The country which extends westward from Ennis and Edenvale is the dark side of the county of Clarethe wildest, poorest, and most unfruitful part of it. Two reasons induced me to travel through this wretched country. First, I had heard that the celebrated Father Mathew was expected at Kilrush, which is the most easterly town on the Shannon; and, secondly, in the neighbourhood of this town is one of the most beautiful of the Round Towers of Ireland, and the ruins of the Seven Churches, which I was anxious to see. The distance from Edenvale to Kilrush is about sixteen English miles; yet along this whole district,
p.86although the eastern main-road of the county passes through it, I did not find a village, nay, not even a single, I will not say regular, but even tolerable human habitation. The landscape was every where bare, and devoid of foliage of any kind; the colour of the land, so far as I could perceive, was the most melancholy in the world, namely, brown, and dirty red or black; the whole surface even of the mountains and rocks is covered with bog-stuff; no alternation of green meadows, sparkling streams, and wooded hills, but all peat and moor; and even when a rising ground afforded an extensive prospect, still nothing was to be seen but a greater extent of peat and moor, yet more barren rocks, black mountains, and ruined cabins. It made me melancholy to travel through this country. But how much more melancholy must it be, to live here as a glebae adscriptus, a dependent on a hard master, and, moreover, the father of a row of ragged children! In Hungary, Esthonia, Lithuania, and the neighbouring countries, dwellings are to be seen miserable enough in appearance; but such wretched hovels as present themselves to the view of the traveller here, and, I am sorry to say, in many other parts of Ireland, can scarcely be met with in any of the countries I have named. It is a piece of good fortune, that the sky is here in general so dull, and the air so full of the smoke and smell of turf, that all this misery is not distinctly visible. Could one see every thing fully, and in detail, it would be almost beyond endurance.
The fields adjoining the cabins are in the most disorderly state, and evidently tilled in the most negligent manner; they are usually without any fences, so that the desolate turf-bog mixes with them, or they are only surrounded by walls, the stones of which have all tumbled down one over another. I remember that I once pitied the poor Lettes, in Livonia, because they possess dwellings formed merely of round tree-stumps, with the interstices stuffed with moss. I pitied them especially on account of their low doors, and their small windows, and glad would I have been to see their chimneys better constructed. How many melancholy reflections arose in my mind when I beheld their scanty, rude, and wretched household! Now, may Heaven forgive me for my ignorance! I might have spared myself all this, had I known, as I now do, that it has pleased God to lay far greater privations on another people. Since I have seen Ireland, I find that even the poorest of the Lettes, Esthonians, and Finlanders dwell and live very respectably; and that, in ninety cases out of a hundred, Paddy would think himself as well off as a king, if he were dressed, lodged, and fed like these people. To him who has seen Ireland, no mode of life, in any other part of Europe, however wretched, will seem
p.87pitiable. Nay, even the condition of savages will appear endurable, and to be preferred.
A log hut carefully stuffed with mosswhat comfort! Paddy's house is usually built only of clay; and how? Why, one shovelful of earth heaped upon another, with some field stones mixed up in it, till the walls are sufficiently high. A house regularly roofed with straw or barkhow delightful! But Paddy covers his cabin only with sods taken from his bogs. Small windows in the walls, neatly fitted with glass panes, or even half-transparent bladder, or talc, as here and there in Wallachia, and in some parts of Russiabladders, good heavens, what a luxury! Paddy has houses enough in which there is not even the semblance of a window, and only one single square hole in the front, which serves at once for window, chimney, house-door, and stable-door, since light, smoke, men, pigs, all pass in and out through this hole.
An intelligent French writer, De Beaumont, who has been in Ireland, and also among the North American Indians, assures us that the wants of these wild barbarians are in general better supplied than those of the poor Irish; and truly one might almost believe, that greater physical privations are endured by the Irish, than by the people of any other country, not only in Europe, but throughout the whole world. Indeed, look in whatever direction we may for a comparison, the Irishman stands alone, and his misery is without an equal. This can never be placed in too strong a light: for if it is true, that the misery of the Irishman is unique on this globe, every friend of humanity must feel himself called upon to devote his thoughts and his exertions to provide a remedy for the evil.
