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Aspects of Gaelic culture in Anglo-Irish relations to the twentieth century

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of The Los Angeles University of
International Relations
The University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Foreign Service
Joseph Sweeney
UMI Number: EP58340
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T h is thesis, ‘w r itte n by
......... J 0 S | ^ H ^ T O E ] P Y .................
u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f h%.S. F a c u l t y C o m m i t t e e ,
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l its m e m b e r s , has been
presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r the d e g r e e o f
D a te ..
F a c u lty Com m ittee
. j S f L u u e i u ..
hairm an
The beginnings of Irish history are obscured by much
legend and fancy.
The early authentic history, however, por­
trays one of the oldest civilizations in Western Europe.
the history of Ireland progresses it becomes entwined with
that of England.
From the time that relations began between
the two countries a considerable portion of the material
written about that relationship is of a prejudiced or unin­
formed nature.
Historians and writers with national, politi­
cal and religious persuasions have left, and continue to
leave, pictures in terms of these biases.
No other situation
between two nations offers the parallel of such lengthy and
heated inability to arrive at a common understanding.
As one reads the English and Irish history which deals
with the interplay between the two, one cannot help but
notice the continuous influence exerted by certain concepts
which have existed in Ireland since pagan times.
These con­
cepts are Gaelic in that they spring from Gaelic culture, as
opposed to the British concepts introduced into Ireland by
Yet, there does not appear to be any work which
attempts to trace their influence.
The most familiar of
these concepts concern themselves with social custom, lan­
guage, land tenure, government, law, militarism, religion,
and literature.
The major portion of them came into being
during the pagan period.
Others were introduced,
crystallized, or strengthened during the early Christian
It is possible to trace their effect and introduction
through the remainder of Irish history.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century Ireland'
has passed through a period of great internal change.
new era has included two rebellions, sieges of guerrilla war,
a militant nationalism, a trade war, the rise of labor, a
revitalized agricultural economy, a highly productive liter­
ary renaissance, attempt to become bi-lingual— in short, hard­
ly any social, cultural, economic or political phase of the
life of the Irish people has escaped the influence of the
Gaelic renaissance.
means spent.
The forces which were released are by no
Their primary goal was not achieved.
And, as
our study will show, they are old forces.
To persons not conversant with Irish history the rise
of Sinn Fein, the Easter Rebellion, the poetry of Yeats, the
drama of Synge, the novels of Joyce, the paintings of Keat­
ing, the queer script which tourists observed on Dublin
street signs, to name some of the more obvious indications,
were evidences of a new force in Ireland.
There was no new
force, there was the resurgence of the old force.
It must
not be forgotten that the Gaelic movement was not a naissance;
it was a renaissance.
This period of the Gaelic renaissance
is a study in itself.
There is as yet no attempt of an
authoritative and competent study of twentieth century
Ireland or Eire as she is now known.
There is no fault to
find with the lack of such a work for the forces it must por­
tray are still intensely dynamic.
In addition, there is the
necessity of showing the Gaelic concepts which have existed
since the beginning before any attempt is made to discuss
their modern rebirth.
It is this duty with which our study is concerned;
the tracing and discussion of the Gaelic concepts from the
beginnings to the twentieth century,— the long preface it is
necessary to know before approaching an understanding of
modern Ireland.
The approach has been one of necessarily
brief explanation rather than any pretense of an estimation
of value.
Certain phases of the study must necessarily
suffer because of the bibliographical limitations for the
study of Irish history here in the western United States.
It is hoped that these omissions are matters of detail which
need not detract too much from the long chronological span
of this study.
P R E F A C E .....................
PAGAN IRELAND . ...................
Social structure .
The clan system . ...................
Land t e n u r e .............................
. . . . ' . ..........................
M i l i t a r i s m ...................................
................................. . .
Social s t r u c t u r e ...........
. . . .................
Land tenure
. . . . . . .
G o v e r n m e n t .............
L a w .................
M i l i t a r i s m ...................
L i t e r a t u r e ...............................
The Banish Invasion
.. . ..............
The English I n v a s i o n s ...........
Irish learning
.................................. 61
The Irish Rebellions ...........................
The Rebellion of ShaneO ’N e i l l ................ . . 65
The Geraldine Rebellion
The Rebellion of HughO ’Neill
. .
............... 73
The intensification of i s s u e s ..............
FROM 1600 to 1 8 0 0 ............................. . . 76
James I
Irish literature
The Rebellion of1 6 4 1 ......................
The Rebellion
. .
FROM 1800 to 1900
Catholic Emancipation
..................... 103
Young I r e l a n d ................................... 109
The F a m i n e .........
The F e n i a n s ...............................
Home Rule
. . . . . .
..; . . . . . . . . . . . 117
The Land W a r ...................
The Gaelic Renaissance...........
. . . . . . . .
The Gaelic L e a g u e ............................... 127
Sinn Fein
............................... 132
The Irish Literary Renaissance.................
The Irish Agricultural Organization Society
. . ' 135
The Irish Labor Movement......................
The turn of the century
. . .............................
Tlie Gaelic conquest of Ireland was a part of the
Celtic domination of the greater portion of Europe.
Gaels are a branch of those groups of peoples or societies,
commonly, but not too accurately, referred to as the Celtic
race, who spoke one of the dialects of the Celtic language.1
The written material on when and how the Celts came to
Ireland is a subject of considerable difference of opinion.
Whether they came from the Iberian peninsula, Phoenicia, the
Baltic region or some other place, they arrived,' depending on
the authority consulted, sometime between the third and
seventh centuries B. C.
The arrival of the Gaelic Celts in
Ireland was prior to, and should be distinguished from, the
arrival of the Cymric Celts in Wales and Brittain.2
As for the pre-Gaelic occupants of Ireland, their
origin is not pertinent to this study.
These occupants, many
of whom were presumably Celtic, are known vaguely as Firbolgs,
Iberians, Ernai, Cruithnii and Piets.^
Legend tells of five
Henri Hubert, The Rise of the Celts» p. 33;
Alice S. Green, History of the Irish State to 101A,
pp. 20-36-.
George Macauley Trevelyan, History of England, p. 10.
^ For a discussion of the Piets showing them to be
Celtic cf. Archibald B. Scott, The Pictish Nation.
"takings” of Ireland of which the Gaelic or Milesian was the
All of these produced some semblance of civilization
which eventually disappeared or was melted into the Gaelic
The Gaelic invasion of Ireland presents a typical and
exceptionally complete picture of the action of the Celts
after conquest:
. . . the survival and incorporation of the aborigines,
the superimposition of Celts, and the amalgamation of
all these various elements into new social and political
bodies, which were the final form of Celtic societies.
In addition, in Ireland, the organization was provided
by the first invaders.5
The institutions and customs of Ireland under this
early Gaelic period were, with few exceptions, developed from
within the Gaelic society apart from any external
Ireland was the only part of the Celtic world not brought
under Roman military domination.
This meant that she became
one of the few nations of western Europe whose civilization
was allowed to develop along native
Obviously, the
native lines were Gaelic.
^ These legendary conquests are described in P. W.
Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, pp. 48-55.
^ Hubert, op. cit., pp. 229-230.
^ P. W. Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland,
» 3.
7 Hugh Graham, The Early Irish Monastic School, p. 15*
One of the important features of the Celtic invasion
was that while the Celts were a race with an apparent joy in
fighting, they were not exterminators.
Their loose govern­
mental structure was based on a system of tribute.^
Gaels were successful in their conquest from a military
standpoint because of superior armament, an equally potent
factor in English military success during their conquest.
The Gaelic conquest of Ireland was as ruthless as, and much
more complete than, any subsequent English effort.
There re­
main few vestiges of pre-Gaelic civilization in Ireland.
should be borne in mind that exclusive of economic factors,
the Gaelic and English conquests of Ireland were predicated
on identical realities, right of possession by military force.
Social structure.
The social structure of pagan Ire­
land as it is revealed in the ancient law tracts and source
material is very detailed and minute.9
Only the broader
classifications will be dealt with in this cursory review.
The social subdivisions of the people were: (1) Kings of
several grades, from the king of the tuath or cantred up to
the king of Ireland; (2) Nobles, which class included kings;
® Robert Dunlop, Ireland, From the Earliest Times to
the Present Day, p. 10.
9 Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, I, Chap.
Eleanor Hull, Pagan Ireland;
Green, o£. cit., pp. 1&9-210.
(3) Non-noble Freemen with property; (4) Non-noble Freeman
without property, or with some, but not sufficient to place
them among the class next above; (5) The non-free classes.1^
All of these people regardless of class were associated with
various-sized groups from the family upward.
These groups
made up the tribal organization which existed among all Aryan
nations in their early stages.
In Ireland this organization
revolved around the clan.
The clan system.
The clan represented the most impor­
tant social unit in pagan Ireland.
One sees its relation to
the other groups in the following:
Family was the group consisting of the living
parents and all their descendents. The Sept was a larger
group, descended from common parents long since dead;
but this is an imported word, brought into use in compara
tively late times. All the members of a sept were nearly
related, and in later times bore the same surname. The
Clan or house was still larger. Clann means "children,”
and the word therefore implied descent from one ancestor.
The tribe tuath was made up of several septs, clans or
houses, and usually claimed, like the subordinate groups,
to be descended from a common ancestor.
Each individual in the clan structure bore part of the
obligations such as contributing to the support of the child­
less old.1^
The extent of obligation depended on their class
^ Coneised from Joyce * A Social History of Ancient
Ireland, I, 153-156.
11 Ibid., I, 166.
Edward R. Turner, Ireland and England, p. 10.
While each person was an integral part of the clan, no member
was free to make contracts affecting it.
Inasmuch as the clan
life affected practically every phase of Gaelic life, it will
be dealt with from this point forward in terms of these
Language. ,The Irish or Gaelic language is one of the
three dialects of one of the two main branches of the Celtic
The two main branches of Celtic are Gaelic and
Each of these has further branched into three dia­
The Gaelic are: (1) Irish or Gaelic proper; (2) the
Gaelic of Scotland which differs only slightly from Irish; ^
and (3) Manx.
The British dialects are: (1) Welsh; (2) Cor­
nish; and (3) Breton or Armoric.
The origin of Gaelic was a
philological dispute until Johann Kaspar Zeuss, the founder
of the Celtic philology, published in 1853 his Grammatica
This work established Celtic as one of the
^ An evaluation from an educated English point of
view of the clan system may be found in Esme WingfieldStratford, The History of British Civilization, pp. 104-105.
P. V/. Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland.
PP. 1-2.
For a discussion on the difference between Irish
and Scotch Gaelic see William F. Skene, "Introduction,”
The Dean of Lismoreys Book, pp. xii-xlvii, edited with trans
lation anFnotes by the Reverend Thomas M'Lauchlan.
Indo-Europ ean language s .
Tlie Gaelic of this period was a spoken rather than a
written language.
There is, however, the pretension of Ogham,
a written alphabet of great antiquity.
Some authorities
assert that all Ogham writings are pagan, others admit the use
of Ogham during Christian times as a survival from pagan times
and still others, with a greater amount of scientific opinion
to back their claim, insist that all Ogham writing occurred
within the Christian period.^?
The spoken language of pagan Ireland was undoubtedly
Old Irish.
Irish, as it is found in written documents, is
customarily divided into three stages, of which Old Irish is
the first. °
It generally covers manuscripts written from
the eighth to the twelfth centuries but based on an earlier
spoken language.
"Very little Old Irish is preserved in
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. 3;
The philological 6rigln and the philologists re­
sponsible for Gaelia research are discussed in lames F.
Kenny, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland, I, 69 ff.
Douglas Hyde, "The Irish Language and Letters,"
The Glories of Ireland, edited by Dunn and Lennox, pp. 258-264
^ Ibid., pp. 259-262 (the Ogham alphabet is repro­
duced in this article);
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, pp. 7-10;
W. G. Wood-Martm, Traces of the Elder Faiths of
Ireland, I, 130-135, contains an extensive bibliography on
Ogham which is found in II, 375-381.
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, pp. 3-4.
The chief examples are the Irish found in the
glosses of ancient manuscripts and in the Book of Armagh.
Old Irish is farther removed from Modern Irish, by way of
comparison, than Modern English is from the language of
Land tenure. Land in pagan Ireland belonged in theory
to the clan rather than to any individual.20
allowed a portion as mensal land.
among members of the clan.
The chief was
The rest was distributed
The chief of the clan exercised
a semblance of supervision over the whole of the territory
belonging to the clan.
Yet he had no right of ownership and
his tenancy of the mensal land lasted only as long as his
It was the duty of the family to see that the
land distributed to them was cultivated, but they could not
Ibid., p. A. Thomas MacDonagh, Literature in
Ireland, p. 44, differs with this analogy, ”Irish has under­
gone no very violent change in any of its stages.” Some idea
of the structure of Old Irish may be obtained by consulting
Julius Pokorny, A Concise Old Irish Grammar and Reader. Part
I: Grammar.
Among the more practical and available discussions
of land tenure in pagan Ireland are: Hull, op. cit., pp.
28 ff.;
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, I,
184 ff.;
Laurence Ginnell, "Law in Ireland,” The Glories of
Ireland, edited by Dunn and Lennox, pp. 60-62;
Green, op. cit. p. 75, differs somewhat in interpre­
tation from the foregoing authorities.
sell or dispose of this land without the consent of the clan.
Further clarification of the possibility of such a system may
be gained as one becomes aware that there were no towns as
such in pagan Ireland.
In the earlier times all the people
were liable to be called on to give up their lands for a re­
distribution known as gavelkind or gabhail-cine.
This move­
ment every one to three years depending on the local laws
tended to emphasize a transiency of location.
Later in the
pagan period this custom was gradually infringed upon and
land held by some came to be regarded, after long possession,
or as reimbursement for service, as private property.
this concept of private ownership did not coincide with the
English concept, since the original idea of collective owner­
ship was never quite lost.
Had this not been so, feudalism
would have existed in Ireland prior to its introduction by
the Cambro-Norman English.
Land could be held by an individual in one of five
different w ays:^ (1) The chief had a portion as mensal land;
(2) Private property {obtained in return for professional
services) and the plot of each free member of the clan; (3)
Land held by tenants; (A) Arable tribe-land redistributed
once every three or four years by gavelkind; (3) Nonarable
common land for grazing, securing fuel, or for the chase,
Concised from Joyce, A Social History of Ancient
Ireland, I. ISA ff.
this land continued to be held commonly by clan or sept.
The government of Ireland in pagan times
was based on a loose monarchy founded on the clan system. ^
Each clan was governed by a chief.
made up a tribe.
Several clans or septs
If the territory occupied by the tribe was
large, the chief became a ri or king.
From earliest times
Ireland was divided into five provinces:
Munster, Connaught, and Meath.
Ulster, Leinster,
Over each province there was
a ri, and over all Ireland was the Ard-ri, the over-king, or
High king.
The court of the Ard-ri was at Tara and to him
as mensal land was given the province of Meath.
vincial kings he was supposed to receive tribute.
From the pro­
This same
system of tribute went on down through all the grades of
chiefs to the chief of the clan.
The mensal land of the chief
or king, as the case happened to be, was given on his death to
his successor.
The custom of choosing the successor during
the lifetime of the king or chieftan in order to avoid a
dispute upon the death of the ruler, and thereby cause a
split in the clan, was known as tanistry.
The person
selected was known as a tanist, or tanaisteacht.
For a general discussion and one which deals with the
controversy of the chronology and antiquity of the Irish kings
see Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, I, Chap. Ill;
Green, o£. cit., Chap. IV and V;
Some interesting and typical information regarding
the kings of Munster during the pagan period may be found in
Reverend John Gleeson, Cashel of the Kings, pp. 1-49.
Most of the tribute was paid in kind.
There was no
system of coinage, and wealth was frequently reckoned in
Another form of tribute was through the custom of
This form of cess dealt with the receiving of the
chief and his attendants at the clansman’s home.
The number
of followers, length and time of visit, type of food to be
served, and similar conditions were specifically regulated
by the Brehon Laws.
The selection of the chief or king was made from mem­
bers of a ruling family of the tribe or elan.2'* This person
was elected by the votes of the principal men of the group.
They chose the man they considered best able to govern and
lead in war or peace, with the conditions that he must be
free from bodily deformity or blemish, be a pure Gael, and
be able to hold his own against rivals.
The Irish rulers were not despotic.
They were all
limited monarchs from the Ard-ri down to the chief of the
Their duties, restrictions and privileges were
strictly set forth in the Brehon Laws.
The High king was
never able to enforce his authority for long periods of time
23 Hull, o£. cit.,
P. W. Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, p. 43.
For an interesting discussion on the selection of
kings see, Ginnell, op. cit., pp. 58-39.
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, I, 60.
over the provincial kings who in turn were often defied by
their sub-kings.
In the local units the force of government was the clan.
Within the clan the law by which the people lived was the
Brehon Law or local supplementations of it.
The nationality of the pagan Irish during this early
Gaelic period was not the definite classification that we
know as nationality in the world today.
Yet there was a unity
in Ireland during this period which is difficult to define.
An English historian states it clearly when he writes, n ...
the unity of Ireland was one of the spirit, and it is even
more wrong to deny it than it is to sentimentalize over it,
and exaggerate its possibilities for
The law of pagan Ireland was that legal system
known as the Brehon Laws.2** While all historical reference
to the native Irish legal system is to the Brehon Laws, this
designation is subject to clarification.
The individual
member of the legal profession or the judge was known as a
brehon. and it is by this word that the native law is commonly
Its proper name is Fenechas, which means law of the
Wingfield-Stratford, op. cit., p. 105.
A short exposition of the Brehon Laws is Ginnell,
op. cit.. pp. 56-57;
A discussion from a literary and generally informa­
tive standpoint is Douglas Hyde, A Literary History of
Ireland, Chap. XLII, "The Brehon Laws."
Feine, or free land-tillers
Actually the Brehon Laws were not a legislative struc­
ture, hut a collection of customs of great antiquity which
attained the status and force of law by long usage, hereditary
habit, and the sanction of public opinion.-^0
Originally the
laws were committed to memory by the brehons before writing
was introduced into Ireland.
Later they were written in tracts
to which were added glosses, or explanations or words, phrases
and more lengthy commentaries.
Several students of the Brehon
Laws have pointed out that these tracts, since they do not
form a systematic digest, were probably used by the Brehons as
in their law schools inasmuch as there is a resem­
blance between the extant material and a law professor’s note­
Ireland never entered the legislative stage during
pagan times.
Even at the great Feis or assemblies at Tara
when the Brehon Laws were publicly recited in rhymed verse,
always by qualified brehons, nowhere is there any indication
that laws were actually made or enacted at these gatherings.^1
Some concept of the extent of the Brehon Laws may
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland» I, 168;
See also Hyde, op. cit7 , p . 172, f*The Brehon Law
that applied to all Ireland was called Cain Law, to distin­
guish it from Urradus Law which was a special local law or
custom applying only to the province or district where it was
in force.”
30 Ibid., p. 181.
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, pp. 4A-45.
be gained from the following quotation, since it is not
the intention of this study to analyze in detail their con­
tent :
The Brehon Code forms a great body of civil, mili­
tary and criminal law. It regulates the various ranks
of society, from the king down to the slave, and enumer­
ates their several rights and privileges. There are
minute rules for the management of property, for the
several industries— building, brewing, mills, water­
courses, fishing weirs, bees and honey— for distress or
seizure of goods, for tithes, trespass and evidence.
The relations of landlord and tenant, the fees of pro­
fessional men— doctors, judges, teachers, builders,
artificers— the mutual duties of father and son, of
foster-parents and foster-children, of master and ser­
vant, are all carefully regulated. In that portion
corresponding to what is now known as criminal law, the
various offences are minutely distinguished:— murder,
manslaughter, assaults, wounding, thefts, and all sorts
of wilful damage; and accidental injuries from flails,
sledge-hammers, machines, and weapons of all kinds; and
the amount of compensation is laid down in detail for
almost every possible variety of injury.
Contracts or covenants are regarded as peculiarly
sacred and are treated in great detail.32
The brehons were the sole interpreters of the laws and
their application to specific cases.
To become a brehon a
person had to:
. . . go through a regular, well defined course of
study and training. It would appear that the same course
qualified for any branch of the legal profession, and
that once a man had mastered the course, he might set up
as a brehon or judge proper, a consulting lawyer, an
advocate, or a law-agent, Besides the special study in
technical law, a brehon should qualify as a shanachie or
historian; just as in our day professional students have
32 Joyce, A Short History of Ancient Ireland, I, 181182.
to qualify in certain literary or scientific subjects
not immediately connected with their special lines . . .
"No person," says the Senchus Mor, "is qualified to plead
a cause at the high court unless he is skilled in every
department of legal s c i e n c e . "33
Obviously the brehons became an influential class of
They were also firmly engendered into the clan system.
Those who were attached to chiefs had free land for their
maintenance, while those not so attached were paid by fees.
It was customary for the profession to remain in one family
in the tribe for generations.
Certain broad aspects of the Brehon Laws may be
stressed at this point although from time to time in the re­
mainder of the study specific carry-overs will be discussed
as they reoccur.
It was a native system that evolved out of
the customs of the people.
For this very reason it had no
basic similarity to Roman or English jurisprudence.34
law was enforced by public opinion.
There were no law enforce­
ment officers as such, although much of the interclan warfare
arose out of the enforcement of justice.
One authority has
claimed that the brehons had the power of official punishment,35
33 Ibid., pp. 169-170, Brehon Laws II, 89. (This
reference is to the translation of the Brehon Laws by a Brehon
Law Commission in six volumes, Ancient Laws of Ireland, Joyce
was one of the commissioners.
34 william 0*Connor Morris, Ireland, 1494-1905, pp. 14-15.
3^ Green, o£. cit., pp. 233-234. For a brief mention
of the improbability of the foregoing citation see KingfieldStratford, 0£. cit., p. 105.
although this-is not a point of general historical accord.
is true, however, as this authority points out, and with which
others are in agreement, if an individual were to have openly
defied the brehons he would have run the risk of losing his
honour-price and status in a society where such a departure
would have been unthinkable for the vast majority.36
In keeping with the clan system and its emphasis on
family, a man before the law was responsible for not only him­
self, as with most European law, but also for other members of
his family.
The act of killing was one to be assuaged by pay­
ment of tribute known as an eric or fine, rather than the
later Englisif concept of social justice.
