognomy,
typically Irish in character. Nature had endowed him with all the gifts of
a popular leader, bodily as well as mental; for he had a voice of
unrivalled power and compass as well as extraordinary tact in dealing with
the masses and skill in the conduct of agitation. His oratory was such as
never failed to tell with his Irish audience, while its violent
exaggeration, its disregard of truth and offensiveness of expression too
often excited the just resentment of those whom he assailed and repelled
all moderate and right-minded men. At the same time he knew how to play
the courtier, as he showed when George IV. visited Ireland. He entered
public life without the blessing of the veteran Grattan, who accused him
of setting afloat the bad passions of the people, venting calumny against
Great Britain, and making politics a trade. That his motives were mixed is
probable. But of his Irish patriotism there could be no doubt. O'Connell
was a most devout Catholic, enjoyed the hearty confidence of the
priesthood, and was able to make full use of its influence in calling out
and marshalling the people. He thus opened a new era in the history of
Irish agitation. In return, he supported the priesthood in its extreme
pretensions; notably in defeating a proposal for the admission of
Catholics to political power subject to securities for the loyalty of
their Church which conflicted with high priestly pretensions, though it
had been favourably entertained at Rome. It was on this point that he and
Grattan broke. O'Connell, with the aid of his priestly fuglemen, formed a
great Catholic association to overawe the government. On the other side,
the Orangemen, now heartily Unionist, rushed to arms. A fierce conflict
ensued in Ireland, with some danger to the peace. In the course of it the
Duke of York, heir presumptive to the Crown, electrified the country and
filled the heart of Eldon and true blue Protestantism with joy by a solemn
declaration that if he became king he would veto Catholic emancipation.
After trying his power by carrying some elections, O'Connell determined
to bring the conflict to a head by himself standing for Parliament in
defiance of the law by which, as a Catholic, he was excluded. He carried
his election for Clare against the candidate of the gentry by the votes of
the Catholic peasantry, the forty-shilling freeholders; the influence of
the Church with its sacraments being openly employed in his support. Peel
and Wellington now gave way and carried the admission of the Catholics to
Parliament, only tempering the shock to their Tory supporters by the
abolition of the forty-shilling freehold; no great blow to liberty, since
the only question was whether the forty-shilling freeholder should be the
tool of the landlord or of the priest. The refusal to O'Connell of the
rank of king's counsel, to which he had become eligible, was defended as
another sop to the Tories; but it really was a mark of resentment, very
unwise as well as undignified, though partly excused by the offensiveness
of O'Connell's bearing and language. It may have been unwillingness to
confess change of opinion that led Wellington and Peel to ascribe the
concession of Catholic emancipation to fear of civil war. O'Connell could
not have put into the field any force capable of making head against the
forces of the government, Ulster, the Orangemen, and the Irish gentry. He
was himself utterly unwarlike, and there was no foreign power to come to
his aid. The measure was a concession of right demanded not only by the
Irish Catholics themselves, but by a large party in England which included
the best intelligence of the country and the most powerful organs of the
press, without the help of which it could not have been carried. Unhappily
it was made to appear as a concession of fear.

O'Connell's victory made him the idol and the master of Catholic Ireland.
A large revenue, called his "rent," was thenceforth raised for him by
annual subscription. On this his enemies did not fail to reflect. He
defended it as the necessary compensation for the sacrifice of a large
professional income to the service of the country. At his ancestral
mansion of Darrynane, on the wild, thoroughly Celtic, and Erse-speaking
coast of Kerry, the "Liberator" held a rustic court profusely hospitable,
amidst a circle of devoted adherents, with an open table at which as many
as thirty guests were sometimes seated; thus presenting probably the
nearest possible counterpart of the head of a great sept in the tribal
days. To Darrynane a pilgrimage was made by Montalembert, who fondly
hoped that he had found in its master that union of devotion to the
Church with liberty which was the ideal of the liberal Catholic school.

Would Catholic emancipation pacify Ireland? Its authors expected that it
would. Even Macaulay appears to think that if the popular religion of
Ireland had been treated at the union as the popular religion of Scotland
was treated, all in Ireland, as in Scotland, might have been well. The
result was disappointing. The Irish cotter had voted and shouted for
Catholic emancipation at the bidding of the priests and the platform; but
what he wanted and hoped to get by a revolution of any kind was, not so
much political or religious change, as more oats and potatoes. His real
grievances were hunger and nakedness. To afford those myriads a
treacherous food, the behest of nature had been too much disregarded;
lands destined for pasture had been turned into potato and oat plots. The
millions, reduced to an animal existence, had gone on multiplying with
animal recklessness. The increase was greater since rebellion and
devastation were at an end. In this sense alone the consequences of the
union may be said to have been evil. The priest enjoined marriage on moral
grounds, perhaps not without an eye to fees. Between 1801 and 1841
population increased by three millions. More than ever, the homes were
filthy hovels shared with swine, the beds litters of dirty straw, the
dresses rags, the food the potato, while there was frequent dearth and
sometimes famine. Eviction increased, since, the forty-shilling freehold
franchise having been abolished, the landlord cared no longer to multiply
holdings for the sake of votes. The land system, with its tiers of
middlemen, was as cruel as ever. Tithe, the most odious of all imposts,
was still collected in the most odious manner. As a consequence, peasant
Ireland was still the scene of a vast agrarian war waged by a starving
people against the landlord and the tithe-proctor. Arson, murder, carding
and mutilation of middlemen and tithe-proctors were rife. Victims leaping
from the windows of their burning houses were caught on pitchforks. The
nation was undergoing a baptism of lawlessness and savagery. All the
peasants were in the league of crime and screened the assassin. Law was
powerless. Prosecution was hopeless. Murder was committed in open day and
before a number of witnesses, all of whom, if brought into court, would
perjure themselves in the common cause. A deep impression had been made
upon Peel by the horrors of the agrarian war. He had been particularly
moved by a case showing the transcendent height which social passion had
attained. A party of Whiteboys entered a house in which there were the man
whom they came to murder, his wife, and their little girl. The man was in
a room on the ground floor. His wife and their little girl were in a room
above, with a closet, through a hole in the door of which the room could
be seen. The woman heard the Whiteboys enter and knew their errand. She
put the child into the closet, saying to her, "They are murdering your
father below, then they will come up and murder me. Mind you look well at
them and swear to them when you see them in court." The child obeyed. She
looked on while her mother was murdered. She swore to the murderers in
court, and they were hanged upon her evidence.

The evil had reached such a height that society in Ireland was almost on
the point of dissolution. Ordinary coercion acts, of which there had been
a series, failed and the Liberal government of Grey was compelled to have
recourse to martial law.

The tide of reform, however, which began to flow in 1830, before it ebbed,
brought to Ireland, besides her share in reform of the Parliamentary
representation, the opening of the municipal councils, which had been
universally close and corrupt, and after Catholic emancipation still
excluded Catholics. It brought commutation of tithe, a measure of immense
value, far too long delayed, which shifted the burden of payment from the
shoulders of the cotter to those of the landlord. It brought a poor law,
cruelly needed in the midst of multiplying evictions. Furthermore, it
brought in 1831-1833 the momentous gift of public education, national and
undenominational, in the inauguration of which the Anglican primate,
Archbishop Whateley, reconciling his advanced liberalism with his
anomalous position, took a leading part. Ireland thus in national
education preceded England by many years. Whateley had fellow-workers in
liberal Catholics, ecclesiastical as well as lay, but the weight of Roman
authority and influence was, as it always has been, and still is, against
free education. The State Church of the minority succeeded in repelling
attack; but it underwent some internal reform, including the suppression
of ten superfluous bishoprics; a sacrilegious act of the state which
helped to give birth to sacerdotal reaction at Oxford. After the abolition
of the tithe-proctor, the State Church had become less odious to the
people. The Castle administration was growing more liberal.
Lords-lieutenant tried to be fair in distribution of patronage. A Liberal
secretary, a man of mark, Drummond, warned the Irish landlords that
property had its duties as well as its rights. Peel, as Irish secretary,
had laid the foundation of the Irish constabulary, that noble force of law
and order which combines independent intelligence with the discipline of
the regular soldier. Drummond rendered a most important service by
completing the institution. The Irish constabulary has naturally in the
main been composed of Protestants. But the Catholic policeman in Ireland
has in a marked way resisted seditious influence and been true to the
government and his duty. The Irishman follows his commander. Attempts to
seduce Irish soldiers from fidelity to the colours seem to have generally

O'Connell, with his following, helped to carry the Parliamentary Reform
Bill of 1832, which, in fact, could not have been carried without their
vote. He lent a general though not hearty or unwavering support to the
Whig ministry of Grey, which, though it paid him some deference, was too
strong to be under his control. But on the passing of a drastic coercion
bill directed against political as well as agrarian disturbance, there was
an angry rupture, and the Whigs became "base, bloody, and brutal," like
all others who crossed O'Connell's will. O'Connell was not handsomely
treated. His eminence as a lawyer, combined with his influence in Ireland,
entitled him to a high place. But his blustering violence, his unmeasured
vituperation, his venomous abuse of England, and the changefulness of his
moods made him a dangerous ally for any government. Cobden said,
"O'Connell always treated me with friendly attention, but I never shook
hands with him or faced his smile without a feeling of insecurity; and as
for trusting him on any public question where his vanity or passions might
interpose, I should have as soon thought of an alliance with an Ashantee

The Melbourne and Russell ministry was weak and fain to lean on O'Connell
with his Irish brigade for support and to allow him a voice in
appointments, though it suffered greatly in English eyes by the alliance.
O'Connell shouted with joy when that government was snatched from death
and restored to a feeble existence by the refusal of the queen to change
her bed-chamber women on Peel's demand. But the advent of Peel to power,
with a strong government, filled him with rage and despair. The two men
had quarrelled in Ireland, a challenge had passed between them, and Peel
was the object of O'Connell's bitterest hatred. In principle the new
government was hostile to O'Connell, and its strength placed it wholly
beyond his influence. His power was threatened with extinction. His rent,
moreover, since there had been a lull in agitation, was rapidly falling
off, and he was in pecuniary distress. The last, some think, was not his
least urgent motive for embarking in another agitation. This time it was
for a repeal of the union, of which he had before only thrown out fitful
hints. He now raised the standard of repeal and issued his mandate to the
priesthood to call out the peasantry in that cause. The priesthood
joyfully obeyed. Monster meetings were held and were addressed by
O'Connell in his most violent strain, with ostensible respect for
constitutional methods, but with constant appeals to national hatred and
suggestions of military force. The priests consecrated the meetings and
the sentiments, celebrating Mass on the grounds. It is surely idle to
contend that a priesthood acting thus and having its centre in Rome is
only a Christian ministry, not a power of political disturbance. An
outbreak appeared to be at hand, when the government took direct issue
with the agitator by proclaiming a monster meeting which he had appointed
to be held at Clontarf; a scene suggestive of military force as it had
been the field of the great Irish victory. O'Connell, who, if he was not
pacific, was unwarlike, shrank from the conflict and called off the
meeting. The government followed up the blow by indicting the agitator for
sedition. There was a monster trial at Dublin, in the course of which, to
preserve the Irish character of the scene, the attorney-general challenged
the counsel on the other side to a duel. O'Connell was found guilty, but
the verdict was afterwards quashed on appeal to the House of Lords, for
irregularity in the panel, by the judgment of three Whigs against one Tory
and the independent Brougham, though it had been upheld by seven of the
nine judges to whom the case was referred. O'Connell was set free. But the
spell of his ascendancy had been broken. By shrinking from the appeal to
force he had forfeited the respect of the fighting section of his party.
The Conservative government was invincibly strong. O'Connell's health and
physical force had broken down. Thus ended the great Liberator's career.
He bequeathed his body to Ireland and his heart to Rome. There can be no
question about his devotion to either, whatever motives may have mingled
with his devotion to Ireland. Whether he did more good to the Irish cause
by his patriotism than harm by the passions which he excited and the
enmities he created, is a question about which different opinions have
been formed. His blind attachment to the Church, had he been victorious,
would have put Ireland under the control of a reactionary priesthood.

For some time before his death, O'Connell, by shrinking from force, had
been losing the hearts and the adherence of a party of force on his own
side called "Young Ireland," a set of young men, some highly gifted as
journalists or poets, whose aim was not repeal but national independence,
and who in their organ, _The Nation_, preached rebellion and revelled in
the memory of '98.

