Ireland In The New Century
by Horace Plunkett
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Among temperance advocates—the most earnest of all reformers—the Roman Catholic clergy have an honourable record. An Irish priest was the greatest, and, for a brief spell, the most successful temperance apostle of the last century, and statistics, it is only fair to say, show that we Irish drink rather less than people in other parts of the United Kingdom. But the real question is whether we more often drink to intoxication, and police statistics as well as common experience seem to disclose that we do. Many a temperate man drinks more in his life than many a village drunkard. Again, the test of the average consumption of man, woman and child is somewhat misleading, especially in Ireland where, owing to the excessive emigration of adults, there is a disproportionately large number of very young and old. Moreover, we Irish drink more in proportion to our means than the English, Scotch, and Welsh, whose consumption is absolutely larger. Anyone who attempts to deal practically with the problems of industrial development in Ireland realises what a terribly depressing influence the drink evil exercises upon the industrial capacity of the people. 'Ireland sober is Ireland free,' is nearer the truth, than much that is thought and most of what is said about liberty in this country.

Now, the drink habit in Ireland differs from that of the other parts of the United Kingdom. The Irishman is, in my belief, physiologically less subject to the craving for alcohol than the Englishman, a fact which is partially attributable, I should say, to the less animal dietary to which he is accustomed. By far the greater proportion of the drinking which retards our progress is of a festive character. It takes place at fairs and markets, sometimes, even yet, at 'wakes,' those ghastly parodies on the blessed consolation of religion in bereavement. It is intensified by the almost universal sale of liquor in the country shops 'for consumption on the premises,' an evil the demoralising effects of which are an hundredfold greater than those of the 'grocer's licences' which temperance reformers so strenuously denounce. It is an evil in defence of which nothing can be said, but it has somehow escaped the effective censure of the Church.

The indiscriminate granting of licences in Ireland, which has resulted in the provision of liquor shops in a proportion to the population larger than is found in any other country, is in itself due mainly to the moral cowardice of magistrates, who do not care to incur local unpopularity by refusing licences for which there is no pretence of any need beyond that of the applicant and his relatives. Not long ago the magistrates of Ireland met in Dublin in order to inaugurate common action in dealing with this scandal. Appropriate resolutions were passed, and much good has already resulted from the meeting, but had the unvarnished truth been admissible, the first and indeed the only necessary resolution should have run, "Resolved that in future we be collectively as brave as we have been individually timid, and that we take heart of grace and carry away from this meeting sufficient strength to do, in the exercise of our functions as the licensing authority, what we have always known to be our plain duty to our country and our God." No such resolution was proposed, for though patriotism is becoming real in Ireland, it is not yet very robust.

I do not think it unfair to insist upon the large responsibility of the clergy for the state of public opinion in this matter, to which the few facts I have cited bear testimony. But I attribute their failure to deal with a moral evil of which they are fully cognisant to the fact that they do not recognise the chief defect in the character of the people, and to a misunderstanding of the means by which that character can be strengthened. There are, however, exceptions to this general statement. It is of happy augury for the future of Ireland that many of the clergy are now leading a temperance movement which shows a real knowledge of the causa causans of Irish intemperance. The Anti-Treating League, as it is called, administers a novel pledge which must have been conceived in a very understanding mind. Those enlisted undertake neither to treat nor to be treated. They may drink, so far as the pledge is concerned, as much as they like; but they must drink at their own expense; and others must not drink at their expense. The good nature and sociability of Irishmen, too often the mere result of inability to say 'no,' need not be sacrificed. But even if they were, the loss of these social graces would be far more than compensated by a self-respect and seriousness of life out of which something permanent might be built. Still, even this League makes no direct appeal to character, and so acts rather as a cure for than as a preventive of our moral weakness.

The methods by which clerical influence is wielded in the inculcation of chastity may be criticised from exactly the same standpoint as that from which I have found it necessary to deal with the question of temperance. Here the success of the Irish priesthood is, considering the conditions of peasant life, and the fire of the Celtic temperament, absolutely unique. No one can deny that almost the entire credit of this moral achievement belongs to the Roman Catholic clergy. It may be said that the practice of a virtue, even if the motive be of an emotional kind, becomes a habit, and that habit proverbially develops into a second nature. With this view of moral evolution I am in entire accord; but I would ask whether the evolution has not reached a stage where a gradual relaxation of the disciplinary measures by which chastity is insured might be safely allowed without any danger of lowering the high standard of continence which is general in Ireland and which of course it is of supreme importance to maintain.

There are, however, many parishes where in this matter the strictest discipline is rigorously enforced Amusements, not necessarily or even often vicious, are objected to as being fraught with dangers which would never occur to any but the rigidly ascetic or the puritanical mind. In many parishes the Sunday cyclist will observe the strange phenomenon of a normally light-hearted peasantry marshalled in male and female groups along the road, eyeing one another in dull wonderment across the forbidden space through the long summer day. This kind of discipline, unless when really necessary, is open to the objection that it eliminates from the education of life, especially during the formative years, an essential of culture—the mutual understanding of the sexes. The evil of grafting upon secular life a quasi-monasticism which, not being voluntary, has no real effect upon the character, may perhaps involve moral consequences little dreamed of by the spiritual guardians of the people. A study of the pathology of the emotions might throw doubt upon the safety of enforced asceticism when unaccompanied by the training which the Church wisely prescribes for those who take the vow of celibacy. But of my own knowledge I can speak only of another aspect of the effect upon our national life of the restrictions to which I refer. No Irishmen are more sincerely desirous of staying the tide of emigration than the Roman Catholic clergy, and while, wisely as I think, they do not dream of a wealthy Ireland, they earnestly work for the physical and material as well as the spiritual well-being of their flocks. And yet no man can get into the confidence of the emigrating classes without being told by them that the exodus is largely due to a feeling that the clergy are, no doubt from an excellent motive, taking joy—innocent joy—from the social side of the home life.

To go more fully into these subjects might carry me beyond the proper limits of lay criticism. But, clearly, large questions of clerical training must suggest themselves to those to whom their discussion properly belongs—whether, for example, there is not in the instances which I have cited evidence of a failure to understand that mere authority in the regions of moral conduct cannot have any abiding effect, except in the rarest combination of circumstances, and with a very primitive people. Do not many of these clergy ignore the vast difference between the ephemeral nature of moral compulsion and the enduring force of a real moral training?

I have dealt with the exercise of clerical influence in these matters as being, at any rate in relation to the subject matter of this book, far more important than the evil commonly described as "The Priest in Politics." That evil is, in my opinion, greatly misrepresented. The cases of priests who take an improper part in politics are cited without reference to the vastly greater number who take no part at all, except when genuinely assured that a definite moral issue is at stake. I also have in my mind the question of how we should have fared if the control of the different Irish agitations had been confined to laymen, and if the clergy had not consistently condemned secret associations. But whatever may be said in defence of the priest in politics in the past, there are the strongest grounds for deprecating a continuance of their political activity in the future. As I gauge the several forces now operating in Ireland, I am convinced that if an anti-clerical movement similar to that which other Roman Catholic countries have witnessed, were to succeed in discrediting the priesthood and lowering them in public estimation, it would be followed by a moral, social, and political degradation which would blight, or at least postpone, our hopes of a national regeneration. From this point of view I hold that those clergymen who are predominantly politicians endanger the moral influence which it is their solemn duty to uphold. I believe however, that the over-active part hitherto taken in politics by the priests is largely the outcome of the way in which Roman Catholics were treated in the past, and that this undesirable feature in Irish life will yield, and is already yielding to the removal of the evils to which it owed its origin and in some measure its justification.[21]

One has only to turn to the spirit and temper of such representative Roman Catholics as Archbishop Healy and Dr. Kelly, Bishop of Ross—to their words and to their deeds—in order to catch the inspiration of a new movement amongst our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen at once religious and patriotic. And if my optimism ever wavers, I have but to think of the noble work that many priests are to my own knowledge doing, often in remote and obscure parishes, in the teeth of innumerable obstacles. I call to mind at such times, as pioneers in a great awakening, men like the eminent Jesuit, Father Thomas Finlay, Father Hegarty of Erris, Father O'Donovan of Loughrea, and many others—men with whom I have worked and taken counsel, and who represent, I believe, an ever increasing number of their fellow priests.[22]

