« PředchozíPokračovat »
gratitude; one county cries out to another with a voice of murmuring, heard even amidst thanks for food and raiment and preservation; and Ireland herself might thus address her richer and more flourishing neighbour in the blended tone of prayer and remonstrance, indignation and sorrow:
“ England has been through the lapse of many ages the asylum and refuge for the wronged; she has relieved the destitute; she has sheltered the banished; she has preserved the liberties of the world ; — why must I alone accuse her of usurpation and oppression ? To me alone her influence has been deadly; to me alone her hostility and her protection have alike been fatal. England has been the willing or involuntary cause of all my misfortunes. By some strange fatality she has loaded me from generation to generation with peculiar calamities. I have equally suffered from her separation and her proximity. Had no channel rolled between us; had I been joined and annexed to her by continuity of land, then, like any other portion of Great Britain, I should have enjoyed the benefits of her government, and possessed a due share of her quiet, her security, and her comforts. Had I been placed in some distant ocean, divided from her shores by a thousand leagues of water, then might I have been free and respectable and happy; then should I have had an aristocracy, a gentry, and a government of my own; then should I not have been drained of my resources and my children. But now my dignity is lost, without my repose being ensured ; I am neither conspicuous nor tranquil ; I am agitated without independence, and obscure without safety. Now it is the shadow only of England which
Instead of being a protection and a shelter, she has overspread me with her branches only to keep from me the kindly beams of the sun, and the genial rains of heaven, to prevent my growth, to thwart my progress towards maturity and strength. England calls herself my sister: she has acted to me as a step-mother ; she has harassed me by the vexatious alternations of open cruelty and jealous restrictions.
During the earliest periods of my unhappy history, what
comes over me.
have I experienced from England but usurpation and invasion and wanton outrage, under the name of settlement. Have I not seen my lands desolated, my habitations burned, my towns plundered, my sons butchered, my daughters ravished ? Have I not been swayed with a sceptre of lead? In later periods, has not the soul of a loathsome and oppressive system survived the external shape? Has not the spirit of conquest continued, when its forms were altered? What have I suffered but the same wrongs under other titles ?
“ England has at length proposed and effected an union between us. She has joined my territory to her own, as a constituent portion of a great and mighty empire. But hitherto she alone has reaped the benefit; nor has even England enjoyed the half of what was, and is, within her grasp. "She has bridged the Channel ;' but that bridge is passable only in one direction. Irishmen can step over it to the English shore, but there is an insuperable barrier to their return. My wealth has flowed into England, but no wealth of England has come back to me. By such an union the very twilight of my independence has set in utter darkness. It was twilight indeed; but that twilight was an assurance that the sun had been and might arise again ; it was a shadow, but that shadow was cheering by its resemblance to the substance ; it might be an illusion, but it was a proud and pleasing illusion to the eye and to the heart. But, if my independent existence is no more, what are the advantages which have been afforded me in its stead, and which are to compensate me for its loss?Is it wealth? See the emaciated look of beggary in my streets-hear the piercing cry of hunger in my fieldsbehold my sons climbing the mountain, and hanging upon the rock in vain, to procure the grass and the sea-weed, or lying down to die of famine and disease.—Is it quiet ? quiet then must be sought in the midst of robbery and violence, conflagration and murder.
Is it moral improvement? See the last page of my history, blood-stained and defiled with horrors and atrocities and treacheries and perjuries, that mock description and outstrip imagination: behold my misguided sons conducted daily to the gallows.
Is it political amelioration ? I am left destitute and afflicted, to weep for the desertion of many of my children, and mourn over the wretchedness of the rest.