Peel, victorious, graced his victory by concession, to which indeed he was
heartily inclined. He saw that "Ireland was his difficulty," and wanted to
treat the problem as liberally as his following of Protestants and squires
would let him. He increased the grant to Maynooth, thereby constraining
Gladstone, by way of satisfaction to his former self, to go through the
form of resignation. He enabled the Catholic Church freely to receive
charitable bequests. Not venturing to throw open the fellowships and
scholarships of Trinity College to the Catholics, he founded for their
special benefit three undenominational colleges at Belfast, Cork, and
Galway, forming together a university with power of granting degrees. This
measure, excellent in its way, was but a partial success. The priesthood
looked with invincible suspicion on free science, while Catholic
professors of science, whom the Church might have trusted, were hardly to
be found. But Peel touched the real root of the evil, and pointed to
effective reform, when, in 1843, he issued a Commission of Inquiry into
land occupancy in Ireland and the condition of the peasant occupants. The
commission reported that the agricultural labourer of Ireland continued to
suffer the greatest privations and hardships; that he was still dependent
upon casual and precarious employment for subsistence; that he was still
badly housed, badly clothed, and badly fed; and that he was undergoing
sufferings greater than those of the people of any other country in
Europe. Some tentative motions followed, but there had scarcely been time
for the report of the commission to work, when the sentence of nature was
pronounced with awful distinctness in the form of a great famine with
pestilence in its train. The population of Ireland at this time was
probably double that which the island could happily bear. A precarious
subsistence was afforded by the potato, which, always treacherous, now
suddenly and completely failed. Peel, warned of impending calamity, at
once opened the ports for the importation of grain, then grasped the
occasion for the repeal of the Corn Laws, on the policy of which his own
mind had been undergoing change. His administrative power and that of his
colleagues would probably have done all that was possible to meet and
mitigate the disaster. But at the critical moment his government was
struck down by a conspiracy of Russell and the Whigs with the ire of the
Corn Law squires and the vengeful ambition of Disraeli. Russell, who took
his place, was far more an adept in party strategy than a master of
practical administration. There ensued a heartrending scene, the climax of
seven centuries of evil accident, maladministration, and Irish woe.

"Famine advances on us with giant strides," wrote an official in the
August of 1846. "Towards the end of August," says Mr. T. P. O'Connor, "the
calamity began to be universal and its symptoms to be seen. Some of the
people rushed into the towns, others wandered along the highroads in the
vague hope of food. They plucked turnips from the fields, were glad to
live for weeks on a single meal of cabbage a day, feasted on the dead
bodies of horses and asses and dogs. There was a story of a mother eating
the limbs of her dead child. Dead bodies were discovered with grass in
their mouths and in their bowels; weeds were sought after with desperate
eagerness; seaweed was greedily devoured; so were diseased cattle and
diseased potatoes. Despair fell on all hearts and faces. The ties of
kindred in some cases failed, parents neglecting their children and
children turning out their aged parents. On the other hand, there were
stories of parents dying of starvation to save a small store for their
children. The workhouses, usually shunned, were overcrowded. In one, three
thousand persons sought relief in a single day. They crowded even into the
jails. Driven from the workhouses, people began to die by the roadside or
alone in their despair within their cabins. Roads and streets were strewn
with corpses. One inspector buried one hundred and forty bodies found on
the highway. The scenes inside the cabins were even more horrible;
husbands lay for a week in the same hovels with the bodies of their wives
and children. The decencies of burial were no longer observed. Then came
the plague, attacking bodies already weakened by hunger." "A terrible
apathy," says an eye-witness, "hangs over the poor of Skibbereen;
starvation has destroyed every generous sympathy; despair has made them
hardened and insensible, and they sullenly await their doom with
indifference and without fear. Death is in every hovel; disease and
famine, its dread precursors, have fastened on the young and the old, the
strong and the feeble, the mother and the infant; whole families lie
together on the damp floor devoured by fever, without a human being to wet
their burning lips or raise their languid heads; the husband dies by the
side of the wife, and she knows not that he is beyond the reach of earthly
suffering; the same rag covers festering remains of mortality and the
skeleton forms of the living, who are unconscious of the horrible
contiguity; rats devour the corpse, and there is no energy among the
living to scare them from their horrid banquet; fathers bury their
children without a sigh, and cover them in shallow graves, round which no
weeping mother, no sympathizing friends are grouped; one scanty funeral is
followed by another and another. Without food or fuel, bed or bedding,
whole families are shut up in naked hovels, dropping one by one into the
arms of death."[3]

All the devices of government by relief work and in other ways to grapple
with the twofold calamity were palliatives and little more. The most
effective measure of relief was a vast emigration to the United States and
Canada, which also had its horrors. Thousands, already weakened by hunger
and suffering, succumbed to the hardships of the passage; another
multitude died on landing. Canada did all she could for the hapless
strangers cast upon her shore. But ship-fever followed the fugitives, and
graveyards were filled with their dead. It was reckoned that more than two
hundred thousand persons died on the voyage or on arrival at their
destination. Few Irishmen, however prejudiced against England, will deny
that the people of Great Britain and Canada showed unbounded sympathy with
Ireland in her affliction, and did their utmost for her relief. O'Connell
himself, while he criticised the measures of the government, allowed that
individual humanity and charity were abundant; that the noblest generosity
was evinced by multitudes of the English; and that if individual
generosity could save a nation, British generosity would do it. He said
that he was afraid of not finding words sufficient to express his strong
and lively sense of English humanity. To charges of English indifference
to Irish suffering, his words are a sufficient answer.

Close upon the famine and pestilence came 1848, the year of European
revolution. Young Ireland, the party of force, did not fail to catch the
flame. Its organ, _The Nation_, cried, "It is a death struggle now between
the murderer and his victim. Strike! Rise, men of Ireland, since
Providence so wills it! Rise in your cities and in your fields, on your
hills, in your valleys, by your dark mountain passes, by your rivers and
lakes and ocean-washed shores! Rise as a nation!" _The Irish Felon_, a
journal still more advanced, was even more openly for war. But neither in
city or field, on mountain or in valley, by pass or shore, did the people
rise at the impassioned call. Young Ireland found at once that it was but
a knot of literary men whose appeals to national feeling, penned as they
were with vigour, might be read with sentimental pleasure but would rouse
nobody to arms. O'Connell's mastery of the people depended on the support
of the priesthood, given in a cause originally religious to that zealous
champion of the Church who, dying, bequeathed his heart to Rome. Young
Ireland was more revolutionary than Catholic, as the priests did not fail
to perceive. The desire of political revolution, apart from agrarianism,
was not strong enough to rouse the peasantry to arms, though they had
learned to hate England as the supposed source of their sufferings. The
people, moreover, had hardly recovered from the depression caused by the
famine. Young Ireland however raised its flag. Smith O'Brien, with a small
party, made a trial trip, appealing to the people of two or three places,
but met with no response. A farcical encounter with the police at the
house of widow Cormack on the bog of Boulagh, followed by the capture of
Smith O'Brien, was the end. The sentence of death passed on the leader of
the revolt was wisely commuted by the government.

The famine had at least one good effect. It drew attention to the main
source of the evil in Ireland, which was agrarian and social, not
political and religious. But now it was supposed that the mischief lay in
the inability of the landlords, overwhelmed with debt, burdened with
family settlements, and crushed by the demands of the Poor Law, to perform
their duty to their tenants. To remedy this evil was created the
Encumbered Estates Court, with power to order the sale of encumbered
property on the petition of the creditors and give a clear title to the
purchaser. The policy seemed sound, yet the result was not good. The court
cleared out the old proprietors who lacked means to do their duty; it put
in their place a new class of proprietors who, having been induced to buy
the land on pure speculation, felt that they had no duty to do, and who,
unlike their predecessors, had no kindly tie to the people. The new owners
naturally proceeded to make the most of their purchase; and the way to
make the most of their purchase clearly was to sweep out the cotter
tenants and throw the land into large holdings. This some of them
proceeded to do, and the consequence was a period of evictions almost
vying in cruelty with the famine. Whole districts were cleared and relet
in large holdings. Cabins were being thrown down in all directions. A
thousand of them were levelled in one union within a few months, and the
inmates were cast out helpless, half-naked, starving, to go to the union
or perish. The cabins were burned that the people might not return to
them. The suffering and misery, says a reporter, attendant upon these
wholesale evictions, is indescribable. The number of houseless paupers in
one union is beyond his calculation. Those evicted crowd neighbouring
cabins and villages, and disease is necessarily generated. In April he
calculates that six thousand houses have been levelled since November, and
he expects five hundred more by July. Wretched hovels had been pulled
down, the inmates of which in a helpless state of fever and nakedness were
left by the roadside for days. While inspecting a stone-breaking depot,
the reporter observes one of the men take off his remnant of a pair of
shoes and start across the fields. He follows him with his eye, and at a
distance sees the blaze of a fire in the bog. He sends to inquire the
cause of it and of the man's running from his work, and is told that the
man's house had been levelled the day before, that he had erected a
temporary hut, and that while his wife and children were gathering
shell-fish on the beach and he was stone-breaking the bailiff fired it.
This incident was one of several which made a deep impression on Peel, who
would probably have moved with effect had he remained in power. Pages are
filled with pictures of this kind. Civilized Europe could show nothing
like it. It was almost enough to break forever the spirit of the nation,
certainly to implant the bitterest memories, and here the main cause was
misgovernment and bad law.

Relief works were no cure, nor were they in themselves very rational,
since the people, unfed, half-clothed, and living in pestilential
mud-holes, were really too weak to work. Parliament so far interfered as
to pass an act requiring forty-eight hours' notice of eviction to the
relieving officers, prohibiting evictions two hours before sunset or
sunrise, and on Christmas Day and Good Friday, and prohibiting the
demolition of the house of a tenant about to be evicted. But this rather
throws a lurid light on the state of things than effects a cure. The
public even might have some reason to complain of the land-owner who
recklessly cast upon the poor rates or upon public charity the human
encumbrances of his land.

Apart from overpopulation and its effects, the Irish land-law
unquestionably needed reform. The people, struggling with each other for
their sole means of subsistence, undertook to pay exorbitant rents, and
their improvements, if they made any, became without compensation the
property of the landlord. In Ulster, always exceptional, there prevailed a
certain measure of tenant-right, something like the English copyhold. In
Ireland the demand for tenant-right now began to be loudly heard. An
English Radical, Sharman Crawford, brought forward a measure in
Parliament, but without effect. For some years nothing effectual was done
in the way of reform. Palmerston, to whom power passed, though in foreign
policy he dallied with revolution, was conservative, especially on social
subjects, at home. "Tenant's right is landlord's wrong" was his judgment
on the agrarian question. On the Irish side there was no leader of worth
or force. Patriotism was in a trance, and the chronicler of the
Nationalist party indignantly proclaims that the cause was betrayed by a
series of low adventurers who embraced it as the way to preferment. "The
most common type of Irish politician," he says in his anguish, "in these
days was the man who entered Parliamentary life solely for the purpose of
selling himself for place and salary." "This," he adds, "was the golden
season, when every Irishman who could scrape as much money together as
would pay his election expenses was able after a while to obtain a
governorship or some other of the many substantial rewards which English
party leaders were able to give to their followers." The constituencies,
it seems, political feeling being at a low ebb, were ready to elect the
man who could bring them public pelf. Of the adventurers, the worst was
Sadleir, who, with his set, attempted to intrigue with the Peelites, and
who, being a financial swindler as well as a political schemer, became
bankrupt and committed suicide. So the cause of the Three F's--Fixity of
tenure, Free sale, and Fair rents--made no way. English Radicals in
Parliament stood all the time ready to move with the Irish on this
question or for Disestablishment; but the Irish members were taken up with
intriguing for places for themselves, for appointments of the sons of
their constituents to clerkships in Somerset House, or for a government
subsidy to the Galway Packet contract. Irish writers are bound to remember
that Englishmen were not responsible for the choice or character of Irish
members. They are bound also to remember the impression which the members
chosen by the Irish could not fail to make on English minds. The British
Parliament could not justly be said to be "deaf, blind, and insolently
ignorant," though it was not on the right track. It might be excused for
being a little deaf and blind to the appeals of "a motley gang of as
disreputable and needy adventurers as ever trafficked in the blood and
tears of a nation."

From the time of the union to this time there had been, and long after
this time continued to be, a series of coercion acts, rendered necessary
by agrarian outrage. There were thirty-two enactments of this kind between
the union and 1844. It would have been almost better, had it been
possible, frankly to suspend the constitution while the true remedy was
being applied.

Liberal leadership now devolved from Palmerston on Gladstone, thus
bringing on the political field a new and immensely powerful motive power.
Gladstone was in opposition. In his mind a natural, and under the party
system legitimate, desire of recovering power for his party and himself
perhaps mingled with a sincere though tardily formed conviction of the
injustice of such an institution as the State Church of a small minority
in Ireland. It was unfortunate that he, like Peel and Wellington, gave
fear of Irish violence as a motive for doing justice. After some
premonitory hints, he, in former days the great champion of state
religion, declared for disestablishment. His case was overwhelmingly
strong. Faint and feeble were the arguments on the other side. The
institution was an anachronism, an anomaly, and a scandal. Its past had
been miserable. It had made no converts; it had made many rebels. By its
tests and its intolerance it had divided the Protestant interest, sending
many a Presbyterian across the sea to fight for the American Revolution.
Its ministry had been jobbed, its character defiled, by unscrupulous
politicians. Of late, however, it had been greatly reforming itself, and
it had got rid of its tithe-proctors by the commutation of tithes. Its
clergy generally were now on friendly terms with the people. Its last hour
was by far its best. Vested interests were respected in the change, and
the unblest establishment glided quietly and safely into its new and
happier life as a purely spiritual church. Through the Commons the measure
passed with ease; through the Lords, like other great measures of change,
it was forced by fear.