My position, then, towards the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy—and this influence is a matter of vital importance to the understanding of Irish problems—- may now be clearly defined. While recognising to the full that large numbers of the Irish Roman Catholic clergy have in the past exercised undue influence in purely political questions, and, in many other matters, social, educational, and economic, have not, as I see things, been on the side of progress, I hold that their influence is now, more than ever before, essential for improving the condition of the most backward section of the population. Therefore I feel it to be both the duty and the strong interest of my Protestant fellow-countrymen to think much less of the religious differences which divide them from Roman Catholics, and much more of their common citizenship and their common cause. I also hold with equal strength and sincerity to the belief, which I have already expressed, that the shortcomings of the Roman Catholic clergy are largely to be accounted for, not by any innate tendency on their part towards obscurantism, but by the sad history of Ireland in the past. I would appeal to those of my co-religionists who think otherwise to suspend their judgment for a time. That Roman Catholicism is firmly established in Ireland is a fact of the situation which they must admit, and as this involves the continued powerful influence of the priesthood upon the character of the people, it is surely good policy by liberality and fair dealing, especially in the matter of education, to turn this influence towards the upbuilding of our national life.

To sum up the influence of religion and religious controversy in Ireland, as it presents itself from the only standpoint from which I have approached the matter in this chapter, namely, that of material, social, and intellectual progress, I find that while the Protestants have given, and continue to give, a fine example of thrift and industry to the rest of the nation, the attitude of a section of them towards the majority of their fellow-countrymen has been a bigoted and unintelligent one. On the other hand, I have learned from practical experience amongst the Roman Catholic people of Ireland that, while more free from bigotry, in the sense in which that word is usually applied, they are apathetic, thriftless, and almost non-industrial, and that they especially require the exercise of strengthening influences on their moral fibre. I have dealt with their shortcomings at much greater length than with those of Protestants, because they have much more bearing on the subject matter of this book. North and South have each virtues which the other lacks; each has much to learn from the other; but the home of the strictly civic virtues and efficiencies is in Protestant Ireland. The work of the future in Ireland will be to break down in social intercourse the barriers of creed as well as those of race, politics, and class, and thus to promote the fruitful contact of North and South, and the concentration of both on the welfare of their common country. In the case of those of us, of whatever religious belief, who look to a future for our country commensurate with the promise of her undeveloped resources both of intellect and soil, it is of the essence of our hope that the qualities which are in great measure accountable for the actual economic and educational backwardness of so many of our fellow-countrymen, and for the intolerance of too many who are not backward in either respect, are not purely racial or sectarian, but are the transitory growth of days and deeds which we must all try to forget if our work for Ireland is to endure.


[16] The reproach which is brought upon Irish Christianity mainly by the extravagances of a section of my co-religionists, to which I have been obliged to refer, came home to me not long ago in a very forcible way. I happened to remark to a friend that it was a disgrace to Christianity that Mussulman soldiery were employed at the Holy Sepulchre to keep the peace between the Latin and Greek Christians. He reminded me that the prosperous and progressive municipality of Belfast, with a population eminently industrious, and predominantly Protestant, has to be policed by an Imperial force in order to restrain two sections of Irish Christians from assaulting each other in the name of religion.

[17] 'Pro salute animae meae' was, I am reminded, the consideration usually expressed in the old charters of manumission.

[18] One of the unfortunate effects of this passion for building costly churches is the importation of quantities of foreign art-work in the shape of woodcarvings, stained glass, mosaics, and metal work. To good foreign art, indeed, one could not, within certain limits, object. It might prove a valuable example and stimulus. But the articles which have actually been imported, in the impulse to get everything finished as soon as possible, generally consist of the stock pieces produced in a spirit of mere commercialism in the workshops of Continental firms which make it their business to cater for a public who do not know the difference between good art and bad. Much of the decoration of ecclesiastical buildings, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, might fittingly be postponed until religion in Ireland has got into closer relation with the native artistic sense and industrial spirit now beginning to seek creative expression.

[19] The following extract from a statement of the Most Rev. Dr. O'Dea, the newly elected Bishop of Clonfert, is pertinent:—'There is another cause also—i.e. in addition to the absence of university education for Roman Catholic laymen—which has hindered the employment of the laity in the past. Till very recently, the secondary Catholic schools received no assistance whatever from the State, and their endowment from private sources was utterly inadequate to supply suitable remuneration for lay teachers. It is evident that a celibate clergy can live on a lower wage than the laity, and they are now charged with having monopolized the schools, because they chose to work for a minimum allowance rather than suffer the country to remain without any secondary education whatever. Two causes, then, operated in the past, and in a large measure still operate, to exclude the laity from the secondary schools,—first, these schools were so poverty-stricken that they could not afford to pay lay teachers at such a rate as would attract them to the teaching profession, and, next, the Catholic laity as a body were uneducated, and, therefore, unfit to teach in the schools.'—Maynooth and the University Question, p. 109 (footnote).

[20] See, inter alia, an article "Ireland and America," by Rev. Mr. Shinnors, O.M., in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, February, 1902. 'Has the Church,' asks Father Shinnors, 'increased her membership in the ratio that the population of the United States has increased? No. There are many converts, but there are many more apostates. Large numbers lapse into indifferentism and irreligion. There should be in America about 20,000,000 Catholics; there are scarcely 10,000,000. There are reasons to fear that the great majority of the apostates are of Irish extraction, and not a few of them of Irish birth.'

[21] This view seems to be taken by the most influential spokesmen of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. See Evidence, Royal Commission on University Education in Ireland, vol. iii., p. 238, Questions 8702-6.

[22] I may mention that of the co-operative societies organised by the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society there are no fewer than 331 societies of which the local priests are the Chairmen, while to my own knowledge during the summer and autumn of 1902, as many as 50,000 persons from all parts of Ireland were personally conducted over the exhibit of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction at the Cork Exhibition by their local clergy. The educational purpose of these visits is explained in Chap. x. Again, in a great number of cases the village libraries which have been recently started in Ireland with the assistance of the Department (the books consisting largely of industrial, economic, and technical works on agriculture), have been organised and assisted by the Roman Catholic clergy.



A little learning, we are told, is a dangerous thing; and in their dealings with Irish education the English should have discovered that this danger is accentuated when the little learning is combined with much native wit. In the days when religious persecution was universal—only, be it remembered, a few generations ago—it was the policy of England to avert this danger by prohibiting, as far as possible, the acquisition by Irish Roman Catholics of any learning at all. After the Union, Englishmen began to feel their responsibility for the state of Ireland, a state of poverty and distress which culminated in the Famine. Knowledge was then no longer withheld: indeed the English sincerely desired to dispel our darkness and enable us to share in the wisdom, and so in the prosperity, of the predominant partner. In their attempts to educate us they dealt with what they saw on the surface, and moulded their educational principles upon what they knew; but they did not know Ireland. Even if we excuse them for paying scant attention to what they were told by Irishmen, they should have given more heed to the reports of their own Royal Commissions.

We have so far seen that the Irish mind has been in regard to economics, politics, and even some phases of religious influence, a mind warped and diseased, deprived of good nutrition and fed on fancies or fictions, out of which no genuine growth, industrial or other, was possible. The one thing that might have strengthened and saved a people with such a political, social, and religious history, and such racial characteristics, was an educational system which would have had special regard to that history, and which would have been a just expression of the better mind of the people whom it was intended to serve.

Now this is exactly what was denied to Ireland. Not merely has all educational legislation come from England, in the sense of being based on English models and thought out by Englishmen largely out of touch and sympathy with the peculiar needs of Ireland, but whenever there has been genuine native thought on Irish educational problems, it has been either ignored altogether or distorted till its value and significance were lost. And in this matter we can claim for Ireland that there was in the country during the first half of the nineteenth century, when England was trying her best to provide us with a sound English education, a comparatively advanced stage of home-grown Irish thought upon the educational needs of the people. Take, for example, the Society for Promoting Elementary Education among the Irish Poor, know as the Kildare Street Society, which was founded as early as the year 1811. The first resolution passed by this body, which was composed of prominent Dublin citizens of all religious beliefs, was set out as follows:—

(1.) Resolved—That promoting the education of the poor of Ireland is a grand object which every Irishman anxious for the welfare and prosperity of his country ought to have in view as the basis upon which the morals and true happiness of the country can be best secured.

