« PreviousContinue »
and William the Conqueror; a scheme in which the conquest of Saxon England was to be the prelude to the subjugation, in their turn, of Ireland and Scotland. The hated Saxons had nothing to do with the projection of the scheme. They were its first victims; and if their fall was less calamitous than that of the Irish, it was because they had become, and could fall as, a nation, and were sufficiently advanced readily to blend with, and finally to absorb their conquerors.
Had the Irish been politically united, they must have conquered and expelled the invaders, or been themselves, after a death struggle, finally and quickly vanquished. A monarchy resembles an animal of high organisation. As this may be slain by a single stroke,
may be overthrown by a single victory. The battle of Hastings gave the supremacy in England to the Normans. A confederation of tribes and clans resembles a creature of low organisation, which being cut in pieces, is rather multiplied than destroyed. When the life-centres are numerous and independent, there can be no killing except through the destruction of the parts. England went down at a blow. Scotland, full of great and independent tribes, again and again repelled, or rather survived, the efforts to conquer it. Every great house was a centre of the popular resistance. Defeated at one point, the people rallied at another; and the process of destruction in detail was too costly and tedious to be persisted in.
No conquest of Ireland could be other than delusive that was not an overthrow of the septs. Society as it stood required to be taken up by the roots and replanted. Whether it would have survived the process may be a question ; but if the thing was to be done swiftly and by force, that was the way to do it. To
have slain the whole population, would have been a course infinitely more merciful than that into which the invaders drifted."
Begun by adventurers, the conquest was, after a brief season, practically left to be carried on by them. The new Lord of Ireland, by the grace of the Pope, after receiving lip homage from a number of native chiefs, executed some Church business in return for the grant he had received, and in a few months left the country to the barons who had preceded, accompanied, or followed him. The conquest was nominal beyond the area which they garrisoned. From the chief province of Ireland even a nominal submission had not been received. There was no pretence made of treating the districts which had submitted as parts or even as dependencies of the empire. Submission brought none of the rights of subjugation ; it brought neither the laws, government, nor protection of the conquerors. It brought no obligations. It brought, however, evils which are rarely its concomitants. It gave the barons a locus standi in the country for the purpose of plunder. The Crown depended on the barons for maintaining an appearance of such dominion as it claimed in Ireland, and the only ends which the barons had in view would have been defeated, had the Crown recognised the natives as their fellow-subjects. So the barons had their way. And they just treated the Christian Irish in the twelth century as our Colonists are treating the pagan Maoris in the nineteenth. The plan of the conquest
* More than double the number of souls on the island at the date of Henry's invasion, perished by the sword and famine in the war following the rebellion of 1641; and that has been by no means Ireland's most tragic period.
+ How close the parallel is, the reader will see if he takes the trouble to read a paper in “Good Words” for 1866, p. 696, by “ An
may have been limited, perhaps undefined. Whatever it. was, the strength of England was not free to be applied to its execution. And the drift set in the drift of events which has led to modern Ireland.
The four centuries which followed were centuries of constant feud and slaughter between the invaded and the invaders, of wrongs and retaliations ever increasing with the lapse of time. They were centuries in which the Anglo-Irish and the Irish were both being brutalised by their conflicts—in which, at least, they were receiving the worst possible training for future peaceable cohabitation. The peoples were in effect all the time enemies, living under different laws and governments. The law of England was “by law” established within the Pale ; practically there was no law but the will of the stronger. There were at one time within it nine Counties Palatine -unmitigated despotisms. Beyond these, the rule of a rude aristocracy, unrestrained by the presence of sovereignty, was a virtual anarchy. Outside the Pale were the tribes—their laws, language, and customs all unchanged. There was one main source of the never-ending conflict between the races, namely the land, which the barons were there to take and the Irish to defend. When the barons were united, they held what they took; when they fell out, the septmen regained their
And the area of the Pale was always broadening or contracting. Sept and tribal wars—wars with the barons--baronial wars, in which the septs took sideswere the stock incidents of the miserable drama. On an
Army Chaplain," on our proceedings in New Zealand. It is the Irish conquest over again, but will terminate, I hope, more satisfactorily. The chaplain is looking forward to the rapid extinction of the natives ! How often did the English long for the extinction of the Irish ?
unusual parade of English power, the chiefs hurried to do homage_lip submission, over with the danger which evoked it.
The conflict of the laws was, perhaps, as productive of bad blood as the conflict for the land ; at least the native historians have made rather more use of it to keep alive the Irish hatred of England. A septman who slew an Englishman was, by native law, liable only in the Eric—a money payment to the relatives of the slain. By the English, however, if they caught him, he was hanged, in defiance of the Cain Patric. By English law, on the other hand, to kill an Irishman was no murder. He was an outlaw and enemy of the Crown. To break a contract with him was no wrong; he could not sue in the English courts. The slaughter of the Irish and seizure of their property were acts rewarded by the Government. They helped to give the substance where there was little beyond the name of dominion. So the Irish were plundered and massacred at will, subject only to the restraints imposed by the fear of retaliation. Five of the septs, more fortunate than their neighbours, were treated differently, being allowed the benefit of the English law. A common defence in charges of murder was that the murdered man was of “the mere Irish,” and not of the quinque sanguines—the five favoured bloods. It might be imagined that the septmen in love with the Cain Patric were beyond the law because they chose not to come within it. This was not the case. To get rid of the disadvantages of their position, they repeatedly petitioned for admission to the benefits of English law, and were always refused. The petitions, indeed, were uniformly treated with contempt. To have granted them would have been to abandon the privilege of oppression. Even
the Irish within the Pale were not yet within the law. They were the subjects of special enactments which practically excluded them from its protection. By a statute dated 1465, for example, any one might kill “any person GOING TO rob or steal, having no faithful man of good name or fame in his company in English apparel.” This, of course, exposed every Irishman to be killed at the discretion of any Englishman. It should be stated, however, that by the next Act of the same Parliament, the septmen of the Pale were directed to take English names, and to wear English apparel.*
The privilege of oppression belonged to the King's Irish subjects—the barons of the Pale; the victims of the privilege were the King's Irish enemies—the people of Ireland. After a time there grew up a third classthe King's Irish rebels; adventurers who took to the wild life of the Irish, as in Australia some English take to the bush ; or the barons in outlying districts, who, forming
2 ties with the natives, or being charmed by their mode of life, dropped the Norman style and set up as Irish chiefs. The renegades became, in mere outward respects, more Irish than the Irish. Had the growing influence of Irish habits and customs been allowed to extend itself, the races, in process of time, might have become naturally mixed. The infusion of Norman and Saxon blood would have gradually rendered the population similar to the British. The mixed population might at a later time have gone more securely through the organic changes. They would gradually, through the influence of the ideas brought in by the English, have been trained in the relations of landlord and tenant, and prepared for the reception as a national system of
* “Statutes established in a Parliament holden at Trym," chap.
ii. and iii.