TOPICS OF THE DAY.
SOME CONSIDERATIONS TOUCHING REPEAL.
"THAT is your doing,'.' say the Tories to the Whigs when the Repeal cry is raised in Ireland. "They are only half in earnest just now, but if the Tories were in you would see a real Repeal agitation," say the Whigs—not deigning to answer the Tories, but appealing to the English public at large. In truth, neither party is much affected by the Repeal cry. They say to themselves—" The great bulk of mankind are slaves to existing institutions, even when they cry out against them. Many who complain loudly of their senselessness and injustice, were it put in their power to-morrow to change them, would shrink from the experiment of an untried state of being. To the Irishmen who lived before and at the time of the Union, that arrangement was a theoretical innovation, in the practicability of which they had no faith : even after it was brought about, they continued to think it all a delusion, that must some day break up of its own accord. But that generation of Irishmen is fast dying out : the majority of the Irish population at present have been born into the Union—it is the state of things to which they have always been accustomed, which every association predisposes them to think the natural and unalterable state. The Repeal party in Ireland must in the natural course of events soon become extinct ; and in England, the unre- fleeting pride which takes umbrage at the bare idea of dismember- ing the empire—the fear of seeing a coast which commands Liver- pool, the outlet of our manufacturing districts in possession of an alien power—will always make the project of Repeal unpopular." Entertaining these views, the 'Tories will always be hostile to Repeal; and the Whigs, were they turned out of office to-morrow, would not venture an attempt to increase the number of their opposition by pretending to be favourable to Repeal.
De facto they are right. The question whether Ireland would be more benefited by repealing or by upholding the Union, is not, indeed, so self-evident as they persuade themselves. It is one which can only be solved by an application of scientific political principles to a wide collection of facts. But this would be the work of a class of minds who do not as yet seem to have turned their attention seriously to the question of Repeal. There are two classes of popular outcries,—one where the angry people catch hold of truths which have been demonstrated by the patient thought of inquiring minds; one where the more enlightened leaders of the people affect sympathy with a vulgar prejudice in order to conciliate their followers. In cases of the former class, the many may at first only half comprehend or not at all com- prehend the true meaning of the words they catch up ; but it dawns upon them by degrees, and its conception raises them in the scale of humanity—is an enduring acquisition. In the cases of the other class, as unreasoning prejudices continually shift and change and as hollow professions of belief in them by men who know better are mean falsehoods, the interest taken in them dies out in time, leaving the leaders who pretended to adopt them with shattered reputations. To this latter class belongs the desire for an abrogation of the Union as it is entertained by the party in Ireland which call themselves Repealers. They are instigated not by reason but by feeling. They have inherited a vague notion that Ireland has been degraded by having its independent nationality merged in the United Empire—that the Union was a shabby measure, carried into effect by deceit, bribery, and intimi- dation; and, in their dislike to this Union, they seek, with or without evidence, to attribute to it every evil under which they labour—even those evils which were acknowledged to exist and complained of long before it was effected. There existed in Scotland, for a considerable time subsequent to the incorporating Union between that country and England, a similar 'longing for Repeal ; and it has long died out, by the same process which is hurrying the Repeal feeling of Ireland to the tomb of all the Capulet s.
The desire for Repeal, however, among the Irish people is a real existence. It influences no inconsiderable number of those who possess the elective franchise. It is not in reality more un- reasonable or less plausible than many popular party slogans on this side of the water. It is a notion which has taken occupation of the minds of a portion of public opinion., It is a question which must be discussed. The Repealers must be met by argument ; for it is only by reasoning that what is erroneous in their views can be driven out of their heads, and the portion of truth mixed up with the error turned into a practical channel.
The question whether the Union between Ireland and England ought to be maintained or repealed, must be resolved, like all poli-
tical questions, by the consideration whether the dissolution or the upholding of the Union be more likely to promote the happi- ness of the people of both islands. There are two circum- stances that might render it impossible for the same govern- ment to work well in two Countries: the extent of the united territory may be too great for the efficient administration of one government ; or the people may be so different, in respect of language, laws, customs, and general civilization, as to render the constitution, which is a reality and benefit in the one, a
mere mockery in the other. Neither of these objections in limine
to an incorporating union seems to exist in the case of England and Ireland. The space on the globe's surface occupied by the two islands is not such under any circumstances as to place any part of them beyond easy reach of a Well-organized central go- vernment ; and the development of steam-communication is daily bringing the remotest districts nearer to the centre. Then as to the inhabitants : their laws, moral creeds, and general civilization, are essentially one. Even the holders of the opinion that there are irreconcileably distinct races, would be puzzled to tell how much is Teutonic among the English, how much Celtic among the Irish population. But, waiving that discussion, the laws of Ire- land are and have been for centuries the laws of England ; the re- ligion of the two countries is in its broad outlines the same ; the code of practical morals developed under the auspices of that re- ligion is essentially one. The Irish language is not, and never can again become, the language of the education of the higher civiliza- tion of Ireland. Men have intellectual as well as physical ances- tors: the Greeks, Jews, and Romans, are more truly the ancestors of the minds of Britons, than their mere corporeal Teutonic or Celtic ancestors. So with the Irish : the bitterest diatribes against the Saxon gain force from moral and poetical associations which the orators draw from English literature, and by being uttered in the highly cultivated language of England. Every educated Irish- man is of necessity an Englishman. There is therefore nothing in the habits or opinions of Englishmen and Irishmen to prevent their forming one nation ; and as to the other preliminary question, the only alteration effected by Repeal would be, that the English and Irish nations would have to support two governments, each costing them as much as one central governnient for both would do.