The law and the
social system were as Ginnell has pointed out, ". . . insep­
arable parts of a complicated whole, mutual cause and conse­
quence of each other."^7
The greatest single disintegrating feature
of the clan system in pagan Ireland was the warfare between
The might of the clan was reflected in military power,
Laurence Ginnell points out that eineachlann, or
honour-value was determined by rules of kinship and property,
”. . . expanding as a clansman by acquisition of property and
affluxion of time progressed upward from one grade to another;
diminishing if he sank; vanishing if for crime he was expelled
from the clan," from "Law in Ireland," in The Glories of
Ireland, edited by Dunn and Lennox, p. 59;
Green, op. cit., Ghap. XI, "Honour Price and Law
37 £bld-» p. 58.
territory and wealth in the form of cattle.
clans attempted to increase their military power, add to
their territories and possessions by making raids on other
c l a n s . O n e of the greatest heroic sagas of this period is
the Tdin B6 Cualnge which is as the title implies the epic
cattle raid of Cooley, and is typical of the militarism of
pagan Ireland.^9
All the men were trained to war and appeared ever
ready to leave their more peaceful occupations to march off
to battle.^
The clans were exceedinly jealous of their
rights and prerogatives as stipulated by the Brehon Laws,
and in the enforcement of a judgement upon another clan war­
fare was not uncommon.
The great men of the clan society were frequently men
of personal prowess on the field of battle.
The heroes of ,
the sagas such as Firm MacCumhal, Cuchulain of Muirthemne
and others were personages whose military valour would be
difficult to duplicate.
This personal emphasis served to
For a discussion of cattle raids see Eleanor Hull,
Fagan Ireland, p. 34;
Joseph Bunn, translator, The Aacient Irish Epic
Tale Tdin B6 Cualnge, p. xii.
For an interesting English translation see, Ibid.,
p. xii.
40 Hull, 0£. Cit.,
heighten the militarism of the pagan Irish whose whole
prior Celtic history was one of battle and conquest.
The religion of pagan Ireland was
Little is authentically known about the Druidism
of Ireland, but we do know that it is distinct from that of
It is significant that the only information available
about Irish Druidism is derived from the native literature.
All of this native literature, ". . . was written— mostly
copied from older documents— in Christian times by Christians,
chiefly monks; no books penned in pre-Christian ages have been
p r e s e r v e d . T h e initial zeal of Christianity was responsible
for the destruction of much information regarding Druidism,
since it represented to the Christians a "false and idolatrous
Approximately A.D. 436 St. Patrick, King Laegaire
and seven others undertook the revision of the Brehon Laws.^
^ Joyce, A Short History of Ancient Ireland, I, Chap.
IK, "Paganism";
Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, Chap. IX,
^ For a discussion of the differences see, ibid., pp.
238-239; for the opposite point of view, i.e. that there was
little or no difference see Wood-Martin, o£. cit., I, 249-250.
Joyce, -A-Short History of Ancient Ireland, p. 219;
W. G. Wood-Martin is of the opinion that the reason
for the lack of material on Irish Druidism is the late intro­
duction of Druidism into Ireland, 0£. cit., I, 256-237.
^ Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, p. 74.
revision was known as Cain Patrick or Patrick*s Law.
This new code eliminated all pagan customs and ordinances.
It appears relatively certain that the pagan Irish
had no well-defined connected system of religion such as
later came into being under Christianity.
Some of the ele­
ments ascribed to Irish Druidism are; the use of necromantic
powers, malign incantations, divination of the future, and
reverence for nature, particularly trees.
The Druids them­
selves wore white robes, had a distinct tonsure, and were
teachers and counsellors in the clan system.
Joyce asserts
that there is no evidence to show that they held the soul to
be immorta l , w h e r e a s Dunlop believes the idea of immortality
and the reverence of the sun were the two principal underlying
ideas in Druidism which he asserts culminated in a worship of
Suffice it to say that in pagan times the religion of
Ireland was a form of Druidism.
Even after the subsequent
conquest of Christianity it is safe to assume that there were
numerous survivals of Druidism in the daily life of the
The learning of pagan Ireland was largely
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, I, 296.
Dunlop, o£. cit., p. 12.
47 An interesting treatise on pagan religion and prim­
itive rites which have survived is George Henderson,
Survivals in Belief Among the Celts.
restricted to the brehons* druids, chiefs and bards.
literature of pagan Ireland was an oral one, a good portion
of which was written down in the early Christian period.
The oral tradition was a high one, for we find the highest
trained of the bards able to recite three hundred and fifty
stories, any of which he might be called for; in addition
to this he could recite considerable poetry, genealogy,^
and tribal
jn giving this material to the people
at large in the clan tribal and national gatherings it became,
". . . the literary possession of an entire nation."-*0
material of these sagas was grouped as an aid to the memory
of the bard under such headings as Cattle-raids, Feasts,
Elopements, Sieges, Battles, et cetera.^
The modern group­
ing used by students of the period is:
. . . to class together the series of tales referring
to the Tuatha De Danann or ancient deities, those belong­
ing to the Bed Branch cycle of King Conchobar and
Cuchulainn, those relating to Finn, and the Legends of
the Kings.52
^ For the importance of genealogy throughout Irish
history see Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, pp. 56-69.^ Eleanor Hull, "Irish Heroic Sagas," from The
Glories of Ireland, edited by Dunn and Lennox, p. 27!.
^ Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, p. x.
Hull, The Glories of Ireland, p. 271.
Loc. cit.
Perhaps the most famous of these early sagas is the
Tain B6 Cualnge or Cattle-raid of Cooley, which authorities
consider to have some basis of fact. 53
the oldest epic tale of western
Eu ro pe .
This saga is ft. . .
The early Irish sagas are not entirely unknown to the
55 The literature contained therein frequently
portrayed social history.
of Irish pagan literature
Among the most important aspects
a r e ; 56
extravagance and exaggeration,
melancholia, the love of nature, pride of race, and such
attributes of the clan system as militarism, personal pworess,
53 Joseph Dunn, op. cit., p. xiii;
Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, gives the
substance of this sage, pp. 319-340.
5^ Dunn, op. cit., p. xvii.
^5 The philological studies of Whitley Stokes, Kuno
Meyer, H. d*Arbois de Jubainville, et al. have done much to
introduce the Irish sagas to modern intellectuals. The free
renderings of these sagas by such literary individuals as
Standish 0*Grady and Lady Gregory have done much to give the
stories wider circulation. Particularly is this true of the
latter's, Cuchulain of Muirthemne and God*s and Fighting Men,
which attained comparatively wide circulation for works of
this type. Theodore Roosevelt mentioned the Irish sagas when
he became president of the American Historical Society, see
his History as Literature, "The Ancient Irish Sagas," pp.
280 ff.
56 ifhile the acknowledged authorities on the literature
of pagan Ireland are such personages as Douglas Hyde, Kuno
Meyer, Eleanor Hull, et al. it is in keeping with the com­
parison of English and Irish tenor of this study to suggest
the following brief bibliographical references. They portray
something of the contrast of the Irish and English minds at
their best: MacDonagh, op. cit., pp. 104 ff.; and WingfieldStratford, op. cit. , pp. 89-91.
prestige of family name and the wisdom of the chiefs, brehons,
druids, and bards.
The literature of the early Irish sagas
never failed to stress the pride of the G-ael, and they gave
to Ireland for all time such imaginatively incomparable
heroes as Finn MacCumhal, Cuchulain, the Hound of Ulster, and
their gallant hosts.
The introduction of Christianity into Ireland
brought about the fusion of many Gaelic concepts and tenets
of Christianity.
The Golden Age of Gaelic Ireland and the
early period of Christianity were synonymous.
The student
of this period encounters difficulty in drawing a line of
cleavage between the pagan and the Christian eras.
writers of early Irish history make a point of listing
pagan Ireland and Christian Ireland as separate chapter or
section headings.
Yet when they discuss the clan system,
government, law, or similar subjects, the reader is not
conscious of any demarcation.
The reasons for this are
that Christianity did not occur overnight as some enthu­
siastic scribes would have us believe; and that the major
institutions, with the exception of religion, were subjected
to little or no change in the evolution from paganism to
This continuity of Gaelic concepts is the
major premise of this study.
Christianity did, however,
penetrate into the way of life of the Irish people and re­
mained there as a force to be reckoned with throughout
Social structure.
The unit of organization for
Ireland in the early Christian period remained the clan.
It is significant that it was religion and not the clan
which made the major adjustment when these forces met, as
we shall see in a later discussion.
The early Christian
period marks the second stage in the making of Gaelic
Ireland, of which there were roughly three:
,. . . the first extending from the arrival of the
Gael down to the reign of King Laeghaire when Patrick
came to Ireland; the second from Laeghaire*s reign
down to the Danish invasions at the beginning of the
ninth century; and the third from the usurpation of
Brian Boroimhe down to the Anglo-Norman invasion in
The clan during the pagan period passed out of the
formative stage and became the center of practically all
types of organization in Ireland.
During the early
Christian period it maintained this position.
This preser­
vation of the same social structure in the passage from
paganism to Christianity places Ireland in the unique posi­
tion of. **. . . the only one of the northern nations that
was not first civilized by Christianity.’*2
The most notorious feature of clan life during the
early Christian period was the interclan warfare.
feature will be discussed'again in relation to government
^ Robert Dunlop, Ireland, from the Earliest Times to
the Present Day, p. 17.
^ Benedict Fitzpatrick, Ireland and the Making of
Britain, p. 110.
and militarism.
At this juncture it is important to con­
sider the paradox found in the obviously bad effect of
interclan warfare on the formation of a strong state in
the modern sense, without in a similar sense effecting na­
The problem of nationality during pagan times
was not a paramount one because of the isolation of Ireland.
In Christian times the relations with other countries in­
creased, particularly in the sending of missionaries.
monks who left Ireland as missionaries were clansmen but
when they referred to their home in the writing of the
times it was not to the clan they alluded but to
And so emerged the Gaelic concept of nationality, which was
at this stage a spiritual and social value rather than a
political one.
Probably no conflict between Gaelic and
English ideology has occasioned as much bloodshed.
quently in Anglo-Irish disputes this point of an ancient
concept of nationality has been denied.
Perhaps the most
famous example is Lord Balfour’s statement in good faith
that, "Ireland has never been deprived of her national
organization, for she never possessed one."-^
Our purpose
in this study must be served not by any attempt at
For examples of this see Alice Stopford Green,
History of the Irish State to 1014, pp. 93-94- and 12&-129;
Esme Wingfield-Stratford, The History of British
Civilization, p. 106;
Francis Hackett, The Story of the Irish Nation,p. 52
Wingfield-Stratford,op. cit.,p. 106.
evaluating the intrinsic values of these conflicting view­
points but in recognizing their existence.
It is for this
reason that this discussion is included under the clan
system rather than under government, where it normally be­
The process of nationality was further accelerated
by the church giving to the Firbolg population as good
standing as
the Gaelic
formity with earlier clan practice.
an act not in con­
This act tended to
merge the two people into one and is among the earliest in­
stances of the Gaelic powers of assimilation.
The language of early Christian Ireland
continued to be that branch of Gaelic known as Old Ireland.
The introduction of Christianity into Ireland had, as might
be expected, considerable influence on the language.
The culture of the new religion, accompanied by
the increased use of writing created a new technical
vocabulary* New words had to be created for the new
worship and its ritual, its clergy and its churches,
and these were,,of necessity, borrowed from the Latin
language. From Latin also were taken nearly all the
words relating to everything connected with writing
and reading. Nearly all the Gaelic words for eccle­
siastical and literary matters are, therefore, derived
from Latin.6
While some controversy exists as to the actual date
5 Hackett, o£. cit., p. 52.
^ Mary Hayden and George A. Moonan, A Short History
of the Irish People, p. 54*
of introduction of writing into Ireland, there can he
little doubt that it was not until the early Christian
period that writing was carried on extensively, if at all.
A story, possibly a legend, of the period tells how Cenn
Faeled, a young noble who had studied in a monastic school,
later went to a bardic school.
At this latter school he
was required to learn by heart long passages after hearing
them repeated.
At night this youth is supposed to have in­
troduced the innovation of writing down what he had learned
during the day,
. . . and so began the usage of recording native
Irish literature and learning in the native tongue.
Elsewhere in Europe people at this time disdained
to write down what was not in Latin; and that is how
we have in Ireland a literature older than any of
Europe, except the Greek and L a t i n . 7
Land tenure.
The system of land tenure was not
affected by Christianity.
The concepts regarding the hold­
ing of land which prevailed during the pagan period per­
sisted throughout the early Christian era.
There was, how­
ever, the indication that the communal system of holding
land was preparing to give way to individual ownership.**
The establishment of various monasteries created a class of
institutions that maintained land without change in ownership
7 Stephen Gwynn, The Student*s History of Ireland,
p. 36.
W. G-. Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths of
Ireland, I, 199*
over a period of many generations.
Since this land belonged
to the religious order, which as we shall see was tribal, or
in the case of the bardic schools to a. clansman, the modern
concept of private property was not actually introduced.
The great influence of the monasteries was the encouragement
they gave to the pursuits of agriculture and the
The government of Ireland continued in
the early Christian period as a loose monarchy founded on a
structure of provincial kings and the clan system.
Ard-ri or High king remained the chief ruler of Ireland al­
though his authority was a nominal one and confined prin­
cipally to his own province.1°
The battle.of Ocha, A.D. 438,
resulted in the title of Ard-ri remaining with the Ui Neill
family, either the Southern Ui Neill at Tara or the Northern
Ui Neill of Aileach, for a period of over five hundred
years. H
This meant to all practical intent the existence
9 Green, op. cit., p. 241.
Hayden and Moonan, o£. cit., p. 20;
Green, o£. cit., Chap. XIV, "The Irish Commonwealth,"
pp. 266-275, gives a pro-Irish interpretation of the system
of monarchy even to the extent of (pp. 270-271) the following;
"Though the story of Irish kingship has usually been repre­
sented as a repulsive tale of ferocity and chaos, the actual
record gives proof of a permanent order both in the lesser and
the greater kingdoms, maintained by general consent.”.
Wood-Martin, o£. cit., I, 198, without authority for
his contention other than that the early Roman accounts do
not mention a native ruler, doubts the existence of any Irish
nation of this period.
Hayden and Moonan, o£. cit., p. 20.
of a ruling family in a way that repeats itself again and
again as a Gaelic concept.
It was the family name and
group, not a particular branch of the family in direct de­
scent as with English dynasties, that was vested with the
title of Ard-ri.12
Even centuries later at the great ef­
fort of the Irish in 1258 after the English invasion, one
finds the desire of the Irish to restore ah O ’Neill to the
High kingship.1'* Throughout Irish history there is an al­
legiance to family names which it would be untruthful to
dispense with as mere coincidence.
Considerable interprovince warfare existed during
the early Christian period.
The outstanding rivalry of the
times was between the kings of Tara and Laighin, a series
of disputes lasting for centuries.1^*
Another sidelight on the government of the times is
the colonization of Scotland, which amounted to a conquest,
and which was ruled from Ireland.1^
A force of government which came into greater rec­
ognition was the calling of assemblies at which in the early
12 Green, 0£. cit.> p. 273.
hoc. cit.
Hayden and Moonan, o£. cit., p. 49*
P. W. Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, p. 96.
Christian period legislation was initiated.
The most im­
portant of these assemblies historically was Druin Ceata,
A.D. 574,^ at which three important problems were consid­
ered: (1) the maintenance of law even against the High king
himself; (2) the question of independence for Scotland; and
(3) the position of the bards.
The results of the discussion of these three ques­
tions is illuminating in that an early official Gaelic point
of view is represented.
The law was subject to maintenance
against the king,a concept arrived at through different
steps than the later English common law administered in the
name of the king.
The kingdom of Scotland was declared in­
This is a little-known incident in early Irish
history and may be accepted as an attitude toward national
freedom which came into conflict with subsequent English
attitudes on the same subject.
The position of the bards is an important social
The bardic schools and order, probably the suc*i a
cessors of the Druids,° had become powerful and were in the
habit of making exorbitant demands.
For example, the chief
Green, op. cit., Chap. XV, "Assemblies,tf pp. 276-
17 IkM-. PP- 147-149;
Joyce, op. cit., p. 97;
Fitzpatrick, op. cit., pp. 66-67.
Douglas Hyde?, A Literary History of Ireland, p. 241.
poets went about the land with an extensive retinue and
demanded entertainment.
If they were refused they threat­
ened to compose a bitter invective about their refuser.'
The dread of satire, which appears, along with the comple­
mentary ability to use it, to be a prominent trait among
Gaelic people, resulted in their receiving entertainment
from persons who might be unable to afford such an expense.
Instead of eliminating the bardic order as the High king
and others desired, the assemblage under the leadership of
St. Columkille set down laws for the reduction of their
number, rules concerning their behavior, and the chief poets
were, 11. . . set to work to teach schools with land for
their maintenance, so as to relieve the people from their
e x a c t i o n s .
11 9
Several conclusions can be drawn from the last
The Christian religion set itself up in sympathy
with a strong native tradition.
The church allowed the ex­
istence of both lay and monastic schools, a later source of
trouble to English educational efforts in Ireland.
Land was
set aside for the permanent use of the bardic schools.
was a modification of the early Gaelic attitude toward prop­
erty although it still did not approach the concept of
"private” property.
The law of early Christian Ireland was the
Joyce, o£. cit., p. 98.
Brehon Law which was influenced hy Christianity upon its re­
vision by St* Patrick and others in approximately A.D. 438.20
Kuno Meyer was the first to point out that Ireland unlike all
other European states of this period had one national law for
the whole territory.21
The Brehon Laws existed in greatest
power prior to the ninth century,
although they continued
to be used until abolished by the English government in the beginning of the seventeenth century.
The introduction of Christianity appears
to have had little or no effect on the military propensities
of the Irish.
The interclan warfare placed a stress on
military prowess.
There is a legend that
”St. Patrick, on
the eve of a battle, is reputed to have given an Irish king
the choice of two things, defeat and heaven, victory or hell,
and received the emphatic answer; ’Hell to all eternity, so
that the victory be mine.'”2^
20 Ibid., p. 7U;
Green, oj). cit., p. 107, indicates that the par­
ticipation of St. Patrick in the writing of the Senchus Mor
(a law book, supposedly the Brehon Laws after their revision
by St. Patrick and others) is a legend. Her authority is
Ancient Laws of Ireland, III, 26.
21 Green, o£. cit., p. 235.
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. 39.
Wood-Martin, o£. cit., p. 276;
For a readable treatment in fiction of the mili­
taristic conflicts of pagan and Christian Ireland see,
Darrell Figgis, The Heturn of the Hero.
The literature which relates the intro­
duction of Christianity into Ireland is a subject containing
much fancy.
A goodly portion of this fancy surrounds the
.life of St. Patrick.2^
It should be clearly understood that
Christianity existed in Ireland prior to the advent of St.
P a t r i c k . T o St. Patrick however, is popularly given the
credit for introducing Christianity to the Irish.
It is
safe to say that to him may be ascribed most credit for the
conversion of the Irish from paganism to Christianity.
Paganism was not yet extinct, and a full two centuries after
the probable date of St. Patrick’s death paganism exerted an
influence until it was crushed at the battle of Moira.
The religious history of early Christian Ireland
constitutes one of the brightest chapters in all Irish his­
Ireland entered into a period of religious enthusiasm
the direct results of which were the sending of missionaries
The life of St. Patrick is no concern of this study
other than that he was an outstanding individual in the early
Christian period. Some idea of the variety of approach may
be obtained by comparing, Joyce, A Condise History of Ireland,
pp. 66-76;
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., pp. 34-37;
Wood-Martin, op. cit., pp. 260-276.
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., p. 34.
O i
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. 162.
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., p. 38;
For a discussion of later pagan survivals see WoodMartin, op. cit., I, 343-344;
George Henderson, Survivals in Belief Among the
to other countries,2** and the founding of the monastic
s c h o o l s ,
an& caused Ireland to he known as, ’’the school of
the West, the quiet habitation of sanctity and literature.”-*0
It is not the purpose of this study to delve in de­
tail into this fascinating period but some aspects of it
which are pertinent to Gaelic culture must claim our atten­
tion, for this was the Golden Age of
The only model for St. Patrick to use in the estab­
lishing of a church was the one he attempted to reproduce,
The system of a diocesan government that prevailed
in the Gallician church; but that system, resting for
its working on the existence of towns, proved ill
adapted to Ireland, and shortly after Patrick1s death
it seemed as if all sign of his missionary enterprise
had disappeared.32
Some idea of the extent in terms of numbers of
missionaries sent may be obtained by consulting Hugh Graham,
The Early Irish Monastic Schools, pp. 41 ft.
29 •pwo concise authorities for the ramifications of
this subject are. Heinrich Zimmer, The Irish Element in
Mediaeval Culture;
Graham, op. cit. , pp. 41 ff.
v This sentence which appears to be used by almost
every author who discusses this period in the history of
Ireland,was first used by Dr. Samuel Johnson in a letter to
Charles O ’Connor published in O ’Reilly’s Irish Writers, pp.
l, n ;
Also cited in the article ”Dr. Johnson and Ireland,”
ln iPisk Monthly, 46:211;
Quoted from Graham, op. cit., p. 72, footnote 2.
Authorities differ as to the exact centuries of
Ireland’s Golden Age but there is general concurrence in
placing it in the twelfth century.
Dunlop, op. cit., p. 13.
° mi
— ~m
vm i ir- 1- -11
It was then that an individual familiar with the Gaelic
culture pattern, St. Columkille, also known as St. Columba,
entered the scene of Irish Christianity and founded the mon­
astic and tribal basis of Irish Christianity.^
At this period there flourished side by side in
Ireland the monastic school and schools of-the bardic order,
both of which, ". . . were so intimately connected with the
native Irish social system that they were not antagonistic
but rather complementary to each other.n^4
This point is
worth remembering when later it becomes necessary to discuss
the difficult
periods of differences between secular and
lay education which have occurred during the past three
centuries in Irish education.
The period of the Irish monastic school represents
one of the least known in the history of European education.^ 5
Graham, op. cit., pp. 52-53;
Dunlop, o£. cit., p. 14;
George Macaulay Trevelyan, History of England, p. 54;
Wingfield-Stratford, o£. cit., p. 97 erroneously,
if one accepts more recent work on the subject, ascribes
this adjustment of the Irish Church to the existing tribal
system to St. Patrick. He goes on to evaluate this tribal
system in a way that frequently represents the English point
of view toward Gaelic concepts, "Accordingly, the Irish
Church came to be organized, or rather unorganized, on lines
that by Homan or Gallic or even British standards were
nothing less than anarehic."
For a biographical sketch of St* Columkille see
Hyde, o£. cit.» pp. 166-191*
Graham, o£. cit., p. 90.
Ibid., p. vii.
