R. C. ESCOUFLAIRE
IRELAND---AN ENEMY OF THE ALLIES?
THE IRISH ENIGMA
WHY is Ireland not on our side? Why should this little country, athirst for independence, reserve her sympathy for predatory Germany? Moreover, she wants us to take her part; can we do so?
Ireland has not the excuse that she did not understand the facts of the case. She could read in the original all the Foreign Office documents, Sir Edward Grey's dispatches---never was diplomacy more frank and outspoken, more loyal or more damaging in its obvious good faith. Ireland had to choose between that and the outrageous depravity, the disgusting cynicism, of the Wilhelmstrasse. She chose ill. She is always accusing her "stepmother" of breaking this promise or that. But in this case it was Germany who dishonored her oaths, and England who risked the whole of her Empire to keep her sworn faith. And Ireland stood aloof and was critical---but of England only. "Can England's motives ever be pure?" she mutters.
War broke out.
On August 1st, 1914, Ireland was on the verge of civil war, for there were two Irelands: one, consisting of three-quarters of the island, had just obtained its charter of autonomy, the Home Rule Act, which only needed the royal signature. The other part, that of the Ulster Protestants in the north-east, had sworn a solemn covenant two years before, that it would not submit to this law; in it, Ulster read her death-warrant, and that literally. She was ready for resistance; for months she had been arming and drilling and having military maneuvers with great seriousness. She was prepared for any sacrifice in order to keep her place in the Empire, in spite of the Imperial Parliament. Her army, consisting of 100,000 picked volunteers, had just been reviewed by its leader, Carson.
Everything was ready and the die was cast. These men expected no quarter from the Irish Nationalists, to whom they had been delivered by the party bargains of the English Radicals; they were determined to sell their liberties dearly.
No less determination was shown by the opposing side. The Nationalists had also raised an army; they had the same number of volunteers, but far less well armed; but, to make up for this, it is true, they had the support of the Imperial Government and Parliament. Ulster had no one to rely upon but herself.
The forces of Redmond and Carson are face to face. A few days later blood will flow. Yes, but in another theater and in vaster floods. The trumpet sounds another blast, another call to arms. A truce to childish games, to the miniature war of Irish factions. The world is bowed under a greater anguish, and on the lurid horizon arise the symbols of Right, Justice, Liberty, Respect for Treaties, Defense of the Weak.
Fighting for these on the plains of Belgium, the Irish Volunteers, Catholic and Protestant, would not betray their own cause. Are these not the very principles which they invoke daily against one another?
Their leaders realized this. Carson and Redmond instantly gave orders to their partisans to suspend hostilities, and give their services to the greater cause, the cause which embraced theirs. Carson sent his men "to Mend the Empire," that was all; Redmond made reservations, he offered his brigades "to defend the shores of Ireland." But that was better than nothing. What response was there? Ulstermen could not hesitate. They had armed themselves in order to preserve by force their union with the Empire, and the Empire asked of them a greater sacrifice, and they did not hesitate. They had to choose between three incentives: fear of oppression by a Catholic majority; traditional hatred of those who were to become their masters---selfish incentives if you like; sincere devotion to the Empire---which meant putting their own grievances on one side, and giving up all safeguards, sending their sons to be massacred in Europe, and finding themselves afterwards disarmed in the hour of their own peril. Their devotion won the day, but we must remember the alternative, for we owe Ulster a debt of honor for her choice.
And what of the rest of Ireland? I wish I could say that she did not hesitate either. But it would be false. When, in September, 1914, John Redmond, their leader at that time, great-hearted and clear-sighted, pointed out their duty, a certain number of National Volunteers answered the call. But the others, the majority, waited.
Yet the first victim to protect was Belgium, innocent, without a doubt, chivalrous, heroic and Catholic too, which is an important point to an Irishman. Yet Ireland made no move.
A month later we are no longer dealing with iniquitous diplomacy, but with crimes which disgust the basest minds; the whole world had just heard of the atrocities of Aerschot and Dinant. Louvain was in ashes, its priests taken to Germany in cattle trucks or massacred on the Brussels road. Many Irish priests had been educated at the University of Louvain, hundreds of Belgian priests and nuns had arrived in Ireland, fleeing from violation and murder, telling of their tortures, and crying for vengeance. Will Ireland rise? Yes, but not as you would expect.
All the "National Volunteers" who had sulked during their leader's appeal made up their minds at last; they denied Redmond and went to swell a new army, the "Irish Volunteers," opposed alike to Redmond, England, and the Allies. In the first month of the war the German press informed us that these Irish had their ambassador at the court of Potsdam---no less a person than Sir Roger Casement!(2)
In December a tragic voice was heard, crying aloud for vengeance; Cardinal Mercier, whom young Irish priests had known and revered at the School of Philosophy in Louvain, solemnly affirmed the barbarism, the revolting cruelty of the invader, the ignominies inflicted upon the priests and nuns of Belgium.
Was that enough to convince the Irish clergy? On the contrary, several of the Bishops attacked England, our ally, with redoubled vituperation. Other things hardly interested them.
In 1915 the German atrocities came nearer home. On a cold spring morning, poor, drenched, miserable, exhausted creatures were landed on the Irish coast, while not far off the bodies of children were thrown up by the tide. A wave of horror swept over the world; the Lusitania had been torpedoed. Was Ireland roused? Hardly at all.
Civilized men howled execration, the brutal Boche from Berlin, New York, and Madrid replied with satanic laughter. This is only the beginning, it seems; the submarine has shown what it can do, we shall see more of its handiwork. Voe victis! the wrath of Germany is terrible. This is by no means displeasing to some of the Irish, since they are now the allies of Germany.
In the outrages which the Bernstorff gang perpetrated in New York, you will often find Irishmen in very sinister company. But it does not seem to worry them.
Little by little, as Germany developed her submarine campaign, a rumor spread; the most profitable coups always seemed to come off somewhere near Ireland. Would not her lonely, deserted shores, with myriads of inlets, creeks, and reefs, mysterious caves and outlying islands, make admirable bases for supplying the pirates? Was this hateful suspicion far-fetched? Many Irishmen did not appear to resent it. Are we not at war, and is not England the enemy?
Gradually the rumor began to crystallize. Here a chatterbox could not hold his tongue, there a patriot bragged too loud; but still there was not enough evidence for a magistrate to convict. It took two years to find the proof; it was forthcoming at the rebellion in 1916, much to the confusion of the incredulous, and at the time of Casement's trial. Rebel Ireland had official dealings with Admiral Tirpitz's pirates.
During the following months the contrasts which have been a salient feature of Irish history for the last twenty-five years became still more accentuated; on the one hand the English governors doing their utmost to cajole and satisfy Ireland, on the other every effort being made to discourage them. Elsewhere I have emphasized this attitude; the war in no way altered it.
Locked in a struggle which became ever more deadly, pitted against a foe more dangerous than she had foreseen, Great Britain gave up her comforts, her pleasures, habits, and cherished traditions. The all-powerful Trade Unions imperium in imperio were asked to suspend their privileges. She sacrificed all her liberties by the Defence of the Realm Act, of which one clause, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, will show the significance. Hundreds of minute regulations and burdensome taxes created havoc in every sphere, in commerce, industry, agriculture, amusements, drink, restaurants, railway journeys, rationing, requisitions, etc. And to almost every regulation, however necessary and far-reaching, would be appended a: clause or similar amendment, "this regulation does not apply to Ireland."
The result was what might have been expected (one need only read a few pages of the history of Ireland to guess what would happen): the more concessions were made, the greater grew the rebel army; the more favors Redmond obtained for Ireland, the less gratitude she showed, and the more she repudiated him. Redmond, poor man, who had once succeeded to Parnell's prestige, and had led the Nationalist party for a quarter of a century, was now a king without a kingdom. He ruined himself on that day when he dared to say to his fellow-countrymen, "England has a right to your help, give it to her." His convictions as to the origin of and responsibility for the war never varied; his brother, William Redmond, M.P., died a noble death at the head of an Irish battalion, and his son fought on our side.
