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became the founders of the clan of the Macmahons. This political phenomenon can only be accounted for, by the supposition that no system of government, either equitable or secure, was established, in which case liberty, though savage, might appear preferable to social despotism. The laws and institutions of such a government of misrule, could not be of a very enlightened description; but such as they were, all their benefits were reserved for the English colonists within the pale; and their cruel severities were directed against the Irish. The murder of a native was not considered a felony. "Merus erat Hibernicus" was a sufficient answer to a capital charge. "All Irishmen who should converse among the English were to be taken as spyes and punished. All of English blood were forbidden to marry or have intercourse with them*. Rebellions were fomented by military bands, who feared the loss of their importance in times of tranquillity. Free quarter, individual plundering, the name and person varying, the oppression remaining the same, prevented the growth or progress of civilization, and of the improvements which attend increasing wealth. For the effects produced by the government of England on the condition of the people, we are enabled to appeal to a witness of no ordinary authority. Edmund Spenser was secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland, and his character, no less than his official situation, renders his evidence of peculiar interest and importance. "The Irish," he
observes, were brought to such wretchednesse as that any stonie heart would have rued the same. Out of everie corner of the woods and glynnes, they came creeping forth on their hands, for their legges. would not bear them. They looked like anatomies of death; they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead carrions; yea, happy were they who could find them; yea, and one another soon after; insomuch as the carcases they spared not to scrape out of the graves, and if they found a plot of cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time; yet not being able long to continue there withal t." Such is the description of an eye-witness, and of one whose prejudices could not have been very favourable to those whose sufferings he so powerfully describes.
The hostility of the laws towards the "Irish enemies," as they were usually called, naturally produced in return an equal hostility to the government and the laws. From their experience of severity, the Irish became cruel; from the absence of good faith in their antagonists, they became treacherous; constantly deceived, they sought protection in cunning; as a security from pillage, they remained in poverty. Yet amidst these faults, some generous feelings
Spenser, p. 48.
+ Spenser's State of Ireland, p. 166.
continued undefaced. A military spirit, and unequalled power of enduring fatigue, made "the Irish kerne as worthy a souldiour as any nation he meeteth with *." A generous enthusiasm of loyalty to his chiefs was preserved inviolate in every danger; even when attacking property. There was a boldness of enterprize entitled to applause in days when sheep-stealing and the burning of houses were not in disrepute. Such was the state of things even in the reign of Elizabeth, after Poynings †, under the first king of the house of Tudor, had made a great effort for the improvement of Ireland, by the introduction of the English common and statute law. It would be easy to demonstrate, from the history of the wars in Ireland, that the two principles kept constantly in view were plunder and extermination. But a nation cannot easily be exterminated; and the resources of the conquerors were never sufficient to effect this wise and beneficent object; "and as the English would neither in peace govern them by the law, nor could in war root them out by the sword, they of needs became pricks in their eyes, and thorns in their sides."
The pacific reign of James was memorable for the administration of Sir John Davies, who endeavoured, with the most earnest solicitude, to repair the mischiefs committed by his predecessors. But where the most vehement of human passions, hatred and revenge, had been roused into strong activity-where all was stormy and turbulent, the tempest could not be appeased at the command even of a patriot minister. Davies was unable to lay the evil spirit which had been conjured up. He did much, however, and has left us in his writings the most valuable book extant on the affairs of Ireland.
The "war of chicane" which about this time was waged against all property, the resumption of grants, and the questioning of tythes, prevented peace from producing any permanent benefit. A gloomy suspicion existed in the minds of the people; and a feeling of the oppression under which they laboured, made them ready on the earliest opportunity to inflict a cruel retribution on their governors. The horrors of the Rebellion of 1641 restored a balance between the crimes of the oppressors and of the oppressed. In the dearth of materials from whence the history of Ireland can be written, it is difficult to reach the exact truth; but there is reasonable ground for imagining, that the Irish conspirators did not conceive that in the massacre of 1641, they were engaged in a service either useless or unacceptable to Charles I. It is curious to remark the line which the Irish have at various times drawn between a personal allegiance to the king, and the obedience due to the laws. They
Spenser's State of Ireland, p. 119.
† 10 Hen. VII. A.D. 1595.
have frequently been loyal when they could not become peaceable subjects.
The crimes of the Irish in 1641, great as they were, received from Cromwell a full and severe punishment. New desolations ensued; new plunders, extensive confiscations, and finally, the settlement among the Catholics of a colony of puritans, severe and persecuting in spirit. These "Cromwellians" as they are still called, introducing a bigoted aversion to the Church of Rome, destroyed that unity of feeling, of interest, and of affection, which can alone render a nation great and happy.
