Anonymous.

Is Ulster Right? online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryAnonymousIs Ulster Right? → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Alison Hadwin and PG Distributed
Proofreaders





IS ULSTER RIGHT?


A STATEMENT OF THE QUESTION AT ISSUE BETWEEN ULSTER AND THE
NATIONALIST PARTY, AND OF THE REASONS - HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, AND
FINANCIAL - WHY ULSTER IS JUSTIFIED IN OPPOSING HOME RULE


BY AN IRISHMAN


LONDON

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.

1913




CONTENTS.


Preface

Chapter

I. The Ulster Covenant. The Questions Stated. Ireland under the Celts
and the Danes

II. Ireland from the time of Henry II to the time of Henry VIII

III. Ireland under the Tudors

IV. The Seventeenth Century, until the end of the reign of James II

V. The period of the Penal Laws

VI. The earlier part of the reign of George III. The acquisition of
independence by the Irish Parliament

VII. The independent Parliament. The Regency Question. The
commencement of the Rebellion

VIII. The Rebellion

IX. The Union

X. The period from the Union until the rejection of the first Home
Rule Bill

XI. The Unionist Government of 1886

XII. The Gladstonian Government of 1892. The Political Societies

XIII. Ireland under the present Government

XIV. Criticism of the Bill now before the Country

XV. The danger to the Empire of any form of Home Rule. The Questions
answered

Index




PREFACE.


In the following chapters I have endeavoured to lay before ordinary
readers a simple statement of the present position of the Irish
question. Following the maxim of Confucius that it is well "to study
the Past if you would divine the Future," I have first shown that the
tales which are told about the glories of the ancient Celtic
Kingdom are foolish dreams, not supported by the accounts given by
contemporary annalists or the investigations of modern writers, and
that Ireland never was a nation in the political sense, with the
possible exception of the few years between 1782 and 1800, during
which the Irish Parliament was independent; that the charges made
against the English government with reference to their action between
the "Conquest" by Henry II and the assumption of the title of King
by Henry VIII are baseless; and that though there is much which the
historian must look back upon with regret in the period between the
reign of Henry VIII and the passing of the Act of Union, it is mere
waste of time now to dwell on the wrongs of a former age which
have long since passed away and which in any other country would be
forgotten. Then I have traced the brief history of the independent
Parliament, and shown that whatever may have been its virtues or
its failings, it would be impossible to revive it now; all the
circumstances of the country have changed. I have striven also to make
it clear that the Nationalists of to-day are not the representatives
of the leaders of that Parliament but of the party which fought
against it and brought on the horrors of the Rebellion; that the
Union was a political necessity, if the connection between the British
Islands was to be maintained at all; and that if the people of Ireland
have not derived all the benefits from the Union which they might have
done, it is their own fault, as the history of Ulster during the last
century has shown. Next, I have explained the rise of the present
Home Rule movement, and its dependence on agrarian agitation. I have
analyzed some of the provisions of the present Bill, which independent
writers consider to be hopelessly unworkable; and lastly I have stated
why in my opinion Home Rule in any form must be fraught with disaster
not only to Ireland but also to the Empire at large.

I have no desire unnecessarily to wound the feelings of those who take
a different view; if it can be shown that any of my statements are
incorrect or my inference illogical, I shall be glad to correct
them; but to mere abuse, such as the Nationalists are in the habit of
pouring on Unionist writers, I shall pay no heed. I admit that it may
be said that there are several matters which I ought to have gone into
more fully; to that I can only reply that I wished to be as brief as
possible, and that I have done my best to compress with fairness.
What I am really anxious to do is to draw the attention of thoughtful
readers, before it is too late, to the terrible dangers with which we
are faced. As an Irish historian has said: -

"No political madness could be greater than to put the
legislative machinery of an integral and essential portion
of the Empire into the hands of men who are largely or mainly
disaffected with that Empire, and who, in times of difficulty,
danger and disaster are likely to betray it."