While there appears little doubt that Ireland’s monastic
schools furnished the ". . . great connecting link between
- the Renaissance and the Graeco-Roman
C u l t u r e , " 3 6
typical of the limitations of the Gaelic social structure
. * . the great body of the people were probably
neither able to read or write, yet they were not un­
educated. They had an education of another kind,
reciting poetry, historical tales, and legends, or
listening to recitation in which all took delight.37
Another important aspect of the monastic schools
which is to be born in mind when later in this study bi­
lingualism is discussed, was the stress placed on Latin^
and Greek.^
It is within the province of this study to note that
one of the reasons given for the decline of the Irish mon­
astic schools was the beginning attempts of the English to
^ Graham, loc. cit.
Ibid., p. 80.
J William Turner,. "Irish Teachers in the Carolingian
Revival," Catholic University Bulletin, 13:389;
Gwynn, op. cit., pp. 30-31.
H. d’Arbois de Jubainville, Litterature Celtique, I,
397. His contention is that in the ninth century the Irish
scholars were the only persons in Western Europe who knew
Greek. A partial rebuttle of the place of the Irish scholars
in the cause of education represented by the foregoing bib­
liography is to be found in Andrew Fleming West, Alcuin and
the Rise of the Christian Schools, pp. 120-121.
This was
not, however, Alcuin1s own opinion,
Heinrich Zimmer, The Irish Element in Mediaeval
Culture, pp. 30-31.
conquer Ireland.
Probably the greatest single influence
of Christianity on Irish literature was the prominence given
to writing.^1
Christianity also introduced a lasting re­
ligious trend into Irish literature.
Some of the outstand­
ing examples of this religious writing are: Faedh Fiadha,
"Cry of the Beer," supposedly composed by St. Patrick;^2 the
numerous lives of the saints, most famous of which is the
"Life of St. Patrick," thought to have been composed by a
disciple, St. Fiaeh of Sletty.^3
other examples are the
"Voyages" of St. Brendan the Navigator, and the "Visions"
of St. Fursa.^
This was the indistinct period in Irish literature
Zimmer, op. cit., pp. 105 ff. This is given as
the third reason and is by no means the most important.
Some concept of the quantity will be seen in the
following quotation which includes a period slightly beyond
the early Christian period, Aodh de Blaeam, What Sinn Fein Stands For, p. 25, "* . . the surviving MSS. of old and
medieval Irish alone would fill, if printed, about 1,000
octavo volumes— a quantity probably more than twenty times
the extant literature of ancient Home."
Hayden and Moonan, o£. cit., p. 52.
43 Ibia., p. 53.
**** Loc. cit.
when many of the famous "Books” were undoubtedly composed.^
Considerable secular poetry exists as well as such works as
"The Book of Rights,” the "Senchus Mor" .and "The Book of
The latter two form the greater part of the ma­
terial known as the Brehon Laws.
Much of the sage material
was committed to writing during this time.
In addition to the factors mentioned in the discus­
sion of literature in Pagan Ireland which remained, there
were added during the early Christian period the religious
vein in Gaelic writing, the introduction of invective, which
was no doubt a carry-over from an earlier oral literature in
Druid times, and the emergence of nationalism.
^ So much is written in exaggeration of early Gaelic
literature that it has become difficult to find criticism
such as: Wood-Martin, op. cit.,1, 137, "Irish literature is
mere protoplasm, if it had a history, its record would show
an arrested development. . . . The most that can be said in
its praise is that it is a rudimentary effort towards a ma­
turity never attained. Far the most valuable part of Irish
literature is that portion that throws light upon the earlier
history of the country, and to extract the true from the
false is a complicated and difficult task. . . ."
The invasion of Ireland by the English early in the
twelfth century had an arresting effect on Gaelic culture.
This initial invasion marks the beginning of one of the
oldest international struggles in history.
Our concern with
that struggle will be to examine the effect of Gaelic con­
cepts on the relations of the two nations.
In the two prior
chapters the basic Gaelic concepts have been discussed as
From this point forward the effect of these con­
cepts will be shown as they actually occurred throughout
Anglo-Irish history.
It is necessary to diverge briefly before discussing
the English invasions to consider the Danish incursions.
The "Danish" invasion is as much of a misnomer as the term
English invasion, since the "Danes" actually included Norse
and Swedes,1 just as the English were in the beginning Welsh
archers and Anglo-Norman lords.2
Stephen Gwynn, The Student*s History of Ireland,
P. 41.
2 Mary Hayden and George A. Moonan, A Short History
oi> th® Irish People, p. 109, point out that many of the
Invading soldiers were Flemish mercenaries.,
P. W. Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, p. 127,
indicates that the Anglo-Normans who first arrived' were in
reality Welsh-Normans.*
Benedict Fitzpatrick, Ireland and the Making of
Britain, p. 294, footnote 1, asserts the Normans werey^not
Normans but Francil or Frenchmen."
The Danish Invasion,
The Danes, as they are now
commonly known, first appeared in Ireland in the year A.D.795.^
The major effects'of the Danish invasions were the
disturbing of native learning,^
the foundation of a capital
city,^ the decisive defeat of a foreign power’s attempted
invasion at Clontarf in 1014,^ and the assimilation of the
3 Authorities differ as to the actual year, but the
majority accept A.D. 795* For descriptions of the Danish
invasions see: Alice S. Green, History of the Irish State
to 1014, Chap. XVII, pp. 311-335;
Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, pp. 100-120.
^ Aodh de Blacam, What Sinn Feinn Stands For, p. 2&;
P. W. Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland,
I, 5* The Danes plundered many of the Irish monasteries "and
burned invaluable books.
5 Gwynn, op. cit., p. 43. Prior to the Danes the
Irish did not have towns as such.
Green, op. cit., p. 324, in commenting on the found­
ing of Dublin by the Danes states, ’’The first ’city’ founded
in Ireland, it carried from first to last its non-national
character— alien in religion, tradition, and culture— based
on the right of a strong hand and a stiff trade . . .”
For descriptions of the Battle of Clontarf see:
Gwynn, op. cit., pp. 50 ff.;
Green', op. cit., pp. 39$ ff.;
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, pp. 107
The foregoing confirm the advisability of reading
more than one source for Irish historical incidents. A
commentary on interprovincial warfare is seen in the fact
that there were Irish who fought on the side of the Danes. It
is clear from all sources that as Green, op. cit., p. 404,
points out, ”. . . all Norse and Irish traditions, show that
’Brian’s Battle’ was on both sides known to be a contest for
the sovereignty of Ireland--whether a Norse or an Irish king
should reign there.”
remaining Danes into the main body of the Irish people.
The Danish invasions inflicted less havoc on Ireland
than they did on such countries as France and Britain.
The implication of the preceding statement is brought more
forcibly to mind when-it is recalled that during the period
in which Brian was ousting the Banes from Ireland the latter
were conquering England under the leadership of Sweyn and
The Gaelic social structure played an important
part in preventing the Danes from conquering Ireland.
fact that there was no capital city, no national army, and
no navy made it necessary for the Danes, if they were to make
a complete conquest, to capture every clan.
This was a task
of too complicated difficulty.-^
1 Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., p. 69.
Gwynn, op. cit., p. 44.
^ Esme Wingfield-Stratford, The History of British
Civilization, p. 107.
10.Goddard H. Orpen, Ireland Under the Normans, I,. 27.
Historians appear agreed on this point yet“ft is typical of
most English historical approach to the clan system that
Wingfield-Stratford, op. cit., p. 106, should classify the
Gaelic social structure of this period as, "a social organism
in a low stage of development." No mention is made of it
being different or Gaelic. A purely theoretical supposition
has been posed by Orpen, op. cit., I, 26-27, which serves as
a contra-argument for the aforementioned English point of
view, "Had Ireland been allowed to go her way unheeded by
Europe she might in time, and after much suffering have
evolved a better ordered system with some hope of progress
in it, and the world might have seen a Celtic civilization
where Celtic imagination and Celtic genius, free and un­
fettered, would have assuredly have contributed something
towards the solution of human problems. . ."
The defeat of the Danish effort by the Irish under
Brian Boroimhe gave Ireland a national hero.
Brian had
attempted after a fashion to form a strong centralized govern­
He took over, or usurped, the title of Ard-ri, thus
ending the long sovereignty of the Ui Heills.
Clontarf deprived Ireland of a strong leader.
His death at
Between his
death and the Anglo-BForman invasion Ireland was torn with
provincial warfare, a period known in ancient Irish history
as that of the "Kings with opposition."^ .
The English Invasions.
The story of Diarmid
MacMurrough’s kingship of Laighin or Leinster, his abduction
Estimates of Brian’s greatness differ principally
in the amount of praise. Joyce, A Social History of Ancient
Ireland, p. 104, compares him to Alfred, whereas Wlng'fi'eldStratford, op. cit.» pp. 107-108, does not feel he could be
compared to Alfred inasmuch as he considers him a hero rather
than a patriot.
Reverend John Gleeson, Cashel of the Kings, p. 109,
summarizes most of the opinion regarding Brian when he
states, ". . . it must be admitted that his reign as Ard-righ
was the most.glorious and successful in Irish history.”
Whether Brian was a usurper or not has been
frequently questioned. The record would indicate that he
could be considered little less than a usurper since he took
the title by force. For varying opinions see: Gleeson, op.
cit., pp. 102-121;
Green, o£. cit.. pp. 377-397;
Douglas Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, p.
452, refers to his act as "semi-usurpation.^
121 ff.
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, pp.
of Dervorgilla the wife of O ’Rourke, prince of Breifne, his
banishment by the Ard-ri Roderick O ’Connor, and his subse­
quent enlistment of help from Henry II of England in the form
of mercenaries under Strongbow, is a tale familiar to all
readers of Irish history.^
This marks the overt beginning
of Anglo-Irish relations.
The .initial wedge of the English was made possible by
the clan warfare that caused the downfall of the tribal
Gaelic social structure.
Biarmid promised Richard de Clare,
earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow, the succession of his
kingship of Leinster and his daughter Aoife or Eva in
marriage,^5 j_n return for Strongbow’s aid.
The promise of
the succession of the kingship was absurd in light of the
Brehon Law.
The succession was not Diarmid’s to give, since
it depended on the free will of his
p e o p l e . ^
^ The seeking of aid from a foreign prince with the
exception of the enlistment of Danish aid, was a novelty in
Ireland, although it was not in opposition to the European
practice of the times. See Orpen, op. cit., I, 82-83.
Ibid., I, 92, has commented on the precedent for
this intermarriage being in all probability, ” . . . owing to
the marriage of Gerald of Windsor with the daughter of the
King of South Wales that Gerald and the sons of Gerald had
been able -to hold their own in Dyved, whence other adventurers,
unconnected with the native princes, had been again and again
Hayden and Moonan,
cit., p. 110.
The usurpation of the title of ArcL-ri by Brian
Boroimhe and the long period of kings with opposition had
weakened traditional succession.
I)iamlid,s sincereity can be
seriously questioned, however, by his promising the city of
Wexford to the Geraldines, Maurice Fitzgerald and Robert
Fitzstephen, for this territory was not his to promise.^7
The Anglo-Norman invasion was made with the permission
of Henry II; indeed, Strongbow was forced to wait several
months for the king’s permission.1^
Henry II had a prior
interest in Ireland, for he had secured a papal bull from
Pope Adrian IV, an Englishman, several years earlier, author­
izing him to take possession of
^7 Hayden and Moonan, loc. cit. A further sidelight
on Diarmid’s promise of Wexford which was not his is shown in
a peculiarity of the Gaelic concept of land in connection with
the establishment of cities captured earlier from the Danes,
ibid., p. 76, "The constitution of the Irish clans, owners
of their own lands, apparently prevented a permanent occupa­
tion of the towns which were frequently captured."
18 Ibid., p. 111.
W This papal bull issued in 1155 has been the subject
of much controversy, particularly with regard to its authen­
ticity. The original has never been found. The first public
announcement of the bull was made at the Synod of Waterford,
1175, three years' after the Synod of Cashel called by Henry
II in 1172 which was later regarded as keeping up the appear­
ance of carrying out the bull. The balance of authority
leans toward the genuineness of the papal bull. See Joyce,
A Social History of Ancient Ireland, p. 130;
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit.., p. 116;
Orpen, ojd. cit., I, 307-30&. Actually Adrian’s
bull was the first instance of Anglo-Irish relations, and a
not too satisfactory start it was.
Various contingents of Anglo-Normans arrived in
Ireland from the first group under Robert Fitzstephen some
time in May of 1169 to the major army of 3,000 men under
Strongbow in August of 1170.
YTith the cooperation of
Diarmid the Anglo-Normans captured Wexford.
Following this,
Diarmid made terms' with the Ard-ri, promising to send his
allies away-
But Diarmid had no intention of keeping this
promise, and when Strongbow arrived the combined forces cap­
tured Waterford and later Dublin.
The capture of Dublin re­
sulted in the rout of the Ard-ri Roderick O’Connor’s army.
Since it was a Gaelic army, this rout meant only that each
unit returned to its own territory.
The Normans at this
point held only the three seaports of Wexford, Waterford and
Dublin, cities that were more Norse than Irish.
At a synod
held in Armagh the invasion was declared to have been made as
a punishment for the Irish practice of buying English slaves,
and all English slaves in Ireland were declared free.2^
2<^ The major facts except where particularly noted of
the early Norman invasion have been taken from ibid.,Vol. I;
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, pp.
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., pp. 107-14921 por a discussion of the extent of Irish possession
of English slaves see: Fitzpatrick, op. cit., Appendix A,
"The English Slave Population in Ireland," pp. 301-313. The
reason thus given for invasion may have had a historical
precedent in the point made of Brian Boroimhe’s freeing of
the Irish slaves held by the Danes a century earlier.
The Normans were more than a military match for the
Irish.ij.|ie latter did not favor the use of armor and went
into battle in loose tunics.
Clad in this dress they were
no match for the armor-encased Normans.
These were renowned
for their military prowess and in their age they possessed
the greatest available knowledge of military science.
social structure was to a large extent founded on military
service, whereas to the Irish war was a temporary incident
after which those, who were left returned to their clans.
The Norman discipline on the field of battle surpassed any­
thing the Irish ever achieved.
The inter-clan jealousies
of the Irish carried over onto the battlefield, while the
Normans in the midst of fray forgot their personal jealousies.
The Irish preferred the individual contest to the
military maneuvering of troops and cavalry.
they showed themselves to be on equal ground with the Normans.
Particularly was this true of those Irish soldiers known as
gallowglaigh, or gallowglasses, as the English language
corrupted the Gaelic syllable.
The gallowglasses were the
mercenary soldiers within the clans and their military
ability was universally acknowledged by Irish, Norman and
later, English.
As some clans retained in hereditary
See particularly, Joyce, A Social History of
Ancient Ireland, pp* 127-128;
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., p. 109.
succession the professions of medicine, law and poetry, so
did two outstanding clans of gallowglasses become the
MacSweeneys and the MacSheehys.
The Irish knew little of
fortification and the Norman system of castle building was a
military innovation to the Irish.
The year following the capture of Dublin by Diarmid
MacMurrough and Strongbow marked the death of Diarmid.
Strongbow promptly assumed the kingship of Leinster and in
consternation the Irish saw for the first time since the
original* Gaelic invasions a foreigner in the kingship of one
of the provinces.
A period of intensive warfare followed
and Strongbow, forced to ask for terms, offered to hold
Leinster under the Ard-ri Roderick O ’Connor.
This offer was
refused and the Ard-ri laid down terms which demanded the
surrender of Wexford, Waterford and Dublin and the departure
of the Normans.
After a two-months siege of Dublin, during
which time Wexford was captured, the Normans were on the
point of surrendering.
In desperation they came out of be­
sieged Dublin in a sudden sortie, took the Irish completely
by surprise, and by their superior military armor and skill
averted what would have meant a re-establishment of the
The first castle built in Ireland was constructed
by Toirdhblealach O ’Conor who was seeking the kingship of
Ireland in 1129, prior to the Norman invasion. The building
of this castle ended any serious questioning of his power,
yet the Irish did not realize the advantage of the castle as
a military factor. See Green, o£. cit. , p. 367.
Gaelic domination of Ireland.
Again the units of the Irish army returned to individ­
ual clans and the power of the Normans was momentarily
challenged from a new direction.
The fame of Strongbow*s
conquest spread and eventually reached Henry II, who issued
an edict prohibiting further intercourse with Ireland and
set about making preparations to visit Ireland himself.
This edict stopping intercourse with Ireland we know to have
been enforced because it was the reason the Irish had been
able to hold the Nomans in siege in Dublin.
Henry II had
already experienced an idea of what trouble he could expect
from rebellious barons in England, and he was apparently in
no mood for a repetition in Ireland.
Strongbow was summoned
to England and after much byplay Leinster was regranted to
Strongbow as the king’s vassal, with the various towns and
castles becoming the property of the crown.
Henry II, with an army variously estimated at close to
ten thousand men, landed in Ireland on October IS, 1171.
English king claimed an overlordship of Ireland and from his
temporary court in Dublin established the various feudal
offices of state and instituted courts of law as a check on
This figure and date are constant in most Irish
histories with the exception of Orpen, op. cit., I, 255-256,
who gives the date one day earlier and the total of the army
as‘ four thousand men.
the nobles in their territories.
He made huge grants of
land in Ireland to various Norman lords, many of which terri­
tories had never seen a Norman.
The institutions of govern­
ment and law which Henry II set up affected only his own
English subjects and the Irish continued to hold to their
own Brehon Laws and Gaelic customs.2^
The majority of the
Irish chiefs in the south acknowledged the vague sovereignty
so foreign to them and in the case of most of them explained
in a tongue they did not u n d e r s t a n d B u t the chiefs of Tir
Eoghan, Tir Chonaill and Ulaidh refused any token of sub­
mission. 2?
The statement has been expressed not alone from an
English point of view that, "The best thing that could have
happened for Ireland, once the invasion was fairly afoot,
would have been a complete conquest by the English Crown, and
^ This lack of any initial attempt at understanding
Irish customs led to the condition which applied to any
period of English occupation, summed up by Ramsay Muir, A
Short History of the British Commonwealth, pp. 323-324,
"Of all the Irish customs those which the English least
understood were the claim system, and the system of landtenure upon which it rested, for these systems were wholly
unlike anything that England had known since long before
the Norman Conquest.”
If the Irish did not speak English they had nothing
on Henry II for he spoke only French, then the court tongue
of England.
27 This marked the centering of Gaelic Ireland as west
of the Shannon, a position it has held from that day to this.
an establishment of the reign of law impartially over Irish
chiefs and Norman barons.1* ^
Tiie intrinsic worth of this
statement is obviously a matter of. viewpoint, yet it
emphasizes the factor that kept Gaelic culture alive--the
incomplete conquest of Ireland and the resulting conflict
between English and Gaelic customs.
The initial instances of conflict between the new
English order introduced by Henry II and the old Gaelic
social structure dealt with the submission of the chiefs
and the new system of feudalistie land tenure.
The meaning
of these two conceptions of political and social systems
was interpreted differently by the English and the Irish.
Feudalism was unknown in Ireland.
The act of submission of
the chiefs was interpreted by the English as meaning, with
the English change in this particular feudal concept, fealty
on the part of the vassal to the king.
The original feudal
concept implied fealty on the part of the vassal to his lord
The Irish acceptance of allegiance to the Ard-ri was
an act of personal submission only, with no thought of
surrender of the internal independence of the clans.
As a
matter of record there were many instances of such an:'
interpretation even from the English feudalistic point of
Wingfield-Stratford, o]3. cit., p. 220. For a
typical pro-Irish reaction to this frequently held statement
see, Alice S. Green, Irish Nationality, pp. 105 ff.
view, and Henry II himself paid homage to the King of France
while maintaining absolute domination of Normandy and
?/ith the conception of land tenure the misunderstand­
ing was even greater and its effects have been felt through­
out Irish history.
The feudal grant of lands by the king
was a grant to a fief or tenant in chief, with the implied
understanding that the king was the absolute owner of the
land, and granted to the occupant on certain conditions chief
among which was the specified promise of military aid.
the occupant broke the oath of fealty the land might be
taken from him by the lord.
As we have seen from an earlier
discussion the Irish concept of land tenure was entirely
different from this.
Under the Brehon Law the chief had no
right to encumber the land of the clan in any way for it did
not belong to him.
The following quotation is hardly an
exaggeration of the conflict:
When the Normans came to Ireland, they being quite
ignorant of Irish methods of land-ownership, obliged
the chiefs to take just such an oath of fealty for their
tribe-lands as they would have exacted from their Norman
nobles at home. Probably the Irish chief did not under­
stand one word of the oath that was being administered
to him in a foreign tongue and so he quite cheerfully
swore away his tribal estates to the Norman King, re­
ceiving them back on military tenure. Had he understood,
he could not possibly have sworn away what did not
belong to him, but to his tribe.29
Eleanor Hull, Pagan Ireland, p. 31.
The early Norman occupation was the beginning of what
has been explained as permanent warfare as contrasted to the
previous spasmodic interclan warfare.
The effect of this
permanent warfare on Gaelic culture was an arresting one.
The factor of assimilation played a curious part in
this continuous warfare between the Irish and the Normans.
No sooner would the Irish succeed in Gaelicizing a portion
of the Norman English than a new contingent would arrive.
The interclan jealousies were as strong as ever.
partial surmounting of these jealousies occurred when the
Irish chiefs invited Edward Bruce, the brother of the Scottish
King, Robert, to become king of Ireland.
The hope was a two­
fold one; since the chiefs would not because of jealousies
give allegiance to one of their own they would do so for one
not involved in the clan disputes, one Gaelic in origin who
might lead them to victory over the English and on to a
united Ireland.
The reign of Edward Bruce was one of con­
tinuous warfare marred by countless instances of cruelty on
both sides, a distressing factor in all Irish warfare.
Edward Bruce was finally defeated and slain by the English
at Faughart near Dundalk in 1318.
The native Irish historians
of the period leave us a record of hostility toward Bruce.
The results of the Bruce invasions were not without signifi­
The Anglo-Irish government had been almost overthrown
and was weakened for centuries to come.
Ulster was cleared
of English colonists and thus became the focal point of later
Gaelic resistance.
The devastation of these wars left
Ireland in a state of poverty that was further complicated
by famine and plague.
Then began in earnest the Gaelicizing of the English
settlers and the reader of Irish history is amazed at the
phenomena of the Horman-English enemies of the Irish becoming,
to use the oft-quoted phrase, f,more Irish than the Irish
The Gaelic power of assimilation has been
previously noted in this study and crops up again and again
in Irish history.
