The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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with the Celtic people of Cumbria; and still more manifestly Macaulay, who was, by his father's side, at least, of the Mac-Amhlaidhs of the Highlands; but who wrote of the whole Celtic family—pandering to the ignorant pride of the English—with a real venom and affected contempt, which one might explain upon the theory that early in his life some Celt had crossed him in love, or pulled his nose, or done both the one and the other,—but which I am inclined to account for on a more commercial principle: he wrote his books for Anglo-Saxons and for those who ignorantly believe they are Anglo-Saxons.

The bitterness and spite exhibited against the Irish Celt in all British literature, especially since '48, has, however, a parallel. It is precisely the same kind of animosity and founded on the same reasons, as that which appears against the Scottish nation in all English books of the last century—that is, while Scotland remained disaffected against English rule, and discontented with the Scottish Union. Nothing so much pleased the magnanimous British at that time, as ridicule and denunciation of the Scotch. The Lord Macaulay himself informs us that "when the English condescended to think of him (the Highlander) at all—and it was seldom that they did so, they considered him as a filthy, abject savage, a slave, a Papist, a cut-throat, and a thief." And further, he says:—

"This contemptuous loathing lasted till the year 1745 (that is, until the last outrising of the Highlanders against the English) and was then for a moment succeeded by intense fear and rage. England, thoroughly alarmed, put forth her whole strength. The Highlanders were subjugated rapidly, completely, and for ever. During a short time the English nation, still heated by the recent conflict, breathed nothing but vengeance. The slaughter on the field of battle, and on the scaffold, was not sufficient to slake the public thirst for blood. The sight of the tartan inflamed the populace of London with hatred, which showed itself by unmanly outrages to defenceless captives."

This writer, however, takes care to justify, and so far as in him lies, to perpetuate, this horror and hatred of the Celt. He enlarges upon the filth of the dwellings and the persons of the Gael, in a manner which would have delighted Doctor Johnson himself; and, with a singular sort of filial piety, likens his own fathers to the Esquimaux and the Samoyedes.

Now, those volumes of Macaulay were written since '48. They are, in all their matter and scope, not a history, but a political pamphlet; and the zealous and diligent depreciation of Celts, both in his accounts of Scottish and Irish transactions, has a manifest bearing upon our Last Conquest. It is intended not only to soothe and flatter the English with the belief that they are the ...continue reading »

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Page 208

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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