From disestablishment of the Church Gladstone, now in the full swing of
his Liberalism, proceeded next year to reform the land system of Ireland.
Taking his cue from Ulster tenant-right, perhaps also from English
copyhold, he passed an act, the first of a series which, by giving
compensation for improvements and for disturbance, restricting eviction,
regulating rents, and furnishing to the tenant by government loans the
means of purchasing the fee, has gone far towards transferring the
ownership from the landlord to the tenant. Some of these measures have
virtually involved confiscation, notably in the case of purchasers under
the Encumbered Estates Act, to whom full ownership had been morally

Economically, the tendency, indeed the aim, of the land acts has been to
make Ireland a land of peasant proprietors. The social tendency of such
legislation is to the abolition of the gentry, of the value of whose
leadership to a people eminently in need of leaders, Gladstone,
personally ignorant of Ireland, might not be a competent judge.
Unquestionably, the relations between landlord and tenant called for
reform. The appropriation of the tenant's improvements by the landlord was
in itself plainly unjust, and the sweeping evictions yielded in cruelty
only to the famine. But for overpopulation the immediate remedy was
depletion. Had Gladstone said that the overpopulation was originally the
consequence of misgovernment and repression of industry which, reducing
the people to abject misery, had wrecked their self-respect and
self-restraint, he would have been emphatically right, and the fact cannot
be too constantly kept in mind. Gladstone might also have said with truth
that emigration was a mournful cure, though it transferred the emigrant to
a far happier land and lot. But the overpopulation having taken place,
whatever the cause, the only remedy was depletion. No expansion of
manufacturing industry, commerce, or mining adequate to the absorption of
the surplus population could be expected in time to meet the pressing call
for relief. Irishmen are sensitive on this point, but no disparagement of
the Irish race is implied in the recognition of the facts. Overpopulation
was not the fault of the people, but their misfortune. There has been a
very large migration of the Irish into England and Scotland as well as
into the colonies and the United States.

Gladstone's measure, however, fell short of Irish expectation, which was
the three F's: Fixity of tenure; Fair rent; Freedom of sale. A land war
presently broke out and became combined with a struggle nominally for Home
Rule, really for separation from Great Britain. The political part of this
agitation, rebellion as it really was, had its main source and support,
not in Ireland, but in the Irish population of the United States. Even
before the famine there had been an emigration of Irish to America, so
large as by its political effects to alarm American patriotism and give
birth to the great Know-nothing Movement in defence of American
nationality. The Irish, being highly gregarious and unused to large
farming, settled in cities. When they went out to work on railways or
canals, it was in large gangs. They were drawn into the vortex of politics
and became the retainers of crafty politicians, who, in secret, smiled at
their simplicity. They fell almost invariably into the Democratic party.
The name may have attracted them; but the Democratic party was that of the
Southern slave-owner, who was glad to enlist the Irishman as his humble
ally at the North and to pay him out of the treasury of political
corruption. The rank and file of Tammany were largely Irish. O'Connell had
been nobly hostile to slavery. His kinsmen and admirers on the other side
of the Atlantic were, on the contrary, vehement supporters of slavery, and
jealous assertors of their superiority over the enslaved race. Such is the
tendency of the newly enfranchised. In the war between the North and the
South the Irish in New York rose against the draft and committed great
outrages, especially against the negro, among other things setting fire to
a negro orphan asylum. They were ruthlessly put down. After the famine,
emigration greatly increased. Family affection among the Irish is
beautifully strong, and the members of a family who had gone before sent
home their earnings to pay for the passage of those whom they had left
behind. It has been reckoned that the Irish have expended twenty millions
sterling in this way. With a passionate love of Ireland the American Irish
combined a still more passionate hatred of England as Ireland's tyrant and
oppressor. Invasion and destruction of England were their dream. Always
addicted to secret fraternities and natural adepts in conspiracy, they
formed associations for war on England; that of the Fenians and that of
the still more rabid and bloodthirsty Clan-na-Gael, whose utterances were
frenzies of hatred. Large sums were subscribed; Irish servant-girls, with
a patriotism which in any case was honourable to them, giving freely of
their wages. American politicians flattered the mania, and harvested the
Irish vote. The war bequeathed to the Fenians some regular soldiers, among
others, Mitchel, who had been conspicuous in the ranks of slavery. The
Fenians invaded Canada and overthrew a corps of Canadian volunteers, but
retired on the approach of regulars; a bad omen for their conquest of
England. Conquest of England the Fenians did not attempt, beyond a
farcical essay at Chester. But they helped greatly to kindle rebellion in
Ireland, to provide it with money, and to supply it with assassins. The
National League, the form which, in Ireland, political combined with
agrarian rebellion assumed, almost ousted the law and the queen's
government. It resisted the payment of rents. Those who opposed its will
were "boycotted," a term of which this is the origin. Sometimes they were
murdered. A stripling was murdered for having served a master who had come
under the ban of the League. A wife was mobbed on her way home from
viewing the body of her murdered husband. Lord Frederick Cavendish, the
Irish secretary, going to Ireland with the kindest intentions, and the
permanent secretary, Mr. Burke, were stabbed to death in the Phoenix
Park. Mr. W. E. Forster, distinguished by his humane efforts at the time
of the famine, was marked for assassination. At the outbreak of the
rebellion a policeman escorting Fenian prisoners had been murdered at
Manchester, and an attempt made to blow up Clerkenwell Prison, where a
Fenian was confined, had caused the deaths of twelve people and the
maiming of one hundred and twenty. Gladstone had made the mistake of
treating the alarm caused by those outrages as a motive for doing justice
to Ireland. The motive for doing justice to Ireland was justice.

The assassination of Cavendish and Burke, it is right to say, was the act,
not of the Land League or of any conspiracy in Ireland itself, but of the
Invincibles, a club of frenzied Irish in the United States. By the Irish
leaders it was heartily condemned. That it was regarded with utter
abhorrence in the Irish quarters of English cities was denied by observers
at the time. Fierce and blind were the passions of those days.

To repress what was in fact a rebellion fed by foreign aid, to uphold the
law, and rescue life and industry in Ireland from the lawless tyranny of
the National League, as it was called, the government, as was its plain
duty, sought and obtained extraordinary powers, and threw a number of the
leaders of the rebellion into prison. It was time, when loyal citizens
were joining the League for protection in their callings, which the
queen's government could no longer afford. When the Irish rose against the
draft in New York, the Americans shot down several hundreds of them
without process of law.

In the British Parliament the "rebel" party, as Bright justly called it,
had found a leader of mark in Parnell, a man of great ability and force of
character, incisive and forcible, if not eloquent, as a speaker. He had
supplanted in the leadership Mr. Butt, a man of social sensibility and
refinement, unfitted for an aggressive part. The agitation under Parnell
combined agrarianism with repeal, thus giving the political part of the
movement a hold upon the people and a force and a formidable extension in
Ireland which by itself it had never had. The Land League, becoming the
National League, almost supplanted the queen's government in Ireland.

Parnell's avowed aim was the foundation of a peasant proprietorship.
Neither he nor any of his party seem to have cared to study
dispassionately the natural aptitudes of the country, and to satisfy
themselves whether it was capable of supporting the population which
disastrous events and sinister influences had accumulated upon it. Their
main object was political. It was, under the guise of repealing the union,
to sever Ireland from Great Britain. As an inducement to the peasantry to
support them in that attempt, they offered to transfer the property in the
land from the landlord to the tenant, though with a decorous promise of
indemnity. Mr. Parnell's name was English, and he had been educated at
Cambridge. It was understood that his bearing towards his Celtic
associates was high and that he was peremptory as well as absolute in
command. At his side was Mr. Biggar, whose great gift was unparalleled
effrontery. The two undertook to coerce the British Parliament by
obstruction. Had the British Parliament been itself, it would quickly have
asserted its dignity. But it was split into factions, upon the balance of
which Parnell and Biggar were able to play. Gladstone succumbed so far as
by an equivocal agreement, nicknamed the Kilmainham Treaty, to release
Parnell and his associates from prison. On the other hand, the
Conservatives coming into power struck the flag of the law by refusing to
renew the Crimes Act for the protection of loyalty in Ireland, while they
angled for the Parnellite vote by casting reproach on the conduct of a
lord-lieutenant who had done his duty.

At the general election which followed, Gladstone went to the country,
appealing for a majority which should enable him to settle the Irish
question independently of Parnell. Parnell passed the word to all his
partisans, both in Ireland and in the Irish quarters of English towns, to
vote against the Liberals. They obeyed. Gladstone was defeated. Then he
who had denounced Parnell as wading through rapine to dismemberment; who
had proclaimed his arrest as a rebel to an applauding multitude at
Guildhall; who had thrown him and scores of his followers into prison; who
had never given to the nation a hint of his sympathy with Parnell's
agitation, suddenly turned round and coalesced with Parnell. He put forth
an apology for his conversion founded on the hidden workings of his own
mind. But what availed the workings of his own mind if all the time he was
carrying on the policy of repression, misleading the nation thereby? It is
true he might have pointed to the coquetting of the other party, or its
leaders, with the Parnellites. He might perhaps with more force have
appealed to his own unquestionably sincere sympathy with all who were
struggling for independence. His retrospective imagination was strong, and
having changed so much he had always present to his mind the possibility
of further change. It made his language sometimes capable of unforeseen

The Liberal party was filled with astonishment, confusion, and dismay. But
the _Times_ stood fast and rallied the adherents of the union. To the
steadfastness and power of this great journal the defeat of Gladstone's
policy and the salvation of the union were largely due. Bright's refusal
to cast in his lot with the "rebel" party was also a heavy blow to
Gladstone. The political connection between the two men had been growing
close, and Bright might almost be said to personify justice to Ireland, as
to all the weak and oppressed. If there was a man who would have protested
against the sacrifice of Ireland to English interests it was John Bright.
Lord Hartington presented himself with unexpected vigour as a Unionist
leader. Gladstone was defeated in the House of Commons and still more
signally in the general election which followed, Conservative and Unionist
Liberals voting together on the special issue. In the contest Gladstone
lashed himself into fury, appealed to Separatist sentiment, not in Ireland
only, but in Scotland and Wales, to the prejudice of the masses against
the classes, of the uneducated against the educated and the learned
professions. He was fired with enthusiasm for the right. His instincts
were always high. But this did not make him a cool-headed statesman warily
dealing with a question which touched the life of the commonwealth.

Now fortune played a strange trick. Parnell, the leader and mainstay of
the League, Gladstone's ally, was convicted of adultery. Adultery is not
political, but it was too much both for the Irish hierarchy and for the
nonconformist conscience. Parnell had to be dragged from the helm of the
Irish party, to which he clung with a frantic tenacity, such as proved him
after all to be, though a very remarkable, hardly a very great, man.

Raised once more by another turn of fortune's wheel in the party game to
power, Gladstone again brought forward a Home Rule Bill. This time he,
with the help of the Irish members, pushed the bill through the House,
partly by closure, in a form already condemned by himself, giving Ireland
a separate Parliament for her own affairs, and at the same time retaining
her representation in the British Parliament, with power there to vote
upon all questions. The Irish delegation would have played, as in fact it
does now, for its own purposes, on the balance of British parties, and
baffled any attempt to enforce restrictions on the doings of its own
Parliament which the Home Rule Act might have imposed. The majority for
the bill in the Commons was forty-three, including eighty Irish members.
British members of the House of Commons who voted for the bill probably
reckoned on its being killed in the Lords. Killed it was there with a
vengeance. Gladstone appealed to the people against the Lords, but in
vain. Thus ended in disaster his wonderful career. His speeches on Home
Rule showed, like all his speeches, vast oratoric power, mastery of
details, clearness and liveliness in exposition. But weak points are also
apparent. The Irish Parliament cannot have been at once a sink of
corruption and an institution with which it was sacrilege to interfere.
The comparison of the union in criminality to the massacre of St.
Bartholomew must surely have made all hearers but the Irish smile. Upon
this subject the speaker raves, and generally he forgets that the mission
of reconciliation which he had undertaken would not be furthered by
opening old sores. The examples of Austria-Hungary and the connection of
Norway with Sweden, cited by him as proofs that a conjunction of two
Parliaments worked well, would be generally taken not as encouragements
but as warnings. The case of Norway and Sweden has since become a warning
indeed. The intricate machinery by which the speaker proposes to regulate
the action of his two Parliaments has too much the look of a speculative
structure elaborated without reference to the peculiar state of Ireland
and the forces to be encountered there. Of the force of the Catholic
priesthood, nothing is said. In fact, the political architect knew little
of the country with which he was dealing, having been in it only for three
weeks, and then not at a good point of view.

