« AnteriorContinuar »
will not separate themselves from a movement, which, with the true instinct of their calling, they find to be backed by national sympathy. But it will be no more long-lived than the old Repeal agitation. Special circumstances have revived the old cry under a new name. The large legislation of the last few years has given a stimulus to all kinds of agitation, and in Ireland especially stimulated that very restlessness which it was designed to allay. But Home Rule carries within it the seeds of its own dissolution. Whatever hold it possesses at present on the popular mind, it owes to the old Repeal Associations and to modern Fenianism ; and none know better than its more constitutional leaders that a Federal Constitution, on the Austro-Hungarian model, having no historical basis, and satisfying no rational political aspiration, is utterly without interest for any influential class in Ireland, still more for the mass of the people. Home Rule, then, is utterly impossible from the want of agreement among its ostensible promoters, and, above all, from that want of mutual confidence which has always distinguished alike the politicians and the traitors of Ireland. Meanwhile, everything has changed for the better but the social feeling and the moral tone. The country is rapidly advancing by the side of England, in all the elements of national comfort and prosperity. Parliament has done much to rectify England's position in the court of international opinion. It has proved itself real master and actual ruler of this Empire ; it has allowed no prescription, no monopoly, no tyranny of interest or class, to stand in its way; but it has at last reached the limit of its power, for it cannot change the nature of people and things. But so long as the people of Ireland wish to indulge their passionate discontent, for which they can no longer plead any solid justification, they will have no right to complain if they fall into the hands of historians like Mr. Froude.
The book before us, which would at any time have attracted particular notice from its subject and its authorship, possesses special interest from the fact that the eloquent writer has been lately engaged in enlightening American opinion on the subject of English rule in Ireland by means of a course of lectures delivered in the principal cities of the United States. Perhaps some Englishmen may have hardly relished a literary enterprise, otherwise so patriotic and praiseworthy, on the ground that it seemed to betray too much of a sensitive and obsequious deference to the opinions of the American people; but if Mr. Froude has succeeded in imbuing the minds of educated Americans with a just idea of the relations of Eng
land with Ireland, so as to discountenance the unjust advocacy of Irish pretensions by the mass of their politicians, he will have conferred a real benefit not on Great Britain alone but on America itself. It was also his design to influence the Irish themselves, who have hitherto believed in the existence of grievances because they found the Americans so ready to believe in them, and if he can only succeed in changing American convictions on the subject he will have struck a serious blow at the root of Irish disaffection. The immediate result of Mr. Froude’s labours was, of course, to rouse the impatient fury of the Irish-Americans, who found an eloquent though unscrupulous spokesman in a Dominican friar named Burke. We are inclined to believe, however, that his mission to America will be conducive to a better understanding between the two countries. The old spirit which made disputes and controversies not only possible but dangerous is rapidly passing away; the new generation of Americans have begun to forget the traditions of dislike to England, which two wars generated and endless criticisms helped to keep alive; and a favourable hearing is now accorded in the United States to any Englishman of repute who wishes to vindicate his country from misconceptions prejudicial to her fame. It is chiefly owing to the Irish immigration, with its inevitable effects upon party politics, that the feeling of the masses of the American people towards this country has hitherto been anything but friendly; but there are already indications that the influence of the Celtic element is greatly on the wane. For the Irish immigration, even if maintained at the old rate, will form in future a smaller proportional part of the whole American population than formerly. What was a powerful leaven when there were twenty millions, will be less important when there are forty or fifty millions. Besides, the native Americans are now more than ever tired of having their policy imposed by Irish demagogues, and in most matters the fact that the Irish go one way is enough to send the rest of the people another. The destruction of the Tammany Ring, which was mainly directed and supported by the Irish of New York, together with the exposure of its stupendous frauds, only completed the discredit that had already fallen upon them from the constant social tyranny they have been exercising for years without stint or scruple over all classes in the Empire City. Mr. Froude, therefore, addressed his eloquent appeal to the Americans at a most favourable juncture, and whether they were influenced in any degree by his historical reminiscence that, at the period of their great Revolutionary War, the Catholics of Ireland sympathised with England as the Protestants of Ireland sympathised with the colonists, or whether they felt the force of the argument or the cogency of the illustration, that England was obliged to hold Ireland under the same Government with herself for exactly the same reasons that made the Northern States coerce the Southern into reunion, it is generally admitted that his lectures have made a profound impression upon American society. Let us hope that they will tend to increase the cordial understanding that ought to exist between two countries that are bound together by the ties, not alone of a common kinship, but of a commerce the most vigorous and important in the world, and that find an additional bond of union in the circumstance that they are the only two States in the world that are at once powerful and free.
ART. VI.-1. Report from the Select Committee (H.C.) on
Salmon Fisheries, with Minutes of Evidence. 1869-70. 2. Salmon Fisheries Amendment Bill (H.C.), No. 1. 1872. 3. Salmon Fisheries Amendment Bill (H.C.), No. 2. 1872. THE
He irrepressible character of the Salmon Fishery question
has long been proverbial, and since the comprehensive inquiry instituted throughout England and Wales by the Royal Commissioners in 1860, which was the epoch of a great revival, the perplexity of the subject has not much diminished. The new lights which then gained a conspicuous place in the government of fish may burn more and more brightly. Still there has been much hope deferred. The sanguine predictions of teeming rivers and propagations, indefinite and infinite, of the salmonida, have not been verified. The reforming hand of the Legislature must go a little farther before any striking effects can be produced.
In this statistical age, everybody who intends to think seriously about any class or interest begins by asking the numbers and capabilities of the people requiring his attention. The statistics of the value of our salmon fisheries are considerably coloured by the imagination. In England, where most of the rivers are now under the management of Fishery Boards, the practice is to make a guess at the end of each season how many fish have been caught. But those who catch most tell least. The Big-Endians—that is to say, the net fishermen, and especially the lessees of the several fisheries
in the tidal waters, who are always supposed by the LittleEndians to be gorged with illicit plunder-generally decline to satisfy the inquiries of the water-bailiff; whereupon that gentleman proclaims them in contempt, and with due regard to the safety of his own theories and predictions appraises them out of his own intuitions. Having thus arrived at some good round numbers, all the items are added—the fact and the fancy well interlarded ; and putting a value of ten shillingsquite a sacrifice at the money--on each fish, the reckoning is complete. All similar totals being thrown together, and well burnt in the crucible, the shining gold runs out at last, firm and well rounded for popular use.
Guided by this arithmetic, we are assured that the English and Welsh Salmon Fisheries are worth 90,0001. a year. As to the Irish and Scotch, there is nothing definite. Some years ago an experienced witness, to oblige a committee who craved for figures, said the Irish Salmon Fisheries were worth 300,0001. a year; and this estimate has often been quoted, but never verified. The Scotch Salmon Fisheries seem to have been guessed at 200,0001. a
All these figures are more or less fanciful. In England it is the arithmetic of the future that most people think of.
Another question, preliminary to enlisting the attention of men of business, is whether the object is to make salmon cheaper. On this point the less that is promised the better. Half a century ago salmon was often sold on the river bank, near a good fish-trap, for three halfpence a pound, being a perishable commodity, and the railway not being then open to Manchester and London But now, who that can buy beef and mutton will ever grudge to pay for such a fish the standard prices of those articles? The appetite of inland towns for this pride of the rivers is insatiable and abysmal --bottomless as the Bay of Portugal. No fruitfulness of the rivers can ever hope to satisfy it; and by all the canons of the political economists, if the market is unlimited, prices will be kept up. All that can be held out on this head is, that the greatest number possible of fish shall be forthcoming, and distributed on the greatest happiness principle.
The knowledge of the politics of fish is rather a peculiar subject, and is in few hands, though every river has its little legislators. Every village produces a few youths who in early life betray a proclivity to fishing or to shooting, and gravitate insensibly towards one or other of those pursuits. One takes to the woods and the other to the water, and after a rough career settle down into gamekeepers or gamepursuers. The same instinct under happier auspices is developed in the country gentleman, stripped of all evil accompaniments. He who takes to the water is usually conceded to be of the highest order of sportsmen. The contemplative mood and musing eye mark him out from other men. No man is wholly to be despaired of who takes to fishing, which in its best sense means angling, and that implies inexhaustible faith, good temper, self-reliance, and perseverance. Virtues like these are the inseparable attendants of the fisherman's life. Those who take to shooting, hunting, deer-stalking, pig-sticking, tigers, and elephants, may have much variety of exercise, constant excitement, and boisterous glee; but such pastimes are enjoyed almost always in company, and require close and vigilant attention to the business in hand. The adept in the contemplative man's recreation is not afraid of being alone, or of standing long and persistently in an attitude of trustful expectation. His pleasures are tranquil and refined. While his outward eye mechanically follows the vibrations of the fly, his inward eye is roaming over distant fields; he is revolving the mutations of fortune—is busy with reviewing the past and the present-he is solving intricate problems in science, finance, politics, theology, and casuistry. Though it must be confessed
. that the farther he allows himself to wander in speculation, the less likely he is to land a good fish. The sudden and abrupt dip of his fly into deep water recalls him at once from those still greater deeps in the world of thought where plummet never sounded. No wonder that a fascination of a peculiar kind surrounds the angler's art, and when the noblest of fish is concerned the pleasure is exquisite. Even according to Isaac Walton, who obviously knew very little about it, the salmon is the king of fish. The salmon angler views with royal complacency the simple pleasures that wait on the perch, the chub, the dace, the gudgeon, the trout, and the pike; but give him the fearful joy of tearing along banks, and floundering among boulders, led by a thin, whitey-brown line attached to a thirty pound salmon. Sun and moon may alternate, and tell the wondrous tale how the noble encounter ends, but nothing that stirs this mortal frame can be compared to these lucid intervals in lis long passages of inaction.
The fisherman is born, not made. He lives and moves in his own little world, the envy and pride of his brother mortals. Not that he is without some small infirmity, which must, however, be drawn gently from its drear abode. Can it be true that these sedentary or stationary habits breed a slight--only a very slight but graceful--tendency to disputation and to