Ireland In The New Century
(click on an icon to download eBook)
THE ENGLISH MISUNDERSTANDING.
Whatever may be the ultimate verdict of history upon the long struggle of the majority of the Irish people for self-government, the picture of a small country with large aspirations giving of its best unstintingly to the world, while gaining for itself little beyond sympathy, will appeal to the imagination of future ages long after the Irish Question, as we know it, has been buried. It may then, perhaps, be seen that the aspirations came to nought because they were opposed to the manifest destiny of the race, and that it should never have been expected or desired that the Dark Rosaleen should 'reign and reign alone.' Nevertheless, the fidelity and fortitude with which the national ideal had been pursued would command admiration, even if the ideal itself were to be altogether abandoned, or if it were to be ultimately realised in a manner which showed that the methods by which its attainment had been sought were the cause of its long postponement. Whatever the future may have in store for the remnant of the Irish people at home, the continued pursuit of a separate national existence by a nation which is rapidly disappearing from the land of all its hopes, and the cherishing of these hopes, not only by those who stay but also by those who go, will stand as a monument to human constancy.
The picture will be all the more remarkable when emphasised by a contrast which the historian will not fail to draw. Across a narrow streak of sea another people, during the same period, increased and multiplied and prospered mightily, spread their laws and institutions, and achieved in every portion of the globe material success which they can call their own. Yet, although Irishmen have done much to win that success for the English people to enjoy, and are to-day foremost in maintaining the great empire which their brain and muscle were ever ready to augment, Ireland makes no claim for herself in respect of the achievement. It is to her but a proof of what her sons will do for her in the coming time; it does not bring her nearer to her heart's desire.
Although the nineteenth century, with all its marvellous contributions to human progress, left Ireland with her hopes unfulfilled; although its sun went down upon the British people with their greatest failure still staring them in the face, its last decade witnessed at first a change in the attitude of England towards Ireland, and afterwards a profound revolution in the thoughts of Ireland about herself. The strangest and most interesting feature of these developments was that in practical England the Irish Question became the great political issue, while in sentimental Ireland there set in a reaction from politics and an inclination to the practical. The twentieth century has already brought to birth the new Ireland upon whose problems I shall write. If the human interest of these problems is to be realized, if their significance is not to be as wholly misunderstood as that of every other Irish movement which has perplexed the statesmen who have managed our affairs, they must be studied in their relation to the English and Irish events of the period in which the new Ireland was conceived....