Peter Plymley's Letters and Selected Essays
Sydney Smith

Part 3 out of 3

labour is low, the demand for labour irregular. If a poor man be
driven, by distress of rent, from his potato garden, he has no other
resource--all is lost: he will do the impossible (as the French
say) to retain it; subscribe any bond, and promise any rent. The
middleman has no character to lose; and he knew, when he took up the
occupation, that it was one with which pity had nothing to do. On
he drives; and backward the poor peasant recedes, loses something at
every step, till he comes to the very brink of despair; and then he
recoils and murders his oppressor, and is a White Boy or a Right
Boy;--the soldier shoots him, and the judge hangs him.

In the debate which took place in the Irish House of Commons, upon
the Bill for preventing tumultuous risings and assemblies, on the
31st of January, 1787, the Attorney-General submitted to the House
the following narrative of facts.

"The commencement," said he, "was in one or two parishes in the
county of Kerry; and they proceeded thus. The people assembled in a
Catholic chapel, and there took an oath to obey the laws of Captain
Right, and to starve the clergy. They then proceeded to the next
parishes on the following Sunday, and there swore the people in the
same manner; with this addition, that they (the people last sworn)
should on the ensuing Sunday proceed to the chapels of their next
neighbouring parishes and swear the inhabitants of those parishes in
like manner. Proceeding in this manner, they very soon went through
the province of Munster. The first object was the REFORMATION OF
TITHES. They swore not to give more than a certain price per acre,
not to assist or allow them to be assisted in drawing the tithe, and
to permit NO PROCTOR. They next took upon them to prevent the
collection of parish cesses, next to nominate parish clerks, and in
some cases curates, to say what church should or should not be
repaired, and in one case to threaten that they would burn a NEW
church if the OLD one were not given for a mass-house. At last they
proceeded to regulate the price of lands, to raise the price of
labour, and to oppose the collection of the hearth-money and other
taxes. Bodies of 5,000 of them have been seen to march through the
country unarmed, and, if met by any magistrate, THEY NEVER OFFERED
THE SMALLEST RUDENESS OR OFFENCE; on the contrary, they had allowed
persons charged with crimes to be taken from amongst them by the
magistrate ALONE, unaided by any force.

"The Attorney-General said he was well acquainted with the province
of Munster, and that it was impossible for human wretchedness to
were GROUND TO POWDER by relentless landlords; that, far from being
able to give the clergy their just dues, they had not food or
raiment for themselves--the landlord grasped the whole; and sorry
was he to add that, not satisfied with the present extortion, some
landlords had been so base as to instigate the insurgents to rob the
clergy of their tithes, not in order to alleviate the distresses of
the tenantry, but that they might add the clergy's share to the
cruel rack-rents they already paid. The poor people of Munster
SUPPOSED EQUAL TO BEAR."--"Grattan's Speeches," vol. i., p. 292.

We are not, of course, in such a discussion to be governed by names.
A middleman might be tied up by the strongest legal restriction, as
to the price he was to exact from the under-tenants, and then he
would be no more pernicious to the estate than a steward. A steward
might be protected in exactions as severe as the most rapacious
middleman; and then, of course, it would be the same thing under
another name. The practice to which we object is the too common
method in Ireland of extorting the last farthing which the tenant is
willing to give for land rather than quit it: and the machinery by
which such practice is carried into effect is that of the middleman.
It is not only that it ruins the land; it ruins the people also.
They are made so poor--brought so near the ground--that they can
sink no lower; and burst out at last into all the acts of
desperation and revenge for which Ireland is so notorious. Men who
have money in their pockets, and find that they are improving in
their circumstances, don't do these things. Opulence, or the hope
of opulence or comfort, is the parent of decency, order, and
submission to the laws. A landlord in Ireland understands the
luxury of carriages and horses, but has no relish for the greater
luxury of surrounding himself with a moral and grateful tenantry.
The absent proprietor looks only to revenue, and cares nothing for
the disorder and degradation of a country which he never means to
visit. There are very honourable exceptions to this charge: but
there are too many living instances that it is just. The rapacity
of the Irish landlord induces him to allow of the extreme division
of his lands. When the daughter marries, a little portion of the
little farm is broken off--another corner for Patrick, and another
for Dermot--till the land is broken into sections, upon one of which
an English cow could not stand. Twenty mansions of misery are thus
reared instead of one. A louder cry of oppression is lifted up to
heaven, and fresh enemies to the English name and power are
multiplied on the earth. The Irish gentleman, too, extremely
desirous of political influence, multiplying freeholds, and
splitting votes; and this propensity tends of course to increase the
miserable redundance of living beings, under which Ireland is
groaning. Among the manifold wretchedness to which the poor Irish
tenant is liable, we must not pass over the practice of driving for
rent. A lets land to B, who lets it to C, who lets it again to D.
D pays C his rent, and C pays B. But if B fails to pay A, the
cattle of B, C, D are all driven to the pound, and after the
interval of a few days sold by auction. A general driving of this
kind very frequently leads to a bloody insurrection. It may be
ranked among the classical grievances of Ireland.

