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which I have been delineating must be allowed to have many faults. These, however, should, I think, be ascribed to the moral and political circumstances in which the Irish have been placed. The constituent parts of this character are certainly good : and, if under proper direction, would undoubtedly produce the happiest results."
On considering the very limited information of the native Irishman, we might be apt to suspect that his character for shrewdness has been overrated, but Mr. Dewar maintains, that however illiterate, he will be found to possess both facility of comprehension and aptitude for acute remark. It has been said by the other classes of their countrymen, that the native Irish are deceitful, and will betray a friend to serve themselves: but this opinion proceeds more from an observance of their conduct in history towards oppressive intruders, than from an attentive analysis of their peculiar habits; for, when they are once convinced that a person
is their friend, their attachment knows no bounds. At the same time, the moral texture of the Irish character has been prejudiced by several unfortunate circumstances, for which we must go a long way back. The chief of an Irish clan or tribe was succeeded not necessarily by his direct heir, but by the relation who was deemed best qualified for discharging his duties; and this custom was, in other words, opening the door to perpetual dissension and hostility among the members of a tribe. Moreover, in Ireland, the condition of the chief and of his family was much less calculated to set an improving example to his dependants than in the Highlands of Scotland; the ancient families being in a great degree extinguished or degraded by their frequent hostilities with the English settlers. If to these circumstances we add the hatred and contempt which are entertained for the native Irish by the English who had acquired possession of their lands, we need not be surprised at the instances of infidelity of which the latter so much complain. They were the natural consequences of the sentiments of suspicion and revenge that were connected during successive ages with the relative situation of the parties; and the native Irish, oppressed by intruders, regarded all means as lawful for their deliverance. Hence their atrocities and violations of solemn engagements towards their enemies; and hence, also, a ferocity of character, engendered and confirmed amid frequent scenes of bloodshed.
We are next to advert to a topic of a local and peculiar character. The fall of the Irish chieftains appears to have had a bad effect on the composition of their national poetry. The bards, as long as they were supported by a powerful lord, drew the subjects of their recitations from the gallant exploits, or the virtuous loves, of their ancestry. “I have caused,” says Spenser, "diven of these poems to be translated to me, that I might understand them, and surely they savoured of sweet wit and good invention; but skilled not of the goodly ornaments of poetry: yet were they sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their natural device, which gave good grace and comeliness unto them.” After the impoverishment of the chiefs, however, the bard became dependent for subsistence on the multitude, and was obliged to accommodate his songs to their taste. Both poets and people fell likewise under the government of priests, whose ignorance and total want of taste contributed to aggravate their degradation; and, in consequence, the miracles of ambiguous saints, and the wonders of St. Patrick's purgatory, became frequent themes of the compositions of the bards. Unfortunately, the situation of their countrymen relatively to the English settlers continued age after age to suggest baneful subjects to the imaginations of the poets; and the laws enacted against them, under the reign of Elizabeth, redoubled their invectives on the cruelty and avarice of these intruders.
6 « These Irish bards,' says Spenser, "are for the most part so far from instructing young men in moral discipline, that they themselves do more deserve to be sharply disciplined; for they seldom use to choose unto themselves the doings of good men for the arguments of their poems; but whomsoever they found to be most licentious of life, most bold and lawless in his doings, most dangerous and desperate in all parts of disobedience and rebellious disposition: him they set up and glorify in their rhythms, him they praise to the people, and to young men make an example to follow.'-Thus evil things being decked and attired with the gay attire of goodly words, may easily deceive and carry away the affection of a young mind that is not well stayed, but desirous by some bold adventures, to make proof of himself.'
In the Highlands of Scotland, the situation of the bards was very different. Their protectors, the chiefs, remained in power; and the regal authority, though often opposed, was never stigmatized as illegal ; nor did the priests acquire any undue influence in this part of the kingdom. Accordingly, we seldom meet with either saints or miracles in the Highland poems. The conflicts of clans, the faith of lovers, or the destiny of the maid who mourns the early fall of “the dweller of her secret soul,” are the favourite themes of their compositions. The moral effect of these admired recitations was of great importance, and may be considered as a leading cause of the integrity and comparative urbanity of the Highlanders.
The difference in language between a native Irishman and a Scotch Highlander is not such as to prevent them from easily understanding each other; though this remark is not equally applicable to all parts of Ireland. In this country we bave generally upderrated the proportion of the inhabitants of Ireland who continue to speak the language of their ancestors, our reports being often derived from travellers who judge of whole districts by the facility with which English is spoken in the inns. The fact is, that while Irish is prevalent very generally throughout Leinster, Munster, and part of Ulster, it forms, in a manner, the exclusive language of the lower orders in Connaught; so that we shall find a million and a half, or probably two millions, of people incapable of understanding any more of English than a few familiar words. Hence we may judge of the importance of communicating to them religious instruction in their own tongue. Till of late, the favourite notion of the protestants in Ireland was to discourage every thing that tended to preserve the aboriginal language: but in this, as in other instances, our compulsory policy produced a contrary effect. Mr. Dewar dwells very properly on the attachment which is always cherished by an oppressed people to the object pursued, and adds, what may seem a paradox, that to facilitate education in a provincial tongue is the surest mode of effecting its ultimate extinction. It is the way to create a taste for general knowledge, a knowledge that is to be found only in the common language of the empire. Besides, if we once stimulate the ambition of the aboriginal Irish, the necessity of acquiring English for the purpose of advancement in public and private situations will soon increase their attention to it. Any measure which promotes the diffusion of the English language among the lower orders of Irish will also have a tendency to assuage religious animosity; the difference of tongue being, by this class of the population, often deemed a mark of difference of creed.
