« PreviousContinue »
have no compassion, no fellow feeling for Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Arthur O'Connor, Oliver Bond, Russel, Emmet, Tone, Teeling, the two Sheares, and hundreds of others, many of them of the most amiable and respectable characters; some of them of noble birth and high expectations—who ventured their fortunes and their lives, in order to redress wrongs so long and so grievously felt?
Let it be understood, that, in the foregoing sketch, a wide distinction is always made between the English government and the English people. Whatever is great and good has had its origin amongst that illustrious people—a people alike famous for arts and for arms; for their enterprise, industry, and ingenuity; and celebrated for the deepest researches and discoveries in whatever is useful, learned and scientific. Need we appeal to the history of their divines, philosophers, patriots, and warriors? America herself must own, that when liberty was extinct in every other nation in the world, England was the parent and the nurse of civil and religious freedom, sealed and sanctified by the blood of her martyrs and patriots. The general character of the English nation must not be contaminated with the avarice and ambition of statesmen and warriors. Many Englishmen, both in and out of parliament, have lifted their voice against the cruel and unjust policy of their countrymen both in Ireland and India. Amongst a number of writers we shall only select one, as being the latest, who, although he has taken his authorities from a very partial source, (Sir R. Musgrave,) yet he breaks through a cloud of prejudice, and discovers the honest indignation of a virtuous Englishman at the tyrannical conduct of his government towards Ireland :
“ The history of no nation in Europe exhibits such a uniform series of misery, oppression, and misfortunes, as that of Ireland. It would now be equally vain and unprofitable to inquire, whether Ireland yielded by treaty, or was overcome by the sword ?. The fact is, that the natives were treated like a
conquered people, and denied a participation in the English laws. Stigmatized as helots, even intermarriage with them was deemed felony, and their murder has been adjudged no crime! Amidst such cruel and impolitic restraints, it was not to be expected that the people would emerge from barbarity; on the contrary, they were rendered discontented and ferocious by oppression ; and three successive insurrections, the fruits of a false and perfidious policy, prove better than any testimony, that their bondage was equally galling and ungrateful. All the bitterness of religious intolerance was superadded to civil disabilities; and a black catalogue of penal statutes exposed the unhappy catholic to a variety of fines, mulcts, and disfranchisements, from which the more fortunate, but far less numerous class of protestants were exempt.”
After all, it appears to be the interest of Ireland to be connected with England, if such a connection can be obtained on fair and honourable terms. The exalted rank which England holds in the national society of Europe, we may say of the world-her proximity to Ireland-her astonishing wealth and vast navy-her arts, commerce, and manufactures -her general learning, knowledge, and refinement--the spirit of her judiciary system, which is admirable under a pure administration-all point that country out to Ireland as her best, most natural, and most powerful ally.
On the other hand, may we not hope that the government of England will at length know their true interest, and perceive, that honesty is as necessary a principle in public as in private transactions, to nations as well as to individuals; that they will see the folly, the wickedness and the impolicy of dragooning and domineering over a people, so necessary to their glory, even to their existence as a nation and that ages of coercion and tyranny will be followed by a system of justice and generosity. If half the partiality that has been shown to the Scotch highlanders for the last fifty years, had been extended to the Irish catholics, they would, at this day, have been the most loyal portion of the British empire. “ But contumely and reproach are grievous, and a wounded spirit, who can bear ? - Discord ariseth out of evil government, and oppression maketh men'mad.”
* See Stephens's history of the wars that arose out of the French revolution, chap. 12. a work of considerable merit and utility.
It is to be regretted, that so respectable a writer should have followed so bad an authority. Sir R. Musgrave was paid a very high price for his work by government, but he is so grossly partial in his accounts, that even Lord Cornwallis withdrew from him his sanction. Having said something offensive to Mr. Tod Jones, that gentleman called Sir Richard out one morning, and sent him home with a piece of lead in his body, very near that part which gave the widow Wadman so much uneasiness on Uncle Toby's account. Mr. Jones has ever since been in prison on suspicion.
Those who are inclined to know more of Irish affairs, may consult Musgrave, a court hireling, Gordon, a church clergymán, and Hay, a catholie gentleman. Plowden's history, from its size, 3 vols. 4to. must contain the most particular and detailed accounts; but those who wish to know the true grounds of the subject in a few pages, will read a pamphlet entitled, “ An Inquiry into the Causes of the Popular Discontents in Ireland.” In this brief but luminous publication, the author clearly describes the causes of these discontents, and then points out the remedies that should be applied, and would be applied by such men as Bishop Watson, Mr. Fox, &c.
The reader, however, will keep in mind, that no man in the British dominions dare publish all that can and ought to be made known concerning the history of Ireland. We are told that the ways of providence are dark and mysterious: “puzzled in mazes, and perplexed with errors," man, feeble man, cannot fathom these mysteries—but we know, that its judgments sometimes fall heavily on nations as well as on individuals. As the condition of Ireland seems to be fixed and bound by an inexorable destiny, and if it be true, “ that whatever is, is right,” the sooner the Irish people drink of the waters of Lethe the better, and wisely consigo all bitter but unavailing remembrances to oblivion.
IT is a very general opinion, that the study of law is adverse to genius; that a lively imagination cannot be tied to profes. sional pursuits; and that wit cannot be possessed but to the exclusion of industry.
Among the many examples which might be adduced to prove the falsity of this conceit, Mr. CURRAN is not the least striking
No man has acquired higher reputation for those powers which delight and captivate the fancy, that touch the springs of passion, elicit tears from sensibility, or extort from gravi: ty itself the burst of laughter-yet have the exertions of this gentleman raised him from the humblest walk of life, if not to the first place, certainly to the first rank, at the Irish bar. He has not, indeed, attained high official situations, or risen to those honours which are oftener the reward of judicious politics, than of professional ability; but he has acquired that which is a much stronger proof of talent, the uncontested title of being the first advocate in his country.
Mr. Curran is now above fifty years of age. He was born in the county of Cork, of parents who were undistinguished by wealth or situation ; who had neither a fortune by which
they could enable their son to live independently, nor con. nections by which they could advance him in a learned profession. They were, however, capable of giving him the rudiments of a liberal education, and that seems to be the only advantage which he derived from his family.
Having qualified himself for the university, he entered in the only character in which his circumstances enabled him to appear, that of a sizer in the college of Dublin; a situation of which the emoluments are very trivial, while the marks of inferiority which distinguish it from that of the other students are of the most mortifying kind. The sizers have,
indeed, their tuition free of expense; but they are obliged I to keep the rolls of their tutors, and attend to the weekly
distribution of the fines and punishments of the pupils. They have their commons gratis, but they dine only on the fragments of the fellows' table, and are compellable to discharge several menial offices in the dining-hall !
In this situation Mr. Curran passed the first year at the university: nor did he appear, in point of pecuniary circumstances, to stand at the head of even that humble class. It is a fact, that the man who possessed powers that could mould the heart, charm the imagination, and guide the judgment of a court or a senate, was often destitute of a whole coat!
At the usual time (two years after entrance) he obtained a scholarship, by which, and by the emoluments arising from some petty offices generally bestowed on scholars, he emerged from the distress in which he had hitherto been involved. The remainder of his college life is not marked by any peculiar incidents; he obtained the usual honours with which the policy of the university rewards industry and talents, and he is said to have made some progress in reading the laborious course which is prescribed for fellowship candidates : but, whether disgusted with the drudgery, or deterred by the magnitude of the undertaking, he soon desisted from college pursuits, and turned his attention to the bar.
Previously to his becoming a student in the inns court,