Potatoes enter for a great deal into the present condition of
Ireland. They are much cheaper than wheat; and it is so easy to
rear a family upon them, that there is no cheek to population from
the difficulty of procuring food. The population therefore goes on
with a rapidity approaching almost to that of new countries, and in
a much greater ratio than the improving agriculture and
manufacturers of the country can find employment for it. All
degrees of all nations begin with living in pig-styes. The king or
the priest first gets out of them; then the noble, then the pauper;
in proportion as each class becomes more and more opulent. Better
tastes arise from better circumstances; and the luxury of one period
is the wretchedness and poverty of another. English peasants, in
the time of Henry VII., were lodged as badly as Irish peasants now
are; but the population was limited by the difficulty of procuring a
corn subsistence. The improvements of this kingdom were more rapid;
the price of labour rose; and with it the luxury and comfort of the
peasant, who is now decently lodged and clothed, and who would think
himself in the last stage of wretchedness if he had nothing but an
iron pot in a turf house, and plenty of potatoes in it. The use of
the potato was introduced into Ireland when the wretched
accommodation of her own peasantry bore some proportion to the state
of those accommodations all over Europe. But they have increased
their population so fast, and, in conjunction with the oppressive
government of Ireland retarding improvement, have kept the price of
labour so low, that the Irish poor have never been able to emerge
from their mud cabins, or to acquire any taste for cleanliness and
decency of appearance. Mr. Curwen has the following description of
Irish cottages:-

"These mansions of miserable existence, for so they may truly be
described, conformably to our general estimation of those
indispensable comforts requisite to constitute the happiness of
rational beings, are most commonly composed of two rooms on the
ground floor, a most appropriate term, for they are literally on the
earth, the surface of which is not unfrequently reduced a foot or
more to save the expense of so much outward walling. The one is a
refectory, the other the dormitory. The furniture of the former, if
the owner ranks in the upper part of the scale of scantiness, will
consist of a kitchen dresser, well provided and highly decorated
with crockery--not less apparently the pride of the husband than the
result of female vanity in the wife: which, with a table, a chest,
a few stools, and an iron pot, complete the catalogue of
conveniences generally found as belonging to the cabin: while a
spinning-wheel, furnished by the Linen Board, and a loom, ornament
vacant spaces that otherwise would remain unfurnished. In fitting
up the latter, which cannot on any occasion or by any display add a
feather to the weight or importance expected to be excited by the
appearance of the former, the inventory is limited to one, and
sometimes two beds, serving for the repose of the whole family!
However downy these may be to limbs impatient for rest, their
coverings appear to be very slight, and the whole of the apartment
created reflections of a very painful nature. Under such
privations, with a wet mud floor and a roof in tatters, how idle the
search for comforts!"--Curwen, i., pp. 112, 113.

To this extract we shall add one more on the same subject.

"The gigantic figure, bareheaded before me, had a beard that would
not have disgraced an ancient Israelite--he was without shoes or
stockings--and almost a sans-culotte--with a coat, or rather a
jacket, that appeared as if the first blast of wind would tear it to
tatters. Though his garb was thus tattered, he had a manly
commanding countenance. I asked permission to see the inside of his
cabin, to which I received his most courteous assent. On stooping
to enter at the door I was stopped, and found that permission from
another was necessary before I could be admitted. A pig, which was
fastened to a stake driven into the floor, with length of rope
sufficient to permit him the enjoyment of sun and air, demanded some
courtesy, which I showed him, and was suffered to enter. The wife
was engaged in boiling thread, and by her side, near the fire, a
lovely infant was sleeping, without any covering, on a bare board.
Whether the fire gave additional glow to the countenance of the
babe, or that Nature impressed on its unconscious cheek a blush that
the lot of man should be exposed to such privations, I will not
decide; but if the cause be referable to the latter, it was in
perfect unison with my own feelings. Two or three other children
crowded round the mother: on their rosy countenances health seemed
established in spite of filth and ragged garments. The dress of the
poor woman was barely sufficient to satisfy decency. Her
countenance bore the expression of a set melancholy, tinctured with
an appearance of ill health. The hovel, which did not exceed twelve
or fifteen feet in length and ten in breadth, was half obscured by
smoke--chimney or window I saw none; the door served the various
purposes of an inlet to light and the outlet to smoke. The
furniture consisted of two stools, an iron pot, and a spinning-
wheel, while a sack stuffed with straw, and a single blanket laid on
planks, served as a bed for the repose of the whole family. Need I
attempt to describe my sensations? The statement alone cannot fail
of conveying to a mind like yours an adequate idea of them--I could
not long remain a witness to this acme of human misery. As I left
the deplorable habitation the mistress followed me to repeat her
thanks for the trifle I had bestowed. This gave me an opportunity
of observing her person more particularly. She was a tall figure,
her countenance composed of interesting features, and with every
appearance of having once been handsome.

"Unwilling to quit the village without first satisfying myself
whether what I had seen was a solitary instance or a sample of its
general state, or whether the extremity of poverty I had just beheld
had arisen from peculiar improvidence and want of management in one
wretched family, I went into an adjoining habitation, where I found
a poor old woman of eighty, whose miserable existence was painfully
continued by the maintenance of her granddaughter. Their condition,
if possible, was more deplorable."--Curwen, i., pp. 181-183.

This wretchedness, of which all strangers who visit Ireland are so
sensible, proceeds certainly in great measure from their accidental
use of a food so cheap, that it encourages population to an
extraordinary degree, lowers the price of labour, and leaves the
multitudes which it calls into existence almost destitute of
everything but food. Many more live in consequence of the
introduction of potatoes; but all live in greater wretchedness. In
the progress of population, the potato must of course become at last
as difficult to be procured as any other food; and then let the
political economist calculate what the immensity and wretchedness of
a people must be, where the further progress of population is
checked by the difficulty of procuring potatoes.

