After the fall of Limerick, the country was leaderless, soldierless, without any effective powers of resistance, and England, true to her instincts, let loose the Penal Laws to kick her foe when she had got her down. Ireland, however, clung, with her characteristic feminine tenacity and capacity for suffering, to her faith, her habits, and her language. At this period the line of demarcation between the races was scarcely blurred; now it is very much to seek. But already the forces were hatching that were destined to completely turn the flank of the Irish position. Sophistries were springing up that were to blind her and send her like a wild horse galloping to destruction. The finishing stroke was delivered at the historic Irish nation when, on a fateful day in 1782, Grattan bowed before “the august majesty” of the Irish nation. Looking back upon that episode in the light of subsequent history, the shouts of victory and exultation reverberating from College Green are drowned by the mournful peals of the death-knell rising on all sides outside the Pale. The corpse of every saint and scholar in Ireland must have turned in its grave – had it the gift of seeing into futurity – when, having witnessed the sacrifice of the things which make the soul of nations, it saw in the distance the inevitable corruption of Ireland. The spirit of Molyneux and Swift – that same spirit which Grattan apostrophised, the spirit which 99 out of every 100 of us still look up to as our polar star – was the death of those elements of the Irish race that could have defied the attacks that were to come. It started the spirit of English civilization and English progress in our midst, and the Irish race, ceasing to think for itself, has since persistently mistaken this for the spirit of the Irish nation. This movement deceived a people that might otherwise have been annihilated – and then the great national question would at least have been settled for ever – but who could not be conquered so long as they had anything to put their back against. It caused the Irish people as a whole to walk into a trap which no force on earth could have driven them into.
If the position of the Gael, the matrix of the Irish people, was degraded and weak beyond expression at this period, it is at least some satisfaction to know that that state was due not to their immediate fault, that is, not to any fault operating at that time which it was in their power to remedy, but to the bigotry and bullying instinct of the British people. In allowing the spirit of Swift to take the place of the spirit of Ireland in the minds of those who stand out in the Irish history of that time, the Gaels in the background were blameless as they were helpless; not so those who during all this century have allowed this unnatural state of affairs to continue. In Swift’s time the Pale was a kind of buffer state between the British and the Irish. In an evil hour the Pale got into the grumps, and after awhile it adorned this temper, which had sprung largely from sordid motives, with the title of patriotism. But there was little patriotism in it. There was some spirit, some nobility, a little genius, greatly exaggerated, in the movement commenced by Molyneux and carried to success by Grattan, but beyond a few traces of local colour, the whole thing was English, where it was not inspired by the American, and later on by the French Revolution. When we look back upon 1782 from 1899, we see it not in the halo of a glorious victory, but in the shape of an animated skull grinning at us, an emblem of victory perhaps – the victory of death. It did not mark a noble but a disastrous epoch and turning point in Irish history. It sent us adrift in a new world by which we were first corrupted and then eaten up; it set up a new temple before which we have burned incense, and have made the greatest sacrifice in our power – the sacrifice of our national character. It stimulated some of the people into a foreign activity; it threw back others into a profound torpor defying explanation so far. The peasant does not understand the Anglicised Irishman, and the West British rebel growls with feigned contempt – not real contempt, because he feels in his heart that he is a fit object for that himself – about the unresponsive peasant. The West Briton drifts with the tide, clutching a bit of green rag to remind him of the place from whence he came and the poor country Gael, finding himself between two stools, gets bewildered, falls to the ground, and stops there. The turning point of 1782 is where we must look for explanations. Smith O’Brien and John Mitchel lashed the Irish masses for their apathy; had they penetrated into the truth of the situation and comprehended the genius of the Gael they would rather, being honest men, have lashed themselves for a pair of simpletons.