There existed at this time a serious conflict in
Ireland relative to law.
The -English used their common law
and the Irish used their own Brehon Law.
The difficulty was
that an Irishman who was injured by an Englishman could not
seek justice because the Englishman was not subject to Brehon
On the other hand if an Irishman injured an Englishman
he was at once subject to English law.
This double legal
system, which was obviously unfair, became so serious that the
Irish living in proximity to the English settlers petitioned
Edward I and Edward III to be placed under English law.
Both were at first willing to do so but were dissuaded by
the Anglo-Irish lords who apparently preferred the advantages
of the present state of affairs.3°
This type of situation
Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, p. 166.
must be kept in mind in later history when the Irish are re­
ferred to as lawless, for throughout English rule in Ireland
there is a continuous breakdown, by such means, of Irish
respect for a law that did not offer them impartial protection.
The assimilation of the English by the Irish was
recognized as a danger to English domination.
To meet this
problem Edward Ill’s son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, was sent
to Ireland.
Lionel was strongly anti-Irish and believed
the evils of the country were due to the intercourse between
the native Irish and the English settlers.31
This hatred of
the representatives of the Crown toward the Irish customs
extended even more heatedly to the Hibernicized English.32
The English attempt to solve this problem must in all fair­
ness be noted as typical of all early English efforts at-a
solution of the Irish problem.
The Statue of Kilkenny was
passed by a parliament summoned by Lionel in.1367.33
31 Instances are numerous in Irish history of the
representatives of the Crown being anti-Irish. Lionel, as
many historians have pointed out was conditioned against the
Irish by his marriage to the daughter of the murdered Brown
Earl of Ulster, last of the De Burghs. His belief that the
evils of the country were due to the intercourse between the
Irish and the English is written into the Statute of Kilkenny.
Ibid., p. 162. This attitude toward the Anglo-Irish
was stressed by Giraldus Cambrensis.
33 The Statute of Kilkenny has been condemned alike by
both Irish and English historians and all histories of the
period give substantially the same story. It should be
statute was the high point in the anti-Gaelic legislation of
the period.
It prohibited intercourse between the native
Irish and the English.
Penalties ranging in severity from
death and forfeiture of property to jailing were provided for
intermarriage, fosterage,3 4
use Qf the Irish
36 use 0f Irish apparel or customs, the practice of
^ (continued)
pointed out this early in the study of Anglo-Irish relations
that while any reader of a few volumes of Irish history
written by both Irish and English writers can soon become
aware of biases, the main factors of English antagonism to
Gaelic culture are stressed as honestly, if less vociferously,
by English writers as by Irish. The situation has been aptly
stated by the travel-book author, H. Wv Morton, In Search of
Ireland, pp. 20-21, ”Yvhen the stranger locks himself up witE
an armful of books on Irish history he learns with surprise,
if he is English, and also with with pain, that if Ireland’s
struggle had been staged elsewhere in Europe, and had the
ruling race been French, Italian, or Turkish, no greater
sympathy, no deeper indignation and no more eager support
would have been forthcoming than that of England. Byrons in
great numbers would have gone out in support of her national
A system of adoption of children closely allied with
the clan system and regulated by the Brehon Laws. See
Laurence Ginnell, f,Law in Ireland,” Glories of Ireland, edited
by Dunn and Lennox, p. 60.
The custom of standing sponsor for a child at baptism
thus becoming godfather to the child and gossip to the family.
The relationship resulting was religious in concept but served
to create mutual obligations. Joyce, A Social History of
Ancient Ireland, p. 33.
Hyde, op. cit., p. 608, indicates that the first
written condemnation of the Gaelic language was in 1360.
coyne and livery,31 Irish bards were not to be received,38
and war against the "Irish enemies,"39 was to be made only
with the permission of the government.
The statute extended
even into the Church whereby no Irish clergyman was to be
appointed to any position in the church in the English dis­
tricts, no Irishman was to be allowed in any religious house
in Ireland and no benefice could be conferred on anyone who
did not speak English.4*°
The Statute of Kilkenny was a tribute to the effect
of Gaelic forces which were making themselves felt all over
Such legislation was impractical because a huge
army would have been necessary to enforce it.
signed chiefly for the English in Ireland.
It was de­
Its greatest
effects were felt within the English centers and on the
For the most part it fell into gradual nonobserv­
ance but it emphasized two characteristics of early English
A Norman-Irish adaption of the older Gaelic custom
ooiftQy referred to previously in this study.
38 The reason given in the statutes for this was that
such Irish came as spies on the English. Such legislation
against bards, harpers, pipers, storytellers, and poets is
frequent throughout early Anglo-Irish history. See Myles Y.
Honan, The Reformation in Ireland Under Elizabeth, p. 85.
39 This is the designation for the Irish throughout
the Statute of Kilkenny.
It is of passing interest to note that, "The English
language was ordered to be used in the law courts in England
in 1362— five years before the Statute of Kilkenny.n Hayden
and Moonan, o£. cit., p. I64 (footnote).
legislation in Ireland.
The law was impotent and since it
was against the Irish it conditioned their "agin the law"
Secondly, it.initiated the temporary abandonment
of conquest and substituted the establishment of a colony or
"Pale"^l within Ireland, " . . . protected by artificial
barriers from being absorbed into the national life."^2
Following the Statute of Kilkenny there was a great
revival of Irish nationalism and Gaelic culture.43
This was
the period of Art MacMurrough Kavanaugh, one of the most
successful of Irish rebellionists.
Whether by coincidence
or because of some deeper sociological drives the most
successful Irish rebellions have been during periods of
Gaelic renaissance.
As this study will in part indicate, one
could almost lay down the postulate that Irish rebellions
have been successful almost in proportion to the Gaelic cul­
ture extant during the uprising.
The obvious limitations of time and study have made
it unwise to trace in great detail the history of religion
in Ireland.
Mention must be made, however, of the curious
^ The word "Pale" used from this point forward in
Irish history to designate the English sphere of influence,
comes from an earthern ditch with a palisade running around
the English possessions in Dublin. See Green, Irish
Nationality, p. 111.
Hayden and Moonan, o£. cit., p. 16?.
4^ Green, Irish Nationality, Chap. ¥11, "The Second
Irish Revival," pp. 11-1^4.
fact that while the Statute of Kilkenny had little effect
on Gaelic culture other than as a recognition of its con­
dition, it was the beginning of English, or more properly,
foreign, domination of the Irish church.
The Irish Church
ceased being a national church.
King Richard II of England made two expeditions to
Ireland during this period, one in 1394 and the last in
These expeditions marked the introduction of "the
Irish question," into international affairs.
It is generally
conceded that the reason for Richard’s first invasion was to
prove to the German princes who taunted him about his lack of
control over Ireland that he could control this island and
thus enhance his candidacy for the crown of the Holy Roman
Empire, by right of his marriage.
His second expedition was
to revenge the Irish victory of Kells during which the
English leader, Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, the recognized
heir to Eng-land’s throne was killed.44
while on this expedi­
tion Richard received word that his cousin
Lancaster, had claimed the throne.
Henry, Duke of
Richard immediately sailed
for England only to be captured, deposed and murdered.
From the death of Richard II to the accession of Henry
VII, a period of over eighty-five years, the English Crown
^ Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., p. 171, point out
that, "The loss of Richard’s accepted heir in this battle was
a chief cause of the ’Wars of the Roses,’ which for thirty
years made all England a battlefield."
was an impotent factor in Irish politics.
There was no
central government capable of exerting any power.
and interprovincial warfare continued unchecked, but accom­
panied by a curious breakdown inithe clan structure.
clans became feudalized. ^
The growth of the arbitrary power
of the chief was reflected in a diminishment of the former
privileges of the free clan.
This change was not a sudden
one but a gradual process undoubtedly based on imitation of
the Norman lords.
The Gaelic customs which went to make up
the clan life continued as before and there was one funda­
mental Gaelic concept which paradoxically enough, was not
touched by this new influence, namely, land tenure.
important element of the ownership of the land was the only
thing that prevented the chief from being equivalent to a
feudal lord."46
The accession to the English throne of Henry VII,
first of the Tudors, created a new English order in Ireland.
The Tudors evinced more interest in Ireland than their pre­
decessors and eventually won back all that had been*lost and
Early in the reign of Henry VII the majority of the
Irish in the vicinity of the pale caused his displeasure by
espousing the cause of Lambert Simnel, the Yorkist pretender.
45 Ibid-, P- 176.
Loc. cit.
This was the first in a long chain of incidents in which
the Irish have displayed the unhappy faculty of choosing the
wrong side'of English politics.^ 7 One of the instigators of
the Simnel plot, during which many of the Irish renounced
allegiance to Henry VII, was Garrett .Mor, "the Great Earl of
Kildare,” most illustrious of the G e r a l d i n e s . D u r i n g the
early ascendency of Henry VII there was considerable rivalry
between the Geraldines and the Butlers, two of the oldest
English names in Irish history.
The Geraldines gained the
upper hand in this interfamily struggle patterned after the
interclan rivalries.
Henry determined after careful
maneuvering to test the power of Kildare, nominal head of the
With the object of curtailing the Geraldines,
4V In continuation of this point it seems almost im­
possible that within such a short interval, 1492, Perkin
Warbeck could land at Cork and, after announcing himself as
Richard, Duke of York, gain some Irish support, particularly
from the Anglo-Irish. Joyce, A Social History of Ancient
Ireland, p. 186.
^ For a discussion of Garrett Mor and the..Geraldines
see Edmund Curtis, "Those Geraldines, Those Geraldines,”
The Dublin Magazine, No. 2 (new series), 9:21-26, AprilJune, 1934;
P. W. Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland,
Chap. XVII, "Garrett, Ninth Earl of Kildare,” note particularly
the discussion of the Gaelicization of the Geraldines, p. 367.
The vagaries of assimilation are forcefully seen
in the Geraldines as noted by Wingfield-Stratford, o£. cit.,
pp. 222-223, "The family that had produced the bitterest of
Ireland’s detractors in Giraldus Cambrensis was to give birth,
as the Fitzgeralds, to some of her noblest patriots and
limiting the power of the Norman-Irish parliaments in
Ireland, and further curbing Gaelic civilization, Sir Edward
Poynings was sent to Ireland as Lord Deputy in 1494.
new Lord Deputy summoned a parliament at Drogheda which
passed several anti-Irish, acts; declared that all offices
were to be held at the King*s pleasure; that none but persons
of English birth should have the custody of the royal castles;
and that all grants of—land made-by the Crown during the past
two centuries were revoked.
The results of this parliament
came to be known collectively as "Poynings Act."4*9
Since this act virtually revived the Statute of
Kilkenny, except the part forbidding the use of the Irish
language,^0 Poynings was able to charge Kildare with several
counts and send him a prisoner to England.
Again "Poynings
Act” like the Statute of Kilkenny was directed against the
Norman-Irish and the English colonists in Ireland.
when English law was extended over all Ireland the native
Irish felt its effect.
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, Chap. XV,
”Poynings Law.” It should be noted that this set of laws
included several restrictions against Irish trade and commerce.
For example, any product of Irish industry was prohibited from
being shipped from Ireland without a permit. This was further
complicated by compelling all vessels loaded in Ireland to go
to English ports to obtain clearance and permission to make
the voyage.
Ibid.. p. 349j " . . . which could not be carried out,
as the language was now used everywhere, even through the
English settlements.”
The figure of "the Great Earl of Kildare" stands out
in this period.
He practiced the Irish customs of fosterage,
married his women relatives into the Gaelic families, exacted
coyne and livery, and entered into the interclan warfare.
For any or all of these he was sent a prisoner to England hut
it is in keeping with the exploits of the man that he re­
turned to Ireland as Lord Deputy.
Irish learning.
The Norman and English invasions, as
has been previously stressed, arrested Irish learning.
considerable Gaelic education persisted.
Several "books"
survive from this period which are the product of lay pro­
fessional scholars such as the Annals of Ulster by Cathal
The Annals of Tighernach were continued through
1407 by Augustine 0*Grady, the historical tract Exploits of
Turlough 0 *Brien by Rory MacCraith, and the Leabhar Breac
or Speckled Book of Duniry was written by one of the Maclgans,
a renowned literary family.
The period from the twelfth to the fifteenth century
marked also a change in the Gaelic language.
Following the
Norman-English invasions the Old Irish lost much of its pure
grammatical, form and simplicity, and the language changed to
what we know as Middle Irish.
It has been observed that,
"Between the written Irish of the present day and the Middle
Irish of the Book of Leinster there is at least as much
difference as between Modern English and the language of
The Irish Rebellions.
The Geraldines were the princi­
pal factors in Irish politics during the reign of Henry VII/
The rebellion of "Silken Thomas," Garrett Mor’s son, had the
effect of discontinuing the practice of an Anglo-Irish
viceroy and changing the policy of appointment to a "paid
official, sent fresh from
The First Geraldine
League was formed combining against the Lord Deputy and his
government the Gaelicized Hormans and the native Irish
Its power was somewhat weakened by a policy of con­
ciliation on the part of the Lord Deputy, Leonard Grey.
Following the hostilities in 1539 the First Geraldine League
dispersed with the departure from Ireland of young Gerald of
When Henry VIII came to the English throne conditions
in Ireland were such as to force him to decide between giving
up the country altogether or putting forth the strength and
expense of authority necessary to regain English domination.
Henry VIII first attempted to carry the reformation into
Ireland and this he attempted with but little success except
5 1 I b i d .. P.
52 Hayden and Moonan, op_. cit., p. 200. This marked
also the first effort of the Irish to enlist aid from the
continent, ibid., p. 209.
53 An early instance of the strange dependency of
Irish rebellions on the one leader.
for the dissolution of the monasteries.^
This dissolution
struck a hard blow at Gaelic education for much of it was
conducted and cherished in the monasteries.
actions Henry VIII adopted the policy of
In his political
c o n c i l i a t i o n . 55
English government in Ireland at this time, ". . . rested on
two contradictory assumptions— that the King of England was
•Lord of Ireland,1 and that the native Irish were his
In his plan to gain the submission of the
chiefs, Henry VIII established the precedent that henceforth
opposition to the English King made the chief or clansman a
To make this precedent more congruous Henry desired
to alter his title to Ireland and in Dublin June 12, 1341, a
parliament of English colonists in Ireland conferred upon
Henry VIII the title, King of
I r e l a n d . 57
Henry continued the
practice of breaking down the Gaelic concept of land
Ibia.-. pp." 204-208;
Green, Irish Nationality, p. 130. An act of 1377
” . . . vested in the king all the lands of the dissolved
Hayden and Moonan, o£. cit.. pp. 209-212.
56 Ibid., p. 208.
This is the first parliament attended by the Irish
chiefs whose status at the parliament was that of visitors.
The Irish and many of the Anglo'-Irish chiefs did not speak
nor understand English, and for their benefit the Earl of
Ormond translated some of the speeches into Irish. Joyce,
Short History of Gaelic Irelandt p. 208;
See also Green, Irish Nationality, pp. 125-150.
& blow was aimed at the clan system by bestowing
English titles on Irish chiefs.59
The Tudor policy through­
out was one of strong Anglicization.^O
After the death of Henry ¥111 the English government
entered in earnest the long struggle of forcing the Irish to
become Protestant.
Plantations were introduced.61 These two
points of controversy, in direct contradiction to the corres­
ponding Gaelic beliefs, were fundamentally the cause of the
four great rebellions which followed and which nearly depop­
ulated Ireland: the Rebellion of Shane O'Neill, the Geraldine
Rehellion, the Rebellion of Hugh O'Neill and the Rebellion
of 1611.
Ibid., Chap. ¥111, "The Taking of the Land," pp.
125-140. The dissolution of the monastaries and the confis­
cation of their land by the king had a weakening effect on
the Gaelic system of land tenure.
59 Hayden and Moonan,
o j d . cit; ,
>■ pp. 211-212; *
.Wingfield-Stratford, o£. cit., p. 458. Hot only
did this weaken respect for the old clan titles but intro­
duced the English legal concept of primogeniture, a concept
in the Brehon Laws.
60 Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. 211.
Allied with Anglicization under the Tudors and the warfare
that went with it was the introduction of gunpowder and can­
non into Anglo-Irish warfare in 1525. This revolutionized
warfare in Ireland with the capture of the hitherto impreg­
nable Fitzgerald stronghold of Maynooth. See Ronan, op. cit.,
"Introduction," p. xvii.
61 Plantations meant to, ". . . plant the country with
colonists from England and Scotland, for whom the native in­
habitants were to be expelled," Joyce, A Short History of
Gaelic Ireland, p. 210. For the first instance of use, see
Muir,op. cit., pp. 325-326.
The Rebellion of Shane O ’Neill.
Irish history is
frequently more biographical than national and in Shane
O ’Neill known as Sean an diomais, John the Proud, Ireland
had her most outstanding figure since Brian Boroimhe.
of a controversial and slanderous nature has been written
about Shane O ’Neill.
This controversy is summed up in the
following quotation:
Few of Ireland’s heroes have been painted in such
repellant colours as Shane the Proud. This work, done
by enemies in his own day, has been continued ever
since more or less on the same lines, by unfriendly
hands. One point in particular calls for exhaustive
inquiry, and, until it is cleared up, the memory of
Shane must continue to suffer at the hands of his own
countrymen. Was Shane concerned merely with his own
supremacy in Ulster? Or had he all the time before
his mind the vision of Ireland a Nation, with no alien
foe treading its sacred.soil and no alien influence
moulding its destinies?^
It is in the answer to this question that most of the
difference centers.^
Regardless of Shane’s place as an
Ronan, o£. cit.» p. 219. An entertaining semifictional biograpEy of Shane O ’Neill is E. Boyd Barrett,
The Great 0 ’Neill.
The majority of the historians are of the opinion
that Shane was not an advocate of nationalism but concerned
primarily with his own personal fortunes in Ulster. This is
particularly true of earlier historians and those not favor­
ably disposed to Gaelicism. For example, Wingfield-Stratford,
op. cit.» p. 458, r,Not even patriotism can make anything but
a thorough-paced scoundrel of such a leader as Shane O ’Neill
n >*
R. Bagwell, Ireland Under the Tudors, II, 119, gives
the typical reaction, "By far the most remarkable Irishman of
his time, he cannot be regarded as in any sense a national
hero. His ambition was limited to making himself supreme in
Ulster. Had he been allowed to oppress his own border, it is
not likely that he would have troubled the Pale, or denied the
titular sovereignty of England.” ;
an advocate of nationalism, certain factors relating to
Gaelic culture merit discussion.
He must be observed as a
chief, primarily a militarist, rather than as an exponent of
the arts.
Even his severest contemporary critics admitted
that he ruled his own clan well.
His earliest quarrel with
England was for the succession of his father’s chieftainship
of the clan.
Shane had been the tanist during his father’s
lifetime and therefore according to Brehon Law should have
been his successor.
There was a reputed illegitimate son,
Matthew, who was made baron of Dungannon by the English gov­
ernment with an insertion in the patent of nobility that this
illegitimate son could succeed to Shane’s father Conn O ’Neill’s
English title, Earl of Tyrone.
This was the quarrel between
the English concept of succession of title and the Gaelic one.
Shane chose the Gaelic method and became the 0 ’Neill.^
^ (continued)
J. A. -jfroude-,* -The Reign of Elizabeth, VIII, 429 in
History of England series, is of suBFtantially the same opinion;
On the. other side of the controversy, Ronan, o]D. cit. ,
p. 220, a more recent writer than any of the foregoing, points
out, ,T. . . there is some evidence available to warrant the
conclusion that at least towards the end of his days he had made
up his mind that no single Irish chief, whether Celt or Norman,
whether in Ulster or Munster, was safe as long as there was an
English soldier or an English official.on Irish soil1 . . .
^ Catholic Bulletin, ’Wine from the Royal Pope,’ Dublin, May
1925, pp. 446-447.)"
* In the Irish tongue the chief of the clan was known
as O rNeill, O ’Donnell, MacSweeney, et cetera, other elansmen
were known by their Christian names. In translating into
English this form of address for chiefs the article ’’the’* was
substituted before the family name of the chief.
assumption of this title was in itself a challenge to the
English government and was so taken by the interim Lord
Deputy, Sir Henry
The fencing of Elizabeth and Shane was, as has been
observed, ". . . one of the most interesting, if tiresome,
episodes in the reign of the astute
Shane attempted
to maintain the old Gaelic order which his oath upon accepting
the chieftancy pledged him. ^7
referred to frequently in
English histories as rude and uncouth.
From the standpoint of
the English he probably was, and they had the opportunity to
see him at first hand for he visited Elizabeth in London.^
Yet Shane was not uncouth in the eyes of the Irish; his
correspondence is written in both Latin and Irish,^9 ana
^ Charles G. Walpole, A Short History of the Kingdom
of Ireland, pp. 84-65. See Sussex’s report to Elizabeth on
conditions in Ireland, stressing the danger of Irish captainries? to be found in Honan, op. cit.« pp. 80-81. For a dis­
cussion of Irish captainries (the English manner of referring
to chieftancy of the clan), see Ibid., pp. 283-284.
66 Ibid.. p. U7.
Some idea of Shane’s attitude toward the English
may be obtained from the name he gave a castle built about
15o0, Fooa na-Gall or Hatred of the English, Joyce, A Short
History of Gaelic' Ireland, p. 407.
A commentary on Anglo-Irish understanding is seen
in the necessity for taking two days to have Shane’s speech
in Irish to Elizabeth translated into English on the occasion
of this visit, Honan, op. cit., p. 62.
.Ibid., p. 83, footnote 1
F r e n c h .
An-attitude of which many could be cited to show the
clash of English and Gaelic attitudes in regard to Shane is
the often-quoted comment, "He admitted that he had killed his
brother, but he saw nothing in so ordinary an action but what
was right and reasonable.”71
Shane’s action in this regard
was well within the provisions of the Brehon Law since this
purported brother,72 the Baron of Dungannon, occupied the
headship of the clan illegally.
Shane’s relation to the.
Baron of Dungannon, from Shane’s standpoint, was less than
Elizabeth’s relation to Mary Queen of Scots.
their killing of these two persons was predicated on similar
drives; yet Shane is rude and Elizabeth is one of England’s
70 Hayden and Moonan, op. cit.t p. 227.
71 J. A. Froude, The Reign of Elizabeth, I, A01.
72 Jroude's use of the word brother is here subject
to question. All of the histories assert that Matthew was
an illegitimate son and at most a half-brother. Shane
denied that his father was Matthew’s rightful father. Froude
is certainly aware of this because he quotes a colloquial
explanation of this on Shane’s part, "Shan O ’Neill to Queen
Elizabeth, February 8, 1561: Irish MSS’.’’ from I. A. Froude,
History of England, VIII, 19. A critical reaction to
Froude is found in the bibliographical remarks in William
O ’Connor Morris, Ireland 1A9A-1905. particularly p. 392,
”. . . he is very inaccurate, and his animus against the
Irish Celtic race has repeatedly distorted his judgement.”
greatest rulers.
