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96

THE SPIRIT OF HER BARDS.

last to be subdued. Possessing an elasticity of character that will rise under the heaviest oppression, he wants only a favorable opportunity, and a single spark, to set him in a-blaze. Distinguished for his inquisitiveness and shrewdness, he is perpetually "talking over things;" nothing escapes his observation -hence he wants no more intimate knowledge of his condition or rights, or the character of his oppressors :-Ireland wants only union. These traits of national character inspire hope; with an ever active and ardent mind, no people can be effectually subdued-neither does it require so long a training nor so loud an appeal, to arouse them to energetic and successful action.

II.

T

10 a distant observer, that beautiful Island appears like a city of ruins in the saddened light of evening. Her glory and her strength seem departed for ever. But it is not of the poetry of the past the lover of Ireland must speak. Her bards never sang in strains so mournful and pathetic, as the sad lullaby of the mother over her famishing child. The complaint of poverty and the cry of suffering, are more heart-breaking than her most plaintive melodies. Her woes and her dishonor move not the hearts of her oppressors, but they are noted by the God of the poor.

Before speaking of the present condition of Ireland, it is necessary to refer to some events in her past history. A knowledge of the causes which have reduced her to subjugation, is necessary, in order to know where the right and wrong lie, and what justice now demands should be done. If invasion, spoliation and piracy on the part of one nation against another, provoke retributive justice, and it sinks under the punishment it has justly incurred, it has no right to complain. But if this same violence and robbery, prompted by cupidity alone, reduce an innocent people to slavery, the case is widely different. We wish to show by a rapid survey of the past his

HOW ENGLAND'S TYRANNY BEGAN.

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tory of Ireland, that she is an invaded and plundered nationthat both her degradation and her servitude are directly chargeable on England—that British cupidity and British pride have been the alpha and omega of Irish suffering.

The earliest history of Ireland is so mixed up with tradition, it is impossible to distinguish the true from the false. In the Sixth and Seventh Centuries, Ireland was distinguished for her piety and her learning. In the Ninth Century, she was invaded and harassed by the Danes. In the Eleventh Century, the people rose against the invaders-deposed the usurper, and placed their own king (O'Brien) on the throne. In an attempt to quell an insurrection, O'Brien was slain; and though the Irish were victorious, yet being left without a king, they became divided by conflicting animosities and fatal rivalries, and no longer existed as a nation, but remained broken up till the Anglo-Norman invasion. Pope Adrian, himself an Englishman, made a grant of land to Henry the Second, on the condition he should hold it in fee for the Pope. Henry, of course, became suddenly pious; and wishing to harmonize the conflicting social and political feelings of the country, sent over an army of Norman freebooters, who, with powder and steel, soon succeeded in converting most of the inhabitants.

III.

THIS

HIS is the origin of the connection between England and Ireland. Ireland was not, however, wholly subjugated even by the invasion of Richard, Earl of Strigal, surnamed the Strongbow, although she endured enough to have prostrated the energies and broken the spirit of any other people. Through this period of Irish history, the inhabitants exhibited a patriotism and valor deserving of a better reward. But the myrmidons of England, backed by strong military force, proved too strong for them. They were overwhelmed; the country was put under English deputies, and from that time has been the victim of English oppression. Under the unjust adminis

98

FIRST IRISH PARLIAMENT.

tration of these governors, and through the quarrels of the chiefs themselves, the power of the native princes rapidly declined.

In 1272 Edward II. ascended the English throne. A century had now elapsed since the Norman invasion. Overcome in almost every attempt to regain their freedom, wrecked by suc cessive disasters, the Irish princes gave over the unequal con. test, and many of them, especially those who bordered on the English settlements, sought to become British subjects, in order to be protected from outrage and plunder. For their citizenship, they offered Edward a subsidy of a thousand marks. This was opposed by the local aristocracy, who knew if they became British subjects they could no longer be taxed and plundered with the impunity which had before prevailed. The government of England allowed no one but herself to rob her own subjects. This local aristocracy was English; for it must be remembered, in order to account for the action of the Irish Parliament, that it was always England's policy to keep a certain number of her nobility and citizens in Ireland to preserve the English ascendency.