This Society, it is true, did not see or foresee that any system of mixed religious education was doomed to failure in Ireland, but they took a wide view of the place of education in a nation's development, and the character of the education which their schools actually dispensed was admirable. This hopeful and enterprising educational movement is described by Mr. Lecky in a passage from which I take a few extracts:—

The "Kildare Street Society" which received an endowment from Government, and directed National education from 1812 to 1831, was not proselytising, and it was for some time largely patronized by Roman Catholics. It is certainly by no means deserving of the contempt which some writers have bestowed on it, and if measured by the spirit of the time in which it was founded it will appear both liberal and useful.... The object of the schools was stated to be united education, "taking common Christian ground for the foundation, and excluding all sectarian distinctions from every part of the arrangement;" "drawing the attention of both denominations to the many leading truths of Christianity in which they agree." To carry out this principle it was a fundamental rule that the Bible must be read without note or comment in all the schools. It might be read either in the Authorized or in the Douay version.... In 1825 there were 1,490 schools connected with the Society, containing about 100,000 pupils. The improvements introduced into education by Bell, Lancaster, and Pestalozzi were largely adopted. Great attention was paid to needlework.... A great number of useful publications were printed by the Society, and we have the high authority of Dr. Doyle for stating that he never found anything objectionable [to Catholics] in them.[23]

Take, again, as an evidence of the progressive spirit of the Irish thinkers on education, the remarkable scheme of national education which, after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act, was formulated by Mr. Thomas Wyse, of Waterford. In addition to elementary schools, Mr. Wyse proposed to establish in every county, 'an academy for the education of the middle class of society in those departments of knowledge most necessary to those classes, and over those a College in each of the four provinces, managed by a Committee representative of the interests of the several counties of the provinces.' 'It is a matter of importance,' wrote Mr. Wyse, 'for the simple and efficient working of the whole system of national education, that each part should as much as possible be brought into co-operation and accord with the others.' He foresaw, too, that one of the needs of the Irish temperament was a training in science which would cultivate the habits of 'education, observation, and reasoning,' and he pointed out that the peculiar manufactures, trades, and occupations of the several localities would determine the course of studies. Mr. Wyse's memorandum on education led, as is well known, to the creation of the Board of National Education, but, to quote Dr. Starkie,[24] the present Resident Commissioner of the Board, 'the more important part of the scheme, dealing with a university and secondary education, was shelved, in spite of Mr. Wyse's warnings that it was imprudent, dangerous, and pernicious to the social condition of the country, and to its future tranquillity, that so much encouragement should be given to the education of the lower classes, without at the same time due provision being made for the education of the middle and upper classes.'

As still another evidence of the sound thought on educational problems which came from Irishmen who knew the actual conditions of their own country and people, the case of the agricultural instruction administered by the National Board is pertinent. The late Sir Patrick Keenan has told us that landlords and others who on political and religious grounds distrusted the National system, turned to this feature of the operations of the National Board with the greatest fervour. A scheme of itinerant instruction in agriculture, which had a curious resemblance to that which the Department of Agriculture is now organising, was developed, and was likely to have worked with the greatest advantage to the country at large. Sir Patrick Keenan, who knew Ireland and the Irish people well, speaks of this part of the scheme as 'the most fruitful experiment in the material interests of the country that was ever attempted. It was,' he adds, 'through the agency of this corps of practical instructors that green cropping as a systematic feature in farming was introduced into the South and West, and even into the central parts of Ireland.' But all the hopes thus raised went down, not before any intrinsic difficulties in the scheme itself, or before any adverse opinion to it in Ireland, but before the opposition of the Liverpool Financial Reform Association, who had their own views as to the limits of State interference with agriculture. These examples, drawn from different stages of Irish educational history, might easily be multiplied, but they will serve as typical instances of that want of recognition by English statesmen of Irish thought on Irish problems, and that ignoring of Irish sentiment—as distinguished from Irish sentimentality—which I insist is the basal element in the misunderstandings of Irish problems.

I now come to a brief consideration of some facts of the present educational situation, and I shall indicate, for those readers who are not familiar with current events in Ireland, the significant evolution, or revolution, through which Irish education is passing. Within the last eight years we have had in Ireland three very remarkable reports—in themselves symptoms of a widespread unrest and dissatisfaction—on the educational systems of the country. I allude to the reports of two Viceregal Commissions, one on Manual and Practical Instruction in our Primary Schools, and the other on our Intermediate Education; and to the recent report by a Royal Commission on University Education. These reports cover the three grades of our educational system, and each of them contains a strong denunciation and a scathing criticism of the existing provision and methods of instruction in elementary, secondary, and university education (outside Dublin University), respectively. One and all showed that the education to be had in our primary and secondary schools, as well as in the examining body known as the Royal University, had little regard to the industrial or economic conditions of the country. We find, for example, agriculture taught out of a text book in the primary schools, with the result that the gamins of the Belfast streets secured the highest marks in the subject. In the Intermediate system are to be found anomalies of a similar kind, which could not long have survived if there had been a living opinion on educational matters in Ireland. No careful reader of the evidence given before the Commissions can fail to see that under our educational system the schools were practically bribed to fall in with a stereotyped course of studies which left scant room for elasticity and adaptation to local needs; that the teacher was, to all intents and purposes, deprived of healthy initiative; and that the Irish parents must as a body have been in the dark as to the bearing of their children's studies on their probable careers in life. A deep and wholesome impression was made in Ireland by the exposure of the intrinsic evils of a system calculated in my opinion to turn our youth into a generation of second-rate clerks, with a distinct distaste for any industrial or productive occupation in which such qualities as initiative, self-reliance, or judgment were called for.

I am told by competent authorities that there is not a single educational principle laid down in either the report on Manual Instruction or on Intermediate Education, which was not known and applied at least half a century ago in continental countries. In fact, in the Recess Committee investigations, as any reader of the report of that body can see for himself, the Committee, guided by foreign experience, foreshadowed practically every reform now being put into operation. It is better, of course, that we should reform late than never, but it is well to bear in mind also, so far as the problems of this book are concerned, how far the education of the country has fallen short of any sound standard, and how little could have been expected from the working of our system. The curve of Irish illiteracy has indeed fallen continuously with each succeeding census, but true education as opposed to mere instruction has languished sadly.

Together with my friends and fellow-workers in the self-help movement, I believe that the problem of Irish education, like all other Irish problems, must be reconsidered from the standpoint of its relation to the practical affairs and everyday life of the people of Ireland. The needs and opportunities of the industrial struggle must, in fact, mould into shape our educational policy and programmes. We are convinced that there is little hope of any real solution of the more general problem of national education, unless and until those in direct contact with the specific industries of the country succeed in bringing to the notice of those engaged in the framing of our educational system the kind and degree of the defects in the industrial character of our people which debar them from successful competition with other countries. Education in Ireland has been too long a thing apart from the economic realities of the country—with what result we know. In the work of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, an attempt is being made to establish a vital relation between industrial education and industrial life. It is desired to try, at this critical stage of our development, the experiment—I call it an experiment only because it does not seem to have been tried before in Ireland—of directing our instruction with a conscious and careful regard to the probable future careers of those we are educating.

This attempt touches, of course, only one department of the whole educational problem, much of which it would be quite outside my present purpose to discuss. But I must guard against the supposition that in our insistence upon the importance of the practical side of education we are under any doubt as to the great importance of the literary side. My friends and I have been deeply impressed by the educational experience of Denmark, where the people, who are as much dependent on agriculture as are the Irish, have brought it by means of organisation to a more genuine success than it has attained anywhere else in Europe. Yet an inquirer will at once discover that it is to the "High Schools" founded by Bishop Grundtvig, and not to the agricultural schools, which are also excellent, that the extraordinary national progress is mainly due. A friend of mine who was studying the Danish system of State aid to agriculture, found this to be the opinion of the Danes of all classes, and was astounded at the achievements of the associations of farmers, not only in the manufacture of butter, but in a far more difficult undertaking, the manufacture of bacon in large factories equipped with all the most modern machinery and appliances which science had devised for the production of the finished article. He at first concluded that this success in a highly technical industry by bodies of farmers indicated a very perfect system of technical education. But he soon found another cause. As one of the leading educators and agriculturists of the country put it to him: 'It's not technical instruction, it's the humanities.' I would like to add that it is also, if I may coin a term, the 'nationalities,' for nothing is more evident to the student of Danish education or, I might add, of the excellent system of the Christian Brothers in Ireland, than that one of the secrets of their success is to be found in their national basis and their foundation upon the history and literature of the country.

