Page images
PDF
EPUB

.ese of consequences, than that of the sober and calculating tribes of the north. The greatest and most urgent hazard, therefore, is that which arises from their impatience;—and this unhappily is such, that unless some early measure of conciliation is ailopted, it would no longer be matter of surprise to any one, if, upon the first occasion of a war witn any of the great powers of Europe, or America, the great body of the nation should rise in final and implacable hostility, and endeavour to throw off all connection with, or dependence on Great Britain, and to erect itself into an iudependent state!

To us it certainly appears that this would be a most desperate, wild, and impracticable enterprise. But it is not upon this account the less likely to be attempted by such a nation as the Irish;—and it cannot be dissembled that the mere attempt would almost unavoidably plunge both countries in the most frightful and interminable ruin. Though the separation even of distant and mature dependencies is almost always attended with terrible convulsions, separation, in such circumstances, is unquestionably an ultimate good ;—and if Ireland were a mere dependency, and were distant enoueh and strong enough to subsist and flourish a? an independent community, we might console ourselves, even for the infinite misery of the struggle attending on the separation, by the prospect of the great increase of happiness that might be the final result. But it is impossible, we think, for any one but an exasperated and unthinking Irishman, not to see and feel that this neither is, nor ever can be, the condition u! Ireland. Peopled by the same race, speaking the same language, associated ¡n the same pursuits, bound together and amalgamated by continual intermarriages, joint adventures in trade, and every sort of social relation, and, above all. lying within sight and reach of each other's shores, they are in truth as intimately and inseparably connected as most of the internal provinces of each are with one another; and we might as well expect to sue two independent kingdoms established in friendly neighbourhood, in Yorkshire and Lancashire, ая to witness a similar spectacle on the two sides of the Irish Channel. Two such countries, if of equal strength, and exasperated by previous contentions, never could maintain the relations of peace and amity with each other, as separate and independent states ;— but must either mingle into one—or desolate each other in fierce and exterminating hostility, till one sinks in total exhaustion at the feet of the bleeding and exhausted victor. In the actual circumstances of the two countries, however, the attempt would be attended with still more deplorable consequences. Ireland, with whom alone it can originate, is decidedly the weakest, in wealth, population, and all effective resources—and probably never will venture on the experiment without foreign asristance. But it must be at once apparent how the introduction of this unhallowed element darkens all the horrors of the prospect. We are far from making light of the advantages

it might give in the outset. By the help of a French army and an American fleet, we think it by no means improbable that the separation might be accomplished. The English armies might be defeated or driven from its shores—English capitalists might be butchered—the English religion extirpated—and an Irish Catholic republic installed with due ceremony in Dublin, and adopted with acclamation in most of the provinces of the land. Under the protection of their foreign deliverers this state of triumph misrht even be for some time maintained. But now long would this last? or how can it be imagined that it would end Î Would the foreign allies remain for ever, on their own charges, and without interfering with the independence or the policy of the new state which they had thus been the means of creating 1 If they did, it would, after all, be but a vassal republic—a dependency on a more distant and still more imperious master—an outlying province of France —a military station from which to watch and to harass England, and on which the first burst of her hostilities must always be broken —and exposed, of course, in the mean time, to all the license, the insolence, the rigour. of a military occupancy by a foreign and alien soldiery.

But this, it is plain, could never be more than a temporary measure. The defenders and keepers of the Hibernian republic would, ¡n no long time, make peace with England, and quarrel, both with their new subjects, and with each other—and then would come the renovated, the embittered, the unequal struggle with that exasperated power. Weakened as England might be by the separation, it would be absurd to suppose that she would not still be a tremendous overmatch for Ireland, single-handed ;—or that this new state, wasted and exhausted by the war of her independence, could supply the means of making and equipping a fleet, or appointing an army, such as would be required to make head against this formidable antagonist. Though the numerical majority of her people, too, might be zealous for maintaining her independence, it is obvious that England would still have in her bosom a body of most formidable allies. The most intelligent, the most wealthy, the most politic and sagacious of her inhabitants, are at this moment in the English interest ;—and, however sweeping and bloody the proscription by which they might have been overthrown, multitudes would still remain, with means and influence sufficient to render their co-operatian most perilous, in a contest for its restoration. Even if left to her own resources, we have little doubt that the country would soon be a prey to civil wars, plots, and insurrections, which the want oí skill and experience in the new rulers, as well as the state of their finances, would aggravate into universal disorder. It is no easy thing to settle a new government amicably, even where there is no foreign interference:—and, in Ireland, from the temper of the people, and the circumstances which would leave less than an ordinary proportion of men of rank,