Shane’s failure was ;the failure of the.Gaelic social
structure against repeated English invasions.
His efforts
toward unification were frequently made impossible by his
own rigid adherence to the clan system in Ulster.
That is
to say, while Shane, to wage successful war against England,
required ultimately a united Gaelic Ireland, his enmity with
the O’Donnell’s, his Ulster neighbors, made this unification
impossible and weakened his position time and again.
fell a victim to the English policy of fostering the inter7L
family and interclan discord. ^ His attack on the Scots of
The MacDonnell of the Isles at Elizabeth’s request after his
visit had an undeniable part in the circumstances surrounding
his death.
Elizabeth’s reign of Ireland was typified by laws
against such fundamentally Gaelic concepts as: land tenure,
clan system, military enlistments, language, and the native
73 The point of this discussion is not a comparison
of Shane and Elizabeth but a comparison of historical treat-,
ment. Much of the misunderstanding is predicated on a lack
of understanding of the Gaelic concepts. A phase of histor­
ical treatment which further indicates a partiality is found
in the discussions of the various attempts to poison Shane
in one of which Froude clearly indicates implication in the
plot on the part of Elizabeth, but not much space is given
to this.
74 Ronan, op. cit., pp. 215-216.
arts of poetry and
m u s i c .
in addition her introduction of
the reformation to Ireland raised for centuries the religious
Shane, typifying as he did the outstanding Gaelic
leader of these times, had no choice other than a defense of
the Gaelic social system in which he believed.
His devotion
to the Roman Catholic religion made him a further focal point
of attack and did much to amalgamate in Ireland the Roman
Catholic and the Gaelic points of view.
The issue of Shane’s
moral conduct has been raised countless times and cannot be
denied in light of modern attitudes, but it was certainly
little different than the prevailing Irish level of his time.
The death of Shane left the chieftanship of the .*
O ’Neills open.
The English government allowed the title of
The O ’Neill to fall in accordance with the Brehon Law of
tanistry to Turlough Luinagh O ’Neill.
The existence of the
Gaelic custom of fosterage proscribed by the Statute of
Kilkenny and Poynings’ Act is shown here in the fact that
Turlough Luinagh O ’Neill was so called because he had been
75 a comparison of the contemporary English and
Gaelic attitudes toward the arts is drawn by Hyde, oj>. cit.,
p. x, "The greatest English bard of the Elizabethan age was
allowed by his countrymen to perish of poverty in the
streets of London, while the pettiest chief of the meanest
clan would have been proud to lay his hearth and home and a
share of his wealth at the disposal of any Irish ’ollamh.m
fostered by 0*Luinagh of
The Geraldine Rebellion.
The rebellion of Shane
O ’Neill was confined for the most part to Ulster or northern
The rebellion of the Geraldines took place in the
southern part of Ireland.
The leader of the Geraldine Re­
bellion was James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, a name too little
known or discussed in Irish history.77
It is important in recognizing the power of Gaelic
assimilation to realize that in the Geraldine rebellion we
have the descendents of the Norman invaders fighting for
the perpetuation of Gaelic customs.
The rebellion was given
impetus by the arrest and imprisonment in London of Gerald,
the sixteenth Earl of Desmond, and his brother John.
this act James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, their cousin, and in
their absence nominal head of the Geraldines, went into re­
His resources and military equipment were inferior
^ Walpole, o ]d . cit.:,. p. 88. A curious attempt at
utilizing the Gaelic concept of fosterage in reverse; that
is by taking Irish children to England, raising them as
English and anti-Irish, and then returning them as English
governmental servants, is pointed out by Reverend C. J.
Herlihy, The Celt Above the Saxon, p. 75. He gives as an
outstanding example Murrough O ’Brien, who later became the
dreaded Lord Inchiquin and was called Murrough the Burner
by the Irish.
For a discussion of this peculiar neglect, see
Ronan, o£* cit., pp. 285, 287.
to the English and in 1572 he submitted to Perrott, then
President of Munster, after a sequence of guerrilla warfare.
In the same year the Earl of Desmond was pardoned on the
impossible conditions that he,
. . assist the government
in pacifying the country, to abolish the Brehon Laws, coyne
and livery, and all such imposts, and to discourage
minstrels, rhymers, and story tellers.
He was made to
promise in short to Anglicize himself and his people. . ."78
The English government was making definite efforts to
Anglicize the Irish.
Among these efforts were the acts for
the erection of free schools, or "Charter schools."79
Everything possible was done in the best of conscience to
eradicate Gaelic concepts.
Elizabeth^ representatives
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. 421;
Ronan, op. cit., pp. 430-431, comments on similar
requirements which Perrott, Lord President of Munster, sought
to impose on Desmond and quotes the statement of Froude,
History of England, X, 300, "Excellent regulations all of
them, lf~Tn troduc ed by England with a strong hand, or if
sanctioned by Desmond from a conviction of their inherent
fitness. But as matters stood, the Earl was required to do
everything that England had struggled to do by force, and
had failed. The Irish chiefs were to subdue their own people
by means of English laws."
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. 424.
Divergence in English and Irish his’torical attitude may be
seen by comparing the foregoing reference which characterizes
the "Charter schools" as, ”. . . the precursor of all those
attempts to proselytise the Irish through the medium of
education” ;
J. A. Froude, The English in Ireland, II? 491, who
states they were,
. .the best conceived educational
institutions that existed in the world."
seem to have been universally anti-Irish and with a belief
that some particular Gaelic concept was the reason for the
trouble with the Irish and Ireland.
Sussex, for example,
considered the custom of Irish captainries, or clan system,
to be the chief cause of Irish disorder, ■ whereas with Sir
John Perrott, it was the custom of tanistry.81
The Geraldine rebellion was a failure and like all
Gaelic rebellions to this point it failed partly because of
the death of its leader, James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald.
in the case of Shane O fNeill, his death at the hands of one
of Clan Burke was an outgrowth of interclan dissension.
Fitzmaurice, as he is known, did come closer to solidifying
Ireland in the name of country and religion than any of his
He almost secured considerable foreign help
through the Pope.
Perhaps the greatest effect of the
Geraldine rebellion was the inculcation into Gaelic Ireland
of a spirit of resistance which survived through the
^ .
The Rebellion of Hugh O^Neill.
Ireland was now a
land drenched in the blood of frequent uprising and
Ronan, 0£. cit., pp. 80-81.
Ibid., p. 439.
82 For an estimation of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald
and the Geraldine Rebellion, see ibid., p. 288.
skirmishes between the English government and individual
chiefs such as Fiach MacHugh 0 ’Byrne, known colorfully as
”The Firebrand of the Mountains.”
The policy of the English
government under Perrott, now Deputy, was to secure hostages
from the individual chiefs and clans, thereby securing peace.
He had, however, no hostage from the powerful O ’Donnells and
determined by a ruse to capture Hugh Roe O ’Donnell.
young Hugh was living in fosterage with The MacSweeney of
An English captain was sent by Perrott to Rathmullan
the castle of The MacSweeney on the shores of Dough Swilly
where by trickery they captured Hugh.^3
in this act the
English government lost the loyalty of the O ’Donnells.
Roe O ’Donnell spent four years in Dublin Castle but managed
to escape and join Hugh O ’Neill.
Then began the preparation
for the rebellion of the two Hughs known as the rebellion of
Hugh O ’Neill.
This rebellion was one that reflected at times a
uniting of all.Gaelic Ireland.
The Irish under the military
genius of Hugh O ’Neill defeated the English at the battle of
the Yellow Ford in the greatest reversal the English had
suffered since the invasion.
The two Hughs were successful
in obtaining some foreign aid but lost their power with their
defeat at the battle of Kinsale.
The defeat at Kinsale was
^ Reverend Paul Walsh, translator, Leabhar Chlaine
Suibhne, p. xxx.
largely accomplished by an informer giving the battle plans
to the English.^
With this defeat the Irish cause was again
The intensification of issues.
Certain clear-cut
points of conflict were now present in Ireland.
The English
were determined to anglicize the Irish in all matters even
to the extent of religion.
This policy resulted in numerous
clashes which made the progress of Gaelic culture an extremely
desultory procedure as well as being against the English law.
In the fifteenth century the Gaelic language entered the
stage we now know as Modern Irish . ^
the present day.
This is the Gaelic of
The first Gaelic printed dates from this
It is symbolic of Anglo-Irish clash that the first
book actually printed in Gaelic was a catechism of the
Anglican church to be used for the carrying out of the
reformation in I r e l a n d . T h r e e years after the turn of the
seventeenth century is the date generally used to indicate
the completion of the English conquest of Ireland.
Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, p. 260.
Joyce, A Short History of Gaelic Ireland, p. A.
Ronan, 0£. cit., pp. 360-361, footnote 1.
FROM 1600 TO 1800
The period from 1600 to 1800 marks the first two cen­
turies of recognized English conquest.
The destructive and
frequent warfare of these two centuries almost wiped out
Gaelic culture.
This attempt to destroy Gaelic culture was
further aided by the elimination of the Gaelic political
structure and organization from the national scene, and the
denying of education to the Gaelic population unless they
renounced their language, religion and many of their cul­
tural beliefs.
The land question arose in an agrarian form
and from this time on occupied a prominent portion of what
in British politics came to be known as the Irish question.
Apart from this study of the Anglo-Irish phase of Gaelic in­
fluence, but generic to the influence of culture itself, was
the exile of Irish scholars^ and soldiers^ to practically
The foundation of Trinity College by Elizabeth in
1593 was partly to meet this exodus, but since the Reformed
doctrines were to be exclusively taught this automatically
prohibited the attendance of Catholic Irish. Catholic Irish
meant Gaelic Irish and the overwhelming majority of the pop­
ulation. Mary Hayden and George A. Moonan, A Short History
of the Irish People, p. 284.
This may be thought of as generic to our study by
such examples as the battle of Fontenoy, May 11, 1745> when
the Irish Brigades turned back the English and gave the
French victory. The Irish battle cry on that day was,
"Remember Limerick and British Faith!" Joseph I. C. Clarke,
"The Fighting Race," The Glories of Ireland, edited by Dunn
and Lennox, p. 124*
every country in Europe.
It is during these two centuries
that Anglo-Irish relations develop and meet with frequent
This failure was due in no small part to factors
of Gaelic culture which were disregarded or unknown by the
English government.
It should also be kept in mind that the
English government acted in the best of conscience adhering
to concepts quite acceptable to the European civilization of
the particular chronological period.
James I.
When James I came to the throne of England,
hope spread rampant over Ireland.
James was a descendent of
Edward Bruce, the last Celtic king of Ireland, and it was
hoped that at last Ireland had a friend on the English
While the time of Edward Bruce was the fourteenth
century, memory is long in Irish politics and the habit of
emphasizing the importance of genealogies was a part of
Gaelic culture.
This line of reasoning was championed by
Archbishop Lombard of Armagh, the agent for the Irish chiefs,
in Rome.
He believed that James would become a Catholic -and
thus alleviate the anti-Catholic legislation; beyond be­
lieving this himself he spread the belief throughout Ireland.^
Great was the consternation of the Irish when James revived
two enactments against Catholics which during the recent
^ Myles V. Ronan, The Reformation in Ireland Under
Elizabeth, pp. 286-287.
warfare had fallen into disual: the acts of Supremacy and
The first required the taking of an oath that
the king was spiritual head of the church before anyone
might hold any governmental office, practice as a lawyer, or
take possession of an estate to be held from the king.
Roman Catholic could possibly take such an oath.
The second
act provided fines for anyone in Ireland who .absented him­
self from Protestant service on Sundays.
Next came the greatest blow yet suffered by the
Gaelic social structure: the plantations of Ulster and
The plantation of Ulster was the result of the
confiscation of the huge estates of Hugh O’Neill and Rory
O ’Donnell after they left Ireland in that episode known as
"the flight of the Earls.”
This confiscation resulted from
the rebellion of Hugh O’Neill and a later ill-advised up­
rising by Cahir 0 ’Dougherty.
The huge territory of Ulster
was given in subdivisions to persons brought from England
and Scotland who were prohibited by law from taking Irish
The expelled Irish left the country to enter
^ P. W. Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, pp. 279280.
^ Ibid*> PP* 280-283;
Hayden and Moonan, o j d . cit. , pp. 272-275» 291-r293;
Esme Wingfield-Stratford, The History of British
Civilization, p. 528, an English historian indicates the
unanimous historical viewpoint toward the plantations, ’’The
system of plantation, which was nothing more nor less than
that of robbing the Irish of their own lands in order to
make way for British adventurers. . . . ”
foreign military service, or fled to the hills and became
in. the eyes of the English law, outlaws.
The plantation
system overthrew the prevailing Gaelic order and .brought
about the "land problem.”
While Irish tenents were legally
prohibited, the early laxness of enforcement of English law
in Ireland outside the Pale permitted the former Irish pos­
sessors of the land to return with high rents and difficult
conditions of tenancy.
The extent of this illegal return to
the land (under a new English law) by the previous legal
owners (under the ancient Brehon Law) was considerable.
1624, the London Companies had 4,000 Irish tenants on their
estates, according to the terms of their charter, they should
not have had a single one.”
The king created the order of baronet to pay for attendant administrative expenses in the plantations.
typical disregard for another phase of Gaelic culture the
English, government decreed that these newly created baronets
were to have on their coat of arms- the Lauv derg or "Bloody
hand," hereditary symbol of the O ’Neills.
No emblem ever
stood for greater hatred of the English in Ireland.
Terror reigned in Ireland, a terror of losing land
and status through the process of English law.
Hayden and Moonan, op. cit., p. 274
^ Joyce, op. cit., p. 282.
Seven eighths
of the property of Ulster was transferred from Irish chiefs
and clansmen to English settlers.
Under James I English
law was finally and officially applied to all I r e l a n d . ^
Lord Deputy in 1813 summoned an Anglo-Irish parliament to
pass legislation under the king’s will for Ireland.
Protestant majority in Catholic Ireland was insured by the
creation of
. . . forty ’spurious* boroughs, nearly all among
the settlers of Ulster; little hamlets with only a
few inhabitants which did not deserve to be specially
represented in parliament; each to return two members.
There seemed little hope for Gaelic Ireland.
The death of James I in 1625 brought his son Charles
I to the English throne.
Charles I entered his.reign in
financial straits and with this knowledge a group of Irish
gentry representing both Catholics and Protestants, encour­
aged by Falkland the Lord Deputy, agreed to pay L 120,000 in
return for certain guarantees or ’’Graces.”
There were over
fifty graces which the king acceded to among the most im­
portant of which were that land owners should own their land
without jeopardy from discoverers,11 and that Catholics
^ Francis Hackett, The Story of the Irish Nation, p.
Joyce, op. cit*> P* 283*
^0° » cit.
11 Discoverers was the name given to persons who gave
information regarding titles to land which could be consid­
ered faulty. In return for this information, they received
should not be molested on account of their religion.
ever, once in possession of the money Charles I broke his
Charles I sent the able Wentworth to Ireland as Lord
Deputy in 1633.
Wentworth had the notion typical of early
represntatives of the crown that ”. . . the Irish were an
inferior race who only wanted a few years of firm govern13
ment to reduce them to a contented obedience.”
representative of his legal proceedings was his invitation
of the Galway grand jury made up of Anglo-Irish to decide
that certain lands should be transferred to the title of the
”The jury refused.
The sheriff went to jail, where
he died, and the jurors were fined L 4,000 each.
A more im­
aginative jury found a title for the crown in April, 1637."^
Wentworth confiscated the province of Connacht by
breaking the titles to the land.
He did this by a regular
trial in each case but these trials have been analyzed as
frequently farces.
Similarly he confiscated Clare and a
H (continued)
either the estates or a bribe from the owner. Faulty titles
indicated conflicts between the Brehon Laws and the English
laws or changes in the English law. In many instances the
mere bringing to trial of a contested estate resulted in
English ownership. See Joyce, op. cit., pp. 283-285.
12 I£id., p. 285.
Wingfield-Stratford, pp. cit., pp. 530-531
Hackett, pp. cit.» p. 141.
large portion of Tipperary.
He destroyed the woolen trade
in southern Ireland and created the linen trade in Ulster.
This meant the intensification of agriculture in the Catholic
south and the trend toward industry by the Protestant north.
Wentworth*s friends and advisors indicated that his Irish
policy would result in a troublesome future but he did not
heed them knowing that he had the full support of Charles I.
In 1640 Charles I recalled him to assume command against the
Scotch c o v e n a n t e r ,15 and the following year saw some of the
results of his Irish sojourn.
Irish literature.
It is astonishing that during a
period of such stress Irish culture should have a brief re­
The last great bardic contest was held early in
the seventeenth century.
Later in this same century the
bards were to direct their songs to the masses of the people
and the older intricate forms of versification from the
bardic schools were forsaken.
That there should be a
renaissance of Irish literature during the first half of the
seventeenth century is curious in that during this period
the Gaelic social system was being destroyed.
The literature
^ For a discussion of Wentworth*s activities, see
Joyce, op. cit., pp. 284-287.
For the technical changes in Gaelic prosody begun
at this time, see Douglas Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland,
PP. 539-551.
of the seventeenth century is among the best preserved.
poetry of the seventeenth century, particularly after the
change from the ancient bardic restrictions of prosody, was
a beautiful sounding verse which came into full flower about
the middle of the eighteenth century.
The use of vowel
sounds and accentuated syllables make it impossible to con­
vey the spirit of this poetry in translation."^
This poetry
told the life of the Gael but it was not nationally patri­
otic in the sense that the-poetry of the later eighteenth
century was.
Denied the means of education and legislated
against under English rule the Gaelic population ”. . .
turned for solace to poetry, and in it they vented their
wrongs and bitter grief.”
There occurred that lamentation
of the past in Gaelic poetry which exists in modern Gaelic
w r i t i n g . T h e Jacobite poetry was prolific and patriotic
in character.
A few examples at random throw added instances of
lack of understanding on Anglo-Irish relations.
Mountjoy and Sir George Carewe employed Angus O'Daly, known
While acknowledging this impossibility, Ibid., pp.
543 ff., nevertheless gives some examples which illustrate
this as closely as it is possible in translation.
Ibid., p. 591.
A typical poem of lamentation of this period which
is yet full of power in the Gaelic tongue is the lamentation
of Egan O'Rahilly.
as Angus of the Satires, to satirise all the Gaelic families
in Ireland and in addition the sympathetic Anglo-Normans.
Satire as uttered in a rann by a poet was a powerful instru­
ment of social ridicule and enough to bring down the ridicule
of the countryside.
One of the ranns
of Angus O ’Daly sat­
irising the inborn evil of the Fitzgibbons written at the
beginning of the seventeenth century was often quoted two
hundred years later about Fitzgibbon, Lord Clare, who aided
in the passage of the Union.2<“* The attitude of the
Cromwellian invasion is somewhat different, as seen in the
ancedote which tells how Tadhg MacDire, famous poet of the
Contentions, was hurled over a cliff by a Cromwellian sol­
dier with the shout "Say your rann now, little man!"2**- The
steady, determined effort of the English government to elim­
inate the Gaelic language was in itself almost sufficient to
render Gaelic literature little more than a vague pursuit
for philologists.
Among the prose writers of this period two names
stand out: Geoffrey Keating and Duald MacFirbis.
History of Ireland, while not representative of critical
historical writing is nevertheless of value as a repository
of customs and as an example seldom surpassed even today of
20 Hyde, 0£. cit., p. U 7 7 .
Alice S. Green, Irish Nationality, p. 152.
the classical writing of Modern Irish.22
Duald MacFirbis is
most famous for his Book of Genealogies.2^
In addition to
various other prose works he compiled a glossary of the an­
cient laws, and it is significant that he mentions in his
own day Irish chieftains who governed their clans in accord­
ance with the Brehon Laws.2^
Among the famous annals of this
period no single work has assumed the historical and socio­
logical importance of The Annals of the Four Masters, com­
piled by three of the O ’Clerys and an G ’Muleonry, which was
begun in 1632 and completed in I636.
The lack of educational opportunities for the Catholic
Irish in Ireland led to an exodus of Gaelic scholars.
The '
example of ff. . . Franciscan colleges at Rome and Douai,
The reader of Gaelic will find Stories from Keating*s
History of Ireland, in Irish, edited by Gsborn Bergin, of in­
Hyde, a£. cit., pp. 552-560, discusses Keating’s
style and his place in Irish literature. Some importance may
be attached, so far as the continuity of Gaelic concepts is
concerned, to the fact that the accepted translation of
Keating*s History of Ireland is by John G’Mahoney who was the
Fenian Head Center.
Hyde, op. cit., pp. 582-564.
Zt* Ibid., p. 562.
John O’Donavan, editor and translator, The Annals
of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, 7 vols~ This
work contains the Irish text, an English translation and an
abundance of notes and is not only the most outstanding piece
of translation by any modern Irish scholar, but is the pri­
mary source book of Irish history from the year one to the
beginning of the Irish annals, see Hyde, op. cit., pp. 573582 .
where the Irish language could be spoken and an Irish culture maintained without incurring the penalties of the law,”
is not unusual*
It is for this reason that so much informa­
tion relating to Gaelic history has been uncovered in
European libraries.
The Rebellion of 1641*
The causes of the rebellion
of 164.1 are typical of the constantly recurring clashes of
Gaelic and English concepts.
The two major causes were the
land question and the legislation against Catholics.
have seen something of the conflict in the Gaelic and English
attitudes toward land tenure which culminated in the planta­
The accounts are numerous of the Gaelic citizenry
who had been driven off their land wandering about the prov27
inces in a state of abject poverty. ' The constant sight of
alien usurpers of the land that had been theirs for centuries
was an inciting cause of rebellion.
The plight of the Catholics in Ireland had grown
steadily worse.
The amalgamation in Ireland of Gaelic and
Catholic tenets has been previously stressed in this study.
Wingfield-Stratford, o£. cit., p. 527.
Green, 0£. cit. > pp. 14.4-152, tells not only of
this transplanting but of the efforts to retain learning in
Typical examples are: Diarmid Coffey, O’Neill and
Ormond, p. 7;
Joyce, 0]D. cit., p. 288.
