Published originally in 1915. Taken from What Made Ireland Sinn Fein, edited by John X. Regan, 1921.
If the writings of Swift and Mitchel were obliterated from the nation’s memory, there would still remain two documents to preach as fiercely as Swift and Mitchel have done what English Government in Ireland meant and means. These seditious documents are issued under the authority of his Britannic Majesty’s Government. They are the British Government’s Census Report on Ireland and the British Government’s Annual Finance Return.
It is idle—British-Imperially speaking—to think of ending sedition and treason in Ireland by suppressing newspapers and imprisoning or shooting their editors, while such pernicious bluebooks and returns are freely sold by Mr. Ponsonby in Grafton Street, Dublin, at a price which places them within reach of many. Even if the price were prohibitive to the Irish, it is still certain that money would be found somewhere to purchase copies. The prohibition of the sale of British bluebooks and official returns relating to the population and finance of this island is the one course consistent with the policy of making the Irish tamely submit to extirpation that England,—masquerading as the British Empire—may wax fatter and fatter.
That the English Government has been wholly unconscious of the danger of publishing and selling these documents in Ireland is not a fact. It has only miscalculated their effect. It correctly argues that few people will read such returns, fewer study them, and that of the few not a moiety will be able to comprehend them, for to most men these marshalled columns of figures must spell confusion. It calculates that the small number who may grasp the meaning of the figures will be disposed of by self-interest, indifference, indolence, or lack of power or opportunity to make them understood of the people. It has generally been right. The last thing the average man likes is statistical articles, for the Statist, as a rule, is a bore.
Still, the Census and Finance Returns are the most potentially dangerous printed matter England can suffer to be published in Ireland, for every now and then, a man will seriously study and grasp and attempt to make his countrymen grasp their meaning, and if he should succeed, then Ireland will—despite Empire-Leaguery, Union- Jackery, and Place-huntery,—kick. Feebly or forcibly she will kick.
Premising then, that if we were the English Government in Ireland—that if we were apostles of the faith that the bleeding white of this land is essential to England’s plutocracy, and that whatever is essential to England’s plutocracy, it is a holy and a wholesome thing to do—then we would regard with grim suspicion that respectable old gentleman in Grafton Street, Dublin, who has never wittingly done ill to mortal, and that we should discern in his book-shop whole arsenals of treason. Premising this we shall hereby point out, discover, felon-set, in a word, E. Ponsonby, licensed by his Majesty’s Stationery Offices to sell in these islands the General Report of the Census of Ireland as presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of his Majesty. We testify that Mr. Ponsonby sold us this magazine of sedition for the sum of five shillings and threepence, which included the impression of the British Lion and Unicorn, represented in this instance dancing on their hind legs with their tails cocked up, celebrating—possibly—tidings of comfort and joy to be disclosed inside to the well-wishers of England’s Absolutism.
And we certify that having carefully examined and collated this return sold us by Mr. Ponsonby with the General Report of the Census of Ireland for 1841, published by his Majesty’s Stationery Office, and sold by Mr. Ponsonby’s predecessors (now beyond all possibility of punishment for sedition or treason), we have found the following facts disclosed, which would most seriously hamper Mr. John Redmond and his colleagues.
First, then, this report discloses that in the year 1841 there were on the soil of Ireland, eight million one hundred and seventy-five thousand men, women, and children, that the population was multiplying at the rate of 9 per cent per decade, and that, therefore, in the year 1911, there should have been sixteen millions of people within our shores. As there were but four million three hundred and ninety thousand, it is evident that eleven million six hundred and ten thousand of the Irish race have disappeared somewhere in the past seventy years. Actually four millions of people have vanished, and the children whom they begot and their children’s children who should form the extra eleven million six hundred and ten thousand on our soil to-day are exiles from Ireland—citizens of other countries, whose prosperity, power, and glory they are building up. Some of them are Americans, some of them are Irish-Americans, some of them are Canadians, some of them are Australians, others are Afrikanders. Some of them are proud of their origin, some of them do not know it, some of them are ashamed of it, some of them are still traditionally Irish Nationalists, some of them are British Imperialists, some of them leading citizens of other countries—some of them are good, some of them are indifferent, some of them are bad. What they are does not immediately concern us. This does—they are eleven million six hundred and ten thousand people who have involuntarily lost their heritage and they are eleven million six hundred and ten thousand whom Ireland has lost.
