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It is observed by Macaulay,* in comparing the relative progress of Great Britain and Ireland, that in the midst of light the thick darkness of the Middle Ages still rested on Ireland. His remark specially applies to a period previous to the '98 rebellion. Yet of the three kingdoms it is evident that Ireland, even to the present day, has changed far less than either of the others in the feelings, ideas and wishes of its population.
Were an Englishman or Scotchman who had lived during the Pretender's wars in the last century to re-appear, he would find British sentiments which were then prevalent as completely banished from men's minds as those of
* History of England, vol. i.
previous centuries. But an Irishman, who had lived in the yet more remote period of James II.'s reign, would recognise many feelings and motives of that time still animating Irish minds.
The demand for the restoration of all lands given to British settlers by James I. which was granted by his grandson, James II., as the price of Irish Catholic loyalty, much resembles in ultimate aim and historical origin the present claim of Ireland for the Irish advocated by an organized and self-styled National League, who openly call the English "hereditary foes of their religion and race," from whom they desire complete separation. In these ideas and objects the spirit of the civil wars and rebellions of former times is clearly expressed, though brought to bear on the public mind by new agencies and influences hardly available till the present time. Thus the counsel, money, and support of the increasing Irish in America are more devoted to aid Irish enmity to England than ever before. The increased number of Irish in England and in the British Colonies have also been induced, more than at any former time, to join in demanding the separation of Ireland from England, though the two countries have been ruled by the same sovereigns for centuries.
Thus, amid the many wonderful changes which modern times have effected in Europe, the historical student, if he examines the subject calmly, will easily recognise the strong resemblance shown in the present display of Irish enmity against England to that manifested during and since the early invasion of Ireland by British colonists.
One remarkable feature in Irish politics, however, of the present time, well merits careful attention. A. brave minority of Irish Catholics enter the British service as soldiers and sailors, and also uphold British rule as judges, magistrates, and police. These practical loyalists are, perhaps, less heard of or less considered than either the discontented Catholic majority, or the loyal Protestant minority. They apparently have few, if any, parliamentary representatives, while unlike most of their fellow-countrymen, whether Protestant or Catholic, they do far more than they say, and are therefore not sufficiently noticed. But though their valuable services are undeniable, and their practical adherence to British rule unopposed by their clergy, they seem to have little influence in the political contests of their country. It is true that this class forms a minority—a small minority—of Irish Catholics whose enmity to England is openly and eagerly avowed. But the ability and learning of Catholic judges and other law officials, together with the courage, fidelity, and self-control of Catholic officers, soldiers, and police, may well be contrasted with the conduct and language of their disaffected coreligionists.
Among the latter the most talented probably are Mr. Parnell's followers in Parliament— able, eloquent, and zealous men certainly, but mostly undistinguished yet in any professional career. Many of the clergy who sanction them are, doubtless, sincerely devoted to the interests of their Church, but, as politicians, even the wisest and best among them, cannot display their highest qualities. Indeed, their almost exclusively religious education and engrossing professional duties alike tend to unfit them for politics, as is well known and practically acknowledged in Roman Catholic countries.*
During the riots and trials which often accompany and follow Irish political contests, the interference of Catholic soldiers and police, and subsequently of Catholic judges and magistrates, is frequently required and always devoted to the steady vindication of British law. The strange spectacle is, moreover, sometimes shown of Irish Catholic soldiers returning home with wounds and honours received in supporting British rule abroad, but who are forced to hear the Government which they faithfully served eagerly denounced even by their clergy and relatives as the worst and most odious of existing tyrannies. Yet loyal Irish Catholics still enter the British service unopposed by clergy or relatives.
These practically loyal Irish, however, say little or nothing, and are, therefore, in theory almost
* "No class of men, by their principles and their modes of life and of thought, are less fitted for political leadership than Catholic priests. It is inevitable that they should subordinate political to sectarian considerations."—Lecky's England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. ii. chap. vii.