The consequence of the long mismanagement and oppression of Ireland,
and of the singular circumstances in which it is placed, is, that it
is a semi-barbarous country--more shame to those who have thus ill-
treated a fine country and a fine people; but it is part of the
present case of Ireland. The barbarism of Ireland is evinced by the
frequency and ferocity of duels--the hereditary clannish feuds of
the common people and the fights to which they give birth--the
atrocious cruelties practised in the insurrections of the common
people--and their proneness to insurrection. The lower Irish live
in a state of greater wretchedness than any other people in Europe
inhabiting so fine a soil and climate. It is difficult, often
impossible, to execute the processes of law. In cases where
gentlemen are concerned, it is often not even attempted. The
conduct of under-sheriffs is often very corrupt. We are afraid the
magistracy of Ireland is very inferior to that of this country; the
spirit of jobbing and bribery is very widely diffused, and upon
occasions when the utmost purity prevails in the sister kingdom.
Military force is necessary all over the country, and often for the
most common and just operations of Government. The behaviour of the
higher to the lower orders is much less gentle and decent than in
England. Blows from superiors to inferiors are more frequent, and
the punishment for such aggression more doubtful. The word
GENTLEMAN seems, in Ireland, to put an end to most processes at law.
Arrest a gentleman!!!--take out a warrant against a gentleman--are
modes of operation not very common in the administration of Irish
justice. If a man strike the meanest peasant in England, he is
either knocked down in his turn, or immediately taken before a
magistrate. It is impossible to live in Ireland without perceiving
the various points in which it is inferior in civilisation. Want of
unity in feeling and interest among the people--irritability,
violence, and revenge--want of comfort and cleanliness in the lower
orders--habitual disobedience to the law--want of confidence in
magistrates--corruption, venality, the perpetual necessity of
recurring to military force--all carry back the observer to that
remote and early condition of mankind, which an Englishman can learn
only in the pages of the antiquary or the historian. We do not draw
this picture for censure but for truth. We admire the Irish--feel
the most sincere pity for the state of Ireland--and think the
conduct of the English to that country to have been a system of
atrocious cruelty and contemptible meanness. With such a climate,
such a soil, and such a people, the inferiority of Ireland to the
rest of Europe is directly chargeable to the long wickedness of the
English Government.

A direct consequence of the present uncivilised state of Ireland is,
that very little English capital travels there. The man who deals
in steam-engines, and warps and woofs, is naturally alarmed by Peep-
of-Day Boys, and nocturnal Carders; his object is to buy and sell as
quickly and quietly as he can, and he will naturally bear high taxes
and rivalry in England, or emigrate to any part of the Continent, or
to America, rather than plunge into the tumult of Irish politics and
passions. There is nothing which Ireland wants more than large
manufacturing towns to take off its superfluous population. But
internal peace must come first, and then the arts of peace will
follow. The foreign manufacturer will hardly think of embarking his
capital where he cannot be sure that his existence is safe. Another
check to the manufacturing greatness of Ireland is the scarcity, not
of coal, but of good coal, cheaply raised--an article in which (in
spite of papers in the Irish Transactions) they are lamentably
inferior to the English.

Another consequence from some of the causes we have stated is the
extreme idleness of the Irish labourer. There is nothing of the
value of which the Irish seem to have so little notion as that of
time. They scratch, pick, dawdle, stare, gape, and do anything but
strive and wrestle with the task before them. The most ludicrous of
all human objects is an Irishman ploughing. A gigantic figure--a
seven-foot machine for turning potatoes in human nature--wrapt up in
an immense great-coat, and urging on two starved ponies, with
dreadful imprecations and uplifted shillala. The Irish crow
discerns a coming perquisite, and is not inattentive to the
proceedings of the steeds. The furrow which is to be the depository
of the future crop is not unlike, either in depth or regularity, to
those domestic furrows which the nails of the meek and much-injured
wife plough, in some family quarrel, upon the cheeks of the
deservedly punished husband. The weeds seem to fall contentedly,
knowing that they have fulfilled their destiny, and left behind
them, for the resurrection of the ensuing spring, an abundant and
healthy progeny. The whole is a scene of idleness, laziness, and
poverty, of which it is impossible, in this active and enterprising
country, to form the most distant conception; but strongly
indicative of habits, whether secondary or original, which will long
present a powerful impediment to the improvement of Ireland.

The Irish character contributes something to retard the improvements
of that country. The Irishman has many good qualities: he is
brave, witty, generous, eloquent, hospitable, and open-hearted; but
he is vain, ostentatious, extravagant, and fond of display, light in
counsel, deficient in perseverance, without skill in private or
public economy, an enjoyer, not an acquirer--one who despises the
slow and patient virtues--who wants the superstructure without the
foundation, the result without the previous operation, the oak
without the acorn and the three hundred years of expectation. The
Irish are irascible, prone to debt and to fight, and very impatient
of the restraints of law. Such a people are not likely to keep
their eyes steadily upon the main chance like the Scotch or the
Dutch. England strove very hard at one period to compel the Scotch
to pay a double Church, but Sawney took his pen and ink, and finding
what a sum it amounted to became furious and drew his sword. God
forbid the Irishman should do the same! The remedy now would be
worse than the disease; but if the oppressions of England had been
more steadily resisted a century ago, Ireland would not have been
the scene of poverty, misery, and distress which it now is.

The Catholic religion, among other causes, contributes to the
backwardness and barbarism of Ireland. Its debasing superstition,
childish ceremonies, and the profound submission to the priesthood
which it teaches, all tend to darken men's minds, to impede the
progress of knowledge and inquiry, and to prevent Ireland from
becoming as free, as powerful, and as rich as the sister kingdom.
Though sincere friends to Catholic emancipation, we are no advocates
for the Catholic religion. We should be very glad to see a general
conversion to Protestantism among the Irish, but we do not think
that violence, privations, and incapacities, are the proper methods
of making proselytes.

Such, then, is Ireland at this period--a land more barbarous than
the rest of Europe, because it has been worse treated and more
cruelly oppressed. Many of the incapacities and privations to which
the Catholics were exposed have been removed by law, but in such
instances they are still incapacitated and deprived by custom. Many
cruel and oppressive laws are still enforced against them. A tenth
part of the population engrosses all the honours of the country; the
other nine pay a tenth of the product of the earth for the support
of a religion in which they do not believe. There is little capital
in the country. The great and rich men are called by business, or
allured by pleasure, into England; their estates are given up to
factors, and the utmost farthing of rent extorted from the poor,
who, if they give up the land, cannot get employment in
manufactures, or regular employment in husbandry. The common people
use a sort of food so very cheap that they can rear families who
cannot procure employment, and who have little more of the comforts
of life than food. The Irish are light-minded--want of employment
has made them idle; they are irritable and brave, have a keen
remembrance of the past wrongs they have suffered, and the present
wrongs they are suffering from England. The consequence of all this
is, eternal riot and insurrection, a whole army of soldiers in time
of profound peace, and general rebellion whenever England is busy
with her other enemies or off her guard! And thus it will be, while
the same causes continue to operate, for ages to come, and worse and
worse as the rapidly increasing population of the Catholics becomes
more and more numerous.