But the National Volunteers of 1914 did not follow them; they went over to the opposite camp and became the "Irish Volunteers" of Sinn Fein who attempted the rebellion of 1916.
This metamorphosis did not take place in a day. The Government was warned twenty times, by the police, by questions in the House, by the press, and by the magistrates, of the plot which was being hatched and of the growth of extremist views in Ireland. But the Government maintained its usual deliberate lofty serenity; its only Irish policy was laissez-faire. At the slightest sign of trouble it turned to the Nationalist politicians, its allies, and the official representatives of Ireland. They were most optimistic. "Never fear, trust Ireland, give her her head, do not irritate her, study her psychology, sympathize with her, you will see all will be well." They forgot that their constituents were becoming less and less disposed to endorse their promises.
Towards the end of 1915 a Belgian Recruiting Commission visited Dublin, in order to enroll several categories of refugees. The Lord Mayor gave them a kindly reception at the Mansion House, speeches of mutual admiration were exchanged, unimpeachable sentiments, for the benefit of the public and the reporters. But in private our friends received curious impressions of their visit, and were able to see how the land lay. It was quietly suggested to them that they should be broadminded and not worry the refugees too much, nor pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the old ogress over the way. Then followed whispered confidences about the said ogress---Caillaux's methods, in short.
According to the laws of hospitality, no protests ---nor expressions of surprise could be made; the puzzled visitors had happened upon a state of mind of which they had had no warning. If this were the attitude of the well-disposed Irish, to whom Mr. Asquith at Westminster gave testimonials for their civic virtue and their loyalty, what must be the attitude of the masses of whom Redmond was no longer the leader?
One of our friends had an inkling the following day. Some English officers invited him to go for a motor run into the beautiful Irish countryside. Before they had gone far they came upon a strange spectacle---crowds of young fellows, thousands of them wearing caps or soft felts; words of command; distant rifle shots; Indian files going along the hedgerows; patrols signaling on the crests of the hills; motor-cyclist scouts.
"What's all this?"
"Oh, nothing---a Sinn Fein field-day."
"In broad daylight? So near Dublin? Is the Government not alarmed?"
Silence on the part of the English officers, who shrugged their shoulders and smiled uneasily.
"You had better ask Mr. Birrell or Lord Wimborne; they will give you reassuring explanations."
The crisis reached its height in 1916. After having enrolled 3,000,000 volunteers, Great Britain asked her sons to make a supreme effort---conscription. The more desperate the struggle, the more inexorable became the need for it. Every day her resolution was strengthened by some fresh horror; delenda est Carthago. Parliament consented, the nation submitted, and conscription was passed.
But the Government made a fatal mistake, having forgotten everything, yet learnt nothing. As though all the recent concessions to Ireland had not failed in their aim and left her more intractable and more hostile, this final favor was granted her, she was exempted from conscription. A little blackmail was enough to enable John Redmond, alarmed at the disappearance of his popularity, to veto that.
Redmond and his friends added promises to their threats:
"Conscription will exasperate Ireland, you will need more soldiers to enforce it than you will ever raise from Irish conscripts. Try to understand Ireland, O clumsy Saxons! Show trust and sympathy, and you will get far more. Let us manage her, do not annoy her, we will speak to her---she has a generous soul and will understand."
Mr. Redmond did his best in all good faith. The Viceroy asked for a minimum of a thousand recruits a week, so that he might say that Ireland had done her duty as the sister island.
Redmond had reckoned without his host; not only had everybody quite made up their mind to laugh at him behind his back, but Dr. O'Dwyer, the notorious Bishop of Limerick, went farther and forbade his flock to serve under the hereditary enemy, recalling the fact that the Vatican, the mouthpiece of divine wisdom, had remained neutral during this worldly conflict. In his Pastoral the Bishop grew bolder; he not only abused England, but every member of our diabolical alliance; Serbia was a criminal and we were every one of us tricksters. Poor Serbia, writhing in agony, Monsignor O'Dwyer thanks Heaven for having punished you. . . . It will be as well to quote him fully:
"Then see the case of the small nationalities on whose behalf many people have believed that the war is being waged.
"What good has it done for them? What part have they played in it except that of cat's-paws for the larger nations that used them? Belgium delayed the German advance for two weeks and gave time to the English and French armies to rally. For her pains she has been conquered and ruined. Servia began the war by an atrocious crime, and as reparation for it might weaken Russia's aims in the Balkans she was encouraged to resist. She, too, has played her temporary rôle and has followed in the wake of Belgium. Montenegro is the next to go; and it would seem that the great belligerent nations look to themselves only, and use their weaker neighbors for their own purposes.
"This war is not waged by any of the Great Powers as a quixotic enterprise for lofty ideals. 'Small nationalities' and other such sentimental pretexts are good enough for platform addresses to an imaginative but uninformed people, but they do not reveal the true inwardness of this war.
"All the belligerents have had practical and substantial aims in view. France wants her lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine; Russia wants Constantinople; England wants the undisputed supremacy of the sea and riddance from German commercial rivalry; Austria wants domination in the Balkans and an outlet in the Ægean; Italy wants Trieste and what is called Italia Irredenta; Germany wants a colonial empire and a powerful navy; and all these Powers have formed alliances and laid their plans many a day, simply for the realization of their respective purposes.
"They planned and schemed solely for the sake of power and material gain. All the talk about righteousness is simply the cloak for ambition, and the worst of it is that some of the belligerents have gone on repeating the profession of their disinterestedness until they have come to believe it themselves.
"Truth, and right, and justice have had very little to say to this war, which is an outbreak of materialism and irreligion. The peoples did not want this war; there is no hatred of one another amongst them; but the governing cliques in each country have led or driven them like sheep to the slaughter. God has been ignored; His law has been put aside; Christianity is not allowed to govern the relations of nations. And now the retribution is on them all, the fair dreams of victory and expanded empire and increased wealth and prosperity with which they set out have vanished long ago, and there is not a Government amongst them but is trembling for the day when it shall have to answer for its stewardship to its own people."
This is the stuff which was preached from Irish pulpits during the battle of Verdun. Such a document might well be considered seditious, and His Majesty's Government might have recalled the Bishop to his senses. But on this point Ireland has always taken a firm stand. "If you touch our holy prelates we will have civil war instantly." As usual the Government gave in, in order to afford no ground for accusations of tyranny nor occasions for calumny. So successful was this move that on April 7th, 1916, Mr. Sheehy Skeffington, an Irishman, whose evidence is valuable, wrote, "Sinn Fein (the army in the pay of the Wilhelmstrasse) is at present enrolling more than a thousand volunteers a week---the exact figure which Lord Wimborne asked for, for the Imperial Army."
In 1916 I traveled from London to Paris with a young Australian lieutenant, who had just lost an arm near Albert, and had spent a month of convalescence with an uncle, a farmer in Ireland. He told me that his host had welcomed him most kindly and admired him, but had always seemed to be keeping something back. At last, when he said good-by to him and sent affectionate messages to his parents in Melbourne, he unburdened himself. "You are a fine boy, I like you, but take that off." That was the khaki tunic, the "badge of slavery." Since then I have met others who have told me of similar efforts at "conversion."
We are told of persecutions in Ireland, of humiliations, of slavery. Judge for yourself. The Englishman has a broad back.