The overwhelming majority of Gaelic Ireland was Catholic so
that legislation affecting Gaelic culture affected Catholics,
and legislation affecting Catholics in turn affected Gaelic
Legislation extirpating the Catholic religion had
been the tenor of English religious law in Ireland since the
time of Henry VIII.
The extension of English law to the
whole of Ireland under James I meant -that portions of Gaelic
Ireland hitherto not concerned with English law were now
made aware of its anti-Catholic direction.
Another contributing cause of the disastrous rebel­
lion of 16^1 was undoubtedly the success of the Scotch
Covenanters against English supremacy.
In noting the fre­
quency of Irish rebellions the statement of a leading modern
English historian, made without reference to Ireland, might
well be observed; tf* . . to rebuke others for rebellion
hardly becomes a people which, down to 1688, rebelled against
half its
Several of the Irish chiefs and gentry held meetings
to discuss the possibility of a rising.- There was reasonable
hope of foreign aid, for many of the Irish professional sol­
diers had-risen to positions of importance on the European
An invitation to lead the Irish army was extended
to Owen Roe O’Neill, nephew of the great Hugh.
Owen Roe
A. F. Pollard, Factors in American History, p. 10.
O ’Neill had left Ireland as a child in the memorable flight
of the earls.
As a soldier in the armies of Spain he had
risen to a position of military distinction.
Owen Roe ac­
cepted the command of what amounted to an Anglo-Irish
Catholic army upon his arrival in Ireland in July of 1642,'
after the rebellion was under way.
The situation in Ireland when O’Neill landed was in­
deed a confusing one.
The rebellion of 1641 had been in
process for almost eight months.
The original rising under
Sir Phelim O’Neill swept nearly all of Ulster within a week.
After this first week, during which there had been little
bloodshed, the irregular army of dispossessed peasants got
out of control.
Vengeance was wreaked by the Irish peasantry
on the persons who under Brehon Law had usurped the land.
The accounts which reached England were lurid and exagger2Q
ated. 7 No defense can be offered for any group which breaks
into rebellion and kills, other than the debatable issue of
national destiny.
In Ireland, however, such indiscriminate
cruelty was no new thing.
Certainly the damage caused by
the Irish in the early part of the rebellion of 1641 was less
than the damage caused by the English armies under Mountjoy
and Carewe from the autumn of 1600 to the end of 1602.^°
William O ’Connor Morris, Ireland 1494-1905» p. 138.
Joyce, op. cit., pp. 273-274.
The effect of the garbled accounts of the uprising
upon the English people were far-reaching.
The attitude of
public opinion in England toward this event has been de­
scribed as follows:
The English Puritans regarded the rising with the
same feelings of horror as our grandfathers felt on
hearing of the massacre of Cawnpore. Vengeance must
be taken, complete and terrible; the land must be
reconquered with more severity than ever— but by
whom ? 31
The answer to this question deals of necessity with the
First Civil War but for the purposes of Irish, history we
know the answer as Oliver Cromwell.
Before the arrival of. Cromwell on the Irish scene it
is important to note the course of the rebellion for some
seven years.
When Owen Roe O ’Neill arrived in Ireland there
were four distinct parties each with an army of its own.32
The first party was the Old Irish.
They had been oppressed
by the religious persecutions since they were all Catholics,
and further, antagonized by the plantations.
complete separation from England.
Their aim was
The Old Irish party repre
sented the continuation of Gaelic concepts in Ireland.
The second party was the Old Anglo-Irish Catholics.
They were oppressed because of their religion and to a
^ Wingfield-Stratford, o j d . cit. , p. 531.
This summary has been concised from Joyce, op.
cit., pp. 293-294.
lesser extent, since they were from the middle and south of
Ireland, from the plantations.
They wanted religious free­
dom and the guarantee of civil liberties, but they did not
want separation from England,
These two parties represented
Catholic Ireland and their inability to successfully unite
resulted in the failure of their cause.
This party repre­
sented the tempering of Gaelic concepts by the descendents
of the Normans and Hibernicized English.
The third party was the Puritans,
The membership of
this group was made up largely of Presbyterians and Scots of
Under General Munro, they cooperated with the aims
of the Covenanters of Scotland.
This meant they were
Parliamentarians and were also opposed to Catholics and the
Catholic religion.
Because of ihdentical locale they were
the particular opponents of the Old Irish party.
The fourth party was the Royalists.
Confined mostly
to the vicinity of Dublin they were made up of Protestants
of the Established Church.
They were opposed to both the
Parliamentarians and the Catholics and represented the party
of the king.
The first task confronting Owen Roe O ’Neill was some
coordination among the Catholic Irish.
Confederation of Kilkenny was called.33
Toward this end the
^ Morris, o j d . cit., p. 141, points out that the
Confederation of Kilkenny, ,f. . . was brought together by
sacerdotal influence; nothing could prove more the power of
the priesthood. . . .*
compromise was achieved by this meeting.
loyalty to the king the assembly took over in so far as
possible the government of the country.
The papal nuncio,
Rinuccini, and the Old Irish continued to insist on complete
Confusion reigned in Ireland; the Old Irish fought
the Puritans, the Anglo-Irish Catholics fought the Royalists,
while the king carried on intrigue with the Confederates and
the Parliamentarians.
There was jealousy between O ’Neill of
the Old Irish and Preston, military leader of the AngloIrish Catholic party.
In spite of the lack of supplies which
was the result of the jealousy of the Anglo-Irish Catholic
party O ’Neill inflicted a crushing defeat on Munro and the
Puritan army at Benburb.
This great victory, indicative of
O ’Neill’s military skill, restored for a short period the
prestige of the Old Irish party.
The subsequent misfortunes
of this party were in part due to O ’Neill’s lack of ability
as a statesman.
After a proposed capture of Dublin was made impossible
by Preston’s lack of cooperation with O’Neill the fortunes of
the Confederates fell.
Preston was defeated by the
Parliamentarians and Lord Inchiquin known to the Irish as
Murrough the Burner, defeated a portion of the Confederate
army under Lord Taafe.
A year later Ormond returned and as
the head of the Protestant Royalist party he made peace with
the Confederates agreeing to repeal the anti-Catholic laws
but imposing the condition that the forces should combine in
support of the king.
Charles I was beheaded and the Irish genius for es­
pousing the losing side in English politics led them to the
support of Charles II and brought Oliver Cromwell to Ireland.
Owen Hoe O ’Neill opposed the combination of forces which
would give the support of the Old Irish to the king and pled
for some settlement of the land grievances.
Less than two
months after Cromwell’s arrival Owen Hoe O ’Neill died and
Ireland lost the only general who was in any way a match for
The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland was the severest
blow Ireland had yet felt.
Oliver Cromwell conquered
Ireland as she had never been conquered before and the story
of the succession of garrisons put to the sword under the
policy of no quarter for those who surrendered, the
Protestant ascendancy, the further confiscation of land, and
the practice of starving the population into surrender by
devastating the country are to be found in both English and
Irish sources.
The hatred of Cromwell is reflected in the
centuries old curse ’’the curse of Cromwell on ye.”
in relation to his Irish venture has been epitomized as:
A Puritan, armed with a musket and the Old
Testament, attempting to reconstruct the foundations
of a community mainly Catholic, was sure to.end in
clumsy failure; and to this clumsy failure no appre­
ciation of Oliver’s greatness should "blind rational
The effect on Gaelic culture of the Cromwellian con­
quest was peculiar.
Cromwell’s expressed policy was to
drive the Irish either to ’’Hell or Connapght.”
In driving
many of the Irish toward the west he localized the Gaelic
population and in so doing diminished it.
The action of
the English parliament in professing the whole of Ireland
forfeit,25 dealt a death blow to the native Irish attempt to
maintain Gaelic civilization.
The English concept of land
tenure had now legally triumphed over the Gaelic one but the
land question was far from settled.
One of the primary objectives of the Cromwellian
settlement had been the destruction of the Catholic religion
in Ireland.
The result was the very opposite, as is seen
In Ireland as Oliver left it and as it long re­
mained the persecuted priests were the only leaders
of the people because the English had destroyed the
class of native gentry. The Cromwellian settlement
rendered the Irish for centuries;the most priest led
population in Europe.3°
A commentary on Gaelic powers of assimilation is to
John Morley, Oliver Cromwell, p. 298.
Joyce, oj). cit. , p. 308.
George Macauley Trevelyan, History of England, p.
be found in the paradoxical fact that, ”. . .
according to
Prendergast many of the children of Oliver Cromwell’s sol­
diers who had settled in Ireland could not speak a word of
Ireland now seemed indeed,
by a satire from the gods.”
. . a land blistered
Charles II made little or no
repayment of the Irish Catholic aid.
With James II Ireland
again plunged into the wrong side of English politics and
upheld the Jacobite cause.
Ireland was the scene of con­
stant warfare from the siege of Derry in 1688 to the Treaty
of Limerick in 1691.
The Treaty of Limerick was violated by
the English and Anglorlrish parliaments and Ireland passed
into the period of the penal laws.
With the Treaty of
Limerick the tradition of large-scale military resistance
to the English conquest ended.
The old Gaelic social structure placed an emphasis on
militarism-and the frequent risings had served to continue
this stress.
Prior to Limerick a few Irish militarists had
distinguished themselves on the continent but the exodus of
Irish soldiers under Patrick Sarsfield after Limerick marked
the beginning of the prominence of the Irish professional
soldier throughout the world.
The anti-Catholic legislation
Hyde, op. oit. , p. 621.
Darrell Figgis, The Return of the Hero, p. 55.
prevented Irishmen in Ireland from joining the army while
at the same time the Irish Brigades were distinguishing
themselves abroad.
Outstanding among the individual Irish
militarists in foreign service w e r e : 39 Count Lally, Major
0 ’Mahoney, General O ’Meara and Field Marshal Patrick
Saisfield in France; Prime Minister Wall in Spain, General
Peter Lacy in Russia; Field Marshal Lacy in Austria; Ambrose
0*Higgins of Chile; and Commodore John Barry, the father of
the American navy.
Gaelic Ireland while still constituting a large ma­
jority of the population passed temporarily out of the
political scene with the enactment of the Penal Laws,^ the
repression of Irish trade, particularly the woolen industry,
and the ascendency of the Anglo-Irish parliament.
Laws were enactments against Catholics.^
The Penal
These laws vir­
tually proscribed education for Catholic Ireland which was
39 Hackett, op. cit., pp. 171-172;
Clarke, op. cit., pp. 120-127.,
The contemporary writings of Jonathan Swift have
given us typical pictures of Ireland under the Penal Laws.
To Americans, Wendell Phillips, the great orator, left an
unforgettable picture of the effect of the Penal Laws in
his lecture on "Daniel O ’Connell."
^ A full bibliography with evaluative comment for
the period of the Penal Laws is to be found in Morris, op.
cit., pp.. 396-398*
now synonymous with. Gaelic I r e l a n d . T h e r e grew up in
Ireland as the only instruments of education the phenomena
of the hedge schoolmaster and the hunted priest.
The law of England as administered in Ireland during
the period of the Penal Laws, 11. . . did not presume the ex­
istence of such a person as a Catholic Irishman; that is to
say, two thirds of the inhabitants of the country had no
legal existence."4-3
Focal points in the execution of this
legal attitude were education and the Catholic Church.^
person could teach school in Ireland unless he had a license
from the Protestant bishop.
This was known as the Schism
It was further complicated in that before the license
could be granted the applicant had to submit to the
Sacramental Test.
This meant receiving the sacrament on
Sundays in-a place of worship according to the ritual of the
Anglican or Established Church, this requirement was the
famous Test Act and extended to other occupations in addition
to school teaching.
Rewards were offered for information
about unregistered schoolmasters.
Under these auspices came
Graham Balfour, The Educational Systems of Great
Britain and Ireland, p. 261. "Catholics in the eighteenth
century might neither go abroad^ nor learn from Catholics
at home . . . (5 Irish Statutes, 7 Will. Ill, c. A ss. 1,
9 :8 Anne, c. 38, s. l6.).M
R. M. Henry, The Evolution of Sinn Fein, p. 3.
Joyce, op. cit., pp. 388 ff.
the hedge schoolmaster, a man who taught subjects from
arithmetic to Latin often in the shadow of a hedge, whence
came the name.
These men, outside the law, were frequently
possessed of considerable erudition.
poets who,
Often they were Gaelic
. . wrote mellifluous songs in Irish which
were sung throughout the entire district, and sometimes
earned him enduring fame."^
All the priests in Ireland had to be registered with
the English government and approximately a thousand were so
The rest of the Catholic clergy was required
to leave Ireland by May 1, 1698.
Any who returned were
guilty, of high treason punishable by death.
The allowance
of the thousand or so priests was an attempt to end
Catholicism in Ireland.
As the registered priests died or
left the country none could take their place for it was high
treason for the older priests to return and since no bishops
were allowed no new priests might be ordained.
Again the
Gaelic and Catholic tenets were brought together by a common
The protection of hedge schoolmasters and un­
registered priests laid the groundwork for a later and
^ Reverend P. S. Dinenn, "Irish Love of Learning,"
The Glories of Ireland, edited by Dunn and Lennox, p. 41.
For a brief discussion of this phase of the Penal
Laws, see Joyce, op. cit., pp. 386-387?
The most general reference on the Penal Laws re­
mains W. H. Lecky’s History of England in the Eighteenth
Century, Vol. II, Chap. V.Ii, Vol. IV. Chaps. XVI-XVII.
similar protection among the Gaelic population for persons
."on the run" from the English government.
The Gaelic population and culture of Ireland now
entered a period of disintegration.
The Gaelic portion of
the country did not participate in national activity until
the rebellion of 1798.
The period of the Protestant
Ascendancy and the Anglo-Irish parliament while important
in Irish history have little or no relation to Gaelic cul­
The apt statement has been made in this regard that:
The names of Molyneux, Swift, Berkeley, Lucas,
Flood, Charlemont, Grattan are associated.with the
Irish nation in the eighteenth century. But these
men belong to Ireland scarcely more than Congreve,
Goldsmith, Burke, Sterne or Sheridan.47
The anti-Catholic legislation meant in practice that
the Catholic Irish were denied the privilege of entering the
professions if they remained in Ireland.
The suppression of
Irish industry and trad© left the pursuit of agriculture
alone open.
The various conflicts in English and Irish at­
titudes toward the land have been observed.
The situation
in Ireland was a curious division between Protestants and
In summation it meant:
. . . the Protestants owned the land, the Catholics
worked it and paid them rent. There were, of course,
a few Catholic landlords (especially in the west) and
there were many Protestant farmers: but in the main,
Hackett, o£. cit., p. 169.
Protestantism was' the religion of an English speaking
gentry, Catholicism of an Irish speaking peasantry.
This separateness had the effect of spreading the
Gaelic language.
It has been observed that n . . . a larger
proportion of the people spoke English in 1720 than a hundred
years later.
The Gaelic peasantry engaged in what amounted to in­
dividual instances of agrarian revolt.
These instances
typified by such groups as the Whiteboys, the Oakboys, the
Hearts of Steel, et cetera, were efforts at redress on the
part of the peasantry against the landed gentry.
secret societies among the people culminated in the formation
of the United Irishmen.5°
The formation of a secret society
is against the accepted will of the Roman Catholic Church
and this initial instance marked one of the beginnings in the
split of Irish national aims and the church.
The formation of the Catholic Committee and the United
Irishmen was followed by a temporary ray of hope in the ap­
pointment of Earl Fitzwilliam as Lord Lieutenant in 1795*
Stephen Gwynn, The Studentys History of Ireland,
Loc. cit.
p. 209.
^ The Volunteer movement should not be confused with
this general movement, although it may have had an effect in
starting it because of its success. While the Volunteer
movement was contemporaneous it did not have its roots in
the Gaelic population but was mainly a Protestant organiza­
tion for Anglo-Irish defense. Joyce, op. cit. , p. 420.
Fitzwilliam came to Ireland in his official capacity with
the avowed intention of emancipating the Catholics,
Eis ap­
pointment was a brief one and immediately after his recall
the king refused his consent to a bill to admit Catholics to
parliament and matters so far as Catholic Ireland was con­
cerned stood as
b e f o r e . 51
A peculiarly paradoxical twist occurred in English
legislation soon after when the government founded the col­
lege of Maynooth with an annual grant of h 8,000 for the
education of Catholic clergy.
This was a boon to Catholic
Ireland but the explanation as given in Irish histories is
possibly correct in ascribing this legislation to the fact
that since the majority of priests were educated in France,
the France of the revolution, the young priests after so long
a residence in France might come back imbued with republican
or revolutionary ideas.
The Rebellion of 1798.
The abortive and disastrous
rebellion of 1796 grew out of the secret organization known
as the United Irishmen.
In the two years of partial rebel­
lion leading up to the final break bitter animosity developed
between the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland.
The Rebel­
lion of Ninety Eight connected rebellion with an agrarian
51 Ibid.,
52 Ibid.,
Wolfe Tone, the first of the rebel leaders as
against the older order of military struggle, was sentenced
to be hung but assertedly committed suicide,
Many of the
leaders of this rebellion were exiled from Ireland.
most significant from the standpoint of future Anglo-Irish
relations was that Ireland had obtained aid from France,
even though the aid was ineffectual.
Much of the most stirring of Irish patriotic poetry
deals with the rising of Ninety Eight.
A typical example is
the ballad, "Who fears to speak of Ninety Eight."
No sooner had the Rebellion of Ninety Eight ended
than Pitt began his political machinations for the union.
This phase of Anglo-Irish history is perhaps one of the best
It is common historical knowledge that the union
between Great Britain and Ireland was purchased through bribery.
It is equally well known that the Catholic Irish were
lead to believe that Union and Catholic Snancipation would
be synonymous, but in this Catholic Ireland was both deceived
and disappointed.
And so with the nineteenth century,
Gaelic Ireland had followed the road from a nation invaded
and conquered to the less pretentious position of a minority
problem in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
FROM 1800 to 1900
The Act of Union-was ushered into existence by a combi­
nation of political corruption directly sponsored by the
English government and a toleration of that corruption on the
part of the Irish ruling class.
The Act was symbolic of
Ireland’s fortunes in the period from 1800 to 1900 with one
That exception is the rise of Gaelic concepts
toward the latter part of the century in the movement known
as the modern Gaelic Renaissance.
The effects of the Act of Union on Gaelic culture were
limited to indirect results and the superimposing of the con­
cepts of British political economy.
Irish sovereignty was
dealt what appeared to be a deathblov*.
The religious issue
was flaunted by the provision that of the thirty-two peers
the four spiritual peers must obviously be chosen from the
Protestant minority.
The economic development of Ireland, was
placed under English domination by the regulations pertaining
to trade and- commerce.
That domination proved stultifying to
Ireland’s economic progress.
The resultant predominance of
agriculture as a means of livelihood made not only the famine
possible but also the Gaelic League.
Had Ireland been given
the opportunity of becoming an industrial or a mercantile
power, the possibility of a Gaelic Renaissance would
undoubtedly have been much smaller.
Catholic Emancipation.
The tragic rebellion of Robert
Emmett in 1803 was the last effort of the United Irishmen.^
It gave Ireland another martyr.
For more than a hundred
years following his execution, ”. . . the country was governed
under .a species of martial law, and Coercion Acts were matters
of almost annual enactment."^
The Act of Union had held out what proved to be a
false hope to Catholic Emancipation in Pitt’s presumed in­
tention of including it in the Act.^*
It was this suggestion
of Pitt’s which prevented active Roman Catholic opposition
to the act; an active opposition which in all possibility
would have prevented its enactment.
Upon this bitter horizon of Catholic Emancipation
*** R. M. Henry, The Evolution of Sinn Fein, p. 17.
Probably no statement of an Irish hero is more
famous than Emmett’s speech from the dock which closed with
the words, FfLet no man write my epitaph, for as no man who
knows my motives dare now vindicate, let not prejudice and
ignorance asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity
and peace; and my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in
oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to
my character. When my country takes her place among the
nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epi­
taph be written.”
^ Henry, loc. cit.
^ P. W. Joyce, A Concise History of Ireland, p, 49S.
5 Loc. cit.
rose its brightest light, Daniel 0 'Connell.^
No man in Irish
history better represents the paradox and power of the Irish.
From his boyhood in Kerry he spoke Gaelic, yet throughout his
adult life he advocated the use of English.^
His childhood
was spent among the Gaelic peasantry with foster-parents.,
survival of the Gaelic custom of fosterage.
The education he
received in France gave him command of the social graces and
left him with a hatred of the French Revolution.9
O'Connell won the issue of Catholic Emancipation by
having himself elected to parliament as the member from
Obviously, O'Connell could not subscribe to nor take
the required oath which, in substance, dated from 1692 and
° There is an abundance of material about Daniel
O'Connell. Two comparatively recent biographies are noted
here for their interest and contrasting points of view:
Dennis Gwynn, Daniel O'Connell;
Se&n O'Faoi&in, King of the Beggars.
7 Stephen Gwynn, The Student *s History of Ireland.
p. 256.
Francis Hackett, The Story of the Irish Nation.
p. 245.
^ The influence exerted upon the young O'Connell by
the French Revolution probably had much to do with his own
later opposition to violence. "It is related that O'Connell
and his fellow-students lived in terror of their lives:
passing French soldiery were accustomed to threaten *les
jeunes lesuites, les Capucins, les recolets.* Daunt, Life
and Times of Daniel O'Connell (Dublin, 1867), vol. I, p. 35,"
cited by J. Dunsmore Clarkson, Labour and Nationalism in
Ireland, p. 131.
declared tJie chief doctrines of the Catholic church as
By not taking this oath and winning a second
election he forced the issue and won.
The new Emancipation
Act brought into being an oath which Catholics might take
and thus allowed them to become members of parliament.
The Emancipation Act, while legally giving Catholics
a new privilege, actually curtailed their political activity
by raising the franchise in Ireland to A10.
franchise remained 40 shillings. ^
In England, the
This disenfranchised all
the Irish forty-shilling holders, the bulk of the Catholic
political strength.
0*Connell now approached the problem of repeal of the
Act of Union.
The concessions of the English government in
regard to Catholic Emancipation and the eventual elimination
of the tithes after the "Tithe War11 of the period around
led O ’Connell to the conclusion that repeal could be
10 Joyce, pp. cit., pp. 482-484;
Gavin Duffy, Young Ireland: A Fragment of Irish
History, 1840-1850, p. 624, comments as follows on the English
attitude toward Rome, "With what shameful inconsistency
English Statesmen acted: they required Catholics to swear that
the Pope neither had nor ought to have any temporal authority
in Ireland; and they were laboring underhand to induce him to
exercise the very authority the existence of which Catholics
were required to deny upon oathJ"
11 Joyce, op. cit., p. 484.
12 The problems of tithes andthe land question were
closely linked, ibid., p. 487.
