Anti-Englishness (Paul-Dubois, 1908)

1.648. L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland, with an Introduction by T.M. Kettle, M.P. (Dublin: Maunsel and Company, Ltd.; New York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1908), pp. 172, 173-74, 180-81. BL

Extracts from L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland (1908), on anti-English feelings in Ireland.

The following extracts, drawn from Paul-Dubois’s chapter on ‘The National and Anti-English Spirit’, explores the continuing existence of Irish “hatred of England” regardless of English attempts to ‘atone’:

Irish hatred of England is a sufficiently complex feeling. The English themselves are doubtful as to whether they should regard it as a remnant of the spirit of revolution, and should repress it, or whether they should treat it with scorn, as a sentimental and superannuated pose. Apparent contradictions, indeed, are not wanting. Irishmen are never tired of anathematising the “pirate Empire,” that “Empire of Hell” to which the Presbyterian Mitchel dedicated the three hundred pages of hatred which go to make up his Jail Journal. Nevertheless a large portion of the British Empire is administered by Irishmen, who are either members of the Indian Civil Service, or leading politicians in Canada or Australia.

What is the inner significance of this disloyalty? If you ask a moderate Nationalist he will answer you in some such words as these: “Why is Ireland rebellious? England is loyal because she is free and prosperous. The Colonies are loyal for the same reason; they would cease to be loyal the instant they lost their liberty and prosperity. On the other hand, Ireland is rebellious because she is neither free nor happy. Everything which makes England and the Colonies loyal makes Ireland rebellious. To whom and to what are we to be loyal? Loyal to famine, to landlordism, and to coercion? To a government whose only policy has ever been divide ut imperes, and to a Constitution which deprives us of our rights? England has oppressed and exploited us for seven centuries; her object still is to depopulate and Anglicise the country and to destroy the race. Her aim is to turn Ireland into a cattle ranch. She distorts historical facts in order to spread slanderous theories, and thinks she has atoned for the past when she offers us a series of half measures and badly planned reforms. These reforms, moreover, always come too late, and are only granted in response to threats of violence and Fenianism. England has done her best to turn us into rebels. Loyalty on our part would only be hypocrisy. . . . [”]

. . . it is obvious that a people like the Irish, idealistic and generous, mobile and emotional, ready to sacrifice the real to the ideal, can have but little sympathy with the stolidity, selfishness and commercial temper of the British “nation of shopkeepers,” or above all with its cant, and its characteristic faculty of eternally seeing “duty” where its interests call it. May not Ireland, with some reason, decline to be attracted by a social system, which, in the words of Matthew Arnold, “ends by landing modern communities in the possessorship of an upper class materialised, a middle class vulgarised, a lower class brutalised.” Ireland, moreover, is sensitive and sentimental; and she resents bitterly the want of consideration with which the English, rather, perhaps, because they are such poor psychologists than through any lack of good-will, regard everything that is not English. “Their temper,” said Burke, “must be managed and their good affections cultivated.” This is precisely what the English have never done, and Ireland most of all has suffered at their hands. “The Irish quick-wittedness,” writes Matthew Arnold in the same essay, “sentiment, keen feeling for social life and manners, demanded something which this hard and imperfect civilization cannot give them.”
¶¶Indeed, the two nations are so fundamentally different that they can never thoroughly understand each other. Behind Ireland’s historic hatred of England there is a profound mental and moral antagonism. There will always be Englishmen who will despise Irishmen, and there will always be Irishmen who will scorn England, and will say with a mingling of horror and pride: “No! we are not English!”