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“ benevolence, ardent resentments, desperate and vindictive
outrages, abound in their annals. To verse and music they
are peculiarly addicted. They who are possessed of any su“perior degree of knowledge, they who operate on their fan“ cies or passions by the liveliest strains of poetry, are held in “ extraordinary veneration. The ministers of their religion
are accounted more than human. To all these they submit “their contests ; they consult them as oracles of law and policy. “ But reflection, and the gradual progress of refinement, con“ vince them of the necessity of settled laws. The principles “of equity and independence implanted in the human breast, “ receive them with delight; but the violence of passion still
proves superior to their restraint. Private injuries are revenged by force; and insolent ambitious chieftains still recur
If this be a faithful portrait of the characteristic features of the Irish nation, and I admit the outline and colouring to be just, the references I shall make to the earlier parts of the Irish annals, will serve to trace and account for the origin, nature, and continuance of that national character, out of which arise some of the strongest reasons for uniting that kingdom with
The pride of ancestry has a peculiar effect upon the Irish. No nation, in fact, now upon the face of the globe, can boast of such certain and remote antiquity; none can trace instances of such early civilization ; none possesses such irrefragable proofs of their origin, lineage, and duration of government. It has been a pitiful prejudice in too many English writers, to endeavour to throw discredit upon the early part of the Irish history. That
many fabulous accounts are to be found in the Irish annalists, is true ; but no less true is it, that the English historians superabound with gross and wilful misrepresentations of the Irish annals * The possession of a vernacular language at this day, which was in general use above three thousand years ago, is a defiance to historical fiction and falsity, that Ireland alone, amidst all the nations of the universe, can proudly boast. The ancestors of the Irish were undoubtedly Scythians *, or, as they were afterwards called, Phænicians. The general belief that the Greeks, the Romans, the Carthaginians, and even the Egyptians, received the use of letters from the Phænicians, reconciles the mind to the very early civilization of this colony, which they settled in the west. For it now seems no longer doubtful, that a Scythian or Phænician colony settled in Irelandt. of he had the perusal: and it is thence justly observed by Bishop Stillingfleet, that (if so) he had better advantages and more authorities than Keating.” Candour however must admit, that if Cambrensis be fairly charged with wilful misrepresentation of facts, suppression of truth, and publication of falsehood, the motive for destroying those annals, which he had so perverted and abused, cannot be doubtful. No impartial writer has ever attempted to justify the groundless and incredible fables of Carnbrensis. Mr. Pinckerton, as lately as 1789, has remarked, that be shews the greatest ignorance in his account of Irish History. (Pinck. Scot. London, 1789.)
The ill-judged policy of misrepresenting the Irish history, for partial or corrupt purposes, began almost as early as our connections with that country ; and, it is to be lamented, that it has been kept up almost uniformly to the present day. Gerald Barry, commonly called Giraldus Cambrensis, was sent over by Henry II. for the avowed purpose of publishing whatever he could collect, that was disadvantageous to the Irish. Williamson, the bishop of Derry, says: “Wonderful, indeed, are many of the tales which he picked up, “ of the natural, moral, and political state of this nation.” (Ir. Hist. lib. 2.) Sir James Ware, who published his antiquities of Ireland under Queen Ann, “ admires that some men of his age, otherwise grave and learned, should ob“ trude those fictions of Giraldus upon the world for truths." The Bishop of Derry, who published his Irish historical Library in 1724, assures us, p. 3,
a very learned person, Mr. Josial Lynch, titular Archbishop of Tuam, to whom Mr. Flaherty prefaces his Ogygia, wrote a particular detection of this man's mistakes and slanders, which he called Cambrensis Eversus, and published under the name of Gratianus Lucius. This writer accuses Cam. brensis of maliciously destroying a great many of the old Irish annals, where
• Hence were they anciently called Scoti, by an easy transition from Exodon, Scythians : which appellation, in process of time, remained only appropriate to North Britain, which was inhabited by a colony from Ireland. Venerable Bede generally calls the Irish Scots. James I. upon his accession to the throne of England, boasted to the Parliament that he derived his pedigree from the Irish Dynasty.
