From An Claidheamh Soluis, 17 December, 1904.
Inis Fail, in noting the appointment of Miss Milligan as Lantern Lecturer to the Gaelic League, takes exception to a recent statement of hers, “that while ‘nationalism’ should include ‘Gaelicism,’ the latter ‘cannot include nationalism as it is bigger.’” This dictum, the writer thinks, goes to show that Miss Milligan is not sound in her Irish ideas. We do not know in what precise context the words were used, or whether anything which preceded or followed them was so phrased as to give the impression that Miss Milligan was heterodox in her views; but, taking as it stands the naked statement quoted by our contemporary, “that while ‘nationalism’ should include ‘Gaelicism,’ the latter cannot include nationalism as it is bigger,” the truth of the contention appears to us so obvious that we are amazed that anyone should call it in question “Nationalism” (which we here distinguish from “nationality”) we take to mean the spirit of active patriotism, and “Gaelicism” we take to mean the traditional spirit of Ireland as inhering in her language, literature, and lore; if the meanings we attach to the terms be accepted, then it is self-evident that “nationalism,” as Miss Milligan contends, is the wider term of the two, but that Irish nationalism must include Gaelicism. A true “Nationalist” – that is, a true patriot – must be a Gael either in fact or by desire; but a little reflection will show that one may be a Gael without being a patriot. Not to go to past history for examples, the Irish-speaking parent in Connemara or Iveragh who is ashamed of his Irish speech and refuses to teach it to his children, is, of course, a Gael – i.e., he is in full communion with the whole body of Gaelic tradition; but he is not a patriot – his “Gaelicism” does not include “nationalism.” It is very unwise for Gaelic Leaguers to overstate their case, and for our part we shall never fail to protest when we find it laid down that Gaelicism is nationalism, – in truth it is only a part – an essential part – of nationalism, – an element in a compound.
Summing up what we have written in the preceding paragraph in a recent note on “Nationality and Autonomy,” may we submit the following definitions?: –
- “Nationality” is the sum total of all the characteristics which mark off a people as a distinct entity.
- “Nationalism” (sometimes used as a synonym of “nationality”) is the spirit of active patriotism.
- “Gaelicism” is the traditional spirit of Ireland, which inheres mainly in the language, literature, and lore of Ireland.
A study of these definitions will show that nationalism, in the sense in which we use it, is to nationality as the subjective is to the objective; and further that Gaelicism can be regarded either subjectively or objectively. Regarded subjectively, Gaelicism is an essential of Irish nationalism; regarded objectively, it is an essential of Irish nationality. But it is co-extensive with neither the one nor the other. The Gaelic League states its whole case when it states that Gaelicism is an essential element; to state that it is the whole were to state too much.