the irish were second class -- 8/6/19

Today's selection -- from The Club by Leo Damrosch. The Irish were a second-class part of Britain:

"An iniquitous example of Britain's treatment of its colonies was very close at hand, in Ireland, though technically it was a nation within Great Britain and not a colony. Its status was very different from that of Scotland. When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Scotland, and thereafter the Scottish Stuart dynasty was on the throne in London. The union of England and Scotland was ratified in 1707, when Queen Anne was the last of the Stuart monarchs, with the abolition of the Scottish Parliament and representation of Scots in London.

"It took generations for the concept of a single nation to be fully accepted, but throughout the eighteenth century the concept of 'Britishness' steadily gained ground. George III, whose grandfather spoke no English when he became King George I, delighted his subjects by declaring, 'Born and edu­cated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.'

"Ireland was never British in that sense. During the civil wars of the 1640s the Catholics in Ireland sided with the English royalists. After the royalist army fell to the Puritan rebels and Charles I was executed, Oliver Cromwell punished the Irish with a campaign of atrocities that was followed by a disas­trous famine. A policy of colonization from England was then established, and it continued even after Charles II, the son of the late king, regained his throne in the Restoration of 1660.

An Irishman depicted as a gorilla ("Mr. G. O'Rilla")

"By the end of the seventeenth century, the great majority of Catholic land­owners had been dispossessed and replaced by English Protestants, most of whom were Anglicans. In the northern province of Ulster, the immigrants were Presbyterians from Scotland, laying the groundwork for bitter tensions in the ensuing centuries, and for the separation of Protestant Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic in the twentieth century.

"In the world in which Burke and Goldsmith grew up, a Protestant minority known as the Ascendancy -- approximately 15 percent of the Irish population­ had virtually complete power over the huge Catholic majority, who were de­nied many basic civil rights. The administrative head in Ireland was a Lord Lieutenant appointed by the British crown, in the same way that provincial governors were sent out from England to Jamaica and Massachusetts.

"Unlike the Scots, the Irish could not elect members of Parliament, and their own provincial Parliament's decisions were regularly vetoed by the British government. After the slogan 'no taxation without representation' became popular in the American colonies, it was often heard in Ireland as well.

"A crucial way in which Ireland differed from Scotland was that it was forbidden to compete with England economically. Trade in woolen cloth had always been a mainstay of the English economy (to this day, the Speaker of the House of Lords is seated symbolically on 'the woolsack'). A great deal of wool was also produced in Ireland, but they were forbidden by law to export woolen fabric, which meant that they were forced to supply the English with raw materials from which the real profit would be made."




Leo Damrosch


The Club


Yale University Press


Copyright 2019 by Leo Damrosch


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