The English government’s attempted solution of the
"Tithe War" was to add them to the rent, thus placing the
burden on the landlords, Henry, op. cit., p. 18.
achieved by constitutional means.
The Repeal Association was founded by O ’Connell in
Three years later he commenced holding the great
mass meetings agitating for repeal.
The government pro­
claimed the meeting scheduled for October 8, 1843, at
Clontarf and O ’Connell yielded.
This yielding was the logi­
cal conclusion of his famous statement, ”No human revolution
is worth the effusion of one single drop of human blood.”
The submission of O ’Connell at Clontarf, the scene of Brian’s
great victory over the Danes, ended the constitutional move­
ment for repeal.
Soon after this meeting was proclaimed
O ’Connell and several of his associates were arrested and
The charge against them was ”by means of intimi­
dation and the demonstration of great physical force to pro­
cure and effect changes to be made in the government, laws,
and constitution of this realm.rfl^
Three months later they
were released when the House of Lords ruled that ’’the trial
was not a fair one, inasmuch as the government had selected
a one-sided jury.
13 Joyce, op. cit. , p. 4S8.
^ Robert Dunlop, Ireland from the Earliest Times to
the Present Day, p. 173.
Joyce, op. cit., p. 490;
In this is of interest to note ”the
scathing remark on the part of Lord Denham that, if such
practices as had prevailed in the case were to continue,
trial by jury would become a mockery and a delusion.” Dunlop,
op. cit. , p. 173.
The Repeal Association drifted toward sectarianism.
0 ‘Connell fought the Young Ireland party.
In this latter
dispute is the essence of one of the most sagacious state­
ments analyzing the movements of national importance against
English power in Ireland:
Movements of national importance against English
power in Ireland have had this special peculiarity:
they have regularly alternated between attempts at
insurrection and moral-force agitations. . . . The
result has been that a claim for constitutional reform
by the argument of a previous attempt at rebellion has
always possessed the convincing force of actuality.
This, in turn, enabled the advocates of extreme measures
to palliate rebellion by pointing to the concessions
which were made through its agency to the demands of
moral-force agitation.16
Daniel O ’Connell has been described as "a national
leader but not a national architect."17
It is difficult to
believe that O ’Connell had a definite national policy.
could hardly be expected to have one since he did not in­
dicate a belief in Irish independence, in fact, he felt a
loyalty toward the Crown. 18
The judgment of O ’Connell by subsequent Irish genera­
tions, as did his own, has revolved around his attitude
toward the use of force.
The following comment represents
1^ Michael Davitt, The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland,
p. 121.
17 Hackett, op. cit. , p. 252.
18 W. E. H. Lecky, The Leaders of Public Opinion in
Ireland: Swift-Flood-Crattan-0 ’Connell, p. 277.
the middle of the two extremes of approach:
But, 'wisely or foolishly, O ’Connor was determined
not to permit any bloodshed. His courage was proved
on too many a scene to be open to question; but it was
not the desperate courage that stakes life, fortune,
and a whole national issue upon a single cast of the
die. Then his whole training had been that of a man
who had found in words weapons more potent than armies
and navies. The victories he had obtained were victor­
ies in law courts and in deliberative assemblies; and
possibly, and probably, he still honestly thought he
would still be able to utilize the enthusiasm of the
people in wringing from Parliament, if not Repeal, a
blessing so great and so needed as security to the
tenant-at-will from starvation and eviction.19
O ’Connell was not concerned with a Gaelic Ireland.
The Irish language received a set back because of his attitude
toward it.2^
He advanced no educational policy at a time
when it was sorely needed.
The significance of the land prob­
lem appears to have been missed by him, in light of his lack
of opposition to landlordism.21
was disheartingly conservative.
As for labor, his attitude.
To O ’Connell is due much
*•9 t . P. O ’Connor, The Parnell Movement, p. 14*
20 Stephen Gwynn, op. cit. , pp. 256-257, ”He had
spoken Irish from his childhood, and Irish was then known by
probably three quarters of the poorer people. Yet, in
O ’Connell’s view, it was more important that the Irish should
learn English which might help them to prosperity, than that
they should preserve an historic speech which marked them as
a nation; and he discouraged the use of Irish. Also by
making English the language in which the cause of Ireland was
pleaded, he made English more popular in Ireland.”
21 Davitt, op. cit. , p. 35.
22 Clarkson, op. cit., pp. 133-145.
of the credit for Catholic Emancipation; it is possible that
without him Ireland would not have achieved Emancipation, ^
But to that victory Of Emancipation he linked the failure of
Repeal, which became, because of his great prestige, to be
considered by many on purely sectarian lines.^
The English
press with its genius for nicknaming the opposition into disrepute called him the Big Beggamnan.
To estimate O ’Connell’s
genius is not our province since we are concerned primarily
with his relation to Gaelic concepts which the record indi­
cates he did little or nothing to promulgate.
Young Ireland.
The Young Ireland party came into
being in the split with O ’Connell and what was nominally the
Old Ireland party.over the issue of force.
The intellectuals
who constituted the driving force of this nationalist move­
ment were men such as Thomas Davis, Gavan Duffy, John Mitchel,
and James Fintan Lalor.
They expressed their views through a
newspaper, The Nation, whose motto was ”To create and foster
public opinion in Ireland— to make it racy of the soil.” Q
23 Dunlop, ojd. cit. , p. 163.
Clarkson, ojd. cit., p. 133.
He was referred to also as ’’King Dan” and after his
success with Catholic Emancipation as the Liberator.
T. Gavan Duffy, ’’Young Ireland The Irish Rebellion
of 1916 and Its Martyrs, edited by Maurice Joy, p. 23UI
The Young Ireland party embraced the Gaelic concepts
of language, land, militarism, tradition, and politics.
carried on the nationalist movement of centuries from the
point where it had paused with the United Irishmen.
tainly it may be considered as the precursor of the Gaelic
nationalism of the twentieth century.
The individual leaders did much to revive Irish nation27
ality through recalling the Gaelic literature of the past. 1
Perhaps even more significantly the writings of this group
and their successors were to have a profound effect on Irish
John Ivlitchel's writings are considered the widest
known and their particular influence on the insurgents of
1916 is common knowledge.
James Fintan Lalor wrote power­
fully toward the solution of the land problem linking it with
This connection was not unknown in the Gaelic
27 Edward R. Turner, Ireland and England, p. 335.
2$ His more important works in order of influence are
Jail Journal, History of Ireland (a continuation of the
earlier work of the same title of MacGeohegan*s) and Life
of Hugh C^Neill.,
29 James Fintan Lalor is to my mind the greatest and
least-known Irish writer of political theory. His writings
are not to my knowledge available in collected form in
(Of the Irish publications concerning Lalor the two
most authoritative books are: L. Fogarty, James Fintan Lalor,
Patriot and Political Essayist; and James Connolly, Labour in
Ireland.") Examples of his style and power in books available
to American readers may be found in Henry, pp. cit., pp. 2529;
Clarkson, pp. pit., pp. 156-159;
The novel by Padraic Colum, Castle Conquer, passimr.
commonwealth of the past.
Charles Gavan Duffy has left a
penetrating record of this movement in his Young Ireland as
well as .a biography of Thomas Davis.
Davis was the guiding
spirit of the Young Ireland movement.^0
Soon after the death of Davis the Young Ireland move­
ment split and a group definitely in favor of rebellion
This group was led by John Mitehel who was aided
by Meagher of the Sword and Smith O'Brien.
Mitehel founded
The United Irishmen, a newspaper, in which he advocated the
manufacture of pikes ”. . . if nothing better could be had,
to resist the official searches for arms (for a stringent
^ (continued)
Occasional references are made to him in any Irish history
of modern scholarship. A biographical picture of Lalor is
to be found in references throughout the first volume of
John O'Leary, Recollections of Fenians-and Fenianism, par­
ticularly in Chapter IV;
Davitt, op. cit., p. 65, states of Lalor, "He made
John Mitehel an agrarian revolutionist, and, indirectly,
gave Henry George the social gospel of land nationality—
minus all its prorebellious Irish bearings.”
Esme Wingfield-Stratford, The History of British
Civilization, pp. 1061-1062, declared "The most important
development of the Young Ireland movement had been the doc­
trine propounded by the hunchback revolutionary, James
Fintan Lalor . . . ”
30 It is impossible to overestimate the tremendous in­
fluence exerted by Davis on the Irish nationalism of his and
later days. Henry, pp. cit., p. 23, notes that "his death in
1843 was one of the greatest losses which Ireland suffered
during the nineteenth century;”
For a graphic account of the influence Davis had on
the greatest of the Fenian intellectuals, see O'Leary, op.
cit., I, 2-3. This experience would appear typical of all
who came to know Davis even including his close associates
such as Duffy and Mitehel.
Coercion Act had been one of the weapons with which the
Government eombatted the Famine) and to refuse to allow food
to leave the country."^
John Mitehel was arrested and sent
to Tasmania out of. which experience came his famous Jail
The actual rising under Smith O'Brien and Meagher
of the Sword was so unsuccessful that these two leaders were
not executed.
This was the overt end of the Young Ireland
movement but the forces which it had motivated were not to be
This group with its talk of the Gaelic past and the
stories of the past which appeared in publications of these
men was the beginning of the■modern Gaelic renaissance in
The Famine.
One of the greatest deterrents to the
progress of the Gaelic renaissance was the Famine.
The most
numerous victims of the Famine, both by starvation and the
later misfortune of emigration, were the Gaelic speakers.
The potato crop failed in 1845 and again in 1846.^2
were the staple food of peasant Ireland.
This resulted dur­
ing the subsequent three years in the Black Famine, so-called
because of the black slime on the potatoes.
During the same
period there was a plentiful supply of corn which was an
Henry, op. cit., p. 24.
Joyce, o£. cit., p. 490.
export product controlled by the absentee landlords.33
counsel of the priests prevented the violence that was looked
for but which did not come.
horror of the Famine?^*
Much has been written of the
The toll it took was almost beyond
. . . one fourth of the people of Ireland died of
famine and disease during 1846 and 1847. So tremendous
a calamity had probably never been experienced by any
other country of Europe.
The widespread poverty of the Famine resulted in
numerous evictions and so the land problem returned to promi­
Many of the Irish peasants migrated to America.
With the exodus to America a new element of Anglo-Irish rela­
tions arose in America.
This new element was the public
opinion and pressure which could be exerted by the Irish and
Irish-Americans in the United States.
This group represented
in many instances ex-Gaelic speakers, and was sympathetic
33 f/ingfield-Stratford, op. cit. , p* 1060. This is an.
unusually frank explanation;
For information on food-stuffs exported other than
corn, see Hackett, op. cit., p. 268.
34 Authorities are uniform in presenting the horror of
the famine. Few are as vitriolic as John Mitehel "but any
book on Irish history consulted gives substantially the same
picture. A conservative account is O’Connor, op. cit., Chap.
. Ill, "The Famine."
35 Joyce, op. cit.
36 Hackett, o j d . cit.,
. . in 1846 alone 50,000
families— quarter of a million people— were evicted for not
paying their rents."
with Irish national ideals and plans.
Even the antagonism
toward England of this group became a factor with which to
And so out of the Famine emerged a depopulated agri­
cultural Ireland.
Her native language was giving way to
The land problem could no longer be postponed.
Nationalism was to seek solution through a secret organiza­
As such alone it was unavoidable that it should draw
the ire of the Catholic Church.
But under the conservative
leadership of Cardinal Cullen all claims for separation would
have to be in opposition to his commanding personality and
the church he controlled.
The Fenians.
The failure of the separatist aims of
Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century developed
a new recognition in the theory of Irish nationalism.
new recognition was the acceptance of the futility of obtain­
ing independence through parliamentary techniques.
The modern
doctrine of rebellion by force in Ireland was no new thing.
Its modern acceptance, however, came into existence with the
Fenian Society or Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1858.3?
3? Brief discussions of the Fenian movement may be
found in: Henry, op. cit., pp. 33-36;
lames R¥idy, ”The Irish Republican Brotherhood,”
The Irish Rebellion of 1916 and its Martyrs, edited by Maurice
Joy, PP* 250-256.:
The most complete discussion is 0*Leary, op. cit.,
2 vols.
The term Fenian hearkened back to the ancient Fianna of the
Finn MaoCumhal legends.
The strength of the Fenians was
implemented by its amalgamation of the Immet Monument Associa­
tion, an American organization.
The presence of a large number of trained soldiers,
Irishmen who had fought on both Union and Confederate sides
in the American Civil War, gave the Fenians the nucleus of a
substantial army.
This group was never successfully used
perhaps because of the lack of a commanding military leader
of sufficient genius.
The futile Fenian attempt to capture
Canada is indicative of the pent up desire for action by this
particular group.
The leadership of the Fenian movement was made, up
essentially of remnants of the rising of 1848.
James Stephens
was the nominal leader, John O ’Mahoney was the American head
center, and the intellectuals were John O ’Leary and Thomas
Clarke Luby.
This latter pair were responsible for The Irish
P e o p l e a newspaper which publicized the Fenian cause and
defied the opposition of Cardinal Cullen and the Homan
Irish People was founded by James Stephens and
of this Davitt, op. cit. , pp. 75-76, points out, Tf. . . he
did what an Irish conspirator would alone be likely to
think of doing— he founded a newspaper to be a mouthpiece
for a secret organization. This was his first great mistake,
and led not only to his own arrest, but to that of almost
all his chief lieutenants in 1865•”
Catholic Church. 7
It was The Irish People that was used as
the initial cause for action by the English government.
office of the newspaper was seized, its staff was arrested
and with the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland the jails
were loaded with Fenians.
lames Stephens was arrested and
with outside aid made a spectacular escape.
rising in 1866 but this did not happen.
He promised a
Troops were sent to
Ireland and the English government exercised vigilance so
that no rising occurred and the effort of 1867 was nipped in
the bud before it was under way.
object of securing freedom.
Fenianism failed in its
Of this failure and the movement
itself the greatest of the Fenian intellectuals has said:^
But Fenians, in the mere material sense even, did not
altogether fail. It has often been pointed out by others,
and by myself, I think, if not in this book, at least
somewhere, that Fenianism dis-established the Irish Church
and brought about the passing of the First Land Act. To
be sure Fenianism did not seek to do either of these
things, but that is beside the question. The gist of the
matter lies in the fact that even so-called good measures
are mostly not due to oratory or agitation but rather to
silent action. .
It was a proud and not understood boast of the Young
Irelanders that they "brought a soul back into Fire,"
39 The disagreement between Fenianism and Homan Ca­
tholicism is explained by Henry, op. crt. , p. 34, "All the
forces of the Church and the influence of such recognized
leaders as were left were arrayed against the new organization.
Fenians were refused the rites of the Church for being members’
of a secret oath-bound society."
See also O ’Leary., op. cit. , II, 122 ff.
40 Ibid., I, 242.
but before Fenianism arose tbat soul had fled. Fenianism
brought it back again teaching men to sacrifice themselves
for Ireland instead of selling themselves and Ireland to
England. But we failed, and our spirit fled from the
land, and then in the vicious circle we seem to be for­
ever describing, came back the old agitating methods and
but too much of the spirit of the old agitating men,
leaving us as far as ever from freedom and apparently, or rather certainly for the moment, without that spirit
which, though it may fail to gain freedom, alone deserves
it . . . But it is not dead (for the soul of a nation
any more than of an individual cannot die) but merely
sleepeth, and still more boys growing into men, willing
to strive and struggle and sacrifice, it need be, liberty
or life for Ireland, to Fenianism more than to ought else
is that spirit and feeling due.
Home Rule.
The Irish Church Act which disestablished
the Irish church and Gladstone’s first Land Bill were due to
the Fenians.^*
The first led to Home Rule and the second
meant recognition of the Land Wars.
While the Fenian Society
did not altogether die, plans for rebellion gave way to parlia
mentary tactics as the path to national destiny.
led the proposal for Home Rule in 1870.^
ment was not an independence plan.
Isaac Butt
The Home Rule move­
The goal of Home Rule was:
... ..set up, not an independent, but a strictly sub­
ordinate, Parliament in Dublin: the effect of this
proposal (whatever the authors may have intended) would
^ While this opinion is expressed by O ’Leary in the
previous citation it is not held by him alone. See Henry,
op. cit. , p. 36.
* The term TTHome Rule” was coined by Professor Joseph
A. Galbraith of Trinity College in Dublin. Davitt, o£. cit.,
p. 87.
ii a
have been to consolidate the Union bv removing opportuni­
ties of friction and of discontent.^3
This was the Home Rule problem which in three unsuccessful
attempts to obtain passage by Parliament held the stage of
Anglo-Irish relations until the World War. *
It was upon this scene that Charles Stewart Parnell
The names Henry Grattan, Daniel O ’Connell, and
Charles Stewart Parnell are writ large in Irish history.
are important to Irish history and Anglo-Irish relations but
as they influence, or are influenced by, Gaelic concepts,
their importance is little more than coincidental or at best
The one who came closest to being the exception
was Parnell. 44-
One must recognize that Parnell was "without
a hint of Celtic character or a trait of its racial enthu­
So far as securing independence or developing
Gaelic nationalism he failed in the first as completely as he
ignored the second.
The point at which Parnell came closest
was in his affiliation with Michael Davitt and the Land
4*3 Henry,
cit. , p. 37.
^ Discussions of Parnell are numerous, two works
that will be found helpful and comparative are: R. Barry
O ’Brien, The Life of Parnell;
O ’Connor, 0£. cit.
4*5 Davitt, 0£. cit. , p. 110.
£hid.t passim.
The Land War.
The problem of land in Ireland is as
old as the Norman-English invasions.
It represents the most
consistent and least settled point of conflict between the
English and the Gaelic points of view.
The Gaelic population
of Ireland, as has been noted previously in this study, had
gone to the land because other than emigration there was
practically no other opportunity for the Gaelic Irishman.
The importance of land in Ireland is difficult to fully
appreciate and the following is by no means
The struggle for the soil of Ireland involved a
combat for every other right of the Irish nation. The
lordship of the land carried with it the ownership of
government. The usurpers of the national claim to the
possession of the source of employment, of food, and of
social distinction, extended their power over every other
privilege and right, and ruled the people only and solely
for the security of that which the power of confiscation ‘
made the property of those whom England made the rulers
of the country.
Land has always been more essential to life and to
industrial occupation in Ireland than in, perhaps, any
other European country, owing to exceptional economic
causes . . . Thus, the creation by England of a land
system which placed the main source of employment for
the labor energies of the people in the hands of a
blindly selfish and anti-Irish interest made the struggle
for existence fiercer than ever, and rendered the omni­
potent pwner of the soil the absolute master of the means
of livelihood for the peasant toilers of the country.
In this way the land war of Ireland began, and has
been continued. On the side of the Irish peasantry, it
has been a contest against a class and a system rela­
tively stronger than any dominant ruling social power in
47 Ibid., pp. xvi-xvii.
Europe. They were not only Irish landlords; they were
the political garrison of England in Ireland, equipped
with every weapon and resource at the disposal of a
great empire for their protection.
The hunger for land has been spoken of as a national
characteristic of the Irish . ^
Memory is .long in Ireland and
nin the nineteenth century Irish peasants of the west could
still trace borders obliterated by ages of wars and confisca­
tions of incoming s t r a n g e r s . A contemporary Irish writer
has portrayed the Irish peasant’s attitude toward land, much
of which is summed up in the following quotation
If anything was related to fundamental ends in the
life of that community the possession of land was re­
lated to them. Men coveted land as they coveted a
livelihood or an increase in livelihood: there were men
who watched their lands as misers watched their secret
treasures and whose idea of an agonizing dissolution
was in the loss of their lands: there were men who spied
and lied for land; men who forsook women who were young
and kind and mated with women who were old and maimed
and shrewish for the sake of land; men murdered for land
and men went insane through the loss of it.
The interpretive task before Gladstone at the time of
his first land bill was as follows:^
He had to explain to his own cabinet, bit by bit, that
Ireland had never come to accept the landlord, especially
Bobert H. Murray, Studies in the English Social and
Political Thinkers of the NineteenthTT/entury, I, 61.
Alice S. Green, History of the Irish State to 1014,
p. 76.
Colum, op. cit., pp.. 243-244.
Hackett, 0£. cit. , pp. 288-289.
the absentee landlord, as the owner of the land. It was
the tenants, the cultivators, who had themselves re­
claimed the swamp, dug the drain, hauled the manure,
built the wall, raised the house. The land to them was
their sole means of vital production, and they*, the
rude peasants, had given the land its ^working value.”
They looked on the landlord in most cases as an alien
usurper. In the best case they saw in him only a partproprietor, a man entitled to receive rent but not
entitled to anything more. The transfer of the land from
one tenant to another was, in the cultivators’ view, a
transfer involving the improvements. And the tenants
set their hearts on three things: fair rent, fixity of
tenure and free sale. Only with these guarantees could
they be secure against eviction, famine, enslavement.
And no matter how many imperial laws and how many im­
perial police and troops, how many Arms Acts and Coercion
Acts, were to girdle the landlord, the war for their
Magna Charta must go irresistibly on. In this war, as
the Irish peasants saw it, they fought with a worse
enemy in the rear than in front. If the alien parliament,
the alien constabulary, the alien judge, threatened the
advance of the tenant, he knew that behind him was the
bottomless pit of famine.
The problem of land in Ireland cannot be stressed too
highly for it was very nearly the Irish problem itself. 52
The development of the steamship as it supplanted sailing
ships made it more profitable for absentee landlords to turn
their estates into grazing land. 53 By so doing they were
able to raise cattle for meat and England and the continent
52 Much has been written of the land problem but it is
nowhere presented more graphically than in her literature. A
few examples at random are: sketches to be found in Padraic
Colum, The Road Round Ireland, tfThe Peasant Proprietor, " pp.
22 ff. , and ’’Connacht Story: Land Hunger,” pp. 211 ff. ;
And such recent novels as Peadar O ’Donnell, Adrigoole;
Sean O ’Faolain, A Nest of Simple Folk;
Liam 0 ’Flaherty, The House of Gold.
53 Hackett, op. cit. , p. 30A.
presented a ready market.
In order to convert their estates
it was necessary to evict, dispossess, or get rid of the
Irish tenants.
While this was within the province of English
law it was definitely outside the Irish peasant’s concept of
his land rights.
Excessive rents were charged and peasants
were forced on to poor land.
It appeared likely that another
famine would occur in 1879*
No person understood more clearly
the problem of land in Ireland and the Gaelic concepts which
made of it a problem than Michael Davitt.
