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Anglo-Irish catholics were poisoned with illiberal prejudice against ancient Irish catholics, and rioted in the licentiousness of oppression as madly and wickedly, if not more so, as English or Anglo-Irish protestants can be accused of.
This is the proper office and the great end of history: it is then truly philosophy teaching by examples. Written in the spirit of conciliation and truth-'tis the school of moral and political wisdom. 'Tis the more necessary in this age and country, as we are still torn by religious and political animosities, inflamed, instead of being healed, by the perusal of almost all the histories hitherto published. The sacred duty of the historian was basely transgressed, and truth was sacrificed to the spirit of party. The English and Anglo-Irish writers on Irish affairs, generally brandished the pen of defamation with a mind no less hostile than that of the warrior wielding the sword in battle: all was panegyric for one side, all satire for the other, dated from the first English libeller, Gyraldus Cambrensis, through the whole pedigree of his successors, Campion, Morrison, Cox, Burnett, Clarendon, Temple, Musgrave, &c. &c.
To give one instance, a little ludicrous, of thie extreine partiality y those writers to their own nation and colony, we shall quote Campion. In a battle between the English and
Irish, both Catholics, in which the latter were worsted, this chronicler gravely asserts, that the sun stood still four hours, to enable the conquering army to make a hearty slaughter of their vanquished fellow Catholics.
By this continual havoc of national character, continued so many ages, by writers of different descriptions, the minds of inany are so embittered, that truth dare not appear before them in a History of Ireland, but as a lawyer goes to court. It must be armed with documents and evidences; it must be supported with critical ability, to unravel the tissue of falsehood, compiled, sometimes with ability, but always with malice: it requires the abilities of a pleader to detect and expose the false evidence of lying history, by cross-examination and comparison, by chronological accuracy and moral probabilities. Even thus supported, with all requisite authorities and evidences, the number is small, who can so divest themselves of party prejudice, early imbibed and constantly inculcated, as to acknowledge its force. This was not the only obstacle historical truth had to encounter. Power, in the hands of guilty men, dreading its appearance, consigned numerous records to destruction, and made its publication dangerous: nevertheless, the historian must not desert his duty, however arduous or hazardous. When truth advocates
for a fallen people, once renowned for learning, sanctity, and valour, it would be cowardice to abandon it from motives of personal interest or safety; where it lays open their errors and their crimes, it must not be concealed from their posterity by any blind partiality. It is the right and the interest of the present and future generations, to receive nothing but the wholesome instructions of sacred truth, from those who write for them. This shall be inviolably adhered to, with all possible care and caution, in the following work. A faithful portrait shall be given of the parties, whether English or Irish, Protestant or Catholic; in so doing the liberal spirit of our Irish annalists shall be followed, who wrote in their native tongue of the transactions of the English and their Irish colonists with as great impartiality as if they were a neutral and friendly nation who had not inflicted a wound.
It will not appear amiss to preface the narrative with a brief delineation of the state of Ireland at the arrival of Strongbow. Without this the reader will find it difficult to reconcile the ancient and modern history of Ireland. After reading the monuments of Irish valour, displayed in their domestic and foreign wars, he will be astonished at the facility with which a handful of foreigners obtained such ample possessions, in spite of so brave a people; nor can he
easily reconcile it with the long and obstinate wars afterwards maintained by the natives in their own defence.
Before the arrival of the English the constitution of Ireland was annihilated; anarchy and insubordination succeeded to order and regular government, and facilitated the subjugation of the country. We are not to suppose, with some prejudiced writers, that the Irish were a barbarous and uncivilized people, destitute of laws and regular government, because the English found them in a state of anarchy on their arrival. A constitution that lasted upwards of 3000 years, under which learning and religion flourished to that degree, that Ireland became the mart of literature, and merited the title of The Island of Saints, could not be entirely destitute of merit. It was at once the most ancient and the most simple; the most conformable to the laws of nature and the revealed law of God. The land was distributed among the clans, as among the tribes of Israel; the landed property among both nations was inalienable; and in each nation measures were adopted to prevent any great inequality of property from intermarriages or mortgages. By the law of Moses, landed property reverted to the original owners at the fiftieth year, or the year of jubilee. By the law of Ireland, every chieftain, at his accession to power, might, with the consent of the seniors of the
clan, cause a survey to be made of the territory of the clan, and a fresh distribution thereof, if any great inequality was apparent. The authors of those laws wisely considered, that any considerable inequality of property would be subversive of liberty.
The boasted constitution of Great Britain is destitute of these salutary precautions and remedies, without which liberty, however obtained, cannot subsist long: her property is power. If the property of a country be in the possession of a few thousand families, the power of the country is consequently in their hands, notwithstanding any popular forms of freedom that may subsist.
The tributes, paid to the chieftains of clans, provincial kings and monarchs of Ireland, were very moderate, and unalterably fixed by the constitution. No monarch, king or chief, could at his pleasure, or by the vote of any body of men, levy a new tax, that was not marked in the constitutional laws of the country; nor can there be found a departure from this fundamental law of the Irish constitution, except in the single instance of the Boroimhe Laighean, or Leinster tribute, the exaction of which frequently occasioned bloody wars between the prince of Leinster and the monarch.
The government was patriarchal; that is to say, it was monarchy, partly hereditary, partly elective, through all its gradations, from the