mummeries and will-worship, are blots, which unchristianize the spirit of the Roman-catholic religion.

On these particulars Dr. Rudge has enlarged in a temperate tone, and with a great power of convincing argument; and we conceive that the short notice, which we have given of his sermon, will cause many of our readers to be desirous of perusing it in its fulness.

Ecclesiastical Report.


FOR many months past there has been an organized tranquillity in Ireland, the result of discipline, of calculation, and of orders from head-quarters, which indicates to the eye of observation the very dangerous condition of affairs in that country. Yet, despite every care and caution not to defeat a purpose which, in this instance, seems to us perfectly transparent, the natural disposition will occasionally discover itself. It is difficult to play a part for any time without some involuntary movement betraying the imposition. A community, any more than a single individual, cannot be every instant on their guard. Not long ago the Ballyshannon Herald contained an account of an outrage committed by above a thousand of the peasantry upon the property of Mr. Hector, a Scotch gentleman, who is (or rather was) the proprietor of extensive salmon fishery. They cut to pieces and utterly destroyed, or carried off, every article belonging to him by land or water: nets, boats, fish, &c. were one and all made prey of. On the Sunday preceding this outrage, a priest pronounced from the altar of the chapel, “ all the condemnations of the reprobates of hell," against the persons and fishermen who were in the employment of Mr. Hector. The catastrophe which ensued, was from that hour, inevitable. And yet a plenary municipal dominion is proposed to be granted to an entire priesthood composed of such men !—the only dominion which they do not already exercise over a populace who, whatever their implicit submission to the thraldom of their priests, display but small capacity for obedience to the laws.

It is impossible to disconnect the ideas of the abolition of tithes in Ireland, the destruction of the Anglican church, and the Repeal of the Union, from the measure of Municipal Reform, and the increase of democratic influence involved in that contemplated innovation. In the abstract, and under peculiar circumstances, municipal institutions may be supposed to come


seasonably in aid of the well-being of a community. During the middle ages they were resorted to by many states as a sort of scaffolding, till the structure of their liberty was completed. They were preferred as an admirable bulwark against the crown. But, God be thanked, these kingdoms have grown out of their necessity. At no time, in our opinion, even as a temporary arrangement, was such a system advisable; but our European ancestors thought differently; nor, indeed, were they altogether at liberty to pick and choose what instruments they would work with. They did the best with such materials as were ready to their hands, according to their lights. They raised civil fortresses against the aggressions of the despot, which we must not suffer a worse than sceptred tyranny to take by sap, in order to turn into schools of peaceful agitation. Great Britain and Ireland, anterior to the reign of Elizabeth, were subject to very heavy servile payments, and the Irish corporations were originally instituted with the object of exempting from this burthen the inhabitants of any place to which they were granted. James I., by one artifice or another, succeeded in enforcing from these towns a surrender of their ancient privileges. The new charters he substituted were found to deprive the bulk of the population of their franchises. In one day this monarch exalted some forty hamlets into the rank of boroughs. Cromwell's followers usurped the rights of the ancient Irish; and the bribe of an excise bill induced Charles II. to perpetuate this injustice. The corporate power thus fell into the hands of a few individuals, who almost uniformly exerted their influence to foster Protestantism and property, to rebuke and check the temporal authority of the Romish priesthood, and so the more closely rivet the connexion between Ireland and Great Britain. It is now proposed by the Irish Corporation Bill to transfer this municipal monopoly into the hands of those who are pledged to the subversion of the Anglican church, and the divorce of the two kingdoms. Instead of rooting out all invidious privileges, which were an act of justice and wisdom, it is intended to invest with exclusive municipal power the Roman-catholic inhabitants of Ireland—a power to be wielded as a rampant hierarchy shall see occasion; and gradually to be employed to sever the connexion between the sister kingdoms, and on the ruin of the Protestant Establishment to raise the church of Rome. Ireland is unhappy in her national souvenirs ; and it militates against the weal of the realm at this day, that she cannot summon up amongst her historic associations the memory of a Douglas, a Bruce, and a Wallace; that she cannot repose her wounded pride in such a defeat as that of Falkirk, or a triumph like Bannockburn. The glorious achievements of later years, in which she has had her share, side by side, and foot to foot, with Englishmen, do not content her. Čould she seek relief from the false sense of humiliation in a dream of former glory,—could she recal one great victory over her invaders, -(and that she cannot, no human being thinks of imputing to any deficiency in the individual prowess of her children or her children's ancestors,)-she were now at peace; and we esteem it one of the greatest misfortunes entailed upon this country, that we were not driven as well across the Irish Channel as over the Scottish borders. The annals of a nation which present only one series of civil warfare and insurrection, averted or put down, furnish no pleasing retrospect to dwell upon.