Swift was a good type of the changing influence – that great Irishman, as we love to call him, who had not a drop of Irish blood in his veins, no Irish characteristics, and an utter contempt for the entire pack of us. He set the forces which he found in Ireland against the English Government, not because he loved Ireland, but because he was a morbidly proud man who hated oppression, and was by accident stationed in Ireland. This Englishman, whom, with characteristic latter-day Irish cringe we claim for ourselves, became a popular hero of the Irish people. In consequence partly of his teaching, the English-speaking bit of the country – the bit that had cheated the Gaels of education and wealth, and monopolised both for itself – stood up to England for its own ends, as it mainly sides with her now for like reasons, and ever since the Gaels who have not remained in their torpor, have hailed these Palemen as their would-be saviours and their models. The lesser element commenced to absorb the greater. Grattan truly put a new soul into Ireland, but what he vivified with it was not the once illustrious Gael, but an English-speaking, English-imitating mongrel, a people without a past, a people who, we were afterwards to see, could not by any chance carve out a future of its own. He put Ireland in tow with a world-compelling power, in whose wake she has had to go ever since, the spirit of Common Sense laughing at her frantic foolish efforts to steer a course of her own, and wondering why in the world it never occurs to her to cut the hawser. In 1782 the country became fixed, not as an Irish nation but as an English province. It is sickening to contemplate the smug satisfaction with which at the present day Irishmen reflect on and gloat over the Dublin of those decadent “ Independent Parliament” days, on its duelling, its fire-eating bucks, its dissipations, its clubs, its cock fights, and the rest of the excrescences which the first feverish rush to turn English threw up on the surface of the polite society of those days. All the while they have no thought for the leaderless, powerless millions, the real historic Irish race – hunted to the hills, and clinging to the language which should have been that of all Irishmen; those: millions that were to be slowly, insidiously conquered by all this Anglo-Irish parade of sentimental Paleism.
The Gael has never raised his head since the fall of Limerick. The stretch of time between then and now is barren in his history. He has eaten his potatoes and milk three times a day – when he could get them – and he has practically done nothing else as a Gael. Individuals in appalling numbers have turned their backs with a kind of loathing on their race – felt compelled to do it, though they had no clear conception of the reason why, for necessity was by no means always the driving force. Some of them took the Queen’s shilling, and helped to make an empire to scourge their country with; some took a passage to New York, and others, staying at home, learned a bit of English, and became Palemen, possibly rising in course of time to the position of modern patriot. At the fire that was kindled in 1782 we light our torches whenever we go forth anywhere in the name of Ireland a nation. When a man sets himself to reflect independently over modern Irish history, and probes things as best he can, for what they are worth, he must marvel at the bucketfuls of trash which he has been given to drink since his boyhood.
No one wants to fall out with Davis’s comprehensive idea of the Irish people as a composite race drawn from various sources, and professing any creed they like, nor would an attempt to rake up racial prejudices be tolerated by anyone. We are proud of Grattan, Flood, Tone, Emmett, and all the rest who dreamt and worked for an independent country, even though they had no conception of an Irish nation; but it is necessary that they should be put in their place, and that place is not on the top as the only beacon lights to succeeding generations. The foundation of Ireland is the Gael, and the Gael must be the element that absorbs. On no other basis can an Irish nation be reared that would not topple over by force of the very ridicule that it would beget. However, since the glories of 1782 the process has been reversed, and we are all Palemen now.
