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Ireland, O'Connell, &c

Brownson's Quarterly Review, July, 1845

Art. VI. — 1. The History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern. By the Abbe Mac Gheoghegan. Translated from the French, by Patrick O'Kelly, Esq. New York : D. & J. Sadlier. 1845. 8vo. Parts I. and II.
2. Catechism of the History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern. By W. J. O'Neill Daunt, Esq. Boston : Donahoe. 1845.     16mo.    pp. 160.

The first named of these works, originally written in French, and dedicated to the Irish Brigade, to which the author was chaplain, not long since translated at Dublin for the first time into English, is now in the course of republication in this country, and is to be completed in eight parts of about eighty pages each. It is sent out in a style very creditable to the publishers, and furnished at the low price of twenty-five cents a part. Of its merits as a history of Ireland we are not personally qualified to speak ; but its success in Dublin has been very great, and we are assured by competent judges, that it is a work of very considerable merit, and perhaps the best popular history of Ireland to be obtained. We trust it will find a ready and extensive sale among our countrymen generally.

The second work mentioned is strictly what its name imports, written by an ardent Repealer and confidential friend of O'Connell. It.embodies a large number of facts, and, though evidently intended as a tract to aid the cause of Repeal, it appears to be written with a good degree of fairness and impartiality. A few of its statements seem to us to require modification, and its earnest desire to enlist the Protestant Irish in the national cause leads, now and then, to some admissions and professions which disturb our Catholic sensibilities a little ; but, upon the whole, we commend it to our readers as an admirable compend of Irish history.

We intend before long to offer some thoughts on Irish history and Irish affairs in general ; but, at present, we have room only for a few remarks suggested by passing events more or less remotely connected with the Repeal movement, and Mr. O'Connell, its distinguished chief.

We have nothing to say on the simple question of Repeal, for we do not feel ourselves competent to say what is or is not best for the real interests of the Irish people. Ireland is unquestionably one of the worst governed countries in the world, and we need nothing more than ordinary humanity to demand in loud and earnest tones her enfranchisement. But whether the specific measure of the repeal of the act of union and the restoration of her domestic parliament would effectually remove or lighten the evils which now weigh so heavily upon her, we consider Irishmen better qualified to decide than we are ; and to them belongs, and to them we leave, the decision of the question, if it be still an open question. For ourselves, we will only add, that Ireland has never, in our judgment, lost her nationality ; she therefore still possesses all the inherent rights of a nation, and is entitled to self-government as much as any other nation, free from all foreign control or dictation. If we did not take this ground, we should be obliged to regard the Repeal movements of our citizens as virtually, if not expressly, in contravention of international law. But, taking this ground, we are free to express our hope that the time is not far distant, when all traces of Ireland's conquest by or subjection to Great Britain will be wiped out, either by her restoration to complete and entire national independence, or by her elevation to perfect equality, civil and political, with the English portion of the British empire. Which would be best, or which will be effected, we know not; but that one or the other ought to be, and must and will be, we entertain not a doubt.

But we leave the discussion, as foreign to the province of our Journal, in which we consider we are at liberty to discuss political matters, whether foreign or domestic, only so far as they have a bearing on Catholic faith, morals, and worship. But we cannot refrain from making a remark or two on the attitude Mr. O'Connell has assumed in regard to our own country. Men do.and will estimate Mr. O'Connell differently, according to the different points of view from which they contemplate him ; nor is a man to be regarded as wanting in devotion to the interests of Ireland, even in case he cannot feel towards him as do the warm-hearted and enthusiastic Irish. We protest in advance against making the idolatrous worship of any man the test of one's devotion to the cause with which that man may be identified. For ourselves, as American citizens and patriots, we may have had our feelings wounded, our prejudices aroused, and even our judgments warped by Mr. O'Cojmell's unprovoked attacks on our country ; for we are as sensitive to the interests, to the honor and glory of America, as Irishmen are to those of Ireland, and we are as quick to resent any attack upon them, come it from what quarter it may.    But we regard
Mr. O'Connell as a wonderful man, and as a firm and devoted patriot. It is rather a Hibernianism, if we may be allowed the expression, to call him the " Liberator," for his countrymen are not yet liberated, and it is always too early to call any man the liberator of his country before his country is liberated ; but that O'Connell earnestly desires the liberation of Ireland, and that he is prepared to effect it even at the sacrifice of his life, we see no good reason for doubting. We should think not over and above well of the Irishman whose heart did not honor O'Connell, and beat quicker at the mention of his name.