That is why English widows---there are legions of them to-day---smile bitterly when they think of the young men in the distressful island, and why the English Tommies frown when you mention the "warm-hearted Celts." You can understand the amazement of the American sailors who landed at Queenstown, their base, in 1917, primed with the Anglophobe legends of the Fenians of their own country, and found the place thronged with lusty sneering young men. You can understand above all that Ulster, threatened with union with these people, and obliged to submit to them, does not see any prospect of, a happy future. This last fatal weakness of the Asquith Cabinet soon produced the usual consequences: shouts of triumph from the leagues, glorying in a victory won as they thought by intimidation, followed by immensely increased influence. It was only logical. Germany had the sense to make the most of it. When she thought the moment had come for direct intervention, her instrument properly adjusted, the "Irish Volunteers" sufficiently numerous and organized, she took them seriously and gave them a place of honor in her strategy.
Just at that time, in the spring of 1916, her plans were vast; formidable blows were to be directed against Verdun; a bold sortie was intended to pierce Jellicoe's line; finally a well-organized insurrection in Ireland, shorn of troops---with small chance of ultimate success no doubt, but sufficient at all events to oblige England to immobilize there a strong force instead of sending it to the help of Verdun. Sad to say, Ireland consented to play this part.
You all know what happened: the plan was checkmated and put down. Unfortunately, though the Irish patriots burned their fingers, the German scheme succeeded up to a point; in a few days 50,000 men had to be sent to Dublin, and to reinforce the permanent garrisons throughout the island. They are still there, to the joy of our enemies and to our detriment.
If the rebellion of 1916 were the chief feature in our picture of Ireland during the Great War, we could now stop. But to do so would be to deprive ourselves of the most instructive lessons of the episode, of those which alone can throw a little light upon the tangled and paradoxical history of "the distressful country."
I may be reproached for having been unjust in speaking thus of "Ireland" as a whole without qualifications. I have paid to Ulster the homage due to her, and also to those Nationalist Volunteers who followed the Redmonds and came to die for us. But during the first year of the war even the mass of the population was not open too much to criticism. Its attitude was indifferent, but not yet hostile. Suspicious acts or words were at most the work of agitators and of some of the leagues, not enough to accuse "Ireland" of them.
What is more serious is that as time went on, the more the world was horrified by German crimes, the more that Irish minority which was ready to strike us in the back became the majority. The fatal change has been constant, continuous, irresistible. We shall soon see what excuses were made for her.
When the insurrection broke out in April, 1916, most Irishmen were much surprised at it, and even went so far as to deplore it. Two months later, they were full of admiration and indulgence for the unfortunate rebels, and from that moment the Sinn Fein party recruits more men than it can absorb, proclaims its schemes without the smallest concealment, gets popular support everywhere, and in the by-elections wins all the seats of the orthodox Nationalist members---so much so that several of the latter become turncoats and incline towards those who have the upper hand. This became so pronounced that in 1917 and in 1918 Mr. Lloyd George's Cabinet feared fresh risings, and it was only due to their vigilance, firmness, and precautions that we were spared them.
In spite of all, we must have no illusions on the matter; the situation is still alarming, Sinn Fein is making headway. Germany has too good a trump card not to try to play it again. The deserted shore of the west coast affords ample shelter for submarines, and who knows when the next explosion will startle us?
As the European drama became more alarming, and the barbarian wallowed in the blood of his mutilated victim, and the British Empire, body and soul, and particularly soul, became indispensable to the cause of Right, the more misguided and irrational did Ireland become.
Armenia had been exterminated by a slow and hideous martyrdom. Serbia had paid the penalty of her heroism, stabbed in the back. Who would not pity them? The horrors of the prison camps became gradually known, and there were Irishmen among the prisoners in Germany. As to Belgium---if the great Cardinal's evidence were not sufficient, we now have the revelations of Lord Bryce's Commission. Lord Bryce is one of Ireland's staunchest friends, the first Secretary under the new Liberal Government, and, so far as I know, Ireland has never doubted Lord Bryce.
All the Colonies, where Irishmen are so numerous and powerful, understood their duty and adopted our cause of their own free will. England allows her Dominions as much freedom as an English mother does her daughters. Were they likely to have yielded to a passing passion, and acted unreasonably? Events did not make them change their mind; far from it.
What of the United States----"New Ireland," whence the so-called martyred island was wont to draw all the money and moral support for her conspiracies? The United States took three years to take up the cudgels, smothering their wrath, and giving credence to the lies of the Boche, whether obvious or subtle ones. In the end they were obliged to submit to reality, and it appears that the Irish-Americans themselves were on our side. Two years have passed since the dramatic conversion of the most impartial of neutral democracies. Has Ireland followed the example? Not at all. Is she likely to do so? There is no sign of it; she is thinking of other matters.
The Irish are by way of being a warm-hearted people, sentimental, champions of the ideal as against "the abject materialism of the Saxons." Why at every fresh crime on the part of Germany did Ireland draw a little nearer to her?
A magic word reached her, the cry of a Bavarian poet, Lissauer's Hymn of Hate, which is her religion too, an anathema bequeathed to her by her ancestors, and which the last Irishman will shout to his dying day. "Wir hassen dich, England!"
Then for the first time during the war Ireland was roused. She remembered her old proverb, "England's difficulty, Ireland's opportunity." She forgot all the rest---the stains on the hands which were held out to her, the blood of women and the scattered brains of children, orgies followed by massacres. Disgust was swallowed up in hatred. In a world united by the holy war this hatred could find but one ally, Germany, and did not even blush at this alliance.
You will not forget this, will you, when you are told---as you will be---that Ulster alone is to blame, by refusing to join hands with Roman Catholic Ireland? You would do well to remember that Ulster has good reasons.
Are not these aberrations very extraordinary? It remains to be seen how matters came to this pass. The Irishman has an inexhaustible battery of excuses; to enumerate them all would need volumes. We shall endeavor to collate the better known, to ascertain the respective share of facts and of psychology, and to get them into some better order than Hibernians can manage to do in their flow of turgid eloquence. There are all manner of excuses, historical, religious, economic, and sentimental, and all have the same conclusion. Ireland is a "little bit of heaven," as the popular song says, peopled with angels, of course, whose downfall has been planned by the Powers of Hell.
The most serious aspects, so far as we are concerned, are the contemporary ones, for Ireland, feeling in spite of her subterfuges that she was on the horns of a disagreeable dilemma, has at last defied all common sense and taken her stand against us, just as Lenin and Trotzky have done; she has tried to deny the purity of our intentions and our sincerity when war broke out. It is time, so it seems to me, to put a stop to it, and speak frankly to her. Father O'Flanagan said in January, 1916: "Ireland should become an independent country in alliance with Germany."
She wanted to be summoned to the Peace Conference as a sovereign nation, and who knows? England may be broad-minded enough to make some such concession.
The time has come to know on which side she is going to stand, and, before receiving her complaints or judging of her grievances, to have at least some idea what foundation there is for them.
SOME ANCIENT HISTORY
WHEN We say "that is ancient history" we mean that a thing has lost much of its importance. In Ireland you mean the opposite. If you drive along a pretty valley in one of those comic vehicles where you sit sideways with your feet hanging over the wheels, as if you were riding a Spanish mule, and begin to talk to the jarvey: "Whose land is that?" "That, your Honor, belongs to the Macdiarmids." You will be much astonished when you spend the evening with the village priest to learn that the aforesaid Macdiarmids had disappeared from the neighborhood three hundred and fifty years previously, and that the land belongs to Lord So-and-so.
When the English try to make friends and say: "We confess all our mistakes, and will forget all yours. We will help you, and what fine results we shall have when we work together!" it is the same thing. The Irishman does not understand. He lives in another age, and forgets nothing. Before any reconciliation he wants reparation and it would not be so exorbitant if he did not insist on reparation for damage done in 1615 or 1649. You will allow that the claim takes some swallowing.
It is true that we insisted that Germany should restore Belgium before we made peace with her. But if Europe had to liquidate tomorrow all its horrors of the past, from Charles the Bold to the Duke of Alva; from the Sicilian Vespers to the Palatinate---great heavens! when would peace be signed. Roughly speaking, that is what Ireland is asking. If you think that I am exaggerating, open an American newspaper of January, 1918. In it you will find an account of some Irish committee offering a statuette of Robert Emmet to President Wilson; Emmet was an unfortunate rebel, implicated in the assassination of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and executed in 1803. In Ireland they are always talking of the past, and every year they celebrate in all seriousness the anniversary of a defeat of the Danes at Clontarf in 1014.
