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IRELAND AND THE REFORM BILL.
WHAT a strange destiny is that of Ireland!-how incorrigible in her faults-how pitiable in her misfortunes! The whole page of her history-the whole aspect of her national character-are made up, like a German story, of combinations of the ludicrous and the terrible;-there is no calm—no resting-place of peace and comfort, upon which the mind can repose with satisfaction and thankfulness. Whether we look upon times past or present, we behold frantic exultation, fierce contention, and deep despair, following each other in rapid succession-the sounds of wild and fantastic glee seem scarcely to have died upon the echoes, till they are succeeded by the yells of savage fury,-and these again give place to the hopeless wail that despondency puts forth over the dying and the dead.
The Irish seem to be utterly unteachable in the most ordinary lessons of prudence-all experience is lost upon them, and we would be almost constrained to look upon them as a doomed people—as a race foreordained to wretchedness, were it not that we know that they enjoy a great deal of happiness when potatoes are plenty, and the sun shines merrily above their heads; and when the misery they have suffered, and may suffer again, is no more thought of than the dark clouds of November, in this joyous month of June. The western shores of Ireland being open to the Atlantic ocean, the chilling storms that sweep across that vast mass of waters frequently injure, and sometimes totally destroy, the crops of the farmer, compensating him only with huge piles of seaweed, which the force of the storm tears from the inaccessible depths of the ocean, and flings upon the shore, from which it is removed for manure, or dried for burning. It might have been supposed that where such visitations were common, some habits of preparation would have grown up among the people, and that they would no longer trust entirely to the potatoe-the stock of which must be renewed every season. But there is no such thing
the peasant of Mayo, or Galway, takes as little thought of the vicissi tude of the seasons, as he of Carlow or Kilkenny, whose crop almost never disappoints him. Indeed we have some doubt whether the Connaught peasant would not think it a. sinful mistrust of Providence to make any unusual provision for the future; and when the torment of famine comes, he submits with melancholy resignation to what he calls "the will of God." In the places most subject to famine, there is an habitual patience of misery, which none but those who have witnessed it would deem possiblethey die, and make no sign." The author of an admirable book, descriptive of the manners and habits of the peasantry in the part of Ireland of which we speak, says that the observation, sure it was too much trouble entirely," reconciles them to the smoke that darkens their little cabin, and the rain that patters through the unthatched roof; and the same feeling inclines them to lie down and die, when Providence has blasted their potatoe crop, and deprived them of the fruit of their labours. Hard as was the task, it was sometimes necessary to refuse that relief which could not be extended to all in full proportion to their wants; but never was the refusal met by a murmur or a reproach. On one such occasion, "God help us!" was the answer of the poor man, with an expressive movement of his shoulders; "God help us then; for if your honour can do nothing for us, there is no one that can. There is something peculiarly touching in this submissive patience; and clamorous and reiterated supplication is much more easily repulsed, than the "God bless you-sure it can't be helped then?"
It is among the contradictions that belong to Ireland, that while no soil in Europe is more generally rich and fertile, in no other country of Europe have there been such frequent recurrences of famine. other countries there has been some care for provision even in war, but in Ireland all was laid waste, and
many more perished by famine than by the sword. When Lord Edward Bruce, the brother of the deliverer of Scotland, pushed his way from the north to the south of Ireland, famine obliged him speedily to return; and when he got back to Ulster, so horrible was the state of the army, that the dead bodies of those who had died were torn from their graves, and · their flesh boiled in their own skulls, and eaten by the famishing survivors. After Desmond's rebellion in the reign of Elizabeth, Spenser tells us that "out of every corner of the woods and glynnes they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legges could not beare them; they looked like anatomies of death,they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eate the dead carrions, happy where they could find them, yea, and one another soon after, insomuch as the very carcases they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of water-cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked, as to a feast for the time."
In the rebellions of the two O'Neales, the horrors of war were also greatly aggravated by those of famine; but even in peace this scourge has not ceased to visit fertile Ireland, and that which did result from the dire necessities of warfare, is now the consequence of errors in social arrangement, and civil government. The Irish starve, while Ireland over. stocks the English market with corn and cattle. The poor that dwell in the land have no protection, save the hand of casual charity; but though all is done by charity that private charity can do, what does it avail to a people in beggary-a
nation which stretches out its hands for food ?"