Thus the Irish question, which the greatest among the public men of his
time had failed to settle, was once more thrown into the cauldron of party


Looking back on these most melancholy annals, we shall find that for their
general sadness Nature is as much to be blamed as man. She did well in
placing at the side of a country rich in coal and minerals, destined to be
manufacturing, one of pasture to supply food. She made a fatal mistake in
peopling them with different and uncongenial races. War, in the age of
war, and conquest of the weaker by the stronger were sure to be the
result. For the form in which conquest came, the Papacy has partly to
answer. It used the sword of the Norman adventurer in this case, as it had
in the case of England, to crush religious independence and force all
churches to bow to its own dominion, while, as the wails of its own
partisans in the Becket controversy show, it was itself unworthy of the
sovereignty of Christendom. Of this Catholics are bound to take note, as
they are of the fact that the Papacy at a later day, by inciting the Irish
to rebellion on its own account, brought upon them no small portion of
their woes. The Norman conquest of England had incidentally the bad
effect of connecting the English monarchy with dominion in France, and
thus turning the forces of the English kings from Ireland, where they
might have ended the agony, to a field where they were much worse than
wasted. Things could not have taken a more unfortunate course than that of
a colony of half-civilized conquerors carrying on war with barbarous
tribes of a different race and tongue, yet without force to effect the
conquest. The invasion of Edward Bruce, with which England had nothing to
do, probably did further harm by breaking up whatever there was of
Anglo-Norman order and turning barons into chiefs of Irish Septs. Then the
Reformation, a European convulsion involving Ireland, and in the most
unfortunate way, since it identified Protestantism with conquest,
Catholicism with the struggle for independence, introduced another deadly
source of strife, and made Ireland the point of danger to England in her
desperate struggle for her own existence and the salvation of the
Protestant cause. Otherwise it seems not impossible that the Tudor
statesmen, with such a man as Burleigh at their head, might, as they
desired, have effected a peaceful settlement. Civilization, not
extermination, was their aim. The great Celtic rebellions of Shane
O'Neil, Desmond, and Tyrone, the last two Catholic as well as Celtic,
forced upon them the policy of extermination with all its horrors. The
rising and massacre of 1641 were the sequel. The vengeance of the victor
and the transplantation of the vanquished to Connaught were in their turn
the sequel of the rising and massacre of 1641. Of these again the rebound
was the Catholic rising of 1688, which, had it been successful, would have
ended certainly in the dispossession, probably in the expulsion, possibly
in the extermination, of the Protestants. English liberty and religion
were at the same time threatened by an Irish Catholic force encamped at
Hounslow. The Penal law was execrable; yet hardly more execrable than the
Great Act of Attainder. In later days Castle government by corruption was
vile; but it was the inevitable accompaniment of the constitution of 1782,
the work of Grattan and the Volunteers. Of the master evil of all, the
state of the masses of the Irish people, English protectionism must share
the blame with the penal laws. But protectionism was then the delusion of
the commercial world. Irish patriots were not free from it. To deal with
peasant distress was the immediate duty of the Irish Parliament, which
refused even to turn its eyes that way. Peasant distress, organized for
rebellion by a revolutionary party at Belfast, itself deriving its
inspiration from the American and French revolutions, produced the rising,
ever to be accursed and deplored, of 1798.

Irish patriots are apt to talk of England as a single person or, rather,
fiend, actuated in her dealings with Ireland by hatred and contempt.
England is a nation divided into parties and swayed by varying influences
from time to time. The England of Peel and Gladstone is not the England of
the Georges, the Stuarts, the Tudors, the Plantagenets, or responsible for
the doings of those dynasties. In the evil days of her political history,
England, if she oppressed Ireland, also suffered herself. The Liberal
party in England did its best for Ireland, and if the Irish members had
been what they ought to have been and done what they ought to have done,
more rapid progress might have been made. As it was, Ireland shared the
great measures of Parliamentary and municipal reform which there had been
little prospect of her achieving by herself. She received the boon of
national and undenominational education about a generation before England,
and but for the reactionary influence of her own priesthood would have
received it in full measure. The same influence maimed as far as it could
the undenominational colleges. Nothing could be more deplorable than the
long series of coercion acts. But it was hardly to be expected that the
English government should strike its flag to assassination and boycotting,
or that the British nation would be moved to concession by the inroads of
American conspirators combined with domestic rebellion. It was about 1866
that Guizot, talking of Ireland as he walked with an English guest,
stopped in his walk and said with an emphatic gesture, "The conduct of
England to Ireland for the last thirty years has been admirable." This,
before disestablishment, was too strong, as the English guest remarked at
the time; but as the judgment of a cool-headed foreign statesman, whose
course had not been one of unbroken harmony with England, it was likely to
be more just at least to the motives of England than the invectives of

Since the Union there has been no 1641, no 1688, no 1798. The two races
and religions have lived generally at peace if not in concord with each
other. The religious riots at Belfast are a very mitigated relic of the
religious wars of former days. Reform, though its advance has been slow
and fitful, has advanced. Within a generation from the date of the Union,
Catholic Emancipation was carried. The tithe-proctor did not very long
survive. Presently the State Church itself was abolished. Ireland shared
with Great Britain Parliamentary reform, to which the Irish oligarchy
could never have consented without political and social convulsion. Not
long afterwards came national education, bestowed on Ireland before it was
bestowed on England. None of these improvements would directly touch the
agrarian sore, the malignity of which was increased by the growth of the
Irish population under the reign of order, far beyond the power of the
land to maintain it. But relief has been given to famine, and strenuous
efforts have been made and are still being made to effect a radical cure.
Ireland has enjoyed free trade with Great Britain and with the whole
British Empire. Everything has been open to Irish merit and industry.
Millions of Irish and their children have found homes in Britain and the
colonies. To sever Ireland from Great Britain is still possible. To divide
the Irish from the British is not possible. In both islands and in all the
colonies the two races are now joined and cannot be put asunder.

Besides, as has already been said, we must always bear it in mind that we
do not see the other side of Destiny's cards. Suppose Ireland had remained
the land of the Septs, would her lot certainly have been more happy?
Neither at the time of the Norman Conquest nor afterwards do the Septs
appear to have shown any tendency to a union such as would have given
birth to a national polity and its attendant civilization. For aught we
can see, they might have gone on indefinitely, like the clans of the
Scottish Highlands, in a state of barbarous strife fatal to progress of
every kind. Even their common interest in the struggle against the
Anglo-Norman invader produced no general or permanent union. The Brehon
law, which was their principal bond, had no executive force and was in
itself barbarous, not distinguishing public from private wrong. The Septs
warred upon each other not less savagely than the conqueror warred upon
them all. If anything like union came at last, it was not political but
religious, and brought with it a fatal share in the European war of
religions. Nor were conquests other than Anglo-Norman impossible. From the
Highlands and islands of Scotland came bodies of marauding adventurers
which might have been reënforced, and, in the North at least, have
prevailed. It is not certain that without the aid of John de Bermingham
and his Anglo-Normans, the Septs would have got rid of Edward Bruce.

That the interest of Ireland should be regarded as subordinate to that of
Great Britain was the principle on which British politicians acted in the
days that are past. To the past this principle must now be and indeed has
been decisively consigned. That union, to be good for either party, must
be good for both, is the accepted basis of discussion. On the other hand,
it is not to be assumed that the aspirations of Irish politicians
naturally bent on carving out an independent field of action for
themselves, are entirely free from the bias of personal ambition or
identical with a dispassionate view of the interest of the Irish people.
Nor is it to be forgotten that Ulster is a part of Ireland.

There are two questions, perfectly distinct and calling for separate
consideration, though they have become blended in the course and for the
purposes of the political agitation. One is economical, the other

The economical question is whether Ireland can support her present
population. Patriotic eloquence will not change her skies, or render it
otherwise than cruel to induce her people to stay in a land in which they
cannot make their bread. Instances there may be of barren soil made by
the loving industry of the small owner fruitful and capable of supporting
a large population; but the industry of the small owner, though it can
improve the soil, cannot alter the skies. What is to be desired is a
special report, calm and expert, upon this subject. Is Ireland generally
capable of being turned with advantage into an arable country? Can wheat
or grain of any kind be profitably raised there in face of the competition
of the great grain-growing countries such as that now opened, and bidding
fair to be opened over a much larger area, in the Canadian Northwest? The
small farmer to live must have something to sell. Is there reason to look
in any other direction than farming for a speedy extension of Irish
industries such as would provide bread sufficient for the population? Is
the water-power of Ireland, now that electricity has been developed,
likely to do what has been done for England by coal? Is the shipping
trade, for which the Irishman has had little opportunity of showing a
turn, likely to increase? These are questions which it is for economists,
not for politicians or patriotic orators, to decide. It is said that there
are tracts of land in Ireland still unoccupied and fit for occupation. If
there are, the survey will show the fact. Land purchase by government
subvention is a policy hardly to be pursued unless it is certain that its
results will not presently be reversed by nature.

The worst part of emigration is that it carries away the pith and sinews
of a nation, taking the strong and leaving the weak, the aged, and
unsupported women. It is a pleasant proof, already noticed, of the warmth
of the Irish heart that there has been less of solitary and more of family
emigration in their case than in those of some other emigrating races.
After all, how has the earth been peopled, how have all the nations been
formed but by migration?

To turn to the political question. The danger of insurrection has probably
passed away. Fenianism has been largely deprived of its trans-Atlantic
base, and can no longer look confidently to American sympathy for support
and supplies. The Irish vote has less power. Little at least was heard of
it in the last presidential election. Yet the political question is still
most serious, and presses urgently for settlement; a state of things
largely due to the division of parties in the British government which
showed its influence in the abandonment of the Crimes Act by the Salisbury
administration; in the Maamtrasna debate; and in Mr. Gladstone's sudden
coalition with Parnell; but above all in the votes of British members of
the House of Commons for Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill, giving
Ireland a Parliament of her own and representation in the British
Parliament at the same time. Parliament still has in it a body of Irish
members not only alien but hostile, avowing that their object is not to
aid in deliberation but to coerce, playing upon the balance of parties for
purposes of their own, degrading the assembly, and distracting the
councils of the nation. Nor is the source of this evil confined to the
constituencies of Ireland. There is in England and Scotland a large Irish
population, which, as was seen in the election of 1885, obeys the voice of
the Irish leaders and at their command votes inimically to the country in
which it lives and earns its bread. In Ireland itself, moreover, the
hell-broth of agitation is kept constantly seething to the inevitable
detriment of recuperative effort, which cannot do its full work without
security for the future.

As the first step it should be calmly settled what are the specific
grievances under which Ireland labours, and which the Imperial legislature
cannot, but an Irish Parliament could, remove. Historic wrongs are past
remedy. Ireland has more than her share of representation in Parliament.
She has no established Church. If her priesthood would let her, she would
have a complete system of national education. Her land law is now far more
favourable to the tenant than that of the other kingdoms, and she has been
and still is receiving government subventions in aid of the tillers of her
soil which English and Scotch tenants do not receive and which would cease
if she became independent. Nothing is closed against her people. They have
the markets of the whole Empire. All its offices, patronage, and services
are perfectly open to them. So long as they will abstain from outrage and
murder, they enjoy all the personal privileges of British freemen. It
cannot be said that the law has been suspended for any purpose other than
the repression of outrage. If the ordinary law and government were very
bad, Ulster would hardly have prospered as it has done. If Castle
government is the grievance, abolition of it was offered to Ireland long
ago and was by her rejected. Let the existing grievances be specified, and
let it be seen whether Imperial legislation is incapable of redressing
them. The truth is that with the Irish leaders it has not been redress of
particular wrongs and grievances or the introduction of practical
improvements that has been the object of desire. Their aim has been to
create a nationalist feeling which should end in political separation.
Such has been the constant tenor of their appeals to sentiment and the end
to which their policy has really pointed.

Suppose Ireland severed from Great Britain, what would be her lot? She
would then have to assume all the burdens and responsibilities of an
independent nation, including military and naval defence, as well as the
entire expense of a separate government. As she could not hope to vie in
strength with her powerful neighbour, she would be at that neighbour's
mercy; nor, considering the temper in which the parting would take place,
would occasions for quarrel be unlikely to arise. Ireland might have to
seek the protection and become the vassal of some foreign power. Irish
trade would no longer be free of British markets or of the markets of
British dependencies. Irish labour would no longer be free of the British
labour market. The Indian service and the Imperial services generally
would be closed against Irishmen.

