Preface to the Second Edition (Ireland was not conquered)


From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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It was manifest from the speech of her Majesty's minister, on the night of the all-important division on the Irish Church question, that he either had not studied Irish history, or that he had forgotten its details. If his statements are correctly reported by the press, they are inconceivably wild. It may be said that the circumstances in which he found himself obliged him to speak as he did, but is this an excuse worthy of such an honorable position? The Normans, he is reported to have said, conquered the land in Ireland, but in England they conquered completely. The most cursory acquaintance with Irish history would have informed the right honorable gentleman, that the Normans did not conquer the land in Ireland—no man has as yet been rash enough to assert that they conquered the people.

The Normans obtained possession of a small portion, a very small portion of Irish land; and if the reader will glance at the map of the Pale, which will be appended to this edition, at the proper place, he will see precisely what extent of country the English held for a few hundred years. Even that portion they could scarcely have been said to have conquered, for they barely held it from day to day at the point of the sword. Morally Ireland was never conquered, for he would be a bold man who dared to say that the Irish people ever submitted nationally to the English Church established by law. In fact, so rash does the attempt seem even to those who most desire to make it, that they are fain to find refuge and consolation in the supposed introduction of Protestantism into Ireland by St. Patrick, a thousand years and more before that modern phase of religious thought appeared to divide the Christian world.

But I deny that Ireland has ever been really conquered; and even should the most sanguinary suggestions proposed in a nineteenth-century serial be carried out, I am certain she could not be. Ireland has never been permanently subdued by Dane or Norman, Dutchman or Saxon; nor has she ever been really united to England. A man is surely not united to a jailer because he is bound to him by an iron chain which his jailer has forged for his safe keeping. This is not union; and the term "United Kingdom" is in fact a-most miserable misnomer. Unity requires something more than a mere material approximation. I believe it to be possible that England and Ireland may become united; and if ever this should be accomplished, let no man forget that the first link in the golden chain issued from the hands of the right honorable member for South Lancashire, when he proposed equality of government on religious questions—the first step towards that equality of government which alone can effect a moral union of the two countries. It might be treasonable to hint that some noble-hearted men, who loved their country not wisely but too well, and who are paying in lifelong anguish the penalty of their patriotism, had anything to do with the formation of this golden chain—so I shall not hint it.

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