Historical Reprints Philosophical Irish History and the Irish Question

Irish History and the Irish Question

Irish History and the Irish Question
Catalog # SKU3314
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Goldwin Smith
ISBN 10: 1610337018
ISBN 13: 9781610337014


Irish History
and the
Irish Question

Goldwin Smith

It is needless to say that this essay does not pretend to be a history of Ireland. It is an attempt to trace the general course of the history as it leads up to the present situation.

Large Print, 15 point font



Of all histories the history of Ireland is the saddest. For nearly seven centuries it was a course of strife between races, bloodshed, massacre, misgovernment, civil war, oppression, and misery. Hardly even now have the troubles of Ireland come to a close, either for herself or for her partner. Unrest still reigns in her and, embodied in her Parliamentary delegation, harasses the Parliament and distracts the councils of Great Britain.

The theatre of this tragedy is a large island lying beside one nearly three times larger, which cuts it off from the continent of Europe, while on the other side it fronts the wide ocean. The climate is for the most part too wet for wheat. The pasture is very rich. Ireland seems by nature to be a grazing country, and a country of large farms; tillage and small farms have been enforced by the redundance of rural population consequent on the destruction of urban industries. In coal and minerals Ireland is poor, while the sister island abounds in them, and in its swarming factories and mines furnishes a first-rate market for the produce of Irish pastures; so that the two islands are commercial supplements of each other. The progress of pastoral countries, political and general, as they have little city life, is slow. With beauty Ireland is well endowed.

The interior is flat, with large peat bogs and brimming rivers. But the coast is mountainous and romantic. The western coast especially, where the Atlantic rolls into deep inlets, has a pensive charm which, when troubles end and settled peace reigns, may attract the villa as they do the wanderer now. In early times the island was densely clothed with woods, which, with the broad and bridgeless rivers, operated like the mountain barriers of the Scottish Highlands in perpetuating the division of clans, with their patriarchal system, their rivalries, and their feuds, thus precluding the growth of a nation. In Ireland there was no natural centre of dominion. Interest of every kind seems to enjoin the union of the islands. But in the age of conquest the weaker island was pretty sure to be marked as a prey of the stronger, while the difficulties of access, the Channel, broad in the days of primitive navigation, and the Welsh mountains, combined with the internal barriers of forest and river and with the naturally wild habits of the people, portended that the conquest would be difficult and that the agony would be long. Such was the mould of Destiny.

The people of Ireland when history opens were Celts, kinsmen of the primitive races of Gaul and Britain, remnants of which are left in Wales and in the Highlands of Scotland. Their language was of that family, while cognate words connect it with the general Aryan stock. There are traces of a succession of immigrations. Too much, no doubt, has been made of the influence of race. Yet the Teuton is a Teuton and the Celt is a Celt. The Celt in his native state has everywhere shown himself lively, social, communicative, impulsive, prone to laughter and to tears, wanting, compared with the Teuton, in depth of character, in steadiness and perseverance. He is inclined rather to personal rule or leadership than to a constitutional polity. His poet is not Shakespeare or Milton, but Tom Moore, a light minstrel of laughter and tears. His political leader is O'Connell, a Boanerges of passionate declamation. In war he is impetuous, as was the Gaul who charged at Allia and the Highlander who charged at Killiecrankie and Prestonpans.

His taste as well as his manual skill in decoration is shown by the brilliant collection of gold ornaments in the Celtic Museum at Dublin, as well as in stone carvings and such a paragon of illuminated missals as the Book of Kells. But it is greater than his aptitude for high art, that art which treats the human form, in which he has not shone. His religious tendency, the outcome of his general character, is either to Catholicism with its fervid faith, its mysteries, and its ceremonial, as in Ireland; or to the enthusiastic forms of Protestantism, as in the Highlands and in Wales. Anglicanism, a sober cult with a balanced creed, suits him not. It was a cruel decree of destiny that the larger island from which the conqueror would come was peopled by the Teuton, so that to the usual evils of conquest was added that of a difference of character inherent in race.

308 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover
ISBN-10: 1610337018
ISBN-13: 9781610337014

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