Nevertheless, we think Mr. O'Connell has, in his speeches, made remarks in regard to this country which are hard to justify or even palliate. We have strong reasons for believing that these remarks do not accord with his own private views and feelings, and that they are made mainly for the purpose of conciliating friends or silencing enemies in England and Scotland. Mr. O'Connell is better informed as to the state of things here than his public speeches would indicate. But he appears to judge it important for his success to conciliate, and, as far as possible, to enlist, the Abolitionists in Great Britain on his side, and to have it clearly and distinctly understood by the British government and people, that, however ardently he may desire Repeal, he is not prepared to carry it by courting or accepting any foreign alliance or sympathy. Thus he repelled the proffered sympathy of the French Liberals, and thus he has repelled, in some measure, the proffered sympathy of American citizens. Up to a certain point, this is a justifiable and even a necessary policy on his part.    He is attempting, in his
view of the case, a simple measure of domestic legislation,--a legal measure to be carried by legal means, and by legal means only. It is, therefore, a matter in which the citizens or subjects of a foreign state have little right to interfere, and in which they cannot interfere without in some measure placing him in a false position, exciting the jealousies of the British government, wounding the national pride of the English people, and endangering, if not defeating, the success of his cause. He would belie his assertion that Repeal is a question of internal legislation, which nowise concerns foreign nations, and be ill qualified to act as the chief of the Repeal movement, if he did not take particular care not to give offence to the British government and people by accepting the sympathy of foreigners ; and we think here is a consideration which should have great weight with the Repealers in this country, especially with those who are American citizens. They may, after all, retard more than they can advance the cause of Repeal, and, it seems to us, O'Connell feels this, and hence the bitterness and contempt with which he speaks of us. We cannot, for ourselves, blame him very severely for this.

Nor do we blame Mr. O'Connell for pledging the British government the support of his countrymen in case of a war with us, on condition it does justice to Ireland. Mr. O'Connell and the Irish people profess to be loyal subjects to the British crown ; they acknowledge that they owe allegiance to that crown ; and, therefore, however much we might desire their cooperation, active or passive, with us, in case of a war with England, we cannot understand on what grounds we should have a right to expect it, or they to give it. We do not censure him, nor do we see how any one can rightfully censure him, for the conditional threat he threw out, unless it be the British minister himself ; for, rightly considered, it was rather a threat against the minister than against us. It was as much as to say to Sir Robert Peel: " Do justice to Ireland, and if you go to war with America, you may count upon us as loyal subjects ; but withhold justice from Ireland and go to war, and — manage with Ireland as best you can. We fight no battles for you, till you grant us a redress of our grievances." As an American, we take no offence at this ; as Sir Robert Peel, we might, perhaps, demand of Mr. O'Connell by what right he, as a loyal subject, holds such language to the government to which he owes allegiance.

Nor, again, are we disturbed by the opinions Mr. O'Connell has expressed of the American people. We hope we have character and consistency enough, as a people, to be able to survive the expression of any opinions any foreigner may entertain of us, however unfavorable they may be. The only thing we complain of in Mr. O'Connell, in regard to us, is his interference with our domestic concerns, and his effort to throw the whole weight of his character and position into the scale of a domestic faction, whose avowed intention is the dissolution of the American Union, and whose success would involve the destruction of all government and law. We complain of him for coupling his Repeal movement with the movement of the American Abolitionists. It may be, that we, in .our active sympathy with him in his efforts to liberate his countrymen, have transcended our rights as American citizens in regard to the British government, and unjustifiably interfered in the internal concerns of the British empire ; but if so, it was not for him to retort by leaguing with our own domestic enemies, and to revenge the British government for our generosity to Irishmen, by doine all in his power to destroy our existence as a free people. feuch a retort would have come with a much better grace from Sir Robert Peel than from Daniel O'Connell.