Sb

education, and personal authority in the bands of the successful party, the difficulty would probably be insurmountable. It is impossible, however, not to suppose that England would eagerly avail herself of those dissensions, both by intrigue, corruption, and force; and equally impossible to doubt that she would succeeu, if not in regaining her supremacy, at least in embroiling the unhappy country which was the subject of it, in the most miserable and interminable disorders.

The sum of the matter then is, that there could be no peace, and, consequently, no prosperity or happiness for Ireland, as a separate and independent neighbour to England. Two such countries, after all that has passed between themj could no more live in quiet and comfort beside each other, than a wife who had deserted her husband's house could live again in his society and that of his family, as a friend or visitor—having her expenses supplied, and her solitude enlivened, by the frequent visits of professing admirers: Nor can any lesson of prudence be addressed to the fiery and impatient spirits who may now meditate in Ireland the casting off of their ties with the sister island, more precisely applicable to their prospects and condition, than the warnings which a friendly adviser would address to an exasperated matron, whose domestic grievances had led her to contemplate such a fatal step. And can any one doubt that the counsel which any faithful and even partial friend would give her, must be, to bear much from her husband, rather than venture on so desperate a remedy; to turn her thoughts rather to conciliation than recrimination or revenge; to avoid as much as possible all causes of reasonable or unreasonable offence—and, above all, firmly and temperately to assert the interests secured by the provisions of her marriage articles, and to stimulate and insist on the resolute interference of the trustees appointed to enforce them.

Such are the warnings which we would address to the offended and exasperated party, in whose vindictive and rash proceedings the catastrophe we have been contemplating must originate. But though we certainly think they must appear convincing to any calm spectator, it is not the less probable that they would be of little avail with the inflamed and excited party, unless they were seconded by conciliatory and gentle measures on the part of the supposed offender. Nor are there wanting motives sufficiently urgent and imperious to make such measures, in all sound reason, indispensable. In the event of a war for independence, Ireland would probably be the scene of the greatest carnage, havoc, and devastation—and, in the end, we think her lot would be by far the most deplorable. But to England also, it is obvious that such a contest would be the source of unspeakable calamity; and the signal, indeed, of her permanent weakness, insecurity, and degradation. That she is bound, therefore, for her own sake to avert it, by every possible precaution and every possible sacrifice, no one will be hardy enough to deny—far less that she is bound,

in the first instance, to diminish Lie tremendous hazard, fry simply "doing Justtct o/.-i showing Mercy'' to those whom it is, in a. other respects, her interest, as well as iiti duty, to cherish and protect.

One thing we take to be evident, and it \f the substance of all that can be said on the subject, that things are fast verging to а ста, and cannot, in all probability, remain 1ощ ^ they are. The Union, in snort, must nibir be made equal and complete on the paît o: England—or it will be broken in pieces ai.-•; thrown in her face by Ireland. That country must either be delivered from the domiralij.. of an Orange faction, or we must expec!, ::. spite of all our warnings and remoiisliai.c.ï. to see her seek her own deliverance by u<: fatal and bloody career to which we have already alluded—and from which we ho,J;; to be the height of guilt and of folly lo Instate about withholding her, by the sac:,:..-, of that miserable faction.

