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PRE AMB L E.
Some repetitions occur in the following chapters, in respect that certain points touched on in their order in the two main treatises are also dealt with in one or other of the critiques which follow. It seemed advisable to let such iterations occur, at the risk of some objection, by way of preserving whatever degree of completeness was attained in the different sections. The reason for including the separate critiques in the volume is that, written as they were to rebut particular writings, they may still serve their purpose for readers who can take more interest in a special polemic than in a general discussion or exposition.
It may perhaps be well to anticipate one other probable objection, of a more important kind. This book is avowedly put together partly by way of discrediting the habit, common among the opponents of the Irish nationalist movement, of setting down Irish difficulties to peculiarities of character in the Irish race : and it is likely that I shall be told, for one thing, that the practice in question is kept in countenance by those who allege Irish peculiarities as a reason for an Irish legislature; and for another, that some eminent members of the Unionist party or school have repudiated the tenet.
Both of these rejoinders would be true. It is true that some Irish Nationalists, and some of their English sympathisers, persist in ascribing to the Irish people peculiarities of character which, apart from other considerations, necessitate Home Rule. Some on that side candidly specify even faults. Even such a pro-Irish writer as M. Paul Fournier is found avowing, in respect of the laxity of old Irish land tenures, that "everything in Ireland is uncertain and mobile, like the Celtic genius, as inconstant as it is lively and penetrating.”. On this head I can but say that, seeking
1 La Question Agraire en Irlande, 1882, p. 9.
class 563-30 THEN
as I do to upset such generalisations, and to discredit all claims of innate and unchanging racial peculiarity, I take up an independent and non-partisan position, and am not answerable for what I reckon to be fallacies in the talk of politicians with whose program I am in agreement. So, too, when so able a writer as Mr Prendergast speaks of the ancient Irish as “a people of original sentiments and institutions, the native vigour of whose mind had not been weakened by another mind," 1 thus representing as a merit or advantage what is really a condition of animal stagnation in any society, I can but point out that such views have no necessary connection with any modern political program, being but a result of the general failure hitherto to realise the nature of civilisation, in every sense of the term.
Some such criticism must be made even in the case of writers who have done much to elucidate the laws of civilisation. Among these I gladly rank the late Professor Richey, whose Lectures on Irish History, afterwards incorporated in his posthumous Short History of the Irish People, constitute one of the best treatises, and contain some of the most valuable ideas, known to me in this connection. He offered in particular some excellent explanations, in terms of proximate causation, of tendencies in Irish history which are often idly set down to “innate” qualities of “race.” Yet even this admirable writer, dealing with the crude talk of Mommsen on ancient Gallic and modern Irish characteristics, proceeds to develop, as against that, a thesis equally unscientific and uncritical, in which the “Celtic race” in the lump is credited with certain gifts and certain defects, irrespective of culture-stage or other causal circumstance. I can only ask the reader to weigh on their merits the answers hereinafter given to both theses, observing here that I regard them as alike survivals of the formerly general habit of ascribing all national action to race-character.
On the other hand, I find myself in agreement, on the racial question, with some writers whose political program I oppose. Several avowed “Unionists” have either explicitly or implicitly condemned the practice of setting down Irish difficulties to faults or peculiarities of Irish character. Thus, for instance, the anony
i The Cromwellian Settlement, p. 11.
mous author of the Speaker's Handbook on the Irish Question, without taking the least note of the fact that thousands of his own allies attribute “Celtic” vices to the Irish people in general outside of Ulster, observes that “Thoughtless and inaccurate people speak sometimes of their [the Irish people's] Celtic origin ; but when they do it only displays absolute ignorance.” If it be so,, the alleged ignorance is probably the prevailing state of mind among the party to which he belongs. As will be seen hereafter, I do not agree with this writer and his authorities (among whom he is able to include Mr Gladstone) in the assertion that "the larger number of the so-called Irish people are Anglo-Saxon":1 but it is of course obvious that such a statement negates all imputation of “Celtic” sins to the Irish people.
And one of the most distinguished adherents of the party has given the last-quoted writer his cue. In the chapters of his History of England in the Eighteenth Century which he has rearranged as a History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, Mr Lecky has repelled the “Celtic” line of attack on Irish character as he has repelled others. “Ethnologically," he observes, “the distribution and even the distinction of Celts and Teutons are questions which are far from settled : and the qualities that are supposed to belong to each have very seldom the consistency that might be expected. Nations change profoundly in the very respects in which their characters might be thought most indelible; and the theory of race is met at every turn by perplexing exceptions.” 2 And he is able to quote from the late Sir Henry Sumner Maine, in express connection with Irish history, the suggestion “that many, perhaps most, of the differences in kind alleged to exist between Aryan sub-races, are really differences merely in degree of development. It is to be hoped that contemporary thought will before long make an effort to emancipate itself from the habits of levity, in adopting theories of race, which it seems to have contracted. Many of these theories appear to have little merit except the facilities they give for building on them infer
Speaker's Handbook, p. 9.
ences tremendously out of proportion to the mental labour which they cost the builder.” 1 But it is to be observed that this somewhat cumbrous sarcasm strikes as directly against much of Maine's own previous teaching as against anybody else's; and I make the observation not by way of mere disparagement, but by way of bringing out the fact that preconceptions as to race qualities are almost inseparable from the line of political thought with which Mr Lecky is now, like Sir Henry Maine, identified. It is in his Ancient Law,2 his most widely circulated book, that Maine explains the relative stagnation of China by the suggestion that the Chinese laws “are co-extensive with all the ideas of which the race is capable"; and though he cancels this view not only implicitly, as in the above cited passage of his later work on the Early History of Institutions, but explicitly, in the remark in the same work 3 that "doubtless our assumption of the absolute immobility of the Chinese and other societies is in part the expression of our ignorance,” he never withdrew or qualified his previous teaching as to "the stationary and progressive races.” On the contrary, he reaffirmed it in his latest volume, Popular Government,4 though he there cited also 5 his previous remark just quoted as to China. As I have elsewhere urged, this reiteration of contradictions revealed a failure on Maine's part to reach any coherent philosophy of history. To stand consistently by his criticisms of theories of race would have been to pull to pieces his partisan teachings, and this he would not do.
Now, Maine's case is typical of that of the party of which he was one of the ornaments. In the practice of political conservatism, enlightened views nust always subordinate themselves to prejudices : and when for any reason an enlightened man enters on reactionary courses, he will not only find himself in alliance with those who affirm the contrary of his most important teachings : he will further tend to say what they say.
Thus we find the Duke of Argyll, who might have been supposed to be committed to the rejection of the Celtophobic view of the Irish question, whether or not he considers himself a Celt,
1 Early History of Institutions, pp. 96-97.
4 P. 22.
2 P. 23.
3 P. 227.
5 P. 192.