To sum up the educational situation in Ireland, it is not too much to say that all our forms of education, technical and general, hang loose. We lack a body of trained teachers; we have no alert and informed public opinion on education and its function in regard to life; and there is no proper provision for research work in all branches, a deficiency, which, I am told by those who have given deep thought and long study to these problems, inevitably reacts most disastrously on the general educational system of the country. This state of things appears not unnatural when we remember that the Penal Laws were not repealed till almost the close of the eighteenth century, and that a large majority of the Irish people had not full and free access to even primary and secondary education until the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1829. At the present day, the absence of any provision for higher education of which Roman Catholics will avail themselves is not merely an enormous loss in itself, but it reacts most adversely upon the whole educational machinery, and consequently upon the whole public life and thought of that section of the nation.

One of the very first things I had to learn when I came into direct touch with educational problems, was that the education of a country cannot be divided into water-tight compartments, and each part legislated for or discussed solely on its merits and without reference to the other parts. I see now very clearly that the educational system of a country is an organic whole, the working of any part of which necessarily has an influence on the working of the rest. I had always looked upon the lower, secondary, and higher grades as the first, second, and third storeys of the educational house, and I am not quite sure that I attached sufficient importance to the staircase. My view has now changed, and I find myself regarding the University as a foundation and support of the primary and secondary school.

It was not on purely pedagogic grounds that I added to my other political irregularities the earnest advocacy of such a provision for higher education as Roman Catholics will avail themselves of. This great need was revealed to me in my study of the Irish mind and of the direction in which it could look for its higher development. My belief is based on practical experience; my point of view is that of the economist. When the new economic mission in Ireland began now fourteen years ago, we had to undertake, in addition to our practical programme, a kind of University extension work with the important omission of the University. We had to bring home to adult farmers whose general education was singularly poor, though their native intelligence was keen and receptive, a large number of general ideas bearing on the productive and distributive side of their industry. Our chief obstacles arose from the lack of trained economic thought among all classes, and especially among those to whom the majority looked for guidance. The air was thick with economic fallacies or half-truths. We were, it is true, successful beyond our expectations in planting in apparently uncongenial soil sound economic principles. But our success was mainly due, as I shall show later, to our having used the associative instincts of the Irish peasant to help out the working of our theories; and we became convinced that if a tithe of our priests, public men, national school teachers, and members of our local bodies had received a university education, we should have made much more rapid progress.

I hardly know how to describe the mental atmosphere in which we were working. It would be no libel upon the public opinion upon which we sought to make an impression to say that it really allowed no question to be discussed on its merits. Public opinion on social and economic questions is changing now, but I cannot associate the change with any influence emanating from institutions of higher education. In other countries, so far as my investigations have extended, the universities do guide economic thought and have a distinct though wholly unofficial function as a court of appeal upon questions relating to the material progress of the communities amongst which they are situated. Of such institutions there are in Ireland only two which could be expected to direct in any large way the thought of the country upon economic and other important national questions—Maynooth, and Trinity College, Dublin. Whether in their widely different spheres of influence these two institutions could, under conditions other than those prevailing, have so met the requirements of the country as to have obviated what is at present an urgent necessity for a complete reorganisation of higher education need not be discussed; but it is essential to my argument that I should set forth clearly the results of my own observation upon their influence, or rather lack of influence, upon the people among whom I have worked.

The influence of Maynooth, actual and potential, can hardly be exaggerated, but it is exercised indirectly upon the secular thought of the country. It is not its function to make a direct impression. It is in fact only a professional—I had almost said a technical—school. It trains its students, most admirably I am told, in theology, philosophy, and the studies subsidiary to these sciences, but always, for the vast majority of its students, with a distinctly practical and definite missionary end in view. There is, I believe, an arts course of modest scope, designed rather to meet the deficiencies of students whose general education has been neglected than to serve as anything in the nature of a university arts course. I am quite aware of the value of a sound training in mental science if given in connection with a full university course, but I am equally convinced that the Maynooth education, on the whole, is no substitute for a university course, and that while its chief end of turning out a large number of trained priests has been fulfilled, it has not given, and could not be expected to have given, that broader and more humane culture which only a university, as distinguished from a professional school, can adequately provide.

Moreover, under the Maynooth system young clerics are constantly called upon to take a part in the life of a lay community, towards which, when they entered college, they were in no position of responsibility, and upon which, so far as secular matters are concerned, when they emerge from their theological training, they are no better adapted to exercise a helpful influence. In my experience of priests I have met with many in whom I recognised a sincere desire to attend to the material and social well-being of their flocks, but who certainly had not that breadth of view and understanding of human nature which perhaps contact with the laity during the years in which they were passing from discipline to authority might have given to them. However this may be, it is clear and it is admitted that education as opposed to professional training of a high order is still, generally speaking, a want among the priests of Ireland, and I look forward to no greater boon from a University or University College for Roman Catholics than its influence, direct and indirect, on a body of men whose prestige and authority are necessarily so unique.

It is, therefore, to Trinity College, or the University of Dublin, that one would naturally turn as to a great centre of thought in Ireland for help in the theoretic aspects, at least, of the practical problems upon whose successful solution our national well-being depends. Judged by the not unimportant test of the men it has supplied to the service of the State and country during its three centuries of educational activity, by the part it took in one of the brightest epochs of these three centuries—the days when it gave Grattan to Grattan's Parliament, by the work and reputation of the alumni it could muster to-day within and without its walls, our venerable seat of learning need not fear comparison with any similar institutions in Great Britain. It may also, of course, be said that many men who have passed through Trinity College have impressed the thought of Ireland, and, indeed, of the world, in one way or another—such men as, to take two very different examples, Burke and Thomas Davis—but on some of the very best spirits amongst these men Trinity College and its atmosphere have exerted influence rather by repulsion than by attraction; and certainly their characteristics of temper or thought have not been of a kind which those best acquainted with the atmosphere of Trinity College associate with that institution. Still nothing can detract from the credit of having educated such men. But these tests and standards are, for my present purpose, irrelevant. I am not writing a book on Irish educational history, or even a record of present-day Irish educational achievement. I am rather trying, from the standpoint of a practical worker for national progress, to measure the reality and strength of the educational and other influences which are actually and actively operating on the character and intellect of the majority of the Irish people, moulding their thought and directing their action towards the upbuilding of our national life.

From this point of view I am bound to say that Trinity College, so far as I have seen, has had but little influence upon the minds or the lives of the people. Nor can I find that at any period of the extraordinarily interesting economic and social revolution, which has been in progress in Ireland since the great catastrophe of the Famine period, Dublin University has departed from its academic isolation and its aloofness from the great national problems that were being worked out. The more one thinks of it, indeed, and the more one realises the opportunities of an institution like Trinity College in a country like Ireland, the more one must recognise how small, in recent times, has been its positive influence on the mind of the country, and how little it has contributed towards the solution of any of those problems, educational, economic, or social, that were clamant for solution, and which in any other country would have naturally secured the attention of men who ought to have been leaders of thought.

Whatever the causes, and many may be assigned, this unfortunate lack of influence on the part of Trinity College, has always seemed to me a strong supplementary argument for the creation of another University or University College on a more popular basis, to which the Roman Catholic people of Ireland would have recourse. From the fact that Maynooth by its constitution could never have developed into a great national University,[25] and that Trinity College has never, as a matter of fact, done so, and has thus, in my opinion, missed a unique opportunity, it has come about that Ireland has been without any great centre of thought whose influence would have tended to leaven the mass of mental inactivity or random-thinking so prevalent in Ireland, and would have created a body of educated public opinion sufficiently informed and potent to secure the study and discussion on their merits of questions of vital interest to the country. The demoralising atmosphere of partisanship which hangs over Ireland would, I am convinced, gradually give way before an organised system of education with a thoroughly democratic University at its head, which would diffuse amongst the people at large a sense of the value of a balanced judgment on, and a true appreciation of, the real forces with which Ireland has to deal in building up her fortunes.