We say two governments; for, whatever some unthinking cla- mourers for Repeal may persuade themselves, Repeal means sepa- ration, or subordination. "I want," says the Repealer, "different Legislatures, but one Sovereign." What is the Sovereign of Great Britain, since 1688 ?—The name in which the Administration for the time being is supported by the majority of the Legislature.
If, then, Ireland remained satisfied with a separate Legislature, it must submit to an Administrative Government imposed upon it by the Legislature of the sister island—must sink into the rank of a dependent state. If Ireland claimed and obtained a separate Ad- ministration as well as a separate Legislature, the first serious dif- ference of opinion between the Irish and British Legislatures would show the nothingness of the kingly name. That Repeal and Sepa- ration must go together, is no argument against either: the only tenable ground of decision is what is most likely to promote the general happiness : but it is necessary that the question be viewed in its full extent—what men are called upon to do, let them do with their eyes open.
As the number of those who would venture to decide the question of Repeal on the abstract principles already stated is necessarily small, it may be useful to anticipate the concrete form in which its consequences would most probably force themselves upon the notice of practical men on both sides of the Channel.
The Englishman, looking to the present movement in favour of the exclusive use of domestic manufactures in Ireland, and the attempts of some popular demagogues in Ireland to represent the exportation of provisions as a hardship and injustice to the people, would anticipate serious injury to this island from the commercial policy and legislation of an Irish Government. He would foresee diminution of the home market for manufactures, increased pressure from our corn and provision laws, hindrances in many of our manu- facturing processes conducted in Ireland. The evil would not stop with the economical pressure; feelings of jealousy and hosti- lity would be engendered by restrictive commercial policy. This consideration would lead the Englishman's thoughts onward to possible wars, and the inconvenience of having a coast which com- mands several of our most important commercial harbours occu- pied by enemies. Even although no actual war took place, the excitement and expense of being constantly in a state of prepara- tion for one would be a source of serious annoyance.
The apprehensions that would force themselves upon a reflecting Irishman looking forward to the consequences of Repeal are of a deeper dye. The two factions which convulse that country can
with considerable difficulty be kept from fighting it out as it is : were they left to themselves, they would in all probability be at each
other's throats before half-a-year elapsed. It may be said that the
Protestant faction, being so inferior in number, would submit. There would be slender gain for the country in the adoption of that al- ternative. Catholic Ascendancy would be, under the most favour- able circumstances, not less mischievous than Protestant Ascend- ancy. The Irish Catholics may not be more bigoted and intolerant
than the Irish Protestants, but they are not less so. It is not the sect he belongs to, but his progress in European knowledge and civilization, that determines whether a man shall be a rational politician or a domineering fanatic. The mass of the Irish Catho-
lics have reached but a low grade of this higher civilization : it is no fault of theirs, but it is a fact. JOHN of Tuain and his retainers are not a minority among the Irish Catholics. Irish bigotry (Catholic and Protestant) is diluted in an Imperial Legislature, and to a certain extent neutralized : in an Irish Legislature it would be concen- trated—virulent. But the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland are not so ill-matched as some people imagine : if the preponder- ance of numbers be on the side of the latter, discipline and the pertinacious indomitable will which is the consequence of a higher civilization are the characteristics of the former. The struggle . would be neither brief nor bloodless; and during its continuance, the legislative and administrative policy of the country (if either could be said to exist) would be dictated by the crude notions of the economical sages who would benefit Irishmen by making them wear dearer and worse clothes because manufactured on the Irish side of the Channel. The immediate results of Repeal would be injurious both to England and Ireland, but especially to Ireland. Ireland might tease this island, but the immeasurably greater power of England could easily keep it in check. But crude legislation, the result of the total want of enlightened public opinion in Ireland, and civil broils, would almost inevitably be the fate of that unhappy country. The close of the drama would most probably be, that the unsettled state of society in Ireland, rendering it a nuisance to the neighbour- ing island, would force England to reconquer it ; or that the Irish themselves, sick of their civil wars, would seek to be again annexed to England.
These reflections are thrown out, not from an idea that they are necessary to arrest the Repeal agitation—which must die out of itself—but in the hope that they may lead some Repealers to re- flect upon the ig,nis _Alums character of the object they are now in pursuit of. Repeal is unattainable, and would in all human pro- bability be productive of much suffering if attained. And the time wasted in clamouring for it might be profitably employed in the pursuit of practical and tangible good. The Irish people are told that the majority of the English are hostile to them. It is not true. Were the English hostile to them when O'CONNELL made his triumphant progress through this island some few years ago ? Were the English hostile to them when the fate of the PEEL and MELBOURNE Ministries were perilled upon the cause of Ireland ? Englishmen have not ceased to wish for good government to Ire- land ; but Englishmen have got sick of the partisans who make the grievances of Ireland a pretext for obstructing business. The true way to benefit Ireland would be for the Irish constituencies to send intelligent working representatives to Parliament. The want of a sound public opinion in Ireland is a sad obstacle in the way of effecting this : but every thing has a beginning. At present the true field of action for rational politicians in Ireland would seem to be the diffusion of political knowledge.