"If you only knew how we had suffered!" Irishmen are for ever saying. "We? You mean your great-great-grandfathers, for you seem to me to be fairly flourishing. But still if you are so anxious to do so, let us stir the ashes."
In Ireland in the Middle Ages, there were, besides the innumerable monks, who gave it the title of "Island of Saints," swarms of bards, some of them domestic adherents of some clan or chief; others who wandered about the country with the right of asking for food and shelter wherever they pleased, descended from a druidical hierarchy, and enjoying privileges consecrated by custom. They were so numerous that they formed one-third of all the free men; they were sometimes amusing, but idle and noisy, poets more or less, but burdensome parasites above all. Those whose hospitality or patience was not up to their standard were given cause to repent; these rustic minstrels did not spare them.
One of the kings wanted to be rid of them and banish them. Saint Columba took up their cause, and contrived to turn them into schoolmasters, giving instruction gratis to all, which evidently turned the country into a nursery of scholars. This era produced the most ancient Western epic, "Hibernicus Exul," in honor of Charles the Great, philosophers like Scotus Erigena, and sent to Gaul and Germany hordes of monks before the days of St. Boniface.
On the other hand, these bards, transformed into teachers, poets, and chroniclers, had a disastrous influence on their country. They kept up the spirit of old times, and all the vices of their foundation; if they sang of saints and heroes, it was to travesty them by over-emphasis, flattery, fabulous exaggeration. Divided into "suìde," who were compilers of pedigrees and genealogical tables, and "filid" minstrels, exciting the vanity and flattering the vices of their patrons, all achieved the same result---that of perpetuating the pride of the chieftains and clan rivalry.
Now, clan spirit is one form of that feudalism which our great nations had to outgrow before they could arrive at their modern social and political order; Ireland, to her misfortune, could not do it in the specified time. At the time when great national unities were being consolidated, she who could have unified so easily, dallied too long with the petty quarrels of princelings and tribes. She was not very far behind us, but she has never been able to make up lost time.
The bards whose business it was to write the national chronicle outbid one another in stories of the clans. The chroniclers who had to draw from this source found nothing but fables and rubbish. In spite of the astonishing number of documents, few histories have been more obscure or misleading.
Our jarvey was satisfied with going back three or four centuries, but the "suìde" have gone one better. Their Irish legend takes race and dynasty back to Noah, no less, with disconcerting accuracy! Neither the maze of prehistoric times nor flights of fancy have any terrors for Celts!
Here is another example less excusable because more recent, and even contemporary with the chroniclers. In the ninth century Norwegian pirates came to ravage the shores of Ireland, and, needless to say, their methods were not gentle. Thereupon there arose the legend of a personage in whom every cruelty was incarnate: Turgesius the Viking. An Irish manuscript overwhelms him with detail, then the story is taken up and enlivened by Giraldus Cambrensis and the monk Jocelyn; this is the first specimen of those national complaints, in which Ireland figures perpetually as the persecuted victim, and of which the rest of her history is simply another edition.
Now, no research has ever been able to prove that Turgesius ever existed! There is no trace of him in any other chronicle nor in Scandinavian Sagas. But, on the other hand, there was at that time in Ireland, beside the usual endemic war of clans, never very humane, one Fedlimid, King of Munster and Bishop of Cashel, who, in order to become supreme king over the whole island, put it to fire and sword, devastating and pillaging with extreme ferocity. At last it was realized that the best part of the atrocities ascribed to the mythical invader Turgesius bore a remarkable resemblance to those of Fedlimid, whose praises were still being sung by his bards and chroniclers. This is the first of the "persecutions" of Ireland---a sorry precedent for the veracity of narratives to come!
The Middle Ages pass, and gradually we approach the fatal day when the Irish lose their independence for good and all---if independence means killing one another with great perseverance!
Up to 1150 the Norman kings who had been in Great Britain for nearly a century had not yet cast longing eyes upon Ireland.
In 1155 Pope Adrian, by his bull "Laudabiliter," swept away their scruples.
"There is no doubt that Ireland and all the islands which have known the light of Christ, the Sun of justice, and have received the teachings of the Christian faith, belong legitimately to St. Peter and to the Holy Roman Church. Knowing that you will assist by your power the welfare of religion and the Church, we grant you the government, reserving all our ecclesiastical rights, and on condition that you pay to St. Peter for each hearth one penny a year."
According to the law of that day, the title is in order, and for good Irish Catholics it is a bitter commentary on the past which they love so well. King Henry, who had much to do in France, did no more than record the grant.
In 1156, a somewhat unpleasant fellow---perhaps Irish historians give him that character because he is responsible for all that follows---Dermot MacMurrough, banished and deposed from his kingdom of Leinster, went off to Aquitaine to ask help from Henry II, the first of the Plantagenets. According to the usages of those days, there was nothing very shocking in that. The king, still busy elsewhere, told him to make some arrangement with one of his barons, Richard de Clare, Earl Strongbow, and authorized him to levy troops.
An understanding was arrived at, some advance-guards were dispatched, and Strongbow disembarked at Waterford.
"Earl Strongbow," the Annals of Lough Ce' tell us, "came to Erin with Dermot MacMurrough to avenge his expulsion by Roderick son of Turlough O'Connor. Dermot gave him his own daughter and part of his patrimony, and since then the Saxon foreigners have always remained in Erin."
Finis Hiberniae! Irreparable subjection.
Strongbow's progress was rapid, and the king soon saw that it was time to put in an appearance in person unless he wished to see his lieutenant supplanting him. He therefore duly arrived in Ireland in 1172, Alexander III having confirmed Adrian IV's Bull by several letters.(3)
Roger Hoveden's chronicle describes the arrival:
"All the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots of all Ireland came to the King of England at Waterford, and received him for King and Lord of Ireland; swearing fealty to him and his heirs, and the power of reigning over them for ever; and then they gave him their instruments---and after the example set them by the clergy, the aforesaid Kings and Princes of Ireland (namely the Kings of Cork, Limerick, Ossory, Meath, and Reginald of Waterford) who had been summoned by King Henry's command to appear in his presence and almost all the nobles of Ireland (except the King of Connaught) did in like manner receive Henry, King of England, for Lord and King of Ireland, and they became his men and swore fealty to him and his heirs against all men."
Roderick O'Connor, King of Connaught, did likewise in 1175.
In 1185 Henry II sent his youngest son John of ignoble memory as viceroy, and Pope Urban III---the Pope again!---sent to this villain whom he was afterwards to excommunicate a crown of peacock's feathers and letters of recognition.,
Thus was accomplished the conquest, brutal and unjustifiable according to the Irish, of one of the nations which was most faithful to the Pope. Yet we see that it was made at the request of a King of Ireland, under the ægis of three successive Pontiffs, and with the acclamations of the national clergy whose absolute powers of direction both in politics and in religion Ireland has never questioned. It is as well to insist upon these clear and definite statements made before the traditional hostility of the two races had been formed, with its interminable interplay of abuses and rebellion, rebellion and repression. Ireland will often have the right to our indignation and to our pity, but not when she forgets that she herself sent for the abhorred "Saxons" and put herself completely in their power.
As she confused the Saxons with the Norman barons who were her actual masters, it has been suggested that she was ignorant of feudal law and did not know for what she was letting herself in. It is quite possible, but is it probable? Certainly not, as regards those high ecclesiastical dignitaries, the only learned men of the time, who came to render "homage" and who must have known its significance. The right is there, all the same; and it must be admitted that in those days few suzerainties owed their origin to more formal titles or more explicit oaths.
