Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

may prepare them for a participation in those civil rights and privileges which are enjoyed by other classes of his Majesty's subjects.

“That this house is anxious for the accomplishment of this purpose at the earliest period that shall be compatible with the wellbeing of the slaves themselves, with the safety of the colonies, and with a fair and equitable consideratiou of the interests of private property.

Such were the principles on which Parliament proceeded, such the faith to which they were pledged, in the most liberal days of Lord Liverpool's administration. Contrast this with the despotic act of our Whig rulers, forcing an Order in Council at once on the Crown Colonies, and leaving to starvation and ruin all those possessed of a local legislature, which would not adopt this royal proclamation as equivalent to an act of Parliament !

The general error on the subject of the West India Negroes, emanating from amiable and Christian feelings, may be traced to the same source as the political errors which are now shaking the empire to the foundation ; a disregard of experience, an inattention to the lessons of history, and an ignorance of the past progress of freedom in other parts of the world. The time, however, has now arrived, when good intentions will not justify insane actions ; nor men be permitted to toss about firebrands, and say it was in sport. When men mingle in political concerns, we require from them not only benevolent wishes, but rational conduct and information on the subjects which they agitate ; we hold it no excuse for a physician, who has sacrificed his patient by his ignorance, that he meant only to do him good. If the boasted spread of knowledge has effected anything, it should teach men distrust of their opinions, if not fortified by the lessons of experience ; and it must prove worse than useless, if it does not inspire a rooted aversion for every project which is not founded on the deductions of history, and a determination to resist every innovation which does not imitate the gradual changes of nature.

IRELAND

(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, JANUARY 1833]

The situation of Ireland has long demanded the anxious consideration of every well-wisher to his country. If we have not lately adverted to it, it is not because its convulsions and its sufferings have failed to excite our warmest sympathy, and the heroism of a large portion of its inhabitants our highest admiration ; not because we are not fully alive to the imminent hazard to which it is exposed, and the indissoluble bond which has united its fortunes to those of this country ; but because the pressure of danger and of overwhelming interest at home has been such as to absorb our exclusive attention. With the dagger at our own throats, we had no leisure to attend, and no space to devote, to anything but our own misfortunes ; not even to the concerns of the sister island, bound to us by every tie of kindred interest and national sympathy.

The crisis of the moment, however, calls for instant attention, and we gladly turn our eyes to the condition of this unhappy country, so richly gifted by nature, so densely peopled, so deplorably pregnant with misery. The survey, while it is melancholy, is yet instructive ; it points with unerring hand to the evils of popular insubordination, and affords an example of the effects of democratic misrule, so awful, so glaring, that if the people of this country are not as blind and perverted as their flatterers tell them they are enlightened, they must perceive the fatal gulf, to the brink of which they are hastening. The consideration of Irish history, and of the present condition of that island, is better calculated than any other topic to illustrate the principles for which we have so long and so strenuously

contended ; to point out the admirable effects of real freedom, as contradistinguished from popular licentiousness and democratic tyranny ; and to demonstrate the enormous evils arising not merely to the higher but to the lower orders, from those principles of anarchy and insubordination which it is the object of the Revolutionists to render general throughout the world.

That Ireland, though blessed with a rich soil and a temperate climate, though abounding in men, and overflowing with agricultural riches, is a distracted and unhappy country, is universally known. That it is overwhelmed with a beggarly and redundant population ; that its millions are starving in the midst of plenty, and seem to live only to bring into the world millions as miserable and distracted as themselves, is matter of common observation, not only to all who have visited the country itself, but to all who have compared it with other states, even in the lowest stage of civilisation, and under circumstances generally supposed the most adverse to human improvement. That its population is redundant, as well as miserable to the very greatest degree, is demonstrated, not merely by the immense tide of emigration which annually flows over the Atlantic, but the enormous multitudes who are daily transported across the channel to overwhelm the already overpeopled shores of Britain. From Mr Cleland's admirable statistical work on Glasgow, it appears that there are no less than 35,000 Irish in that city, almost all in the very lowest rank and humblest employments of life ; and the proportion in the other great cities of the empire - Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Edinburgh—is probably at least as great. Humboldt was the first who took notice of the extraordinary, and, but for his accuracy, almost incredible fact, that between the years 1801 and 1821 there was a difference of a million of souls between the increase of the population of Great Britain, as demonstrated by a comparison of the births and the deaths, and the actual increase of its inhabitants ; a difference which he justly considers as chiefly owing to the immense influx of Irish during that period. *