But what, says the impatient reader who gapes for the wisdom which he doubts not is about to be poured forth touching the Irish Reform Bill," what has this to do with the matter in hand ?" "Most excellent, praiseworthy, and attentive reader," I answer, "No exordium to the brief discourse which I intend to deliver for your learning, can be more natural, for it brings us directly to the consideration of the real Reform which is wanting, and teaches us to perceive the hollowness and cruel
absurdity of the sham Reform which his Majesty's Ministers propose to a country in a state so deplorable." The indignant language of Scripture says, "shall he ask for bread, and shall you give him a stone !" But even this mockery would not be so bad as that of our government, who, when a people is distracted by ignorance, barbarism, and starvation, offer them a more extended right of returning representatives to the Imperial Parliament! This is beginning at the wrong end with a vengeance. Nothing can save Ireland but a strictness of government coming more near to despotism than the now existing British constitution will admit of, even in the most extreme cases; and instead of this, an attempt is made to loosen the force of government, and to scatter its power among the unruly hands of a wild and disaffected multitude. It is not possible to conceive more deplorable infatuation; and throughout Ireland, it is the general fear of the conservative party, and the universal boast of the noisy supporters of the Revolutionary Bill, that once it is passed, it must be followed by a separation from the legislative government of England, or, at the least, by an abandonment of the Church property to the funds of the State, and thence to the payment of the Roman Catholic clergy. That the English Reform Bill will not satisfy the popular craving for change which it has excited, is matter of reasonable conjecture; that the proposed Irish Reform Bill will not satisfy the Irish, is already proved by Mr O'Connell's letter, for he is too cunning to have expressed his dissatisfaction, without being well aware that he could carry the mass of the people along with him:-and now that I have mentioned this letter, I shall say something about it, in conjunction with the proposed measure which it criticises. Feeling, as I do, as much interest as a foreigner possibly can feel, in the honour and glory of the kingdom of Kerry, I reflect with no small shame upon the circumstance of one of its representatives in Parliament having put forth such a rambling piece of botheration as this letter on the Reform Bill. Indeed the fact of having suffered Dan O'Connell to be elected for Kerry, is in my mind no small
disgrace to my favourite kingdom; and I marvel where its ancient aristocratic pride is gone, when a man, whose grandfather was nobody, has been suffered to seize the representation even without a fight for it. What can he feel for Kerry, that a Kerry man should feel? How can he sympathize with the land of lakes and Latin, of mountains and mathematics-of clouds and classicality of scenery and science? He has no feeling for any thing but the rant of radicalism, with a riotous rabble roaring in his rear. I am not, thank Heaven, a Member of Parliament, being in no degree ambitious of the martyrdom of stewing in Saint Stephens's five nights in the week from June to September, in the company of such a group of talkers as the Reform-stricken populace returned at the late election; but if I were thus to suffer, I don't know the place I would more willingly suffer for than Kerry. Rich and rare is its beauty; the very grass seems to rejoice in growing as it shoots up, green and luxuriant, out of the dark soil. Far more delicious than the flesh of or dinary sheep is thy small mutton, O Kerry, slightly heather-flavoured! Thy rivers, that "wander at their own sweet will," not too huge, nor yet diminutive-how exquisite their fish! How abundant and incomparable the trout, how admirable the salmon in size and flavour-better than if they were bigger I think, yet a monster is sometimes taken, and "what a delicate monster!" Excellent are thy small well-proportioned black cattle, that spend their youth ful days upon the mountain-slopes, picking the herbage not unmixed with heath; and magnificent are these mountains, rearing their eagle haunted tops into the clouds! Honour and fame be unto you, Mangerton, with the "Devil's punch bowl" lying deep and still within your bosom, and to you, loftier Carran Thual," and the rest," and your neighbouring lakes, island-studded; where the green and crimson of the arbutus festoon the fantastic rocks, drooping to the water, made beautiful with their shadows. The red deer still dwells within thy natural woods, fair Killarney; and we drop our oars that we may watch him reeping along the hills-but he is
gone, and we draw near the shore, and climb our way to where O'Brien's cascade thunders down, tearing its way through the thick wood, in the season the dwelling-place of innumerable woodcocks, which Pat, Dennis, Dan, and Larry, hunt down to the water's edge, while you, standing or seated in your boat, deal death continually from your double-barrelled detonator.