Little, however, as we rely, without sucl co-operation, on the effect of our waniu;;;. we cannot end without again lifting our ¡ect>¡<voice to repeat them—without conjuring '.L-lovers of Ireland to consider how ho¡> lt-i~ and how wretched any scheme of a permanent separation from England must nec> *»rily be, and how certainly their condition ma-: be ameliorated by the course of events, ¡be gradual extinction of the generation in whom the last life-use of antiquated oppressjoo» is now centered, and the spread of those mud and liberal sentiments, to which nothing csji so much contribute as a spirit of moderate;, and patience in those who have ко long 511:fered from the want of them. By the Unir-:*. such as it is, we think the axe has been laid to the root of the old system of орргеэша and misgovernment in Ireland—and though its branches may still look green, and ¿II afford shelter to the unclean birds who we:e bred and have so long nestled in their cover:, the sap ascends in them no longer, ai;J iir whole will soon cease to cumber the CtoÜ:,¿ or obstruct the sight of the skv. In these circumstances, the only wise ana safe cca>' is to watch, and gently to assist the prieras of their natural decay. If, in some fit ui impatience, the brands are thrown into the mouldering mass, and an attempt made to ?ul"t'. the land at once to the fatal Purgation öl F.: the risk is, not only that the authors will ¡< :• ish in the conflagration, but that another and a ranker crop of abominations will spring fa--. its ashes, to poison the dwellings of many fa ture generations.

We may seem to have forgotten Mr. O'Driscol in these general observations: and yel they are not so foreign to his merits, as ib y may at first sight appear. His book cerui:;i;> does not supply the desideratum of wb.ch «* spoke at the outset, and will not pass lo [*«• terily as a complete or satisfactory History <.: Ireland. But it is written at least in a good spirit; and we do not know that we ч/..: better describe its general scope and tendency, than by saying, that they coincide almost entirely with the sentiments we bare just been sxrressing. The author, we have recently understood, is a Catholic: But we had really read through his work without discovering it, —and can testify that he not only gives that party their full share of blame in all the transact ions which deserve it, but speaks of the besetting sins of their system, with a freedom and severity which no Protestant, not absolutely Orange, could easily improve on. We needed no extrinsical lights, indeed, to discover that he was an Irishman,—for, independent of the pretty distinct intimation conveyed in hi? name, we speedily discovered a spirit of nationality about him, that could leave no doubt on the subject. It is the only kind of partiality, however, which we can detect in his performance; and it really detracts less from his credit than might be imagined,— partly because it is so little disguised as to lead to no misconceptions, and chiefly because. it is mostly confined to those parts of the story in which it can do little harm. It breaks out most conspicuously in the earlier and most problematical portion of the narrative; as to which truth is now most difficult to be come at. and of least value when ascertained. He is clear, for example, that the Irish were, for many centuries before the conquest of Henry II., a very polished, learned, and magnificent people—that they had colleges at Lismore and Armagh, where thousands upon thousands of studious youth imbibed all the learning of the times—that they worked beautifully in gold and silver, and manufactured exquisite fabrics both in flax and wool—and, finally, that the country was not only more prosperous and civilised, but greatly more populous, in those early ages, than in any succeeding time. We have no wish to enter into an idle antiquarian controversy—but we must say that no sober Saxon can adopt these legends without very large allowances. It is indubitable that the Irish, or some of them, did very anciently fabricate linen, and probably also some ornaments of gold ; and it would appear, from certain ecclesiactical writers of no great credit, that they had among them large seminaries for priests,—a body possessing, in those ages, no very extraordinary learning, even in more favoured localities. But it is at least equally certain, that they were entirely a Pastora! people, unacquainted with agriculture, holdin;; their herds as the common property of the clan, dwelling in rude huts or wigwams, for the most part deplorably ignorant, and, in spite of their priests, generally practising polygamy and other savage vices. But wbat chieflj demonstrates the bias under which our author considers those early times, is his firm belief in the great populousness of ancient Ireland and the undoubting confidence with which he rejects all the English accounts of their barbarism, even in the times of Henry VIII. am Elizabeth. But a pastoral country never can be populous—and one overrun with unreclaim ed bogs and unbroken forests, still less thai any other. More than two thirds of the presen population of Ireland undoubtedly owe thei existence to the potato; and men alive can «ill point put large districts, now producing

