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Mr. Froude As A Lecturer
by [?]

Mr. Froude announced that his object in coming to America was to enlighten the American public as to the true nature of Irish discontent, in such manner that American opinion, acting on Irish opinion, would reconcile the Irish to the English connection, and turn their attention to practical remedies for whatever was wrong in their condition–American opinion being now, in Irish eyes, the court of last resort in all political controversies. It is casting no reflection on the historical or literary value of his lectures to say that Mr. Froude, in proposing to himself any such undertaking, fell into error as to the kind of audience he was likely to command, and as to the nature of the impression he was likely to make. The class of persons who listen to him is one of great intelligence and respectability, but it is a class to which the Irish are not in the habit of listening, and which has already formed as unfavorable opinions about the political character of the Irish as Mr. Froude could wish. He will be surrounded during his whole tour by a public to whose utterances the Irish pay no more attention than to the preachings of Mr. Newdegate or Mr. Whalley, and who have long ago reached, from their observation of the influence of the Irish immigration on American politics, the very conclusions for which Mr. Froude proposes to furnish historical justification. In short, he is addressing people who have either already made up their minds, or whose minds have no value for the purpose of his mission.

On the other hand, he will not reach at all the political class which panders to Irish hatred of England, and, if he does reach it, he will produce no effect on it. Not one speech the less will be uttered, or article the less written, in encouragement of Fenianism in consequence of anything he may say. Indeed, the idea that the Bankses will be more careful in their Congressional reports, or the Coxes or Mortons in their political harangues, either after or before election, in consequence of Mr. Froude’s demonstration of the groundlessness of Fenian complaints, is one which to “the men inside politics” must be very amusing.

We think, however, we can safely go a little further than this, and say that however much light he may throw on the troubled waters of Irish history, his deductions will not find a ready acceptance among thinking Americans. The men who will heartily agree with him in believing that the Irish have, on the whole, only received their due, are not, as a rule, fair exponents of the national temper or of the tendencies of the national mind. Those who listened on Friday night last to his picturesque account of the Elizabethan and Cromwellian attempts to pacify Ireland, must have felt in their bones that–in spite of the cheers which greeted some of his own more eloquent and some of his bolder passages, and in particular his dauntless way of dealing with the Drogheda Massacre–his political philosophy was not one which the average American could be got to carry home with him and ponder and embrace. Mr. Froude, it must in justice to him be said, by no means throws all the responsibility of Irish misery on Ireland. He deals out a considerable share of this responsibility to England, but then his mode of apportioning it is one which is completely opposed to most of the fundamental notions of American politics. For instance, his whole treatment of Irish history is permeated by an idea which, whatever marks it may have left on American practice in dealing with the Indians, has no place now in American political philosophy–we mean what is called in English politics “the imperial idea”–the idea, that is, that a strong, bold, and courageous race has a sort of “natural right” to invade the territory of weak, semi-civilized, and distracted races, and undertake the task of governing them by such methods as seem best, and at such cost of life as may be necessary. This idea is a necessary product of English history; it is not likely to disappear in England as long as she possesses such a school for soldiers and statesmen as is furnished by India. Indeed, she could not stay in India without some such theory to support her troops, but it is not one which will find a ready acceptance here. American opinion has, within the last twenty years, run into the very opposite extreme, and now maintains with some tenacity the right even of barbarous communities to be let alone and allowed to work out their own salvation or damnation in their own way. There is little or no faith left in this country in the value of superimposed civilization, or of “superior minds,” or of higher organization, while there is a deep suspicion of, or we might say there is deep hostility toward, all claims to rule based on alleged superiority of race or creed or class. We doubt if Mr. Froude could have hit on a more unpalatable mode, or a mode more likely to clash with the prevailing tendencies of American opinion, of defending English rule in Ireland than the argument that, Englishmen being stronger and wiser than Irishmen, Irishmen ought to submit to have themselves governed on English ideas whether they like it or not. He has produced this argument already in England, and it has elicited there a considerable amount of indignant protest. We are forced to say of it here that it is likely to do great mischief, over and above the total defeat of Mr. Froude’s object in coming to this country. The Irish in America are more likely to be exasperated by it than the Irish at home, and we feel sure that no native American will ever venture to use it to an Irish audience.