Men may think as they will on the question of slavery : but no man, not blinded by his fanatical theories and prejudices, can watch  as we have, the rise and progress of the Abolition party m this country, and not hold the least conceivable countenance of it to be recreancy to God and treason to the state. A more subtle or dangerous enemy to religion or to liberty it is impossible to conceive.    Our institutions could more easily withstand the whole combined force of Europe directed against them.    It is yet to give them a severe trial, — to convulse our whole nation, and to hasten on a civil war, which we see already gathering on a no distant horizon.    The party gathers force and virulence in its progress ; it assimilates to itself every particular fanaticism in the country, and rolls on its accumulated and accumulating waters to the destruction, not of negro slavery   but of the state, of government, of religious institutions, oi all social organizations, and of all law but the law every man is unto himself.      The wildest extravagance can conceive nothing more extravagant than its avowed principles ; and the boldest and liveliest imagination falls short of the terrible evils its success would involve.    The British government, for reasons not difficult to divine, gives this party its official sanction, and urges it on by all the indirect means in its power. fhis excites in us no surprise.    But that O'Connell, a Catholic, and, therefore, a friend of established order, of firm and regular government, of religion, law, and  humanity, for the sake of clearing himself of the charge of courting foreign sympathy   for the sake of pleasing the British government, and conciliating British fanatics, with whom he can have no sympathy, should aid and encourage this detestable faction, and in return for our having provided a home for millions of his countrymen, and sympathized warmly with his efforts to enfranchise the mil ions who still cling to their own "Green Isle of the Ocean,"  we own excites, if not our surprise, at least our deep indignation, and  cajls for the stern rebuke of the  American people.    He who sides with our enemies, plots with them, and encourages them in their hostility, can hardly expect us to tream him as our friend.

But while we express ourselves thus strongly against Mr. O'Connell's ill-advised sympathy with the American Abolitionists, we are far from confounding him either with the cause of Repeal or with the Irish people. For the Irish people we have the feelings every one must have who has made himself acquainted with the wrongs they have suffered for these seven hundred years. They are a noble, generous, and warm-hearted people, second to no people on the face of the earth. They have contributed their full share to what is noble, distinguished, touching, heroic, and saintly, in human history ; and however indignant we may be at O'Connell's speeches, all the G'Connells in the world cannot shake our attachment to them, our admiration of the many noble traits in their character, or our earnest desire for their restoration to their rights as a free people. Nor does it seem to us that the remarks of Mr. O'Connell should affect at all our zeal or sympathy in regard to the cause of Repeal. Mr. O'Connell is not that cause, although he is its distinguished leader. It should be judged of independently of him, on its own intrinsic merits, and we should act in regard to it without taking at all into consideration his union with the miserable Abolition fanatics of this country.

But there is one other Irish question of more importance, in our view, than the Repeal question, — the question of the relations of the Catholic hierarchy and clergy to the British government. Ireland owes the preservation of her nationality to Catholicity, and the fact that her bishops and clergy have depended not on the British government, but on the Holy See and the Irish people. It is to those bishops and clergy the Irish owe, under God, the preservation of their faith and nationality ; and for whatever conquests have been achieved in behalf of Irish liberty, without these to back them, your long line of Irish heroes and patriots would have labored in vain. The British government are well aware of this, and they have now begun the policy of attempting to retain Ireland in subjection by trying to buy up her spiritual guides and rulers. Two measures will be proposed to this end : one, to corrupt the faith of the Irish people ; the other, to corrupt the patriotism of the bishops and clergy. The first is to come in the shape of a system of mixed academical instruction, or the establishment of schools and colleges open alike to Catholics and Protestants, from which all positive religious instruction, whether Catholic or Protestant, shall be excluded. This will be to render the schools and colleges mere nurseries of infidelity,
as we may learn from our own experience, where the great mass of the young men who graduate are little better than downright infidels. A more insidious or destructive measure it is impossible to devise, and we regret to find it countenanced by some who would fain persuade us they are Catholics. We trust, however, Catholics generally will treat the measure as it deserves ; for the well instructed Catholic knows that education not based on religious principle and coupled with thorough religious training is a curse, instead of a blessing ; and no religious training, to satisfy a Catholic, is possible in a school not exclusively under Catholic control. We would much rather our children should grow up ignorant of letters, than be taught in a school which is not Catholic. Better to be ignorant and believing than to be learned and doubting.

