Изображения страниц

formed, are published and represented by the magazines, and reviews, and newspapers of the party, to be the opinions naturally formed on the politics of this country by an intelligent foreigner, after an attentive and unprejudiced examination. This artifice has been so often exposed, that it is now pretty generally understood, and the opinions of such writers are duly estimated, and are recognised as merely the echo of the sentiments of those who entertained them here.

M. de Beaumont's work is rather more elaborate, and he frequently endeavours to support his assertions by reference to the authorities on which he founds them. These references are very numerous, and if we considered his essay to be the genuine production of a French author, we should not hesitate to pronounce it the most extraordinary work that has appeared in the present age. But when we examine his references, we easily discover the sources which supplied them. It was well known when M. Beaumont came first to Ireland, in the summer of the year 1835, that it was his intention to write a book on Ireland; and, judging from what he had already written, it was easy to conclude that his work would be an exaggerated representation of every circumstance that could be supposed favourable to the establishment of democracy in Ireland. He was exactly the man to suit the views of the party then dominant here, and accordiugly he met with the greatest attention from Lord Mulgrave, Archbishop Murray, and all the Romanist and democratic party, who supplied him liberally with facts and falsehoods, and reasons and sophistry, to assist him in the advocacy of their common wishes. The result was the work of which the title is prefixed to this article. The book is certainly a clever one, and may be read with interest and instruction, as giving a modified statement of the wishes and feelings of those who crammed the author with his display of learning, and showing the opinions which he was led to form of the Roman Catholic party from his own observation while residing among them, and of the Protestants from the repre

[blocks in formation]


il travaille tous les empires; sous une "Ce principe gagne tous les peuples, forme ou sous une autre, républicaine ou monarchique, libre ou absolue, il porte en tout pays le dogme de l'égalité civile et politique; il y saisit tous les esprits, il y atteint toutes les conditions, pénètre dans toutes les classes et dans tous les rangs, il s'établit dans les mœurs, des mœurs il passe dans les lois, il change la face du monde; le mouvement qu'il imprime est constant, général, universel, mais il n'est pas partout le même. dis que, sous l'influence de ce principe envahissant, la plupart des aristocraties d'Europe tombent, et n'offrent plus aux regards que décomposition ou ruines, les unes abattues d'un seul coup, les autres renversées lentement; celles-ci résignées à périr, succombant sans défense; celles-là déjà vaincues, quoique luttant encore: il existe un pays, l'Angleterre, où l'aristocratie est encore pleine de vie et de puissance; où l'inégalité civile et politique, maintenue dans les lois, s'est conservée entière dans les mœurs où le vieux privilége féodal se trouve singulièrement mêle aux libertés les plus jeunes et les plus hardies, qu'en voyant l'empire absolu qu'exercent dans ce pays la naissance et la fortune, on le croirait en arrière de toutes les nations, et qu'en y regardant seulement le bien-être et la liberté du peuple, on le juge

en avance de toutes; où enfin l'aristocratie est aussi attaquée, mais où elle est assez puissante pour tenir tête à son ennemi, et si ce n'est pour le vaincre, du moins pour lui disputer longtemps la victoire."*

"There certainly does not exist in the present day any political phenomenon more important or worthy of attention than the progress of the principle of democracy in every society. This principle gains every people, and disturbs every empire. Under one form or another-republican or monarchical, free or despotic-it introduces into every country the maxims of civil and political equality. Having entered, it captivates all men's minds, affects all conditions of men, and penetrates every class and every rank of society. It becomes established in their manners; from their

This enemy of aristocracy makes in the foregoing extract a very remarkable admission, that the country in which the aristocracy possesses the greatest power is also that in which the prosperity of the people has been best promoted. Even in making that admission we perceive his habitual spirit of exaggeration, when he asserts that the aristocracy in England is in the possession of l'empire absolu, unlimited, absolute, or despotic power; and this, although he is well aware that for eight years the government of England has been conducted in direct opposition to the wishes of the aristocracy. So far is it from being true that birth and fortune exercise absolute dominion in England, that it is confessed by the partizans of the present administration, that there is an immense majority against it of persons possessing £100 a-year and upwards.