The remedies are time and justice, and that justice consists in
repealing all laws which make any distinction between the two
religions; in placing over the government of Ireland, not the
stupid, amiable, and insignificant noblemen who have too often been
sent there, but men who feel deeply the wrongs of Ireland, and who
have an ardent wish to heal them; who will take care that Catholics,
when eligible, shall be elected; who will share the patronage of
Ireland proportionally among the two parties, and give to just and
liberal laws the same vigour of execution which has hitherto been
reserved only for decrees of tyranny, and the enactments of
oppression. The injustice and hardship of supporting two Churches
must be put out of sight, if it cannot or ought not to be cured.
The political economist, the moralist, and the satirist, must
combine to teach moderation and superintendence to the great Irish
proprietors. Public talk and clamour may do something for the poor
Irish, as it did for the slaves in the West Indies. Ireland will
become more quiet under such treatment, and then more rich, more
comfortable, and more civilised; and the horrid spectacle of folly
and tyranny, which it at present exhibits, may in time be removed
from the eyes of Europe.

There are two eminent Irishmen now in the House of Commons--Lord
Castlereagh and Mr. Canning--who will subscribe to the justness of
every syllable we have said upon this subject, and who have it in
their power, by making it the condition of their remaining in
office, to liberate their native country, and raise it to its just
rank among the nations of the earth. Yet the Court buys them over,
year after year, by the pomp and perquisites of office; and year
after year they come into the House of Commons, feeling deeply, and
describing powerfully, the injuries of five millions of their
countrymen--and CONTINUE members of a government that inflicts those
evils, under the pitiful delusion that it is not a Cabinet Question,
as if the scratchings and quarrellings of Kings and Queens could
alone cement politicians together in indissoluble unity, while the
fate and torture of one-third of the empire might be complimented
away from one minister to another, without the smallest breach in
their Cabinet alliance. Politicians, at least honest politicians,
should be very flexible and accommodating in little things, very
rigid and inflexible in great things. And is this NOT a great
thing? Who has painted it in finer and more commanding eloquence
than Mr. Canning? Who has taken a more sensible and statesmanlike
view of our miserable and cruel policy than Lord Castlereagh? You
would think, to hear them, that the same planet could not contain
them and the oppressors of their country--perhaps not the same solar
system. Yet for money, claret, and patronage, they lend their
countenance, assistance, and friendship to the Ministers who are the
stern and inflexible enemies to the emancipation of Ireland!

Thank God that all is not profligacy and corruption in the history
of that devoted people--and that the name of Irishman does not
always carry with it the idea of the oppressor or the oppressed--the
plunderer or the plundered--the tyrant or the slave! Great men
hallow a whole people, and lift up all who live in their time. What
Irishman does not feel proud that he has lived in the days of
GRATTAN? who has not turned to him for comfort, from the false
friends and open enemies of Ireland? who did not remember him in the
days of its burnings and wastings and murders? No Government ever
dismayed him--the world could not bribe him--he thought only of
Ireland--lived for no other object--dedicated to her his beautiful
fancy, his elegant wit, his manly courage, and all the splendour of
his astonishing eloquence. He was so born and so gifted that
poetry, forensic skill, elegant literature, and all the highest
attainments of human genius were within his reach; but he thought
the noblest occupation of a man was to make other men happy and
free; and in that straight line he went on for fifty years, without
one side-look, without one yielding thought, without one motive in
his heart which he might not have laid open to the view of God and
man. He is gone!--but there is not a single day of his honest life
of which every good Irishman would not be more proud than of the
whole political existence of his countrymen--the annual deserters
and betrayers of their native land.


Memoirs of Captain Rock, the celebrated Irish Chieftain; with some
Account of his Ancestors. Written by Himself. Fourth Edition.
12mo. London, 1824.

This agreeable and witty book is generally supposed to have been
written by Mr. Thomas Moore, a gentleman of small stature, but full
of genius, and a steady friend of all that is honourable and just.
He has here borrowed the name of a celebrated Irish leader, to
typify that spirit of violence and insurrection which is necessarily
generated by systematic oppression, and rudely avenges its crimes;
and the picture he has drawn of its prevalence in that unhappy
country is at once piteous and frightful. Its effect in exciting
our horror and indignation is in the long run increased, we think--
though at first it may seem counteracted--by the tone of levity, and
even jocularity, under which he has chosen to veil the deep sarcasm
and substantial terrors of his story. We smile at first, and are
amused, and wonder, as we proceed, that the humorous narrative
should produce conviction and pity--shame, abhorrence, and despair.

England seems to have treated Ireland much in the same way as Mrs.
Brownrigg treated her apprentice--for which Mrs. Brownrigg is hanged
in the first volume of the Newgate Calendar. Upon the whole, we
think the apprentice is better off than the Irishman; as Mrs.
Brownrigg merely starves and beats her, without any attempt to
prohibit her from going to any shop, or praying at any church her
apprentice might select: and once or twice, if we remember rightly,
Brownrigg appears to have felt some compassion. Not so Old England,
who indulges rather in a steady baseness, uniform brutality, and
unrelenting oppression.

Let us select from this entertaining little book a short history of
dear Ireland, such as even some profligate idle member of the House
of Commons, voting as his master bids him, may perchance throw his
eye upon, and reflect for a moment upon the iniquity to which he
lends his support.