The second measure is the proposition to pay the Catholic bishops and clergy a salary from the public treasury, which, it is hoped, will make them the tools of the state. The English Tories seem to have still too much respect for principle to make such a nefarious proposition ; but the English Whigs, in whose ethical code honor, justice, manliness, independence, never found admission, and never will, — a party notoriously without principles, and held together by cant and a common love of chicanery and baseness, make no scruples in boldly avowing such a policy and its motives. Events may rapidly drive the government into its adoption. Its acceptance would be the death-knell of the Irish Church, Irish nationality, and Irish liberty. We trust the dignitaries and clergy of the Irish Church do not need to be told this ; and we trust in God, that in the hour of trial they will be found firm and unflinching, choosing "to be afflicted with the people of God, rather than to have the pleasure of sin for a time, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of the Egyptians.'' Retain the Catholic faith of the Irish people and the independence of the Irish Catholic Church ; Irish nationality will never be lost, and Irish liberty will assuredly ere long be triumphantly vindicated and established. Corrupt the faith of the Irish peo* pie, make them infidels, or educate them merely with reference to success in this world, and reduce the Catholic prelates and clergy to the condition of stipendiaries on the British government ; Ireland's degradation will be complete, and all hope of her regeneration delayed for ever.

For ourselves, we confess that we feel more lively apprehensions as to the effect Repeal agitation is likely to have on the
cause of the Catholic Church in Ireland, than we do as to its probable success in securing Irish freedom and national prosperity. Temporal prosperity, however great, is too dearly purchased, if purchased at the expense of that faith without which it is impossible to be saved. Great popular movements in behalf of any worldly end, however unexceptionable or praiseworthy in themselves considered, are always to be viewed with something of fear and anxiety. They almost necessarily draw off the mind and the heart from the great work of securing our celestial destiny, and concentrate them on the means of working out an earthly destiny ; and therefore tend to make us worldly-minded, instead of spiritually -minded. We look upon all popular movements with a certain degree of distrust; for they are almost always sure to be carried on by blind impulse or enthusiastic zeal, and to fall at last under the control of the unprincipled and the designing, instead of the true, the good, the holy, the practical, and the discreet. So far as we have observed them, though in behalf of a great and praiseworthy object, they generally strike down more good by the way than they secure by gaining their end. We can see no good that has, as yet, resulted from the terrible popular movements of modern times. The giant turns that he may rest his wearied limbs ; but the mountain merely sends forth volcanic eruptions, which spread fear, consternation, and ruin through all the neighbouring towns, villages, and hamlets. In order to secure success, the masses make concessions and form alliances which are incompatible with truth and goodness, and which rarely fail, in the end, to rob victory of its most valuable fruits.

There may be no cause in the Irish Repeal movement for any of the apprehensions we here express, and we would fain hope there is not; and yet we are not without our fears. Great men and good men, engaged in a cause they have much at heart, looking steadily at its final success, are apt to be a little blinded, and to give countenance, unconsciously, to principles and measures which they would not for the world adopt, if clearly and distinctly proposed and contemplated. In their patriotic zeal, Mr. O'Connell and some others, who are not to be judged by us, may, in order to unite all Irishmen for Ireland, make concessions to Protestant prejudices, and professions of policy, which grate rather harshly upon the sensibilities of a Catholic not engaged in the strife, and which may have, in the end, unhappy consequences. We may be oversensitive, and led astray by the zeal and enthusiasm of the recent convert ; we may assume a tone and freedom of remark not becoming one just from the ranks of Protestantism ; and we have some suspicion that such is the case ; but, if so, we shall take meekly any rebuke which may be administered to us. But we have seen so much of Protestantism, that we cannot bear in silence the least concession, or shadow of a concession, to it, for any cause whatever. It is a rebel to the Church, and therefore a rebel to God ; as such we hold it, and as such we would have it treated, whenever and wherever we come in contact with it. We will throw not one grain of incense upon the altar of Jupiter ; no, not to gain the whole world. It is no calamity to suffer and die for the faith ; but it is a terrible calamity to succeed in the best of temporal causes by lending the least conceivable countenance to any of the distinctive principles of Protestantism. There can be no alliance between Christ and Belial. If we live in Protestant countries, we will obey the laws, demean ourselves as good citizens and subjects, but have no communion with what is distinctively Protestant. We can do without the earth, but we cannot do without heaven. If infidelity and misbelief hold the dominion of this world, so be it; we can enter into no covenant with them for the purpose of sharing that dominion. We seek a kingdom which is not of this world.