“ Have I not then cause to say to England ? My sons have fought in your ranks zealously and unto death; they have helped to purchase your victories with their blood. I have supplied your armies with commanders, and your cabinet with statesmen, who have mainly assisted your ascent to the present pitch of prosperity and grandeur. My nobles have adorned your court; the produce of my fields has supported your artisans. What advantages have I experienced in return? You have left me impoverished and exhausted; you have deprived and stripped me of my natural protectors and my natural ornaments; you have torn my children from my bosom ; you have robbed me of the dawn of improvement and the light of knowledge, by robbing me of those who would have accelerated and dispensed them; you have debarred my sons from dignity and honour, because they have adhered to the religion of their fathers; you have repressed my energies ; you have been a stumbling-block in my path ; a clog upon my advancement to civilization and refinement and happiness. To me your vicinity and your interference have been ever baneful. Your measures, whether meant in kindness or in enmity, have been mistaken and ruinous. When you should have soothed, you have exasperated ; and those whom you might have conciliated you have laboured to estrange. What wonder is it, then, that the warm and untutored feelings of my children have at length become a curse to you and to themselves? What wonder is it that they have risen in the stern determination to exact vengeance from the men whom they have been taught to consider, justly or unjustly, as the oppressors of their country, the tramplers upon their freedom? What wonder is it that the same spirited and impassioned character which is susceptible of the most ardent attachment, and capable of the noblest heroism, has rushed into the fatal extreme of atrocity and hatred ? You have done little to reclaim them from a state of wildness; how should they not be wilde and rude? You have taken no pains to improve their
But I say,
condition ; how should they be rich ? how should they be contented ? If they have suffered the misfortunes, how should they escape the vices, of slaves ? or, if without imposing an open, absolute, intolerable yoke, you have suffered them to be afflicted by domestic grievances, by petty local tyrants ; where is the matter of surprise that they have sought a refuge in unbridled license from such humiliating servitude ?
“ England ! you owe me a long and still increasing debt, and the fulness of time is come; it is now the hour to demand the payment. Atonement must now be made for the wrongs which have been done me. I do not say, dissolve the ties which bind us together; release me from an unfortunate and injurious connexion ; give me a national government; give me independence. No; it is too late, it is impossible ; such a gift would be fatal. let the union between us be completed; let our destinies be linked, incorporated, identified ; let us be henceforward as one nation ; let me be not annexed to you as the prize of conquest, the appendage of a triumph, but let me be blended and consolidated with you as a part and portion of yourself.
“Even now the good work is begun. A new æra is likely to commence, under happier and brighter auspices than the gloomy periods that are past. Englishmen and Irishmen begin to feel and act like brothers. England has relieved my wants, and administered to my necessities. My sons, in eating the bread of England, will not forget from whom it came.
When for them the fountains of life were dry, the stream of British bounty has flowed plenteously in, and revived them with its waters. For this, Ireland thanks England amid her tears. For this the sons of Erin have arisen from the prostration of famine and disease, and fervently invoked the blessing of Heaven upon the head of their preservers.
“ But this is not enough. Ireland must never more become an object of charity. She must not subsist on eleemosynary contributions. She ought not, and she need not, be reduced to the sad necessity of begging alms. She must not be a pauper, a mendicant, a pensioner of Great Britain. She must be allied to her by the links of affinity, by the ties of friendship, rather than by the obligations of gratitude. Their union must be cemented by the reciprocity of benefits. Such is the only stable basis of national connexion; such can be made the basis between me and England. We must be placed on the same level ; where there is true friendship, there must be perfect equality. The same are our interests ; the same should be our fate. There must be an identity in both. We must partake of the same blessings, the same laws; and advance together to the same goal of freedom, tranquillity, happiness and virtue.”
Such is the manner in which, if we may be allowed the poeticial license of personification, Ireland might be supposed to address her sister-country. Such at least is the manner in which Irishmen have felt and spoken. With regard to the sentiments, the colouring may be overcharged, but the substance is correct. This, however, we may be told, is not the way in which a subject should be treated which involves many statistic details ; a variety of important questions, physical and moral; and in short, the safety and well-being of one large member of the body politic. We may be expected to enter upon a long and elaborate detail of causes and effects, diseases and remedies, and strike out some new light upon the secret sources, in which the multifarious evil, the continued troubles, the unintermitted disasters of Ireland, have originated. But there would be little utility in gratifying such expectations. Why should we go over the old ground which has been so often trodden and explored, or tire our readers with a tedious discussion of points on which there is in reality nothing new to be said, unless we should indulge in idle paradoxes, and wilful mistatements ?
The fact is, that if the misfortunes of Ireland are unrelieved and unmitigated, the excuse cannot be urged, that the nature of the disorder is unknown; and that “ignoti nulla est curatio morbi.” The origin of the disease is understood, the seat of the disease has been perceived for centuries ; and no man can mistake either the one or the other without taking the pains to shut his eyes. There