Dan O'Connell feels nothing of all this, as a representative of Kerry ought to do-the place that his soul loveth is that where there is crowd, and bustle, and noise, and newspapers. He should represent some town-some clamorous, prating, riotous, litigious town, stuffed with radi cal manufacturing men, and flaunting loquacious women. He should have nothing to do with the county
I mean the kingdom-of Kerry. But this digression may seem to be beside the matter-so now for the letter, and the Bill. The letter commences with the usual whining rant about the extreme excellence of the "genuine Irish," and the bad usage they have received from the English. Nobody ever did justice to Ireland who was "impregnated with Angleism." This whole phrase is an O'Con nellism-“ Angleism" has nothing to do with English, and I venture further to affirm, that it is not "genuine Irish"-but why should the "Liberator" be bound by the trammels of grammar? Let us come to his facts:
"We genuine Irish," he says, "have always behaved well to England-we deserve well of the English people-we have observed every national treaty-we have performed with perfect good faith every stipu lation." It is perhaps not too much to affirm, that O'Connell knows no more of Irish history than of English grammar-What he has learned of either is merely casual, such as may be picked up in conversation or from newspapers. It would be uncharitable to suppose, that he made such an assertion about the "genuine Irish," with any knowledge of the historical facts which it falsifies. The most prominently distinguishing feature of their history, is their inconstancy to political engagements. Other nations that have been attacked by a powerful enemy, have fought while there was any hope in resist
ance, and when that ceased, they have submitted, and become faithful to their conquerors, until by degrees they became incorporated with them; but the Irish never did make a general resistance to the Englishtheir fashion was to submit, when ever a great force, or even an important individual, was at hand to require their submission; but no sooner was the power that had overawed their imagination withdrawn, than they broke their engagement, and relapsed into what they called independence. Thus it is, that in truth"Ireland has never been conquered," because the Irish never would wait for that to happen-they yielded to the English-then began to fight among themselves, and then, being in the humour, began to fight against the power to which they owed allegiance-and this process went on, not once merely, but repeatedly. Even Sir John Davies, whom Irish patriots love to quote, because, being an English lawyer, he has nevertheless vowed at the end of his book, and probably at the end of his bottle also, that " there is no nation of people under the sun that doth love equal and indifferent justice better than the Irish, or will rest better satisfied with the execution thereof, although it be against themselves," -even he tells us, that in Henry the Eighth's time the Irish made their fourth general submission, "whereof the first was made to King Henry the Second-the second to King John-the third to King Richard the Second-and this last to Sir Anthony St Leger in the thirtythird of Henry the Eighth." Four general submissions anterior to the days of Elizabeth, does not look very like "the constant and undeviating course of perfect good faith" of which Mr Dan O'Connell boasts, without in reality knowing any thing at all about the matter; yet it is upon the ground of the transcendent merits of the Irish in this matter that he demands a greater share for Ireland in the senate of the United Kingdom, than even the new constitution-making Ministry are pleased to allow.
He has one other argument, to be sure, the logic of which must make every undegenerate Kerryman blush up to, and over, the ears. To the
Irish, he says, the British nation is indebted for the adoption of the principle of the Reform Bill-there was a majority of Scotch members against that principle-there was a majority of English members against that principle-but it was carried through the second reading by "the great and overwhelming majority of the Irish members in its favour." Thus, because Ireland, a distracted, uncivilized portion of the empire, unable to pay any thing like its fair proportion of the taxes, while the outrageous habits of its population require an enormous expense for civil and military force-because Ireland is able, by the number of its representatives, to force the principle of revolution upon the United Kingdom, in spite of decided majorities of the representatives of the wealthy, and powerful, and peaceable portions of the empire against it, this Ireland is to get a yet larger share of the general representation! If this be not using the argumentum ad absurdum, where an argument of serious cogency was intended, such a blunder was never made. It is impossible to adduce a stronger argument than this, to prove that the reasonable Reform of Irish represent ation would be found in its curtail. ment.