Besides the common use of the Phænician language by the native Irish to this day, there are many proofs of their descent from the Scythians or Phænicians, that put the question out of all doubt. That the Carthaginians were a Phænician colony has never been questioned, and like other colonies they carried their language with them. Plautus, who wrote his plays in the second Punic war, introduces into his Pænulus the character of Hanno a Carthaginian, into whose mouth he puts several Carthaginian (or Phænician) sentences, which had ever before baffled the erudition of the learned to decypher; until these speeches have been lately attentively considered, and became perfectly intelligible to the Irish scholar. The ingenious and learned Lieutenant Colonel Vallancey, whose unexampled proficiency in the Irish language has rendered his researches into the antiquities of that country most useful to the public, has given an accurate collation of these Punic speeches with the Irish, as now spo. ken; and they will be found to differ little more than the different provincial dialects of the French, and even of our own tongue; and infinitely less after a lapse of 3000 years, than modern English differs from what was in use four centuries ago. Vid. Collect. de Reb. Hib. They are also to be found in Sir L. Parsons's Defence of the Ancient History of Ireland. It was to be expected that the ignorance of the editors and printers of Plautus, should often misplace the syllables and run one word into another, in a language which was not understood. Colonel Vallancey has corrected this dislocation of the words and syllables, and thus rendered the whole legible to the Irish, without altering a letter. The curious reader may wish to see a specimen of this wonderful similarity, or rather identity of the Phænician and Irish languages.
Carthaginian, as in Plautus.
Proper intervals arranged by Colonel Vallancey.
ing my daughter.
All ancient historians agree, that hordes of Scythians emigrated to Egypt, and from thence to Spain : why then refuse credit to the Irish annalists, who are unanimous in asserting that a colony of these Scythians from Spain settled in Ireland? The Irish have always prided themselves upon having kept up a longer succession of monarchs, than any other kingdom of the world. This race of kings the Irish call Milesian, all of them having descended from Heber, Eremon, and Ith, the three sons of Milesius, who headed the expedition from Spain. In the year of our Lord 1170, one of the Princes of Ulster boasted to Pope Alexander III. of an uninterrupted succession of 197 Kings of Ireland, down to his time.* It appears, indeed, at all times to have been a national passion of the Irish, to boast of the monuments of their ancient glory.
The government introduced by the first settlers, was of a peculiar cast. They divided the country into four provinces, viz. Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, each of which had its king; and at the head of these four provincial kings was placed a supreme monarch. The whole formed a Pentarchy. To the supreme they all pay tribute, as a mark of subjection, though they were, in all other respects, absolute and independent within their respective provinces or provincial kingdoms. The monarch had always had some demesne lands annexed to his royalty ; but their great and favourite Tuathal separated the district of Meath from the other provinces, and appointed it for the appanage of the monarch. This formed one part of his revenue ; another part of it arose out of the provincial Carthaginian and Irish, witbout the change of a word or letter.
Handone silli hanum bene, silli in mustine.
Irisb. Meisi & an eiste dam & alaim na cestin um. Hear me, and judge, and do not too hastily question me. The warlike instruments which have been found in Ireland under the earth, exactly resemble the weapons discovered about Cannæ, some of which are in the British Museum : the brazen swords and spears are of the same form and substance, being a composition of brass and tin. I think it useless to adduce any proofs of the similarity of habits, customs or usages, between the colony and the mother country, from the historians of each. Suffice it to say, that to this day the Irish peasants are in the annual habit of lighting upon certain hills, on the eve of Midsummer, what they still call Bal's fire, though fully as ignorant, that Bel was the god of their Phænician ancestors, as others are, that Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus, were heathen deities, in whose honour the days of the week have received their appellation.
The moderate allowance of 10 years to the reign of each of these kings, will fill the space
1970 years, 200 years being a moderate allowance for those reigns which exceeded that duration. This nearly corresponds with the time (viz. about 1000 years before the birth of Christ), at which most of the Irish annalists date the arrival of the Phænician colony from Spain under Milesius.
contributions of corn, hay, and cattle: and when any state emergency required more than the ordinary subsidies, the reve. nue was aided to the extent of the exigency by occasional taxes, which were voted and imposed, not by the monarch, but by the general assembly of the nation.