During four centuries after the conquest of Ireland, the administration of English law was confined within very narrow limits; the English pale, as it was called, scarcely comprehending five or six counties ; so that the mass of the native Irish lived without the benefit of law or equity. By a narrow-minded, and at bottom, an erroneous policy, it was judged unadvisable to extend the range of civilization, lest the inhabitants, becoming united and powerful, might seek to erect themselves into independence. Such was the opinion of the prudent cabinet of Queen Elizabeth. In consequence, intestine dissension was allowed to prevail for ages; the crime of murder was very frequent; and, while a native who killed an Englishman was always punished with death, the murder of a notive by an Englishman was expiated by a fine.
It was at the era of the Reformation, that the unhappy divisions in Ireland were productive of the most unfortunate consequences with regard to her subsequent prosperity. A proof was afforded then, as it has been in the present day, that revolution is advantageous only to a people who are suficiently advanced to appreciate its blessings. It is probable that, at the time of the Reformation, great numbers of the lower orders in Ireland were so immersed in ignorance as not to have forsaken paganism. A catholic seminary which had been established at Armagh, and which had sent forth enlightened pastors, had been overthrown amid surrounding troubles; and it became afterwards impracticable to obtain a sufficient supply of ministers. In many places, also, the church lands were appropriated by lay men, and the people were left for ages without instruction. It was not at a time when the body of the people were ignorant of all religion, that so material a change as the Reformation was likely to take effect among them. Of the native Irish, the major part had never seen Englishmen, and had heard of them only by their oppression. The adoption of the new religion by the English was, therefore, in their eyes, a weighty objection to it. Another circumstance formed a strong obstacle to the progress of the Reformation: none of its advocates were acquainted with the Irish language, which at that time was the sole dialect of three fourths of the country. Accordingly, the idea of introducing the new religion into Ireland does not seem to have been entertained at all for some time. In Elizabeth's reign, zealous application was made by Sir Henry Sidney, that persons competent to instruct the natives in their own tongue should be sent over.
His zeal appears to have been unsupported; but had his advice been followed, it is not improbable that the majority of the Irish nation would have become sincere and industrious protestants. Mismanaged as the attempts at reformation were, they served only to confirm the native Irish in their attachment to the church of Rome. The pope, turning their divided situation to account, re. ceived them under his sacred protection, and seemed to assume the character of temporal prince in addition to that of spiritual father. This delusion was confirmed by the Irish priests; who, being discouraged from attending our universities, received their education abroad. It is a serious truth, that even at the present day, catholics consider themselves as excluded from the Dublin university; for, though they are permitted to attend lectures, they are not allowed to take degrees, a disability which is most repugnant to the feelings of spirited men. The college of Maynooth is but a partial good, and by no means on a scale of adequate extent. “Is it now asked,” says Mr. Dewar, (p. 142.) “ what means are most likely to increase the converts to protestantism in Ireland ? I answer, the diffusion of education through the medium of their own language. This is the way to moral improvement, and that being once accomplished, we may safely presume that religious improvement is not far behind."
Parliaments in Ireland are of very old date, statutes being found as ancient as the reign of Edward II. There, however, as in England, the attendance was considered an inconvenience; and the famous law of Poynings appears to have originated in a wish to avoid the trouble of frequent meetings. The servants of the crown in Ireland, being generally men who had undertaken a disagreeable task for the sake of individual advantage, pursued their object without delicacy or integrity; and, distant as they were from the supreme seat of government, the representations which they chose to make were little liable to be questioned, and, in course, were frequently false. The object of these représentations was often to display the zeal of the leading men, or to procure remittances for the vicegerent; and when it happened that the latter was well disposed, his good intentions were often unavailing, in consequence of the ignorance in which he was kept respecting the real disposition of the native Irish. It was in the 16th century that light first began to dawn from this long night of darkness. After the accession of Henry VII. the tranquillized state of Ergland enabled the sovereign to enforce a greater degree of obedience in Ireland; under Henry VIII, the limits of the English pale were extended; and many of the Irish were forced or persuaded to submit to the laws of England. Now, for the first time, robbery and murder were capitally punished; and the long reign of Elizabeth, though overcast towards its close by a dreadful insurrection, was, on the whole, conducive to the diminution of dissenbion, and to the increase of English legislation.
The ancient law of the native Irish, known by the name of Brehon law, consisted of a few rude regulations, suited to an early and troubled state of society. Among its principal dispositions are to be reckoned the elective succession to the rank of chieftain, called the custom or law of tanistry; and that of gavelkind, by which, on the death of any member of a family, the whole stock, whether of land or moveables, was equally divided among all the surviving branches. The object of the latter was to make provision for every individual of the clan, and to retain numbers of dependants around the person of the chief; but it was not foreseeni how greatly this law would lead to early marriage; a custom which continues to form one of the most remarkable features of the present state of Ireland. It is likely, too, to remain in full force until the comforts of more advanced society shall be understood, and a necessity felt for providing for the welfare of a family before it is brought into the world. A similar division of inherited property prevailed formerly in the Highlands of Scotland; where, as in Iresand, the power of the chieftain depended on the number of his adherents. A third provision of the Brehon law consisted in the eric, or fine imposed on criminals in proportion to their degree of guilt; and which was admitted as a compensation for any crime, the extent of the fine being left to the decision of the judge. If