Nor would Ireland be entirely united in herself or perfectly set free from
the hated British influence. She would still have in her the men of
Ulster, Saxon and Protestant, antagonistic probably to the Catholic
majority, and if they were pressed in the unequal conflict, stretching out
their hands for aid to their fellow-Protestants and kinsmen in Great

A mere arm of the sea, such as that which divides Ireland from Great
Britain, is surely not enough in these days of improved navigation, to
form a bar to political union. The distance from London to Dublin is now
practically far less than it was a century ago from London to Edinburgh.
Nor does there seem any reason why salt water should be fatal. The Ionian
Islands are in the kingdom of Greece; so probably some day will be Crete.

If Ireland were detached from Great Britain, into what hands would she
fall? The gentry would be extinguished. To excite popular hatred of them
as landlords has been the constant aim of the Nationalist leaders. There
would be a general repudiation of rent, which the Irish government and
judiciary would lack the will, while the British government and judiciary
would have lost the power, to prevent. The record of Irish landlordism is
not bright. Absenteeism has been a great evil, though the estates of some
absentees have been notably well managed. There have been hideously cruel
evictions, especially it seems on the lands purchased by speculators
under the Encumbered Estates Act. Landlordism, as mere drawing of rent, is
an evil. It is not desirable that any man should own land as a
non-resident or own more land than he can manage or superintend. The old
feudal law attaching service to lordship of land was sound in principle.
But if the Irish gentry would accept that principle, be resident, look
after their estates, and do their duty to their tenants, they would
probably be accepted by their people as social leaders, and they might
play that part with good effect. The life of the French peasant is not the
acme either of civilization or of happiness, even though we may make some
abatement from the picture presented by Zola in "La Terre." Unhappily the
tendency, even in England, seems to be towards the detachment of the owner
from his land and the abandonment on his part of every function save that
of receiving the rent and spending it, perhaps in some pleasure city or
abroad. The decadence of the agricultural interest in England is by some
ascribed to this cause.

The gentry being no more, Catholic Ireland would at first fall into the
hands of the priesthood. The moral character of the Irish priesthood in
the opinion of impartial judges is high, as is that of the priesthood of
French Canada. In both cases ecclesiastical influence is strong, and in
both a population virtuous after the Catholic model is the result. The two
are probably about the best things that the Roman Catholic Church has to
show. But the Roman Catholic religion is mediæval. The training of its
ministers inevitably shuts out light which would be fatal to mediæval
belief. An Irish peasant lad, having been intellectually secluded for
seven years at Maynooth, comes out proof against the intellectual
influences and advancing science of his time. He is the mental liegeman
and the preacher of the Syllabus, which anathematizes freedom of thought
and claims for the Church dominion, not only over the soul but over the
body, such as was hers in the Middle Ages. He laid his ban on the Queen's
Colleges, and has discouraged and thwarted the extension of popular
education. In regard to education and intelligence, he has been in Ireland
what he has been in Spain and other countries subject to his sway. In the
sphere of industry and commerce the influence has generally been the same.
The religious ideal of life with its Church festivals and Saints' Days has
prevailed. In Ireland as in Canada the priest inculcates early marriages,
the effects of which may be morally good but are economically perilous.
The excessive conversion of the fruits of industry to the unproductive
purposes of the Church has already begun to call forth protests.

The power of the Roman Catholic priesthood would be encountered by the
stalwart Protestantism of Ulster in the Parliamentary arena as it still is
sometimes in the streets of Belfast. It might presently find itself
encountered by another adversary, revolutionary Nationalism, the heir of
that party of force which broke away from the leadership of O'Connell, the
devout son of the Church, and was an object of well-founded suspicion and
aversion to the hierarchy of his day. The affinity of this element is to
the revolutionary party in other countries; and if, like the United
Irishmen of Belfast, it has been willing to act with allies devoted to the
Church, it is not itself devout, as the Church, if she comes to share
power with it, may be led to feel.

The idea of unity of race as a basis of Irish nationality has little
support. In the North there is a strong and masterful Saxon element. There
must be a large Anglo-Saxon and English element in the old Pale. The men
of Tipperary, though characteristically Irish, are believed to be
descendants of Cromwellians. There is Huguenot blood.

The revival of Erse as a national language is surely a patriotic dream.
How is it possible to revive a language all but dead, with no valuable
literature or wealth of printed books, in face of a language which has a
grand literature, is spoken by all the educated classes, indeed almost
universally, in Ireland, and is necessary for intercourse with Great
Britain. O'Connell, we are told, had no great sympathy with the revival of
Irish archæology, and no sympathy at all with the project of reviving the
Irish language. He recognized the superior utility of the English tongue
as the medium of all modern communication, and saw without regret the
gradual disuse of Erse. Fancy and sentiment may prevail among a literary
class which nevertheless will hardly carry its patriotism so far as to
darken its own mind by unlearning English.

"Ireland ought to be governed in accordance with Irish ideas." Such is the
current saying, and it sounds wise. But statesmanship would hardly act
upon it before taking measures to learn what ideas are peculiarly Irish
and whether they are features of national character, innate and indelible,
and not traces of historic accident or fancies instilled in the course of
political agitation. The perpetuation of weaknesses accidentally
contracted cannot be wise for man or nation. The political idea which
seems most characteristic is the tendency to personal leadership rather
than to self-government or constitutional rule. But this has been common
to all races in early times. It was fostered and prolonged by the
circumstances of Irish history. It could hardly be pronounced incapable of
modification by familiarity with free institutions.

What would be the political constitution of an independent Ireland? How
would its form be settled? The political training of the people generally
since they came out of political thraldom has been agitation against
government and law; their only notion of rule has been personal. Nor is a
hierarchy friendly to political liberty. To set up a stable democracy in
Ireland, if that is the aim of the revolutionary party, would surely be an
arduous undertaking.

All who look coolly into the matter apart from faction and its necessities
have pronounced that the choice lies between separation and legislative
union. Two Parliaments, two nations; so all wisdom says and so experience
before the Union proved. The forces which under Grattan's constitution
held the two Parliaments together in strained and precarious fellowship,
the nomination boroughs, the pension list, the sinecures, the peerages,
the bishoprics, would no longer exist. What is even more important, there
would no longer be an oligarchical and exclusionist Parliament in Ireland
dependent on British support for its ascendency, perhaps even for the
security of its lands. Antagonism would almost inevitably ensue; the more
surely as the partners would set out with the embitterment of a divorce.
Nothing apparently could avert collision; the result of which would be
repression, making the latter end worse than the first.

The proposal of federation is surely preposterous. It would be necessary
first to cut the United Kingdom in two and create an Irish government in
order that negotiations for a federal union might be set on foot. But how
could there be a federation of two states, one of them enormously superior
in power to the other? What sort of deliberative assembly would the
federal council be?

Another plan is to form a federation of the four nationalities, as they
are assumed to be, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; wrenching apart
the members of a great nation which have long been united and cancelling
the highest work of British statesmanship. Here again federation could not
work. England being so much the predominant partner, the result would
almost certainly be a perpetual league of the three minor powers against
her domination. The federal system is applicable only to a group of
tolerably equal States. The restoration of the Heptarchy with the addition
of Scotland, divided into Highland and Lowland, and the four provinces of
Ireland erected into States, would be a comparatively practicable system.
The present condition of the Federal system in the United States does not
encourage experiments of that kind.

The mildest proposal of all is devolution; in other words, the concession
to Ireland of a larger measure of local self-government. This probably
would be readily granted to any extent compatible with supremacy of law
and security of life and property, which no government without abdicating
its plainest duty can forgo. Gradual extension of local self-government
would not entail any acute crisis or bring on any party conflict. The
Lord-lieutenancy, Parliament has already shown itself ready to abolish. It
was in deference to the wish of Ireland that it has been retained. The
only thing in the way of undue centralization of which, so far as the
writer remembers, his Irish friends complained, was the necessity of
carrying Irish causes to Westminster as the final court of appeal.
Whether concession on this point would be feasible it is for legal
authorities to say.

However, it can hardly be doubted that in the course of this struggle a
sentiment has been cultivated among the people of Ireland for which it is
wise as well as kind in some way to provide satisfaction. The Irishman
being of lively sensibility and impressible through sight has never seen
the power which really governs him. A session or two of the Imperial
Parliament held at Dublin for the settlement of Irish questions would
probably have had a very good effect, but it was thought to entail too
much inconvenience. Would there be any objection to empowering the Irish
members of both Houses to sit annually at Dublin as a preparatory House of
Irish legislation framing bills to be commended to Parliament? There would
then be something in College Green. The experiment would involve none of
the difficulties or perils of a statutory division of the powers of
Parliament. It would be at first on the footing of an experiment, nor
would it preclude further concessions if further concessions should be
found needful.

With the question of national character, social or industrial, and its
special requirements, I do not pretend to deal. It has been treated
systematically, perhaps for the first time, by an excellent authority,
Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, in his "Ireland in the New Century." Of Irish
character a part may be aboriginal and fundamental. A part probably is the
result of historical accident more or less ingrained, and probably capable
of modification. I am told that Irish character has been even acquiring a
more serious cast since I watched the Tipperary steeplechases or stood on
the fair-ground of Ballinasloe. Not a little, so far as the masses are
concerned, is probably the work of a priesthood strongly and inherently
reactionary, which has exercised the same influence on the ideal of life,
character, mind, and industry here as in other Catholic countries. Ireland
is perhaps happy in having been cut off from the prodigious development of
luxury and dissipation which, as social writers tell us, has been taking
place on the other side of the Channel as well as from the domination of
the stock-exchange. She may in this way become a saving element in the
social character of the United Kingdom.

Is it vain to hope that for the settlement of a question so vital party
may for one short hour suspend its war? What far-off object of
aggrandizement can be half so important as a contented and loyal Ireland.



The Irish landlord, poor as his circumstances were before the famine, was
in many instances reduced to sorer straits after the terrible scourge had
passed away. The good landlord, anxious to do his duty by his tenants,
helped them as far as his mortgages and other financial burdens would
allow. The tyrannical one, regardless of the sufferings of his victims,
sought to extract impossible rents from an unfortunate tenantry who had
scarcely the means of subsistence. The Encumbered Estates Act, it was
thought, would relieve the tension. It empowered a court specially
constituted for the purpose to order the sale of estates encumbered with
debt, on the petition of any person sufficiently interested as owner or

Landlordism, it was thought, would, by this act, be relieved of much that
made it tyrannical, even when it meant well. But the act was a failure. It
was worse. It was the means of wrecking many a fortune, and driving many
a proprietor to ruin. Men who, in hard times, were doing well for their
tenants and their country under difficult circumstances were driven from
the land.

The act came into operation towards the end of 1849. A wild rush was made
by creditors to the court. Prices fell with amazing rapidity, and landed
property became a drug in the market. Valuable properties failed to
realize sufficient to meet the mortgages, and their owners were inevitably

A new class of landlord now appeared on the scene in the person of the
speculator, who bought up the bankrupt properties as they presented
themselves. The new proprietors had nothing in common with their tenantry.
They knew little of their needs and requirements and cared less. They had
but one interest and that was a commercial one. To make their properties
realize a good dividend on their outlay was their one concern, and up went
the rents accordingly. Such was the fate of the unfortunate tenants who
were allowed to continue as tenants of the new proprietor. This was bad
enough, but those that were given notice to quit were even more cruelly
wronged. Compensation for wrongful disturbance was not recognized in
Ireland in 1850, and tenant property amounting to three millions sterling
was sold to pay the landlord's creditors.

Nothing could demonstrate more clearly how utterly rotten was the whole
land system in Ireland at the time. Landlord and tenant alike were in a
miserable plight. Rents fell heavily in arrear, and evictions were the
order of the day. The landlord played the bold game, struck hard, and
without mercy. The tenant sought protection in combination and conspiracy.
Such was the condition of Ireland when thoughtful men sought by
legislation to cure the crying evils of the time. Many remedies were
proposed between 1850 and 1860, but none of them reached the stage of
legislative enactment. In the latter year, however, Cardwell made an
attempt to place the law of landlord and tenant on a better footing.

In spite of a good deal of opposition, government succeeded in placing two
important measures on the Statute Book, viz.: the Landed Property
(Ireland) Improvement Act, 1860, and the Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment
Act (Ireland) of the same year. By the former limited owners were enabled,
subject to judicial sanction, to charge the inheritance with the cost of
specified improvements, and to bind their successors for stated periods.
Agricultural leases for a period of twenty-one years or less could be
given by the limited owners without judicial intervention, but every
improvement lease required the sanction of the chairman of the county in
which the lands were situated.