To discuss the merits of the different solutions which have been proposed for the vexed problem of higher education in Ireland would be beyond the scope of this book. The question will have to be faced, and all I need do here is to state the conditions which the solution will have to fulfil if it is to deal with the aspects of the Irish Question with which the new movement is practically concerned. What is most needed is a University that will reach down to the rural population, much in the same way as the Scottish Universities do, and a lower scale of fees will be required than Trinity College, with its diminished revenues, could establish. Already I can see that the work of the new Department, acting in conjunction with local bodies, urban and rural, throughout the country, will provide a considerable number of scholarships, bursaries, and exhibitions for young men who are being prepared to take part in the very real, but rather hazily understood, industrial revival which is imminent. Leaving sectarian controversies out of the question, the type of institution which is required in order to provide adequately for the classes now left outside the influence of higher education is an institution pre-eminently national in its aims, and one intimately associated with the new movements making for the development of our national resources.

Unfortunately, however, in Ireland, and indeed in England too, there is a tendency to regard educational institutions almost solely as they will affect religion. At least it is difficult to arouse any serious interest in them except from this point of view. I welcome, therefore, the striking answers given to the queries of Lord Robertson, Chairman of the University Commission, by Dr. O'Dwyer, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, who boldly and wisely placed the question before the country in the light in which cleric and layman should alike regard it:—

The Chairman.—(413): "I suppose you believe a Catholic University, such as you propose, will strengthen Roman Catholicism in Ireland?"—"It is not easy to answer that; not so easy as it looks." (414):—"But it won't weaken it, or you would not be here?"—"It would educate Catholics in Ireland very largely, and, of course, a religious denomination composed of a body of educated men is stronger than a religious denomination composed of ignorant men. In that sense it would strengthen Roman Catholicism." (415):—"Is there any sense in which it won't?"—"As far as religion is concerned, I do not know how a University would work out. If you ask me now whether I think that that University in a certain number of years would become a centre of thought, strengthening the Catholic faith in Ireland, I cannot tell you. It is a leap in the dark." (416):—"But it is in the hope that it will strengthen your own Church that you propose it?"—"No, it is not, by any means. We are Bishops, but we are Irishmen, also, and we want to serve our country."[26]

Equally significant were the statements of Dr. O'Dea, the official spokesman of Maynooth, when he said,

I regard the interest of the laity in the settlement of the University Question as supreme. The clergy are but a small, however important, part of the nation, and the laity have never had an institution of higher education comparable to Maynooth in magnitude or resources. I recognise, therefore, that the educational grievances of the laity are much more pressing than those of the clergy ... It is generally admitted that Irish priests hold a position of exceptional influence, due to historical causes, the intensely religious character of the people, and the want of Catholic laymen qualified by education and position for social and political leadership. What Bishop Berkeley said of them in 1749, in his letter, A Word to the Wise, still holds true, 'That no set of men on earth have it in their power to do good on easier terms, with more advantage to others, and less pains or loss to themselves.' It would be folly to expect that in a mixed community the State should do anything to strengthen or perpetuate this power; but this result will certainly not follow from the more liberal education of the clergy, provided equal advantages are extended to the laity. On the contrary, I am convinced that if the void in the lay leadership of the country be filled up by higher education of the better classes among the Catholic laity, the power of the priests, so far as it is abnormal or unnecessary will pass away; and, further, if I believed, with many who are opposed to the better education of the priesthood, that their power is based on falsehood or superstition, I would unhesitatingly advocate the spread of higher education among the laity and clergy alike, as the best means of effectually sapping and disintegrating it.[27]

I had for long indulged a hope that a university of the type which Ireland requires would have been the outcome of a great national educational movement emanating from Trinity College, which might, at this auspicious hour, have surpassed all the proud achievements of its three hundred years. That hope was dispelled when the cry of 'Hands off Trinity' was applied to the profane hands of the Royal Commission. Perhaps that attitude may be reconsidered yet. There is one hopeful sentiment which is often heard coming from that institution. An opinion has been strongly expressed that nothing ought to be done to separate in secular life two sections of Irishmen who happen to belong to different creeds. Whatever may be the logical outcome of the position taken up towards the University problem by those who give expression to this pious opinion, I do not for a moment doubt their sincerity. But I often think that too much importance is attached to the danger of building new walls, and that there is too little appreciation of the wide and deep foundation of the already existing walls between the two sections of Irishmen who are so unhappily kept apart. In dealing with this, as with all large Irish problems, it had better be frankly recognised that there are in the country two races, two creeds, and, what is too little considered, two separate spheres of economic interest and pursuit. Socially two separate classes have naturally, nay inevitably, arisen out of these distinctions. One class has superior advantages in many ways of great importance. The other class is far more numerous, produces far the greater proportion of the nation's wealth, and is, therefore, from the national point of view, of greater importance. But both are necessary. Both must be adequately provided for in the supreme matter of higher education. Above all, the two classes must be educated to regard themselves as united by the bond of a common country—a sentiment which, if genuine, would treat differences arising from whatever cause, not as a difficulty in the way of national progress, but rather as affording a variety of opportunities for national expansion.

I do not concern myself as to the exact form which the new institution or institutions which are to give us the absolutely essential advantage of higher education should take. If in view of the difference in the requirements to which I have alluded, and the complicated pedagogic and administrative considerations which have to be taken into account, schemes of co-education of Protestants and Roman Catholics are difficult of immediate accomplishment, let that ideal be postponed. The two creeds can meet in the playground now: they can meet everywhere in after life. Ireland will bring them together soon enough if Ireland is given a chance, and when the time is ripe for their coming together in higher education they will come together. If the time is not now ripe for this ideal there is no justification for postponing educational reform until the relations between the two creeds have been elevated to a plane which, in my opinion, they will never reach except through the aid of that culture which a widely diffused higher education alone can afford.

* * * * *

When I was beginning to write this chapter I chanced to pick up the Chesterfield Letters. I opened the book at the two hundredth epistle, and, curiously enough, almost the first sentence which caught my eye ran: 'Education more than nature is the cause of that difference you see in the character of men.' I felt myself at first in strong disagreement with this aphorism. But when I came to reflect how much the nature of one generation must be the outcome of the education of those which went before it, I gradually came to see the truth in Lord Chesterfield's words. I must leave it to experts to define the exact steps which ought to be taken to make the general education of this country capable of cultivating the judgment, strengthening the will, and so of building up the character. But every day, every thought, I give to the problems of Irish progress convinces me more firmly that this is the real task of educational reform, a task that must be accomplished before we can prove to those who brand us with racial inferiority that, in Ireland, it was not nature that has been unkind in causing the difference we find in the character of men.


[23] Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, II., 122-4.

[24] Recent Reforms in Irish Education, p. 7.

[25] It was not authorised to give degrees to lay students; and even the admission of lay students to an Arts course was prohibited by Government, lest Catholic students should be drawn away from Trinity College. See Cornwallis Correspondence, III., 366-8.

[26] Appendix to First Report, p. 37.

[27] Appendix to Third Report, pp. 283, 296.



I have now completed my survey of the main conditions which, in my opinion, must be taken into account by anyone who would understand the Irish mind, and still more by those who seek to work with it in rebuilding the fortunes of the country. The task has been one of great difficulty, as it was necessary to tell, not only the truth—for that even an official person may be excused—but also the whole truth, which, unless made compulsory by the kissing of the book, is regarded as a gratuitous kissing of the rod. From the frying pan of political dispute, I have passed into the fire of sectarian controversy. I have not hesitated to poach on the preserves of historians and economists, and have even bearded the pedagogues in their dens. Before my stock of metaphors is exhausted, let me say that I have one hope of escape from the cross-fire of denunciation which independent speaking about Ireland is apt to provoke. I once witnessed a football match between two villages, one of which favoured a political party called by the name of a leader, with an 'ism' added to indicate a policy, the other adopting the same name, still further elongated by the prefix 'anti.' When I arrived on the scene the game had begun in deadly earnest, but I noticed the ball lying unmolested in another quarter of the field. In Irish public life I have often had reason to envy that ball, and perhaps now its lot may be mine, while the game goes on and the critics pay attention to each other.

