Effect of History in Ireland (Paul-Dubois, 1908)

1.649. 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.161-62. BL 8145.ee.35

Extract from L. Paul-Dubois, Contemporary Ireland (1908), on the effect of the past on Ireland.

This is a passage from Paul-Dubois’s chapter on ‘The National and Anti-English Spirit’, in which contemporary difficulties in Ireland are firmly identified as a legacy of history.

What is the cause of this arrest in the social development of Ireland? Manifestly it is to be sought in Irish history as England has been making it for the last seven centuries — seven centuries of raids, of warfare, of massacre, of invasion and of persecution. It needs an effort to realise the frightful and destructive influence of such a past upon the soul of Ireland. At the end of the seventeenth century, when the race was already worn out by that long sequence of horrors which stretches from Elizabeth to Cromwell and William III., came the Penal Laws . . . Poverty and ignorance were decreed by law; the son was incited to betray the father, and the flock to denounce the shepherd. When, a century later, they were repealed, they left their effects behind. They had not weaned Ireland from her religion, but they had made her a slave, with the weaknesses and the vices of a slave. Backs were bent, and characters demoralised. The effect remained, and it endures. It still endures, for oppression endures, that political, economic, social, and intellectual oppression which, in the last fifty years, has driven half her population out of Ireland, and added a fresh source of decay to those which existed. Ireland to-day is only beginning to raise herself up and to re-make her soul. What has she been doing for a century and a half? She has “gone the pace,” it might be said. She has used up all her strength merely in living, and had none left for the task of reformation and advance. Is it not true, as has been said, that success brings to light the qualities of a people, and misfortune their failings? This is why the faults of the Irish are so difficult to distinguish from their misfortunes.