M. De Beaumont commences his work by a historic introduction consisting of 186 pages, and of which the professed aim is to prove this proposition, that the dominion of the English in Ireland, from their invasion of it in 1169 to the end of the last century has been a mere tyranny:-"L'empire des Anglais en Irlande, depuis leur invasion de ce pays en 1169 jusqu'à la fin du siècle dernier, n'a été qu'une ty


The historical sketch which he gives to support this proposition is designed with considerable ability by its real authors, whose object seems to have been to exasperate as far as possible the dissensions which distract this unhappy land, by collecting and publishing an exaggerated account of all the evils which the Roman Catholic party has ever suffered at the hands of its opponents. Let us not be understood to assert that the powers of the English, and the privileges of the aristocracy, have been at all times exercised in one spirit of uninterrupted justice and wis

dom, or that private interest, or even religious bigotry, never assisted or presided at the enactment or administration of the laws that were framed for the encouragement or protection of the reformed church. Far from it: in those as in all other human transactions, the influence of human passions and buman frailties must have frequently appeared. That some of the penal statutes were impolitic and unjust we have frequently admitted; we regret that they were ever passed, and rejoice that they have long since been repealed. We are far from justifying or denying the conduct of our ancestors when they erred"Pudet hæc opprobia nobis et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli." And the recollection of past offences should make all Protestants more ready to excuse and to forgive the intolerant spirit which Roman Catholics have lately exhibited in Ireland. Still, with every disposition to condemn every act approaching to persecution that may have been committed by our ancestors, (the more unjustifiable since no maxims of intolerance were inculcated by their religion,) we must protest against the historical sketch of M. De Beaumont as both mischievous and unfair. It takes a remarkably partial view of the subject, and, without regard to truth or probability, puts forth all the exaggerations, misrepresentations, and falsehoods to be found in the speeches and pamphlets of the most bigoted partisans. Plowden, Gordon, Lewis, and Wise are the most credible sources from which he draws his information and in those writers any unprejudiced person will at once discern such a tissue of misrepresentations, as, to say the least, must make them unsafe guides for any person wishing to obtain accurate information on Irish affairs.Much of M. De Beaumont's history is not founded on any better authority than the violent speeches of factious agitators. Even when he states the


manners it passes to their laws-it changes the face of the world. The motion which it impresses is constant, general, universal; but it is not every hour the same. While under the influence of this invading principle, the greater part of the aristocracies of Europe fall, and offer to the view nought except ruin and decay: some destroyed at one blow, others slowly overturned; some resigned to destruction, and falling without resistance; others already vanquished, although still struggling;-there exists one country-England, where aristocracy is still full of life and vigour-where civil and political inequality, maintained in their laws, is preserved entire in the manners of the people-where the ancient feudal privilege is so singularly united with the new and firm liberty, that in viewing the absolute power which birth and fortune exercise in this country, one would believe it to be behind all other nations; and on considering the prosperity and liberty of the people, one would consider it to be in advance of them all; where, in a word, aristocracy is attacked, but is still so powerful as to confront its enemy, and if not to conquer it, at least for a considerable time to dispute its victory."


severity of the laws did not argue any want of sympathy of the former for the latter. The rich were probably as solicitous for the comforts of the poor then, as they are at present, and this severity was merely the effect of the anger which the possessors of property felt against those who sought to deprive them of it. The mistaken policy of the times considered that the terrors of a sanguinary code afforded the best protection to property. The same spirit in Ireland during the same period, led, in many cases, to the enactment of measures of severity against those who violated any other privileges of those whose influence enabled them to obtain the protection of the legislature; but this severity is in fairness to be ascribed in Ireland, as well as in England, to the spirit of the age not to the spirit of the party. Once invest any body with any rights or privileges in those times, and it was almost a matter of course to denounce the extreme punishment of death against those who infringed them. It is, therefore, most unfair to judge of the temper or spirit of a party by applying the feelings of the present age to be moved by the laws enacted for its protection in those sanguinary times. It is most mischievous when done for the purpose of fomenting domestic discord, and adding fuel to the hatred which the Roman Catholics feel against the Protestants in Ireland, by reminding them of the injuries which they formerly suffered at the hands of the latter. Many of these oppressions were in retaliation for the injuries which they had committed without provocation.