* * * * *

The following are the principal works of which use has been made
in preparing this volume. They are cited here in order to avoid the
necessity of constant footnotes: -

"Short History of the Irish People." By Professor Richey.

"Irish Nationalism." By the late Duke of Argyll.

"History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century." By W.E.H.
Lecky.

"History of the Legislative Union of Great Britain and
Ireland." By Dunbar Ingram.

"Ireland and Her Fairy Godmother." By J. Warren.

"The Continuity of the Irish Revolutionary Movement." By Prof.
Brougham Leech.

"A Fool's Paradise." By Professor Dicey.





CHAPTER I.

THE ULSTER COVENANT. THE QUESTIONS STATED. IRELAND UNDER THE CELTS AND
THE DANES.

"Being convinced in our consciences that Home Rule would be
disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of
the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious
freedom, destructive of our citizenship and perilous to the
unity of the Empire, We, whose names are underwritten, Men of
Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V,
humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress
and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves
in Solemn Covenant throughout this our time of threatened
calamity to stand by one another in defending for ourselves
and our children our cherished position of equal citizenship
in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be
found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a
Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And, in the event of such
a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly
and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its
authority. In such confidence that God will defend the right,
we hereunto subscribe our names."

Such is the Solemn Covenant which 220,000 resolute, determined
Ulstermen - of various creeds and of all sections of the community,
from wealthy merchants to farm labourers - fully realizing the
responsibility they were undertaking, signed on the 28th September,
1912. To represent that it was merely the idle bombast of ignorant
rustics, or a passing ebullition of political passion coming from
hot-headed youths excited by irresponsible demagogues, is folly.
It expresses the calm resolution of earnest men who, having thought
deeply over the matter had decided that it was better even to face
the horrors of civil war rather than to submit to the rule of a
Nationalist Government.

The opinions of the Nationalists with regard to the Ulster Covenant
can be gathered from many speeches and sermons. The following extract
from one of their papers - the _Frontier Sentinel_ - may be taken as a
specimen: -

"It may not be out of place here to translate into simple
English the terms of the Covenant. It denies the claim of
Ireland to self-government and the capacity of Irishmen to
govern Ireland. It asserts that the Catholics of Ireland are
the spawn of the devil; that they are ruthless savages and
dangerous criminals with only one object in life - the wiping
out of Protestants. It claims for the Protestant Unionist
majority of four Ulster counties a monopoly of Christianity,
public and private morality, and clean successful business
enterprise. In the name of God it seeks to stimulate the
basest passions in human nature, and calls on God to witness
a catalogue of falsehoods. Only a few of the local Protestant
clergymen, it should be stated, signed this notoriously wicked
document."

It is well then to pause and consider calmly two questions: What
are the real objects of the Nationalists; and, Are the men of Ulster
justified in resisting them to the uttermost?

It is a mere truism to remark that in every political question the
main controversy is complicated by a number of side issues. Thus in
the tangled skein of politics in South Eastern Europe there is not
merely the great struggle between the Crescent and the Cross, but
there are also jealousies between Greek and Bulgarian, between Servian
and Austrian, which have to be considered. So in Ireland, if we
take the religious question as the dominating one, we find ourselves
involved in a maze of racial animosities, class prejudices, and
trade disputes; by ignoring these we can arrive at a simple but
unfortunately a totally erroneous solution of the question. And to
weigh them all fairly involves more trouble than the average man cares
to take.

Irish history is at best a dismal subject. And those who ought to
be historians are too often politicians; regarding themselves as
advocates and not as judges they deliberately omit incidents which
tell against their views, and enlarge on others, frequently without
even examining the evidence in support of them. Then in arriving
at the truth about any matter connected with Ireland there is the
additional difficulty arising from the custom, almost universal
amongst Irishmen, of talking in superlatives. The exaggerated
expressions, both of praise and blame, which are constantly employed,
at first puzzle a stranger coming to Ireland from another country; he
soon, however, gets to realize that they are mere forms of speech, and
are no more intended to be taken seriously than similar phrases are
when used by an Oriental. They are therefore harmless. But it becomes
a more serious matter when learned men employ inflated language in
addressing ignorant and excitable audiences. Thus Bishop Gaughran,
when recently preaching to a crowded congregation in Dublin a sermon
which was reported in full in the Roman Catholic papers, said: -

"The persecution of the Catholics in Ireland had no parallel
in the history of the Church save perhaps those of the early
Christians in the Catacombs of Rome. Edicts were sent
forth before which those of Nero might be said to pale into
insignificance - the Edicts of Elizabeth and Cromwell, for
example."