The Russian, it is true, is often the bondsman of a harder master than the Irishman; but his food and lodging are as good as he would wish, and there is no trace of Irish beggary about him. He feels happy in his bondage too, and is not, like the Irishman in his yearnings for freedom, continually biting his chains, or vainly attempting to break them. The Hungarians, also, do not belong to the nations which are most delicately lodged; but what good white bread does not the very lowest of them eat, and what wine does he not drink? Would the Hungarian for a moment believe that there are people enough in a Christian land who can afford to eat nothing but potatoes, day after day? The Servians and the Bosnians are reckoned among the poorest and most pitiable people of Europe, and the appearance of their villages is certainly not very inviting. But how well dressed these people are! If Paddy could only peep into a Servian dwelling, and see a Servian woman sitting there in her gala dress, and the men
p.88beside her with their arms, he would be apt to tell his countrymen that the good people had taken him to a land where all the women looked like queens, and all the men like princes. Among the Tartars in the Crimea, little of luxury, wealth, or comfort is to be found; and this they seem to know, since they are for ever emigrating in vast numbers to Asia Minor. We pity them for being poor, we inveigh against them for being uncivilized, but still the men look like men. They have form, and shape, and a regular national costume; their huts are neat and clean, and kept in good repair. In what order are their orchardshow well kept their little steeds and their harness! The Irish, on the contrary, appear altogether without form or shape, all edge and trimming. Except their rags, they have no national dress. Their dwellings are neither built nor arranged after any universal national plan, but as if thrown together by chance. Their entire household seems without order or method. There nowhere exists an old fixed form in any thing. As the Irishman clothes himself with rags, picked up here and there, so he has for a chair, now a real chair, now a block of wood, now a barrel; and for dishes he uses potsherds, now of one shape, and again of another. We have all this in Germany, it is true, among our beggars and poor, who are unable to comply with the demands of nationality. But with us and other nations lawless beggary is only the exception, in Ireland, on the contrary, it is the rule. Here is to be seen a people of beggars, the wealthy alone forming the exception; and this it is which is unique in its kind in Ireland, and to be found nowhere else.
The African negroes are naked, but they have a hot sun. The Irish are not only without clothes, but they have also a wet and cool climate, if not a cold one. The American Indians live sometimes wretchedly enough, but they know not a better state of existence; and then, as they are hunters, they obtain many a good joint of roast meat, and make themselves many a feast day in the year. Christmas-day is the Irishman's only festival throughout the whole year, for on every other day he eats nothing but potatoes. This is not living like a human being, to whom nature has given an appetite and a stomach for various kinds of food; but rather resembles those inferior animals which are appointed to be fed exclusively on one root, or one species of berry or plant.
As there are nations who go naked, but who have also a hot sun to keep them warm, so there are others who are slaves, but to whom this slavery has been necessary for their existence; others who are poor, but who wish for nothing else, since they know nothing better; and others, again, whom a famine sometimes
p.89surprises, as it does the Irish, but who also possess a wild, tough nature, and, like wolves, can either endure a lengthened fast, or occasionally consume vast quantities of food. The Irish, on the contrary, are not slaves, sunk in such brutal, unfeeling resignation. They have a strong relish for freedom, and therefore feel the yoke more galling. They are an intelligent nation, and know well how to estimate the injustice inflicted upon them by the distorted laws of their country. They have not the brutish, tough constitutions of Hottentots, and if a famine arises in the land they either die of hunger or suffer the most appalling distress; whilst that they may still better understand, and thoroughly feel, all their misery and privation, they have before their eyes the greatest luxury and the most refined human condition the world has ever yet beheld that of a wealthy English landowner.
