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The times are troublous,-not devoid ever apt to take an erroneous view of of agitation and peril, and ominous the proportions and character of the of greater trouble yet to come. All events which are whirling about us. To over Europe, the long peace is broken, appearance, there is little plan or conand the fountains of the great deep are pexion in them : they come few know opening up. To those who see clearly, whence, and seem to throng about us in the heads of two or three chief perils a chance-medley, like the wild dance are already visible above the agitated of leaves in the October gale. But a waters, menacing the welfare of our grand sequence and sympathy pervade State, both from without and from with- them all. The events of each age have in. The country feels instinctively a family-likeness, and a common pathat we are on the brink of important rentage in the past. If you would see events, and probably also of changes in what they really are, whence they come, our foreign and domestic policy, which, and whither they are tending, Get up for good or for evil, will give a new higher ; leave the level of your own aspect to the Empire. For ourselves, times, and from the heights of History we have no forebodings as to the issue. look down. As the traveller on the At home, if we lose in some respects by lofty summit of frozen Jura or burning impending changes, we shall gain-and Etna, sees every object in the lower we believe gain more-in others. And world in its true proportions, has every abroad, if our influence on the Conti- feature of the scene in view at once, nent experience a rude shock a year and can follow each winding of road or two hence, it will only serve to and river, and track them to their throw us into closer union with our goal, — so does History, well read, lift true allies,—the free-born Anglo-Saxon us up as to some calm pinnacle of the Powers of the sea. There is never a upper air, where the joint light of grand contest without great vicissi- Reason and the Past reveals to us the tudes; but we know enough of the Future. Let us appeal, then, from the history of the British nation to have misgivings and trepidations of the hour faith in its future, and to feel convinced to the voice of history; and from the that once the crisis comes, and our story of past troubles draw a lesson of somnolent people gather up their present comfort and reassurance. strength to meet it, Old England will Twenty-five years ago! Any on again weather the storm, and, despite who was old enough to be a thinkthe forebodings of the late Premier, ing man then, must remember how ride through the troubled seas into a grave were the times. For fifteen years haven of new prosperity.
before, the whole country had been History is the great Mentor. “What suffering. With the exception of a few is nearest,” said Dr. Johnson, "touches prosperous gleams, which could almost us most." A tiny leaf at hand appears be reckoned by months, the times had as big as a bill at a distance; and amidst been gloomy, and the people murmurthe anxieties of the present, we are ing. Complaints and petitions to Par
" History of Europe from the Fall of Napoleon, in 1815, to the Accession of Louis Napoleon, in 1852.” By Sir A. Alison, Bart., D.C.L. Vol. IV. 1855.
VOL. XLVI.NO. CCLXXI.
liament for redress were unceasing ; years of the reign of Louis Philippe, and now in one part of the kingdom, comprising as its most important events now in another-now in the towns, now the revolt of Belgium and the Polish in the country, and sometimes in both Insurrection and war of 1831. As a simultaneously–riots, strikes, and de- necessary consequence, the principles vastation took place. The whole land wedded to these events and epoch — was in a grumble, as if the spirit of the namely, those connected with reform earthquake were moving underneath. and the currency, with foreign interPerhaps the misery of those times is vention and the balance of power in more inexplicable than that of any Europe-are the themes whose discusother portion of our history. It ex- sion forms the salt of the volume and tended to the farmer and manufacturer, the moral of the narrative. In reality, to landlord and labourer alike. In these themes are as interesting at the fifteen years after Waterloo, eighteen present day as they were a quarter of millions of taxes were struck off, -and a century ago. He reads the times yet misery co-existed with this un. wrongly who imagines that the first paralleled reduction. The universal two of them are not destined soon to phenomenon was, that wages and prices become the subject of fresh discussion were falling, and that credit (that very in the legislature; and as for questions life of a community, without which en- connected with foreign policy and war, terprise collapses, and industry stands are we not already in the thick of still) fluctuated and was shaken them? symptoms that the country had been Let us give a brief glance to the overbled by the Currency Restriction leading features of the epoch treated Acts, and that the circulation did not of in this volume. Ireland was the flow steadily or in sufficient abundance. weak part of the kingdom, and there This main cause of the malady, how- the general distress took earliest and ever, was too subtile and recondite in deepest root. The picture given of its nature to be generally perceived or the peasantry (that is to say, the understood ; and the consequence was, mass of the people) of that country, by that all classes, suffering and groping Mr. North, an Irish barrister of ability, blindly for a cure, came at length to in 1824, though probably suggested a attribute the national malady to politi- little for the sake of epigrammatic excal causes, and to seek a remedy in or- pression, tells a tale of long-standing ganic changes of the Constitution. The wretchedness. “ In Ireland,” said he, Constitution did need altering, -the “the people have for a series of years people were ready to try anything in suffered every variety of misery; they the search for deliverance froin evil,- have proceeded from one affliction to the Whig agitators roused the passions another. Each season brought its peby inflammatory appeals and delusive culiar horror. In one it was famine; hopes,—and at length the flood of re- in the next it was fever; in the third volutionary excitement rose so high, it was murder. These sad events that everything seemed giving way be- seemed to form a perpetual cycle, the fore it ; and an ignorantly-constructed parts of which were of regular and Reform Bill, which proved much more mournful recurrence.