It is important to trace how this state of affairs was brought about. It is interesting, as a study in the capacity for self-blinding, which a people can attain to, when they discard their old land-marks and standards, to examine how it was retained. The position of Grattan and his followers is simple enough. Their attitude towards England was similar – though more wishy-washy – to that of the American revolutionists. They had, broadly speaking, a common past with England; they had the same root ideals, the same speech, the same religion, and the same hatred for other people’s religion. There was no radical, though there were several detail, differences between the patriots of 1782 and Englishmen. England had been fighting the mere Irish for centuries, and telling lies about them, and it is not difficult to understand – for England has no sentiment that will not go under before the gentlest tap of self-interest, let her talk as loud as she likes to the contrary – how she overlooked her own colony in the island, and bundled the whole population into one, and treated all as her enemies. The English in Ireland resented such treatment, not because it hurt their sense of patriotism or self-respect, but because it affected their pockets and prestige, and timorously and gradually they developed the sulks. Eventually they began to look upon themselves as a kind of English-Irish colony, that ought to be independent of English Parliamentary interference. Many of them, like Swift, regarded Irishmen with contempt, and even Flood, who left his fortune eventually for the study of Irish, was a bigoted opponent of Catholic emancipation, which then meant a bigoted anti-Gael. Those people, in fact, cared nothing about the Gaels, who, to their minds, were undesirable aborigines, speaking gibberish: a low multitude, whose existence they would like to forget, if they could. When they talked in stilted eloquence, fashioned after the styles of Pope, and not inspired in the least degree by anything Irish, about the ancient constitution of Ireland, they did not refer, as 99 out of every 100 unsophisticated Irish readers, including, probably, many Nationalist Members of Parliament, think, to anything connected with Emain or Tara, but to that glorious constitution for the upholding of which Munster was laid waste by Carew, and Mullaghmast was made famous in our history. They took the fetters off their constitution, but they were unable to keep it. That Grattan was not rebel enough to put it beyond the power of being bought, or that the other leaders, sincere according to their narrow views, were fools enough to think that England Had changed her spots, and would not cheat them when she became strong again, matters nothing to my present argument. The movement placed the Pale at the head of Ireland for the first time in history, and ever since the Pale has retained that place. The ‘98 and ‘48 movements, the Fenians and the Parnellite agitation, were Pale movements in their essence, even when they were most fiercely rebellious. In many respects they were tinkering movements, for, while they were making a loud noise the great canker was left unheeded. The passions and excitements of those days distracted all men’s attention. from one long monotonous series of fateful sounds. No one heeded the dull incessant sap, sap, of English ideas, ideals and manners – mostly of the worst English kind too – that were all the time rotting the only possible foundation for the Ireland that the people were vaguely, incoherently seeking after. This century presents us with a picture of a whole people deluding itself, and, consequently, tumbling into all manner of absurdities. At one and the same time they talked of their ancient glories and turned their backs upon them. That piece of rhetoric of Davis commencing, “This is no sandbank,” was to the people a piece of rhetoric and nothing more. They didn’t believe a word of it. Their attitude was this: they knew nothing about their past except by hearsay, and they were afraid to enquire too far for fear their conceit should be pulled down. For the pretensions of Ireland were, naturally, derided by Englishmen, and against the volume of that derision all the Irishman had to fall back upon was that he saw in this newspaper or that penny reading-book a statement that we were a fine people long ago; that O’Curry and others had gone into the question and gave their words that it was right. But you might as well put up a wattle to stop a steam roller. English derision conquered, of course, for, like the children that we have allowed ourselves to become, we look nervously to our masters to find out how much good we may believe of ourselves. England did not flatter us; so to-day we are a mean race in our own estimation. Not one in a thousand Irishmen believes in his heart that we were anything but savages before the Norman appearance. We know all about second-rate ’48 men, large-hearted well-intentioned fools, whom we magnify into our great heroes; but as for ever being an isle of saints and scholars, that is a brilliant foreign kind of picture which we can never find a place for on the ragged Irish canvas that we are familiar with.