The estates indeed are by no means so extensive as in England. The largest are those of the Duke of Leinster and some other wealthy individuals, whose yearly income is from £50,000 to £70,000; the latter is the highest amount in Ireland; and we may assume the former as more common. Now if we take the wages of an Irish labourer to be, as at present, sixpence a day, and suppose that his wife earns in addition fourpence daily, and that upon this pittance they and their family can exist, we have, for the year of three hundred working-days, a total product of three thousand pence, or £12, as the income upon which a labourer's family must support life. A single individual, worth £50,000 a year, therefore consumes as much as four thousand poor families, who have constant work and feed themselves in the Irish manner. But if we calculate the days, many-numbered, of anxiety and care, on which no work is to be hadif we take these into account, the income of the poor Irishman, whose labour is his only means of support, must be still considerably lessened; and the proportion of four thousand to one, which poverty bears to wealth, will be much increased.
It is most discouraging to travel through one of these melancholy rocky, boggy districts, abounding only in ruins; whilst, whether you look to the past or the future, a more beautiful prospect or a more cheerful retrospect nowhere opens on the view. There is no trace that a better system of cultivation, a happier race, or a higher social condition of the population, has ever existed here. Every thing wears the aspect of a misery old as the world itself; and it causes an oppressive feeling to find that here nothing has ever been produced but rags from rags, rocks upon rocks, ruins upon ruins, morass upon morass, and beggars from beggars. One cannot even look into the future with pleasure. There was more
p.90hope for the poor Greeks, under the domination of the Turks than for the Irish under the English. The Turks occupied Greece only by their camps and fortresses; but the English have struck the deepest roots into Ireland, and thus so perpetuated and secured the conquest and subjection of the people, that it is not pleasing to think in what way all this may be undone. What a revolution would ensue, if all those families who have become rich by disgraceful confiscations, by injustice, by force, by the very worst crimes, were again to become poor! O'Connell is not backward in naming such families in his speeches; and as the descendants of the ancient owners have not yet forgotten that they have lost all that the present possessors gained, and are for ever reckoning what rightfully belongs to them, and what the others wrongfully enjoywhat a revolution, I say, must ensue before this still unforgotten injustice could be all redressed! A restoration of the old rightful condition, if indeed such a restoration were possible, would reduce so many thousands to the most abject state of want and misery, that every one must wish to see these reminiscences of independence, of possessions gained or lost, for ever buried in the depths of oblivion by the all-levelling hand of time. Moreover, as the English and their unjust regulations are not alone to blame, but as a main root of Irish misery lies in the indolent, fickle, extravagant, and inactive character of the people, the question is, how can a new and better mind be infused into such a people? How will it be possible to fill them with industrious activity, with zeal and perseverance, and how to wean them from their wild, fight-loving, revengeful nature, which makes them refractory, turbulent, rebellious, and tempts them to murder and slay their tyrants, whereby they only increase their misery and strengthen their bonds?
In the temperance movement, in Catholic emancipation, and in many other things, may be perceived some rays of light and some progress, which have already, here and there, produced a good effect on the poor man in his cabin; but so inconsiderable a portion of these beams has as yet penetrated through the murky atmosphere of the county of Clare, and into the melancholy hovels of its inhabitants, that I almost imagined this dawn did not yet exist for Ireland.
The walls of the little inns at which we stopped to change horses were generally placarded with numerous government proclamations, offering rewards for the discovery of criminals. Fifty pounds were offered for the discovery of the persons who attacked and murdered Farmer So-and-so, on the 15th of May; thirty pounds for information concerning the persons who burned a mill
p.91on such and such a day in July, and maltreated the miller and his family to such a degree that two of them died in consequence; and another thirty pounds for whoever would inform against, and prosecute to conviction, a party of armed persons unknown, who last Sunday evening, in disguise, forcibly entered the house of Patrick Claney, at Burrir, in the county of Clare, but who were beaten off by the aforesaid Patrick Claney and his people, and two guns and a great stick taken from them. I had not time to read all these long placards, instructive as they were respecting the state of the country, and replete with information on various matters which came under my own observation during my sojourn in the land.
