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' ancestor had been as powerful as Charlemagne. Disorders in states have elsewhere been raised by the relatives of the deposed or deprived sovereigns: but whether the attempts succeeded or failed, the effect was partial, not national, and died away as the royal lineage decayed either in number or power. But as in Ireland every individual of a sept, who bore the name, assumed the blood, and partook in some degree of the consequence and dignity of their chief sovereign or king for the time being, the effect of debasement and deprivation embraced a wider range, and grew into a national evil of the greatest magnitude. The actual indigence of an individual that perhaps might have been greater under the ancient than the present order of things,* is contrasted against the ease and luxury of modern opulence; and the influence of poverty and pride upon an irritable and bold race is but too obvious. Whatever national predilections or prejudices can by any means be put down, when different nations become subject to a common sovereign, it is the undoubted policy of that sovereign to effect it without irritating the soreness which such changes are likely to createt. If the genuine origin of these national prejudices be to be traced, to paganism, not to christianity, we must resort.
The pretensions to the royal stock of sovereignty in Ireland were not the only grounds of this system of family pride and consequent presumption. Each king or sovereign had his order of chivalry, of which he was himself the chief: his high priest to superintend religion ; his brehon or chief justice to expound the laws; his physicians, antiquarians, chief treasurer, marshal, standard-bearer, generals of horse and foot, &c. All these were hereditary honours in certain families, out of which the most distinguished and best qualified were elected to the particular appointments.
* Formerly the lower class of the people, being in a state of villeinage, had no property. They belonged to the soil, which they cultivated, and were transferred with it, at the pleasure of their masters. At present there is no state so abject throughout the nation.
† It is most unaccountable, that to the religion which the majority of the Trisli nation now professes, the effects of these national prejudices or prepossessions have been and still are attributed by English, and latterly even by so Irish writers. True it is, that the greatest part of the old Irish still profess the religion of their Christian ancestors; and true also is it, that the Irish nation is peculiarly tenacious of its old and accustomed babits and modes of thinking. Dr. Leland has informed us, that they account their ministers of religion as more than human. By these they are told, and they believe, that the religion which they received from St. Patrick, is what liad been regularly transmitted to him from the apostles of Christ. The mere circumstance of professing the Catholic religion is as extensive and foreign from this national family pride or regal enthusiasm, as it is from any other distinctive traits of national character, whether they depend on the endowments of the mind or body. Thus long ere our reformation of religion was thought of, one of the O'Neals being told that Barrett, of Castlemore, an Englishman, and equally a Catholic with himself, had been there 400 years, he replied, that he hated the clown as if he had but come thither yesterday.
We have seen that in the agitation of some of the great national questions in Ireland during these last twelve years, the public mind has been worked up more without grounds than without malice into a dread of the principle of resumption, should the civil liberties of British subjects be imparted in common to the whole community of Ireland. True it is, that many of the illiterate Irish do entertain general confused convictions, that princely possessions should ever attend the royal blood that fills their veins. This general species of gregarian resumption, grafted upon the collective claims of septs or clans to certain districts, will upon close inspection and impartial investigation be found to refer only to the old tenures of Tanistry and Gavelkind, of which we shall speak hereafter, and by no means to the laws of England, which have for centuries regulated the descent of lands in Ireland : otherwise the resumption would be confined to the individuals, upon whom the law would in the supposed cases of resumption cast the inheritance, either by primogeniture or some other mode of descent. Now the only cry for resumption is ever supposed to arise from that cast of the na. tives, who have retained that national spirit with the delusive claims of royalty and domain, which could alone be realized by the redintegration of the old Brehon institutions. * It goes not to touch the titles of any landed property, that was at any time put under English tenures.