To tenants the right of compensation was granted for certain specified
improvements made by them, provided that before entering on the
improvements they made them the subject of an agreement with the landlord,
or had given notice of his intention to improve, and the landlord had not
notified his objection within a period of three months from receipt of the
notice. The principle of retrospective compensation was not, as yet,

The second act consolidated the existing law of landlord and tenant, and
made some important changes in procedure.

The relationship of landlord and tenant, hitherto based on _tenure_, as in
England, was henceforth to be founded on _contract_.

Before proceeding to examine its provisions, it might be well to point out
that the common law rights of Irish agricultural tenants were in the
absence of special customs governed since the reign of James I. by English
common law rules. The English system of land tenure was imposed upon the
country by virtue of conquest. But the circumstances of the two countries
were entirely different.

In England the landlord owned the soil and everything on it. The dwelling
houses and out-offices, the farm roads, the drainage, were built by him or
his predecessors. He let a holding to a tenant as a going concern, and for
the holding so equipped he received rent. The relations between landlord
and tenant in England rested on a business footing. If the tenant did not
feel satisfied with his farm or his lot, he moved on. There were none of
the ties there, either of attachment or of interest, that existed in
Ireland. In Ireland the tenant or his predecessor provided, by his labours
or his savings, the whole equipment of the farm. His family for
generations back occupied the same plot, and he dearly learned to know and
love every stone and hedge about the place. In England the improvements
were effected by the landlord out of the rent paid him by the tenant, and,
of course, were legally his by the law of the land. In Ireland the
improvements, almost universally made by the tenant, became at common law
the property of the landlord, who was under no _legal_ obligation to
compensate the tenant for them on ejecting him from his holding. The
following extract from the report of the Devon Commission contrasts the
practice in the two countries very well. "The Commission finds on all
hands, it is admitted, that, according to the general practice in Ireland,
the landlord builds neither dwelling-house nor farm-offices, nor puts
fences, gates, etc., into good order before he lets his land to a tenant.
The cases in which a landlord does any of those things are the exceptions.
The system, however, of giving aid in these matters is becoming more
prevalent. In most cases whatever is done in the way of building is done
by the tenant, and in the ordinary language of the country
dwelling-houses, farm-buildings, and even the making of the fences are
described by the general word 'improvements,' which is thus employed to
denote the necessary adjuncts to a farm, without which in England or
Scotland no tenant would be found to rent it."

What I have said represents the general, but, I should add, not the
universal, condition of things in Ireland at this time.

In parts of the country, especially in Ulster, certain customs prevailed
which recognized that a tenant was something more than a rent producer.
They denied the right of the landlord to raise rents by reason of any
value added to the soil by the tenant's outlay. They recognized a right of
continuous occupancy by the tenant at a fair rent. This right, called
tenant right, became on some properties of immense value, and was often
sold by an out-going tenant at a price exceeding in value the fee simple
purchase of the holding. In Ulster more than anywhere else in Ireland the
custom was very widely prevalent, but was as yet without the sanction of
the law.

But I have digressed from the Act of 1860. In dealing with the Act of
1870, what I have just said will be of importance. The Landlord and Tenant
Act, 1860, otherwise known as "Deasy's Act," is a voluminous measure of
one hundred and five sections which may be conveniently grouped into three
sections. The first deals with the _Contract of Tenancy_, the second with
_Surrenders and Assignments_, and the third with the _Methods of
Procedure_. Section three enacts that "the relation of landlord and tenant
shall be deemed to be founded on the express or implied contract of the
parties." The conduct of the parties may imply a contract of tenancy,
payment of rent being evidence, but not irrefutable evidence, of its

Section four requires that "every lease or contract, with respect to
lands whereby the relations of landlord and tenant is intended to be
created for any freehold estate or interest, or for any definite period of
time, not being from year to year, or any lesser period, shall be by
_deed_ executed, or _note in writing_ signed by the landlord or his
agent." It is further provided that a tenant may, if there be no agreement
to the contrary, remove his fixtures within two months of its
determination by an uncertain event. Two covenants are implied in the
contract of tenancy by each of the parties thereto. The landlord by his
lease implies an agreement on the part of himself and his successors that
he has a good title to make it, and that the tenant shall have quiet and
peaceable enjoyment of his holding.

The tenant agrees to pay rent, taxes, and impositions payable by the
tenant, and to keep the premises in good and substantial repair and
condition; and, secondly, to give up peaceable possession of the demised
premises in good and substantial repair and condition on the determination
of the lease, subject to any right of removal or of compensation for
improvements that may have lawfully arisen in respect of them, and to any
right of surrender in case of the destruction of the subject-matter of the

_Surrenders and Assignments_ may be made (1) by deed, (2) by a note in
writing, or (3) by operation of law.

Sections forty-five to one hundred and two deal with actions for the
recovery of rent and actions of ejectment. The most important provision is
that which provides that if a tenant has had a decree given against him in
an action of ejectment, he may be restored to his holding on applying to
the court within six months, and paying the rent with arrears and costs.

Such are the main features of Deasy's Act. Beyond consolidating and
regularizing the existing law it achieved nothing. A decided advance,
however, was made in the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, which
was restricted in its operation to agricultural and pastoral tenancies. We
have seen how there existed in Ulster and other parts of the country
certain customs favourable to the tenant. To the Ulster custom, as it was
called, Ulster was indebted for exceptional prosperity.

The contentment of its agricultural population was in strange contrast to
the seething discontent of the other parts of the country. Much of the
thrift and plenty that exists in parts of Ulster to-day can be traced back
to the exceptional treatment accorded to the tenants of Ulster long
before legislation came to the aid of their less fortunate brethren south
of the Boyne. The aim of the Land Act of 1870 was to place the latter
class in a similar position to the Northerns. The act legalized the Ulster
custom and similar usages. It gave tenants not subject to these a right to
be compensated for their improvements on quitting their holdings, and
guaranteed a measure of security by providing compensation for
disturbance. What is "disturbance" is a question for the court, and must
be decided on the facts of each particular case.

Agreements not to improve the holding, or not to claim for improvements,
are declared void. If the holding be subject to the Ulster custom, there
is a general presumption that the improvements belong to the tenant.

The term "improvements" shall mean in relation to a holding (1) any work
which, being executed, adds to the letting value of the holding, on which
it is executed and is suitable to such holding; and (2) tillages, manures,
or other like farming works, the benefit of which is unexhausted at the
time of the tenant quitting his holding.

We have not proceeded far before it becomes apparent that to secure to the
tenant the full enjoyment of his own property was the line along which
land legislation was travelling. The Act of 1870 went some distance in
this direction. But the great advance was not made till ten years after,
when Gladstone proposed to establish a tribunal which would assess and fix
the property of the two partners in the dual ownership of land in Ireland.
The act recognized and legalized dual ownership. It created a partnership
between two parties whose interests were hostile. It was a great act, and
did incalculable good, but many years were not to elapse until it became
evident that a return to single ownership--but this time by the
tenant--was absolutely necessary. The endeavours to work dual ownership
irretrievably broke down.

Both parties had little confidence in the Land Court established by the
Act of 1881.

The landlord complained that his property was being confiscated; the
tenant believed that he was still paying rent on his own improvements. The
act was meant to give tenants fixity of tenure, fair rent, and free sale.
A new judicial body, the Irish Land Commission, with jurisdiction to hear
and determine all matters of law or fact arising under the act, was
established. The commission consists of three commissioners--one a
judicial commissioner and numerous assistant commissioners appointed by
the lord lieutenant for the time being with the approval of the treasury.
This is not the place to examine the provisions of this complicated
measure minutely, but as it is the foundation of much of the land
legislation that followed, it is important that its main provisions be

The act distinguishes between "present" tenancies and "future" tenancies,
a "present" tenancy being "a tenancy subsisting at the time of the passing
of the act, or created before the first day of January, 1883, in a holding
in which a tenancy was subsisting at the time of the passing of the act,
and every tenancy to which the act applies shall be deemed to be a present
tenancy until the contrary is proved."

A "future" tenancy means a tenancy beginning after the passing of the act.
The act applies only to agricultural and pastoral holdings. It gives
qualified powers to both "present" and "future" tenants to dispose of
their holdings for the best price they can get, or to mortgage them if
they think fit.

Fixity of tenure was secured by enabling a tenant to convert his interest
into what is called in the act a _statutory term_. Such a term may be
created by an agreement between the landlord and tenant for an increased
rent, or by having a fair rent fixed, or by filing in court an agreement
for a judicial rent. A _statutory term_ can be created only in respect of
a "present" tenancy except when in regard to a "future" tenancy the tenant
has agreed with the landlord to an increased rent. The provisions as to
the fixing of a fair rent apply only to "present" tenancies. Section three
of the act gives a tenant power to dispose of his holding by bequest.
Perhaps the most important provisions of the act are those enabling a
landlord or tenant to have a "fair rent" fixed.

Either party may apply to the court to have the rent made a _judicial
rent_. The court fixes this rent after considering all the circumstances
of the case, holding, and district, and having regard to the interests of
both parties. No rent shall be payable in respect of improvements made by
the tenant unless he has been already compensated for them by the
landlord. In the administration of the act the word "improvements" has
given rise to endless litigation. In the now famous case of Adams _v._
Dunseath it was held that "improvements" meant improvement works and not
increased letting value. It was also held in a case affecting the same
holding that a tenant is entitled to "a fair return by way of annual
allowance in respect of the present capital value of his improvement works
which may be estimated by way of percentage on such capital value; and if
after making this percentage there is still a surplus of increased letting
value, it is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Land Commission to
determine whether, and in what proportions, such surplus shall be divided
between landlord and tenant." It was further laid down that the Land
Commission was to treat "the latent and dormant resources of the soil, as
let by the landlord to the tenant, as the property of the landlord, and
the development of those resources by the tenant as the act of the

This act was undoubtedly a great charter for the tenants and created
something like a revolution in Ireland. It contained many defects, and was
marred by many blemishes, but on the whole it was a masterly attempt to
settle the question. Like much of the land legislation for Ireland, most
of its shortcomings were due to a reckless disregard on the part of
British ministers for Irish opinion. Indeed, this was the cause of most of
the amending legislation that followed.

Under the Act of 1881 "fair rents" were fixed for periods of fifteen
years, when they were again ripe for revision. Roughly speaking, the old
non-judicial rents were reduced by twenty per cent on an average to
convert them into first term rents. These again were further reduced by
twenty per cent on an average for the second term. This, of course, played
havoc with the landlord's income, and did not materially benefit the
tenant, the prices of the produce of whose farm was falling with even
greater rapidity. The experiment of dual ownership had been tried and was
found wanting; a return to single ownership was sought for by the series
of acts known as the Land Purchase Acts.

It was not till 1885 that the experiment of land purchase was seriously
tried in Ireland, but it is right to say that the question first came
before the public in a practical form so far back as 1869 in the
discussions on the disestablishment of the Irish Episcopal Church. At that
time Mr. Bright proposed to increase the number of owners of land in
Ireland by allowing the glebe tenants to purchase the property attached to
the glebes. The idea was embodied in the Irish Church Act, and over six
thousand occupying owners were thus created. Under this act three-fourths
of the purchase money was advanced by the State, and the balance paid in
cash by the purchasers. The money was advanced by the State for
thirty-two years, the shortest period allowed by any of the acts. From the
tenant's point of view this act cannot be said to have been an unqualified
success. The price of land was high at the time, and the purchasers having
bought high sustained the whole burden of the sudden fall in the prices of
produce which almost immediately succeeded the conclusion of their
bargains. In 1870 and in 1881 there were embodied in the acts of these
years provisions to enable tenants to purchase their holdings; but the
procedure to be followed was made so complicated that the tenants did not
avail themselves of the purchase clauses to any great extent. The
insignificant number of sixteen hundred sales were completed under the two

In 1885 a Conservative government came into power, and though their term
of office was of short duration, they introduced and passed a measure
which, by its marvellous and, I might add, its unexpected success, pointed
the direction and paved the way for all future legislation for the
settlement of the land problem in Ireland. Back to single ownership was
the keynote of the measure. Hitherto the credit or discredit of all
legislation on the land problem belonged to the Liberals. They strove to
make dual ownership a possibility. Conservative statesmen sought for a
settlement in the opposite direction.

In sales under all the purchase acts from 1885 to the Act of 1903 all the
purchase money is advanced by the State to the selling landlord, and is
charged by the State to the tenant who purchases. The tenant repays the
amount borrowed or "advanced," to use the language of the acts, in annual
instalments, which instalments clear off not only the original "advance,"
but the accumulated interest.

Roughly speaking, the procedure is this. The landlord and tenant, having
agreed on a price, sign an agreement for sale, and file it with the Land
Commission, which body has the carriage, so to speak, of all purchase
transactions, as well as all other transactions under the land acts. The
holding is inspected by the Land Commission which, having been satisfied
that the land in question is security for the "advance," pay the purchase
money to the landlord and collect from the tenant the annual instalments
necessary to repay it to the State.