For some centuries after the reign of Henry II., the Irish were
killed like game, by persons qualified or unqualified. Whether dogs
were used does not appear quite certain, though it is probable they
were, spaniels as well as pointers; and that, after a regular point
by Basto, well backed by Ponto and Caesar, Mr. O'Donnel or Mr.
O'Leary bolted from the thicket, and were bagged by the English
sportsman. With Henry II. came in tithes, to which, in all
probability, about one million of lives may have been sacrificed in
Ireland. In the reign of Edward I. the Irish who were settled near
the English requested that the benefit of the English laws might be
extended to them; but the remonstrance of the barons with the
hesitating king was in substance this: "You have made us a present
of these wild gentlemen, and we particularly request that no
measures may be adopted to check us in that full range of tyranny
and oppression in which we consider the value of such a gift to
consist. You might as well give us sheep, and prevent us from
shearing the wool, or roasting the meat." This reasoning prevailed,
and the Irish were kept to their barbarism, and the barons preserved
their dive stock.

"Read 'Orange faction' (says Captain Rock) here and you have the
wisdom of our rulers, at the end of near six centuries, in statu
quo. The grand periodic year of the stoics, at the close of which
everything was to begin again, and the same events to be all reacted
in the same order, is, on a miniature scale, represented in the
history of the English Government in Ireland, every succeeding
century being but a new revolution of the same follies, the same
crimes, and the same turbulence that disgraced the former. But
'Vive l'ennemi!' say I: whoever may suffer by such measures,
Captain Rock, at least, will prosper.

"And such was the result at the period of which I am speaking. The
rejection of a petition, so humble and so reasonable, was followed,
as a matter of course, by one of those daring rebellions into which
the revenge of an insulted people naturally breaks forth. The
M'Cartys, the O'Briens, and the other Macs and O's, who have been
kept on the alert by similar causes ever since, flew to arms under
the command of a chieftain of my family; and, as the proffered
HANDLE of the sword had been rejected, made their inexorable masters
at least feel its EDGE."--(pp. 23-25.)

Fifty years afterwards the same request was renewed and refused. Up
again rose Mac and O, a JUST AND NECESSARY WAR ensued; and after the
usual murders, the usual chains were replaced upon the Irishry. All
Irishmen were excluded from every species of office. It was high
treason to marry with the Irish blood, and highly penal to receive
the Irish into religious houses. War was waged also against their
Thomas Moores, Samuel Rogerses, and Walter Scotts, who went about
the country harping and singing against English oppression. No such
turbulent guests were to be received. The plan of making them
poets-laureate, or converting them to loyalty by pensions of 100
pounds per annum, had not then been thought of. They debarred the
Irish even from the pleasure of running away, and fixed them to the
soil like negroes.

"I have thus selected," says the historian of Rock, "cursorily and
at random, a few features of the reigns preceding the Reformation,
in order to show what good use was made of those three or four
hundred years in attaching the Irish people to their English
governors; and by what a gentle course of alternatives they were
prepared for the inoculation of a new religion, which was now about
to be attempted upon them by the same skilful and friendly hands.

"Henry VII. appears to have been the first monarch to whom it
occurred, that matters were not managed exactly as they ought in
this part of his dominions; and we find him--with a simplicity which
is still fresh and youthful among our rulers--expressing his
SURPRISE that his subjects of this land should be so prone to
faction and rebellion, and that so little advantage had been
hitherto derived from the acquisitions of his predecessor,
notwithstanding the fruitfulness and natural advantages of Ireland.
Surprising, indeed, that a policy, such as we have been describing,
should not have converted the whole country into a perfect Atlantis
of happiness--should not have made it like the imaginary island of
Sir Thomas More, where 'tota insula velut una familia est!'--most
stubborn, truly, and ungrateful, must that people be, upon whom, up
to the very hour in which I write, such a long and unvarying course
of penal laws, confiscations, and Insurrection Acts has been tried,
without making them in the least degree in love with their rulers.

"Heloise tells her tutor, Abelard, that the correction which he
inflicted upon her only served to increase the ardour of her
affection for him; but bayonets and hemp are no such 'amoris
stimuli.' One more characteristic anecdote of those times and I
have done. At the battle of Knocktow, in the reign of Henry VII.,
when that remarkable man, the Earl of Kildare, assisted by the great
O'Neal and other Irish chiefs, gained a victory over Clanricard of
Connaught, most important to the English Government, Lord
Gormanstown, after the battle, in the first insolence of success,
said, turning to the Earl of Kildare, 'We have now slaughtered our
enemies, but, to complete the good deed, we must proceed yet
further, and--cut the throats of those Irish of our own party!' Who
can wonder that the Rock family were active in those times?"--(pp.
33, 35.)

Henry VIII. persisted in all these outrages, and aggravated them by
insulting the prejudices of the people. England is almost the only
country in the world (even at present) where there is not some
favourite religious sport, where absurd lies, little bits of cloth,
feathers, rusty nails, splinters, and other invaluable relics, are
treasured up, and in defence of which the whole population are
willing to turn out and perish as one man. Such was the shrine of
St. Kieran, the whole treasures of which the satellites of that
corpulent tyrant turned out into the street, pillaged the sacred
church of Clonmacnoise, scattered the holy nonsense of the priests
to the winds, and burnt the real and venerable crosier of St.
Patrick, fresh from the silversmith's shop, and formed of the most
costly materials. Modern princes change the uniform of regiments;
Henry changed the religion of kingdoms, and was determined that the
belief of the Irish should undergo a radical and Protestant
conversion. With what success this attempt was made, the present
state of Ireland is sufficient evidence.