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The people petitioned again and again. It was in vain. British slaves they should be-British subjects never. Enraged at this unjust refusal, and maddened by the continued tyranny that only mocked their sufferings, they flew to arms. Sir John Wogan was sent over to quell the insurrection. He assembled an Irish Parliament to take into consideration the state of the country. This was the first Parliament ever constitutionally convened in Ireland. It was in 1295. Several just and useful acts were passed, but they availed little to remedy the evils that had taken such deep and widely spread root in the country.

Another cause of evil, was the levying of "coyne and livery" by the great barons to maintain their large retinues. This was another step towards the oppression of the Irish tenantry. Acting on the principle by which aristocrats have always been. governed, that what is wrung from the serf is the clear gain of the lord, they drove away, by their extortion, the sturdy yeo

IRELAND DRENCHED IN BLOOD.

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manry of the land. They forgot, as tyrants always forget, that they reduced the value of their land in the same proportion as they reduced the character of the cultivator. There is a system of compensation in the economy of the Creator, by which good and evil are both made reactive. This exaction was so oppressive, that Baron Finglass declared, "it would destroy hell, if levied in the same."

At the end of the civil war of 1327, the Irish septs again petitioned to be admitted to the rights of freemen. They saw there was no other way to escape insult and outrage. But it was declared that it would injure the English ascendency, to convert serfs into freemen-and their prayer was denied. Indignant at this repeated injustice, and every feeling within them roused to action by the unchecked tyranny of those who laughed in their ill-gotten power, at the fruitless struggles of their victims, they again armed their followers, and unhappy Ireland was again drenched in blood. The very priest was slain at the altar, and trampled in the earth with the consecrated elements by his side. But why enter into the sickening details of the butcheries that followed! It is enough to say that England was of course again victorious, and practised with renewed security her former crimes. In war, or in peace, it mattered not-Ireland bled at every pore. England had begun her feast of blood, and grew only the more voracious with every terrific repast.

IV.

IN

N 1367 the Duke of Clarence, then being Lord Deputy of Ireland, summoned a Parliament which met at Kilkenny. It must be remembered that, in the assembling of Irish Parliaments, it was the English policy always to have a majority favorable to the English interest returned. A fair representation of the people, was the last thing ever contemplated. During the session of this Parliament, the notorious Statute of Kilkenny was passed. Among other things in this diabolical statute, (an offspring, by the way, worthy of its villainous parent,) it was

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PROGRESS of British OPPRESSION.

declared, "that if any of English descent should use an Irish name, the Irish language, or observe Irish customs, he should forfeit his estates until security was given for his conformity to English habits;" and finally it was strictly forbidden "to entertain any native minstrel, or story-teller, or to admit an Irish horse to graze in the pasture of an English subject." In the language of Lord Clare, "This was a declaration of perpetual war, not only against the native Irish, but every person who settled beyond the limits of the pale." None but an English despot has the skill to carry the refinement of tyranny so far. The attitude of the two nations, as viewed from this point of history, shows their relative position during the entire period of their connection. On the one hand, the wronged and oppressed Irish, finding no relief from other sources, petition England for the poor boon of being treated as her subjects— even offering an exorbitant price for the miserable gift. England, on the other hand, refuses the prayer, and adds to the refusal insult, scorn and greater injustice; and finally closes the catalogue of her crimes, by a declaration of eternal war against the innocent, because they are helpless.

As we thus trace the progress of British oppression, we seem at every step to have reached the point where retribution would begin. But it has not yet come. In resisting such tyranny, Ireland often exhibited a valor and power that would have stopped the encroachments of the English government, had not the native chiefs been divided among themselves. Jealous of each other's power, and often sore with the memory of old feuds, it required but little skill to keep alive the estrangement of those who should have stood shoulder to shoulder in the strife for common freedom. England was careful that this should never be wanting, and employed every means to keep alive the jealousy and feuds, and thus weaken the power which, united, would have been too strong for her. This has been her policy from first to last; and its successful application is all that prevents Ireland now, from taking her place among the nations of the earth.

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