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and history, but also on the study of human life and manners. A nation's proverbs are as precious as its ballads, as useful, and perhaps more instructive.* 'Centuries,' says Isaac Disraeli,
have not worm-eaten the solidity of this ancient furniture of the mind.'
ART. IX.—Journals, Conversations, fc., relating to Ireland.
By the late Nassau W. Senior. 2 vols. London, 1868.
of Ireland. It is, and we fear must long continue, the question of the day; the question which statesmanship and patriotism alike yearn to settle; the question which honest prejudices and bad passions, sad legacies of the past and wild dreams of the future, conspire to keep for ever in dispute. Other matters may be left in abeyance, this cannot. Other difficulties may be solved by degrees, or may often trust to time, and happy accidents, and calculable contingencies for their solution. Irish difficulties, it would appear, must be grappled with at once; for their solution few seem inclined to wait with any patience, to inquire with any thoroughness, to think or reason with
calmness. If apology had been needed, an ample one might be found, first, in the new phase which Parliamentary action on Irish policy has entered since we last addressed our readers; and, secondly, in the appearance of the remarkable volumes which we have placed at the head of this article. Opinions ripen fast in these days; they ripen often suddenly and from unexpected causes and in unexpected quarters; and the abolition of the Irish Church Establishment, which a few months ago seemed an immeasurably remote and improbable event-a distant consummation scarcely hoped by one party and faintly dreaded by the other—has, by some quick and unexplained impulse, been adopted as the immediate object and the avowed policy of the whole Liberal party; and has been resolved in the House of Commons by a larger majority than has for a long period voted upon any question. The various wild schemes which had been so boldly propounded for dealing with Irish tenure and the laws of property may be held to have been utterly discredited and exploded after three or four nights' discussion, and the Land question fell at once into the background; but Lord Mayo's exposition of the views of the Government in relation to Ireland, at the opening of the session, was suddenly seized upon by the
* See Quarterly Review,' vol. cxxiii., p. 459, • The Talmud.
leader of the Opposition as an opportunity for the announcement of a startling and decisive line of action, in which-rather, we think, to the surprise of the country—he has been followed by nearly the whole body of his usual supporters with a unanimity rarely displayed by them of late. What may be the true explanation of this hasty move in such unforeseen strengthwhether the experience of the last two sessions has taught the party the necessity of stricter discipline, more serried ranks, and
more compact organization -- it is scarcely worthwhile to inquire. Two things only seem certain in the matter : first, that the time chosen for this onslaught on one of the most deeplyrooted institutions of the land is singularly inappropriate ; and secondly, that neither the body of the Liberals nor their impetuous chief, when they resolved on their decisive step, had at all realised either the complication, the difficulty, or the full scope and consequences of the task they have undertaken.
Now, whatever views on the question we may entertain, every true friend to his country, irrespective of the political party to which he may belong, must desire that so great a step should not be taken either as a mere strategical operation; or under circumstances open to suspicion or reproach; or in ignorance or miscalculation of probable results; or under the influence of fallacious hopes; or in any way on erroneous grounds or in deference to unsound arguments, and on the assumption of premises which more accurate knowledge will scatter to the winds; or before the country has fully and deliberately resolved on the measure, and is therefore safe froin the danger of reaction and bitter disappointment. It is because we are satisfied that very few of the strong phalanx led to the assault by Mr. Gladstone are quite aware of what they are doing, and that the great majority-including even their chief himself--are under the strangest delusions or the most singular blindness as to the real issue and range of his proposals, that we venture once more to call attention to a few considerations which in the heat of combat have been too much overlooked.
First, then, it can scarcely be denied-and we know that it is felt by many staunch Whigs--that the time chosen has been unfortunate, and that some of the reasons alleged for choosing this time have been more unfortunate still. The subject has been opened with startling suddenness in the midst of a crowded session, the last of a dying and superseded Parliament, with two Reform Bills, a Boundary Bill, and a Bribery Bill to dispose of, in addition to its ordinary business; a Parliament, besides, in consequence of its peculiar position, scarcely to be credited with that mental and moral freedom from all disturbing influences
which it would be well to bring to the discussion of so vital and difficult a question. We can understand that to men who think solely or paramountly of party tactics, because actively engaged in a strise of which we are mere spectators, the temptation of finding a strong ground on which to assail a weak Ministry, enfeebled by the secession of some of its ablest members and embarrassed by divisions of opinion in its own camp, might appear nearly irresistible. We can understand, too, the probable gain to an Opposition, not bitherto remarkable for the unbroken harmony or unity of purpose pervading its several sections, of raising a standard under which they could all rally, and of thus presenting themselves before the country on the eve of a general election in the attitude of statesmen who had a principle to guide them, in contradistinction to a Government which offered only a tentative and temporising policy. We conceive, however, that it would have been wiser and more righteous to resist both temptations, and to leave the question to a future Parliament and a calmer and more leisure time,-a delay of at most only a twelvemonth. There are two weighty reasons, it appears to us, which pleaded strongly in favour of that course. Mr. Gladstone's resolutions, once adopted-nay, once even propounded as the creed and standard of the Liberals—are a step that cannot be untaken. Once the doctrine embodied in these resolutions has been dangled before the eyes of the Celtic Irish as a concession to which, in the opinion of one of the great governing parties, they are entitled, the position of the Church Establishment in Ireland becomes increasingly difficult. It cannot be maintained without a struggle prolonged, bitter, and incessantly renewed. Now, it is conceivable at least—some think it even probable—that the new constituencies (whose character and views, it cannot be too often repeated, no one can predict with confidence) may wish to maintain that institution. Yet we shall have done our best to take the matter out of their hands; we shall have prejudged one of the greatest questions which can be submitted to that new electoral body, which we have just declared ought to have the decision of all great questions; we shall have withdrawn it virtually from the jurisdiction of those enlarged constituencies which, by the bare act of calling them into existence, we have assumed will represent the feelings and wishes of the nation more fully and faithfully than the present ones; and we shall have done this either because we secretly mistrust their action, or are too impatient and impetuous to wait for it. Mr. Gladstone's resolutions, therefore, give Mr. Disraeli the opportunity-of which he is far too astute not to avail himselfof standing forth as the protector of the invaded rights of the
constituencies we have just created, yet are proposing to pledge, to cripple, and to fetter in their cradle.