Placed democratic than its authors intended, at the very bottom of the scale of huwas carried amidst a saturnalia of riot. man beings, the Irish peasant never ing and political agitation, such as was looked upwards. He was excited by unknown at the opening of the French no emulation - inspired by no hope. Revolution of 1789.
He remained fixed on the spot where The period embraced in the first he first drew breath, without the wish, half of the new volume of Sir A. Ali- and still more without the power, of son's history, is the decade of years
motion. He saw himself surrounded which preceded the passing of the Re- by men of a religion different from his form Bill in 1832. That event was own, whose interests were at variance the culminating result of a long series with his, and whose chief or sole busiof preceding causes, the study of which, ness he supposed to be, by the force of in bis impartial pages, is suggestive of the sword and of the law, to keep him considerations of no little importance poor. He saw in the violation of the at the present time. The second half law no culpability; in its chastiseof the volume gives the history of con. ment no retribution. His courage was tinental Europe during the first two converted into ferocity, his intelligence into fraud ; and at last the pea- when land was so scarce, any Saxon sant was lost in the murderer and in- interloper was shot down as a public cendiary."
enemy. Moreover, the land was gePoor Ireland ! she was badly off in nerally let by the proprietor to large those times; she had neither fair play tenants, or middlemen, who sub-let it nor wise treatment. There were no after through several gradations of manufactures and little means of em- sub-tenants, down to the actual culti. ployment in the country, and there vators; and as the crop and stocking was a redundant population. “ The of each of these could be distrained for ordinary rate of wages,” said O'Con. the arrears of any superior tenant, the nell, "is fourpence a-day; and during unfortunate peasant was ever liable for the distress of 1822, the peasantry others' debts, and the growth of agriwere glad to work for twopence a-day.” cultural capital was rendered wholly The landlords (for the most part impossible. Add yet again to the burEnglish noblemen who had been in- dens of the peasantry, that they had feft in the forfeited estates) were to support two ecclesiastical establishabsentees; and the rents, wrung in ments — one voluntary, the other on driblets from the cotters, were spent compulsion. It was like the attempt to abroad. It was as if the dews which wring water from a pumice-stone. The rose nightly from the Emerald Isle, peasants bid against each other for the from its hills and plains, its lakes and fand, until they offered more than its rivers, the skies sent not back,-drain. entire value to the landlord alone ing the land of its juices, to pour them leaving the chapter of accidents to proin beneficent showers on some more vide for the parson, armed with the favoured spot. “ There is no means power of distraining, and the priest of employment for an Irish peasant,” wielding the thunders of excommunisaid Mr. Nimmo, in 1823, "nor any cation. So that, between landlord, certainty of his having the means of priest, and parson, as well as their own existence for a single year, but by get- improvidence, the Irish were then ill ting possession of a portion of land on off to an extent which, in this year of which he can plant potatoes.” No grace 1855, we should deem incredible. encouragement was given to reclaim Although there were no poor-rates, the or pasture the fertile wastes; and con- sum yearly raised for the destitute sequently, as population increased, the amounted to £2,250,000 — equal to competition for the plots of ground half the public revenue, double the became tremendous, and the rents rose tithes, and a fourth of the land-rent of far above the value of the land. Ex. Ireland, and about four times heavier in cessive poverty is always reckless and proportion than the poor-rate of Engprolific. The cotters bred as fast, and land at its highest amount. This cess with as little regard to the future, as (which was not paid by the absentee the lower animals; and as marriage. proprietors) weighed heavily upon the fees constituted a large portion of well-doing portion of the community, the income of the priests, no effort without doing more than barely keepto check these improvident alliances ing alive the crowds of paupers who was made by those who had the overspread the country. requisite wisdom and influence. The To a people thus living on the brink only way a, peasant could provide of starvation, the fall of prices and for bis family was by subdividing his paralysis of enterprise produced by the croft,-a suicidal measure, which, for contractions of the currency in 1819 the sake of increasing the number of and 1826, brought utter misery. “In votes at their disposal, the landlords the town of Kilkee, in the county of rather
encouraged than otherwise ; but Clare," said Mr. Nimmo, “when I the effect of which was to reduce a was passing through it in the time of large portion of the peasantry to the the distress in 1822, the people were state of the Greek fool's horse, when he in a group on the side of the pound, boasted he had got it to live upon a
receiving meal the way of charity, straw a-day!