The United Irish Movement was organised and led by men of the Pale. It produced many noble men. When we consider his opportunities there are few more masculine characters than Theobald Wolfe Tone. But the truth remains that he was not an Irishman. He was a great Irish rebel; not more extreme, however, than the Bishop of Derry, who was English born and bred. If I were asked to define Tone’s nationality I should say that he was a Frenchman born in Ireland of English parents. The principles of the French Revolution made a deeper impression on the English in Ireland than on the English at home, and that greater impression helped to widen the detailed differences between the peoples. Nevertheless, the United Irish Movement was a colossal failure, for it was not a movement running in line with the genius of the Irish people, and it took but a poor hold on the peasant. What did the peasants know of republics? What did they understand about English-speaking independent states? What did they care about the glorious Pale victory of 1782? The peasant was crushed and ignorant and conservative, and his mind could not be rooted out of its traditions by any Pale-steeped emissaries; it was not ripe for the grasping of French principles or Paleman’s patriotism. It would be difficult to say what would have roused the peasants of that time. Anyway the appeal should have been in Irish, the object held out not an academic republic but the re-conquest of the land, the reestablishment of old ways and manners, and the sweeping away not only of the English connection but, I fear, of the Paleman as well.
O’Connell’s movement gives us the first instance of the Gael – ignorant by the blessed dispensation of his civilizing conqueror – giving away his mind to the keeping of one man. This act on the part of a people of a country is a long price to pay for an immediate victory – particularly by a people largely denied the training which develops thought – but it is a price which it is perhaps sometimes necessary to pay. The evil which it works may be amply compensated for when the object for which it was done is attained; when the object is not attained a new train of evils are created to embitter the defeat. Twice during this century we have paid this price to little purpose. The process tends to sap the individuality and self-reliance of a people. Whilst a country is under a sway of this kind the greatest crime a man can commit is to say what he honestly thinks. It is the harvest season for time-servers, sycophants and men of the stuff that petty tyrants are made of. They grow up like mushrooms under the protection of the strong hand, and when the strong hand is gone there they remain posing as men and never suspecting that they are merely creatures. And it is a long process for the sorely pressed country to get rid of the most of them – a necessary preliminary, however, to the restoration of common-sense and the re-commencement of effective work. Under a sway of this kind the Irishman soon loses the habit of thinking for himself – and ’twas little he ever had in modern times – and becomes a sheep. A nation like Ireland that gives its mind away to one man no sooner loses him than she writhes in agony until she gives it to another. If there is not another handy there will be wigs on the green for a long time. The people are not used to the burden of carrying their own brains. Most leaders focus and control forces; O’Connell, besides this, had to create his own force. Other men see a great confused inarticulate mass in want of some master-spirit to voice it and give it cohesion. O’Connell beheld a Prostrate people without spirit enough even to feel the craving for a leader. He was one of the greatest leaders that the world has ever produced, but he had one shortcoming common to all men – his mind was finite and had walls of brass round it. One of the things which people, whilst under the sway of a conquering mind and personality, are apt to forget is that every man must be, and is, in many ways a fool. But O’Connell had no sympathetic critics, at least none whom he could not send into space with an epigram or a joke; and anti-Irish critics never count. He and public opinion were unfortunately one and the same, so he grew in his folly and his sheep grew with him. His greatest folly was that he was blind to the necessity of keeping the Irish language the general, or at least one of the general, tongues, and of raising Ireland from her own roots. It would be useless to speculate now as to what would have happened had O’Connell not appeared upon the scene. The Gael would not have become so defiant in so short a time, but neither probably would he have become so anxious to be Anglicised. O’Connell turned his back on his own language. He was in a hurry and his material was not promising, and by a perverted notion of raising the status of his countrymen he wished them to compete with England in her own tongue and on her own terms. It apparently never crossed his mind that in doing this he was levelling to the ground the strongest national barricade, and making a breach for the free entry of English influence. He was a giant, but like all of us he was hood-winked by the new interpretation of nationality sprung upon the country by the Glorious Constitution of 1782. He did more than any other man, because he was a giant, to kill the Gaelic language and the distinctive character of the people.