The plan of the Act of 1885, better known as the Ashbourne Act from the
fact that it was Lord Ashbourne who introduced the measure to the lords,
was simple in the extreme, and to this is due, in no small measure, its
rapid success. It was easily understood by the people, and so popular did
it become that in three years the money provided by it was completely

In 1888 a second bill was passed under which an additional sum of five
millions--this was the amount provided by the Ashbourne Act--was set aside
for purchase. Under the two measures 25,368 owners were created.

"Almost from the start," writes Mr. George Fottrell (a gentleman well
qualified to discuss the question of land purchase in Ireland) in the
_Morning Post_, "the Ashbourne Act was a success. During the first five
years of its working, the 'advances' actually paid over by the Land
Commission to landlords amounted annually on an average to £1,250,000
sterling. The 'applications' represented a considerably larger sum. By
1887 they had more than exhausted the £5,000,000 which had been voted by
Parliament for the Ashbourne Act, in 1885, and thereon a further sum of
£5,000,000 was voted. The scheme continued to work well; the
'applications' came in steadily but with no feverish haste, the largest
total sum applied for under the Ashbourne Act in any one year being in
1887 when it reached £3,700,000. In each of the next two years it reached
just two millions. In 1890 it had dropped to less than a million and a
half; in 1891 it was slightly in excess of that amount. By 1891 it was
plain that the second vote of five millions had been virtually absorbed,
and that Parliament must be applied to for further money. To cool-headed
people in Ireland it seemed that the obvious course was to ask for a small
grant, say of ten millions, so as to continue to test cautiously the
usefulness of an act which had so far worked well, while by the very
smallness of the grant keeping in reserve a check on the expansion of the
act if it should prove to work mischievously.

"This course was not taken. In 1891 Parliament was asked to make a much
larger grant. Over thirty millions were voted, but coupled with conditions
which made the money useless."

Mr. Balfour's act, the Purchase Act of 1891, was extremely complicated.
Under it Ireland was entitled to draw upon Imperial credit to the extent
of £33,000,000. The rate of interest payable by the purchasers was
substantially the same as under the acts of 1885 and 1888, the period of
repayment in the three cases being forty-nine years.

But a change was made in the method of payment to the landlord. Previous
to 1891, he had been always paid in cash. Under the Balfour Act he was
paid in guaranteed land stock. There were many complicated provisions in
regard to the creation of a guarantee fund, an insurance fund, and other
safeguards. The complexity of the measure and the procedure under it, and
the consequent delays in completing any transactions in a reasonable time,
acted as a deterrent to intending purchasers and the act was virtually a
failure. At this point it is well, perhaps, to summarize the results of
the working of land purchase under the acts already dealt with. We have
seen that a total sum of (say) £44,000,000 was made available by the
various acts for land purchase. Out of this a total sum of £21,182,268 has
been expended, leaving about twenty-three millions still available. Under
all the acts up to and including that of 1891, 62,241 tenants purchased
their holdings, 6057 under the Church Act, 877 under the Land Act of 1870,
731 under the Act of 1881, 25,368 under the Purchase Acts of 1885 and
1888, and the balance of about 30,000 became purchasers by means of the
Act of 1891.

Numerous and extensive as these operations were, it is satisfactory to
note, and it redounds to the credit of the Irish people, that Mr.
Wyndham, when introducing his Land Bill of 1902, was able to assure the
House of Commons that Irish Land Purchase had this one merit that the
State had incurred no loss under it and was exposed to no risk. In no case
did an Irish tenant break his bargain. There was no case of bad debt to

One of the first stumbling-blocks to a tenant proposing to purchase under
the Act of 1891 was that he was unable to know, or even approximately
gauge, what was the actual sum he would have to pay, by way of annuity,
each year. This was a serious flaw, and helped more than anything else
perhaps to clog the wheels of purchase. This state of things, however, was
remedied by the Purchase Act of 1896, by which the maximum sum payable in
any year was an instalment at the rate of £4 per cent on the purchase
money, no matter at what number of years' purchase of his rent the tenant
might buy. Most of the cumbrous restrictions of the Act of 1891 were
removed, and once more the applications began to tumble in. In 1895-1896
the applications received numbered less than half a million. In 1897-1898
and in 1898-1899 they reached nearly two millions. A steady decrease then
set in, but on the whole purchase proceeded at a satisfactory pace.

A strange condition of things now existed in Ireland, and a condition of
things that could not last. Here and there over the country there existed
a contented peasantry, the virtual owners of their holdings, paying a
reasonable annuity for a definite period to the State. If they had not the
sense of complete ownership, they had the very next best thing to it. They
knew that if they themselves were not the absolute owners of their
holdings during their lives, their children and their children's children
would be, and they set to work with a heart and a will to work and improve
their farms, knowing full well that the results of their labour would, at
last, be theirs, and could not be wrung from them by the whims or
exigencies of the landlord. On the other side of the fence, or river, the
tenant who had not purchased and, perhaps, could not purchase, for his
landlord would not sell, continued to pay a rent sometimes exorbitant, but
always higher than his friend the purchaser close by. Such was the
position of the tenant's side of the question. Now let us examine the

Under the Act of 1896 the landlord was paid in government stock. Between
the years 1891 and 1896 government stock rose from 96 to 110. A premium of
ten per cent was a strong incentive to the landlord to sell. If he had an
estate worth £5000, he received in reality for it £5500, for he was
credited with £5000 stock which, sold on change, realized £5500 in cash.
In some cases, where the estate was mortgaged, the gain was even more.
This was gold finding for the landlord until the price of stock fell,
which it did and with a vengeance. Stock which in 1897 stood at 113 fell
in 1901 to 91. The fall again clogged the wheels, and the question once
again became the burning question of the hour. It is right to say here
that there were other forces at work which made the landlord anxious to
get out, if he could at all, on reasonable terms. The fall in the price of
produce continued, and the Land Commission, which had under the Act of
1881 twice revised the rentals, and reduced them each time by twenty per
cent on an average, were preparing for the third revision. The landlords
looked forward to 1911 with fear and trembling. With their estates mostly
heavily mortgaged, and the third revision at hand, they were as anxious as
the tenants, if not more so, that Parliament should step in to their
mutual aid. It did so in the Land Act of 1903. The introduction of this
measure was preceded by a conference of landlords and tenants,
representatives in Ireland which met in the Mansion House, Dublin, and
after five sittings reported as follows:--

"Whereas it is expedient that the land question in Ireland be settled so
far as it is practicable and without delay,

"And whereas the existing position of the land question is adverse to the
improvement of the soil of Ireland, leads to unending controversies and
law-suits between owners and occupiers, retards progress in the country,
and constitutes a grave danger to the state,

"And whereas an opportunity of settling once for all the differences
between owners and occupiers in Ireland is very desirable,

"And whereas such settlement can only be effected upon a basis mutually
satisfactory to the owners and occupiers of the land,

"And whereas certain representatives of owners and occupiers have been
desirous of endeavouring to find such basis, and for that purpose have met
in conference together,

"And whereas certain particulars of agreement have been formulated,
discussed, and passed at the conference, and it is desirable that the same
should be put into writing and submitted to his Majesty's government,

"After consideration and discussion of various schemes submitted to the
conference, we are agreed:--

"1. That the only satisfactory settlement of the land question is to be
effected by the substitution of an occupying proprietary in lieu of the
existing system of dual ownership.

"2. That the process of direct interference by the State in purchase and
resale is in general tedious and unsatisfactory; and that, therefore,
except in cases where at least half the occupiers or the owners so desire,
and except in districts included in the operations of the congested
districts board, the settlement should be made between owner and occupier,
subject to the necessary investigation by the State as to title, rental,
and security.

"3. That it is desirable in the interests of Ireland that the present
owners of land should not as a result of any settlement be expatriated,
or, having received payment for their land, should find no object for
remaining in Ireland, and that as the effect of a far-reaching settlement
must necessarily be to cause the sale of tenancies throughout the whole of
Ireland, inducements should, wherever practicable, be afforded to selling
owners to continue to reside in that country.

"4. That for the purpose of obtaining such a result, an equitable price
ought to be paid to the owners, which should be based upon income.

"Income, as it appears to us, is second term rents--including all rents
fixed subsequent to the passing of the Act of 1896--or their fair

"5. That the purchase price should be based upon income as indicated
above, and should be either the assurance by the State of such income, or
the payment of a capital sum producing such income at three per cent or at
three and one-fourth per cent, if guaranteed by the State, or if the
existing powers of trustees be sufficiently enlarged.

"Costs of collection where such exist, not exceeding ten per cent, are not
included for the purpose of these paragraphs in the word 'income.'

"6. That such income or capital sum should be obtainable by the owners:--

"(_a_) Without the requirement of capital outlay upon their part, such as
would be involved by charges for proving title to sell. Six years'
possession, as proposed in the bill brought forward in the session of
1902, appears to us a satisfactory method of dealing with the matter.

"(_b_) Without the requirement of outlay to prove title to receive the
purchase money.

"(_c_) Without unreasonable delay.

"(_d_) Without loss of income pending reinvestment.

"(_e_) And without leaving a portion of the capital sum as a guarantee

"7. That, as a necessary inducement to selling owners to continue to
reside in Ireland, the provision of the bill introduced by the chief
secretary for Ireland in the session of 1902 with regard to the purchase
of mansion houses, demesne lands, and home farms by the State, and resale
by it to the owners, ought to be extended.

"8. We suggest that in certain cases it would be to the advantage of the
State as insuring more adequate security, and also an advantage to owners
in such cases, if upon the purchase by the State of the mansion house and
demesne land and resale to the owner, the house and demesne land should
not be considered a security to the mortgages.

"9. That owners wishing to sell portions of grazing land in their own
hands for the purpose of enlarging neighbouring tenancies should be
entitled to make an agreement with the tenants, and that in the event of
proposed purchase by the tenants such grazing land may be considered as
part of the tenancies for the purpose of purchase.

"10. That, in addition to the income, or capital sum producing the income,
the sum due for rent from the last rent day till the date of the agreement
for purchase and the hanging gale should be paid by the State to the

"11. That all liabilities by the owner which run with the land, such as
head-rents, quit-rents, and tithe-rent charge, should be redeemed, and the
capital sum paid for such redemption deducted from the purchase money
payable to the owner. Provided always that the price of redemption should
be calculated on a basis not higher, as regards annual value, than is used
in calculating the purchase price of the estate. In any special cases
where it may have to be calculated upon a different basis, the owner
should not suffer thereby. Owners liable to drainage charges should be
entitled to redeem same upon equitable terms, having regard to the varying
rates of interest at which such loans were made.

"12. That the amount of the purchase money payable by the tenants should
be extended over a series of years, and be at such a rate, in respect of
principal and interest, as will at once secure a reduction of not less
than fifteen per cent, or more than twenty-five per cent on second term
rents or their fair equivalent, with further periodical reductions as
under existing land purchase acts until such time as the treasury is
satisfied that the loan has been repaid. This may involve some assistance
from the State beyond the use of its credit, which, under circumstances
hereinafter mentioned, we consider may reasonably be granted. Facilities
should be provided for the redemption at any time of the purchase money or
part thereof by payment of the capital or any part thereof.

"13. That the hanging gale, where such custom exists, should be included
in the loan and paid off in the instalments to be paid by the purchasing
occupier, and should not be a debt immediately recoverable from the
occupier, but the amount of rent ordinarily payable for the period between
the date when the last payment fell due and the date of agreement for sale
should be payable as part of the first instalment.

"14. That counties wholly or partly under the operations of the congested
districts board, or other districts of a similar character (as defined by
the Congested Districts Board Acts and by section four, clause one, of Mr.
Wyndham's Land Purchase Amendment Bill of last session), will require
separate and exceptional treatment with a view to the better distribution
of the population and of the land, as well as for the acceleration and
extension of these projects for migration and enlargement of holdings
which the congested districts board, as at present constituted and with
its limited powers, has hitherto found it impossible to carry out upon an
adequate scale.

"15. That any project for the solution of the Irish Land Question should
be accompanied by a settlement of the evicted tenants' question upon an
equitable basis.

"16. That sporting and riparian rights should remain as they are, subject
to any provisions of existing Land Purchase Acts.

"17. That the failure to enforce the Labourers Acts in certain portions of
the country constitutes a serious grievance, and that in districts where,
in the opinion of the local government board, sufficient accommodation has
not been made for the housing of the labouring classes, power should be
given to the local government board, in conjunction with the local
authorities, to acquire sites for houses and allotments.

"18. That the principle of restriction upon subletting might be extended
to such control as may be practicable over resales of purchasers' interest
and mortgages, with a view to maintaining unimpaired the value of the
State's security for outstanding instalments on loans.