It is in vain, therefore, to attempt to shake ourselves loose of Ireland, or consider its misery as a foreign and extraneous

* Humboldt's Voyages, viii. 247.

consideration, with which the people of this country have little concern. The starvation and anarchy of that kingdom is a leprosy, which will soon spread over the whole empire. The redundance of our own population, the misery of our own poor, the weight of our own poor-rates, are all chiefly owing to the multitudes who are perpetually pressing upon

them from the Irish shores. During the periods of the greatest depression of industry in this country since the peace, if the Irish labourers could have been removed, the native poor would have found ample employment; and more than one committee of the House of Commons has reported, after the most patient investigation and minute examination of evidence from all parts of the country, that there is no tendency to undue increase among the people of Great Britain, and that the whole existing distress was owing to the immigration from the sister kingdom.

Nature has forbidden us to sever the connexion which subsists between the two countries. We must swim or sink together. It is utterly impossible to effect that disjunction of British from Irish interests, for which the demagogues of that country so strenuously contend, and which many persons in this island, from the well-founded jealousy of Catholic ascendency in the House of Commons, and the apparent hopelessness of all attempts to improve the condition of Ireland, are gradually becoming inclined to support. The legislature may

be separated by act of Parliament; the government may be severed by Catholic revolts ; but Ireland will not the less hang like a deadweight round the neck of England; its starving multitudes will not the less overwhelm our labourers ; its passions and its jealousies will not the less paralyse the exertions of our government. Let a Catholic Republic be established in Ireland ; let O'Connell be its President; let the English landholders be rooted out, and Ireland, with its priests and its poverty, be left to shift for itself; and the weight, the insupportable weight of its misery will be more severely felt than ever. Deprived of the wealth and the capital of the English landholders, or of the proprietors of English descent; a prey to its own furious and ungovernable passions ; ruled by an ignorant and ambitious priesthood ; seduced by frantic and

VOL. I.

Q

unprincipled demagogues, it would speedily fall into an abyss of misery far greater than that which already overwhelms it. For every thousand of the Irish poor who now approach the shores of Britain, ten thousand would then arrive, from the experienced impossibility of finding subsistence at home; universal distress would produce such anarchy as would necessarily lead the better classes to throw themselves into the arms of any government who would interfere for their protection. France would find the golden opportunity, so long wished for, at length arrived, of striking at the power of England through the neighbouring island; the tricolor flag would speedily wave from the Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear; and even if England submitted to the usurpation, and relinquished its rebellious subjects to the great parent democracy, the cost of men and ships required to guard the western shore of Britain, and avert the pestilence from our own homes, would be greater than that of those now employed in maintaining a precarious and doubtful authority in that distracted island.

Whence are all this misery and these furious passions, in a country so richly endowed by nature, and subjected to a government whose sway has, in other states, secured so large a portion of general felicity? The Irish democrats answer, that it is the oppression of the English government which has done all these things; the editors of the Whig journals and reviews repeat the same cry; and the bulk of their followers, following their leaders on this as on every other subject, like a flock of sheep, re-echo the same sentiment, until it has obtained general belief, even among those whose education and good sense might have led them to see through the fallacy. Yet, in truth, there is no opinion more erroneous ; and there is none the dissemination of which has done so much to perpetuate the very evils which are the subject of such general and well-founded lamentation. Ireland, in reality, is not miserable because she has, but because she has not, been conquered; she is suffering under a redundant population, because the tyranny, not of England, but of her own demagogues, prevents their getting bread; and she is torn with discordant passions, not because British oppression has called them into existence,

« EdellinenJatka »