The ’48 men put a few more nails in the coffin of the Gael. The worst thing they did, the thing which naturally they are most belauded for doing by enlightened English critics, was that they brought into life a mongrel thing which they called Irish literature, in the English language. Literature in the English language is English literature and all the Duffys that were ever born could not make it anything else. However, they made the people believe they could – a state of things which has since been responsible for many things. Let the jingling rhymes which have been poured out ever since as Irish poetry in the English tongue stand as one of them. Perhaps it needs no further condemnation.
So long as the anti-English sentiment was kept at white heat, as it had been kept more or less until the impossible “Union of Hearts” disorganised things, the weakness which all our departures from the Irish traditions had made in the Irish position, since Molyneux first blew the blast, was not very much noticed. Now, however, that the anti-English or any other sentiment is not at white heat, or scarcely at any heat at all, we are beginning to realise fully the desperate position to which we have come. All barriers are down, and we are quickly becoming, whether we like it or not, as English in our ideas, aims, thoughts, and slang as the genuine Briton of the lower type. It is true that our new clothes do not sit absolutely easy on us yet, so that we look a bit awkward in them, and sometimes they become so uncomfortable that we take some of them off, just as the country girls throw their boots over their shoulders until they come near the towns. But let not the genteel retail dealers of the Irish towns be too impatient – in four or five generations hence their posterity may become accustomed to the new clothes and be able to carry themselves with as much swagger and coarseness as any Briton.
The great present result of our conquest by the Pale, and of the failure of subsequent partly national movements – whose success would probably have long since put Pale influence into its proper subordinate place – is that Irishmen are now in competition with Englishmen in every sphere of social and intellectual activity, in a competition where England has fixed the marks, the subjects, and has had the sole making of the rules of the game. It may be interesting to examine briefly some of the main conditions under which this unnatural competition is carried on. They can only be understood, perhaps, by people who know both countries. England has been a great commercial and industrial country for centuries, and within her borders there has been, broadly speaking, free competition, and the population has, as a consequence, undergone a rough sifting process. The greater part of what was strenuous, fighting and capable has long since gone to the top. To assert that the poorer classes in England are only the dregs, would be too sweeping, but anyway they are largely composed of the dregs of their race. Millions of those who have got uppermost in the fight are living on rents, interests, profits, from their own and other countries, or working under most favourable conditions with large means and much leisure. They have little or nothing to do but to cultivate the amenities of life by their own firesides, and from this class a degenerate sub-class has been evolved, a class of narrow, well-dressed, well-washed, thoughtless people of both sexes; people out of whom all traces of originality have long since been drilled, and who might be described as articulate formulae. They are very powerful, however, in social England, and the novelists would starve if this class were not made to suppose that it is correct to pretend to be interested in books. For generations every profession, every art, has been followed in England, and the dull brains of the nation have been burnished and rubbed after the most improved methods in order to put a little artificial polish on them. The great shop-keeping classes have nearly everything that riches can give, particularly the veneer of manners and gentility which costly surroundings are calculated to impart even to a born Caliban, and which it takes a keen Irishman, raw from his native bog, years to penetrate through, and to discover the mean, vulgar thing that usually lurk underneath after all. England has realised herself, and, contemplating the product, she is, as she well may be, disappointed and cynical. The English mind is essentially one which justifies the means by the end, though it may be too dull to see it and too self-righteous to suspect it. It is narrow and bigoted by nature, and it is bloated by the fat traditions of success. All people can, to a degree, deceive themselves when it is their interest to do so; but this dull, prosperous people have a malign genius for it: they can deceive themselves into believing that blind hate for a race is love for mankind, that massacres are the harbingers of the higher civilization, that liberty of conscience is liberty to think as they think. They have, nevertheless, been ever a God-fearing race for the reason that their God is a portable deity, easily shifted. And whenever they take any enterprise in hand, the first thing they are sure to do is to place God Almighty on their side.