When Henry had received homage, he proceeded to distribute the lands to his great vassals as was the custom in France, Normandy, Great Britain, and the whole feudal world (hence nowadays in Irish titles the name "Fitz" occurs so frequently, which shows descent from royal or princely bastards). The natives, clans, and chieftains had not foreseen this. They could do nothing but give up the best places and seek refuge in the mountains. This was their first trouble and it was a very real one.
On their side the newcomers soon had troubles of their own, scarcely less serious; representatives of a more advanced civilization and accustomed to more advanced juridical ideas, they saw with amazement that the Celts by no means appreciated these presumed advantages, refused to associate with them and preferred to live aloof under the laws of their antiquated but national custom. Similar differences soon spread to the clergy of the two races, and the Norman abbeys excluded Irishmen for a long time.
Polygamy, marriage of brother and sister, slavery of hostages, allowed by druidical custom, had never been entirely suppressed by the efforts of the Christian missionaries. Periodically, whenever the power of the Church was shaken by some invasion or civil war, the Celts relapsed into their ancient vices, and a new evangelization was needed to correct them. When one remembers that in the clans murder, except in the five royal lines, was not punished by death, but could be compounded for; when we see how mercilessly we endeavor to stamp out in our colonies everything which conflicts with our fundamental morality (will they ever dare to ask us to tolerate human sacrifice or incestuous practices in the name of respect for nationality?) we can understand better the haughty bearing of the Anglo-Norman nobles towards the incorrigible semi-barbarians.
This contempt has been perpetuated and not without reason; with all due respect to the Irish, who are charming people, there has been ever since then a difference of several degrees of civilization between the two races, the dwellers on the banks of the Thames and the Shannon. Possibly the Celt has suffered more from this than from other more concrete grievances; he has a proud, sensitive spirit, and the reproach of moral inferiority exasperates him very naturally.
Unfortunately he has never grasped the fact that it is not enough to deny, and he has wasted time---nay, centuries---in eloquence and vituperation. Nowadays even, in the twentieth century, the supreme ambition of his most modern interpreters, the Sinn Fein society, is to revert to the costume, Gaelic tongue, and national spirit of the twelfth century! for they claim that in those days they formed a nation.
"Do you, then, wish to go back to your infancy?" the English protest.
"Why not? Your tutelage has been nothing but rottenness and corruption; we will make a clean sweep of everything you have taught us."
Is this only the folly of visionaries? Not so. This program is hailed with acclamation by bishops, by a press, and by a university. No wonder John Bull shrugs his shoulders.
Let us now recapitulate three of the first lessons which the past has taught us:
The legality of the Anglo-Saxon sovereignty; the moral resistance of the Celts to the progress of law and social life; the spoliation of native property (but not forgetting that the latter belonged not to the individual, but to the clan; that 700 years of prescriptive right has greatly weakened the claim; and that the evictions did not go beyond the fertile valleys of two or three counties).
I will spare you the story of the Irish muddle until the reign of Henry VIII. The Anglo-Normans, so richly dowered by their king, did not have an easy time, warring without respite as much among themselves as against the chieftains. The latter continued to exterminate one another with indefatigable perseverance. The power of the Crown was never anything but a myth, for if the viceroys issued vexatious edicts, no one paid the smallest attention to them, and they remained a dead letter and were not enforced. For instance, an edict forbidding the wearing of a mustache applied to English subjects, who ignored it as much as the Irish. It is therefore useless to catalogue that under the heading of "Saxon oppression."
When the dynastic quarrels of York and Lancaster were dyeing England with blood and taking a heavy toll of the old nobility, the Irish barons joined in the fray, lost a good many of their number and thus weakened their position in Ireland. Consequently they were gradually forced back to the east and were confined within a narrow strip round Dublin called the Pale. Elsewhere the clans had recovered a free hand.
One of Henry VIII's first cares, in order to bolster up this flagging authority, and at the same time to score another point in his contest against Rome, was to take the title of "King of Ireland." He was not satisfied with holding the island by papal delegation as had been done since Henry II. The move succeeded; the nobles of Ireland, and not only those of English origin, rallied round him. Henry, who could be very tactful and pleasant when it suited him, received at his court more than one chieftain with a good Celtic name. The legal point moreover was soon to be definitely decided by Mary Tudor; Pope Paul IV granted her for good his so-called sovereignty over the Island of Saints.
Henry VIII was less successful with his religious revolution. Ireland was certainly the promised land of prebends and monasteries, for Saint Patrick's foundations had been most prolific. The dioceses were not limited as in France by ancient Roman boundaries; bishops, according to legends of the primitive Church, were as numerous as priests. Probably they did not exaggerate; nowadays for 3,000,000 Roman Catholics there are four archbishops, twenty-three bishops, and three suffragans. The Bishop of Ross has twenty-eight priests under his jurisdiction, Killala thirty-nine, Achonry fifty-one, etc. The average is seventy priests per diocese. In Belgium, with double the population, one archbishop and five bishops suffice.
In 1515 the organization was almost exclusively monastic; the Augustine canons alone had no less than three hundred houses, the Cistercians ran them close, the mendicant friars of every order were legion, and the minor abuses from which the Church was to suffer so much were naturally the same in Ireland as in England. The clergy, so eminent in the era of Patrick, Brendan, Bridget, and Columba, had lost their fine character. Scandalous anecdotes hailed from Dublin as well as from the English abbeys, and Henry's courtiers knew how to make the most of them; in 1549 the Archbishop of Dublin had to pawn his crozier, and it took eighty years to redeem it.
By the measure which extended his power the king had no difficulty in getting possession of the Church's estates; the new owners seized upon them greedily without scruple, as elsewhere; and the "native" nobility were not behindhand. There was no lack of Celtic chiefs among those who carried out the confiscations. But the colonized region where such things were possible was limited in area, and in the remaining three-quarters of the island, that is, in the more distant countries, the Church kept its power. Its immense personnel did not assist the healthiness of the body, whose activities were at one time beneficent, but now were swamped by an excessive number of parasites. Yet this solid mass encompassed the mystical Celts so surely that they could not escape from it.
The Protestant propaganda was always feeble in Ireland and never had much hold in the country districts. Only the court party or the English colonists in the garrisons or administrative posts conformed to it; the natives did not come in contact with it. As in other countries which resisted the early enthusiasm of reform, the psychological moment, once it had passed, did not return; where the Church was not reformed by schism she took herself in hand and reformed herself. Ireland is still the most Catholic country in the world.
On the whole the English Reformation did not treat her with much severity. Some violence in an age of brutality was to be expected, but there was no general persecution, and beyond the Pale and the large towns the Celts were not interfered with in their beliefs. Queen Elizabeth even enjoined toleration and clemency upon Essex. We should give her due credit for this when we remember the affronts inflicted upon her woman's feelings, her queenly pride, her filial memories and religious prejudices, the Pope's insult to the young sovereign, the attempts upon her life, the horrors of Saint Bartholomew's Day and the Spanish Inquisition, above all the obsession of Spain, at once her worst political and religious enemy.
Ireland gave Elizabeth a good deal of anxiety in other ways. She meant at first to use firmness in her administration only in the districts which she could reach, taking care to avoid any attack upon the mysterious beyond, the haunts of intractable and un-get-at-able chieftains. But fate forced her hand. During her reign anarchy in Ireland reached its height, civil war raged, as did clan warfare, vendettas among the English nobility, massacres, unbridled atrocities. Elizabeth could not remedy matters except piecemeal, and the appalling difficulties would have daunted a less stout heart. If her lieutenants put down a rising in the south, others broke out in the north and west, and everywhere, a tangle of intrigue which would have made most people lose their heads, and would have discouraged the most determined. Everything had to be begun again. She stood firm. At the end of her long reign her law had penetrated to every corner of the island, all the rebels had been punished, every coalition with the foreigner defeated; she alone had really accomplished this conquest, which her ancestors and her father had only embarked upon and never completed.