"Be not dismayed," said Elizabeth, on hearing that O'Neal meditated
some designs against her government; "tell my friends, if he arise,
it will turn to their advantage--THERE WILL BE ESTATES FOR THOSE WHO
WANT." Soon after this prophetic speech, Munster was destroyed by
famine and the sword, and near 600,000 acres forfeited to the crown,
and distributed among Englishmen. Sir Walter Raleigh (the virtuous
and good) butchered the garrison of Limerick in cold blood, after
Lord Deputy Gray had selected 700 to be hanged. There were, during
the reign of Elizabeth, three invasions of Ireland by the Spaniards,
produced principally by the absurd measures of this princess for the
reformation of its religion. The Catholic clergy, in consequence of
these measures, abandoned their cures, the churches fell to ruin,
and the people were left without any means of instruction. Add to
these circumstances the murder of M'Mahon, the imprisonment of
O'Toole and O'Dogherty, and the kidnapping of O'Donnel--all truly
Anglo-Hibernian proceedings. The execution of the laws was rendered
detestable and intolerable by the queen's officers of justice. The
spirit raised by these transactions, besides innumerable smaller
insurrections gave rise to the great wars of Desmond and Hugh
O'Neal; which, after they had worn out the ablest generals,
discomfited the choicest troops, exhausted the treasure, and
embarrassed the operations of Elizabeth, were terminated by the
destruction of these two ancient families, and by the confiscation
of more than half the territorial surface of the island. The last
two years of O'Neal's wars cost Elizabeth 140,000 pounds per annum,
though the whole revenue of England at that period fell considerably
short of 500,000 pounds. Essex, after the destruction of Norris,
led into Ireland an army of above 20,000 men, which was totally
baffled and destroyed by Tyrone, within two years of their landing.
Such was the importance of Irish rebellions two centuries before the
time in which we live. Sir G. Carew attempted to assassinate the
Lugan Earl--Mountjoy compelled the Irish rebels to massacre each
other. In the course of a few months 3,000 men were starved to
death in Tyrone. Sir Arthur Chichester, Sir Richard Manson, and
other commanders, saw three children feeding on the flesh of their
dead mother. Such were the golden days of good Queen Bess!

By the rebellions of Dogherty, in the reign of James I., six
northern counties were confiscated, amounting to 500,000 acres. In
the same manner, 64,000 acres were confiscated in Athlone. The
whole of his confiscations amount to nearly a million acres; and if
Leland means plantation acres, they constitute a twelfth of the
whole kingdom according to Newenham, and a tenth according to Sir W.
Petty. The most shocking and scandalous action in the reign of
James, was his attack upon the whole property of the province of
Connaught, which he would have effected, if he had not been bought
off by a sum greater than he hoped to gain by his iniquity, besides
the luxury of confiscation. The Irish, during the reign of James
I., suffered under the DOUBLE evils of a licentious soldiery and a
religious persecution.

Charles I. took a bribe of 120,000 pounds from his Irish subjects,
to grant them what in those days were called Graces, but in these
days would be denominated the Elements of Justice. The money was
paid, but the graces were never granted. One of these graces was
curious enough: "That the clergy were not to be permitted to keep
henceforward any private prisons of their own, but delinquents were
to be committed to the public jails." The idea of a rector, with
his own private jail full of Dissenters, is the most ludicrous piece
of tyranny we ever heard of. The troops in the beginning of
Charles's reign were supported by the weekly fines levied upon the
Catholics for non-attendance upon established worship. The
Archbishop of Dublin went himself at the head of a file of
musketeers, to disperse a Catholic congregation in Dublin--which
object he effected after a considerable skirmish with the priests.
"The favourite object" (says Dr. Leland, a Protestant clergyman, and
dignitary of the Irish Church) "of the Irish Government and the
English Parliament, was THE UTTER EXTERMINATION of all the Catholic
inhabitants of Ireland." The great rebellion took place in this
reign, and Ireland was one scene of blood and cruelty and

Cromwell began his career in Ireland by massacring for five days the
garrison of Drogheda, to whom quarter had been promised. Two
millions and a half of acres were confiscated. Whole towns were put
up in lots, and sold. The Catholics were banished from three-
fourths of the kingdom, and confined to Connaught. After a certain
day, every Catholic found out of Connaught was to be punished with
death. Fleetwood complains peevishly "that the people DO NOT
LORD WILL APPEAR." Ten thousand Irish were sent as recruits to the
Spanish army.

"Such was Cromwell's way of settling the affairs of Ireland; and if
a nation IS to be ruined, this method is, perhaps, as good as any.
It is, at least, more humane than the slow, lingering process of
exclusion, disappointment, and degradation, by which their hearts
are worn out under more specious forms of tyranny; and that talent
of despatch which Moliere attributes to one of his physicians is no
ordinary merit in a practitioner like Cromwell: --"C'est un homme
expeditif, qui aime a depecher ses malades; et quand on a mourir,
cela se fait avec lui le plus vite du monde." A certain military
Duke, who complains that Ireland is but half conquered, would, no
doubt, upon an emergency, try his hand in the same line of practice,
and, like that 'stern hero' Mirmillo, in the Dispensary,

"While others meanly take whole months to slay,
Despatch the grateful patient in a day!"

"Among other amiable enactments against the Catholics at this
period, the price of five pounds was set on the head of a Romish
priest, being exactly the same sum offered by the same legislators
for the head of a wolf. The Athenians, we are told, encouraged the
destruction of wolves by a similar reward (five drachms); but it
does not appear that these heathens bought up the heads of priests
at the same rate, such zeal in the cause of religion being reserved
for times of Christianity and Protestantism."--(pp. 97-99.)

Nothing can show more strongly the light in which the Irish were
held by Cromwell than the correspondence with Henry Cromwell
respecting the peopling of Jamaica from Ireland. Secretary Thurloe
sends to Henry, the Lord Deputy in Ireland, to inform him that "a
stock of Irish girls and Irish young men are wanting for the
peopling of Jamaica." The answer of Henry Cromwell is as follows:-
"Concerning the supply of young men, although we must use force in
taking them up, YET IT BEING SO MUCH FOR THEIR OWN GOOD, and likely
to be of so great advantage to the public, it is not the least
doubted but that you may have such a number of them as you may think
fit to make use of on this account.

