Imágenes de páginas

is to blame." "You mistake,” was the reply; "the government is not to blame; we make our own laws, and we have no one to blame but ourselves." It should be so in Ireland. We should resolve to make our own laws, and then, if dissatisfied, we could have no grounds for complaining of misgovernment by our rulers.

In this age of rapid progress there is no reform which we cannot effect, and by peaceable means, if we are only true to ourselves. The greatest triumph of modern advancement has been that of the total separation of the Church and State in Ireland. That the parliament and ministers of England, yielding wisely to the pressure of Irish discontent, should have relieved us from this oppression, speaks well for England, and leads to the hope that in her other relations with our country she will prove equally disposed to make every reasonable concession. The disestablishment of the Irish branch of the English Church is indeed a great gain, a becoming recognition of the truthfulness of the rationalistic feeling which so remarkably distinguishes the mental acquirements of the present day. The English parliament, prudent, cautious, slow to change, but not obstinately opposed to improvement, has profited by the example of America, and is gradually adopting the democratic principles of the younger country, which has sprung from herself, speaks her language, and which, let her jealousies be what they may, can never forget or cease to be proud of her English origin.

And why should it not be so with Ireland? Ireland wishes to be connected with England by the golden link of the crown, but will no longer submit to be her slave. England and Ireland may and ought to move together in their foreign relations, but as regards the internal affairs of Ireland these must be managed by Ireland for her own benefit, and without English interference. This granted, all will go well. This refused, quarrels endless, hatred undying will follow, then war and dissolution of the British Empire.

But the people of these countries have become too intelligent and too much alive to their own interests to permit this a calamity fearful to contemplate, but more fatal to England than to us, because we are impoverished,

while England is wealthy, and therefore must sustain the greater loss. If a general insurrection were to break out in Ireland, and our country unfortunately become the scene of civil war or of foreign invasion, England could not possibly escape. Her social arrangements would be thrown into disorder. The Irish residents in England would harrass her in every way, not perhaps by open insurrection, though that might be attempted even in the heart of London, but by worrying her, and merely threatening to destroy her towns.

The English in their island-home are not as secure as they may think. If the contemplated attack on Chester Castle had not providentially failed, and if the Irish could have held their ground for only two days, the Irish in all the manufacturing towns of England and Scotland would have been in arms. There were four thousand Fenians in Glasgow alone. I learned this accidentally. I had been in correspondence with a Catholic clergyman, whom I had never seen, with regard to a book which I was going to publish. In one of his letters he mentioned the fact which I have stated. In reply I said I considered a proceeding of the kind most dangerous-that it would do much mischief, and could not succeed. I advised him to disconnect himself from a secret society which professed to obtain self-government for Ireland by an appeal to physical force. I observed that O'Connell had denounced all such societies, and had repeatedly cautioned the people against them. This brought another letter to me, with copies of a voluminous correspondence in English, Latin, and Italian, from which it appeared that their bishop had excommunicated them all; that they had sent a protest to the Pope, praying him to censure the bishop for presuming to meddle in political matters; and that Cardinal Barnabo had exhorted them not to continue contumacious, but to yield a dutiful obedience to the bishop. How the business ended I do not know, and did not wish to inquire. I considered it unsafe to be engaged in a correspondence of the kind, and therefore discontinued it.

In reference to this subject I think it right to say to those impassioned and most prejudiced persons who in pulpit or at public meeting abuse the Pope, that to him

more than to the military power of England are we indebted for the preservation of our lives and properties. In this respect the bishops and parish priests have made us Protestants their debtors. Greatly provoked at times, assailed without cause, and always misrepresented, they have laboured to obtain justice for Ireland, with a zeal and a discretion which entitle them to our respect. Contending always for religious equality, and not for ascendancy, they have fought a good fight under the unstained banner of an energetic and constitutional agitation. But much remains to be done. There is a future before them, and new duties will devolve on them, requiring their collective energy, and all their influence with the people.

Ireland's battle has been but half won. It remains for the clergy of all sects to do their duty, to animate and direct the people, and to create a common platform—the Nationality of Ireland-a platform on which every Irishman can take his place, and render good service to his country.