In passing a field I saw what I imagined to be a figure, such as in Germany is dressed up and placed in the gardens, or beanfields, &c., to scare away the birds. The rags and shreds were fluttering in the wind; the tattered hat was set on the spot where the head should be; I fancied I saw the sticks which were to represent the legs, and the entire object was standing stiff in the field. All at once, however, it began to move, and came towards us begging for alms. I now perceived that a head was really there, and that the sticks were real legs; and I immediately thought of the celebrated apparition, which was once exhibited in England under the name of the Living Skeleton, and which was literally composed of nothing but skin, sinews, and bones, the muscles and all trace of fat having entirely vanished. This Living Skeleton also came from Ireland; and perhaps the eternal hunger and distress of this people more frequently produce such morbid phenomena.
We carried with us the letter-bags for those villages and seats which lay adjacent to our line of road. At every stage a similar pitiable scarecrow presented himself with a letter-bag, which he strove at times to protect from the wet, by so arranging the rags which danced about him, that a portion of them covered the bag. What a contrast to the fellows who, in Saxony and Prussia, are entrusted with the not unimportant business of forwarding the letters of the public from village to village!
During the entire journey of sixteen miles our carriage was the only one I saw, except an innumerable multitude of two-wheeled cars, drawn by donkeys, which slowly crept along the road, taking home the winter's supply of fuel, accompanied by Paddies in a continually changing rag-metamorphosis. Although, probably, not one in a hundred of those who look like beggars actually beg, yet abundance of those who make a trade of mendicancy are every where to be seen. In these wild and poor western regions, how ever, they are perhaps somewhat less numerous than elsewhere,
p.92as the limited intercourse between these districts and the rest of the country affords a scanty field for the successful pursuit of their vocation. The beggars of Ireland now frequently join the temperance societies, and adorn themselves with the temperance medals which Father Mathew distributes; and those who show this medal have a better chance of receiving alms, since it is supposed that they are more likely to make a good use of the money.
A very frequent spectacle on the road is a little moveable box upon wheels, in which dwells some miserably poor involuntary Diogenes, with a glowing, smoking piece of turf usually lying near him. The hucksters and market women have always a similar bit of burning turf beside them on the pavement, at which they occasionally warm their fingers and light their pipes, and sometimes share it with others in a neighbourly manner.
A couple of very small lakes formed the only feature of variety in our journey. These were covered with a species of wild duck, called Puffins by the Irish. It was formerly very difficult to shoot these ducks, on account of their rapid disappearance beneath the water; but the introduction of percussion guns has rendered the feat more easy of accomplishment, and the birds are consequently now becoming scarcer.11
To a mere pleasure-hunting traveller in this desert, I can readily imagine that a couple of hours would appear like a hundred years, or exactly the reverse of Paddy's stories of the fairy country, in which a hundred years seem but two hours. The Irish, in common with all depressed nations, have their dreams of a fairy-land of wonderful beauty, and the man who drove me the last stage to Kilrush was full of them. Whilst we were rolling down the hills in the twilight, and drawing nigh the little town, he told me of a king who was carried by a fairy lady into that charming land, where he led a splendid and delightful life, till one day he wished himself back on the earth, among men. The fairies then gave him a magic horse, at the same time warning him, as he valued his eternal youth, not to touch the ground with his foot, although he might gallop about the earth on the horse as long as he pleased. He had already spent two hundred years among the fairies, by whose enchantment his youth and strength had been preserved; but on touching the earth this spell would be instantly broken. The king rode forth on the earth, and was greatly rejoiced at again saluting this dear old mother of all mankind. Approaching his own palace, where he had once been used to command, and riding up the court-yard, he saw there another king, ordering arrangements which were not pleasing to him; whereupon he forgot himself for an instant, and, with a
p.93view to remonstrate with his successor, leapt from his horse in a rage. Remembering, while he still hovered in the air, the warning of the fairies, he uttered a shriek of despair, and as he touched the ground his youthful and vigorous form was instantly shrivelled up into that of a man two hundred years old; laden with this weight of years, he could not live a single moment, and with a sigh he gave up the ghost. The magic horse instantly vanished; and the new king, who recognised the body of his long-vanished predecessor by a golden medal which he wore round his neck, had him buried, and erected a monument to his memory.
