25 DECEMBER 1880, Page 5


TT is said, on fair, though not conclusive, authority, that among 1 the Government projects for the benefit of Ireland is a large scheme of emigration from the congested districts. The men who manage the Canadian Dominion would be very well pleased to see a hundred Irish parishes establish themselves, priests and all, in regions like that wonder- ful Valley of the Saskatchewan, where half-a-dozen Irelands might be lost, where wheat grows "spontaneous," as Mark Tapley said public buildings did in Eden, and where every cause of social quarrel is possible, except the agrarian one. They would give land in any quantity, and guidance, and aid in road-making ; and if the State could give any assistance towards passage-money, a new and most interesting experiment might be tried. Whether the report is true or not, we do not know ; but, true or false, it is one of the reports which seem hopeful to men on this side the Irish Channel, but which will not greatly help to con- ciliate Ireland. The priests will object to the plan, as likely to impair the purity of their parishioners' faith, which suffers, they think, by contact with the outer world ; the agitators will denounce it, as tending to make Ireland weaker for the ultimate struggle they contemplate with Great Britain ; and the people will be indignant at it, as a new device of the Saxon for expelling them from "dear old Ireland." We do not care to discuss the priests' feeling, which has some founda- tion, if their premiss is true,—that a certain simplicity of faith is essential to salvation; and it is useless to argue with the agitators, for, if defeated, they would only shift their ground ; but we have a sympathy with the instinc- tive pain of the people, and should like well to ascertain its cause. The Irish are, of all the peoples of mankind, the one which emigrates most largely. Germany and China both send away more men, but their emigrants do not bear the same proportion to the total population. Yet it is as certain as any such fact can be, that the Irish people do not like emi- grating even to America, that they have a distinctive and passionate love for their own land, and that they never in the first generation totally lose the desire to return to it. The Irish Canadian's quaint description of his feelings, quoted by Miss C. O'Brien, from an emigrant's' letter, "I had rather be a lamp-post in Ireland than President in Canada," represents truly the sentiment of thousands of his countrymen who, nevertheless, emigrate. There is the puzzle of it. The Irish- man is not an Asiatic, who cannot bring himself to emigrate, whatever betides, who would as soon go to another planet as to another country, and who would die of economic misery sooner than face the mental misery of life among the unknown and unaccustomed. The Irishman is a European, after all, and does not localise humanity or his creed, and is not much afraid of the unaccustomed, and if he see a prospect of advantage, or has a little too much to bear at home, he goes away, and very soon settles himself, after a fashion, amid new surroundings. But he does not go willingly even to the United States, where his countrymen are countless, but hates going, feels wroth with the destiny which makes him go, and finds in Ireland an attraction which no other corner of the world can offer. What is that attraction ?

It certainly is not climate, for the Irishman is in- different to it, and gets along as easily in London or Liverpool, under smoke-coloured fog, as in the exhilarating air of California, or the thin but enjoyable brightness of New York or Philadelphia. It certainly is not comfort, for the Irish cottier declares himself, quite truly, happier in his cabin in Connaught than his house in Iowa or Michigan ; and yet he leaves behind him poverty, bad food, insufficient clothing, and—as he believes, at all events—landlord oppression. And we may fairly say that it is not that mysterious attachment to the " home " which so influences some other less imagina- tive races, for the Irishman, though he loves Ireland as deeply as Scot or Swiss can love his native land, does not make it the first object of his existence to return there. There are returned emigrants in Ireland in plenty, but the majority do not go back. We believe that the attraction is "sentimental "—we do not mean unreal—and that it is a feeling rather than any- thing material which endears Ireland to the emigrating peasant ; that he prefers, often unconsciously, the social life of his class in Ireland to any comfort or any advantage he may find abroad. That life has for him the charm which family life has for so many English- men, the charm of an atmosphere of complete sympathy obtained without exertion. He is sure of being understanded of his friends, sure of their appreciation, sure, above all, of that kind of sympathetic pity the desire of which is unfelt by many races, but is felt like a passion by the Irishman, the Slav, and the Neapolitan. He enjoys melancholy as a luxury— a melancholy fed by traditions of the past, if not founded on them—and only in Ireland can he be as melancholy as he likes without exciting ridicule, or with any sense that he is deepening the pleasure of his hearers. Canada may be bright, or the United States rich, but to a