Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of Britain must be effaced. Whether any distinct repeal of Henry's barbarous Act in 1537 be necessary, we do not decide ; perhaps this is of inferior moment, except as a disclaimer of his tyrannical policy. But this we know, that there are those in Ireland who have often said—“Let them make what Acts of Parliament they please ; so long as they do not touch the language, we shall keep the people.” Yet though the power of the legislature, through Acts of Parliament, may have sunk to the lowest ebb, there is not a people in the world so open as the Native Irish to Acts of Kindness. Their present condition, in every respect, is but the effect of their unnatural treatment for ages. That not only to touch, but teach, their language, has all along been a plain and imperative duty, had this been no more than the only effectual mode of promoting the use of English, is left to the judgment of the reader of the following pages. But let the no less imperative duty of giving them the Sacred Volume, without note or comment of ours, be felt as it ought; as well as the obligation to address them in their mother tongue, by language clothed with the meekness of wisdom, and the tenderness of compassionate love.

Edinburgh, December 1845.

The profits of the first edition of this work, published at

five shillings and sixpence, and of the second at seven shillings, have been devoted towards the education of the Native Irish in their own language. Whatever profit may arise from the present larger impression at HALF A CROWN only, will be applied to the same object.

INTRODUCTION.

Primitive Tribes on the west of Europe; four within the United Kingdom; the

public attention far from being sufficiently awakened to the present state of one of these, the aborigines of Ireland ; the importance of farther inquiry into their peculiarly neglected condition.

SCATTERED throughout several countries on the western shores of Europe, there are to be found various confessedly ancient tribes of our fellow-men, between which there still exists a marked affinity in point of language. They are generally supposed to be the earliest waves of that tide of population which proceeded westward in Europe, till stopped in their progress by the sea, and most of them occupy at this moment nearly the same ground which they did in the days of Cæsar. If the sources of some of those rivers with which we have been long acquainted, have hitherto baffled all the enterprise of our travellers, so has the origin of those primitive races, the research of the learned. Their dialects being the children of one common Parent, and this unquestionably a very ancient tongue, these various tribes of course, belong to a people correspondently ancient; but the neglect of their dialects has, in its measure, contributed to a discordance of sentiment with regard to the people. In the absence or deficiency of other data, languages have not unfrequently served to fix the antiquity and lineage of a people, and hence they have even been styled the pedigree of nations.

But whatever may be the opinion formed as to their descent, the treatment of these distinct races is a question of far greater importance than that of their origin or antiquity; and it is certainly singular that every thing which has hitherto been done for them in the business of education or moral improvement, has been the result, not of any kind and considerate legislative interference or enactment, but of individual philanthropy and much entreaty. Prejudices of the narrowest order have been cherished for

ages, particularly with regard to the language in which they have been born, and left far behind in the march of im

А

provement, their present state has actually been ascribed, and even lately, to inaptitude for civilization, instead of its true and only cause,--the want of a vernacular literature, and of intelligent discourse with them in their own tongue. The language spoken in the vicinity of each of these tribes is of course that of the reigning power, and for ages most of them have been told that their only chance for elevation lay through that medium, though they did not understand it, nor do they understand it now.

These remarks apply in all their force, not only to the Basque language spoken both in Spain and France, and of which there are at this moment several dialects, and the Bas Bretagne spoken by a large population in Brittany, Belle Isle, and on the banks of the Loire running in towards the centre of France, but they apply to four dialects of the same parent spoken within the United Kingdom, including at least four millions of British subjects, viz. the Welsh, the Manx, the Gaelic, and the Native Irish. Individual benevolence and earnest pleading have at last achieved for Wales, and in part for the Highlands and the Isle of Man, what ought to have been effected in ages long before the present generation. Indeed Wales, as it will afterwards be shown, now stands pre-eminent among these Celtic tribes for the advantages which she enjoys; but in Ireland, where at least three millions converse in Irish daily, to say nothing at present respecting oral instruction, the business of education in the vernacular tongue is only just begun! It is not that there have been no resolutions passed by the legislature in former ages, after deliberate and frequent discussion, terminating uniformly in one opinion,the necessity for employing the language spoken daily ; but in the following pages the reader will find that all these resolutions were as nothing, -that in no instance did they lead to any course of action,--that each of them was but the expression of an unpursued order-Vox et præterea nihil. He will find that so entirely has the subject been neglected or opposed, that it is now above one hundred and seventeen years since the last of these public expressions of a sense of duty was uttered ; and that, though Irish education and oral instruction were precisely what this people at that time required, and require still, then it was that, in regard to these subjects, all parties at home drew the curtains and retired to rest. In the following pages, the reader will have frequent opportunities of observing, what others were doing elsewhere, while they slept.

« ZurückWeiter »