The Rise of the Garrison, 1698-1779

From The Historic Case for Irish Independence by Darrell Figgis

PreviousContentsNext

27. Yet during these years of misery and savage repression a remarkable event came to pass in the country. For the jailer ascendancy arose and, out of their political and economic necessities, voiced the same demand for National Independence as had the ancient Irish nation over whom they had been placed in guard. They were driven to this breach of their tradition by the inevitable logic of circumstances. The oppression of Ireland by England was not only national; it was also and inevitably political and economic. The ancient Irish nation might be submerged, and its distinctive culture made a theme for furtive reminder by its people, yet the geographical, political and economic necessities of the country inevitably made the English settlers of one century the Irish patriots of the next; and therefore in each century, since the battle of Kinsale, England was compelled to strike down the class she had previously placed in the country as a jailer ascendancy. Not only, however, was the new ascendancy compelled by the hard necessity of their case to voice the same demand as the nation over whom they were in guard, but they were compelled to voice that same demand in precisely the same way, by the force and threat of arms.

At first persuasion and argument were attempted. In 1698 William Molyneux wrote a brochure in which he stated, and proved by argument and by precedent, that the parliaments of the Pale had always been independent parliaments, and that the English parliament held no jurisdiction in Ireland. He had fled the country on the arrival of James, returning with the Prince of Orange; and he neither loved nor for a moment considered the Irish nation; yet his book was ordered in the English parliament to be burnt by the public hangman. The Irish parliament was the pawn of the English parliament. Most of its seats were in the gift of landlords who lived in England; and, though it was called a Parliament by courtesy, it was but a meeting of Government nominees. Underlings of those landlords were given sinecure positions at good salaries, and lived in England. Continental monarchs, Court favourites and the various kings' mistresses were provided with considerable pensions out of the Irish exchequer to avoid the criticism that would have been aroused had the English exchequer been taxed to provide for them.

Irish trade and industry were harassed, harnessed and brought to nought in all their departments in the interest and at the demand of English traders. Navigation laws were so devised that Irish trade was broken. "The conveniency of ports," wrote Swift, who, in his turn, took up the Irish cause, "which Nature has bestowed so liberally upon this kingdom, is of no more use to us than a beautiful prospect to a man shut up in a dungeon." In whatever direction an attempt was made to escape by the creation of new industries, the outlet was at once stopped and the industry broken. Woollen goods, cotton goods, glass manufacture, the brewing industry, the sugar-refining industry and the fish-curing industry were each in turn broken, though Ireland was permitted to send manufactured iron to England to help the growing manufacture there of the finished product. Ireland, however, conducted a fair provision trade with the new English colonies, and it was as well that she did, for there were few in Ireland who could afford the purchase of provisions. The only industry that was not broken was the manufacture of certain kinds of linen cloth, where no English rivalry was encountered. This, however, was mainly confined to Ulster, and on it Ulster built her prosperity while the rest of Ireland starved, and was reduced to futility.

PreviousContentsNext