Now let us look at the other side. Ireland has never known a time when any real development could take place since she was the school of Europe. A hundred years ago many of the descendants of her chieftains and aristocrats were probably to be found, as, I think, Sir Jonah Barrington remarked, unloading ships on the quays of Dublin. Inasmuch as there was never any considerable competition, as there was nothing to compete for until very recently the sifting process which took place in England never operated in Ireland. And you will find as good natural capacity and native courtesy in a western cabin as in the families that send their children to Trinity College. The number of eminent Irishmen all over the world who look back upon a mud cabin or something little better, as their natal place is one of the effects of this state of things. It is, perhaps, this long absence of the forces that tend to differentiate people and send the stronger to the top that accounts for the curious versatility of the Irishman. We all have a bit of everything in us, and none of us have any specialised characteristics stamped upon us, by a long line of hereditary influences, except the almost universal inclination to cringe and crawl which over a century of Pale ascendancy has driven into our souls. Since 1847 a rapid sifting process has been going on, but instead of operating, as in other countries, to send the man of brains and character to the top, it sets him sailing across the seas. In Ireland there are no set types, nor can there be for very many generations. The greasy obsequious English shopkeeper, who is just as greasy, whether he pays £10 or £1,000 a year as rent, has no prototype in Ireland where undertakers follow the hounds, grocers go coursing, and publicans sometimes march off to gaol for their principles. The Irish are by no means saints, but at least their God pertains to the nature of a polar star, and will not be moved so as to ease their path down the line of least resistance. We have not the flexible, convenient way of looking at things that the English have. The Anglicised Irishman in England is too often an easy prey to English scampdom – takes a perverted national pride in being first on the road to ruin. Later on, at the parting of the ways, the Englishman walks off with a smile of unctuous rectitude; but his dupe, the poor Gael, differently constituted, daren’t lift up his head, and too often goes the whole road to the devil.
These, roughly and briefly, are the conditions under which Nationalist Ireland, in consequence of her conquest by the Pale, attempts to break a lance with England. Can anyone for a moment think that this poor, ragged Ireland, undeveloped, unorganised, dormant for centuries, can fight England, as she now is, on her own terms – fight her literature, her cynicism, her moral conceptions, her social ideas, her wealth? Evidently the majority of Nationalist Ireland think they can. And there could be no more damning criticism of our half-National political agitations, and of our conquest by the Pale, than that they have lulled us into this state of simmering ignorance of the realities of the contest. We go ragged and raw, with no conscious traditions behind us, but traditions of failure and beggary into the fray, and cut a contemptible and sorry figure, indeed. It has been observed that it takes three generations to produce a normal Lancashire factory hand. I suppose the assumption is that an Irishman can be turned into an Englishman in one!
Of course, we are beaten and demoralised all along the line, as at one and the same time we are hating England and imitating her. We take all our ideas from England, for we are afraid to have any of our own. We have no faith in our own judgment, daren’t have any judgment in fact, unless we can find some English or foreign opinion to back us up. How many Nationalists I wonder would consent even to consider the claims of Gaelic were it not for the long array of foreign professors that can be brought to bear on its side? Few Irishmen are of any account in the eyes of their countrymen until they have made reputations outside of Ireland – an unnatural state of affairs which obtains in no other country calling itself a nation. Without our traditions and language, without a knowledge – a knowledge sunk into us and pervading every part of us – of the causes which led to Ireland’s failure, to her poverty and degradation, and an insight, to be obtained from an independent Gaelic point of view, into the hollowness, the rottenness, and the sham of England and the English, without having an eye for the accidental in each country as against the intrinsic, we must, as sure as a greater force overcomes a lesser, go down, flicker for a while, and die out. We can never beat England, can’t even remain long in a fight with her, on her own terms. All we can do, and it should be enough for us, is, remain Irish in spite of her, and work out our own destiny in the very many fields in which we are free to do so.
