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Nations in many respects resemble private individuals, and in none more than this,—that those which apparently have most cause to be content, often exhibit the strongest symptoms of uneasiness and dissatisfaction. The poor man who can earn enough for his decent support, jogs on quietly through the vale of humble life, while they who seem to want nothing are frequently the prey of restlessness and discontent. I question whether the world, at any period, has been able to furnish such a living picture as Great Britain now exhibits, of public and private prosperity, of high cultivation, of extended commerce, of opulent inhabitants, of national renown, of general knowledge, and of individual happiness. Sure I am, that it would be vain to think of finding a parallel to it in any era of her own history, previous, at least, to the last forty or fifty years. How much more indulgent soever nature may have been toother countries, in excellence of climate, fertility of soil, or felicity of situation,—orwhatcver advantages their inhabitants may have derived from the culture of some peculiar arts,—where is the candid and intelligent stranger, who, returning to his own country after an intimate acquaintance with England, will hesitate to acknowledge the decided superiority of the Empress of the Ocean, the free and happy Island? Vov- XV.
Where will he find such an aristocracy as that which the great landed proprietors of Great Britain present to his view? Where will he look for such a profusion of magnificent seats, or such a number of munificent proprietors? Where will he behold such a description of tenantry as that which flourishes under the auspices of that noble and high-minded aristocracy? Where else is he to seek for a land which will shew him among her Esquires men who almost look down upon Royal honours, and whose pride is, not to accept titles,but todecline them? Where will he find such a House of Peers, such an assembly of Representatives, as are presented to his view in both Houses of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain? Where can he hope to behold such wealth, spirit, intelligence, generosity, and enterprize, as are centred in that vast and respectable body composing the mercantile interest of Great Britain ?—Volumes, not pages, are required, for giving even a very brief detail of the several items which make up the sum-total of British industry, British power, and British prosperity. Years, not days, would suffice to make a person acquainted with the immense extent and variety of her arts, her manufactures, her literary attainments, her cultivated lands, and her commercial cities; and did circumstances permit, I do not know how
a man of curious and intelligent mind could for years be so delightfully and so instructively employed. All the rest of the world can not, the whole of the old world never could, boast such a throne, such a senate, such a country, and such a people!
Are we now to be told, that this great country is ill governed, that her constitution is imperfect, and that her legislature wants reform? I laugh at an assertion, of which every man, who enjoys only the sense of sight, must discern the palpable absurdity. Could such an empire have grown, can such a state of things be found, under an ill government? Impossible. Is it to be believed, that there exists any want of imperial protection, of wise administration, of legislative vigilance, in a country, the moral and intellectual character of whose people has attained the highest summit of honourable distinction, whose trade embraces the world, and the opulence and industry of whose private citizens enable them to accomplish the most arduous undertakings, and to rival princes in generosity and magnificence? Impossible. The defects, for defects will be found in everything connected with humanity, are not in the system, but in those who would abuse it. I can readily understand that the country may be governed worse—I cannot easily conceive, with fair allowance for mortal frailty, that it could be governed better. Will a wise man risk the stability of a form of government, capable of conferring such blessings, on the vain hope of renovating its strength, or enlarging its powers, by a change of system? Will he give up the conscious certainty of GOOD enjoyed, for the fallacious promise of theoretic perfection? Would he do so, if the characters of the theorists were recommended by the highest excellence of moral principle, exemplary conduct, and benevolent intention? and if not, will he listen for a moment to counsellors of such character as the reformists of the present day generally possess? No, unquestionably he will not; because, if he did, he would forfeit his pretensions, not to wisdom only, but to common prudence, common honesty, and common sense. I speak as a mere individual partaker of the general welfare. I have no personal connection with the exercisers of power, or their agents or instruments, directly or in
The Irishman. No. II. [[Jan.directly; but as a subject of the im
perial realm, I profess my unwillingness to change a single foundationstone of that political structure, which long time, profound wisdom, and fortunate circumstances, have concurred to construct—which surrounding nations find it much more easy to admire than to imitate—which, once shaken, may never recover its stability— and which owes its great value, not to symmetrical order, or regularity of form, but to the strength of its but-, ttvsses, the durability of its roof, and the substantial comforts of its internal arrangement, and its multiplied accommodations.