My objection to the Irish Reform Bill commences with the second clause of its preamble-it is almost needless to go farther than this and the succeeding clause, for if the preamble be false, then the measure founded upon it is erroneous, ab initio, and ought not to pass. The Irish Reform Bill commences thus-" Whereas it is expedient to diminish the expenses of elections in Ireland, and to extend the elec tive franchise to many of his Ma jesty's subjects therein, who have no heretofore enjoyed the same, and to increase the number of representatives for certain cities and boroughs in that part of the United Kingdom." The first clause is true, also it is true that the moon is not made of green cheese-the second and third clauses are both flagrantly untrue.
The propositions need but to be calmly considered for one minute by any man who is not mad, nor Irish, to appear in their true colour of glaring falsehood. Why should the elective
franchise be extended? Is it because the mass of the Irish are becoming more independent in their circumstances more attached to the united government-more elevated in their pursuits-more peaceable and orderly in their habits? The question seems a mockery, in the face of the afflicting evidence which every day affords proof that the Irish are becoming worse and worse-that wretchedness, fierceness, ignorance, superstition-every thing that degrades humanity, is on the increase. In the name of common sense then, what can there be more like madness than the proposition to extend the elective franchise to many of them who have not previously enjoyed the same? Surely every sane man will admit that the elective franchise ought to be limited, if possible, to such as have some property and some intelligence; why then should it be extended to a greater number of the population of Ireland? Again-what principle is there more established, than that power in the legislature should be proportioned to power out of the legislature:-Knowledge is power wealth is power-population is power, if accompanied by the other two; but is a wild, unemployed, ignorant, fierce, famishing multitude, an ingredient of national power?-and if it be not, what is the power in Ireland which demands an increase in the number of its representatives? Ireland has nearly a sixth of the Parliamentary representation of the United Kingdom,-does she contribute onetenth in any way, save in a lawless and burdensome population, to the public store of the United Kingdom? All men and books, of decent reputa tion, that treat of politics (to which add even the Times newspaper, although not of decent reputation), admit that it is easier to excite a passion for liberty, than to qualify men for the enjoyment of it. Our Ministers have chosen the easier part; but in Ireland the people are as yet utterly without the teaching which would qualify them to enjoy the political liberty they already pos
In speaking of Ireland in this paper, I should always be understood as excluding the principal part of Ulster, which is in all respects as worthy as England or Scotland; but for the rest, it would be
much better that for ten or twenty years it had no right to send any members to Parliament. It should be put under military government— its parliament should be a general officer's staff-its speaker, one who could presently assist himself with cannon, in the event of his voice being too weak to be heard, and attended to. Such a man as Sir Henry Hardinge, with a dozen good officers to assist him, accountable only to Parliament for the due execution of military authority, would probably make Ireland in ten or fifteen years what it should be; and certainly no government, according to the law of England, as it now stands, can do so. Such laws as ours can only serve our purposes in society, while the society generally respects them, and feels an interest in maintaining them in their force. There is no such respectno such interest felt by the mass of the population in the south and west of Ireland, and therefore there is no sufficient power in the law to keep them in order. They are not yet sufficiently civilized to be fit for the enjoyment of such privileges and franchises as they have, yet our Ministers, by the Reform Bill, seek to extend them; and O'Connell says the bill is an "insult and an injury," because the extension is not carried further. All this is most pitiable ignorance and folly-if statesmen wish to learn how to make Ireland prosper, let them read the history of the administration of Strafford who did make Ireland prosper astonishingly. He was, however, despotic and severe, in some cases inexcusably so; but the evils of his despotism might be avoided, while its good might be retained, for his despotism did do good; and nothing but a government approaching to despotism, in the determination and swiftness of its executive authority, will break the barbarism of the Irish into a state fit for a large extension of civil liberty. Mr O'Connell complains of the Bill, that the elective franchise fixed in cities and towns, that is, the occupation of houses worth ten pounds a-year, is greatly too high, and will unjustly exclude too many of the people. I shall not dispute that point with him; and if all the occupiers of ten pound houses are to have the franchise, I am sure it would be much better to