But if we express our apprehensions, it is not because we fear any thing for the final result. The Church is of God, and can never fail. She never takes the initiative in regard to any form of government, for she can adapt herself to all forms of civil polity. She is eminently anti-revolutionary, eminently conservative ; but she always can, and always does, accept and conform herself to the political order she finds established. She did not stir up the popular movements of modern times, nor set on foot the efforts of the people for popular governments. But she was not bound to the old political order now passing away, and in no sense depended on it as the condition of her existence, or of fulfilling her high mission. She did not seek to overthrow it, for she seeks to overthrow no existing political order ; nor does she seek to recall and restore an order once overthrown and passed away. But when one order has been thrown off, and a new one introduced, she leaves the old, and accepts and conforms to the new.

A new political order seems to us to be rendered inevitable by the popular movements of modern times. It seems to us, that there is to follow, perhaps throughout all Christendom, after a more or less protracted struggle, an era of popular governments. The people are to take the place of the old kings and nobles. Whether this will be a change for better or for worse, we, perhaps without offence, may be permitted to regard as problematical ; but that it is to be we regard as inevitable. The Church will conform, and we see that she already is conforming, to the new state of things. It is in accordance with the principles on which she has always acted, to accept the new state of things, when once established. The new order being the popular order, the Church will accept and sanction the popular order. The Church, which has always been on the side of the people, will hereafter, we venture to predict, be on the side of what is called popular liberty, and the triumph of the Church and of the people will be celebrated together.

In this view of the case, the popular tendency has nothing alarming. A few years will develope the fact, that the freedom of the people and the independence of the Church are one and the same cause, and that the one cannot be effected without the other. The republican will see that his protection against the tyrant is only in the maintenance of the freedom and independence of the Church, in regard to all her spiritual functions ; and the Church will appeal to the popular energy to save her from the slavery to which infidel governments everywhere attempt to reduce her. In this way, the providence of God will make the terrific popular energy, which was at first waked up by the enemies of the Church to crush her, serve as the instrument of her triumph and of their confusion. In this way will Providence bring good out of evil, and turn the weapons forged against his Spouse in her defence and against her enemies. When the cause of popular government becomes identified with the cause of the Church, it will become a holy cause ; and the most democratic government, under the sanction of the Church, or where the Church is free to fulfil her mission in the spiritual order, will be a good government, and perhaps the best of all conceivable governments. Whatever evils might be apprehended from popular liberty, where we have not the Church, will be avoided, where we have it, and the good of the people will assuredly be promoted.

We hope we shall be forgiven these some somewhat desultory remarks, which, after all, to those who will meditate them, may be pregnant with some not unimportant suggestions. We have made them in no spirit of arrogance ; for we do not, because we fill an editorial chair, forget that we are not one who has received authority to teach, and that it is for us to receive, and not to give, — or, if we attempt to give, to give only that which we have received from her whom God hath commissioned to teach and to govern the nations. The layman does not cease to be a layman because the conductor of a public journal. But we claim the right, with submission, to labor with what little ability we have for the cause of truth and goodness ; and we feel the more earnest, because we must redeem the time we have lost, and can have at best but a few years in which to redeem it. With us, the Church is paramount to all other considerations, and we ask no greater boon than to be permitted to labor in her cause. First of all, we are Catholics, and first of all does that which concerns the Church interest us. Next in order, we are American citizens. In becoming Catholics, we do not cease to be citizens and patriots, and we feel bound to demean ourselves as faithful citizens and loyal subjects. As the conductor of a public journal, we have the honor and glory of our country at heart, and are bound to raise our voice, feeble though it be, against whatever would attack either, come it from what quarter it may. Here, free institutions are the established order, and we have no option left us ; we are solemnly bound to do our best to defend these institutions against all impugners from within or from without, and to do what we can to preserve them and provide for their free practical operation and success. Next in order, after our own country, we give our best affections and warmest sympathy to the cause of Ireland. We, as a people, are much to Ireland. She has given us a large portion of our population, many of our best citizens, of the firmest, bravest, and most enlightened friends and defenders of our republican institutions. She has also done more ; she has contributed more than any other one nation to introduce and build up among us the Catholic Church. For this, as little as the mass of our countrymen may esteem it, we owe her an immense debt of gratitude, — greater than we shall ever be able to pay ; for to the existence and prevalence of the Catholic Church among us shall we be ultimately indebted for the preservation of our free institutions, and their success in working out the happiness of the people. Dear to us, then, is the cause of Ireland ; and we give her, if nothing else, the warm affections of a grateful heart, and fervent prayers for the true freedom and prosperity of all her children at home, or whithersoever they may be scattered abroad over the earth.