Lapas attēli
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

and believed that Protestant ascendency was in Ireland a necessary condition of the British connexion.

The measure passed, but we wholly dispute the accuracy of Mr. Lecky's statement, that it was the free boon of an enlightened Parliament, and a proof of the liberal tendencies that prevailed at College Green. The Bill, there is every reason to believe, was carried against the real wishes of both Houses, by the well-known means through which government in Ireland was then conducted ; but, be this as it may, it is more important to note the results of an immense concession made to Ireland when the passions and hopes of the masses had been suddenly roused. Within a few weeks after the measure of relief, it had become necessary to put the Catholic Convention down, 'as an engine of inevitable evil;' Presbyterian Ulster was in a flame; the United Irishmen were beginning to be a formidable power that menaced the State ; French emissaries, in league with secret societies and conspiracies, swarmed throughout the island ; above all, the peasantry of the Catholic South were rising against law, order, and all social arrangements. We prefer to quote Mr. Lecky's own words; he is too candid to keep back the truth ; but his description ill accords with his evident belief that conciliation,' even at this time, was wise :

• The Government letters in the spring and summer of 1793 are full of accounts of secret drillings; of attempts to form national guards in different towns of Ulster; of the concealment of guns, ammunition, and even cannon; of midnight parties attacking country houses and seizing arms; of the untiring industry with which the levelling principles of the Revolution were propagated. The riots of the Peep-o'day Boys and Defenders rose and fell, but they had infected many counties, and secret combinations were spreading among the lowest class to resist the payment of tithes and hearth-money, and sometimes of priests' dues and of rent. Westmorland and Hobart wrote that an oath “to be true to the Catholic cause” was widely taken; that rude proclamations were circulated declaring that the people “ must have land at ten shillings an acre, and will have no farmers

nor great men, and that they are fifty to one gentleman; " that "equality not only of religion but of property" was expected; that large numbers of pikes were manufactured, and that there were constant rumours of an impending insurrection.'

From that day to this it has been often said—and the sentiment was expressed with confidence in the Home Rule debates of 1886—that Pitt's policy, at this crisis, only failed because it was not sufficiently thorough. Had the Parliament been opened to the Irish Catholics, disorder in Ireland would, as if by magic, have ceased ; and had the Irish

[ocr errors]


House of Commons been reformed, the nation would have become contented and loyal. We shall not discuss Lord Fitzwilliam's conduct, or the circumstances connected with his recall; but ideas like these are mere delusions, and, just now especially, should not mislead us. How could the admission of a few Catholic peers and gentlemen into the assembly at College Green have checked the treason, the crime, and the anarchy which were gaining a mastery over a large part of Ireland, or have put an end to a socialistic Jacquerie? And would a reform of the Irish Parliament have had more effect on Wolfe Tone and his followers, and on the conspirators, whether in Ireland or in France, whose one aim was separation from England, than Home Rule, at the present moment, would have on the adherents of Michael Davitt or the fanatics of the Chicago Convention ? Firm government, we repeat, was the great want of Ireland in 1793; and circumstances had already proved that a comprehensive change was required in the polity and institutions of the country. The Constitution of 1782 had been fairly tried; but its disintegrating tendencies had become manifest; and these might become ruinous when England was at war with a revolutionary power in close sympathy with all that was disaffected and disturbed in Ireland. The Irish Parliament remained the corrupt agency of the Government and of an exclusive caste; it had steadily refused to reform itself, and reform, indeed, would have been most perilous to the connexion with England and to its own existence; and there was no prospect that, as Grattan dreamed, it could be transformed into an enlightened assembly truly representative of the people as a whole. Presbyterian Ireland was discontented to the core; and though many of the wrongs of the Irish Catholics had been redressed by the late measure, Protestant ascendency was still supreme in the State, retained its monopoly of power and influence, continued to weigh on the distressed peasantry, and kept its galling yoke upon

Catholic Ireland, where a barbarous servile war seemed imminent.

In this position of affairs, a union with England seemed in accord with the very nature of things, and was obviously suggested by the facts of the case; for a union only could remove the mischiefs caused by a double legislature and double form of government, and give England the strength of an undivided state; and a union only could put an end to the domination of a class in Ireland, by the abolition of the assembly in College Green, and placing the


two countries under one Imperial Parliament; could obtain just rights for Presbyterian Ireland; could mitigate or extinguish the many evils that flowed from sectarian rule in the island; could, without danger, admit Catholic Ireland to the freedom of complete British citizenship; could alleviate the grievances which had for ages been inseparable from the lot of the Irish peasant. The policy, in a word, of a union had been evident for a long time; it had found more than one powerful advocate, and the eyes of Pitt had, though slowly, been opened; for he had contemplated, Mr. Lecky points out, the great change in 1792. Unfortunately for himself and for the British Empire, he waited on events and let things drift; and though the Union is associated with his name, he carried out that measure many years too late, and under conditions of the most inauspicious kind; and he carried it out without provisions which he knew were essential to its complete success, and in circumstances that do not increase his renown.

