Preface to the Second Edition (Ireland's Grievances)

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From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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I believe the Fenian movement, at one time scouted as a mere ebullition, at another time treated as a dangerous and terrible rebellion, has done at least this one good to England—it has compelled honest and honorable men to inquire each for himself what are the grievances of Ireland, and why she continues disaffected to English rule. For men who are honest and honorable to make such inquiries, is the first step, and a certain step, towards their remedy; and as I glanced down the list of the ayes in the division, I could see the names of men who, in England, have been distinguished during years for their private and public virtues, and who have been lavish in their charities whenever their own countrymen required their assistance.

There can be little doubt that a new era has dawned upon old Erinn's shores. It remains to be proved if her sons shall be as faithful in prosperity as they have been in adversity. It remains to be proved, if opportunities are afforded us of obtaining higher intellectual culture without the danger of the moral deterioration which might have attended that culture under other circumstances, whether we shall avail ourselves of them to the full. May we not hope that Ireland will become once more famous both for learning and sanctity. The future of our nation is in the hands of the Irish hierarchy.

No government dare refuse anything which they may demand perseveringly and unitedly. The people who have been guided by them, and saved by them for so many centuries, will follow as they lead. If their tone of intellectual culture is elevated, the people will become elevated also; and we shall hear no more of those reproaches, which are a disgrace to those who utter them, rather than to those of whom they are uttered. Let our people be taught to appreciate something higher than a mere ephemeral literature; let them be taught to take an interest in the antiquities and the glorious past of their nation; and then let them learn the history of other peoples and of other races. A high ecclesiastical authority has declared recently that "ecclesiastics do not cease to be citizens," and that they do not consider anything which affects the common weal of their country is remote from their duty. The clergy of the diocese of Limerick, headed by their Dean, and, it must be presumed, with the sanction of their Bishop, have given a tangible proof that they coincide in opinion with his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster. The letter addressed to Earl Grey by that prelate, should be in the hands of every Irishman; and it is with no ordinary gratification that we acknowledge the kindness and condescension of his Grace in favouring us with an early copy of it.

This letter treats of the two great questions of the day with admirable discretion. As I hope that every one who reads these pages possesses a copy of the pamphlet, I shall merely draw attention to two paragraphs in it: one in which Fenianism is treated of in that rational spirit which appears to have been completely lost sight of in the storm of angry discussion which it has excited. On this subject his Grace writes: "It would be blindness not to see, and madness to deny, that we have entered into another crisis in the relation of England and Ireland, of which '98, '28, and '48 were precursors;" and he argues with clearness and authority, that when Englishmen once have granted justice to Ireland, Ireland will cease to accuse England of injustice.

To one other paragraph in this remarkable letter, I shall briefly allude: " I do not think Englishmen are enough aware of the harm some among us do by a contemptuous, satirical, disrespectful, defiant, language in speaking of Ireland and the Irish people." From peculiar circumstances, the present writer has had more than ordinary opportunities of verifying the truth of this statement. The wound caused by a sarcastic expression may often fester far longer than the wound caused by a hasty blow. The evil caused by such language is by no means confined entirely to Protestants. There are, indeed, but few English Catholics who speak contemptuously of Ireland, of its people, or of its history; but, if I am to credit statements which have been made to me on unquestionable authority, there are some who are not free from this injustice. A half-commiserating tone of patronage is quite as offensive as open contempt; and yet there have been instances where English Catholic writers, while obliged to show some deference to Ireland and the Irish, in order to secure the patronage and support of that country for their publications, have at the same time, when they dared, thrown out insinuations against peculiarities of Irish character, and made efforts to discredit Irish historical documents.

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