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IRISH DISTURBANCES.

INTRODUCTION.

For the last seventy years Ireland has been the scene of constantly recurring disturbances; sometimes consisting only of the murder of a few persons, or the burning of a few houses, and sometimes rising to general insurrection. Successive governments have apparently exhausted every means in their power to suppress the evil, but without success.

The statutebook has been loaded with the severest laws; the country has been covered with military and police; capital punishment has been unsparingly inflicted ; Australia has been crowded with transported convicts; and all to no purpose. Committees and Commissions have collected piles of evidence; the most various plans of policy have been recommended by different persons ; some have attributed the turbulence of the inferior Irish to their inherent barbarism; some to their religion ; some to their hatred of England ; some to their poverty; some to their want of education. Much new legislation has been tried, and in vain : in a large part of Ireland there is still less security of person and property than in any other part of Europe, except perhaps the wildest districts of Calabria or Greece: and there are persons who altogether despair of establishing permanent tranquillity in Ireland, and who think that it is an exception to all the ordinary rules of government. Such reasoners sometimes even push their political fatalism so far as to conceive that there is an innate and indelible tendency in the Irish to disturbance and outrage; that Ireland has been cut off by nature

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from the rest of the civilized world, and been foredoomed to a state of endless disorder; so desponding, indeed, is their language, that they almost seem to view the Irish people in the same light as Don Juan d’Aguila, the Spanish commander, who (as we are told by Lord Bacon) after the battle of Kinsale, "said in open treaty, that when the Devil upon the mount did show Christ all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them, he did not doubt but the Devil left out Ireland, aud kept it for himself *."

At a time when many questions affecting the welfare of Ireland are under public discussion, and are likely soon to occupy a large portion of the attention of the legislature, it seems desirable that some attempt should be made to ascertain the true causes and nature of the disturbances in question ; and to discover whether there is anything so extraordinary in the character of the poorer classes in Ireland as to bid defiance to the best established rules of legislation ; or whether the appearances alluded to may not be explained without supposing any deviation from the general course of human nature.

With this view, I propose, in the first place, to trace the history of the various local disturbances which prevailed in Ireland in the latter half of the last century (so far as the imperfect accounts of them given by contemporary writers will permit), and next, fully to explain, by means of evidence taken by several parliamentary committees, the nature of these disturbances, which have continued, with partial interruptions, but unaltered character, from about the accession of Geo, 1II. to the present day.

* Of a war with Spain : Bacon's Works, vol. v. p. 276.-Ed. Montagu.

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