It certainly would have been more difficult to bring about the union in 1793 than it proved to be after a bloody rising, when the Irish Parliament was stricken with terror, and the mass of the people was subdued and prostrate. But Pitt could have attained his object had he boldly made use of his immense power, and success would have placed him in the foremost rank of the illustrious men who have built up the Empire. We, however, fully acquit bim of a charge, made without foundation by thoughtless writers, that he was manoeuvring at this time for a union, and that he was willing to throw over Protestant Ireland, could he gain the support of the Catholic Irish in furthering a policy he deemed necessary. Not a syllable written or spoken by him shows that he entertained designs of this kind, alike inconsistent with his straightforward character and, in the existing state of affairs, inconceivable in the case of a true Englishman. No doubt the disciple of Adam Smith, when he addressed himself to the task of the union, recollected the teaching of his wise master. Pitt wished to remove from the Irish Catholics every mark of the subjection of the past, and for this purpose he desired to make Catholic emancipation a complete measure, and to endow the Irish Catholic priesthood. But he repeatedly declared that he had the interests of Protestant Ireland closely at heart; he was firmly convinced that a union would be the best and the only means to secure them; and he refused to countenance any attacks on what he called the Irish Protestant settlement. This has been the policy of our greatest statesmen, and history has proved in two striking instances what have been the results of a departure from it. In an endeavour to strengthen his declining power, Charles I. betrayed the Protestant colonists of Ireland to rebel Popish Celts, and his treason led to the tragedy of Whitehall and to the desolation wrought by Cromwellian conquest. James II., in order to regain his crown, walked recklessly in his father's ways, and the House of Stuart was driven from these realms, and Catholic Ireland was kept down in abject thraldom for almost a century. A feeble imitation of this wretched policy has been recently attempted by a statesman of our day, from motives we do not care to expose ; but England will be untrue to herself if she does not for ever reject a project which would abandon hundreds of thousands of her own faith and blood, the loyal mainstay of her rule in Ireland, to a vindictive faction which, on all occasions, from the days of Philip II. to those of Napoleon, has proved itself to be her implacable foe, and which has recently shown by fearful examples that Jacobinism can find its most apt instruments in devotees to the superstitions of Rome.

We had hoped to have given our readers extracts from the numerous passages of philosophic thought, expressed in classic and attractive language, which are to be found in these volumes. We would especially refer to the excellent comments made by Mr. Lecky upon the difference between the temptations which have beset statesmen in the eighteenth century and in our own time--this arrow was aimed at Mr. Gladstone, and, spite of his efforts, it clings to his sideand upon the danger of assimilating the laws and institutions of two countries in stages of progress widely apart, and without a real unity of national life-a danger of which we admit the existence, and on which Mr. Lecky will perhaps enlarge in arguing, as he will, against the Irish Union. Our limits, however, have been reached, and we can only refer to pages rich in valuable and often profound reflections. We have freely criticised Mr. Lecky's work; have pointed out its defects of arrangement and form; and have dissented from some of his views and statements. But we should be unjust to ourselves and our author, if we did not place on record again our admiration of the conscientious industry, the thorough research, and the fine vein of thought, on most political and social questions, conspicuously displayed in this important book.

[ocr errors]

ART. IV.-1. Hunting. By his Grace the DUKE OF BEAU

FORT, K.G., and MOWBRAY MORRIS. With Contributions by the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, Rev. E. W. L.

Davies, &c. London : 1886. . 2. Nimrod's Remarks on the Condition of Hunters, the Choice

of Horses, and their Management. By C. TONGUE. Fourth

Revised Edition. London: 1886. 3. Thoughts on Hunting. By PETER BECKFORD, Esq.

London : 1820. 4. The Horse and the Hound. By NIMROD.

By NIMROD. Edinburgh : 1842. THE

He completion of the fiftieth year of the reign of the

Queen has naturally caused many retrospects of the past half-century, many anticipations of the coming years. But this inclination to look before and after' is not necessarily confined to politics, literature, or science; it extends to other subjects ingrained deeply in the social life of this country. Among these there is not one which is more essentially a national pastime and pursuit than hunting. Its votaries are less numerous than those who are devoted to some other English pleasures, such as cricket or sbooting, but what they lack in numbers they make up in enthusiasm. There is no other pastime to which men are so passionately attached as they are to the chase. In the youth and in the old man, in the man of learning and the dullard, this enthusiasm is equally visible, as it is in the descriptions of the scholarly Beckford and in the tales of Whyte-Melville. This enthusiasm of the chase may well appear a kind of mild madness to those who are not hunting men, but its existence is perfectly natural and perfectly intelligible. There is no pastime and no occupation which, while it lasts, is so absorbing and so completely breaks through the monotony of pleasure or of business. It has the excitement of gambling without its regrets. There is the pleasure of rapid motion, the excitement of danger, the interest of emulation, the friendliness of the club, the refreshment of changing scenes. The pleasures of hope, the pangs of disappointment, the satisfaction of fulfilment pass in turn through the mind of the hunter. A single day's hunting stirs the emotions, tries the courage, invigorates the body in so intense a manner that it would be impossible for human beings to pass through these series of feelings without falling victims

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »