FENIANISM FROM THE LANDLORD POINT OF VIEW.
IN this country we have got pretty well tied of Fenianism, its origin, its symptoms, and its ture. Everybody has discussed it until the gloss has been quite worn off the sub- ject, and since the evaporation of the Fenian scare in Canada it will serve no longer even \as. peg to hang brilliant speeches or articles upon. But in Ire the apathy of use has not yet succeeded the excitement of noyelty and danger. With us at furthest the question is, even 'with conscientious men, whether have we done our duty or no With Irishmen the question is vital : the existence or the prospeTity of every close is at stake ; and even now, when all immediati&peril has been averted by rigorous legislation, and disaffection js baffled by overwhelming force, there is an uneasy feeling ei'll,\security. The proprietor trembles with fear of a reconstructive pplic7 of tenure ; the hostile Churches assume attitudes ofna:02:e vigorous attack and more obstinate resistance ; the artisan, and peasant classes are filled with a smothered indignation at the last and most fatal overthrow of their wild hopes. In such a seething mass of discontent and apprehension it is natural that there should spring up an ephemeral crop of pamphlets, letters, and speeches on every side of the question, and very strange productions they usually are. Priests, parsons, and politicians have come forward as public instruc- tors, and have propounded with charming naivete almost every form of impracticable policy that human ingenuity could invent. Nay, the malady has spread to the gentler sex, and in the columns of the Times a lady, clearly of the strong- minded class, has set forth a remarkable theory to account for Fenianism, absenteeism, and all the other social diseases which afflict Ireland ;—the theory being, in brief, that an innate laziness and love of dirt, begotten in the Irishpe- asant of Celtic blood and Catholicity, have rendered the island an unfit place of residence for persons of refinement, who are con- sequently compelled, sorely against their will, to spend one- half the year in the gloomy precincts of Belgravia, and the other half roaming disconsolate in enforced exile by the banks of the Rhine. Upon such theories as this,—and it is not the most exaggerated we might select,—it is obvious argument would be wasted. Some pamphlets, however, have appeared, which are really keys to Irish feeling, and which we would do well to study if we desire, as we ought to be able, to legislate wisely and justly for Ireland. We have one before us which may be taken as an adequate representation of the fears and fancies of a very important class—the landlords. It is not ax unfair specimen, for the writer is an accomplished man, a scholar evidently, and a gentleman in all senses, but for these very reasons it only the more clearly proves the stiffnecked- ness, the blind hostility to modern ideas, the unteachableneas, and the stolid obstructiveness, which distinguish beyond all the aristocracies of Europe the landed aristocracy of Ireland. The pamphlet to which we refer, "Ireland and her Servile War," is written by Colonel Adair, a large proprietor, and one of the most ruthless upholders of proprietary rights in Ulster. It is interesting, for it shows the depth of unreason to which the necessities of an anomalous position can degrade an educated and naturally a liberal mind. A careful and pains- taking examination of the condition of Ireland and the causes of her disorders, a recognition even of the justice of her cries, leads him only to the impotent conclusion that our policy should be laissez-faire still,—that we should not touch the tenure, which crushes enterprise, or the Church, which is a standing insult,—that the regeneration of Ireland should be left to the operation of natural laws. Those laws, we presume, have been in operation for the past half century. To what a point they have carried regeneration is evident enough. Once for all, we would reply to all such cowardly attempts to shift from our own shoulders the burden of honest endeavour in words quoted from Rushworth by Mr. Carlyle : "Then,' said his Lordship, Well, God mend all!' ' Nay, by God, Donald, we must help Him to mend it!' said the other." The style of Colonel Adair's pamphlet is somewhat remark- able, coming as it does from a country gentleman. It reads for the most part like a rude translation of some of the more spasmodic works of M. Michelet, or the chiefs of the School of Desperation. Short abrupt sentences, crude far-fetched metaphors, violent apostrophe, are commingled with some of the most amusing logic we have ever seen in print. Colonel Adair begins by setting forth briefly the problem of which Ireland herself, England, and thinking men all over the world, are painfully seeking the solution. This done, he proceeds to assume that the renovation of Ireland is the proper work not of the Government, or the Legislature, but of the higher classes in Ireland. To this "shepherds of the people" theory we are entirely disinclined to agree. Nothing that we have seen of any aristocracy would dispose us to renew the patri- archal relations of dependence and protection and if we were about to make the experiment we should certainly not begin
with the aristocracy of Ireland. Having laid down this maidm respecting the persons who are to deal with the question, Colonel Adair gives a sketch of the political history of Ireland from the State Trials of 1843 down to the present time. With this sketch, strangely enough, we for the most part coincide ; it is indeed a lucid, able, and almost a liberal summary of the causes of disaffection which have originated the abortive movements of 1848 and of the present year. But when from his just and well established premisses he proceeds to draw conclusions so pithless, purposeless, and weak, we must part company from him, and if we make use of his facts it will be to prove that he is wrong in his deductions.
