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Mr. Froude As A Lecturer
by [?]

There is one other point to which Mr. Froude’s attention ought to be called, as likely seriously to diminish the political weight of his exposition of the causes of Irish discontent. The sole justification of a conquest, even of a conquest achieved over barbarians by a civilized people, is that it supplies good government–that is, protection for life and property. Unless it does this, no picture, however dark, of the discords and disorder and savagery of the conquered can set the conqueror right at the bar of civilized opinion. Therefore, the shocking and carefully darkened pictures of the social and political degradation of the native Irish in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries with which Mr. Froude is furnishing us, are available for English vindication only on the supposition that the invasion, even if it destroyed liberty, brought with it law and order. But according to Mr. Froude’s eloquent confession, it brought nothing of the kind.

Queen Elizabeth made the first serious attempt to subjugate Ireland, but she did it, Mr. Froude tells us, with only a handful of English soldiers–who acted as auxiliaries to Irish clans engaged on the queen’s instigation in mutual massacre. After three years of this sort of thing, the whole southern portion of the island was reduced, to use Mr. Froude’s words, “to a smoking wilderness,” men, women, and children having been remorselessly slaughtered; but no attempt whatever was then made to establish either courts or police, or any civil rule of any kind. Society was left in a worse condition than before. Why was this? Because, says Mr. Froude, the English Constitution made no provision for the maintenance of a standing army for any such purpose.

The second attempt was made by Cromwell. He slaughtered the garrisons of Drogheda and Wexford, and scattered the armies of the various Irish factions, but he made no more attempt to police the island than Elizabeth. The only mode of establishing order resorted to by the Commonwealth was the wholesale confiscation of the land, and its distribution among the officers and soldiers of the army, the natives of all ages and sexes being driven into Connaught. The “policing” was then left to be done by the new settlers, each man with the strong hand, on his own account. The third attempt was made by William III., who also followed the Cromwellian plan, and left the island to be governed during the following century by the military adventurers who had entered into possession of the soil.

The excuse for not endeavoring to set up an honest and efficient government remained the same in all three cases; the absence of an army, or occupation elsewhere. In other words, the conquest from first to last wanted the only justification which any conquest can have. England found the Irish much in the same stage of social and political progress in which Caesar found the Gauls, destitute of nearly all the elements of political organization; but instead of founding a political system, and maintaining it, she interfered for century after century only to subjugate and lay waste, and set the natives by the ears. Mr. Froude’s answer to this is, that if the Irish had been better men they could easily have driven the English out, which is perhaps a good reason for not bestowing much pity on the Irish, but it is not a good reason for telling the Irish they ought not to hate England. No pity can be made welcome which is ostentatiously mingled with contempt. It is quite true, to our minds, that during the last fifty years England has supplied the Irish with a better government than the Irish could provide for themselves within the next century at least.

There is no doubt of the substantial value of the English connection to Ireland now ; but there is just as little that in the past history of this connection there is reason enough for Irish suspicion and dislike. The tenacity of the Irish memory, too, is one of the great political defects and misfortunes of the race. Inability to forget past “wrongs” in the light of present prosperity, is a sure sign of the absence of the political sense; and that the Irish are wanting in the political sense no candid man can deny. That they are really still, to a considerable extent, in the tribal stage of progress, there is little doubt. But they are surrounded by ideas, and institutions, and influences which make it useless to try to raise them out of that stage by the “imperial” method of government, or, in other words, by trying to persuade them that they have richly deserved all their misfortunes, and that the best thing they can do is to let a superior race mould their destinies. If it were possible for Englishmen to be a little more patient with their weaknesses, to yield a little more to the childish vanities and aspirations which form the nearest approach they have yet made to a feeling of nationality, and take upon themselves in word as well as in deed their share of the horrible burdens of Irish history, it would do more toward winning them Irish confidence than anything Americans are ever likely to say.