he food of more than a million of new inhabtants, which they remember in their primitive täte of sterile and lonely morasses. Witheut xitatoes. without corn, turnips, or cultivated grasses—with few sheep, and with nothing, n short, but roving herds of black cattle, if reland had a full million of inhabitants in the enth or twelfth century, she had a great deal; and in spite of her theological colleges, and 1er traditionary churches, we doubt whether she had as many.* But whatever may have >een the number or condition of her people in hose remote ages, of which we have no staistical memorial and no authentic account, it s a little bold in Mr. O'Driscol to persuade us, that in the time of Elizabeth they were >y no means an uncultivated or barbarous >eople. To the testimony afforded by all the ifficial documents, and the full and graphic accounts of Spenser, Davis, and the writers referred to by Camden, long resident in the country, and eye-witnesses of all they describe, we really do not know what Mr. O'Driscol has to oppose, but his own patriotic jrejudices, and his deep-rooted conviction, hat no English testimony is to be trusted on such a subject. We must be forgiven for not sharing in his generous incredulity.

As to the more modern parts of the history, though he never fails to manifest an amiable anxiety to apologise for Irish excesses, and to do justice to Irish bravery and kindness, we really are not aware that this propensity has led him into any misrepresentation of facts; and are happy to find that it never points, in the remotest degree, to any thing so absurd as either a separation from England, or a vindictive wish for her distress or humiliation. He is too wise, indeed, not to be aware of that important truth, which so few of his zealous countrymen seem, however, able to comprehend—that there are no longer any of those injured Irish in existence, upon whom the English executed such flagrant oppressions two hundred years ago! and that nine tenths of the intelligent Irish, who now burn with desire to avenge the wrongs of their predecessors, are truly as much akin to those who did, as to those who suffered, the injury. We doubt whether even the O'Driscols have not, by this time; nearly as much English as Irish blood in their veins; and are quite sure, that if the lands pillaged from their original Celtic owners, in the days of Elizabeth and Cromwell, were to be given back to the true heirs, scarcely one of those who now reprobate the spoliation in good English, would profit by the restitution. The living Irishmen of the present day may have wrongs to complain of, and injuries to redress, on the part of the English Government: But it is absurd to imagine that they are entitled to resent the wrongs and in

* If we remember rightly, the forces actually engneed in the conquest or defence of Ireland in the lime of Henry the Second were most insignificant in point of numbers. Less than a hundred men-alarms easily took possession of a whole district ; and even after the invaded had time to prepare for resistance, an army of three or four hundred was found quite sufficient to bear down all opposition.

juries of those who suffered it. the same place centuries ago. They are most of them half English, by blood and lineage—and much more than half English, in speech, training, character, and habits. If they are to punish the descendants of the individual English who usurped Irish possessions, and displaced true Irish possessors, in former days, they muet punish themselves;—for undoubtedly they are far more nearly connected with those

spoilers than any of the hated English, «We ancestors never adventured to the neightau:ing island. Mr. O'Driscol's partiality ¡or Ik-" ancient Irish, therefore, is truly a mere peculiarity of taste or feeling—or at best bul ir, historical predilection; and in reality has w< influence, as it ought to have none, ou h:« views as to what constitutes the actual gnerances, or is likely to work the deliverance, oí the existing generation.

(December, 1826.)

Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan. By Thomas Mootc. Fourth Edition. 2 vols. 8vo. London: Longman and Co. 1826.*

We have frequently had occasion to speak of the dangers to which the conflict of two extreme parties must always expose the peace and the liberties of such a country as England, and of the hostility with which both are apt to regard those who still continue to stand neutral between them. The charges against this middle party—which we take to be now represented by the old constitutional Whigs of 1688—used formerly to be much the same, though somewhat mitigated in tone, with those which each was in the habit of addressing to their adversaries in the opposite extreme. When the high Tories wanted to abuee the Whips, they said they were nearly as bad asthe Radicals; and when these wished in their turn to lessen the credit of the same unfortunate party, the established form of reproach was, that they were little better than the Tories! Of late years, however, a change seems to have come over the spirit, or the practical tactics at least, of these gallant belligerents. They have now discovered that there are vices and incapacities peculiar to the Whigs, and inseparable indeed from their middle position : and that before settling their fundamental differences with each other, it is most wise and fitting that the)7 should unite to bear down this common enemy, by making good against them these heavy imputations. It has now become necessary, therefore, for those against whom they are directed, to inquire a little into the nature and proofs of these alleged enormities; the horror of which has thus suspended the conflict of old hereditary enemies, and led them to proclaim a truce, till the field, by their joint efforts, can be cleared for fair hostilities, by the destruction of these hated intruders.

Now, the topics of reproach which these two opposite parties have recently joined in directing against those who would mediate

* What is here given forms bu! a small pan of the article originally published under ihis lillp. in 1826. But 11 exhibits nearly the whole of ihe Gen. eral Politics contained in that article; and having been, as I believe, among the last political discussions, I contributed to ¿he Review, I hnve been templed to close, with it, this most anxious and perilous division of the present publication.

between them; seem to be chiefly two:— First, that their doctrines are timid, vacillating, compromising, and inconsistent: and. secondly, that the party which holds item ;* small, weak, despised, and unpopular. These are the favourite texts, we think, of those whose vocation it has lately become to prearu against us, from the pulpits at once of wmli:\ and of democratical reform. But it is necessary to open them up a little farther, before we enter on our defence.

The first charge then is, That the Whigs are essentially an inefficient, trimming, haJlway sort of party—too captious, penuriou«. and disrespectful to authority, to be useful serrants in a Monarchy, and too aristocraticé, cautious, and tenacious of old institutions, to deserve the confidence, or excite the sympathies, of a generous and enlightened People. Their advocates, accordingly—and we ourselves in an an especial manner—are accust-d of dealing in contradictory and equivocat:iit' doctrines; of practising a continual eee-siu of admissions and retractations; of sayins пот a word for the people—now one for the ari*tocracy—now one for the Crown ; of parulrsihg all our liberal propositions by some timiJ a: i paltry reservation, and never Ьешг betravj into a truly popular sentiment without instantly chilling and neutralising it by some cold warning against excess, some caut:uu* saving of the privileges of rank and establ^hment. And so far has this system of inculpation been lately carried, that a liberal Juu.t.j!, of great and increasing celebrity, has actual!) done us the honour, quarter after quarter, oí quoting long passages from our humble pace*. in evidence of this sad infirmity in our party and principles.

Now. while we reject of course the epithets which are here applied to us. we admit at once, the facts on which our adversaries profess to justify them. We acknowledge tkal we are fairly chargeable with a fear of opposite excesses—a desire to compromise and reconcile the claims of all the great parti« in the State—an anxiety to temper ana quality whatever may be said in favour of one, with a steady reservation of whatever may be jnsti} due to Ihe rest. To this sort of trimming, ti>

