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1798 AND 1803.
Although the latter part of this century has diffused more education through Ireland than ever before, there appears considerable ignorance of its history even among men familiar with its agricultural, commercial, and financial position.*
For most practical purposes of the present day Irish history appears of comparatively slight
* "That proportion of the national talent and scholarship which ought in every country to be devoted to elucidating the national history, has in Ireland not been so employed. Irish history has passed to a lamentable extent into the hands of religious polemics, of dishonest partisans,and of half-educated and uncritical enthusiasts." —Lecky's England in the 18th Century, vol. ii. ch. vi.
importance till the reign of James II. At his accession he was what no other King of Ireland had ever been—an acknowledged Roman Catholic monarch, by the sincere, unanimous concurrence of English Episcopalians, Scottish Presbyterians, and Irish Roman Catholics, unopposed by either foreign Powers or rebellious subjects. To this fact Macaulay calls particular attention.* According to him, and to those authorities whom he trusts, the second King James might have effected the real union of Ireland with Great Britain as surely as his grandfather, the first James, had accomplished that of Scotland with England by his accession to the. British throne.
These two kingdoms previously were always independent of, and often hostile to, each other; but after his accession no national enmity ever armed one against the other, either in rebellion or civil war. In the tremendous revolution which deprived his son, Charles I., of his life, all national distinctions between England and Scotland had disappeared. The Royalists were represented in both countries chiefly by the
* History of England, vol. ii.
nobility and landed gentry, mostly composed of Episcopalians. The Republicans in both kingdoms consisted chiefly of Independents and Presbyterians, allied with a few Episcopalians, while British Roman Catholics took little part in the contest, but decidedly favoured the king. ,
In Ireland, the native chiefs, though fiercely resisting the British Republicans under Cromwell, probably desired the restoration of their own independence rather than that of the British monarchy.* Upon this point, however, there seems some doubt, though certainly most of the Irish Protestants and Presbyterians descended from British colonists were in favour of the monarchy. Their loyalty thus incurred the angry reproaches of the British Republicans, ,expressed in the bitter eloquence of Cromwell's political and poetical ally, John Milton. This sublime writer reproached the Irish Protestant
* "The picture, indeed, is a strangely confused one, the lines of division of Irish and English, of Catholic and Protestant, of Royalist and Republican, crossing and intermingling."—Lecky's England in the 18th Century, vol. ii. ch. vi.
loyalists with as much intolerant vehemence as his own party had previously endured from Royalist opponents.*
Meanwhile, the Irish Catholics were finally overcome by the British Republicans, who accused them of adhering to the monarchy. But their ultimate designs were never clearly proved, or at least have always caused a difference of opinion among Irish historians. The Republican triumph resulted in the almost absolute, yet unpopular, dictatorship of the Independent general, Cromwell,t followed by the peaceful restoration of the monarchy in the person of the eldest son of the executed king.
Charles II., though troubled by plots, conspiracies, and a Scottish revolt, was never opposed by open rebellion in England or in Ireland. It was reserved for his unfortunate brother, James II., to witness the amazing spec
* See Milton's remarks on peace with Irish Eebels. Prose Works.
f Macaulay states that "beyond the limits of his camps and fortresses Cromwell could hardly be said to have a party."—History of England.