The Irish law of Gavelkind differed materially from the law, which we so denominate in Kent. When any one died, all the possessions, real and personal, of the whole family, were put
The Earl of Castlehaven, who resided in Ireland during the whole of the rebellion in 1641, and for many years after its reduction, wrote Memoirs concerning the wars in Ireland, in order to rectify many errors, and contradict the numerous falsehoods of Dr. Borlase's publications on that and other subjects relating to Ireland, whose History of the Rebellion in particular Dr. Nalson, Intr. to 2 vol. of Imp. Coll. p. viii.) says, is rather a paradox than a history; and that his distorted plagiarism of Lord Clarendon's manuscript "rendered “ him suspected not to be overstocked with honesty and justice, so necessary " to the reputation of an unblemished historian. He wrote for the avowed “ purpose of defending the harsh government of his father, Sir John Borlase " and Sir William Parsons :” and Nalson, as well as the Bishop of Derry, ( Ir. Hist. lib. 56.) admits, that he continued Sir John Temple's partial and unfaithful memoirs, and wrote reflections upon Lord Castle haven's Memoirs, as being openly and avowedly a favourite of the faction and the men and actions of those times. The Bishop of Derry quotes from Lord Castlehaven's publication, made in 1684, a private opinion of that nobleman upon the effect of these prepossessions, viz. that in his judgment, the only true and great motive to this rebellion (as well as to all others since the reign of Henry II.) was the old national feud, built upon an inflexible persuasion that the sovereignty and property of all the lands in the kingdom, by their unrepealed Brehon law, rested still in the surviving heirs of the meer Irish or Milesian stock. The noble me. morialist was inattentive to the judgment of the King's Bench in the reign of James I. and did not seem aware that by strict law (though inobserved) the whole kingilom was then subjected to the common law of England.
together (or in hotch-pot), and divided anew amongst the survivors, by the head of the family, whom they termed the Caunfinny;* bastard sons were admitted into this distribution, though all females, both wives and daughters, and of course more remote female relatives, were excluded from it; the division extended to the whole sept or' race, by which means, many vested freeholds came upon such new partitions to be divested during the lives of the tenants. This law or custom was productive of one of the most pernicious prejudices, that can pervade the useful part of a community; it prevented whole septs or families, howsoever numerous and needy, from learning any trade, or turning mechanics, because they would be thus degraded, and the Caunfinny would in any future partition exclude such as had debased themselves by such abdication of their family dignity. Union seems to afford the final corrective, if there still remain such senseless and pernicious prepossessions.
The national division into septs or tribes, though natural to infant communities, was attended in the progress of population with the worst of consequences, and these were entailed upon the nation by the laws oft Tanistry and Gavelkind : of the latter I have already spoken; and by the former, successors were chosen during the lives of their ancestors, not only to their monarch and other kings, but also to their great state and other officers, which were elective within a given line of hereditary descent. There existed also a custom peculiar to Ireland, of giving out their children to be nursed by fosterers. It extended for some years beyond the necessity of keeping the child at the
Le Canfinny, ou chef de sept (que fuit communement le plus auncient de sept) fesoit toutz les partitions per son dyscretion. Dav. Rep. 49. ·
† Sir John Davis reports very fully the judgment of the court of King's Bench in Ireland, 5 Jac. (p. 28.) by which they declared the crstom of holding by Innistry to be void by reason of its uncertainty, and on other grounds there specified. This judgment was given upon a special verdict found in ejectment between Murrough Mac Bryen, plaintiff, o. Cabir OʻCallagban, defendant. The custom or tenure of Tanistry was, that the lands so holden descended, seniori & dignissimo viro sanguinis & cognominis of the person who last died seized. The same reporter gives us the resolutions of the judges touching the Irish custom of Gavelkind, by which it was resolved and declared, per touts les jus. tices, that the said Irish custom of Gavelkind was void in law, not only from the inconvenience and unreasonableness of it, but hecause it was a mere personal custom, and could not alter the descent of an inheritance by the common law of England. It is there said that formerly in Ireland every lordship or chiefry, with the portion of land that passed with it, went without partition to the Tanist, who always came in either by election, or mana forti, and not by descent; but all inferior tenancies were divisible among the males in Gavelkind (p. 49.)
| By this custom, says Sir John Davis, (Hist. Ir. 180.) “the potent and “ rich men selling, and the meaner sort buying the alterage of their children : “ and the reason was, because, in the opinion of this people, fostering hath " always been a stronger alliance than blood ; and the foster children love and
are beloved of their foster fathers and their sept more than of their own na. “ tural parents and their kindred.”
breast, and it consequently tended to strengthen the ties of af. fection and attachment which united the members of the dif. ferent tribes or septs.* It created an extraordinary fraternizing spirit amongst the Irish, unknown to other nations; and hence, in a comparative view of the different dispositions of the En glish and Irish, it has been observed, that there is more warmth of affection in Ireland for a foster brother, than in England for a brother by consanguinity.