"I shall not need repeat anything respecting the girls, not doubting
to answer your expectations to the full IN THAT; and I think it
might be of like advantage to your affairs there and ours here if
you should think fit to send 1,500 or 2,000 boys to the place above
mentioned. WE CAN WELL SPARE THEM; and who knows but that it may be
the means of making them Englishmen--I mean, rather, Christians? As
for the girls, I suppose you will make provisions of clothes, and
other accommodations for them." Upon this, Thurloe informs Henry
Cromwell that the council have voted 4,000 GIRLS, AND AS MANY BOYS,
to go to Jamaica.

Every Catholic priest found in Ireland was hanged, and five pounds
paid to the informer.

"About the years 1652 and 1653," says Colonel Lawrence, in his
Interests of Ireland, "the plague and famine had so swept away whole
counties, that a man might travel twenty or thirty miles and not see
a living creature, either man, or beast, or bird, they being all
dead, or had quitted those desolate places. Our soldiers would tell
stories of the places where they saw smoke--it was so rare to see
either smoke by day or fire or candle by night." In this manner did
the Irish live and die under Cromwell, suffering by the sword,
famine, pestilence, and persecution, beholding the confiscation of a
kingdom and the banishment of a race. "So that there perished,"
says Sir W. Petty, "in the year 1641, 650,000 human beings, whose
bloods somebody must atone for to God and the King!"

In the reign of Charles II., by the Act of Settlement, four millions
and a half of acres were for ever taken from the Irish. "This
country," says the Earl of Essex, Lord Lieutenant in 1675, "has been
perpetually rent and torn since his Majesty's restoration. I can
compare it to nothing better than the flinging the reward on the
death of a deer among the pack of hounds, where every one pulls and
tears where he can for himself." All wool grown in Ireland was, by
Act of Parliament, compelled to be sold to England; and Irish cattle
were excluded from England. The English, however, were pleased to
accept 30,000 head of cattle, sent as a gift from Ireland to the
sufferers in the great fire! and the first day of the Sessions,
after this act of munificence, the Parliament passed fresh acts of
exclusion against the productions of that country.

"Among the many anomalous situations in which the Irish have been
placed, by those 'marriage vows, false as dicers' oaths,' which bind
their country to England, the dilemma in which they found themselves
at the Revolution was not the less perplexing or cruel. If they
were loyal to the King de jure, they were hanged by the King de
facto; and if they escaped with life from the King de facto, it was
but to be plundered and proscribed by the King de jure afterwards.

"'Hac gener atque socer coeant mercede suorum.'--VIRGIL.

"'In a manner so summary, prompt, and high mettled,
Twixt father and son-in-law matters were settled.'

"In fact, most of the outlawries in Ireland were for treason
committed the very day on which the Prince and Princess of Orange
accepted the crown in the Banqueting-house; though the news of this
event could not possibly have reached the other side of the Channel
on the same day, and the Lord-Lieutenant of King James, with an army
to enforce obedience, was at that time in actual possession of the
government, so little was common sense consulted, or the mere
decency of forms observed, by that rapacious spirit, which nothing
less than the confiscation of the whole island could satisfy; and
which having, in the reign of James I. and at the Restoration,
despoiled the natives of no less than ten millions six hundred and
thirty-six thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven acres, now added
to its plunder one million sixty thousand seven hundred and ninety-
two acres more, being the amount altogether (according to Lord
Clare's calculation) of the whole superficial contents of the

"Thus, not only had ALL Ireland suffered confiscation in the course
of this century, but no inconsiderable portion of it had been twice
and even thrice confiscated. Well might Lord Clare say, 'that the
situation of the Irish nation, at the Revolution, stands
unparalleled in the history of the inhabited world.'" (pp. 111-

By the Articles of Limerick, the Irish were promised the free
exercise of their religion; but from that period to the year 1788,
every year produced some fresh penalty against that religion, some
liberty was abridged, some right impaired, or some suffering
increased. By acts in King William's reign, they were prevented
from being solicitors. No Catholic was allowed to marry a
Protestant; and any Catholic who sent a son to Catholic countries
for education was to forfeit all his lands. In the reign of Queen
Anne, any son of a Catholic who chose to turn Protestant got
possession of the father's estate. No Papist was allowed to
purchase freehold property, or to take a lease for more than thirty
years. If a Protestant dies intestate, the estate is to go to the
next PROTESTANT heir, though all to the tenth generation should be
Catholic. In the same manner, if a Catholic dies intestate, his
estate is to go to the next Protestant. No Papist is to dwell in
Limerick or Galway. No Papist is to take an annuity for life. The
widow of a Papist turning Protestant to have a portion of the
chattels of deceased in spite of any will. Every Papist teaching
schools to be presented as a regular Popish convict. Prices of
catching Catholic priests, from 50s. to 10 pounds, according to
rank. Papists are to answer all questions respecting other Papists,
or to be committed to jail for twelve months. No trust to be
undertaken for Papists. No Papist to be on Grand Juries. Some
notion may be formed of the spirit of those times, from an order of
the House of Commons, "that the Sergeant-at-Arms should take into
custody all Papists that should presume to come into THE GALLERY!"
(Commons' Journal, vol. iii., fol. 976.) During this reign the
English Parliament legislated as absolutely for Ireland as they do
now for Rutlandshire, an evil not to be complained of, if they had
done it as justly. In the reign of George I., the horses of Papists
were seized for the militia, and rode by Protestants; towards which
the Catholics paid double, and were compelled to find Protestant
substitutes. They were prohibited from voting at vestries, or being
high or petty constables. An act of the English Parliament in this
reign opens as follows: --"Whereas attempts have been lately made to
shake off the subjection of Ireland to the Imperial Crown of these
realms, be it enacted," etc. etc. In the reign of George II. four-
sixths of the population were cut off from the right of voting at
elections by the necessity under which they were placed of taking
the oath of supremacy. Barristers and solicitors marrying Catholics
are exposed to all the penalties of Catholics. Persons robbed by
privateers during a war with a Catholic State are to be indemnified
by a levy on the Catholic inhabitants of the neighbourhood. All
marriages between Catholics and Protestants are annulled. All
Popish priests celebrating them are to be hanged. "This system"
(says Arthur Young) "has no other tendency than that of driving out
of the kingdom all the personal wealth of the Catholics, and
extinguishing their industry within it; and the face of the country,
every object which presents itself to travellers, tells him how
effectually this has been done."--Young's Tour in Ireland, vol. ii.,
p. 48.

Such is the history of Ireland--for we are now at our own times; and
the only remaining question is, whether the system of improvement
and conciliation begun in the reign of George III. shall be pursued,
and the remaining incapacities of the Catholics removed, or all
these concessions be made insignificant by an adherence to that
spirit of proscription which they professed to abolish? Looking to
the sense and reason of the thing, and to the ordinary working of
humanity and justice, when assisted, as they are here, by self-
interest and worldly policy, it might seem absurd to doubt of the
result. But looking to the facts and the persons by which we are
now surrounded, we are constrained to say that we greatly fear that
these incapacities never will be removed till they are removed by
fear. What else, indeed, can we expect when we see them opposed by
such enlightened men as Mr. Peel--faintly assisted by men of such
admirable genius as Mr. Canning--when Royal Dukes consider it as a
compliment to the memory of their father to continue this miserable
system of bigotry and exclusion, when men act ignominiously and
contemptibly on this question, who do so on no other question, when
almost the only persons zealously opposed to this general baseness
and fatuity are a few Whigs and Reviewers, or here and there a
virtuous poet like Mr. Moore? We repeat again, that the measure
never will be effected but by fear. In the midst of one of our just
and necessary wars, the Irish Catholics will compel this country to
grant them a great deal more than they at present require or even
contemplate. We regret most severely the protraction of the
disease, and the danger of the remedy; but in this way it is that
human affairs are carried on!

We are sorry we have nothing for which to praise Administration on
the subject of the Catholic question, but it is but justice to say,
that they have been very zealous and active in detecting fiscal
abuses in Ireland, in improving mercantile regulations, and in
detecting Irish jobs. The commission on which Mr. Wallace presided
has been of the greatest possible utility, and does infinite credit
to the Government. The name of Mr. Wallace in any commission has
now become a pledge to the public that there is a real intention to
investigate and correct abuse. He stands in the singular
predicament of being equally trusted by the rulers and the ruled.
It is a new era in Government when such men are called into action;
and if there were not proclaimed and fatal limits to that
ministerial liberality, which, so far as it goes, we welcome without
a grudge and praise without a sneer, we might yet hope that, for the
sake of mere consistency, they might be led to falsify our
forebodings. But alas! there are motives more immediate, and
therefore irresistible; and the time is not yet come when it will be
believed easier to govern Ireland by the love of the many than by
the power of the few, when the paltry and dangerous machinery of
bigoted faction and prostituted patronage may be dispensed with, and
the vessel of the State be propelled by the natural current of
popular interests and the breath of popular applause. In the
meantime, we cannot resist the temptation of gracing our conclusion
with the following beautiful passage, in which the author alludes to
the hopes that were raised at another great era of partial
concession and liberality, that of the revolution of 1782, when,
also, benefits were conferred which proved abortive because they
were incomplete, and balm poured into the wound, where the envenomed
shaft was yet left to rankle.

"And here," says the gallant Captain Rock, "as the free confession
of weakness constitutes the chief charm and use of biography, I will
candidly own that the dawn of prosperity and concord which I now saw
breaking over the fortunes of my country, so dazzled and deceived my
youthful eyes, and so unsettled every hereditary notion of what I
owed to my name and family, that--shall I confess it--I even hailed
with pleasure the prospects of peace and freedom that seemed opening
around me; nay, was ready, in the boyish enthusiasm of the moment,
to sacrifice all my own personal interest in all future riots and
rebellions to the one bright, seducing object of my country's
liberty and repose.

"When I contemplated such a man as the venerable Charlemont, whose
nobility was to the people like a fort over a valley, elevated above
them solely for their defence; who introduced the polish of the
courtier into the camp of the freeman, and served his country with
all that pure Platonic devotion which a true knight in the time of
chivalry proffered to his mistress; when I listened to the eloquence
of Grattan, the very music of freedom, her first fresh matin song,
after a long night of slavery, degradation, and sorrow; when I saw
the bright offerings which he brought to the shrine of his country--
wisdom, genius, courage, and patience, invigorated and embellished
by all those social and domestic virtues, without which the loftiest
talents stand isolated in the moral waste around them, like the
pillars of Palmyra towering in a wilderness!--when I reflected on
all this, it not only disheartened me for the mission of discord
which I had undertaken, but made me secretly hope that it might be
rendered unnecessary; and that a country which could produce such
men and achieve such a revolution, might yet--in spite of the joint
efforts of the Government and my family--take her rank in the scale
of nations, and be happy!

"My father, however, who saw the momentary dazzle by which I was
affected, soon drew me out of this false light of hope in which I
lay basking, and set the truth before me in a way but too convincing
and ominous. 'Be not deceived, boy,' he would say, 'by the
fallacious appearances before you. Eminently great and good as is
the man to whom Ireland owes this short era of glory, OUR work,
believe me, will last longer than his. We have a power on our side
that "will not willingly let us die;" and, long after Grattan shall
have disappeared from earth like that arrow shot into the clouds by
Alcestes, effecting nothing, but leaving a long train of light
behind him, the family of the ROCKS will continue to flourish in all
their native glory, upheld by the ever-watchful care of the
Legislature, and fostered by that "nursing-mother of Liberty," the


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