In the seventy pages which Colonel Adair has written there are but two practical suggestions, which we may glance at be- fore we come to consider what he has not suggested. He pro- poses to abolish the Vice-Royalty and to endow the Catholic priesthood. As for the first, the Lord-Lieutenancy may be a clog upon the Administration, and as such the extinction of the office as a minor reform may be desirable ; it may be better also to strengthen the hands of the Chief Secretary (though surely not as Colonel Adair wishes, by giving him the Roman Catholic hierachy as a Consultative Council), but to talk of such trivialities as instruments for infusing new life into a people is simply absurd. The second plan, of purchasing the support of the priests by a Parliamentary endowment, has only one difficulty. It cannot be tried. Not to speak of English feeling, the priests have categorically and em- phatically declared that they will never accept such a grant, and in truth their influence is rooted in the volun- tary system, and would be diminished if they were to replace that system by any other. But passing from these minor points, we turn to the two great questions upon which Colonel Adair's argument, like every argument about Ireland, really hinges,—the land question, which is a question of existence, and the Church question, which is a question of feeling. Of the latter our author first proceeds to treat, and devotes several pages to a laboured and not very convincing eulogium upon the Established Church in Ireland. We have all the old platitudes about its being a Missionary Church— which may be true or not, according to the sense put upon the words,—and about its extending its influence over the people, which is in every sense untrue. Even for remedying the internal anomalies of the Church, Colonel Adair can find no better suggestion than the cumbrous, complicated, and unsuit- able machinery of the Scotch system of " unexhausted tiends." His conclusion, as we have before stated, is that at all hazards the Irish Establishment must be maintained ; and his chief argument in support of this may be cited as a curious instance of landlord logic. "Common modes of thought," he says, "have drawn the Protestant Churches together in Ireland." Hence he infers that Protestantism in Ireland is stronger than the statistics of the Church prima facie show. The substance of this reasoning is that because Episcopalians and Presbyterians join in hating Papists, there- fore the former alone should continue the State Church,—a proposition which, however cogent to the landlord intellect, will not, we imagine, make many converts in the world at large. When we turn from Colonel Adair's ideas upon the Church to his theories upon tenure, the same blindness and dull spirit of resistance are visible in a still more exaggerated form. This is natural, for as a landlord he is interested more immediately in the latter than in the former subject. And here, as in the earlier part of his paper, we have to com- mend his collation of facts. His account of the Ulster tenant-right is able and impartial, and he recognizes the security which it undoubtedly gives to the part of the country to which it extends. But again, when he goes from premisses to conclusions, he plunges into a labyrinth of fallacy into which it is nearly hopeless to attempt to follow him. The Ulster tenant-right would be inapplicable to the south and west, he says, for it would not be there the spontaneous growth of the state of society. As for the demand for fixity
of tenure, which is daily assuming greater prominence, he affects to consider it economically a mistake, because it must be accompanied by small properties. "Agriculture," says Colonel Adair, "in a highly artificial state of society is averse to small farms—grazing or tillage." The example of Belgium proves that small properties—not farms—can be successful, whether in grazing or tillage, by the adoption of two agricultural reforms, which it would not be difficult to make general in Ireland—spade husbandry and stall feeding. " Are the peasant proprietors of France," he adds, "the most enlightened of the nation ? It would be cruel to encourage
the delusive idea."' We do not suppose that anybody ever assumed that the peasantry of any country formed the most enlightened class. It would be quite enough for our purpose if in Ireland such a class was happy and contented, as in France, and if a powerful. check were placed upon the too rapid increase of population. But these are considerations which Colonel Adair does not regard, or rather which he holds in contempt, for he has the true squirearchical hatred of "thinkers." His conclusion is, that the tenure should not be touched by law, and that the work of amelioration should be left to the persons who are most directly interested in obstructing it—the proprietary class.
The views which we have thus indicated are doubtless those not of an individual merely, but of a class. Colonel Adair is a representative man ; an English gentleman, he has been sub- jected to liberalizing influences, which never reach the ordinary Irish squire ; but the force of circumstance, of position, and. training has proved too strong. His policy, professing to be progressive, is in all the main points intensely reactionary. To secure and strengthen the ascendancy that still remains,—to regain as far as may be the ascendancy that has been lost,—to maintain the Church of the minority as the Church of the State,—to support as unalterable, and as absolutely the best, a system of land tenure whose fruit for half a century has been legal oppression on the part of the lord and illegal violence on the part of the peasant, which has expatriated millions of Irishmen and poisoned the Celtic mind with a still bitterer hate of the Saxon than repeated conquests and rebellions, which has originated a stupendous and horrible mass of crime, and which, we emphatically repeat, is the soul of the present insurrectionary movement,—these are the aims of Colonel Adair and his fellows, the landed gentry of Ireland. That class is powerful in Parliament, and is united by close ties of interest and feeling to the English aristocracy. But fortu- nately for the honour and security of the Empire, that class is not omnipotent. There are, we are happy to believe, in the Legislature statesmen and thinkers not unworthy to grapple with this great and momentous question. We trust they will not shrink from the arduous but glorious task, but face it with mature wisdom and earnest purpose. For when the political deeds of our generation come to lie judged at the bar of history we shall be placed, it is certain, among the benefactors of mankind, or the ignoble herd of self-lovers, as we have answered, justly or unjustly, the passionate pleading of Ireland.