In the year 1841 the intelligent schoolboy in Germany asked to name the first five States of Europe in population would have replied—‘France, England, Prussia, Spain, and Ireland.’ In that year there were no other States or Kingdoms of Europe larger in its people than this island. The Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, and Holland and Greece combined had not so many people as Ireland then possessed. We had two men to every man in Belgium, more men than northern Italy, and man for man with southern Italy. We had two men to every man in Bavaria, more than two men to every man in Portugal, and considerably more men than Roumania, Bulgaria, Servia, Albania, and Turkey-in-Europe reckoned together, and for every five men England possessed, we had almost three.
If that intelligent German schoolboy were now asked to name the States of Europe in order of their population, he would not name Ireland fifth, nor even fifteenth. If he were asked whether all the States of Europe had increased in population since 1841 he would reply, ‘All but one—Ireland.’ If he were asked whether the cause was that war had ravaged Ireland during the period while peace prevailed elsewhere, he would reply that war had not visited Ireland, but had visited most of the other States of Europe—that France, Prussia, Austria, Hungary, Bavaria, Bohemia, Saxony, Wurtemburg, Italy, Turkey, Roumania, Bulgaria, Servia, Greece, and Denmark, had all been engaged in war within the time, and yet their peoples had multiplied, while Ireland, dwelling in peace, had seen her people diminish as no war in the history of modem Europe had diminished a people.
If he were asked the cause of this unique disappearance of a people, he would reply, had he studied the character of the Irish as contributed from English sources to the German school-books, and printed in some of them until recent times, that the Irish were a people lazy beyond all men, of a disposition treacherous and ferocious, intractable and incapable, so besotted that they would prefer to die of hunger or leave their country rather than toil there for a livelihood. In fact, a people whom any nation less forbearing than the English and burdened by responsibility for them would be inclined to let perish in their viciousness.
However, let us return to Mr. Ponsonby’s sedition-mongering publication. Think of the effect of such a fact as this on the impressionable mind of an honest and robust Irishman on whom the Recruiting-Sergeant has fixed his eye:
Every country in Europe has increased its population since 1841 except Ireland.
Poland, under the Russians, has increased its people.
Poland, under the Germans, has increased its people.
Poland, under the Austrians, has increased its people.
Finland, under the Russians, has increased its people.
Ireland, under the English, has lost three-fourths of its people.
Holland has doubled, Belgium has nearly doubled, Greece has quadrupled, Sweden and Norway have more than doubled, Portugal, Switzerland, and Denmark have increased by 50 per cent, Roumania, Servia, Finland, and Bulgaria have all doubled, or more than doubled, their populations. These com- prise all the small nationalities of Europe, except Ireland. Alone in Europe—alone in the civilized world—‘the sister island of England,’ this ‘integral’ Kingdom of the British Empire has decreased in its population. For such a decrease in days of peace history furnishes no parallel.
Imagine, at this crisis in the fortunes of the England who managed this extirpation for us, Mr. Ponsonby permitted to sell a Blue-book which discloses such facts. Would it, we ask with the ‘Daily Express,’ be tolerated in any other capital in the world? Certain we are that if this English plan of getting rid of its rivals had been followed by Austria in the case of Hungary, no Buda Pest Ponsonby would be permitted to sell over his counter the Austrian official document indicating how it had been done. We have a good deal of sympathy with the ‘Daily Express’ point of view. If it be necessary in the interest of England to exterminate the Irish, it is certainly an abuse of English freedom of the Press in Ireland to refer to the matter. It is perfectly free to the Press to take England’s standpoint, or if it has a conscientious scruple, to remain decently silent.
As England wants men just now, the following potentially seditious figures, published and guaranteed by the English Government, will show where she can seek for them:
|Population of England in 1841
|Population of Ireland in 1841
|Population of England in 1911
|Population of Ireland in 1911
In the seventy years Ireland lost nearly half her population, while England more than doubled hers. In 1841 the English had not two men to our one. Now they have more than eight men to our one. They want our one to do the fighting, and Mr. Redmond has promised them he will see that they get him. It is sedition to object.
In 1841 we find that Ireland had more people than all the British colonies put together. These colonies have now four times the population of Ireland. It took armed insurrection against England in Canada and in Australia, and passive insurrection against England at the Cape to make her take her claws off the colonies and let them govern themselves. Under their own Governments they have quadrupled the population of this island upon which England insisted on keeping her claws.
The following figures, certified by the Government of England, show the number of male inhabitants in Ireland seventy years ago, and now:
From this the seditiously inclined and all who have, to the insecurity of English rule in Ireland, learned the first four rules of arithmetic, will be able to deduce that it has been necessary to the English Government in Ireland to destroy more than one-third of the men of Ulster and Leinster, and more than half of the men of Munster and Connacht during seventy years of peace.