To my friendly critics a word of explanation is due. The opinions to which I have given expression are based upon personal observation and experience extending over a quarter of a century during which I have been in close touch with Irish life at home, and not unfamiliar with it abroad. I have referred to history only when I could not otherwise account for social and economic conditions with which I came into contact, or with which I desired practically to deal. Whether looking back over the dreary wastes of Anglo-Irish history, or studying the men and things of to-day, I came to conclusions which differed widely from what I had been taught to believe by those whose theories of Irish development had not been subjected to any practical test. Deeply as I have felt for the past sufferings of the Irish people and their heritage of disability and distress, I could not bring myself to believe that, where misgovernment had continued so long, and in such an immense variety of circumstances and conditions, the governors could have been alone to blame. I envied those leaders of popular thought whose confidence in themselves and in their followers was shaken by no such reflections. But the more I listened to them the more the conviction was borne in upon me that they were seeking to build an impossible future upon an imaginary past.

Those who know Ireland from within are aware that Irish thought upon Irish problems has been undergoing a silent, and therefore too lightly regarded revolution. The surface of Irish life, often so inexplicably ruffled, and sometimes so inexplicably calm, has just now become smooth to a degree which has led to hasty conclusions as to the real cause and the inward significance of the change. To chime in with the thoughtless optimism of the hour will do no good; but a real understanding of the forces which have created the existing situation will reveal an unprecedented opportunity for those who would give to the Irish mind that full and free development which has been so long and, as I have tried to show, so unnaturally delayed.

Among these new forces in Irish life there is one which has been greatly misunderstood; and yet to its influence during the last few years much of the 'transformation scene' in the drama of the Irish Question is really due. It deserves more than a passing notice here, because, while its aims as formulated appear somewhat restricted, it unquestionably tends in practice towards that national object of paramount importance, the strengthening of character. I refer to the movement known as the Gaelic Revival. Of this movement I am myself but an outside observer, having been forced to devote nearly all my time and energies to a variety of attempts which aim at the doing in the industrial sphere of very much the same work as that which the Gaelic movement attempts in the intellectual sphere—the rehabilitation of Ireland from within. But in the course of my work of agricultural and industrial development I naturally came across this new intellectual force and found that when it began to take effect, so far from diverting the minds of the peasantry from the practical affairs of life, it made them distinctly more amenable to the teaching of the dry economic doctrine of which I was an apostle. The reason for this is plain enough to me now, though, like all my theories about Ireland, the truth came to me from observation and practical experience rather than as the result of philosophic speculation. For the co-operative movement depended for its success upon a two-fold achievement. In order to get it started at all, its principles and working details had to be grasped by the Irish peasant mind and commended to his intelligence. Its further development and its hopes of permanence depend upon the strengthening of character, which, I must repeat, is the foundation of all Irish progress.

The Irish Agricultural Organisation Society[28] exerts its influence—a now established and rapidly-growing influence—mainly through the medium of associations. The Gaelic movement, on the other hand, acts more directly upon the individual, and the two forces are therefore in a sense complementary to each other. Both will be seen to be playing an important part—I should say a necessary part—in the reconstruction of our national life. At any rate, I feel that it is necessary to my argument that I should explain to those who are as ill-informed about the Gaelic revival as I was myself until its practical usefulness was demonstrated to me, what exactly seems to be the most important outcome of the work of that movement.

The Gaelic League, which defines its objects as 'The preservation of Irish as the national language of Ireland and the extension of its use as a spoken tongue; the study and publication of existing Irish literature and the cultivation of a modern literature in Irish,' was formed in 1893. Like the Agricultural Organisation Society, the Gaelic League is declared by its constitution to be 'strictly non-political and non-sectarian,' and, like it, has been the object of much suspicion, because severance from politics in Ireland has always seemed to the politician the most active form of enmity. Its constitution, too, is somewhat similar, being democratically guided in its policy by the elected representatives of its affiliated branches. It is interesting to note that the funds with which it carries on an extensive propaganda are mainly supplied from the small contributions of the poor. It publishes two periodicals, one weekly and another monthly. It administers an income of some L6,000 a year, not reckoning what is spent by local branches, and has a paid staff of eleven officers, a secretary, treasurer, and nine organisers, together with a large number of voluntary workers. It resembled the agricultural movement also in the fact that it made very little headway during the first few years of its existence. But it had a nucleus of workers with new ideas for the intellectual regeneration of Ireland. In face of much apathy they persisted with their propaganda, and they have at last succeeded in making their ideas understood. So much is evident from the rapidly-increasing number of affiliated branches of the League, which in March, 1903, amounted to 600, almost treble the number registered two years before. But even this does not convey any idea of the influence which the movement exerts. Within the past year the teaching of the Irish language has been introduced into no less than 1,300 National Schools. In 1900 the number of schools in which Irish was taught was only about 140. The statement that our people do not read books is generally accepted as true, yet the sale of the League publications during one year reached nearly a quarter of a million copies. These results cannot be left unconsidered by anybody who wishes to understand the psychology of the Irish mind. The movement can truly claim to have effected the conversion of a large amount of intellectual apathy into genuine intellectual activity.

The declared objects of the League—- the popularising of the national language and literature—do not convey, perhaps, an adequate conception of its actual work, or of the causes of its popularity. It seeks to develop the intellectual, moral, and social life of the Irish people from within, and it is doing excellent work in the cause of temperance. Its president, Dr. Douglas Hyde, in his evidence given before the University Commission,[29] pointed out that the success of the League was due to its meeting the people half way; that it educated them by giving them something which they could appreciate and assimilate; and that it afforded a proof that people who would not respond to alien educational systems, will respond with eagerness to something they can call their own. The national factor in Ireland has been studiously eliminated from national education, and Ireland is perhaps the only country in Europe where it was part of the settled policy of those, who had the guidance of education to ignore the literature, history, arts, and traditions of the people. It was a fatal policy, for it obviously tended to stamp their native country in the eyes of Irishmen with the badge of inferiority and to extinguish the sense of healthy self-respect which comes from the consciousness of high national ancestry and traditions. This policy, rigidly adhered to for many years, almost extinguished native culture among Irishmen, but it did not succeed in making another form of culture acceptable to them. It dulled the intelligence of the people, impaired their interest in their own surroundings, stimulated emigration by teaching them to look on other countries as more agreeable places to live in, and made Ireland almost a social desert. Men and women without culture or knowledge of literature or of music have succeeded a former generation who were passionately interested in these things, an interest which extended down even to the wayside cabin. The loss of these elevating influences in Irish society probably accounts for much of the arid nature of Irish controversies, while the reaction against their suppression has given rise to those displays of rhetorical patriotism for which the Irish language has found the expressive term raimeis, and which (thanks largely to the Gaelic movement) most people now listen to with a painful and half-ashamed sense of their unreality.

The Gaelic movement has brought to the surface sentiments and thoughts which had been developed in Gaelic Ireland through hundreds of years, and which no repression had been able to obliterate altogether, but which still remained as a latent spiritual inheritance in the mind. And now this stream, which has long run underground, has again emerged even stronger than before, because an element of national self-consciousness has been added at its re-emergence. A passionate conviction is gaining ground that if Irish traditions, literature, language, art, music, and culture are allowed to disappear, it will mean the disappearance of the race; and that the education of the country must be nationalised if our social, intellectual, or even our economic position is to be permanently improved.

With this view of the Gaelic movement my own thoughts are in complete accord. It is undeniable that the pride in country justly felt by Englishmen, a pride developed by education and a knowledge of their history, has had much to do with the industrial pre-eminence of England; for the pioneers of its commerce have been often actuated as much by patriotic motives as by the desire for gain. The education of the Irish people has ignored the need for any such historical basis for pride or love of country, and, for my part, I feel sure that the Gaelic League is acting wisely in seeking to arouse such a sentiment, and to found it mainly upon the ages of Ireland's story when Ireland was most Irish.

