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THE PRESENT DISTURBANCES
THE SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
A RESIDENT OF THE COUNTY OF CORK.
“ Ainsi, lorsqu'un prince veut faire de grands changements dans sa nation, il faut qu'il réforme pår les lois ce qui est établi par les lois, et qu'il change par les manières ce qui est établi par les manières ; et c'est une très mauvaise politique de changer par les lois ce qui doit être changé par les manières.”
• Il y a des moyens pour empêcher les crimes ; ce sont les peines : il y en a pour faire changer les manières ; ce sont les exemples.”
De L'ESPRIT DES Lois, liv, xix, chap. 14.
The following remarks have been written for some months, and were not at first designed for publication. I do not think that I have either exaggerated or misrepresented; and I lay them before the public with the single wish, that, if in no other way, at least by attracting attention to investigations of this nature, they may chance to be of some little service to my country. The habits of the higher and the lower orders in Ireland, and the relations in which they stand towards each other, have been sketched from time to time by writers of great ability; but never, that I know, strictly with a view to their political bearing, and their connexion with that sort of intermittent fever with which the southern districts have been afflicted for sixty or seventy years. As I proceeded, numerous tracks presented themselves in which I might have been tempted to travel, if other pursuits of a severer kind had left me leisure. Let me hope that others better qualified will undertake an office, which is not less interesting than the subject is deeply important.
It may seem strange that, in an inquiry into the causes of the present disturbances, I have scarcely said a word of Tithes. I thought it better to suppress some few remarks I had prepared, than touch lightly on a topic so large and so momentous.
It was not intended in these pages to write receipts for the curo
of political diseases : my object was principally to describe some of the evils, leaving their remedies to those who have the leisure and abilities to devise, and the power to apply them. Education, however, was a subject too obvious and too tempting to pass wholly unnoticed.
Having made some strictures on the Magistracy of the South of Ireland, I think myself bound to render a just tribute of applause to the intrepid firmness, the unwearied vigilance, the devotion to public duty, which for several months have characterised a large portion of the magistracy of this county. Much of this is undoubtedly to be ascribed to the partial revision which has taken place of their body; a measure in which much still remains to be done. But convinced of the correctness of those general observations which truth obliged me to make, I must say, that when they shall have subdued, with the ample powers committed to them by Government and Parliament, the insurrection to which they are opposed, they will have performed a part only of their duty. It will then remain, that, by a total change in the conduct which for years has been pursued, they prevent the recurrence of the dreadful exigency which has required these unparalleled exertions.
The state of Ireland is at present such as muststrike alarm into all who are not utterly regardless of the interests of the Empire. Some time since it might have been a matter of curiosity and speculation to inquire into the causes which have continued to retard this unhappy country in the progress of civilisation, while surrounding nations have proceeded, some of them rapidly, most of them, if slowly, yet steadily on their way. Strange it must have appeared, and well worth the examination of persons fond of studying the history of mankind, that a country, closely contiguous and subject to England, that is, to a nation more remarkable for its rapid advancement from barbarism to the very height of refinement, than perhaps any other in ancient or modern days, should have remained, for centuries, stationary or retrograde, with such an example and such a ruler. Unfortunately for Ireland, and for England too, these enquiries have occupied more the attention of the student and the antiquary, than of the politician and the statesman. But time, which is usually the dispenser of justice as well as the teller of truth, has produced events, that demand of every plain, practical man, who desires to see the British Empire freed from a perpetual internal distemper, to turn his most serious reflection to the condition of this country. I have thought it may be not wholly without use, to offer to the public some observations on its present state, which I have had frequent opportunities of making, and which may lead to an acquaintance with the causes of the present disturbances. It is not my design to revert to past times. This would be wholly inconsistent with the scope and the length
of this performance. A full, accurate, and comprehensive view of the subject cannot, indeed, be obtained without an acquaintance with the history of those times; but persons who have not taste or leisure for such a study, may learn enough without it, to form a notion, not quite inadequate, of the nature and origin of these shocking transactions, which we cannot read or think of without horror and dismay.
Many of the causes which have concurred to produce this state of things, are as obvious as they are lamentable. Every one speaks of the Irish tithe-proctor and middleman; of the poverty of the peasant, and the rapacity of the landlord; of the absentees who drain the country of its wealth ; of the agent's oppression, and his employer's apathy. All the tourists who have visited the country, and written on what they have or have not seen; all the writers who have affected to give the most scanty information respecting its condition, unite in urging these topics. My purpose is to state what I have myself known and witnessed. In doing so, I may peat
what has been said, and said often, before ; but in political inquiries plagiary is not always a fault. On the contrary, a coincidence of what we advance with the statements and opinions of others, serves, if these be well founded, to fortify and establish our
Before examining the condition of the lower orders in the Southern Districts, (the main object in these pages,) it will not be amiss to take a view of the general state of society in those quarters, and of the different classes of which it is composed.
1. The great landed proprietors, it is well known, do not form a large proportion of the Irish resident gentry. Yet it is a mistake to suppose, that all, or much the greater number, are altogether absentees. Many live entirely upon their estates, and many return to their country seats, as in England, after an occasional absence. True it is, that they return only to colleet funds which may enable them again to absent themselves from the country. Still their appearance might diffuse some of those benefits, however inferior in extent, which attend the country residence, even for a season, of the great proprietors in England. But wide is the difference between this class in Ireland and the same rank of persons in the sister country. There the landed proprietor enters actively into all the public business of the district which surrounds him. Its local relations, its wants, its capacities; the impediments that may repress, and the means that may develop and advance them, are known to him. He is a magistrate, and not an idle one. He is inquisitive to learn what breaches of the laws take place, what loose and disorderly spirits may be abroad. He mixes, he con