truth, he does it in such a manner as to mislead. He invariably attributes to the aristocracy or to the Protestants what was in reality the vice of the times. Thus, in every country, while the mass of the people is uneducated, and the police arrangements defective, the legislator endeavours, by the severity of the laws, to compensate for the inefficacy of all preventive restraints. Thus we read that in one reign more than eighty thousand persons were hanged for theft in England. Many of these were probably innocent of the crimes for which they suffered. We know that up to a much more recent period the criminal laws were administered upon such principles as not to give the innocent man any proper degree of security. In those days the prisoner could not compel the attendance of witnesses; and if they voluntarily attended, he could not examine them upon oath; he was not permitted to cross-examine the witnesses for the crown, and so little independence did the jurors possess, that they have been reprimanded, and fined, and punished for finding a verdict of acquittal, contrary to the directions of the judge. The judges held their places during pleasure, and were liable at any moment to be removed, if they ventured to act contrary to the wishes of the monarch. The accused was confined in a fetid, damp, and unwholesome dungeon, loaded with fetters, and denied all means of intercourse with his friends. No Howard had then existed to direct the attention of the public to the sufferings which prisoners were doomed to undergo. If the offence more immediately concerned the rights or interests of the crown, tor- There is also one peculiarity in the ture was perhaps employed to extort a character of the Celtic race, which has confession of his guilt, and the unfor- always rendered it a matter of extreme tunate accused was subjected to the difficulty to govern them on any prinmost cruel sufferings, and made for ciples of liberty, and which has too life a miserable cripple by the proceed- often furnished an argument or an exings taken previously to the judicial cuse to those who wished to rule on inquiry into his guilt or innocence. opposite principles. The Irish people Wasted by suffering and confinement, have never manifested any love for the accused must have been utterly liberty themselves, or any readiness to unable without the assistance of coun- permit others to enjoy it. This assersel to vindicate his innocence. If tion may appear strange to those who convicted, he was generally hanged, judge of the Irish character by the even for the most petty thefts, and his flattery addressed to them by their case was not deemed important enough demagogues, or by the declamations to excite either sympathy or attention. against oppression, and in favour of The poor were, of course, the most liberty, by which the priests and demafrequent victims of the severity of the gogues exercise such uncontrollable inlaws that were enacted for the protec- fluence over the populace. Neverthetion of property; and yet, although less, the nature and effect of those the rich were in general the prosecu- very declamations corroborate the evitors, and the poor the culprits, this dence which may be obtained from the

[ocr errors]

past history of this country, to prove that a genuine love of liberty has never existed in the Irish peasantry. They have always yielded readily to force, or intimidation, and instead of resistance have always endeavoured to get rid of oppression by profuse expressions of attachment to the oppressor. They have ever been ready to dissemble their resentment, (if indeed they harboured any,) and to express even the opposite feeling. They are profuse in their expressions of gratitude, while they expect a favour, or the moment after they have received it; comply with their request, and their gratitude quickly passes away, and no sentiment remains except perhaps resentment for some imaginary offence, supposed to have been sustained from you or your ancestors, many years before. They will not blush to-day to request a matter as a favour which they profess to be ready to repay by a life of gratitude, and to-morrow, after it has been granted, to disclaim all obligation for what they will then assert to be a right which could not have been withheld from them. They have long been charged with want of gratitude, and we believe that an argument in support of that charge may be drawn even from the exceedingly profuse acknowledgments which they make for every trivial favour which they receive or expect. True gratitude is a deep feeling, almost a painful one, and it finds no pleasure in all that verbiage which is in general only intended to call the attention of the world to the grateful heart of the speaker. Every man on whom a favour is conferred feels at the moment some desire to return it, but the ungrateful man feels astonishment and pride at the feeling, and is eager to proclaim to the world the existence of a sentiment which he thinks must do him great credit. But his feelings undergo an important change as soon as an opportunity occurs of evincing his gratitude by acts not words. Then he discovers that the requital sought is altogether unreasonable, and out of proportion to the benefit originally conferred; that the favour has been already cancelled by subsequent injuries, or by refusing to comply with some request; and that at any rate it was much less considerable than he had originally supposed and acknowledged it to be; and in short all those arguments by which the ungrateful man endeavours to vindicate his ingratitude to himself and to the world. The inconsistent and fickle-minded

man cannot be grateful, for it is essential to gratitude that we should always preserve the same uniform estimate of the benefits we have received.

The Irish do not readily concede freedom to others: they begin to be tyrants the instant they cease to be slaves. This disposition is fatal to the liberty of the country: it enables any man who has any power to act the despot. The Irish populace will not permit any difference of opinion to exist among them: he who gains the majority commands them all. We may remark how invariably this is assumed in the speeches of the demagogues, who always urge the people not only to take the course which they point out, but to deprive every person of the liberty of going in any other direction. They do not say, "Vote for A B, for he has always shown himself your friend, and if he is returned as your representative to parliament he will continue to promote your interests and defend your rights;" or, "do not vote for CD, for his principles are hostile to your liberty