But from this moment the great resistance became conscious and definite, thanks to a fresh factor which was to dominate antagonism in the future: that is, the identity of the two races with the two opposing religions. Ireland had a fresh grievance; after having lost her land she saw her religious hierarchy scorned and overthrown. When it was merely a question of vague agrarian or national troubles, there was nobody in that half-civilized lay world to denounce or plead the cause. But on the other hand, as soon as the Church was affected, she who alone was expert in those arts could provide any number of spokesmen; they were legion, and ever since then the cause of political independence has been confused with that of the traditional Faith. It meant fair warfare and made hostility almost incurable.
This would not have signified so much, for after all supremacy once lost may be restored, despised institutions may by the changing fortune of royal or popular favor recover their prestige, but there is worse than this. During this century the distinct temperaments of the two races became crystallized and antagonistic. Until then the two peoples had points in common, or rather vices in common, in government and political morality. In the sixteenth century they were divorced. Since then the English have made more and more use of their great panacea, compromise, with astonishing success and with results which neither Latin logic, nor German theory, nor the sentimental insistence of the Celts can understand. It has become their second nature, the standard of their empire. Have they not even managed, incredible though it appears, to make a compromise with their State religion? Macaulay has exposed it in too masterly a fashion for it to be necessary for me to recapitulate it. For the last three centuries they have been satisfied with anomalies and half-measures, borrowing from Rome and Calvin, trying to avoid the extreme of both, fearful of affronting either party, starting from a constitution conceived by Archbishop Cranmer, of whom none now dare speak well. Compromise is less happy in theology than in politics or in diplomacy, but it suits the English admirably.
The Irish will never be resigned to it; concessions are hateful to them. Have they not confused the means with the end? The end of their rebellion against Anglican compromise is the safety of their Faith. It does not follow that compromise in other spheres is necessarily bad; it is the secret of political wisdom as of commercial stability. The Irish will have none of it, and have thereby lost all its advantages. Never having progressed as have the English, they blame the latter; have they ever tried to imitate them?
The two enemies were now face to face, the glove had been thrown down, the terms of the challenge had been clearly announced. Ireland was going to fight for her soil and for her religion. A little later she will become conscious of her nationality, and we shall have a third element, politics.
But now England also, besides her authentic title-deeds, had a new grievance, in order to justify her severity. Historians are practically unanimous in agreeing that the war against Philip II and foreign politics absorbed Elizabeth and her people far more than the religious quarrel. For the first time the country felt its integrity threatened. Mary Tudor had given it a foretaste of the reprisals it would have to face; the queen's youth aroused all its chivalrous wrath. The horizon clouded quickly; it was a matter of life or death---the enemy was at the gates, cruising outside Plymouth. The empire whose destiny was to be so brilliant was only saved from the terrible Armada by its lucky star.
It was at this fatal crisis that Ireland sowed in the heart of England the germ of constant and well-deserved mistrust. On several occasions the enemy disembarked on the island which is Great Britain's bastion, and some of the Irish ---I will not say "Ireland," so that I may not be accused of making unjust generalizations, yet are there many Irish who do not approve of these things?---some of the Irish held out a friendly hand and allied themselves with the detested Spaniards.
That is not altogether ancient history, for it has repeated itself often since then. When statesmen in London consider Irish claims and problems, can they ever forget those memories or ignore the dangers? Would they not be mad not to take them into account? Those who imprudently forget their history and neglect precautions as was done in 1916 have had cause to repent.
The most serious of these appeals for help from the enemy took place in 1601, shortly before the death of Elizabeth, and the danger which threatened from the two great Ulster rebels, O'Neill and O'Donnell , was very real. Mountjoy, the Queen's skillful lieutenant, only overcame it by a very drastic measure: he began to burn the crops, and the horrified rabble laid down its arms. The Spaniards were helpless, and were killed and captured as they landed.
The incident is a memorable one; it marks the close of an era, the end of a long impunity. From this date the Irish rebels will never defy their masters with the same light-heartedness, for suppression, which until then had been half-hearted, and undecided, was now to change its tactics. In Whitehall also a change had taken place. The power of the Crown, the authority of the Government, the prestige of royal power, the cohesion of the State had all grown during the century of the Tudor dynasty. Modern political systems were in course of construction. Parliamentary control had not so far made itself felt, for Elizabeth was sufficiently tactful not to exasperate her subjects or her advisers, and gave in to them gracefully, but other parts of the constitutional structure were changed and strengthened. Respect was shown for law. The English nation began to live in peace, to be a civilized society, to work; regular industries need legality and security in order to prosper. Lieutenants and viceroys were no longer the marauding adventurers of old days. Rebellion ended in punishment, not by an exchange of titles of nobility, or of land or money. Things had now to be taken seriously.
This is the explanation of another misunderstanding, one of Ireland's gravest complaints against England. Ireland is always some generations behind the progress of European politics. True, she has the excuse of her isolation, she has no standard of comparison. "To take things seriously" therefore seems to her to be an intolerable tyranny; why should she not divert herself as of yore? The hated Saxon imposed a new mode of life upon her and gave her no warning; this was sufficient reason for blaming him for everything.
One class had no such excuse, namely, the national clergy, whose mission it was to learn and to instruct others, who lived in contact with the principle of authority, and ought to have known how it was enforced elsewhere if only by means of the new order of Jesuits, imported from Spain.
But the clergy were obsessed by the idea of the Reformatlon, and, in order to avoid at all costs pernicious imitations, they preferred, and do so to this day, to confuse different spheres, foster nationalist illusions, and maintain that the political and social progress of England is not progress at all. We are not going to be taken in by that. The English have been reproached for having treated this sensitive race too roughly, and for not having been more, tender to their susceptibilities. Was such treatment customary in those days? What were those susceptibilities worth?
For all practical purposes Ireland was half civilized compared to the nations which she affected to despise so heartily. In 1567 Sidney, one of Elizabeth's lieutenants, wrote to the Queen: "There was never a people of worse minds, for matrimony is no more regarded in effect than conjunction between unreasoning beasts. Perjury, murder, and robbery are counted allowable. . . . I cannot find that they make any conscience of sin." National heroes were desperate brutes; one of them, O'Donnell, had to his credit in 1564 the murder of 500 people of quality and 14,000 poor men---enough to make our most successful komitadjis green with envy! "In Ulster," wrote Fitzwilliam to Cecil, "all is murder, incest, and lying." Possibly there may have been traces of that religious fear so dear to Celtic mysticism; but every other notion of right or morality had disappeared.
In order to punish rebellions, the Crown made use of radical methods, forfeiture and feudal confiscation. If this seems to us oppressive we must remember that forty years later in England the Long Parliament made use of the same measure against the supporters of Charles I. In Ireland the ancient Brehon Custom maintained tenure of land and stock by clan and not by the individual; the head of the clan or "tanaist" was administrator and manager. The more powerful the chief and his clan, the more enormous were the confiscations, and the more difficult to accomplish. These forfeitures, the largest of which consisted of 500,000 acres in Munster in 1583, had never been completely carried out, nor rigorously enforced, but Elizabeth bequeathed to her successors more serious methods of coercion. On his accession in 1603, Mary Stuart's son had to punish Ulster, which Mountjoy had conquered, and as the chiefs had fled to Spain or elsewhere, there was nothing more to be done than to record the loss of their rights. Now James I came from Scotland and wished to consolidate the union of the two kingdoms, but found an obstacle in his way: on the Border between the two countries there lived a fierce and warlike race, perfectly brave and loyal, but living by raids on the rich English counties over the Border, making a pretext of the wars which were practically continuous between the two countries. This had to be put down.
As he had lands in Ulster to dispose of, and tiresome subjects to get rid of, James colonized after the manner of those days: he took the Scots of the Border wholesale and planted them out in Ireland with a small contingent from London. At the same time the English courts by judicial decisions suppressed the ancient agrarian custom of the Irish clans and unified the law of property in the two countries. That matter also was never forgiven.
