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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

Ireland Did Not Betray England

page 29

Ireland Did Not Betray England.

When England was in a shameful war—to which I need not further allude in this place—when England was weak, when there was no one to overawe the Irish in Ireland, two men sent a cry from Ireland in terms of fiery eloquence which Ireland's advocates from time to time used. One was Henry Flood, the other was Henry Grattan. (Applause.) Their voices, like the touch of the magician's wand, sprang from part to part of Ireland, and these men organised, in armed hands, at least 60,000 volunteers. Did they embrace that moment when we were weak to strike us to repay us for all the wrong we had done to them? Did they use that moment when we were down and they were strong? Did they use that moment to give us the meed of vengeance which we could hardly have resisted? No! They only asked some rights for themselves, some freedom, some liberty. Then they only spoke the words of hope, the words of power; and it was to these 60,000 volunteers that George III. conceded the repeal of these statutes, which the Irish took as a boon rather than a right. The words of eloquent Grattan speaking out for Ireland's eternal freedom were uttered in Stephen's Green, where I hope that Irishmen may have the opportunity again of legislating for their own wrongs and grievances. (Great applause.) With the words of Henry Grattan they were content. There was no sort of threat, no sort of menace, no sort of violence. When we were weak they were loyal, and when we left our side exposed, instead of taking advantage of the weak place to strike a blow, the very Irishmen who had been trampled upon guarded and shielded us with their arms. When we were again strong men we repaid them by breaking the bayonets which we had entrusted to them, and tried to take back from them the liberties which we had given and had always begrudged them. (Hisses.) Ireland being an agricultural country, naturally the land question is the question which meets one most especially; and Mr. Mill, in a speech made by him in the House of Commons on Mr. Chichester Fortescue's Land Bill, said:

"People often ask, and it has been asked this evening, Why should that which works well in England not work well in Ireland? or why should anything be needed in Ireland that is not needed in England? Whether Ireland was an exception to all the rest of mankind, that they cannot bear the institutions which reason and experience have taught are the best calculated page 30 to promote national prosperity? Sir, we were eloquently reminded the other night of that double ignorance against which a great philosopher warned his contemporaries—'ignorant of our being ignorant'; and when we insist on applying the same rules in respect to Ireland and to England, we show another kind of double ignorance, and at the same time disregard the precept which was inscribed on the front of the temple of Delphi; not only we do not know what we undertake to govern, but we do not know ourselves. Irish circumstances and Irish ideas as to social and agricultural economy are the general ideas and the general circumstances of the human race. It is English circumstances and English ideas that are peculiar. Ireland is the main stream of human existence, and human feeling and human opinion; it is England that is one of the lateral channels. If any honorable gentleman doubts this, I ask, Is there any other country on the face of the earth in which, not merely as a national fact, but as a general rule, the land is owned in great estates by one class, and farmed by another class of capitalist farmers, and actually cultivated by laborers only, detached from the soil, and receiving only day wages? Ireland is like the rest of the world; England is the exceptional country."