this inconsistency, to this timidity, we distinctly plead guilty. We plead guilty to a love to the British Constitution—and to all and every one of its branches. We are for King, Lords, and Commons; and though not perhaps exactly in that order, we are proud to have it said that we have a word for each in its turn; and that, in asserting the rights of one, we would not willingly forget those of the others. Our jealousy, we confess, is greatest of those who have the readiest means of persuasion ; and therefore, we are generally far more afraid of the encroachments of arbitrary power, under cover of its patronage, and the general love of peace, security, and distinction, which attract so strongly to the region of the Court, than of the usurpations of popular violence. But we are for authority, as well as for freedom. We are for the natural and wholesome influence of wealth and rank, and the veneration which belongs to old institutions, without which no government has ever had either stability or respect; as well as for that vigilance of popular control, and lhat supremacy of public opinion, without which none could be long protected from abuse. We know that, when pushed, to their ultimate extremes, those principles may be said to be in contradiction. But the escape from inconsistency is secured by the very obvious precaution of stopping short of such extremes. It was to prevent this, in fact, that the English constitution, and indeed all good government everywhere, was established. Every thing that we know that is valuable in the ordinances of men, or admirable in the arrangements of Providence, seems to depend on a compromise, a balance ; or, if the expression is thought better, on a conflict and struggle, of opposite and irreconcileable principles. Virtue—society—life itself, and, in so far as we can see, the grand movements and whole or.ier of the universe, are maintained only by such a balance or contention.

These, we are afraid, will appear but idle truisms, and shallow pretexts for foolish selfcommendation. No one, it will be said, is for any thing but the British constitution ; and nubody denies that it depends on a balance of opposite principles. The only question is, whether that balance is now rightly adjusted; and whether the Whigs are in the proper central position for correcting its obliquities. Now, if the attacks to which we are alluding had been reducible to such a principle as this, —if we had been merely accused, by our brethren of the Westminster, for not going far enough on the popular side, and by our brethren of the Quarterly, for going too far,—we should have had nothing to complain of, beyond what is inseparable from all party contentions; and must have done our best to answer those opposite charges, on their separate and specific merits,—taking advantage, of course, as against each, of the authority of the other, ae a proof, à fortiori, of the safety of our own intermediate position. But the peculiarity of our present case, and the hardship which alone induces us to complain of it is, that tA.'i is not the course that has been lately

followed with regard to us.—that our adversaries have effected, or ratner pretended, an unnatural union against us,—and, deserting not only the old rules of political hostility, but, as it humbly appears to us, their own fundamental principles, have combined to attack us, on the new and distinct ground of our moderation,—not because we are opposed to their extreme doctrines respectively, but because we are not extremely opposed to them! —and, affecting a generous indulgence and respect for those who are diametrically against them, seem actually to have agreed to join forces with them, to run down those who stand peacefully between, and would gladly effect their reconcilement. We understand very well the feelings which lead to such a course of proceeding; but we are not the less convinced of their injustice,—and. in spite of all that may be said of neutrals in civil war, or interlopers in matrimonial quarrels, we still believe that the Peacemakers are Blessed,— and that they who seek conscientiously to moderate the pretensions of contending factions, are more likely to be right than either of their opponents.

The natural, and, in our humble judgment, the very important function of a middle party is, not only to be a check, but a bulwark to both those that are more decidedly opposed; and though liable not to be very well looked on by either, it should only be very obnoxious, we should think, to the stronger, or those who are disposed to act on the offensive. To them it naturally enough presents the appearance of an advanced post, that must be carried before the main battle can be joined.—and for the assault of which they have neither the same weapons, the same advantages of position, nor the same motives of action. To the weaker party, however, or those who stand on their defence, it must, or at least should, always be felt to be a protection,—though received probably with grudging and ill grace, as a sort of half-faced fellowship, yielded with no cordiality, and ready enough to be withdrawn if separate terms can be made with the adversar)". With this scheme of tactics we have long been familiar; and for those feelings we were prepared. But it is rather too much, we think, when those who are irreconcileably hostile, and whose only quarrel with us is, that we go half the length of their hated opponents,—have the face to pretend that we are more justly hateful to them, than those who go the whole length,— that they have really no particular quarrel with those who are beyond us, and that we, in fact, and our unhappy mid-way position, are the only obstacles to a cordial union of those whom it is, in truth, our main object to reconcile and unite!

Nothing, we take it, can be so plain as that this is a hollow, and, in truth, very flimsy pretext: and that the real reason of the animosity with which we are honoured by the more eager individuals in both the extreme parties is, that we afford a covering and a shelter to each—impede the assault they are impatient mutually to make on each other,

« PreviousContinue »