The People of Ireland have done well in naming the scene of their future counsels the Conciliation Hall.
It intimates the cause of all our misery, and suggests the cure. Prostrated by division, union is our hope.
If Irishmen were united, the Repeal of the Union would be instantly and quietly conceded. A Parliament, at whose election mutual generosity would be in every heart and every act, would take the management of Ireland. For oh! we ask our direst foe to say from the bottom of his heart, would not the People of Ireland melt with joy and love to their Protestant brethren if they united and conquered? And surely from such a soil noble crops would grow. No southern plain heavy with corn, and shining with fruit-clad hamlets, ever looked so warm and happy as would the soul of Ireland, bursting out with all the generosity and beauty of a grateful People.
We trust that the opening of the Conciliation Hall will be a signal to Catholic and Protestant to try and agree.
Surely our Protestant brethren cannot shut their eyes to the honour it would confer on them and us if we gave up old brawls and bitterness, and came together in love like Christians, in feeling like countrymen, in policy like men having common interests. Can they—ah! tell us, dear countrymen!—can you harden your hearts at the thought of looking on Irishmen joined in commerce, agriculture, art, justice, government, wealth, and glory?
Fancy the aristocracy placed by just laws, or by wise concession, on terms of friendship with their tenants, securing to these tenants every farthing their industry entitled them to; living among them, promoting agriculture and education by example and instruction; sharing their joys, comforting their sorrows, and ready to stand at their head whenever their country called. Think well on it. Suppose it to exist in your own county, in your own barony and parish. Dwell on this sight. See the life of such a landlord and of such farmers—so busy, so thoughtful, so happy! How the villages would ring with pleasure and trade, and the fields laugh with contented and cheered labour. Imagine the poor supporting themselves on those waste lands which the home expenditure of our rents and taxes would reclaim, and the workhouse turned into an hospital, or a district college. Education and art would prosper; every village, like Italy, with its painter of repute. Then indeed the men of all creeds would be competent by education to judge of doctrines; yet, influenced by that education, to see that God meant men to live, and love, and ennoble their souls; to be just, and to worship Him, and not to consume themselves in rites, or theological contention; or if they did discuss, they would do so not as enemies, but inquirers after truth. The clergy of different creeds would be placed on an equality, and would hope to propagate their faith not by hard names or furious preaching, but by their dignity and wisdom, and by the marked goodness of their flocks. Men might meet or part at church or chapel door without sneer or suspicion. From the christening of the child, till his neighbours, Catholic and Protestant, followed his grey-haired corpse to the tomb, he might live enjoying much, honoured much, and fearing nothing but his own carelessness or vice.
This, ’twill be said, is a paradise.
Alas! no—there would still be individual crime and misfortune, national difficulties and popular errors. These are in the happiest and best countries.
But the condition of many countries is as Paradise to what we are.
Where else in Europe is the peasant ragged, fed on roots, in a wigwam, without education?
Where else are the towns ruined, trade banished, the till, and the workshop, and the stomach of the artisan empty? Where else is there an exportation of over one-third of the rents, and an absenteeism of the chief landlords? What other country pays four and a half million taxes to a foreign treasury, and has its offices removed or filled with foreigners? Where else are the People told they are free and represented, yet only one in two hundred of them have the franchise? Where, beside, do the majority support the Clergy of the minority? In what other country are the majority excluded from high ranks in the University? In what place, beside, do landlords and agents extort such vast rents from an indigent race? Where else are the tenants ever pulling, the owners ever driving, and both full of anger? And what country so fruitful and populous, so strong, so well marked and guarded by the sea, and with such an ancient name, was reduced to provincialism by bribery and treacherous force, and is denied all national government?
And if the answer be, as it must, “nowhere is the like seen,” then we say that union amongst Irishmen would make this country comparatively a paradise. For union would peacefully achieve independence; would enable us to settle the landlord and tenant question; would produce religious equality, as the first act of independence; would restore the absentees by the first of our taxes; would cherish our commerce, facilitate agriculture and manufactures, and would introduce peace and social exertion, instead of religious and political strife.
Again, then, we ask the Protestant to ponder over these things—to think of them when he lies down—to talk over them to his Catholic neighbours—to see if he and they couldn’t agree—and to offer up in church his solemn prayers that this righteous and noble conclusion of our mourning may be vouchsafed.
Where, in aught that has been said or done by the Catholic party, is there evidence of that intolerant and usurping spirit which the Protestants seem to dread?
Do they think it possible for a whole People of some millions of men, women, and children to tell a public lie, and to persevere in the giant falsehood for years? The present generation have been brought up in this faith of religious equality, and they would be liars, and apostates too, if they wished for ascendency. We may add it would not be safe nor possible for the Catholics to establish an ascendency, even if the Union were repealed; and, therefore, we again ask the Protestants, for the sake of peace, interest, and religion, to try if they cannot unite with the Catholics for the prosperity of Ireland.
To the Catholics we have nothing to say but to redouble their efforts.
Conciliation is a fixed and everlasting duty, independently of the political results it might have. If they despaired of winning the Protestants to Repeal, conciliation would still be their duty, as men and Christians. But there is every ground for hope. The Protestants, in defeating the rack-renters’ anti-Repeal meeting, showed they began to see their interest. Something has been, more shall be done to remove the prejudice against the Catholics, derived from lying histories; and if we may take the stern reproof of the Banner of Ulster to the Evening Mail as speaking the sentiments of the Presbyterians of the North, then they begin to feel like religious Irishmen, and they will presently be with us.