If Great Britain be as I have described it, whence, it may be asked, can so much discontent arise—discontent, not merely confined to hairbrained experimentalists, Jacobin reformers, desperate adventurers, or idle profligates, but pervading occasionally superior classes, and bearing in its train recruits from every profession, clerical, military, legal, literary, and even senatorial? The answer is obvious—it arises from the nature and constitution of man, being a proof as well as a consequence of free government; a natural excess of that liberty which permits xentire qua; velis,Jari quae sentias. In such a government, where the community is large, there will be numerous candidates for place and power, and all cannot be successful. Disappointment will be experienced more or less in other pursuits; and as no one is willing to acknowledge deficiency in himself, he is naturally disposed to account for failure on some other ground than his own ill fortune or ill conduct. Misgovernment immediately presents itself as at once a pretext and consolation for miscarriage—a convenient butt for the arrows of malignity —an abundant receptacle for all the overflowings of angry and irritated minds. As discontent is naturally querulous, as it requires little talent to find fault, still less to vituperate, and least of all to falsify, he must be deficient in judgment, indeed, who forms his estimate of the country's real state from factious clamour, from party journals, tumultuary meetings, reforming demagogues, and opposition orators. To obtain a true knowledge of the actual situation and nature of things, he must take a cool, patient, and comprehensive view of the whole; to form a correct judgment of the British Government, he must examine all its curious and complicated machinery, the harmonious operation of whose parts will surprise him much more than the occasional irregularity of a few movements. The great cause of astonishment to a sound and sober mind will be, that any who live under its protection, who nave been born within its precincts, and whose attachment ought to have been strengthened by the impressions of early prepossession, should be foolish or wicked enough to harbour sentiments derogatory to its fame, or subversive of its establishment. I am not one of those who feel serious alarm from the insidious designs of the htenry njiderroiner, or the more open attacks of the factious. The sterling weight of solid learning and sound talent is on the side of the constitution, and there is a steadiness of character in the British people which will, I trust, for ever defeat the secret machinations of the pretended friend, as well as the undisguised enmity of the audacious aggressor. Real danger, as it appears to me, is only to be apprehended from a want of union and firmness in Government—from a ministry who would be weak enough to concede too much to that restless spirit of change, with which so many, under the pretence of reform, are either deluded themselves, or endeavouring to delude others.
Tke Irishman. No. II.
But, alas! poor Ireland! though marked, both by size and situation, as the associate, not the slave, of the sister Island, though now at length indisputably connected with her fortunes, governed by the same crown, subject to the same laws, represented in the same Parliament, and scarce less favoured by the fertilizing hand of benignant nature, the just reporter of vow internal state has a different and far less gratifying representation to make.
In endeavouring to give a clear, though succinct, account of the real state of Ireland, it is not dealing fairly to make her sit for her picture in the hour of distress, to take our view of her features while under the influence of a depression, in which all the nations of Europe have participated, and from the shock of which even the superior wealth and resources of English agriculturists are but now beginning to re-'
cover. Their numerous petitions to Parliament, complaining of agricultutural distress, spoke a language as melancholy and despairing as the famous petition of their ancestors to the senate of Italy, when the Roman protection was obliged to be withdrawn. In their despondency they predicted a general bankruptcy of both landlord and tenant, a death-blow to agriculture, and little less than national ruin. They had their Rockites too, some riots, and some burnings, though soon checked by the vigilance of the magistracy, and the general respect of a long civilized people to the salutary authority of the laws. Ireland, from various circumstances, has hitherto derived her principal wealth from the productions of her land, from what is called the provision trade—from cattle, and from corn; for both of which, and more especially the former, the nature of the climate, and the fertility of the soil, are well adapted. It cannot surely be matter of surprise, that what was disastrously felt by a people possessing so many resources, so abundant in wealth, and so superior in civilization, should be productive of deep and bitter calamity in a country deriving its staple, almost its only support, from that very branch of industry which the sudden change of European politics had so deeply and unexpectedly paralysed. War, which impoverishes other countries, has long been an enricher of Ireland, by employing her spare hands, and consuming her superabundant provisions. But the harvest was generally short, and the gainers, regarding it only as a temporary resource, were probably better husbands of the profits. The unusual duration of the last war seems to have given it the character of interminable. The longer it lasted, the less it seemed likely to end. What was got with ease was spent with profusion; none seem to have speculated on a decrease of income. Rents, which had been paid for fifteen or twenty years, appeared beyond the danger of reduction; estates were loaded with charges proportionate to their supposed eternity of value; prices, which for many years had been advancing, might, it was thought, rise, but could never recede; and when the shock did come, there was general alarm, general dismay, general discontent, and general di*.