Our history contains reasons for our extending the Foreign Policy of Ireland. This we tried to develop some months back.
The partial successes of the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from Hugh O’Neill to James the Second, were in no slight degree owing to the arms and auxiliary troops of Spain and France.
Our yet more complete triumphs in the political conflicts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries owed still more to our foreign connections—witness the influence of the American war on the creation of the Volunteers, the effect of the battle of Jemappes, and of the French Fraternity of Ulster on the Toleration Act of 1793, and how much the presence of American money, and the fear of French interference, hastened the Emancipation Act of 1829.
With reference to this last period, we may state that such an effect had the articles published in l’Etoile on Ireland that Canning wrote a remonstrance to M. de Villele, asking him “was it intended that the war of pens should bring on one of swords.” The remonstrance was unavailing—the French sympathy for Ireland increased, and other offices than newspaper offices began to brush up their information on Ireland. But arms yielded to the gown, and the maps and statistics of Ireland never left the War Office of France.
But our own history is not the only advocate for a Foreign Policy for Ireland.
Foreign alliances have ever stood among the pillars of national power, along with virtue, wise laws, settled customs, military organisations, and naval position. Advice, countenance, direct help, are secured by old and generous alliances. Thus the alliance of Prussia carried England through the wars of the eighteenth century, the alliance of France rescued the wavering fortunes of America, the alliance of Austria maintains Turkey against Russia, and so in a thousand instances beside.
A People known and regarded abroad will be more dignified, more consistent, and more proud in all its acts. Fame is to national manners little less than virtue to national morals. A nation with a high and notorious character to sustain will be more stately and firm than if it lived in obscurity. Each citizen feels that the national name which he bears is a pledge for his honour. The soldier’s uniform much less surely checks the display of his vices, and an army’s standard less certainly excites its valour than the name of an illustrious country stimulates its sons to greatness and nobility. The prestige of Rome’s greatness operated even more on the souls of her citizens than on the hearts of her friends and foes.
Again, it is peculiarly needful for Ireland to have a Foreign Policy. Intimacy with the great powers will guard us from English interference. Many of the minor German states were too deficient in numbers, boundaries, and wealth to have outstood the despotic ages of Europe but for those foreign alliances, which, whether resting on friendship or a desire to preserve the balance of power, secured them against their rapacious neighbours. And now time has given its sanction to their continuance, and the progress of localisation guarantees their future safety. When Ireland is a nation she will not, with her vast population and her military character, require such alliances as a security against an English re-conquest; but they will be useful in banishing any dreams of invasion which might otherwise haunt the brain of our old enemy.
But England is a pedagogue as well as a gaoler to us. Her prison discipline requires the Helotism of mind. She shuts us up, like another Caspar Hauser, in a dark dungeon, and tells us what she likes of herself and of the rest of the world. And this renders foreign information most desirable for us.
She calls France base, impious, poor, and rapacious. She lies. France has been the centre of European mind for centuries. France was the first of the large states to sweep away the feudal despotism. France has a small debt and an immense army; while England has a vast debt and scanty forces. France has five millions of kindly, merry, well-fed yeomen. England swarms with dark and withered artisans. Every seventh person you meet in France is a landowner in fee, subject to moderate taxation. Taxes and tenancies-at-will have cleared out the yeomanry of England. France has a literature surpassing England’s modern literature. France is an apostle of liberty—England the turnkey of the world. France is the old friend, England, the old foe, of Ireland. From one we may judge all. England has defamed all other countries in order to make us and her other slaves content in our fetters.
England’s eulogies on herself are as false and extravagant as her calumnies on all other states. She represents her constitution as the perfection of human wisdom; while in reality it is based on conquest, shaken by revolution, and only qualified by disorder. Her boasted tenures are the relics of a half-abolished serfdom, wherein the cultivator was nothing, and the aristocrat everything, and in which a primogeniture extending from the King to the Gentleman often placed idiocy on the throne, and tyranny in the senate, and always produced disunion in families, monopoly in land, and peculation throughout every branch of the public service. Her laws are complicated, and their administration costly beyond any others ever known. Her motley and tyrannous flag she proclaims the first that floats, and her tottering and cruel empire the needful and sufficient guardian of our liberties.
By cultivating Foreign Relations, and growing intimate with foreign states of society, we will hear a free and just criticism on England’s constitution and social state. We will have a still better and fairer commentary in the condition and civil structure of other countries.
We will see small free states—Norway, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, and Portugal—maintaining their homes free, and bearing their flags in triumph for long ages. We will learn from themselves how they kept their freedom afloat amid the perils of centuries. We will salute them as brethren subject to common dangers, and interested in one policy—localisation of power.
The Catholic will see the Protestant states of Prussia, Holland, Saxony, and America; and the Protestant will see the Catholic states of Belgium, Bavaria, and France, all granting full liberty of conscience—leaving every creed to settle its tenets with its conscience, and dealing, as states, only with citizens, not sects.
He who fancies some intrinsic objection to our nationality to lie in the co-existence of two languages, three or four great sects, and a dozen different races in Ireland, will learn that in Hungary, Switzerland, Belgium, and America, different languages, creeds, and races flourish kindly side by side, and he will seek in English intrigues the real well of the bitter woes of Ireland.
Germany, France, and America teach us that English economics are not fit for a nation beginning to establish a trade, though they may be for an old and plethoric trader; and therefore that English and Irish trading interests are directly opposed. Nor can our foreign trade but be served by foreign connections.
The land tenures of France, Norway, and Prussia are the reverse of England’s. They resemble our own old tenures; they better suit our character and our wants than the loose holdings and servile wages system of modern England.
These, and a host of lessons more, will we learn if we study the books, laws, and manners, and cultivate an intimacy with the citizens of foreign states. We will thus obtain countenance, sympathy, and help in time of need, and honour and friendship in time of strength; and thus, too, we will learn toleration towards each other’s creed, distrust in our common enemy, and confidence in liberty and nationality.
Till Ireland has a foreign policy, and a knowledge of foreign states, England will have an advantage over us in both military and moral ways. We will be without those aids on which even the largest nations have at times to depend; and we will be liable to the advances of England’s treacherous and deceptive policy.
Let us, then, return the ready grasp of America, and the warm sympathy of France, and of every other country that offers us its hand and heart. Let us cultivate a Foreign Policy and Foreign Information as useful helps in that national existence which is before us, though its happiness and glory depend, in the first instance, on “ourselves alone.” Ireland has a glorious future, if she be worthy of it. We must believe and act up to the lessons taught by reason and history, that England is our interested and implacable enemy—a tyrant to her dependants—a calumniator of her neighbours, and both the despot and defamer of Ireland for near seven centuries. Mutual respect for conscience, an avoidance of polemics, concession to each other, defiance to the foe, and the extension of our foreign relations, are our duty, and should be our endeavour. Vigour and policy within and without, great men to lead, educated men to organise, brave men to follow—these are the means of liberation—these are elements of nationality.