There are some few Irish Catholics who appear to think that Irishmen should not study their history—some because they imagine that our history is a painful subject; others, because they imagine that its record of wrongs cannot fail to excite violent feelings, which may lead to violent deeds. I cannot for one moment admit that our history is either so very sorrowful, or that we have cause to do anything but rejoice in it. If we consider temporal prosperity to be the summum bonum of our existence, no doubt we may say with truth, like the Apostle, that of all peoples we are "most miserable;" but we have again and again renounced temporal advantages, and discarded temporal prosperity, to secure eternal gain; and we have the promise of the Eternal Truth that we shall attain all that we have desired.
Our history, then, far from being a history of failures, has been a history of the most triumphant success—of the most brilliant victories. I believe the Irish are the only nation on earth of whom it can be truly said that they have never apostatized nationally. Even the most Catholic countries of the Continent have had their periods of religious revolution, however temporary.
Ireland has been deluged with blood again and again; she has been defeated in a temporal point of view again and again; but spiritually—NEVER! Is this a history to be ashamed of? Is this a history to regret? Is this a history to lament? Is it not rather a history over which the angels in heaven rejoice, and of which the best, the holiest, and the noblest of the human race may justly be proud? On the second count, I shall briefly say that if Irish history were taught in our Irish colleges and schools to children while still young, and while the teacher could impress on his charge the duty of forgiveness of enemies, of patient endurance, of the mighty power of moral force, which has effected even for Ireland at times what more violent measures have failed to accomplish, then there could be no danger in the study.
Perhaps the greatest human preservative of the faith, for those whose lot may be cast hereafter in other lands, would be to inculcate a great reverence for our history, and a true appreciation of its value.
The taunt of belonging to a despised nation, has led many a youth of brilliant promise to feel ashamed of his country, and almost inevitably to feel ashamed of his faith. A properly directed study of Irish history would tend much to remove this danger. During the debate on the Irish Church question, Mr. Maguire, M. It does seem curious that national history should be a forbidden subject in National schools, and this fact makes the appellation of "National" seem rather a misnomer. The result of this deliberate exclusion was graphically described by the honorable member.
The youth comes forth educated, and at a most impressible age he reads for the first time the history of his country, and burns with indignant desire to avenge her many wrongs. The consequences are patent to all. It is, then, for the advantage of England, as well as of Ireland, that Irish history should be made the earliest study of Irish youth; nor is it of less importance that Irish history should be thoroughly known by Englishmen.
It is the duty of every Englishman who has a vote to give, to make himself acquainted with the subjects on which his representative will give, in his name, that final decision which makes his political opinion the law of the land. I suppose no one will deny that the Irish Question is the question of the day.
The prosperity of England, as well as the prosperity of Ireland, is involved in it. No educated man, however humble his station, has a right to assist in returning a member to Parliament without clearly comprehending the principles of his representative.
From AD 400 to 1800
But unless he has some comprehension of the principles themselves, it is of little use for him to record his vote. I do not say that every English voter is bound to study Irish history in detail, but I do say that, at the present day, he is bound to know what the Irish themselves demand from England; and if he considers their demands reasonable, he should record his vote only for those who will do their utmost to obtain the concessions demanded.
A man is unworthy of the privilege of voting, if he is deficient either in the intellect or the inclination to understand the subject on which he votes. But it is of still more importance that members of Parliament should read—and not only read, but carefully study—the history of Ireland.
Irishmen have a right to demand that they shall do so.
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If they undertake to legislate for us, they are bound in conscience and in honour to know what we require, to know our past and our present state. Englishmen pride themselves on their honour; but it is neither honorable to undertake to govern without a thorough knowledge of the governed, or to misrepresent their circumstances to others whose influence may decide their future.
It was manifest from the speech of her Majesty's minister, on the night of the all-important division on the Irish Church question, that he either had not studied Irish history, or that he had forgotten its details. If his statements are correctly reported by the press, they are inconceivably wild.
It may be said that the circumstances in which he found himself obliged him to speak as he did, but is this an excuse worthy of such an honorable position? The Normans, he is reported to have said, conquered the land in Ireland, but in England they conquered completely. The most cursory acquaintance with Irish history would have informed the right honorable gentleman, that the Normans did not conquer the land in Ireland—no man has as yet been rash enough to assert that they conquered the people.