The grand epoch of political eminence in the early history of the Irish is the reign of their great and favourite monarch OllamFodlah, who reigned, according to Keating, about 950 years before the Christian æra. Under him was instituted the great Fes at Teamor or Tarah, which was in fact a triennial convention of the states, or a parliament, the members of which consisted of the Druids and other learned men, who represented the people in that assembly. Thus the monarch and the provincial and other kings, who had the executive power in their hands on one side, and the philosophers and priests, together with the deputies of the people on the other, formed the whole of this ancient legislature. When this great council was convened, previous to their entering upon business, they sat down to sumptuous entertainments for six days successively.. Very minute accounts are given by the Irish annalists of the magnificence and order of these entertainments ; from whence we may collect the earliest traces of heraldry that occur in history, and deduce that partiality for family distinctions, which to this day forms a striking part of the Irish national characteristic. In order to preserve order and regularity in the great number and variety of the members who met together on these occasions, when the banquet was ready to be served up, the shield-bearers of the princes and other members of the convention delivered in their shields and targets, which were readily distinguished by the coats of arms emblazoned upon them : these were arranged by the grand marshal and principal herald, and hung upon the walls on the right side of the tables, and upon entering the apartments each member took his seat under his respective shield or target with.. out the slightest disturbancet. The first six days were not
In order to prevent the natural effects of fostering children, and by the crooked policy of those days, in the 28th of Henry VIII. ch. 28. it was made treason for any of the king's subjects within the land to marry or foster themselves, their children, or king's folk, within the fourth degree, or any of them to or with any Irish person or persons of Irish blood, which be not the king's true subjects, nor use themselves accordingly, though any such person or persons be made denizens. Wiat ideas of oppression and inconsistency does not this statute afford, viz. the possibility of a king's subject being denizened, and a prohibition of the intercourse of nature between the king's subjects ?
† Nothing can give us stronger ideas of the early civilization of Ireland tihan to reflect upon the period of time, at which this regular system of heraldry and
spent in disorderly revelling and excess, but particularly devoted to the examination and settlement of the historical antiquities and annals of the kingdom: they were publicly rehearsed and privately inspected by a select committee of the most learned members. When they had passed the approbation of the assembly, they were transcribed into the authentic chronicle of the nation, which was called the register or psalter of Tarah. singular caution to prevent the introduction of any falsity or misrepresentation into their national history, would have furnished posterity with the most authentic and interesting relations of this ancient and extraordinary kingdom, had not the Danes in their frequent ravages and invasions of Ireland, during the 9th and 10th centuries, burnt all the books and monuments of antiquity that fell in their way. We have still more to lament the shameful and fatal policy of our ancestors, who, from the first invasion of Henry Plantagenet down to the reign of James the First took all possible means of art and force to destroy whatever writings had by chance or care been preserved from other literary institutions were established in Ireland; viz. 950 years before the æra alluded to by Cæsar of the rude barbarism of the Britons. In this triennial assembly King Ollam Fodlah (about 950 years before the coming of our Saviour) gave the royal assent to a great many good laws, and amongst the rest to one, whereby it was ordained, that every nobleman and great officer should by the learned heralds have a particular coat of arms assigned to him, according to his merit and his quality, whereby he should be distinguished from others of the same rank, and be known by an antiquary or person of learning, wherever he appeared, whether at sea or land, in the prince's court, at the place of his own residence, or in the field of battle. (The Bishop of Derry Ir. Hist. Lib. quotes Keating, p. 143.) The nature of this undertaking will not admit of minute critical disquisitions into the authenticity of several leading facts of the Irish history, which nothing but their extreme antiquity renders doubtful to the indolent, or fabulous to the unthinking. There is, however, a mass of evidence, which, when impartially weighed, boldly bids defiance to the fastidious and envious sceptic, and demonstrates the extreme antiqnity of the Irish nation, and its colonization by the Phænicians about 1000 years before the Christian ära. Without calling upon the submission of any one to a parti cular faci of the ancient history of Ireland, when we combine together the proofs of the Phænician and Irish language being the same, the similarity of the old Irish and Carthaginian military weapons, the concordance of the Greek and the Irish accounts of the names and productions of the island, the coinci. dence of the bards and historians as to the number of their kings, the reference of their earliest bards to long pre-existing usages, which contirmed by names and terms which have survived those usages, prove their former existence, the very fabulous allusions of their bards or poets to the names of monarchs who find their regular places in the lists of the most accurate and attentive annalists, the accuracy of computation upon the lives and number of their monarchs to fill up the space of time attributed to the continuance of their royal lineage, the physical discoveries of their very ancient cultivation, the extreme probabi. lity of all the leading coincidences, the attempts of their conquerors to eradicate all the vestiges of their antiquity and splendour, the testimony of strangers as to the belief of the natives, and the very traditions of a people who have preserved their language for 3000 years, all tend to raise a monument of his. torical veracity, which ignorance, prejudice, malice, envy, or traduction, will never be able to overturn.