It is this expansion of the sentiment of nationality outside the domain of party politics—the distinction, so to speak, between nationality and nationalism—which is the chief characteristic of the Gaelic movement. Nationality had come to have no meaning other than a political one, any broader national sentiment having had little or nothing to feed upon. During the last century the spirit of nationality has found no unworthy expression in literature, in the writings of Ferguson, Standish O'Grady and Yeats, which, however, have not been even remotely comparable in popularity with the political journalism in prose and rhyme in which the age has been so fruitful. It has never expressed itself in the arts, and not only has Ireland no representative names in the higher regions of art, but the national deficiency has been felt in every department of industry into which design enters, and where national art-characteristics have a commercial value. The national customs, culture, and recreations which made the country a pleasant place to live in, have almost disappeared, and with them one of the strongest ties which bind people to the country of their birth. The Gaelic revival, as I understand it, is an attempt to supply these deficiencies, to give to Irish people a culture of their own; and I believe that by awakening the feelings of pride, self-respect, and love of country, based on knowledge, every department of Irish life will be invigorated.

Thus it is that the elevating influence upon the individual is exerted. Politics have never awakened initiative among the mass of the people, because there was no programme of action for the individual. Perhaps it is as well for Ireland that such should have been the case, for, as it has been shown, we have had little of the political thought which should be at the back of political action. Political action under present conditions must necessarily be deputed to a few representatives, and after the vote is given or the cheering at a meeting has ceased, the individual can do nothing but wait, and his lethargy tends to become still deeper. In the Gaelic revival there is a programme of work for the individual; his mind is engaged, thought begets energy, and this energy vitalises every part of his nature. This makes for the strengthening of character, and so far from any harm being done to the practical movement, to which I have so often referred, the testimony of my fellow-workers, as well as my own observation, is unanimous in affirming that the influence of the branches of the Gaelic League is distinctly useful whenever it is sought to move the people to industrial or commercial activity.

Many of my political friends cannot believe—and I am afraid that nothing that I can say will make them believe—that the movement is not necessarily, in the political sense, separatist in its sentiment. This impression is, in my opinion, founded on a complete misunderstanding of Anglo-Irish history. Those who look askance at the rise of the Gaelic movement ignore the important fact that there has never been any essential opposition between the English connection and Irish nationality. The Elizabethan chiefs of the sixteenth and the Gaelic poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the relations between the two countries were far worse than they are to-day, knew nothing of this opposition. The true sentiment of nationality is a priceless heritage of every small nation which has done great things, and had it not largely perished in Ireland, separatist sentiment, the offspring, not of Irish nationality, but of Irish political nationalism, could hardly have survived until to-day.

But undoubtedly we strike here on a danger to the Gaelic movement, so far at least as that movement is bound up with the future of the Gaelic League; a danger which cannot be left out of account in any estimate of this new force in Irish life. The continuance of the League as a beneficent force, or indeed a force at all, seems to me, as in the case of the co-operative organisation to which I have compared it, to be vitally dependent on a scrupulous observance of that part of its constitution which keeps the door open to Irishmen of every creed or political party. Only thus can the League remain a truly national body, and attract from all classes Irishmen who are capable of forwarding its true policy. I do not think there is much danger of a spirit of sectarian exclusiveness developing itself in a body mainly composed of Roman Catholics whose President is a Protestant. But it cannot be denied that there has been an occasional tendency to interpret the 'no politics' clause of the constitution in a manner which seems hardly fair to Unionists or even to constitutional Home Rulers who may have joined the organisation on the strength of its declaration of political neutrality. If this is not a mere transitory phenomenon its effect will be serious. As a political body the League would immediately sink into insignificance and probably disappear amid a crowd of contending factions. It would certainly cease to fulfil its great function of creating a nationality of the thought and spirit, in which all Irishmen who wish to be anything else than English colonists might aspire to share. Its early successes in bringing together men of different political views were remarkable. At the very outset of its career it enlisted the support of so militant a politician as the late Rev. R.R. Kane, who declared that though a Unionist and an Orangeman he had no desire to forget that he was an O'Cahan. On this basis it is difficult to set a limit to the fruitfulness of the work which this organisation might do for Ireland, and I cannot regard any who would depart from the letter and spirit of its constitution as sincere, or if sincere as wise, friends of the movement with which they are associated.

Of minor importance are certain extravagances in the conduct of the movement which time and practical experience can hardly fail to correct. I have borne witness to the value of the cultivation of the language even from my own practical standpoint, but I cannot think that to sign cheques in Irish, and get angry when those who cannot understand will not honour them, is a good way of demonstrating that value. I should, speaking generally, regard it as a mistake, supposing it were practicable, to substitute Irish for English in the conduct of business. If any large development of the trade in pampooties, turf and potheen between the Aran Islands and the mainland were in contemplation, this attempt might be justified. But on behalf of those Philistines who attach paramount importance to the development of Irish industry, trade and commerce on a large and comprehensive scale, I should regret a course which, from a business point of view, would be about as wise as the advocacy of distinctive Irish currency, weights and measures. And I protest more strongly against the reasons which have been given to me for this policy. I have been told that, in order to generate sufficient enthusiasm, a young movement of the kind must adopt a rigorous discipline and an aggressive policy. Not only are we thus confronted with a false issue, but by giving countenance to the outward acceptance of what the better sense rejects, these over-zealous leaguers are administering to the Irish character the very poison which all Irish movements should combine to eliminate from the national life.

The position which I have given to the Gaelic Revival among the new influences at work and making for progress in Ireland will hardly be understood by those who have never embraced the idea of combining all such forces in a constructive and comprehensive scheme of national advancement. One instance of the potential utility of the Gaelic League will appeal to those of my readers who attach as much importance as I do to the improvement of the peasant home. Concerted action to this end is being planned while I write. It is proposed to take a few districts where the peasants are members of one of the new co-operative societies, and where the clergy have taken a keen interest in the economic and social advancement of the members of the Society, but where the cottages are in the normal condition. The new Department will lend the services of its domestic economy teachers. The Organisation Society, the clergy, and the Department thus working together will, I hope, be able to get the people of the selected districts to effect an improvement in their domestic surroundings which will act as an invaluable example for other districts to follow. But in order that this much needed contribution to the well-being of the peasant proprietary, upon which all our thoughts are just now concentrated, may be assisted with the enthusiasm which belongs in Ireland to a consciously national effort, it is hoped that common action with the Gaelic League may be possible, so that this force also may be enlisted in the solution of this part of our central problem, the rehabilitation of rural life in Ireland.

It is, however, on more general grounds that I have, albeit as an outside observer, watched with some anxiety and much gratification the progress of the Gaelic Revival. In the historical evolution of the Irish mind we find certain qualities atrophied, so to speak, by disuse; and to this cause I attribute the past failures of the race in practical life at home. I have shown how politics, religion, and our systems of education have all, in their respective influences upon the people, missed to a large extent, the effect upon character which they should have made it their paramount duty to produce. Nevertheless, whenever the intellect of the people is appealed to by those who know its past, a recuperative power is manifested which shows that its vitality has not been irredeemably impaired. It is because I believe that, on the whole, a right appeal has been made by the Gaelic League that I have borne testimony to its patriotic endeavours.

The question of the Gaelic Revival seems to be really a form of the eternal question of the interdependence of the practical and the ideal in Ireland. Their true relation to each other is one of the hardest lessons the student of our problems has to learn. I recall an incident in the course of my own studies which I will here recount, as it appears to me to furnish an admirable illustration of this difficulty as it presented itself to a very interesting mind. During the years covering the rise and fall of Parnell, when interest in the Irish Question was at its zenith, the newspapers of the United States kept in London a corps of very able correspondents, who watched and reported to their transatlantic readers every move in the Home Rule campaign. An American public, by no means limited to the American-Irish, devoured every morsel of this intelligence with an avidity which could not have been surpassed if the United States had been engaged in a war with Great Britain. Among these correspondents perhaps the most brilliant was the late Harold Frederic. Not many months before he died I received a letter from him, in which he said that, although we were unknown to each other, he thought, from some public utterances of mine, that we must have many views in common. He had often intended to get an introduction to me, and now suggested that we should 'waive things and meet.' We met and spent an evening together, which left some deep impressions on my mind. He told me that the Irish Question possessed for him a fascination for which he could give no rational explanation. He had absolutely no tie of blood or material interest with Ireland, and his friendship for it had brought him the only quarrels in which he had ever been engaged.

