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IRELAND is an island in the Atlantic ocean, situate between the 5th and 10th degrees of west longitude, and the 51st and 56th of north latitude-in length it is about 300 miles, with a medial breadth of 150 miles, giving an area of nearly 27,500 miles.
The name IRELAND is said to be derived from the word Eir, in the Celtic language signifying west; whence the names Ierna, Iverna, Hibernia, and Ireland. In poetical descriptions, it is sometimes called the Green, or Emerald Isle.
Much difference of opinion has arisen concerning the peopling of this island. The Irish writers strenuously assert, that the first inhabitants came from Spain, under a leader of the name of Golan Milea Espaine, i. e. Golam the Hero of Spain; hence the native Irish are called Milesians. But the British writers contend, that Ireland was first peopled either from Wales or Scotland. The latter idea seems the most probable, as the language of the Scotch Highlanders, and the native Irish, are radically and essentially the same.*
* This question has excited much national pride, and even animosity amongst the historical critics of the two islands. Pinkerton, in his poor and partial account of Ireland, endeavours to throw some light on the subjeot. But those who are inclined to look for a portion of rational information on Vol. I.
In such a sketch as this, it would be improper to enter into all the fabulous accounts of the Irish bards and poets, the only historians of those dark and barbarous ages.
One thing, however, is certain, that the Romans never got the length of Ireland; and that when the empire was tumbled into ruins by the Gothic hordes, freland enjoyed a long peace; it became the refuge of the learned and virtuous, who fled from other countries to enjoy tranquillity in that beautifully sequestered island.
We shall therefore pass over all the fabulous narrations, the contentions of the different septs or clans, and the wars of the provincial kings, and come at once to what appears to be founded in truth.
The order of priesthood had hitherto been in the hands of the bards and druids, and like other priests, they exercised an unbounded sway over the minds and actions of a rude and ignorant people, till about the middle of the fifth century, when christianity was introduced into Ireland by Patricius, a Scotchman by birth. *
For some time, the bards endeavoured to maintain their influence, but the principal king of the island, and some others. of the great men, being converted to the true religion, and St. Patrick establishing his ecclesiastical residence at Ardmacha, (now Armagh,) christianity at length obtained the ascendancy.
The christian religion, so excellent in its principles, and so benignant in its doctrines, instead of bringing the glad tidings
a question of not much importance, will consult the elegant, the sceptical, and the deep-searching Gibbon, in what he calls “a distinct image of the Roman Empire, under Valentinian and Valens, chap. xxv. see. 2.
* St. Patrick is said to have been born in the year 373, near to Dumbarton; he was first a soldier and then a priest; he landed at Wicklow, in 441, converted the Irish, became Bishop of Armagh, and died on the 17th of March, in the 120th year of his age.
of peace and good will to men, unhappily, in too many instances, seems rather to have been the cause of strife, hatred, wars, and persecution.-But history and experience show us, that this was the work of selfish and designing men, who perverted religion from its original intention, in order to gratify their avarice or ambition. The establishment of christianity, therefore, it appears, did not better the condition of the Irish. The order of priests, under a new name, were as fond of power and emoluments as the order of the druids; and petty wars and clapnish broils continued to divide the people, and weaken the country as formerly-when, about the end of the eighth century, Ireland was invaded by the Danes, or Normans. Against this enemy, the Irish contended for a number of years, till 845, when Turgesius the Dane was proclaimed King of all Ireland.
But no sooner did Turgesius get all the power into his own hands, than, as usual, he abused it, and became a tyrant. The Irish rebelled against their oppressors, and massacred a great number of the Danes ; but these receiving reinforcements, the war continued with alternate success, when the country was invaded by Magnus, King of Norway. Both parties uniting against this new invader, Magnus was defeated, and driven from Ireland.
After this event, several monarchs, it is said, arose in Ire. land, who deserved the name of king by their good actions. These were Malachy I. and II. and Brian Boromy. This latter monarch is celebrated above all for his wisdom and bravery, and Ireland, for a time, was prosperous and happy; when, in the year 1004, at the famous battle of Clontarf, he defeated the Danes, but lost his life, in the 88th year of
After Brian's death, Ireland again became the prey of party feuds, arising from the intrigues and ambition of the provincial chiefs. These destructive contentions lasted for many years, until an event took place, that forms an important æra in the history of Ireland, and for which we have
something like authentic records-This was the invasion of Ireland by the English. The first adventurers were two private gentlemen, named Fitz-Stephens and Fitzgerald. They crossed the sea from Wales with about 300 men, in the year 1171 ; and they were soon followed by Earl Strongbow, with 1,200 more. Their pretext for coming into Ireland should first be explained.
In the destructive contentions of the Irish chiefs, O'Dermot, O'Connor, O'Nial, O'Rourke, &c. each claimed the ascendancy. Not content with defeating O'Rourke in battle, O’Dermot carried off his wife, a woman of singular beauty, for whom he had conceived a violent passion. A junction of parties having at length taken place, and chastity, even in those rude times, being considered as a virtue, O’Dermot was defeated, deposed, and forced to leave the island. He landed in England, and solicited the assistance of Henry II. to recover his dominions, which, when effected, he meanly offered to acknowledge Henry as his liege lord. The English king, glad of such an invitation, despatched the beforementioned party to the aid of his new ally; and, in the year 1172, Henry in person, with a considerable army, landed at Waterford.
The rape of Helen, and the destruction of Troy, have conferred immortality on the Grecian bard. The siege of Troy, it is said, lasted ten years—but the infidelity of O'Rourke's wife hath caused Ireland to groan under innunierable evils for more than six hundred years.
It was nut long before Henry contrived to obtain possession of a considerable portion of the eastern part of the country.The Irish chieftains, for some time, were pleased with having a powerful prince among them; he gave them entertainments, flattered their vanity, and even gave them the title of king. *-Henry and his immediate successors called
T'he wild Irish of the 12th century did not differ from the civilized men of the present day. It is a grand and prevailing systein in all the Courts of Europe, from George's Knights of the Garter to Napoleon's Legion of