POVERTY AND COERCION.
We are now in the nineteenth century, without any relief for the Irish peasantry. The rebellion of ’98, so cruelly crushed, left an abiding sense of terror in the hearts of the Roman Catholic population. Their condition was one of almost hopeless prostration. The Union was effected without the promised relief from their religious disabilities which was to be one of its essential conditions. The established church was secured, the rights of property were secured, but there was no security for the mass of the people. Domestic politics were almost forgotten in the gigantic struggle with Napoleon, which exhausted the energies of the empire. Any signs of political life that showed themselves in Ireland were connected with Catholic emancipation, and the visit of George IV., in 1820, held forth promises of relief which excited unbounded joy. The king loved his Irish subjects, and would never miss an opportunity of realising the good wishes for their happiness which he had so often and so fervently expressed to his Whig friends, when he was Prince Regent. O’Connell’s agitation commenced soon after, and in nine years after the royal visit emancipation was extorted by the dread of civil war, frankly avowed by the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. But this boon left the masses nearly where they had been, only more conscious of their power, and more determined to use it, in the removal of their grievances.
Lord Redesdale, writing to Lord Eldon in 1821, said:—’In England the machine goes on almost of itself, and therefore a bad driver may manage it tolerably well. It is not so in Ireland. The country requires great exertion to bring it into a state of order and submission to law. The whole population—high and low, rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant—must all be brought to obedience to law; all must be taught to look up to the law for protection. The gentry are ready enough to attend grand juries, to obtain presentments for their own benefit, but they desert the quarter-sessions of the peace. The first act of a constable in arresting must not be to knock down the prisoner; and many, many reforms must be made, which only can be effected by a judicious and able Government on the spot. Ireland, in its present state, cannot be governed in England. If insubordination compels you to give, how are you to retain by law what you propose to maintain while insubordination remains? It can only be by establishing completely the empire of the law.’