Essays of the Political Club formed in Dublin, 1790.
The situation of England and Ireland, considered with regard to each other, has been, since the year 1782, a phenomenon defying all hypothesis and calculation: an empire, as it is called, of two parts, co-equal and co-ordinate, with such a confusion of attributes as nothing less than a revolution can separate and determine. Before I proceed to state my reasons for being so satisfied, it may be advisable to take a very short glance at the present state of this country, which appears to me such as in no age or history can be paralleled. A mighty kingdom, governed by two or three obscure individuals of another country on maxims, and with views totally foreign to her interest.
Antecedent to this date (1782) the power of Great Britain in Ireland was so well established by laws of her own enacting, fleets of her own building, armies of her own raising, that it was of very little moment what were the opinions of Irishmen on any public question. Our woollen manufacture was demolished by a single vote of the English Commons, the appellative jurisdiction torn from us by a resolution of the English Lords, and, in a word, insult was heaped on injury and wrong for so long a series of years, that we were sunk to the subordination of an English County, without the profits of English commerce, or the protection of English liberty. We had ceased to remember that we were a nation, or that we had a name, till the genius of American liberty burst asunder a sleep that seemed the slumber of death; the nation started forth and shivered the manacles which British ambition had hoped were forged with eternity. Our constitution, our commerce were enlarged from a dreary captivity, and the name of Ireland became once more respected, her independence was admitted when it could not be withheld.
We were, before 1782, bound to support the wars of Great Britain, and we were also bound to submit to her capricious and interested misrule; we were bound by a legion of laws, not enacted by our own legislature, or shadow of legislature. The precedent of Ireland subjugated, with crippled force, and broken spirit, poor and divided, must not be held up as the rule of conduct to Ireland restored to her rights, glowing with the ardency of youth, and the vigour of renovated constitution, and of infinitely greater extent and internal resources than Denmark or Sweden, or Portugal or Sardinia, or Naples — all sovereign states.
You all remember the day of your slavery and oppression and insignificance. Have you considered what you are now? Does your present situation ever occur, even to your dreams? An existing miracle which gives the lie to all political experience.
A rising and powerful kingdom, rich in all the gifts of nature; a soil fertile, a sky temperate, intersected by many great rivers, pregnant with mines of every useful metal and mineral; indented by the noblest harbours; inhabited by four millions of an ingenious, a bold and gallant people, yet unheard of and unknown in Europe, and by no means of such consequence as the single county of York in England.
If these things be so, does it ever occur to you what it is that degrades you, that keeps you without a court, without ambassadors, without a navy, without an army? If it has not, I will tell you, and I will show you wherein you differ from England. There the Monarchy resides: there, whatever party prevail, the administration is English, and their sole, or, at least, their principal view is the good of the nation, so that the interest of the Minister and the country are forwarded by the same means. With us it is not so. Our Government is formed of some insignificant English nobleman, who presides; some obsequious tool of the British Minister who proposes, and a rabble of the most profligate of our countrymen, who execute his mandates. The interest of the Government and of the nation drag different ways, and with the purse of the nation, and the patronage of the Crown appended to one scale, it is easy to foresee which will preponderate. Hence flow the various grievances of Ireland; corruption in every form, wanton expense, unbounded peculation, sale of honours, judicial oppression, and last, though not least, the plunging of her into all the horrors of a war, in a quarrel where she is no more interested, in the eye of reason, than if the difference arose in the moon.
I believe in the history of man there is not to be found an instance, wherein of two nations, equal in all natural advantages, equal in intelligence, in spirit, in courage, one has yet been for centuries content to remain in a state of subordination, unknown and unregarded, drawing her Government, and the maxims of her Government from the other, though demonstratively injurious to her pride, her interest, her commerce, and her Constitution, and receiving no one advantage in return for such a complete surrender of her imperial and independent rights. When I consider the situation of Ireland at this day, I confess I am utterly at a loss to account for her submission to such degrading inferiority. Old prejudices will do much, but can they do all this? Or has the wisdom of the Almighty framed some kingdoms as He has some animals, only for the convenience and service of others?