The concrete absurdities which our position as a tail to England throws us into are infinite. They are before our eyes at every turn though we may not see them. When an English actor of eminence visits us don’t we take the horses from his carriage and cheer ourselves hoarse, and the next day when he says something gracious about us in the columns of the evening paper we beam all over our faces and add an inch to our stature. We call it hospitality, warm Irish welcome, anything but what it is, self-debasement, servility and cringe. The shifts, and twists, and turns of the respectable Irish to behave after their absurd second-hand conception of English ladies and gentlemen – the antics they play, the airs they assume, the ignorance on the one hand and the knowledge on the other they pretend to, are full, no doubt, of the comic element, but the sad slavishness of it all is what strikes the Irish observer; and ‘that leaves him no heart to enjoy the comedy. The ludicrousness is heightened when we consider that every honest, brilliant mind in England is never done laughing and hammering at this dullness covered in veneer and surrounded with wealth that our respectable classes – neither dull nor uninteresting if they were true to nature – look up at aghast, feeling a load at the heart as they contemplate the impossibility of ever scaling the heights. The most disagreeable thing about all this cringe is its needlessness and absolutely false basis. The appeal to Irish history condemns it. It is sad to see an unfortunate wretch whining under the lash of a whip: it is, however, natural to whine under such circumstances. But it is revolting to see a people whining for no adequate reason whatsoever. And why do we whine? Because we have lost all our national pride owing to having no understanding of the things that would make us proud, but a very clear view of the superficial things which overwhelm our ignorant minds with shame. Even the bit of Irish history we know is knowledge to little purpose. For the great effort of history as taught in our national books and papers is to show that England over-reached us in every conflict, and that she is a very wicked kind of devil indeed. This does not go deep enough. It does not carry us very far in the way of pumping up any national pride; on the contrary, however a man may try to despise him I fear he cannot help a secret admiration for the one who is strong and unscrupulous enough to over-reach him, and a powerful devil has a curious fascination for us all. The inevitable result of our conquest by the Pale must be – as it is now – that the relative position of the Irishman to the Englishman is as that of a beggar to a patron. We may talk sentimentally of the “nameless grave,” of rebellions and Lord Edward, sing patriotic songs in English until we are black in the face, and all to no purpose. They give us nothing to lean upon when, cap in hand and shaking at the knees, we stand before the power, the outside polish and wealth of England. The course of reflection, conscious or unconscious, which leads Ireland to cringe is clear enough. Power and wealth are tangible things – though their origins are not so plain to the naked eye – and England has both. When we went under the rule of England’s mind and traditions in 1782 we had to take her standards as part of the bargain; and wealth – with the things which it can buy and generate – is her great standard. Poverty is a holy thing, taken philosophically; but Irish poverty, butted at and kicked by English wealth, Irish weakness insulted and trodden on every day of the year by English power, can make no stand since Ireland has accepted English wealth and power as her standards. Ireland develops under these circumstances a spirit in keeping with her lowly material lot. Even Irishmen capable of great spirit get embarrassed and cringe in the company of English wealthy middle-class noodles, as if an ancestral line of grim, hard-suffering Irish peasants who sacrificed everything at one time to their principles and traditions was not better than that of a line of sleek, trimming, bread-and-butter Saxon bourgeois, who would have swallowed the devil any day sooner than lose a customer.
This is the state of things which our conquest by the Pale has brought about, and the new soul which it put into Ireland has proved itself not even to possess any of the saving qualities of salt. The old soul must be put back again. The Gael has been led by the nose long enough by the spirit of the Pale. The mere Irish after the various spasmodic attempts at their conquest used to come out of their hiding places and harass their enemies. Usually they came out in scattered groups, sometimes strung together in almost national proportions by the genius of a Hugh O’Neill. Unfortunately they had not only to fight their natural enemies but the Queen’s Irish as well. The Queen’s Irish were never so numerous as they are to-day, and to add to their effectiveness they dress themselves in green. But the penetrating eye of the Gaelic spirit is beginning to see through the disguise. The next few years will decide for all time whether the Gael is to lift up the Irish race once more, or whether the Pale is to complete its effacement.