Canadian or a Yankee the plaintiveness which has something of music to the Irishman's heart seems only weak. Only in Ireland, too, can he enjoy a certain laxity of life—we do not mean of moral, but of indus- trial life—which is to the Irishman, as to the English aristo- crat, inexpressibly desirable. Everywhere else he has to keep time, to work continuously, to perfect his work, to be, as regards his labour, an Englishman, or worse. It is not that he is idle, for the Irishman can and will labour very strenuously. But he wants to work as a master works, at his own time, in his own way, with his own rests, and some conversation, and, above all, with a discretion of his own as to whether he shall " point " all the masonry perfectly or not. He hates, not the work of England or America, but its exactness, its continuous- ness, and its constant effort towards a useless perfection. What harm do the fallen leaver; do to the lawn, and why should not the broken fence be mended to-morrow, or even next day ? It is only in Ireland and Spain that there is true sympathy for the Irishman's mode of industry, which accomplishes so much, but at such odd times, and leaves everything so slatternly. He hates a toil involving rigidity about trifles, as a man who has been independent all his life hates the monotonous work of a bank clerk. And the Irishman loves heartily, though Eng- lishmen are hard of belief, the virtues of his own people,—their charity and kindliness, their pitifulness and ready sympathy, their care for women, their absolute fidelity to one another, their incapacity of testing everything by material results in the English way. "Let us be romantic and poor,* says Mr. Smyth, in the Fortnightly Review, and says it in all serious- ness; and every true Irishman, even while he is slaving for money, in his heart responds. When he emigrates he falls among Englishmen and Scotchmen and Germans, all Teutons of sorts, and feels as if he were not in a society at all, but in the midst of a fortuitous concourse of jarring atoms. That is the secret of the Irish .gregariousness, which so annoys English and American philanthropists, who cannot conceive why, if a elan would be more comfortable materially when apart, it should not dissolve itself, and cease to be a clan. The Irish- man thinks that if it does cease, the grace and the brightness and the pleasantness of life are all gone out, and would almost as soon be in a cell as among people so unsym- pathetic and separate from one another. Englishmen think that rather childish in him, but if it is childish, the Frenchman is still more of a child, for he entertains precisely the same feel- ing, and acts upon it, too, till he is powerless to colonise. No one, however, seriously condemns the French people as childish. Nor is it quite certain that the feeling is wholly absent from the Teutons. The Germans settle themselves in millions in America, but they found there German villages, and a German society ; and the English, who suppose themselves the best Colonists in the world, will not settle in foreign countries at all, or tolerate any laws, institutions, or social life but their own. They do not fall home-sick exactly, but they keep to themselves, till at this moment, though the English" permeate the earth like locusts," there is no place where there are ten thousand of them obeying any will but their own. If there were such a place, its rulers would, we fear, speedily discover facts about the " law-abiding " nature of the Englishman which would be to them exceedingly unpleasant. The "charm of Ireland" being its social life, one wonders that Irishmen have never tried the experiment of founding a Colony distinctly for themselves, with Irish laws, an Irish Government, and an Irish population. They have quite suffi- cient ability, sufficient money, and more than sufficient numbers. The Irish emigration to America alone since 1847 would, if the people had held together, have formed a power- ful State,—would, for example, if they had all gone to Tas- mania, have made of the island a second and happier Ireland, entirely in their own hands. They will not go to Tasmania, because it is too far, and they love, even when emigrating, to keep "touch" with the old land ; but they might, if they would, fill up a Western State of the Union till it was virtually their own, or plant a new and separate colony in the Valley of the Saskatchewan, where they would be as near to Ireland as in any portion of the Union. Why should they not found a new Connaught there, govern it themselves, and show the Eng- lish, once for all and unmistakably, their own thorough capacity for Home-rule? We do not suppose they will agree, for, unlike the English, the Irish treat emigration, not as a reasonable way of founding States and filling up the world, but as a detestable device for escaping evils which have fallen upon their native land ; but if emigration is to be aided by the State, it seems a pity that the experiment should not be fairly tried, so that the ability for administration displayed in half the countries and all the colonies of the world might be utilised for the creation of a new Ireland, in which the race might show fully and unrestrainedly what is in it. There is much, or the masterful Englishman would have subjugated it long since.