But this is not the only nor the weightiest consideration. There can scarcely be a greater calamity, even, we should have fancied, in the eyes of truly Liberal politicians, than that the first general election, under a new order of things, should take place under the influence of a strong religious excitement, or a blind sectarian cry. It will confuse, vitiate, and pervert the proper political operation of the late measure of franchise reform; it will call forth some of the most angry and least intelligent passions of the populace; it will be about the worst conceivable education of the untrained voters for the new and responsible duties we are summoning them to discharge. Yet the great issue which the Liberals have chosen this moment for trying, and the line of argument and action by which it is nearly certain their opponents will meet them, can scarcely fail by their joint operation to produce an outburst of bigotry and sectarian animosity during the ensuing appeal to the country, such as we have not witnessed for many a long year, and such as we hoped never to see again. Scenes which have lately occurred at Birmingham, Ashton, and elsewhere have forewarned us how ferocious and easily aroused is still the no-Popery sentiment among large bodies of the town population ; no one knows what the slower but scarcely less obstinate religious passions of the rural classes may be and do under the guidance of a clergy beloved and respected through all ranks of the community, and now menaced, as they sincerely believe, in their most cherished possessions and their last stronghold; but all this will prove trivial in comparison with the fury with which the flames of religious discord may be expected to rage in the north of Ireland, where they are always ready to burst forth, and where the virulence of hostile sects is something almost unconceived in England.
There is one point in the ordinary mode of discussing this question in reference to which Liberals who love their country, and Liberals who love their Church, both appear to us to have been curiously unforeseeing and incautious.There is no argument urged for the abolition of the Established Church in Ireland, which does not logically involve either the surrender of the English Establishment also, or the concession of Repeal,—to say nothing of still more sweeping corollaries. If Irish wishes are the plea, at least ten times as many Irishmen thirst for a dissolution of the Union as for the disestablishment of the Protestant Church. If disendowment be the object, the real grievance felt and resented by the mass of the people, as we all know, is not that Protestant clergymen Vol. 125.-No. 249.
obtain all the tithes, but that Protestant landlords hold fourfifths or eight-ninths of the soil. Every argument against the principle of a State Church applies, of course, just as strongly to England as to Ireland; and it is arguments of this character that weigh most with the middle classes of our towns. The only argument that can be effectually urged against the Established Church in Ireland that does not tell equally against the Established Church in England is, that in the former case it is the Church of the minority of the people. But it seems to be forgotten that this allegation is only true on the assumption, which the Act of Union denies and was intended to destroy, that Ireland is a separate nation. If Ireland is an integral portion of the United Kingdom, as we all, nominally at least, hold, then the Protestant Church is not the Church of the minority, but of the large majority of the aggregate people. If the Establishment in Ireland is to be condemned as the Church of only a small section of the inhabitants of the country, then the union of the two countries is imperfect, and the demand for repeal, if put forward with sufficient unanimity and strength, would seem to be logically irresistible. If the majority of the Irish have a right to object to the Established united Church, it will be difficult to show that on the same ground they have not a right to object to the Established united Legislature.
Again, while doing ample justice to the steady and strong convictions which most of the Radicals, and many even among the old Whigs, have long entertained and avowed upon this question, it is not easy to explain the sudden conversion of the whole party, among whom are numbers of conscientious and even zealous Churchmen, to so bold a measure as the abolition of the Irish establishment, on any grounds which do not lay their proceedings open to the charge both of impolicy and faction. · Acts of Parliament for Ireland,' says
one of the shrewdest of Mr. Senior's interlocutors, in the volumes before us, ' are among the most approved weapons in English political warfare.' The public cannot fail to remember that the Liberals, during eighteen years of power, have suffered the Irish Church to sleep undisturbed among its possessions, but will not allow it one hour longer of secure existence as soon as they are relegated to the Opposition benches. The facts of the case have in no degree been changed or aggravated of late. The abuse, the grievance, the impolicy, now painted in such glowing colours, have been as palpable and as gross each year since Mr. Gladstone entered Parliament as they are now; yet the very men who have waited for a whole generation refuse now to wait a single session, There is no assignable reason for haste to-day that does not carry