It has been frequently and justly remarked, that more family pride is retained by the Irish, even in extreme indigence, than by any other nation; and it is generally attended with a conviction of some right to large possessions, and seldom exists without some hereditary tincture of contempt for those, whose lineage they think less ancient and noble than their own; although, at the same time, no nation attach more consequence to property. This is a relict and natural consequence of the ancient constitutions, under which more dignity and consequence were annexed to particular families than in other nations, not as with us by primogeniture ; but the honours and dignities of the families were considered by the different septs, clans, or lineages, as disposable to the most worthy. This principle prevailed from the family of Milesius down to every other throughout the island. Not only the throne, but all the posts of honour and profit under the state were in fact elective ; not indeed out of the nation at large, but out of particular septs or families: consequently purity of blood became a national object, and carried with it more real consequence, than it did in any other nation of Europe. Thus although the monarchy were by the constitution elective, and in fact seldom went in an immediate lineal descent; yet from the landing of the Phenicians to the mission of St. Patrick, including the space of about 1500 years, and from that to the invasion of Ireland under Henry II. being about 640 years, no one filled the monarchy that was not a descendant of one of the three sons of Milesius. In the choice of their monarch seniority and proximity of blood had great weight, but not the preponde
Military talents outweighed civil accomplishments; the previous reception of the order of knighthood was an indispensable qualification to be elected; and any species of personal imperfection, or even casual deformity, created absolute ineligibility.*
In viewing the long duration of the infelicity of Ireland since it has been dependent upon or connected with this country, it is impossible not to lay the largest share of its calamity to the ac
* The Irish annalists relate that Cormoc, in the third century, soliciting votes to be elected to the succession of Mac Con, Fergus king of Ulster, who wished to defeat his election, so contrived during the revelry, that Cormoc should set fire to his beard, by which he lost his election. It is to be noted, that in order to prevent the mischiefs of anarchy during elections, by the ancient constitution of Ireland, the successor was elected during the life of the reigning monarch.
count of that monstrous anomaly in politics imperium in imperio. The only radical cure has now been applied. The restitution of Ireland to soundness and even vigour of constitution now rests with Great Britain, which, since the union, is compelled, from policy and interest, to ensure the most beneficial effects to this national incorporation. Discovery facilitates the removal or weakens the
of every retardment or difficulty in the attainment of the end of this great object. By concentrating the prospective views of the distinct parts of the British empire into one general focus, many particular and local prejudices and prepossessions will vanish and die away, which have hitherto only existed by the circumstances of separation and independence. The numerous claims of royal lineage, which are seldom disannexed from wild convictions of rights to princely domain, and that especially in a sensitive and impoverished people, will ultimately vanish, when we look up to this change in the government of Ireland for the correction of the evil; an evil which originated in the earliest constitutions of their government.
The grand Milesian Monarchy was a model of the four great provincial and numerous other smaller kingdoms into which the island was subdivided. Besides the universal monarch of the island and the four kings of the provinces, there were kings of Offaly, Limerick, Cork, &c. So that every provincial sovereign had under him as many kings as there were septs or families of distinction within the province: and although we can form no other idea at present of these numerous roitelets or petty sovereigns, than mere lords of manors or tenants in capite, yet the effects of the national prejudices,* unfortunately transmitted down by tradition, are as operative as if every such
• We can discover no period of the Irish history, at which the family pride of the Irish was not attended with mischievous effects. The very wide scope of the Irish annals throws almost an appearance of romance upon the bare references to dates. Until the reign of the great Tuathal, of the race of Heremon, (A. D. 125.) few or none of the posterity of the Milesians ever submitted to trade or any manual labour, lest they should degrade their original, or bring a stain upon their family. For this very purpose they kept in the country a number of the Belgians and Dannonians (the former of which passed under the name of Firl-bolgs ) in order to carry on these servile and mechanical occupations. But in the reign of Tuathal, tradesmen and mechanics, as well as artists of all professions, were put under the management of a committee, who had power to examine into their abilities, to reform all abuses, and to suspend such as by their unfairness or want of skill brougit their occupations into discredit. So that, according to Dr. Warner (Hist. of Ireland, 225.) this pride has been so inherent from that time to this, that Bishop Berkeley has said, a kitchen wench in his family refused to carry out cinders, because she was descended from an old Irish stock. But in the reign of this monarch, when they saw the legislature take trade and manufactures under their protection, and that no person was allowed to exercise the arts without a licence from the committee empowered by the general assembly of the states, many of the Milesians condescended to follow some employment.