The Normans obtained possession of a small portion, a very small portion of Irish land; and if the reader will glance at the map of the Pale, which will be appended to this edition, at the proper place, he will see precisely what extent of country the English held for a few hundred years.
Even that portion they could scarcely have been said to have conquered, for they barely held it from day to day at the point of the sword. Morally Ireland was never conquered, for he would be a bold man who dared to say that the Irish people ever submitted nationally to the English Church established by law. In fact, so rash does the attempt seem even to those who most desire to make it, that they are fain to find refuge and consolation in the supposed introduction of Protestantism into Ireland by St. Patrick, a thousand years and more before that modern phase of religious thought appeared to divide the Christian world.
But I deny that Ireland has ever been really conquered; and even should the most sanguinary suggestions proposed in a nineteenth-century serial be carried out, I am certain she could not be. Ireland has never been permanently subdued by Dane or Norman, Dutchman or Saxon; nor has she ever been really united to England. A man is surely not united to a jailer because he is bound to him by an iron chain which his jailer has forged for his safe keeping.
This is not union; and the term "United Kingdom" is in fact a most miserable misnomer. Unity requires something more than a mere material approximation. I believe it to be possible that England and Ireland may become united; and if ever this should be accomplished, let no man forget that the first link in the golden chain issued from the hands of the right honorable member for South Lancashire, when he proposed equality of government on religious questions—the first step towards that equality of government which alone can effect a moral union of the two countries. It might be treasonable to hint that some noble-hearted men, who loved their country not wisely but too well, and who are paying in lifelong anguish the penalty of their patriotism, had anything to do with the formation of this golden chain—so I shall not hint it.
I believe the Fenian movement, at one time scouted as a mere ebullition, at another time treated as a dangerous and terrible rebellion, has done at least this one good to England—it has compelled honest and honorable men to inquire each for himself what are the grievances of Ireland, and why she continues disaffected to English rule. For men who are honest and honorable to make such inquiries, is the first step, and a certain step, towards their remedy; and as I glanced down the list of the ayes in the division, I could see the names of men who, in England, have been distinguished during years for their private and public virtues, and who have been lavish in their charities whenever their own countrymen required their assistance.
There can be little doubt that a new era has dawned upon old Erinn's shores. It remains to be proved if her sons shall be as faithful in prosperity as they have been in adversity. It remains to be proved, if opportunities are afforded us of obtaining higher intellectual culture without the danger of the moral deterioration which might have attended that culture under other circumstances, whether we shall avail ourselves of them to the full. May we not hope that Ireland will become once more famous both for learning and sanctity.
The future of our nation is in the hands of the Irish hierarchy. No government dare refuse anything which they may demand perseveringly and unitedly.f-potolkov.ru/components/map18.php
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The people who have been guided by them, and saved by them for so many centuries, will follow as they lead. If their tone of intellectual culture is elevated, the people will become elevated also; and we shall hear no more of those reproaches, which are a disgrace to those who utter them, rather than to those of whom they are uttered. Let our people be taught to appreciate something higher than a mere ephemeral literature; let them be taught to take an interest in the antiquities and the glorious past of their nation; and then let them learn the history of other peoples and of other races.
A high ecclesiastical authority has declared recently that "ecclesiastics do not cease to be citizens," and that they do not consider anything which affects the common weal of their country is remote from their duty. The clergy of the diocese of Limerick, headed by their Dean, and, it must be presumed, with the sanction of their Bishop, have given a tangible proof that they coincide in opinion with his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster. The letter addressed to Earl Grey by that prelate, should be in the hands of every Irishman; and it is with no ordinary gratification that we acknowledge the kindness and condescension of his Grace in favouring us with an early copy of it.
This letter treats of the two great questions of the day with admirable discretion. As I hope that every one who reads these pages possesses a copy of the pamphlet, I shall merely draw attention to two paragraphs in it: one in which Fenianism is treated of in that rational spirit which appears to have been completely lost sight of in the storm of angry discussion which it has excited. On this subject his Grace writes: "It would be blindness not to see, and madness to deny, that we have entered into another crisis in the relation of England and Ireland, of which '98, '28, and '48 were precursors;" and he argues with clearness and authority, that when Englishmen once have granted justice to Ireland, Ireland will cease to accuse England of injustice.