What chiefly interested me in Harold Frederic's philosophy of the Irish Question was that he had arrived at a diagnosis of the Irish mind not substantially different from my own. Since that evening I have come across a passage in one of his novels, which clothes in delightful language his view of the chaotic psychology of the Celt:

There, in Ireland, you get a strange mixture of elementary early peoples, walled off from the outer world by the four seas, and free to work out their own racial amalgam on their own lines. They brought with them at the outset a great inheritance of Eastern mysticism. Others lost it, but the Irish, all alone on their island, kept it alive and brooded on it, and rooted their whole spiritual side in it. Their religion is full of it; their blood is full of it.... The Ireland of two thousand years ago is incarnated in her. They are the merriest people and the saddest, the most turbulent and the most docile, the most talented and the most unproductive, the most practical and the most visionary, the most devout and the most pagan. These impossible contradictions war ceaselessly in their blood.[30]

In our conversation what struck me most was the influence which politics had exercised even on his philosophic mind, notwithstanding a low estimate of our political leaders. In one of a series of three notable articles upon the Irish Question, which appeared anonymously in the Fortnightly Review[31] in the winter of 1893-4, and of which he told me he was the writer, he had given a character sketch of what he called 'The Rhetoricians.' Their performances since the Union were summarised in the phrase 'a century of unremitting gabble,' and he regarded it as a sad commentary on Irish life that such brilliant talents so largely ran to waste in destructive criticism.

I naturally turned the conversation on to my own line of thought, and discussed the practical conclusions to which his studies had led him. I tried to elicit from him exactly what he had in his mind when, in one of the articles to which I have referred, he advocated 'a reconstruction of Ireland on distinctive national lines.' I hoped to find that his psychological study of my countrymen would enable him to throw some light upon the means by which play could be given at home to the latent capacities of the race. I found that he was in entire accord with my view, that the chief difficulty in the way of constructive statesmanship was the defect in the Irish character about which I have said so much. I was prepared for that conclusion, for I had already seen the lack of initiative admirably appreciated in the following illuminating sentence of his:—'The Celt will help someone else to do the thing that other has in mind, and will help him with great zeal and devotion; but he will not start to do the thing he himself has thought of.'[32] But I was disappointed when he bade me his first and last good-bye that I had not convinced him that there was any way out of the Irish difficulty other than political changes, for which, at the same time, he appeared to think the people singularly unfitted.

The fact is we had arrived at the point where the student of Irish life usually finds himself in a cul de sac. If he has accurately observed the conditions, he is face to face with a problem which appears to be in its nature insoluble. For at every turn he finds things being done wrong which might so easily be done right, only that nobody is concerned that they should be done right. And what is worse, when he has learned, in the course of his investigations, to discount the picturesque explanation of our unsuccess in practical life which in Ireland veils the unpleasant truth, he will find that the people are quite aware of their defects, although they attribute them to causes beyond their power to remove. Then, too, the sympathetic inquirer is shocked by the lack of seriousness in it all. With all their past griefs and their high aspirations, the Irish people seem to be play-acting before the world. The inquirer does not, perhaps, reflect that, if play-acting be inconsistent with the deepest emotions, and with the pursuit of high ideals, then he condemns a little over one half of the human race.[33] He probably comes to the main conclusion adopted in these pages, and realises that the Irish Question is a problem of character. And as Irish character is the product of Irish history, which cannot be re-enacted, he leaves the problem there. Harold Frederic left it there, and there it has been taken up by those whose endeavour forms the story which I have to tell.

I now come to the principles which, it appears to me, must underlie the solution of this problem. The narrative contained in the second part of this book is a record of the efforts made during the last decade of the nineteenth and the first two years of the twentieth century by a small, but now rapidly augmenting group of Irishmen, to pluck the brand of Irish intellect from the burning of the Irish Question. The problem before us was, my readers will now understand, how to make headway in view of the weakness of character to which I have had to attribute the paralysis of our activities in the past. We were quite aware that our progress would at first be slow. But as we were satisfied that the defects of character which stood in the way of economic advancement were due to causes which need no longer be operative, and that the intellect of the people was unimpaired, we faced the problem with confidence.

The practical form which our work took was the launching upon Irish life of a movement of organised self-help, and the subsequent grafting upon this movement of a system of State-aid to the agriculture and industries of the country. I need not here further elaborate this programme, for the steps by which it has been and is being adopted will be presently described in detail. But there is one aspect of the new movement in Ireland which must be understood by those who would grasp the true significance and the human interest of an evolution in our national life, the only recent parallel for which, as far as I am aware, is to be found in Japan: though to my mind the conscious attempt of the Irish people to develop a civilisation of their own is far more interesting than the recent efforts of the Japanese to westernise their institutions.

The problem of mind and character with which we had to deal in Ireland presented this central and somewhat discouraging fact. In practical life the Irish had failed where the English had succeeded, and this was attributed to the lack of certain English qualities which have been undoubtedly essential to success in commerce and in industry from the days of the industrial revolution until a comparatively recent date. It was the individualism of the English economic system during this period which made these qualities indispensable. The lack of these qualities in Irishmen to-day may be admitted, and the cause of the deficiency has been adequately explained. But those who regard the Irish situation as industrially hopeless probably ignore the fact that there are other qualities, of great and growing importance under modern economic conditions, which can be developed in Irishmen and may form the basis of an industrial system. I refer to the range of qualities which come into play rather in association than in the individual, and to which the term 'associative' is applied.[34] So that although much disparaging criticism of Irish character is based upon the survival in the Celt of the tribal instincts, it is gratifying to be able to show that even from the practical English point of view, our preference for thinking and working in groups may not be altogether a damnosa hereditas. If, owing to our deficiency in the individualistic qualities of the English, we cannot at this stage hope to produce many types of the 'economic man' of the economists, we think we see our way to provide, as a substitute, the economic association. If the association succeeds, and by virtue of its financial success becomes permanent, a great change will, in our opinion, be produced on the character of its members. The reflex action upon the individual mind of the habit of doing, in association with others, things which were formerly left undone, or badly done, may be relied upon to have a tonic effect upon the character of the individual. This is, I suppose, the secret of discipline, which, though apparently eliminating volition, seems in weak characters to strengthen the will.

There is, too, as we have learned, in the association a strange influence which develops qualities and capacities that one would not expect on a mere consideration of the character of its members. This psychological phenomenon has been admirably and most entertainingly discussed by the French psychologist, Le Bon,[35] who, in the attractive pursuit of paradox, almost goes to the length of the proposition that the association inherently possesses qualities the opposite of those possessed by its members. My own experience—and I have had opportunities of observing hundreds of associations formed by my friends upon the principles above laid down—does not carry me quite so far. But, unquestionably, the association in Ireland does often become an entity as distinct from the individualities of which it is composed, as is a new chemical compound from its constituent elements.

Associations of the kind we had in our minds, which were to be primarily for purely business purposes, were bound to have many collateral effects. They would open up outside of politics and religion, but not in conflict with either, a sphere of action where an independence new to the country would have to be exercised. In Ireland public opinion is under an obsession which, whether political, religious, historical, or all three combined, is probably unique among civilised peoples. Until the last few years, for example, it was our habit—one which immensely weakened the influence of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament—to form extravagant estimates of men, exalting and abasing them with irrational caprice, not according to their qualities so much as by their attitude towards the passion of the hour. The ups and downs of the reputations of Lord Spencer and Mr. Arthur Balfour in Ireland are a sufficient illustration of our disregard of the old Latin proverb which tells us that no man ever became suddenly altogether bad. Even now public opinion is too prone to attach excessive value to projects of vague and visionary development, and to underrate the importance of serious thought and quiet work, which can be the only solid foundation of our national progress. In these new associations—humble indeed in their origin, but destined to play a large part in the people's lives—projects, professing to be fraught with economic benefit, have to be judged by the cruel precision of audited balance sheets, and the worth of men is measured by the solid contribution they have made to the welfare of the community.

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