The great orator and statesman of antiquity has well discriminated between the issue of a foreign war and a rebellion. Either our foreign enemies, he observes, are overcome in fight, and then they serve us; or if they are taken into our friendship, they are obliged to us in generosity; but if any of our own countrymen are once debauched into so high a degree of frenzy as to declare themselves enemies to their country, these, when you have repressed them from destroying the commonwealth, you can hardly restrain by any force, or reconcile by any favour. History presents no more apposite exemplification of the above sagacious remark than the state of the sister island. The gordian knot, which has so long enchained the faculties of that country, remains yet to be unravelled. She exhibits a jarring discordant system,-her people are discontented. From the dying embers of one revolt bursts out, at almost regular intervals, the flames of a succeeding insurrection. And thus has Ireland been harassed and afflicted for a long series of years. Her pecuniary prosperity within the last twelve months has been steadily increasing; but it is an alarming and note-worthy symptom in her case, that the very disposition to insurrection is apt to break out into overt demonstrations in times of comparative ease and affluence,--as, for example, in 1796, and the three succeeding years. As this has gone on for centuries, it cannot be of a sudden eradicated. It existed before the clouds of popery alighted on the nation-before Adrian III., in 1156, issued a bull in favour of Henry. And it will continue to desolate the land after: “ for her transgressions, new judgments be brought upon her.” Courage and force, though exercised in the commission of the most revolting crimes, have ever been more honoured in the sister kingdom than any pacific virtues. Irishmen for successive generations have been divided by the fiercest animosities against each other, and are invariably more intent on the means of reciprocal injury, than on expedients for public or even for private interest. This may appear so common-place a fact as to be hardly worth noticing in our pages; but for the very reason of its being universally admitted we advert to it. In practical subjects the force of every argument is diminished by triteness and familiarity. It will read like a paradox to many but it is nevertheless certain, that when truths, have

been long received as such into the mind, and their importance acknowledged, our understandings refuse to rest upon them, and it virtually comes to the same thing as if they were never known at all. Their strength and significancy become worn out, as it were—they get blown upon in the mirror of the mind; and when we look for them, in order to illustrate or enforce an argument, we find them indeed, but, as if they had lain in a damp place, they moulder away in use. Such is the frame of the human constitution, that impressions, however well founded, under which we are passive, are weakened and diminished. We therefore beg our readers will obviate this tendency of their nature, by setting themselves expressly to resist it. They have long been cognizant of the characteristic feature of Irishmen; still we beg they will lend us their distinct attention to a few remarks we deem it our duty to submit for their consideration. It is not an idle psychological speculation that we have in view; what we shall offer will be brought to elucidate the present condition of things in Ireland, and especially to illustrate our statement of the anomalous and perilous position of the Established Church in that kingdom.

The bane, the distemper of Irishmen,—that organized particle of ill, which would seem to set at defiance every project for Ireland's welfare,—is hereditary; it boiled in the blood of their ancestry, and bids fair to rankle in the veins of their descendants. It is at the same time a cause and a consequence, deeply indented in the habitudes, we had almost said instincts, of the people. From a Sheridan in the senate to the veriest serf that reels through life in the recesses of Connaught, every Irishman would appear more or less to be infected by its epidemic touch. It is, in truth, a moral malediction, which, to a certain degree, may have been nourished by a series of misrule—may have been generated ages since by the foam of hard-mouthed insolence, and have acquired its malignancy in the malaria of despotism; may, we are readily inclined to believe, have been grafted by human imperfections upon the best and kindest of human sympathies. The malady, however, in the long lapse of ages, has insensibly become so inveterate, and so incorporated, as it were, with every condition of society,-cankering at the core, and corroding the extremities, – that we fear there lurks no panacea within the wide laboratory of political empiricism, that can do more for the present than alleviate the symptoms.

As it is not every people that are in a condition to receive unlimited freedom, so it may sometimes happen that they are not susceptible of tranquillity and order. The sweet air of heaven, which is the very source of life, may prove mortal to the

puny inhabitant of the mines of Golconda. The bulk of the inhabitants of Ireland are nearly in a savage state, having moreover superinduced on their natural habits the factitious license of a fatal superstition. In our judgment their civilization is hardly comparable to that of the North American Indian. What instinct is with the brute, mere impulse is ordinarily with the Irish peasant. It is to all intents his temperament, his deity; the pivot on which revolves every thing that happens to be right or wrong in his moral conduct. He is the creature of impulse. His conduct is determined upon no principle, whether good or bad; and reflection is an attribute of humanity, which hardly can be said to belong to him. His thoughts are all sensations, or at least thence only have their origin; and his feeling and thinking are so indefinitely blended, that, like the warmth and light of heaven's luminary, they are literally one.

The wildest and the lightest imagery is generally bewildering his brain ; which, evanescent and dazzling as the haze of summer on the dry heath, flits between him and thought. He has too little of the ballast of a substantial understanding, and so is carried away by the stream of party, or tossed to and fro on the waves of passion. He flourishes his shillelah or sports his repartee with the same hilarity that a Frenchman kicks his heels, and fights or frolics through the wide world in a state of mental inebriety.

What marvel that the government of such a race of beings should imply a task of equal delicacy and difficulty ? It would be absurd to subject to a standard of municipal rule, which might be admirable on this side of the water, the exercise of a dominion of such a character: a dominion moreover which is already embarrassed by the encroachments of that exclusive close corporation, the Roman-catholic hierarchy, every priest of which is enrolled a member of the National Association. It should be known, and iterated again and again until it passed into an axiom, that the Roman-catholic laity would not be possessed of free agency merely because the legislature were mad enough to confer on them the nominal privilege of self-government. The wild Irish” (the preponderating population) would only seem to wanton in their saturnalia. They would remain after all under the eye of their ghostly keepers. They would still be overawed by that authority, whose fasces are the keys of heaven and of hell, and which would soon reclaim every Protestant acre and every Protestant church. The fall of the Establishment on this side of the water would follow in natural course. It is the national character, directed by art to forward the policy of the church of Rome, which, in our opinion, is the malady of Ireland, and which incapacitates her for bona fide municipal government. That a Romish hierarchy, stripped of wealth and jurisdiction, having at their absolute beck millions of such a gallant headlong race of men as we have described, should fail to make use of every advantage, or ever cease to struggle till they had shaken off

« ForrigeFortsett »