To the clergy of the late Established Church I shall venture to say a few words. Men's minds are not easily changed. Opinions long cherished, prejudices that have been instilled into us when young, exert their influence in after years, and therefore it is absurd to suppose we can divest ourselves of them without much effort and perhaps painful experience. This must be the position of the disendowed church, treated as it has been with contumely and rudely cast off as a rotten branch by her Anglican partner. The union of the churches never was a cordial one. There never has been a perfect union between England and Ireland upon any question, and for this reason it was folly to have imagined that the proud Church of England would consider herself otherwise than degraded by a connection forced upon her by political expediency, and not by any motive purely spiritual. The English clergy despised and disliked the Irish clergy, because they were Irish. Never thoroughly reformed, occupying the churches, aud educated in the halls of the colleges founded by their Catholic predecessors, and still retaining most of the usages of the Roman Church, to which they are inclined to return, they disapproved of the crusade against the Catholic

[ocr errors]

religion which has been so indiscreetly carried on by the Irish bishops and clergy.

The English bishops, pampered and rolling in wealth, said to themselves, "We are well to do, let well alone. These Irish will cause us much trouble. They are overzealous. Can they not keep themselves quiet, and live in peace with their neighbours, and not bring upon themselves and us the open hostility of those who dissent from the Church?"

This is quite true, and should teach the Irish clergy to consider their present position. Without chart, compass, or star to guide their Church, she floats a mere wreck on the troubled waters of the Irish Sea. There she lies, tossed about, no harbour of refuge in view, her crew disorganized and prepared to mutiny. All is in confusion. There is no person in authority able to take the command. Thus situated, and having so much of urgent spiritual occupation to employ all their energies, it would in my opinion be unreasonable to expect they should put themselves prominently forward as political reformers. The country will not expect them to do so, but they must not as a body oppose any great national movement for the benefit of Ireland. They must cease to encourage secret societies and illegal associations, under the pretence that they are necessary to protect the lives, properties, and religion of protestants. The only danger to protestants is that occasioned by the senseless violence and religious intolerance of the ascendancy party. The time has passed when such a system could be permitted. The spirit of the age protests against it. There is now no dominant church in Ireland. There are no exclusive privileges to contend for on the battle field. Ascendancy, whether protestant or papal, has gone for ever. It is an impossibility. Let this suffice, and let us all, forgetful of past enmities, forgiving and forgiven, think only how each shall best discharge his duty to our common country.

I do not intend to discuss at length the wrongs of Ireland. Each, if thoroughly inquired into, would require a separate volume. I shall explain my views concisely, but at the same time so clearly that no one can say he does not understand me. I shall speak with the most per

fect freedom precisely what I think, and what long experience leads me to believe would, if adopted in the manner exactly and to the extent I recommend, remove all the grievances of which Ireland has such cause to complain. My opinions and suggestions are all my own. I write not for any party, class, or creed. I am sure I cannot please all, and it is not probable that any party or sect will agree with me in everything. In cases of difficulty, all a writer can or indeed ought to do, is to adopt certain general principles of the truth of which he is persuaded, and shape his arguments in accordance with them.

Before I proceed further, I may mention that I have now no influence with the Irish Press. Formerly, when I was personally acquainted with many of its conductors, they gave insertion in their papers to whatever I pleased to write, without mutilating or altering my communications-a process to which I always refused to submit. Now the case is different. A conservative paper will not insert any article that does not assail popery, and abuse the priests and bishops. This is bad, and very unfair to the public, but it is equally bad and unfair on the other side. To conciliate the supporters of the opposite party, one must praise the church, extol the bishops, oppose any system of liberal education, and abuse protestantism. To those conflicting requirements I could not accommodate my opinions, and therefore the public, Catholic and Protestant, no doubt to their loss, have of late years been deprived of the benefit of my political speculations.

In the present instance, and for these reasons, I have not endeavoured to avail myself of the public press. I have preferred to publish my opinions on my own responsibility, and without submitting them to the revision of others who I suspect are not as well informed as myself-persons who were not born when I took an active part in public life. Gentlemen of this class speak with great confidence. Knowing nothing of the past, they have persuaded themselves that their seniors who differ from them are simple


I never argue with such. They are too impulsive and loquacious. If they can write a song praising the "Sainted isle," and denouncing the "Land of the Saxon," they fancy

« AnteriorContinuar »