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STATE OF IRELAND.
OF THE STATE OF IRELAND BEFORE IT WAS
INVADED BY THE ENGLISH.
IN order to prepare the mind for an impartial and satisfactory judgment upon the Union of Great Britain and Ireland, it will be proper to premise some general observations upon the nature and resources of Ireland, and the spirit and character of its native inhabitants, independently of any connection with Great Britain. We shail thereby be enabled to judge impartially of the relative effects of that connection, which, through a long and intricate maze of national vicissitudes, has ultimately led to an incorporate union of the two kingdoms. I affect not to write a regular history of Ireland*, but shall endeavour to draw the attention of my reader to such prominent events, as have in their time, order, and proportion, remotely and proximately led to the incorporate union of Great Britain with Ireland, which is the primary object of this publication.
* Whoever has given even a transient thought to the history of Ireland, must be sensible that the most striking features of it have been generally delineated in the strongest tints of party prejudice. This made Dr. Leland say: “ But “ the circumstances of Ireland were a still more dispiriting obstacle to the his“ torian of this country. Prejudices and animosities could not end with its dis“ orders. The relations of every transaction in times of contest and turbu. “ lence, were for many years dictated by pride, by resentment, by the virulence “ of faction, by the obliquity of particular interests and competitions. It was “ scarcely possible for a writer not to share in the passions and prejudices of VOL. I.
Although the nature of man be homogeneous, yet different portions of the human race differ from each other by properties, qualities, and habits, so strongly distinctive, as nearly to approximate to a difference of species. Many are the gradations and shades of these distinctions. True it is, that different political systems produce powerful effects upon mankind: they go great lengths, but not the whole way towards changing the innate genius, spirit, and character, of nations. To a close and impartial
observer, the original national character will manifest itself, up to the remotest antiquity, under the strongest influence of improvement or debasement. Without entering into a philosophical disquisition of the immediate causes of a variety in national characters, we may be allowed to attribute much to the air and soil of particular countries, although, at distant periods of time, many may be the instances of changes, suspensions, and apparent extinctions, of the most marked characters in the same nations. Faintly, if at all, can we trace a single line of the old Grecian, Punic, or Roman character, through modern Turkey, on the coasts of Barbary, or in the territorial possessions of
the Bishop of Rome. But who shall assert, that a melioration of the political systems of government in those countries, would not vivify the smothered embers, and rouse into a flame that very spirit, which once was the dread of the day, and has since been the astonishment of posterity? Yet Ireland undoubtedly stands prominently conspicuous amongst the nations of the universe a solitary instance, in which neither the destructive hand of time, nor the devastating arm of oppression, nor the widest variety of changes in the political system of government, could alter or subdue, much less wholly extinguish, the national genius, spirit, and character of its inhabitants.
It would be useless to attempt any thing like a geographical survey or description of the island. Sir John Davies, who was “ those around him; or, however candid, dispassionate, and accurate, still he “ must have done dangerous violence to their opinions and prepossessions.... “ Time and reflection, and an encreasing liberality of sentiment, may have “ sheathed the acrimony of contending parties; and those at a distance may “ look on their contentions with indifference. Yet, even at this day, the histo“.rian of Irish affairs must be armed against censure, only by an integrity “ which confines him to truth, and a literary courage, which despises every “ charge but that of wilful or careless misrepresentation. In several instances, “ the author may have stated facts in a manner different from those writers
usually accepted as authentic. Had he, in such cases, proceeded to a par“ ticular examination of the opinions and assertions of other men; had be en“tered into a justification of his accounts, or specified the reasons which de. “ termined him to reject, or admit, every particular authority, his work must " have swelled to an enormous size. He was, therefore, obliged to content “ himself with a diligent and attentive inspection of different evidence, with a “ careful use of his private judgment; with exhibiting the authorities he “ chose to follow, without generally engaging in critical or controversial dis"cussions. They who are the best acquainted with the materials of which “this history, and particularly the latter periods, have been formed, will pos. “sibly be the readiest to acknowledge the necessity of this method." To these sentiments I unequivocally subscribe.
attorney-general in Ireland, in the beginning of the reign of James the First, applied his observations in a particular manner to its local, as well as its then political situation. His report, from ocular testimony, compresses, in few words, the immense advantages and resources of this island in itself, and consequently its importance to the British empire at large.* “ During the time,” says he, "of “my service in Ireland (which began in the first year of his Ma"jestie's raigne), I have visited all the provinces of that kingdome, " in sundry journies and circuits. Wherein I have observed the “good temperature of the are; the fruitfulnesse of the soyle ; " the pleasant and commodious seats for hubitation; the safe and “ large ports and havens, lying open for trafficke into all west parts “ of the world; the long inlets of many navigable rivers ; and so “ many great lakes and fresh ponds within the lands, as the like
are not to be seene in any part of Europe ; the rich fishings, and “wilde fowle of all kinds; and, lastly, the bodies and minds of the “ people, endued with extraordinary abilities of naturet."
Dr. Leland, whose History of Ireland claims classical preeminence amongst the modern productions upon this subject, has favoured us with the following characteristic of the people of Ireland | “A robust frame of body, a vehemence of pas“sion, an elevated imagination, were the characteristics of the
* A Discoverie of the true Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued, &c. by Sir John Davies, Part 1.