From these unwilling colonists, who were deported men rather than immigrants, were descended the Ulster Presbyterians, who form one quarter of the Irish to-day, a race most faithful to the empire, industrious and enterprising, which has contrived to be prosperous in one of the poorest and most arid corners of the island, in spite of adversity and obstacles without number.
For three centuries they have been exposed to the hostility of the former inhabitants, who were driven westwards, abandoned by their chiefs, neglected. Such hatred is excusable, but need it be eternal? After all the newcomers would gladly have dispensed with the gift; they had some difficulty in realizing that they were grudged the deserted bog where their king had thrust them. The cruelties which they suffered can never be forgiven. If nowadays the aversion is mutual, whose fault is it? We shall see.
The two races had only one common characteristic: both were equally attached to their political and religious liberties. Both were equally persecuted by those Stuarts from whom they had every reason to expect more sympathy. The Roman Catholics, in memory of his mother's martyrdom, expected from James I at least a tolerant indulgence; this monarch, at once capricious, mean, and obstinate, soon undeceived them. In 1605 he banished severely all Roman priests, and the papists were more harassed under his reign than under the Tudors.
Charles I did no better, but extended oppression to the whole population, including Protestants. His tyranny was of a different order; religious matters were relegated to the background without being any less bitter, and his main interest centered in the royal prerogative with its arbitrary fiscal rights indispensable for paying his Pretorian guard and for defying Parliament. Ireland had to provide a large share of funds for his privy purse. In 1635 the notorious Strafford, Charles's evil genius and right-hand man, fertile of brain and firm of purpose, arrived in Dublin as Lord Deputy, and Ireland was to know a system of customs, fines, and industrial taxation as odious as it was useless.
She might have consoled herself with the thought that England was even more exasperated and had more extorted from her by the same men. Not at all. Ireland ignores or forgets this, and the English are thus accused of crimes and extortions from which they suffered equally, and for which they themselves exacted the death penalty.
Finally Strafford was recalled in order to mount the scaffold, and his departure left the whole structure in peril. While all this dirty linen was being washed at Westminster, and the Ring lost his favorites and the instruments of his revenges, then fled, and started fighting, Ireland was left alone and had time to breathe. At this moment she committed her greatest mistake. She profited by the respite to commit a grievous crime, the massacre of the Ulster Protestants. As in 1641, so in 1916. "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity." A dangerous phrase, and fallacious precept. All Irish modern history can be dated back to that; every thing else can be traced to it, a series of links in the chain of circumstances.
The monstrous crime brought suppression in its train, as soon as England had put her affairs in order; suppression fanned hatred, whence grew fresh crimes which had to be suppressed, and so on in a vicious circle.
Thus on October 23rd, 1641, the wild men of Ulster came down from their mountain fastnesses, and took their revenge upon the colonists of James 1. They did many things, according to the order of their leader Phelim. O'Neill: "Kill all Protestants, irrespective of age or sex." The rest of the island soon joined in. The priests had to send in a return of their victims every week; they reckoned about 154,000 between October, 1641, and April, 1642. Sir William Petty's calculation comes to about the same figure, as does that of a priest in Cork in 1645 exhorting to fresh slaughters: "You have already killed 150,000 enemies in these four or five years. I think more Heretic enemies have been killed; would that they had all been! It remains for you to slay all the other heretics, or expel them from the bounds of Ireland."
Enthusiasm such as this did not mince methods, and the tortures were hideous, such as "boiling the hands of little children before their mothers' faces." Wholesale drowning was resorted to when they wanted to put in quick work, or else, a favorite form of torture in Ireland, the victims were left to be sucked down in those famous bogs which leave no traces. There is a long report on this matter by Sir John Temple, with forty folios of depositions, preserved in Trinity College, Dublin.
Sir John Temple adds this damning comment: "They were completely taken by surprise, having so far lived in perfect amity with the native Irish," and there is other evidence which confirms the pacific attitude of these Ulster Scots prior to this bloody treachery. Besides they had prospered on unfavorable soil; what better proof that they had worked hard instead of worrying their neighbors; had they not prospered where the clans had left barrenness? One can understand what covetous greed, burning regrets, and implacable resentment were aroused.
"Those outsiders have stolen the best part of our island."
"Pardon me. They never wanted to come. And if you call it the best part of your island, who made it so? Of what value was it in your day, when ravaged by your quarrels and under your antiquated Custom?"
In similar circumstances in feudal times the prosperous tenant was evicted. Instead of copying feudalism in many things which would have been profitable, Ireland followed its example only in this unfortunate practice. She reckoned without Cromwell.
He dealt with the situation with no light hand, and for the second time Ireland was compelled to take things seriously.
Masters of England and Scotland, Oliver and his Ironsides landed at Dublin in 1649. They came to punish not only the turbulent Papists and the intrigues of Rinuccini, the Papal Nuncio, but a party of royalist refugees led by Queen Henrietta Maria. The Ironsides were the most highly disciplined army of that day; their leader, after seven years of a stern school, understood strategy. A few towns tried to resist; he deported one inhabitant out of every ten to the Barbadoes.
Having once made an example, he treated the others, we must admit, with more clemency than was usual among conquerors in those days, and the day after an attack he had one of his veterans hanged for stealing a fowl.
He was prompt and severe. But was he just? His victims have never been able to mention him dispassionately. Yet history does not paint him as the arch-villain which Irish rancor would have us believe. It would be difficult to accuse him of meanness, or petty hatred. Though he was inexorable in the service of a cause which he considered holy, England and Scotland had more cause to complain than Ireland; if he quelled the latter with more severity and bitterness, it was because he found her more barbaric, more guilty, and more incorrigible. And think how hateful must the presence of a foreigner, a Roman legate, have been to this great patriot, jealous guardian of national sovereignty.
Cromwell's main act of suppression was a radical one. He drove the Celts to the far side of the Shannon, which cuts the island in two from north to south, just as we now treat African tribes, or the Americans the Red Indians. In the east he confiscated thousands of acres and installed his faithful Ironsides as soldier-farmers.
Was this blind and unjust spoliation? No doubt it was, as are all collective reprisals. They are none the less necessary sometimes; the causes of them are too quickly forgotten. The possessions of the royalist English nobles and those of the Anglican Church were affected just as much as those of the murderers of 1641. The latter had slain 150,000 Protestants. Should they have been brought to book one by one? Would it have been possible? Besides, it did not last. The soldier-farmers, knowing nothing of the business, could not farm. They did not settle, but sold their land to their officers.
As soon as the Protector had other matters in hand---European wars, fractious Parliaments, dynastic ambitions---all his victims rallied round the party of Charles Stuart, the Pretender. After the, Restoration the Ironsides were soon harassed in their turn, and emigrated to New England.
Ireland had her revenge during the next reign. The only compact bodies of Protestants left were in Ulster, and Ulster had to submit to the tyrannies of the royal bigot James II, instigated by the Earl of Tyrconnell, a Catholic Irishman, and the Jesuit Petre. Thanks to them no Protestants were allowed in the army, in the magistracy, nor in municipal corporations; and worse than this, what was particularly oppressive in those times and places, Protestants were not allowed to carry arms.
This measure did not only wound the dignity of the gentlefolk; to understand its full significance we must note a new fact. Massacres like those of 1641 had been more or less spontaneous reactions, without much preliminary organization; therefore there was not much fear that they would occur very frequently. Now, on the contrary, all that changed. Though the progress of other races came to her slowly and late in the day, Ireland came into her own at last. The rebel people began to organize. We now have the first appearance of secret societies, still more or less nebulous, and with them what we may call propaganda by direct action. They were to play a dominating part in the history of the island.