Loyalty to him whom they considered their rightful monarch, and attachment to their religion, threw the Irish into the arms of James II., and they adhered to his cause with a "desperate fidelity." The defence of Limerick, and the surprise of the king's artillery and baggage by Sarsfield, are proofs of ability worthy of the stratagemata of modern times. At this period, a step was taken, fatal to all hopes of Irish improvement; the articles of Limerick, under which the Catholics would have been protected in the exercise of their religion, and under which they would have been eligible to the highest offices in the state, were scarcely ratified before they were violated. The horrible system of penal laws against the Catholics was then resorted to, proscribing the religion of the majority of the people-depriving them of the advantages of education, prohibiting the acquisition of property, driving the Catholic priests as outlaws to the mountains and morasses, interfering with all the duties of social life, bribing the child to become an informer against his parent, and combining, in one code, an accumulation of legislative folly and wickedness without precedent in the history of mankind. This reign of injustice had the effect of degrading the Protestant no less than the Catholic part of the community; for in all despotisms, the tyrant shares in the debasement of the slave. Still further to check any possible development, or consolidation of the resources of Ireland, it became the policy of the government to divide the privileged classes into rival factions, to play off party against party, and to raise up one great family against another, relying thus on the weakness of their opponents, rather than upon their own strength. The constitution of Ireland could not, with any truth, have been considered as founded upon principles of freedom, during the reigns of the first kings of the house of Hanover. The forms of freedom existed, it is true, in the House of Commons; but that assembly could scarcely have been termed the representatives of the people. Once elected, the members of the House of Commons continued to sit for the life of the king; no legislative proposition could be entertained in Parliament, unless by the permission of the Privy Council, certified under the great seal of England.
this shadow of freedom was viewed with jealousy, and an attempt was made to procure a vote of the supplies for 21 years, or, in other words, to obtain a long lease of the constitution in favour of the crown. This outrageous proposition was negatived; but only by a majority of one; and it is clear that Ireland owed her safety to the selfishness rather than to the patriotism of her representatives. However indifferent the House of Commons might have felt to the liberties of the people, it ventured to resist the crown, for once, when its own prerogatives were at stake. During these miserable times, a very few great men had arisen, who either in action or by their writings endeavoured to rescue Ireland from degradation. Molyneux, the friend of Locke, a man worthy of such a friend, published his "Case of Ireland," and received, as the best tribute to his patriotism, the censure of that English House of Commons which had recommended to the throne the annihilation of Irish manufacturing industry. The pamphlet of Molyneux was voted "of dangerous consequence to the crown and people of England;" an address was actually carried to the foot of the throne on this subject in 1698*, to which King William returned an acquiescing reply. Swift, in a subsequent reign, rose powerfully above the times in which he lived, and the public men with whom he was fated to contend. After having given an unexampled strength and union to the country in which he resided, and after having deserved and enjoyed the most unbounded popularity, it has been reserved for the ingenuity of modern times to deny his title to public esteem. It would be vain to describe him as an amiable man; but it is unjust to deny his having been a most useful one. might not, perhaps, have deserved the affection of the private circle in which he moved, but his courage and public spirit must for ever entitle him to the gratitude of the country he served. Berkeley, the excellent Bishop of Cloyne, was another individual to whom Ireland owes much. In the midst of his sceptical metaphysics, the miseries of Ireland seem to have been among the few subjects of meditation, which left no doubts on his mind; though, even on this point, his very valuable information is given in the characteristic form of queries to be answered, aud problems to be solved.
We now proceed to the late reign; one of greater liberality than any which had preceded it. As Ireland grew into strength, the government of England became more conciliatory. A septennial bill had, by insuring a general election once in seven years, established a stronger tie between the constituents and the legis lative bodies; wealth augmented, and the seeds of agricultural and commercial prosperity secmed at length to vegetate. A new prin
* Parliamentary History, 1698.
ciple of action became necessary, and during the weakness of England in the American war, the principle infused into the constitution of Ireland was liberty. A scene was exhibited of the most interesting kind. A nation cast upon its own resources, called upon for the first time to defend itself against foreign aggression, rose in arms, and obtained security from without and freedom at home. The volunteers of Ireland are even more meritorious for what they declined doing, than for what they actually effected; exhibiting a rare combination of chivalrous public spirit, and of consummate political wisdom. This union of energy and of prudence may be traced to the influence of those excellent men, who directed the councils of the people of Ireland. Much is owing, it is true, to the good sense of the English ministry, which gave way when resistance would have been unavailing. Something is also attributable to those less tangible causes generally termed good fortune. Looking back to the proceedings of the volunteers, it is impossible not to rejoice that they occurred at the very time when alone they were likely to be successful. At an earlier period, public feeling would scarcely have been sufficiently vigorous to give them strength; in later times, government would have been so powerful, as to have made them feel their weakness. The delegates at Dungannon would have been dispersed by proclamation, and all the thunders of the Attorney General would have been directed against Lord Charlemont and Mr. Grattan.
This era is the date of the constitution of Ireland. Her years of glory were few, but they were brilliant. Her revolution-for it was a revolution-was bloodless. It was unstained by crime and unsullied by violence. There was no vindictive feeling; no insolent triumph. It was a pure and honourable victory, proving to the world that the voice of the people may be heard, and the power of the people felt, without leading to the subversion of law, or the destruction of property. A master spirit had presided over the change; a great and patriotic mind had given and directed the national impulse. All that was most noble and generous animated the Irish patriot of that day. He devoted his life to what appeared the forlorn hope of giving freedom to his country; he gave her a constitution, and identified all that is worthy to be had in honour among men with the name of Grattan. It is to be lamented, from the fatality which has pervaded all Irish history, degrading her politics as provincial, that these events, so instructive to future ages, should not be more constantly present to the minds of the statesman and the philosopher. The talents of Mr. Grattan, in the imperial legislature, have indeed shed a lustre round his name, and the sweet and gentle virtues of his private life must ever live in the memories of those who shared his social hours; but