† It is well known that Camden, though entitled generally to high historical credit, yet laboured under strong prejudices against the Irish : such, indeed, was the prevailing fashion or spirit of all the English writers of his days. His testimony, therefore, in favour of the Irish, is of double force. It was said of him, by an Irish author, not impertinently,
Perlustras Anglos oculis Cambdene duobus,
Uno oculo Scotos, cæcus Hybernigenas. Thus then Camden speaks of the Irish (Brit. p. 680.) “ Bellicosi sunt, ingeni. * osi, corporum lineamentis conspicui, mirifica carnis mollitie, et propter muscu“ lorum reneritudinem agilitate incredibili.” And (p. 789), « In universum
genbæc corpore valida et imprimis agilis, animo forti et elato, ingenio acri, “ bellicosa, vitæ prodiga, laboris frigoris et inediæ patiens, veneri indulgens, bospi" tibus perbenigna, amore constans, inimicitiis implacabilis, credulitate levis, glo"rie avida, contumelie et injuriæ impatiens, et ut inquit ille olim, in oinnes actus ** vebementissima."
The singular phenomenon of reptiles, which are elsewhere venemous, being deprived of their poison and sting in Ireland, is too curious, and too generally spoken of as fabulous, not to be noticed. The native Irish have ever attributed this singularity to the prayers of St. Patrick, in whose days, they affirm, the island to have been over-run with these noxious creatures. The fact has been recognised by men of the highest authority. Venerable Bede, in the begin. ning of the eighth century, said, Nullus ibi serpens vivere valeat. Lib. i. c. 1. And Camden, in his Brit. 727, also says, Nullus bic anguis, nec venenatum quica. quam.
| The attempt to write the history of the union of Great Britain and Ireland, in a manner unexceptionable to all parties, though perhaps unattainable in fact, is not of so desperate a nature as to be abandoned in the first instance. I readily admit, that whatever may be hazarded in this work as matter of opinion, is fully open to controversy'; and that general presumptions will rea. sonably bear hard against a person, who can prove but little by the testimony
people. Noble instances of valour, generous effusions of
of his senses, either of the nature of the country, or the disposition of its inhabitants. Upon these two points, therefore, I have adopted the opinions of Sir John Davies and Dr. Leland as unexceptionable; inasmuch as they both lived many years in the country, and applied their minds to those objects with peculiar attention. I have, therefore, submitted my own opinions, whatever they might have been, in these two points to those of others, in every way more competent, from personal experience, to judge rightly of them than myself. But as to all public documents and proofs of historical facts, every man that undertakes the functions of an historian must be supposed competent to judge ; and by that competency will he form his judgment. Et eum oportet esse gnaviter impudentem, who, in defiance of such public documents, shall wilfully attempt to misrepresent the truth. I have, moreover, personal reasons for adopting the opinions of others, on these two points, in preference to my own, About ten years ago, before I had ever been in Ireland, I published a pamphlet, on the occasion of the passing of an act of parliament in Great Britain in favour of the English Catholics : it was also at the time when Mr. Paine, and his proselytes, were industriously propagating the doctrines on the abstract Rigbts of Man. In that work, I said: “ The lower class of the Irish, I un“ derstand, to be a race robust and hardy, and of a very irritable disposition “ and nature : they are now indolent in extreme poverty, from being debarred “ the common resources of industry; and are averse from all laws, from hav. “ ing felt the constant pressure of such only as are galling and severe.” And I concluded, that the zealots for sedition and anarchy found them ready materials to work upon.....Sir Richard Musgrave, in the additional Appendix to his Memoirs of the Rebellions in Ireland, has chosen to construe these words into a strong incitement to disloyalty and insurrection; and he adds, in a note, that if this gentleman had lived among the Irish, he would have known that they were active citizens, both by night and by day. Since the publication of that pamphlet, I have thrice visited Ireland: the legislature, since that period, has thought proper to repeal most, if not all of those very laws, which I then termed gall. ing and severe. The acts of the legislature have justified my application of those epithets to the laws, which they found necessary to repeal. The civie activity, by night and day, upon which the historical baronet has indulged his jocularity, is rather too awful a subject to reply to in the same strain. I scarce. ly know a more sure preventative against a relapse into this disorder of activity, than to encourage the sober industry of the active citizens..... It long has been my cordial wish to promote the welfare of Ireland, which is, if I may be als lowed the phrase, the right hand of the British empire: and it has ever pained me to observe its natural powers cramped, checked, and paralysed..... In reprobating the spirit with which this work of Sir Richard Musgrave, and some other publications of a similar tendency, are written, it would be injustice to the public not to lay before them the sentiments which the Marquis Cornwallis expressed in an official letter to that Baronet, after the publication of his work, viz.
Dublin Castle, March 24, 1801. “ I am directed, by the Lord-Lieutenant, to express to you his concern, at “ its appearing that your late publication of the History of the late Rebel
lions in Ireland, has been dedicated to him by permission. Had his Excel“ lency been apprized of the contents and nature of the work, he would never “ have lent the sanction of his name to a book, which tends so strongly to re“ vive the dreadful animosities which have so long distracted this country, and “ which it is the duty of every good subject to endeavour to compose. His
Excellency, therefore, desires me to request, that in any future edition of the “ book, the permission to dedicate it to him may be omitted.
“ I have, &c. “ Sir Richard Musgrave, Bart.
« E. B, LITTLEHALES."