and at the same time the pound was “ The competition for land,” reported full of [their distrained] cattle. Of Mr. Nimmo, in 1823, “bas attained course the milk of these cattle would to something like the competition for have been worth something if it could provisions in a besieged town, or in a have been obtained, but no one could ship that is out at sea." of course, buy it." No one could buy, — there
was the hitch. Money bad been ren. double weight upon Ireland, a country dered so scarce, that buying and selling whose chief produce was agricultural; in those poor districts was almost at a and from the doubly-devastated land a stand-still. “I have known a cow stream of emigration rushed forth, sold for a few shillings," said Mr. which, together with the famine, took Nimmo; "nobody would buy, and nearly a-fourth part from the numbers the driver bought it himself.” It was of the population. The Incumbered not, to use Dr. Johnson's phrase, “ that Estates' Act-a just measure, but one cows were plenty, but that money was as despotic as ever issued from Czar scarce"-almost vanished, in fact. or Emperor—did the rest. It cleared
Distress is the great revolutionist. the country of insolvent landlords, as Ignorant and excitable, the Irish pea- the famine and emigration had cleared santry did what probably much wiser it of a redundant population ; and inand calmer folks in their place would stead of men who retained the privihave done, they gave way to vio. lege, without discharging the duties, of lence and outrage against the exac- property, it brought in Anglo-Saxon tions of a Church which they ab- wealth and enterprise,-accompanied, horred, and landlords who to their we trust, by a kinder and wiser spirit other faults added that of being aliens on the part of the landlords towards a alike in race and religion. Then arose peasantry who need much guidance the Ribbon Lodges – then arose also and no little forbeara The Ireland O'Connell. The political chiefs, backed of to-day is the antipodes of what it by the priests, turned the agitation into a was twenty-five years ago. Rebellion political channel. Catholic Emancipa- is snuffed out ;for distress, that root tion was carried. The passing of this of all evil, is removed. There will just measure might have quieted the still be beartburnings as long as the par. agitation, had this been simply of a son is paid by the State, and the priest political character ; but the agitation by the people. But what fact can be more proceeded from general distress, which gratifying to a patriot, or more indi. political concessions could do nothing cative of Ireland's prosperity, than that to alleviate, and so the outrages and the country which once needed the prediscontent went on. The Reform Bill sence of forty thousand British bayonets was likewise carried, without the least to keep down rebellion, is now, in this effect in quieting Ireland. The priests hour of national crisis, tranquil under and agitators were worse than ever, the guardianship of its own police ! and now banded the whole people to- Emigration, which proved the relief gether in resistance to tithes. The of Ireland, was a remedy proposed as L'ithe Composition system (first, though early as 1826 ; but it was scouted out feebly, commenced in 1823) did much of the House of Commons at the bid. to remove occasion for strife ; but still ding of Mr. M‘Culloch, and the class the state of smothered rebellion conti. of so-called “political economists," nued. The Repeal of the Union was who in their short century of existence the next aim of the agitators; and
have at least committed as many egre. the mad cry of “ Ireland for the Irish" gious blunders as they have discovered soon after began to be heard. By truths. “Give the poor man £20," this time it was evident the agitators said Mr. Hume," and he will establish bad quite overshot the mark, and were himself as well in Ireland as anywhere advocating measures which would only else.” The idea was as absurd as to have sunk Ireland into deeper wretch- propose to treat an unthinned and edness. Emigration for the pauper over- crowded plantation by putting Irish at the expense of the State had manure at the roots of the feeble trees. been scouted by the legislature as a Manure to a tree that has room to exfolly. Man had exhausted himself. pand, and a small sum of money to a Providence now stepped in to do the man who has scope to push his way in requisite work,—and, as usual, did it the world, will do wonders ; but £20 sternly and effectively. A famine of to an Irish cotter in those times of the thirteenth came in the middle of over-population and complete want of the nineteenth century, and the pau- employment, would have been money per myriads of Ireland died off'like thrown away,-keeping the recipient rotten sheep. A thinning was wanted, hardly for a year ; before the expiry and it came with a vengeance. The of which time Paddy, if not previously abolition of the corn-laws fell with in possession of them, would certainly