"And whereas we are agreed that no settlement can give peace and
contentment to Ireland or afford reasonable and fair opportunity for the
development of the resources of the country, which fails to satisfy the
just claims of both owners and occupiers,

"And whereas such settlement can only be effected by the assistance of the
State, which, as a principle, has been employed in former years,

"And whereas it appears to us that, for the healing of differences and the
welfare of the country, such assistance should be given, and can be given,
and can effect a settlement without either undue cost to the treasury or
appreciable risk with regard to the money advanced, we are of opinion that
any reasonable difference arising between the sum advanced by the State,
and ultimately repaid to it, may be justified by the following

"That for the future welfare of Ireland, and for the smooth working of any
measure dealing with the transfer of land, it is necessary:--

"1. That the occupiers should be started on their new career as owners on
a fair and favourable basis, insuring reasonable chances of success, and
that in view of the responsibilities to be assumed by them they should
receive some inducement to purchase.

"2. That the owners should receive some recognition of the facts that
selling may involve sacrifice of sentiment, that they have already
suffered heavily by the operation of the land acts, and that they should
receive some inducement to sell.

"3. That for the benefit of the whole community it is of the greatest
importance that income derived from sale of property in Ireland should
continue to be expended in Ireland.

"And we further submit that, as a legitimate setoff against any demand
upon the State, it must be borne in mind that, upon the settlement of the
land question in Ireland, the cost of administration of the law and the
cost of the Royal Irish Constabulary would be materially and permanently

"We do not, at the present time, desire to offer further recommendations
upon the subject of finance which must necessarily be regulated by the
approval of the government to the principles of the proposals above
formulated except that, in our opinion, the principles of reduction of the
sinking fund in the event of loss to the State by an increase of the
value of money should be extended by the inclusion of the principle of
increase of the sinking fund in favour of the purchasers in the event of
gain to the State by decrease in the value of money.

"Inasmuch as one of the main conditions of success in reference to any
land purchase scheme must be its prompt application and the avoidance of
those complicated investigations and legal delays which have hitherto
clogged all legislative proposals for settling the relations between Irish
landlords and tenants, we deem it of urgent importance that no protracted
period of time should ensue before a settlement based upon the
above-mentioned principles is carried out; that the executive machinery
should be effective, competent, and speedy, and that investigations
conducted by it should not entail cost upon owner or occupier; and, as a
further inducement to despatch, we suggest that any state aid, apart from
loans which may be required for carrying out a scheme of land purchase as
herein proposed, should be limited to transactions initiated within five
years after the passing of the act.

"We wish to place on record our belief that an unexampled opportunity is
at the present moment afforded his Majesty's government of effecting a
reconciliation of classes in Ireland upon terms which, as we believe,
involve no permanent increase of Imperial expenditure in Ireland; and that
there would be found on all sides an earnest desire to coöperate with the
government in securing the success of a Land Purchase Bill, which, by
effectively and rapidly carrying out the principles above indicated, would
bring peace and prosperity to the country.

"Signed at the Mansion House, Dublin, this third day of January, 1903.

    "DUNRAVEN (_Chairman_)     JOHN REDMOND
    "MAYO                      WM. O'BRIEN

It soon transpired that the idea of a conference between landlords' and
tenants' representatives was the government plan for laying the foundation
of the bill that they contemplated introducing as a government measure
later on. The tenants' representatives, who, in the then position of the
land question, with prices falling and the third revision term looming in
the distance, had all the trumps in their hands, were hopelessly
outmanoeuvred by the landlord section.

The question to be discussed was largely a financial one, but still the
tenants had not a man of financial ability at the board. It is true the
members of the conference were nominated, and not selected by their
respective sides, though afterwards, for reasons easily understood, the
nominations were ratified by the parties concerned. But nominated by whom?
By a Captain Shawe Taylor, a personage popular with all parties, but in
this matter undoubtedly the agent of the government. The conference sat
five times, and all through the proceedings the nationalist
representatives were rubbing their hands with glee, for they thought the
millennium had come.

The landlord party, on the other hand, were in nightly communication with
the Castle. Treasury experts were drafted over to Dublin, and no stone was
left unturned to secure for the landlords a measure which would satisfy
the most exacting. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. On the 3d
of January, 1903, the land conference issued its report. Clear-headed
politicians saw at once that the tenants had played the game and lost.
Every advantage or benefit that the landlord sought or claimed was secured
to him by this treaty, as it was afterwards styled, in terms that could
not be gainsaid. The tenants' clauses in the report were mostly pious
expressions of opinion, which were afterwards, when the Land Bill came to
be drafted, brushed aside, or quietly ignored. But all was not yet lost.

The _Freeman's Journal_, under the able guidance of Mr. Thomas Sexton, in
a series of powerful articles, reviewed the whole position. It boldly but
temperately pointed out the defects in the conference report. It refused
to shout with the crowd. It could not see that much was gained. It clearly
saw that a great deal had been lost. The bill, a large and complicated
measure of eighty-nine clauses, was shortly afterwards introduced. It was
a great measure and aimed at the final settlement of the land question.
And, indeed, such an end, devoutly to be wished, would certainly have been
attained had the amendments pressed on the government during the passage
of the bill by the organ of the tenants been accepted and embodied in the

Clause after clause was closely examined, and the defects exposed by Mr.
Sexton in a series of articles, inspired if not actually written by him in
the _Freeman_. He had done much service for Ireland in the past, but I
doubt if his great abilities had ever been better applied than to the work
of examination, elucidation, and amendment of the Land Bill of 1903.

His criticisms culminated in the publication of a schedule of amendments
which he claimed were necessary to the final settlement of the question.

It is worth while now putting them on record, for they have a true
historical value. It is now seen in the working of the act, that the
acceptance of some of the amendments contained in the schedule materially
improved the bill, while the omission of the others explains the necessity
for still further legislation on the subject.

The following is a summary of the amendments referred to:--

1. The rights of tenants under the Fair Rent Laws should be maintained

2. No non-judicial tenant should be excluded from purchase by reason
merely of his tenure. Caretakers of holdings of which they had previously
been tenants should have the rights of tenants for the purpose of
purchasing such holdings.

3. As a condition precedent to purchase, non-judicial rents and first term
rents fixed or agreed upon down to the end of 1896 should be reduced to
the average level, substantially of second term rents, and purchase should
not be transacted in the cases of non-judicial rents, or of such first
term rents, except upon this basis.

4. The purchase system being voluntary, the compulsory limits of price in
this bill should be struck out.

5. The aim of the system being to extinguish dual ownership and equal
treatment being essential both as between past and future transactions,
and also between the tenant who buys his holding and the landlord who buys
back his land sold by him to the State, no rent charge should be reserved.
Such a reservation would forever exclude the tenant from ownership, by
erecting a new and perpetual system of landlordism in the place of the

6. The rate of interest on consols being now two and one-half per cent,
the new guaranteed stock might be issued at two and one-half, instead of
two and three-fourths as proposed, and by this means the decadal
reductions, instead of being abolished as the bill provides, might be
allowed at the rate of eight per cent; or, at the option of the purchaser,
the period during which his annuity would be payable could be shortened by
about ten years. If the annuity rate were three and one-half, the
purchaser might be allowed to choose between decadal reductions at the
rate of eleven per cent, and a term of redemption shorter by nearly
twenty years than that prescribed in the bill.

7. Sales of untenanted land, and, in particular, resales of demesne or
other land to vendors, should be subject to the needs of migration, of
enlarged holdings, and of making provision for evicted tenants, in the
case of each estate or district, and no evicted farm should be resold to
the vendor, or sold to a new tenant, if the evicted tenant, or his
personal representative, is willing to become the purchaser.

8. The cost of improvement of estates and untenanted land, being charged
to every purchaser and repaid by his annuity, should be provided for as
part of the advances required for the purposes of this act, leaving the
reserve fund available to the estates commissioners for cases of
exceptional need.

9. It is necessary to maintain the existing satisfactory condition that
the holding, or other land purchased, is to be sufficient security for the
repayment of the advance.

10. The Purchase Aid Fund should be increased to not less than twenty
millions; and distributed either in inverse ratio to the number of years'
purchase in each case, or by a uniform grant of a fixed number of years'
purchase to every selling landlord.

11. A term of years should be fixed in the bill, on the expiration of
which term the provisions for grants from the Purchase Aid Fund, resales
to landlords, and distribution of purchase money free of cost should cease
to operate.

12. The subject of sporting and mineral rights calls for clear provision
dictated in the public interest, instead of the ambiguous, loose, and
inconclusive proposals which appear in the bill.

13. It is requisite that the limit of advance to an evicted tenant be not
less than the ordinary limits; also, that provision be made for restoring
evicted tenants to their former holdings when vacant; for making
arrangements to that end when the holdings are occupied; and for stocking
the land.

14. The cramping restrictions imposed on the congested districts board,
which have effectually prevented that body from dealing with the great
agrarian evil of the West, would not be removed or substantially
diminished by the meagre proposals of the bill; nor can the privations and
miseries endured in the congested districts be sufficiently abated in any
other way than by such a redistribution of grazing ranches as will provide
the people of those districts with land enough to yield them the means of
living. As the guarantee fund--now ample enough for every purpose--is
henceforth to apply alike to congested and other districts, and as
advances for land purchase are seen to be free from risk, and special
treatment is to be applied to congested estates throughout the country, it
is evident that the time has come for a uniform system of land purchase,
and that this is to be secured, either by investing the congested
districts board, for all the purposes of land purchase in their particular
areas, with powers corresponding to those of the estates commissioners, or
else by giving the estates commissioners jurisdiction for land purchase in
the congested districts, and authorizing the board to apply its income
wholly to its various other objects of expenditure.

15. The proposals with regard to the Labourers' Acts are so trivial that
they cannot be amended. The government should be asked to appoint a
commission to inquire and report, this year, how the question may be
adequately dealt with; and a bill directed seriously to that end should be
passed into law next session.

The Irish Land Act, 1903, otherwise known as the Wyndham Act, from the
name of the Irish chief secretary who introduced it, came into force on
the 1st of November, 1903. This is not the place to set forth its
provisions, but the principal advantages which accrue to a selling
landlord and a purchasing tenant availing of its provisions may be briefly
stated. The entire purchase money agreed upon is paid to the landlord in
cash. No part of the purchase money is retained as a guarantee deposit.
For the purchase of a single holding the limitations of preceding acts are
extended to £7000.

The vendor of an estate shall receive in addition to the purchase money
from the tenants a bonus for his own immediate benefit. The landlord is
enabled to sell his demesne, and repurchase it at a profit. The landlord
may sell his estate direct to estate commissioners appointed by the act,
or to the congested districts board, and these bodies are enabled to
resell to the tenants after readjustment and partition of the holdings on
the estate if necessary. Enlarged powers of investment of purchase money
are conferred upon trustees. The principal advantages secured to the
tenant are as follows: At the end of sixty-eight and one-half years, a
tenant becomes owner in fee of his holding. As soon as the agreement to
purchase is signed, he ceases to be liable for rent. He is enabled to
repay the advance at the rate of three and one-fourth per cent of his
purchase money. (Though the reduction of the annuity rate from four per
cent under the previous act to three and one-fourth per cent under the
Wyndham Act is an undoubted advantage to a tenant, it is certainly to his
disadvantage that the amount set aside towards the sinking fund should be
reduced from one and one-fourth per cent and one per cent to one-half per
cent.) In congested districts the land commission, or congested districts
board, may purchase lands under certain conditions to enable them to deal
with the problem of congestion.

The greatest blot on the measure is undoubtedly what is known as the
"Zones." The act provides that if the price agreed upon between the
parties allows a reduction of not less than ten per cent nor more than
thirty per cent on a tenant's existing rent, in the case of a second term
rent, and a reduction of not less than twenty per cent nor more than forty
per cent in the case of a first term tenant, the bargain _must_ be
sanctioned by the commissioners without inquiring whether the land in
question is security for the "advance."

The result of this provision is that tenants have been wheedled or cajoled
into agreeing to bargains which they will find it difficult or impossible
to keep. The price of land became artificially inflated, and the average
of eighteen years' purchase paid for land in Ireland under the previous
Purchase Acts has been raised by five to seven years' purchase. It is
essential that free bargaining should be restored if purchase is to
proceed on sound economic lines. In spite of the efforts of the wisest of
their leaders, the Irish tenantry are rushing into bargains under the
Wyndham Act that may eventuate in dire consequences for themselves and for
the country.

The importation of Canadian cattle when it comes will have a serious
effect on the Irish produce market, and a further decline in produce
prices may be expected.

Will the Irish tenant be then able to discharge his liability to the State
and have sufficient margin for living? That is the question for the
future. The answer to it alone can settle whether we have yet reached
finality in the Irish Land Code.


[1] Carlyle, Appendix, No. 17.

[2] See Lecky, II., 216 _et seq._

[3] T. P. O'Connor, "The Parnell Movement," pp. 53, 54.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Punctuation has been corrected without note.

Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been retained from the

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