Yet these words came from a man who was doubtless familiar with the
histories of Spain, Portugal, France and the Netherlands; and who is a
leader of a party which had not long before expressed the opinion that
Catholics have no reason to be ashamed of the Inquisition, which was
a coercive and corporally punitive force which had effected its ends
splendidly!

One of the many popular delusions under which English people labour
with regard to Ireland is that all the population of the country at
the present day are Celts, and that this is the key to the whole Irish
question. Thus a review of Father Tyrrell's autobiography recently
appeared in an English journal in which the reviewer said: "Probably
no Englishmen could have written such a book; it needs a Latin like
Rousseau, or a Celt like Tyrrell to lay bare his soul in this way."
No doubt these words were written in perfectly good faith; but if
the writer had cared to make any enquiry he could have found out in a
moment that the Tyrrell family were thoroughly English and that none
of them had gone to Ireland before the nineteenth century. The fact
is that the inhabitants of Ireland, like the inhabitants of all other
countries in Western Europe, are of mixed origin. The Celts were
themselves immigrants, who conquered and enslaved a pre-existing race
called the Firbolgs; then came the Scandinavian invasion; and then
wave after wave of immigration from England and Scotland, so that
Sir J. Davies, writing three hundred years ago - that was, before the
Cromwellian settlement and the arrival of the French refugees who had
escaped from the persecution of Louis XIV - said that if the people of
Ireland were numbered those descended of English race would be found
more in number than the ancient natives.

This, however, is only one of many errors into which English writers
have fallen. Mistakes of course will always be made; but unfortunately
it is a charge from which Mr. Gladstone's admirers cannot clear him
that when he wished to bring the English people round to the idea of
Home Rule he deliberately falsified Irish history in order to make
it serve his ends; and his misrepresentations have gained credence
amongst careless thinkers who are content to shelter themselves under
a great name without looking at what has been written in answer. The
general idea of an average Englishman about Irish history seems to be
that Ireland in Celtic times was a peaceful, orderly, united kingdom,
famous for its piety and learning, where land was held by "tribal
tenure" - that is, owned by the whole tribe who were closely related
in blood - rent being unknown, and the chief being elected by the whole
tribe in solemn assembly. Into this happy country came the Norman
invaders, who fought against and conquered the king; drove the native
owners out of their possessions, and introduced a feudal system and an
alien code of law unsuited to the people; and the modern landlords
are the representatives of the conquering Normans and the tenants
the descendants of the ancient tribesmen who naturally and rightfully
resist paying rent for the lands which by ancestral right should be
their own. There could not be a more complete travesty of history.

The Celtic Church no doubt had its golden age. It produced saints and
men of learning. It sent out its missionaries to the heathen beyond
the seas. So famous were its schools that students came to them from
distant lands. But centuries before the Normans appeared in Ireland
the salt had lost its savour. The Celtic Church had sunk into being
a mere appendage of the wild tribes it had once tried to tame. The
chiefs of one tribe would sack the colleges and shrines of another
tribe as freely as they would sack any of their other possessions.
For instance, the annals tell us that in the year 1100 the men of the
south made a raid into Connaught and burned many churches; in 1113
Munster tribe burned many churches in Meath, one of them being full of
people; in 1128 the septs of Leitrim and Cavan plundered and slew the
retinue of the Bishop of Armagh; in the same year the men of Tyrone
raided Down and a great number of people suffered martyrdom; four
years later Kildare was invaded by raiders from Wexford, the church
was burnt and many men slain; and so on with dreary monotony. Bishops
and abbots fought in the incessant tribal wars as keenly as laymen.
Worse still, it was not infrequent for one band of clergy to make
war on another. In the ninth century, Phelim, who claimed to be both
Bishop and King of Leinster, ravaged Ulster and murdered its monks and
clergy. In the eleventh century the annals give an account of a fierce
battle between the Bishop of Armagh and the Bishop of Clonard. Nor did
time work any improvement; we read of bloody conflicts between abbots
and bishops as late as the middle of the fifteenth century. What
influence for good could such a church have had upon the mass of the
people?