To one other paragraph in this remarkable letter, I shall briefly allude: "I do not think Englishmen are enough aware of the harm some among us do by a contemptuous, satirical, disrespectful, defiant, language in speaking of Ireland and the Irish people.
The wound caused by a sarcastic expression may often fester far longer than the wound caused by a hasty blow.
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The evil caused by such language is by no means confined entirely to Protestants. There are, indeed, but few English Catholics who speak contemptuously of Ireland, of its people, or of its history; but, if I am to credit statements which have been made to me on unquestionable authority, there are some who are not free from this injustice.
A half-commiserating tone of patronage is quite as offensive as open contempt; and yet there have been instances where English Catholic writers, while obliged to show some deference to Ireland and the Irish, in order to secure the patronage and support of that country for their publications, have at the same time, when they dared, thrown out insinuations against peculiarities of Irish character, and made efforts to discredit Irish historical documents.
I had intended, in preparing the Second Edition of the "Illustrated History of Ireland," to omit the original Preface, in order to leave more space for the historical portion of the work. When this intention was mentioned, several laymen and ecclesiastics expostulated so earnestly against it, that I have been obliged to yield to their request.
I am aware that some few persons objected to my remarks on the state of land laws in Ireland, or rather on the want of proper land laws; but the opinion of those interested in maintaining an evil, will always be averse to its exposure; and I cannot conceive how any one who desires an injustice to be removed, can object to a fair and impartial discussion of the subject.
An English writer, also, has made some childish remarks about the materials for Irish history not being yet complete, and inferred that in consequence an Irish history could not yet be written. His observations are too puerile to need refutation. I have been informed also that some objection has been made to a "political preface;" and that one gentleman, whose name I have not had the honour of hearing, has designated the work as a "political pamphlet.
An author may certainly write a perfectly colourless history, but he must state the opinions of different parties, and the acts consequent on those opinions, even should he do so without any observation of his own. I never for a moment entertained the intention of writing such a history, though I freely confess I have exercised considerable self-restraint as to the expression of my own opinion when writing some portions of the present work. You might as well attempt to write an ecclesiastical history without the slightest reference to different religious opinions, as attempt to write the history of any nation, and, above all, of Ireland, without special and distinct reference to the present and past political opinions of the different sections of which the nation is composed.
Such suggestions are only worthy of those who, when facts are painful, try to avert the wound they cause by turning on the framer of the weapon which has driven these facts a little deeper than usual into their intellectual conception; or of those uneducated, or low-minded, even if educated persons, who consider that a woman cannot write a history, and would confine her literary efforts to sensation novels and childish tales. I am thankful, and I hope I am not unduly proud, that men of the highest intellectual culture, both in England and Ireland, on the Continent of Europe, and in America, have pronounced a very different judgment on the present work, and on the desire of the writer to raise her countrywomen to higher mental efforts than are required by the almost exclusive perusal of works of fiction.
If women may excel as painters and sculptors, why may not a woman attempt to excel as an historian? Men of cultivated intellect, far from wishing to depreciate such efforts, will be the first to encourage them with more than ordinary warmth; the opinions of other persons, whatever may be their position, are of little value. On the Irish Church question I feel it unnecessary to say more than a word of congratulation to my countrymen, and of hearty thanks for the noble conduct of so many Englishmen at this important crisis.
Irish Protestants have been quite as national as Irish Catholics; and now that the fatal bane of religious dissension has been removed, we may hope that Irishmen, of all classes and creeds, will work together harmoniously for the good of their common country: and thus one great means of Irish prosperity will be opened.
The Irish are eminently a justice-loving people. Let justice once be granted to them, and there is that in their national character which will make them accept as a boon what others might accept as a right. In concluding the Preface to this Edition, I cannot omit to express my grateful thanks to Sir William Wilde, and other members of the Royal Irish Academy, through whose kindness I obtained the special favour of being permitted to copy some of the most valuable illustrations of Irish antiquities contained in their Catalogue, and which has enabled the reader, for the first time, to have an Irish history illustrated with Irish antiquities—a favour which it is hoped an increase of cultivated taste amongst our people will enable them to appreciate more and more.
To John O'Hagan, Esq. I am indebted, also, to M.