[ocr errors]

his conduct shows that he wishes to deprive you of your rights," and that "he is unworthy of the situation which he seeks from you;-but "If any one votes for C D, he is an enemy to his country, and unfit to live among you; hold no intercourse with him-hoot him and spit at him when he passes by; let a death's head and cross-bones be painted on his door, to warn him of the fate which he may expect if, after such conduct, he dares to live in the neighbourhood of honest men.' Language much more violent than this is daily addressed to the Irish populace from the altars, and at all public assemblies, and the infatuated people have not the spirit of freedom alive in them to perceive that such harangues, instead of guiding them, are intended to leave them no liberty, and are merely exhortations to them to assist in imposing slavery on each other. They joyfully accept slavery, because the first command happens to be congenial to their feelings, although it involves a principle which in reality leaves them no choice what to do. Hence the liberty which they seek is that which is most favourable to the views of the demagogue, who demands power for the masses rather than freedom for individuals. Hence we find no discussions, no variety of opinions among the Irish people: all must follow the most powerful, and he who differs from their leader in a single point is treated in the same manner as

the most inveterate opponent of the people's rights. A disagreement on a single point is sufficient to cancel all remembrance of a life spent in their service. We are old enough to remember when the assistance of the police was required to save Henry Grattan from the fury of the Dublin populace, who were about to throw him into the Liffey, as a punishment for the first vote which he gave contrary to their views. We remember when all the principal Irish Whigs of property who had devoted all their exertions to advance the Roman Catholic cause, were deprived of their seats in parliament because they would not pledge themselves to vote for a repeal of the Union-a` measure suddenly adopted, and abandoned after a few sessions at the dictates of their leader. When the Irish succeed in getting a man down, they generally beat him to death -no man intercedes for the vanquished, and pity finds no place in the breasts of the victors. No feeling of moderation ever checks them in their career; their transitions are sudden and violent: it is easier to turn them altogether than to moderate them in the direction on which they are bent. Their cha racter is in every respect the reverse of that of the English, who have never yielded to force, but who, in the midst of their victory, always respect the rights of the vanquished. Every Englishman claims a right to think for himself, and readily concedes the same right to others; and no party in England is ever so much in subjection to any leader as to prevent any individual from being heard if he thinks the leader unjust or indiscreet. The people follow him cheerfully as long as they think him in the right if he proceed too far, those who are most moderate first oppose him; if he persevere in his measures of violence, the number of his opponents increases, until he either loses his power over his party, or is compelled, in order to preserve his influence, to adopt a more moderate course. Hence the parties in England mutually respect each other; and those who for so many years have opposed the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, would turn away with disgust if they heard them abused with that violence and audacious falsehood which distinguish the chief speeches of their political opponents here. Thus while a well-regulated freedom suits the genius of the English nation so well, the rulers of this country always found it difficult to govern on the same principles a people who always yielded a ready obedience to fear, but whose VOL. XIV.


promises or gratitude could never be relied on. Let us hope, however, that as servility, falsehood, and ingratitude, cannot be inveterately inherent in any race, the progress of civilization and education may introduce better morals, and render the Irish a happier people, and more worthy of the increased and increasing privileges which they enjoy. It would be vain to attempt to strike a balance of past injuries-they should be mutually forgiven, and as far as possible forgotten; or, if recalled at all, it should be for the purpose of excusing any conduct which we should otherwise be disposed to resent. But it is mischievous in the extreme to keep up the remembrance of past dissensions for the purpose of preventing a reconciliation between the parties into which this country now is and must for a long time remain divided. The Roman Catholic party should consider that by the promises which they made previous to the emancipation act, and by their frequent professions of their readiness to bury in oblivion all past animosities, and to live on terms of peace and cordiality with their Protestant brethren, and by their promises of eternal gratitude for the boon which they then claimed, they have precluded themselves, in honour and in common justice, from recurring to grievances suffered previous to emancipation, to keep up an inextinguishable hatred against the Protestants and the aristocracy of the land. On the other hand, the Protestants now should bear with patience some injustice from the Roman Catholics, who are now the ruling party. They should excuse the soreness which still remains in the breasts of the older Roman Catholics. If O'Connell appear regardless of truth and justice in his persecutions of the Protestants, let them recollect what must have been the feelings naturally excited in his soul by the laws to which he was subjected in the earlier part of his life. With talents which he must have felt sufficient to raise him to eminence in his profession, or to enable him to act an important part in the grand theatre of politics, he found himself precluded by our Protestant institutions from all hope of attaining the rank and honours which are the legitimate rewards of success in his profession, and condemned to pass his life in the drudg ery of a stuff-gown lawyer. In politics his religion opposed an equal obstacle to his advancement. He could not even have become a member of the House of Commons, although thousands of his countrymen were anxious to clect him. Even those who may be


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »