PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

...continued

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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There are some few Irish Catholics who appear to think that Irishmen should not study their history—some because they imagine that our history is a painful subject; others, because they imagine that its record of wrongs cannot fail to excite violent feelings, which may lead to violent deeds. I cannot for one moment admit that our history is either so very sorrowful, or that we have cause to do anything but rejoice in it. If we consider temporal prosperity to be the summum bonum of our existence, no doubt we may say with truth, like the Apostle, that of all peoples we are " most miserable;" but we have again and again renounced temporal advantages, and discarded temporal prosperity, to secure eternal gain; and we have the promise of the Eternal Truth that we shall attain all that we have desired.

Our history, then, far from being a history of failures, has been a history of the most triumphant success—of the most brilliant victories. I believe the Irish are the only nation on earth of whom it can be truly said that they have never apostatized nationally. Even the most Catholic countries of the Continent have had their periods of religious revolution, however temporary. Ireland has been deluged with blood again and again; she has been defeated in a temporal point of view again and again; but spiritually—never! Is this a history to be ashamed of? Is this a history to regret? Is this a history to lament? Is it not rather a history over which the angels in heaven rejoice, and of which the best, the holiest, and the noblest of the human race may justly be proud?

On the second count, I shall briefly say that if Irish history were taught in our Irish colleges and schools to children while still young, and while the teacher could impress on his charge the duty of forgiveness of enemies, of patient endurance, of the mighty power of moral force, which has effected even for Ireland at times what more violent measures have failed to accomplish, then there could be no danger in the study. Perhaps the greatest human preservative of the faith, for those whose lot may be cast hereafter in other lands, would be to inculcate a great reverence for our history, and a true appreciation of its value. The taunt of belonging to a despised nation, has led many a youth of brilliant promise to feel ashamed of his country, and almost inevitably to feel ashamed of his faith.

A properly directed study of Irish history would tend much to remove this danger. During the debate on the Irish Church question, Mr. Maguire, M.P. for Cork, significantly remarked on the effect produced by the " deliberate exclusion" of any instruction in Irish history from National schools. It does seem curious that national history should be a forbidden subject in National schools, and this fact makes the appellation of "National" seem rather a misnomer. The result of this deliberate exclusion was graphically described by the honorable member. The youth comes forth educated, and at a most impressible age he reads for the first time the history of his country, and burns with indignant desire to avenge her many wrongs. The consequences are patent to all. It is, then, for the advantage of England, as well as of Ireland, that Irish history should be made the earliest study of Irish youth; nor is it of less importance that Irish history should be thoroughly known by Englishmen.

It is the duty of every Englishman who has a vote to give, to make himself acquainted with the subjects on which his representative will give, in his name, that final decision which makes his political opinion the law of the land. I suppose no one will deny that the Irish Question is the question of the day. The prosperity of England, as well as the prosperity of Ireland, is involved in it. No educated man, however humble his station, has a right to assist in returning a member to Parliament without clearly comprehending the principles of his representative. But unless he has some comprehension of the principles themselves, it is of little use for him to record his vote. I do not say that every English voter is bound to study Irish history in detail, but I do say that, at the present day, he is bound to know what the Irish themselves demand from England; and if he considers their demands reasonable, he should record his vote only for those who will do their utmost to obtain the concessions demanded. A man is unworthy of the privilege of voting, if he is deficient either in the intellect or the inclination to understand the subject on which he votes.

But it is of still more importance that members of Parliament should read—and not only read, but carefully study—the history of Ireland. Irishmen have a right to demand that they shall do so. If they undertake to legislate for us, they are bound in conscience and in honour to know what we require, to know our past and our present state. Englishmen pride themselves on their honour; but it is neither honorable to undertake to govern without a thorough knowledge of the governed, or to misrepresent their circumstances to others whose influence may decide their future.

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