And even in its noblest period the Celtic Church seems to have had but
little power beyond the walls of its own colleges. The whole history
of Celtic Ireland, as we learn from the annalists, was one miserable
succession of tribal wars, murders and plunderings. Of course it may
be said with perfect truth that the annals of other countries at the
time tell much the same story. But there is this difference between
them: wild and barbarous though the wars of other countries were,
they were at any rate the slow and painful working up towards a higher
civilization; the country became consolidated under the most powerful
chief; in time peace was enforced, agriculture improved, and towns
grew up. The tribal raids of Celtic Ireland, however, were merely
for plunder and destruction. From such conflicts no higher state of
society could possibly be evolved. The Irish Celts built no cities,
promoted no agriculture, and never coalesced so as to form even the
nucleus of a united kingdom.

It was about the end of the eighth century that the first foreign
influence was brought to bear on Celtic Ireland. The Danish invasion
began. Heathen though the Danes were, they brought some ideas of
settled government and the germs of national progress. They founded
cities, such as Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And when they, like
their fellow-countrymen in England, accepted Christianity, they
established bishoprics in the new towns, but took care that they
should be wholly independent of the Celtic tribal episcopate; they
looked to Canterbury and Rome.

Much has been written and sung about the fame of Brian Boroo. No doubt
he was in some ways a great man; and it seemed for a time that he
might do for Ireland something like what Alfred the Great had done for
England and Kenneth MacAlpine had done for Scotland - might consolidate
the country into one kingdom. But the story of his life is a striking
commentary on the wretchedness of the period. Forming an alliance with
some of the Danes he succeeded in crushing the chiefs of several rival
Celtic tribes; then in turn he attacked his former allies, and beat
them at the battle of Clontarf in the year 1014, though they were
aided by other Celtic tribes who hated Brian and his schemes even more
than they hated the foreigners. Important though this battle was, its
effect has been much exaggerated and misunderstood. It certainly
did not bring the Danish power in Ireland to an end; Dublin was a
flourishing Danish colony long afterwards - in fact it was thirty years
after the battle that the Danish king of Dublin founded the Bishopric.

But Brian was slain in the moment of victory. The soldiers of his
army murdered his only surviving son, and began fighting amongst
themselves. Brian's dream of a united Ireland came to an end, and the
country relapsed into chaos. If the immediate result of the battle
was a victory of Celt over Dane, the lasting effect was a triumph of
anarchy over order. It was on the Celtic people that the ruin fell;
and the state of things for the next two centuries was if possible
worse than it had ever been before.