Davitt secured the cooperation of Parnell and together
they approached the land problem.
Together they braved the
antipathy of the Catholic Church in the famous incident in
County Mayo when a priest became the agent of eviction.
Fenians lent their support and out of this incident was
formed the Irish attitude which culminated in the formation
of the Land League in 1879*55
5^ Davitt, op. cit., gives in his own words the story
of his affiliation with the land problem.
The Declaration of Principles of the Land League
Convention, Castlebar, August 16, 1879, were, MThe land of
Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland, to be held and cul­
tivated for the sustenance of those whom God decreed to be
inhabitants thereof. Land being created to supply mankind
with the necessaries of existence, those who cultivate it to
that end have a higher claim to its absolute possession than
those who make it an article of barter, to be used or dis­
posed of for purposes of profit or pleasure. The end for
which the land of a country is created requires an equitable
distribution of the same among the people who are to live
upon the fruits of their labor in its cultivation." Cited by
Parnell visited America to secure financial support
and the pressure of Irish American political pressure against
Michael Davitt and lohn Devoy had laid the ground
work for him in converting the great Irish organization in
America, the Clan-na-Gael to the Land League program.
Land League Revolution was
. . a n Irish movement which
sprang without leaders from the peasantry .of the
c o u n t r y . f*
This is perhaps an understatement but it may serve as an in­
dication that Gaelic Ireland was united for a cause.
against them was the English empire under the leadership of
The implications of concessions to the Land
League as such concessions might effect the Ultimate unity of
empire were factors of which Gladstone was very much aware.
The Irish policy of Gladstone approached in terms of basics
had ever been a vacillation between conciliation and co­
He had sincerely disestablished the Irish church
and he was prepared to make concessions even though this
might result in a loss to absentee landlords who were mostly
of English origin.
There developedsa general recognition of
the seriousness of the land problem although English opinion
55 (continued)
Ibid., pp. 160-161. This curious document, while it might
well serve as the basis for a more detailed discussion, could
not in any sense be thought of as acceptable to an English
court or English public opinion.
> P- xi.
persisted in approaching it as a problem apart from national­
Even such a bitter foe of Home Rule as T. W. Russell
was aware that It was ” . . . on the Land Question the real
peace of the country depends."'*?
The slogan of the Land League held the support and
active pursuit of agricultural Ireland, "Fair rent, Fixity
of tenure and Free sale!"
Gladstone appears to have been
well aware that the Land League leaders were after more than
economic readjustment.
Their intellectual had preached,
The rational solution of the whole Irish question
lies in the complete severance of the parliamentary
connection between Great Britain and Ireland.58
Conditions in Ireland were again precarious, not the
precariousness of national revolution, but assassination and
coercion played one against the other in the land war.
filial result of the Land League agitation was the Land Act
of 1881.
This agitation, while it was accompanied by many
deaths, was constitutional to the extent that it brought about
a semblance of parliamentary reform and did not envisage
national rebellion.
fix rents.
The law established a land commission to
Obviously, it was impossible to please both
tenant and landlord when each thought in opposite directions.
The confusion and agitation which resulted led to displeasure
5? T. W. Russell, Ireland and the Empire, a Review,
1800-1900% p. 135.
Davitt, op. c i t p. 724.
on the part of the English government.
This displeasure
took the form of the arrest of Parnell and the Land League
From prison Parnell issued a no-rent manifesto.
Out of the murder and terrorism which followed Gladstone
The prisoners were released, an Arrears Bill was
passed, and Parnell agreed to modify the agitation.
The Land League succeeded in achieving its object of
the three P fs and Ireland continued its agricultural emphasis
in an industrial age.
Of Parnell’s subsequent struggle with
Gladstone and England, the story of his defeat is too well
known to need further exposition here.
The Phoenix Park
murders indicate a new trend among the more bitterly hopeless
remnants of Fenianism.
Parnell’s fall indicates a curious triumph of Catholic
morality over the priest-led Irish. Parnell was repudiated
by the Irish party.
With this repudiation went all hopes
of Irish separatist aims.
In terms of English statecraft
Parnell was the greatest leader that Ireland had produced.
The paradox of dependence upon one leader and the
treatment of that leader by informing and disloyalty offer
opportunities for psychological investigation. It is this
trait which is commented upon by Ireland’s, and possibly the
world’s, foremost novelist, James Joyce, A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man, p. 231, (The character Stephen
DedalusT~says, "No honourable and sincere man, said Stephen,
has given up to you his life and his youth and his affections
from the days of Tone to those of Parnell, but you sold him
to the enemy or failed him in need or reviled him and left
him for another."
Yet this is significant, that with Parnell’s failure to se­
cure independence constitutionally,,Ireland turned now to
Gaelic concepts and from them attempted a different type of
This did not occur at once.
It came about by a
movement which grew out of the study of the Gaelic language
and the Gaelic past.
The Gaelic Renaissance.
The Gaelic Renaissance which
started toward the close of the nineteenth century did not
develop until the twentieth century.
The resurgence of
Gaelic ism came from four sources: (1) the Gaelic language
movement which flowered into the Gaelic League; (2),the na­
tionalistic movement that became known as Sinn Fein; (3) the
dramatic movement beginning with the Irish Literary Theater
and culminating in what is popularly known as the Gaelic
Literary Renaissance; and (4) the agricultural cooperative
program which developed into the Irish Agricultural Organiza­
tion Society.
Some mention should also be made in a lesser
Gaelic sense of the Irish labor movement since its leadership
promulgated the belief that Ireland’s problem was economic
and linked this premise to aims of nationalism.
Two paradox!
cal factors might well be kept in mind in approaching this
rebirth; the Gaelic renaissance transferred the center of
gravity of Irish affairs from Anglo-Ireland to rural Ireland
which meant Gaelic Ireland;
and for the first time Dublin
became the center for tf. . . the interior life of native
The Gaelic League.
We have seen earlier in this study
that the policy of the English government had been a con­
scientious effort to eradicate the Gaelic language as well as
the history of Gaelic culture.
This was aided by the Famine
and its consequent reduction of the number of Gaelic speakers.
The extant educational system in Ireland during the nineteenth
century merits some attention.
An English historian compe­
tently sums up English education in Ireland during this
. , 63
Aodh de Blaeam, What Sinn Fein Stands For, p. 39*
^ Eackett, op. cit. t p. 340.
The extent of this may be seen from Turner, op. cit.,
pp. 318-319, "In 1835 a traveller believed that four mTllions
out of seven in Ireland still kept Irish as their mother
tongue; but the next census after the famine gave only
1,204,684 as the number of those who used English and Gaelic
and 319*602 as speaking Gaelic alone. By 1901 the official
figures were 620,189 for those who used both languages and
20,953 for those who only spoke Gaelic.rt
^ Wingfield-Stratford, op. cit., p. 1056. This situ­
ation cannot be construed as exaggerated and the limits to
which Anglicitation were carried are vividly portrayed in
any study of the era. For example, Graham Balfour, Educational
Systems of Great Britain and Ireland, pp. 91-92, M0ne of the
chief Catholic grievances had been the * emission of the his­
tories of Ireland and of the Church of Rome from the reading
books. So far was the exclusion of national spirit carried
in the early days that In 183B Dr. Whately struck out
Under Tory auspices a system of education, universal
but not compulsory, was set up, but one carefully cal­
culated to stamp out, if that were possible, any spark
of national feeling in Irish bosoms* In some schools
we even went so far as to adopt a method subsequently
tried with less success by the Prussians on Poland,
and flog the already fast disappearing native language
from the lips of school children.
Many factors such as obsolete methods, inadequate
instruction, and religious questions and the policy of
Anglieization resulted in a vastly inferior Irish educational
The educational level of the Irish peasantry was
low and there seemed no evidence of reform.
H. . . because
reform meant the calling up of many quarrels.rt
Devitt had called attention to the educational needs of
What happened to the Gaelic speaking
.ng children is
vividly portrayed in the following commentary: 66
Bright-eyed intelligent children, second in intelli­
gence to none in Europe, with all the traditional traits
of a people cultured for fifteen hundred years, children
endowed with a vocabulary in everyday use of about three
thousand words (while the ordinary peasant has often
not more than five hundred) enter the schools of the
Chief Commissioner, to come out at the end with all
•Breathes there a man with soul so dead, 1 and would not allow
the children to hear that ‘Freedom shriek*d as Koscuisko fell.*
In Misic the indictment is almost incredible, but in the whole
music manual in use in 1868 there was not a single Irish air.n
6% Balfour, op. cit., p. xiv.
Davitt, op. cit;, p. 125.
Douglas Hyde, A Literary History of Ireland, pp. 633-
their natural vivacity gone, their intelligence almost
completely sapped, their splendid command of their
native language lost forever, and a vocabulary of five
or six hundred English words, badly pronounced and
barbarously employed, substituted for it, and this they
will transmit to their children, while everything that
they knew on entering the school, story, lay, poem,
song, aphorism, proverb, and the unique stock-in-trade
of an Irish speaker's mind, is gone forever and replaced
by nothing.
The threatened disappearance of the Gaelic language
resulted in the creation of the Gaelic League in 1893* 67
major development of the Gaelic League came in the early part
of the twentieth century.
Our concern is served by a brief
summary of its inception and implications.
The founders were
scholars and their background is an interesting commentary on
the amalgamation of forces which the League brought about.
This group started a program which is the basic development
of the Gaelic Renaissance.
They convinced ”. . . the intelli­
gence of the country that if we were to take our place amongst
7 An indication of disparity of thought is obtained
from thefollowing comment on the translation from the Irish
• of Gaelic League. Thomas MacDonagh, Literature in Ireland,
p. 140, "Gaelic League, Gonnradh na GaedhilgeI Gonnradh is
an agreement, a league between parties, not a league in the
sense of a body of people banded together with a General
. Secretary."
So much has been written about the Gaelic League
that one can choose almost any book on Ireland in the twentieth
century and secure a standard account. It is important for our
purpose to realize that it started in the late nineteenth
Hackett, op. cit., p. 339, "Eugene O'Growney of
Maynooth, a priest; Dr. Hyde, the son of a Protestant clergy­
man; and John MacNeill of Antrim founded the Gaelic League.”
the nations of the earth we must have a distinct nationality
and we must be able to speak our own language.”'
Two comments serve to illustrate the Irish attitude
toward the movement.
The first is from a man who believed
in its principles, was an authority on Irish literature, and
became a martyr in the rebellion of 1916.
The second is an
Irishman educated at Trinity, a former civil servant in His
Majesty’s Indian service, removed from the intricacies of
Irish political life and inclined toward a critical attitude.
The Gaelic Renaissance means to us not only.the re­
vival of interest in this old Irish literature, the
revival of interest in the civilization, the culture
and history of ancient Ireland, the enthusiasm, the ad­
venture, the pride, the satisfaction, the emotion that
are quickened by the discovery of old monuments, but,
added to these, the study of modern Irish as a language
capable of literature, the interest in the fragments and
traditions that have survived, the reconstruction of our
new state on some of the old foundations, and so,
This was really a beautiful movement, and even those
who derided the study of Irish as of no immediately
practical benefit might have bethought themselves that
any form of genuine study or culture is in itself bene­
ficial, and that the study of Irish might make a senti­
mental appeal to many who uninfluenced by sentiment,
would never give time or trouble to anything. Nothing
could be more valuable as a counter-attraction to the
public house in the dreary country towns of Ireland
than a living interest in the ancient language, art,
music of Ireland.72
Mary H. Colum, "Padraie Rearse,” The Irish Rebellion
of 1916 and Its Martyrs. edited by Maurice Joy, p. 270.
MacDonough, op. cit., p. 107.
J. Ohartres Moloney, The Riddle of the Irish, p. 117.
The Gaelic League provided a form of youth and adult
education for the Irish people based on Gaelic concepts and
stressing the. native language.
It brought out and emphasized
a resurgent pride, "Gaedhal me agus ni h-eol dom gur ndir
dom j?.
I am a Gael and I know no cause but of pride in that."^
The Gaelic League was not a political organization and the
pride that it developed was not in its inception a political
Its insistence on Gaelic concepts produced an ob­
vious attitude toward England which was to make possible the
nationalistic beliefs of the twentieth century.
The fact
that it was a youth movement meant that it would be more last­
ing politically.
The work of the Gaelic League was slow and
arduous in the beginning and did not truly come into its own
until the twentieth century as the chief impetus of the Gaelic
MacDonough, o£. cit. , p. 167.
Turner, op. cit., p. 343;
In this same connection Blacam, op. cit.t p. 43>
"The early passion of the Gaelic revival was almost apostolic,
religious, accompanied by signs and wonders, and none of us will
ever forget his first Peis, marching through the green hills to
the skirl of the pipes, or singing the memory-haunted Gaelic
songs at the mossy shrines of heroes. Though it was scarce
suspected then, we can now all see implicit in those early
functions the developments that have since come to pass, and
Sinn Fein, Republicanism and Social Gaelicism were.inevitable
out-flowerings of the seed then sown."
Piaris Beaslai, Michael Collins and the Making of a
New Ireland. I, 14, "From the germ of the Language Movement
sprung that larger, wider movement known to the outside world
as the ’Sinn Fein Movement.*"
Renaissance and the nationalism that stemmed from it.
Sinn Fein.
The inception of the Sinn Fein program did
not nominally begin until 1906 yet certain preliminary inci­
dents occurred late in the nineteenth century which had a
bearing on this plan for nationalism.
The name of the move76
ment offers an indication of its Gaelicism.
The first of
the preliminary incidents was the creation of the Gaelic
The Irish-Ireland movement which the Gaelic League
stressed found its political culmination in Sinn Fein.
second was the quickened interest in Irish history and
Henry, op. cit., p. 58.
Sinn F6in is, of course, Gaelic and may be trans­
lated roughly as: ourselves, ourselves alone, or, we ourselves.
The manner in which the name was chosen is as follows, ibid.»
pp. 43-44: "Of the origin of this name as the title of a
political party a pleasant tale is told. It is said that some
people, convinced that (in the words of Davis) 'the freeman's
friend is Self-Reliance,' and wishing to make it the basis of
a national movement, being anxious for a suitable Irish name
for such an idea, applied to a famous Irish scholar to furnish
it. He told them a story of a country servant in Munster sent
with a horse to the fair. The horse was sold and .the servant
after some days appeared in his master's kitchen, worn out but
happy, and seated himself on the floor. To the inquiries of
some neighbors who happened to be there, as to where he had
been and what he had done, he would give no answer but "Sinn
fein sinn fein." The prodigal servant's witty reply eludes
the translator. To his hearers it conveyed that family
matters were matters for the family; but it was no mere
evasion of a temporary or personal difficulty. It was the
expression of a universal truth."
Padraic Colum, "Sinn Fein and Irish Ireland," The
Irish Rebellion of 1916 and Its Martyrs, edited by Maurice
Joy, pp. 37-39;
Henry, op. cit., pp. 52-55.
political aims brought about by the celebration of the one
hundredth anniversary of the Rebellion of 1798, followed by
the establishment of *98 C l u b s . T h e s e clubs had been pre­
ceded by literary societies which had grown out of the Young
Ireland movement.
The last major incident was the founding
of the United Irishmen, a newspaper, by Arthur Griffith in
The similarity of title between this newspaper and
that of John Mitchel’s was no mere accident.79
out of the
early policy of Griffith’s paper came a preliminary political
organization dedicated to national independence, the Cumann
na nGaedhal, the precursor of Sinn Fein.
This organization
was formed in October of 1900 and lasted until 1905.
were the nineteenth century political forces which led to
Ifrifl.9 P. 58.
79 For the ideological seriousness of this connection,
s PP. 59-60.
^ Ibid., pp. 71-72, ” . . . i n October, 1900, the first
steps were taken in the foundation of the Cumann na nGaedhal.
Its objects were to advance the cause of Ireland’s national
independence by (1) cultivating a fraternal spirit amongst
Irishmen; (2) diffusing knowledge of Ireland’s resources and
supporting Irish industries; (3) the study and teaching of
Irish history, literature, language, music, and art; (4) the
assiduous cultivation and encouragement of Irish games,
pastimes and characteristics; (5) the discountenancing of any­
thing tending towards the Anglieization of Ireland; (6) the
physical and intellectual training of the young; (7) the de­
velopment of an Irish foreign policy; (8) extending to each
other friendly advice and aid, socially and politically; (9)
the nationalization of public boards.”
the Sinn Fein movement in the twentieth century.^1
The Irish Literary Renaissance.
There were in Ireland
toward the close of the nineteenth century a surprising number
of persons of high literary ability.
One has* only* to review
such names as William Butler Yeats, George Russell (A.E.),
George Moore, Standish O ’Grady, Edward Martyn, £t al. to gain
some idea of the literary caliber of this group*
The Irish
Literary Theater was formed in 1&99 under the auspices of
Edward Martyn, George Moore, and William Butler Yeats.
This dramatic movement became the National Theater Society
and developed into what is popularly known as the Abbey Theater.
The Irish dramatic movement reached its fullness in the
twentieth century from a seed the nineteenth.
At its
inception the aims'were not national in a political sense
however much they may have developed into an expression of
the Gaelic mode.^
It is in the material from which they
The recognized authority on Sinn Fein is Henry,
op. cit.
See also Blacam, op. cit. The modern principles
of Sinn Fein were first expounded in Arthur Griffith, The
Resurrection of Hungary.
82 The guide for American readers is Ernest A. Boyd,
The Contemporary Drama of Ireland, and Ireland* s Literary
Renaissance. Most of the participants in the early phases
of the movement have left their impressions, for example:
George Moore, William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, John M.
Sybge, et al.
83 Certainly, as practically every dramatic critic has
pointed out, the literature that has meant most that has come
out of the Renaissance has been Irish in background, tradition,
inspiration, or style.
drew, the people they influenced, and the creative artists
they encouraged that indicates the literary movement was a
part of the entire Gaelic Renaissance*
The preliminaries
which have been but referred to here loom large in importance
as one sees them in relation to the contemporary literary
scene in Ireland.
The Irish Agricultural Organization Society.
In spite
of the intensity with which Gaelic Ireland had thrown itself
back onto the land, agriculture remained backward in Ireland.
The Land League and all the legislation which resulted tended
toward making agricultural Ireland one of peasant proprietors.
The small landowner, ignorant of modern agricultural methods,
living on a low economic standard, frightened by the memory
of the Famine, was a fertile ground for the seed of co­
operatives which attained such success in Ireland as to
attract international attention.
This movement was fortunate
in having as leaders: Horace Plunkett, George Russell (A.E.),
and R. A. Anderson.
The co-operative program took up where
the Congested Districts Boards had failed.
The Irish Agri­
cultural Organization Society was formed in 1894.^
society was responsible for the future successes of Irish
34 Lionel Smith-Gordon and Laurence C. Staples, Rural
Reconstruction in Ireland, pp. 61, 77-94. This work is
considered to be the most complete and accurate work in
this field.
agriculture and obtained such aid as the Department of AgriS5
culture and Technical Instruction.
In addition to the economic and technical agricultural
advances for which it was responsible, the Irish Agricultural
Organization Society brought together the opposite factions
of Irish politics and religion in a concentrated program.
The Gaelic implication of the new movement is seen in its’
similarity to the collective econoray of the old clan system.^6
While it was a nonpolitical venture it laid the ground for
future political co-operation in the agricultural districts.
The major development of the agricultural movement was also
the twentieth century.
As in the case of the other phases
the Gaelic Renaissance the roots were deep in the past
and came to light as the result of the preliminaries just
mentioned which occurred in the twentieth century.
The Irish Labor Movement.
The relatively small in­
dustrial development in Ireland was accompanied by a con­
servative and backward labor union movement.
"Down to the
twentieth century, then, there was no National, movement
85 Ibid.. pp. 210-223.
8° Louis TrSguiz, L*Irlande dans la crise universelle.
p. Ul, !TEt ceux qui voient dans la cooperation un stade
intermediaire entre l findividualisme et le collectivisme,
attribuerent sans doute le succes de 1* I.A.O.S. & une sorte
predisposition herdditaire du peuple irlandais pour 1 ’action
economique collective.’1
ready and willing to sponsor the cause of Labour."^?
this scene appeared the leaders of the new Irish labor move­
ment, a powerful combination, James Larkin and James Connolly.
The forces which these two set in motion reached fruition in
the twentieth century but these 'forces were conceived or
begun in the nineteenth.
name in Irish labor.
James Connolly is the greatest
This remarkable man was a prodigious
writer possessed of little formal education.
He returned
to Ireland in 1896 as organizer for the Irish Socialist
Republican Party.^
In 1898, he founded the Workers*
Republic, a newspaper that for a few years was to be the voice
of labor in Ireland and carried in its issues most of
Connolly’s books in serial form.^0
Out of this beginning
came a new unionism in Ireland and labor for the first time
became politically active.
Much of the militant nationalism
^7 Clarkson, op. cit., p. 162.
competent guide to labor in Ireland.
This is the most
Some concept of his productivity may be.seen from
a list of his work which does not include his newspaper
articles and numerous pamphlets: The Axe to the Root: Old
Wine in New Bottles ;*~Erinfs Hope, The End and the Means:
Labour in Ireland; Labour in Irish History; Labor, Nationaland Religion; The New Evangel: Socialism Made Easy.
^9 Clarkson, 0£. cit., pp. 208-209.
90 Ibid.. p. 210.
of the twentieth century orginated with
l a b o r . 91
labor considered the causes of labor and 'Ireland as identical.
The turn of the century. As the nineteenth century
faded into the twentieth, forces were molded and developed
which were to effect the destiny of Ireland more profoundly
than at any time since the arrival of the English.
forces drew largely from Gaelic concepts.
What took place
in Ireland of the twentieth century can hardly be correctly
interpreted without a knowledge of the origin, development,
and goals of Gaelicism.
The events which have transpired
in the twentieth century, in themselves a separate study,
were not innovations which suddenly happened.
They were,
as it is hoped this study has indicated, a part of the
evolution of Gaelic thought in Ireland.
To overlook the
historical background of the political and cultural develop­
ments in twentieth century Ireland, is to miss the historical
continuity which they illustrate.
Without a knowledge of
Ireland’s past the watchword of Patrick Pearse (Ni sloch&in
go saoirse— no peace till freedom), becomes the lone cry of
a revolutionary dreamer, rather than what it is, the soul
shout of the Gael.
91 The role of labor in the military movements of the
twentieth century in Ireland may be clearly seen in any dis­
cussion of the period. The Dublin Transport Union had
sponsored the formation of the-Irish Citizen .Army, see P. 0.
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