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death threw lands vacant, the chief, as trustee for the sept, assumed the whole lands, and redivided them-a partition called a gavel. Had the arts of agriculture been known, they could not have been exercised to any great extent under a system which, constantly changing the occupancy of lands, rendered it uncertain whether the labourer would enjoy the fruits of his labour. The consequence was that the people were mainly shepherds or herdsmen.
With such customs and laws, the Irish were in the rear of most of the peoples of Europe. No doubt, in some parts of France and Germany, in Finland, Sweden, and Norway, races were to be found quite as low. But the majority of the European races were almost as far a-head of the Irish, as the Irish of to-day are of the Maoris. The forms which make the real distinctions between nations are organic, hidden as it were under the surface. And European Society generally rested on a framework of a higher type than the Irish,-a superior family and political system, with superior laws of property and succession, Superficially viewed, the races of the Continent may have appeared quite as barbaric; they may have been more lawless and turbulent. Moreover, as these races were mostly pagan, it is easy to understand how, in the sixth and seventh centuries, the Irish, burning with the zeal of recent conversion to Christianity, and possessing some schools of Christian learning, might appear to be in advance of them. Missionaries from Ireland were carrying the new light into the dark places in which paganism was still enshrined. Her music and poetry--products of Keltic genius-were celebrated. Her sons were distinguished by wit as by piety. All these were distinctions bespeaking a species of superiority. Yet might they have all of them been presented by a nation of even still lower organisation. The really distinctive marks of inferiority remained ; common property, the gavel, tanistry, an imperfect system of kinship. Most of the Europeans had left these behind. Even the Kelts of Britain had got rid of them under their Roman masters, and were separated by a gulf from their congeners of Ireland. At the time of the Roman conquest they were probably lower in the scale. Cæsar found among them customs which throw light on the Irish institutions. But it was their good fortune, for four hundred years, to be under the influence of the most advanced civilisation the world then knew. To this day the Irish have not received an equivalent training. They were long left to work out their own advancement; and, unfortunately for them, Christianity, which for a moment seemed to make them superior to their pagan neighbours, from incidents attending its introduction, did much to stereotype their laws and customs, and to render a spontaneous onward movement next to impossible.
The Brehon or ancient Irish laws had been reduced to a written code, under the immediate authority of St Patrick, or of one or other of the persons who have been rolled up into the saint. They included gavel-kind, tanistry, and the law of the Eric or money compensations for murder. And such was the veneration of the Irish for the instrument of their conversion to Christianity, that they reverenced the code as much as the religion. Patrick's Law, as they loved to call it, was declared to be unalterable ; and with that code no people could advance beyond a state of comparative savageness.
Such was the social and political state of the Irish when their relations with England commenced. The septmen-rude herdsmen, probably not long settled from nomad life—are represented as living, on the whole, in a miserable condition, borne down by the exactions of their chiefs and kings—“cuttings and cosheries” and “coyne and livery.” Beneath them were the Betaghs or slaves, in a condition still more wretched. Above them were the chiefs, exercising lavish hospitalities at the expense of their inferiors; constantly intriguing against and quarrelling with one another. In the palaces of the greater chiefs was maintained no small degree of luxury, and even of barbaric splendour. To these the septmen, at times, repaired to be amused by wandering genealogists, with recently invented fables, setting forth the splendid antiquity of their race, or by wandering minstrels singing to them songs of love or war, or the foray; and at other times, most probably, for justice at the hands of their Brehons or native judges.
The Irish were then, as they have often since proved, their own worst enemies. There were other enemies, however, with whom they had to contend. They might live peaceably, if they would, in the midland, and on the coast to the north and west. But on the south and east were points of terror and danger. These were the towns—almost the only places in Ireland worthy of the name—all in possession of the Danes.
The Danes had now been firmly planted for upwards of three hundred years on the land. Had the tribes united, they might have swept the scourges of God into the sea, as afterwards they often might have swept the Anglo-Normans. But they were not united, nor capable of union for more than a moment and a single success. So the scourges remained, finding the coast towns convenient ports of departure on their predatory excursions by sea, and
safe retreats from the tribesmen on occasions of despoiling them. Resistance to the same invaders had in England established the monarchy. In Ireland, no political benefit had accrued, as a set-off to the centuries of suffering. At the end of the Danish period, as at its commencement, there was still the pentarchy, and in the separate kingdoms the same low order of political organisation. On the other hand, the presence of the Danes checked the course of social improvement. Indeed, if those writers are correct who take such high ground, as to Irish civilisation in the sixth and seventh centuries, we must hold the Danes to have been a cause of social retrogression. The presence of such an enemy, it can be believed, may have had such an effect.
It is important that the primitive state of the Irish should be understood, because it was preserved almost unchanged till near the beginning, and, in some parts, even till near the end, of the seventeenth century. In the long interval between the landing of the AngloNormans and the final suppression, by James I., of the Brehon law, no organic improvement whatever had taken place. The sept system was still in force, with gavel-kind and tanistry, and all the other impediments which it presented to progress. The political system, such as it was, had crumbled beneath intestine feuds and the pressure of the English enemy: instead of the five provinces of the earlier time, there were ninety "regions” in Ireland—beyond the Pale-- under absolutely independent chiefs. If, then, the nation of the tribes has been trained to respect the settled order of government, or laws and institutions of a type higher than its own, this has been effected within comparatively recent times. What the education was which
the Irish received in the earlier and in later times we shall see hereafter.
The Anglo-Normans made their first appearance in Ireland as private adventurers with no title but the sword. Three parties in succession descended on the coast to slay the Irish and Danes alike, and occupy
their towns and lands, before the movement was adopted by the King and the character of absolute and confessed lawlessness taken from the expeditions. The earlier adventurers had been prompted to the attack by a native prince, whom a scandalous abduction had embroiled with his countrymen. When Henry II. appeared in Ireland in the year 1172, it was under the authority of the Pope of Rome, the infallible head of the Mother Church of Irishmen.
The primitive Irish Church was Christian, but not Roman Catholic. Though, in 1152, a synod of its clergy acknowledged the See of Rome, no Peter's pence seem to have been paid, and Rome was dissatisfied. In 1154 Pope Adrian IV., as “ king of all islands,” by a bull granted the lordship of Ireland to Henry, for the express purpose of “broadening the borders of the Church.” As his authority had two years previously been acknowledged in Ireland, his simple object would appear to have been to fill the Church coffers. The interests of Rome jumped with the ambition of the Normans. It was decent, however, that greed and rapine should cloak themselves with an ostensibly noble purpose,
and none could be more excellent than the extension of the Faith. Let the Irish take what comfort they can from the fact that the conquest, and its train of evils, had such an origin. If there was a hidden cause, it lay among the motives to the scheme of conquest projected a century earlier, between Hildebrand,