It will be readily understood that throughout this terrible period of
history anything like a peaceful cultivation of the soil or a regular
election to the office of chief was out of the question. It was quite
an ordinary thing for a chief to obtain his position by murdering his
predecessor. The annalists give us a long list of Kings of Ireland
dating from before the Christian era until the arrival of the Normans.
Of course the word "king" can mean little more than "prominent
chief," for no one man ever had real authority over the whole of the
distracted land. Even of these prominent chiefs, however, according
to the annalists, very few died natural deaths. Some fell in battle,
others were assassinated; but the most common fate for a monarch was
to be "slain by his successor." If this was true of the most powerful
men in the country, to speak of the office of chief as elective is
really absurd. But more than this: there is no evidence that the
"tribal system," in the sense of all the tribe being related by blood
and all owning their lands in common, ever existed in Ireland even
in theory. At the earliest date of which we possess any distinct
information on the subject, wealth, representing physical force, had
become the acknowledged basis of political power and private right;
and the richer members of the community were rapidly reducing the
poorer freemen - many of whom were the descendants of an earlier race
or of conquered tribes - to a state of serfdom. The system (if such
a word can be applied at all) was in fact a bad form of feudalism
without its advantages. There was no central overlord (like those
in other countries who gradually developed into the sovereigns of
mediƦval kingdoms and thus became able to enforce peace and progress),
each petty chief being independent; and on the other hand the dues
payable by the retainers were not fixed by law or custom. We must
probably reject the suggested derivation of the word "feodal" from the
Celtic "Fiudir"; but if so, it is curious that two words accidentally
resembling each other conveyed ideas so closely alike; for a Celtic
"Fiudir" was practically a tenant at the will of the lord; and it must
be admitted that the word "vassal" is of Celtic origin. Charters which
date from before the Norman invasion show that the land was regarded
as the private property of the chiefs; frequently the wretched
occupiers, instead of paying fixed rents, were liable to unlimited
exactions, one of them being the right of the lord to "coigne and
livery" - that is, to quarter himself and his retainers as long as he
pleased on any occupier who possessed a few cows (which were the only
form of wealth in those days of universal poverty); in some cases,
however, land was let for a term of years, on a fixed payment of
cattle.

On the death of a freeholder his land was divided amongst his sons
equally, according to what is called "the custom of gavelkind."
Whether primogeniture is a good or a bad thing in England or the
British Colonies at the present day is of course a totally different
question; the circumstances of the times are totally different. But
it can hardly be doubted by a thoughtful student of history that the
adoption of primogeniture in the early days of feudalism in other
European countries was a social necessity if civilization was to rise
to a higher state; and that its not being introduced in Ireland was if
not a cause at least an evidence that civilization in that country
did not progress. For in a condition not far removed from anarchy
the connection between the ownership of land and political power is
inevitable; hence if holdings are small their owners become an easy
prey to stronger neighbours; whereas the possessors of larger areas
can repel attacks and enable their dependents to live in some sort of
security. It was the enormous number of petty independent chiefs that
added to the miseries of Celtic Ireland.

I shall probably be accused of having painted too dark a picture in
the brief sketch that I have given of Ireland before the coming of the
Normans. I admit that it is very different from the glowing accounts
of "Irish Ireland" that may be found in the pages of Nationalist
journals. But the question to me is not which account is more pleasant
but which is true. And I defy anyone who has cared to look through the
works of such writers as Richey, Stokes, and Sullivan, to prove that
what I have said is incorrect or unfair.




CHAPTER II.

IRELAND FROM THE TIME OF HENRY II TO THE TIME OF HENRY VIII.


In the last chapter I dealt with the long period during which the
Celtic tribes of Ireland were free from foreign influence except for
the comparatively brief time when a small part of the country was
under the rule of the Danes; and I endeavoured to show that according
to the evidence of their own annalists and in the opinion of modern
writers of various political sentiments, the whole island throughout
that period remained in a chronic state of anarchy, without any
advance towards a higher civilization.

As Dr. Richey, when describing the condition of Ireland about the year
1170, says, "The state of the Celtic people was beyond all hope of
self-amendment. The want of law, order and justice, the absence of
self-knowledge and self-control, paralysed their national action and
reduced the power of their chief king to insignificance."

I come now to what has been absurdly called the conquest of Ireland
under Henry II.

That the English king was instigated in his efforts by the Pope is
perfectly clear. The Bull of Pope Adrian, issued in 1155, is still
extant: -

"... There is indeed no doubt but that Ireland, and all the
islands on which Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, hath shone,
and which have received the doctrine of the Christian faith,
do belong to the jurisdiction of St. Peter and the Holy Roman


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAnonymousIs Ulster Right? → online text (page 1 of 17)