Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/321

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281
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

country and a very strong one is assuredly a fight based on no -weak or worthless sentiment. The Irish have never compromised. They have been beaten because they were weaker, but they have never compromised. They have been rebellious and troublesome. They have been nationalists all the time. They claimed 700, 600, 500 years ago precisely what they claim to-day, the right to their own country, to make theiv own laws, to work out their own individual nationality among men. If there is to be credit or discredit given them, they want to earn it, and to tell their own faults or virtues to the world. They do not want another nation, and an unfriendly one, to tell the world what Ireland and its people are. The ear of the world has been held by England with regard to Ireland, particularly in this country, since the foundation of it. Very few men in America who were not Irish have realized that the Irish question is, as I have said, more largely material than sentimental. In 1696, the King of England sent to Ireland a commission of five men to examine the country and report to the king and council as to the best means of holding the Irish in subjection. They had then had 500 years of continuous Irish war. They had realized the enormous advantage that Ireland possessed in position. If Ireland were on the other side of England, there would be no Irish question. Ireland is on the Atlantic side of England. The question has always been a geographical one. Ireland controls the main points for commerce with Northern Europe; and she has in her own self such a treasury of possible wealth as no other nation has in Europe. This commission, sent in 1696, remained in Ireland a year, and reported to the king in 1697. The report was summarized in these words: "There are two ways of holding Ireland in subjection: By a standing army in the hands of Englishmen; and by checking the growth of the country in trade and wealth, that it may never become dangerous to England anywhere." That was two centuries ago. The policy was adopted by king and council; and, no matter what change of Whig or Tory, Liberal or Conservative since came, for Great Britain there was no change for Ireland. That fearful and atrocious policy continued until the appointment of one of the best Englishmen, and one of the ablest, as Secretary for Ireland, Mr. John Morley, a few weeks ago. There has not been a rift in that cloud between those two dates.

Three hundred years ago, the illustrious English poet, Spenser, who had lived for years in Ireland, thus described the country:

"And sure it is a most beautiful and sweet country as any under heaven, being stored throughout with many goodly rivers, replenished with all sorts of fish abundantly; sprinkled with many very sweet islands and goodly lakes, like little inland seas, that will carry even shippes upon their waters; adorned with goodly woods; also filled with good ports and havens; besides the soyle itself most fertile, fit to