Imagine Mr. Ponsonby permitted to sell this information while recruits for the Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Leinster Regiment, the Munster Fusiliers, and the Connacht Rangers are urgently needed to sustain the power that has swept four of every eleven Ulstermen, four of every nine Leinstermen, four of every seven Connachtmen, and seven of every twelve Munstermen out of Ireland.
We glean from Mr. Ponsonby and Mr. Ponsonby’s predecessor in the Blue-book publishing line, that these Irish refugees, for whom no England and no West Britain wept, fled from the flag which Irishmen are now appealed to to uphold. From the period of the Union, until that of the artificial famine, 95 per cent of the Irish who went into exile chose to go to the British colonies—only 5 per cent of them making for the United States. The Triumph of the Flag over Ireland from 1841 onwards revolutionized the mind of the Irish emigrant. He fled to the United States to get away from it, a fact which has had some bearing on its fortunes.
Ulster, which our truthful neighbour has always represented as the good, pious, law-abiding, pro-English part of Ireland, and consequently, as rioting in progress and prosperity had in 1841, just 2,227,152 people on its soil. In 1911 it had 1,582,826. It is calculated to breed sedition in Ulster to permit Mr. Ponsonby to retail official returns to this effect across his respectable counter. Some day, despite the Ulster Unionist Council, and the Belfast Press, the Orangemen will get to hear about it and begin to think. And the effort to dissipate the dawn of reason in the Orange mind by assuring it that after all it was only the Papists who were exterminated will be seriously hampered by the injudicious disclosures in these Ponsonby Blue-Books. Happily for England there was no religious census of Ireland taken in 1841, but we discover these figures for 1834:
|Irish Protestant Episcopalians (1834)
|Irish Protestant Episcopalians (1911)
|Irish Presbyterians (1834)
|Irish Presbyterians (1911)
It was essential to England to wipe out one-third of the Episcopalians and one-third of the Presbyterians as well as one-half of the Irish Catholics in the life-time of the old men amongst us. One out of every three Irish Protestants has been in the last seventy years extinguished from his country by English legislation. To make omelettes one must break eggs. The fact that the number of Protestants in England has nearly trebled in the same period, is one that, we submit to the English authorities in this country, is likely to make Irish Protestants reflect if they are allowed to realize it. And we know of nothing more dangerous to the security of English Government in Ireland, than that the people of Ireland should be induced to reflect. For years the Parliamentary Party has, with superhuman devotion to the cause of the Loaves and Fishes, gallantly succeeded in preventing them from indulging in any reflection on their country’s position. But now there is a daily increasing danger through Mr. Ponsonby.
For instance, an Episcopalian schoolboy, getting hold of the Census Returns and the 1834 figures, might work out that the number of Episcopalians in Ireland to-day should be 1,550,000, and finding that instead, the number is but 576,000, start furiously reflecting as to the wherefore and the why of the disappearance. Or a Presbyterian student of divinity, coming across the Pernicious Blue-Book, might extract therefrom in one minute’s arithmetical calculation that the sum total of the Presbyterians of Ireland today should be 1,200,000 souls, and finding that there were but 440,000, set his mind pondering until it alighted upon the cold truth—that whether Ireland be Catholic or Episcopalian or Presbyterian, it will be devastated in its people and in its trade so long as what is termed the ‘British Empire’ is England—and nothing but England,
‘Ireland,’ wrote Junius a hundred and fifty years ago, ‘has been uniformly plundered and oppressed.’ Save for the few years between 1782 and 1800 the policy of plunder and oppression has been pursued unbroken since Junius wrote sedition.
England having destroyed our constitution, suppressed our Parliament, loaded her debt on to our shoulders, ruined our trade and commerce, turned our tillage-fields into cattle-ranches, trebled our taxation and halved our population—all within a century—wants what is left of us to fight for her supremacy over the world. To protest is seditious. Even though her heart and her interest willed, she can never erase the evil she has done this country. She cannot give us back our people, but she could have given us back our political liberties and permitted us by their wise direction to regain within the next hundred years, the place in the world we held a hundred years ago. This she has not done—this she has pledged herself to her Ulster dupes not to do. In the name of Home Rule, she proposes finally to extinguish the Irish nation, if she overcomes Germany, by partitioning it, as with her connivance a century and a half ago Russia, Prussia, and Austria, partitioned Poland. But so long as Mr. Ponsonby flourishes in Grafton St., Dublin, bravely distributing his Britannic Majesty’s Census Reports on Ireland and Finance Accounts, so long will sedition prosper.