When the Celtic clans and chieftains had been driven beyond the Shannon by Cromwell, many of them, ruined and miserable, preferred to defy the edict. They led the life of outlaws hidden in swamps and bogs, harassing Cromwell's colonists to the best of their ability. They were nicknamed Tories, and this name, which was adopted by the royalists and all who hated the Protector, the republicans, and the Puritans, has remained to this day the name of the Conservative party.
A little later, under James II, Rapparees or robbers came upon the scene; then Houghers in 1710, Whiteboys in 1761, Defenders in 1760, Invincibles, Molly Maguires, Ribbonmen, and more recently Fenians. The name of these bands changed often, but the Rapparees had many imitators, and their methods have survived. They flourished exceedingly under Mr. Birrell's beneficent protection for ten years, and are now held in high esteem.
All these bandits have a common name, "moonlighters"; they work by night. Usually they undertake the dirty work of political associations of outward respectability, such as criminal boycotting, firing ricks, ham-stringing horses and cattle, etc. They go farther when they dare.
It was in the face of all this that James II disarmed Ulster, and the Rapparees made the most of it. In 1688 another massacre was certainly contemplated, but fortunately William of Orange came to the rescue of English liberties.
Before James II resigned himself to exile at St. Germain, he made an attempt at a rising in Ireland with French assistance. The situation was favorable. Thus for the second time, in espousing the cause of a dethroned English king, Ireland's reasoning was logically unsound. She rebelled against English sovereignty---that we take for granted---but why should she be more legitimist than England when it was a question of restoring the Stuarts? Because James II was a Roman Catholic, Ireland all of a sudden forgot her so-called inalienable rights, began to wear the white cockade, and for fifty years she sang:
"'Twas all for our rightful King."
Rightful! Is that not rather an embarrassing memory for her to-day?
James II had, it is true, done well by his religion in Ireland. From the moment of his arrival, his severity, confiscations of property, and sentences of death upon two or three thousand noted Protestants drove them all towards Ulster, where they were confined and trapped in their turn. Finally, in 1691, William of Orange was able to deliver and avenge them by the decisive victory of the Boyne, which Ulster still celebrates every year. The last of the Stuarts threw up the sponge with a cowardice of which his Irish and French allies kept a poignant memory.
William III had to put down the Rapparees.
That was soon done; he put a price on their heads, and the success was beyond his dreams: "brothers and cousins cut one another's throats" to get the reward. Six months later the Rapparees were no more. The vanquished party relapsed into dissensions and quarrels, and the last of the chieftains, Hugh O'Donnell, sold himself for an annuity of five hundred pounds.
A fresh reaction set in. According to Irish ideas, all the oppressive measures violated the treaty of capitulation of Limerick, by which religious liberty had been promised them. The fact is that the text of the treaty left a loophole for evasion, and neither side was in those days very scrupulous about keeping treaties. It is too much to hope that a piece of parchment can prevent the workings of natural and popular reactions as irresistible as the forces of nature.
The first punitive measure was, as usual, the confiscation of a million acres. We must admit that William rewarded persons much less reputable than Cromwell's soldiers, and for much less worthy services. Ireland became, as under the Plantagenets, the portion of political creatures, court intriguers, and royal mistresses. It was adding insult to injury. Not that William of Orange was by nature low, disloyal, and tyrannical, but his accession could not alter all at once customs and a court circle which his two predecessors had corrupted. Both the men and the system were rotten.
This explains a whole series of economic measures which were utterly stupid, initiated at first under Charles II and aggravated by his successor. They consisted of customs restrictions which were always one-sided.
In 1663 Ireland was excluded from the Navigation Act, and her maritime interests were injured. In 1666 Ireland was forbidden to export to England horses, cattle, meat, butter, or cheese; after that nothing but potatoes was planted. When Charles II forbade the export of cattle, Ireland set to work to rear sheep, and soon produced the best wool in Europe. William III forbade her to export it.
The only remedy was smuggling. From every little lonely and deserted bay on the coast, Ireland sent her wool to France, and received in exchange wine, which she handed on to England. Bordeaux wine was at that time known in London as "Irish wine," and some Irish dealers in the capital acquired a great reputation. This traffic, so vividly described by Froude, brought in enormous profits, but the moral effect was disastrous; as a result of living by her wits and defying authority, with the excuse of oppressed patriotism, Ireland made deplorable progress in this art, and became once more a lawless country.
Protestant Ulster was no better treated. Her specialty was the culture of flax and the linen industry. She had been promised protection, but English competitors opposed it. In spite of all, by sheer tenacity and hard work, these Ulstermen managed to prosper, just as they had succeeded a century before in cultivating their bogs.
All this is reiterated so often nowadays in polemics, that it is just as well to make some comments upon it. First of all let me point out that Ireland owes this state of things to the Stuarts, who were the dynasty of her choice, and whom she helped with such a willing hand.
Moreover at the time they were enacted these measures did not cause ruin; by devoting herself to sheep and wool under Charles II, Ireland attained great prosperity, and her archives prove that the island had never been before and never was again equally flourishing. We have seen how smuggling remedied the restrictions upon woolen exports. There were abundant compensations, and Ireland, full of money, became one of the best markets for English trade.
We must not forget that this kind of abuse was universal at a time of petty restrictions from which all the colonies without exception suffered until the end of the eighteenth century; an epoch when other countries had their salt taxes, municipal import duties, and so forth, which were much more vexatious.
Ireland has some difficulty in explaining how Ulster, under identical conditions and obstacles, was able to survive and progress, while the rest of the island vegetated and retrograded.
She urges that though the disappearance of her industries did no great harm in 1700, it left her disabled a century later when the United Kingdom became a great manufacturing State. Is that not a very far-fetched way of excusing idleness and apathy? Does not Ulster's example show that the excuse is a poor one? Was free trade between the two islands not restored in 1779?
Finally the Orange reaction had a third aspect, the best known and the most hateful---the penal laws against the Catholics. They extend over several years and the chief one dates from Queen Anne's reign. It is the retort to all that James II had promulgated against the Protestants, and to all that the English Puritans had suffered under Charles III's restoration---Draconian laws they certainly were. But it is admitted that they were not drafted in London, but voted by a Dublin Parliament at the instance of the Presbyterians who had been delivered from the hands of the enemy. Ulster had been too frightened, and had several good reasons for insisting upon safeguards.
Let me assure all those tender-hearted souls who are justly moved by Irish diatribe---all this has been done away with long ago. I shall only enumerate these laws in order to mention their abrogation.
Catholics were allowed in 1778 to own real estate on 999 years' leases; in 1782, to keep schools after having obtained permission from the Protestant Bishop of the diocese, to hear or celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass, to have horses worth more than £5 sterling,(4) to inhabit the towns of Limerick and Galway; in 1792, to practice at the Bar, but without reaching the rank of King's Counsel, to become attorneys, to open schools without permission from the Protestant Bishop, to marry Protestants if the service were celebrated by a priest of the Established Church, to own land on the same conditions as Protestants.
In 1782 the right which allowed Grand Juries to recover from Catholics all losses due to thefts or rebellions was withdrawn.
In 1793 Roman Catholics were admitted to the electoral franchise, to the magistracy, to the Grand Jury, to municipal councils, to Dublin University, to every rank in the army except that of general. Those possessed of a certain amount of means were allowed to carry arms, etc.
Such were then those hateful penal laws of 1704. For nearly a century the Irish Catholics were pariahs. More than 500,000 of the youngest and proudest emigrated between 1691 and 1745; they went to fight in European armies, and the English met them again on the field of Fontenoy. The remainder, too prolific for a country of pasture and bog, lived abject, miserable lives, and were decimated by famine.
Is there any excuse for these reactionary severities? Good
heavens! Ireland had no monopoly of wrongs and persecutions. We
must judge men and their deeds by the age and the circumstances
wherein they live, and in the century which saw the Thirty Years'
War, the Dragonnades, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,
we must not condemn the English alone, for having struck too severely
after such provocation.
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