I am convinced that a diligent collector could find matter enough in Ireland for more than a thousand-and-one nights, and that an Irish Scheherazade could by her tales preserve her life as long as the Arabian did with hers. It is surprising that so little is known throughout Europe of the treasures of Irish popular poetry. Don Quixote and Gil Blas have acquired universal celebrity as tales of Spanish adventurers and enthusiasts; and it is inconceivable why similar tales of Irish adventurers and enthusiasts have not been produced, since there are so many of them actually to be found in Ireland; and as Paddy, as an English colonist or emigrant, often wanders over the whole world, the subject would seem to be inexhaustible.
As O'Connell has always his tail of followers about him in Ireland, so likewise is the traveller in that country attended by a similar tail, wherever he goes. Should he visit any thing remarkable, twelve Ciceroni accompany his steps instead of one. Does he roll along the high road in a carriage, he is followed by a tail of children and beggars. And when he enters a village, this tail is farther increased by the innkeepers and their servants. In short, in Ireland all stars are magnified into comets. As I entered Kilrush, at least twenty adults and twice as many children ran after our carsome to beg, others to recommend particular inns, and others from curiosity, but still more for the mere sport of the thing. Some even obtrusively seated themselves on the car; and with this little triumphal procession I entered Kilrush.
Kilrush is a little seaport town, and, like all Irish seaports, has fewer ruins, and a more fresh and agreeable aspect, than the towns of the interior. It enjoys some trade on the Shannon. Having quartered myself with an old sailor who had fought under Lord Nelson, and who keeps the only tolerable inn here, I hastened to the place prepared for the reception of Father Mathew.
In every town in Ireland, the temperance societies have
p.94their assembly-rooms, and houses called Temperance Halls. That of Kilrush lay in a little by-street. Before it was a narrow court-yard, and a few steps led up to the hall-door. The room itself, I believe, served as a national school by day, the temperance men holding their meetings in the evenings only. Some wealthy societies have built halls for their sole use. A shilling is paid for admittance, which also entitles the visitor to partake of the soirée in the evening. An inhabitant of the town, one of the most distinguished among the temperance men, whose acquaintance I had made, showed me the decorated hall, which was yet empty. Around the walls hung the banners of the various guilds, covered with inscriptions, which were all in Paddy's usual style. On that of the cabinetmakers, for instance, was Sobriety! Domestic Comfort! and National Independence! This inscription appeared to me the most remarkable, and I immediately asked myself what national independence had to do with temperance, which I had hitherto deemed a purely moral question. But I am now disposed to believe it has more to do with it than is generally allowed; and I often thought that all these temperance men were joined in a common conspiracy against England.
The cause of temperance has no where more adherents than in Ireland; nay, it has actually originated here, and here also it has its strong-hold. Almost every Irishman wears the temperance medal, and no less than five millions (this number I have from his own mouth,) are said to have taken the pledge from Father Mathew. The Apostle of Temperance has given to this society its peculiar sanctity and dignity, and hence the Irish themselves acknowledge no other. Our temperance society is the only genuine one, said my guide: elsewhere, in America for instance, there were temperance societies previous to ours, but they are not of the right sort. They hav'n't generally adopted total abstinence, and they break the pledge very often. With us it is quite the contrary. When Father Mathew has once laid his hands on a man's head, and blessed him, and hung the medal around his neck, he is dedicated to temperance for his entire life: from that moment he hates all intoxicating liquors, and can no longer endure those who are given to drinking. So great is the effect of the blessing of our Apostle of Temperance.
The Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland, though, at first, they beheld with jealousy the movement originated by the exertions of a simple monk, have allowed themselves to be borne along by the stream; nay, have even partially placed themselves at its head; and the entire matter has thus assumed a catholic-religious character. Every mighty movement in a nation, and every widely-branching
p.95confederation, be its object what it may, will of itself assume a political character. O'Connell and his fellow-patriots, therefore, could not overlook the temperance movement, and the political weight it obtained by the accession of great masses; they have, consequently, sanctioned it by their approbation, and hence it has obtained its patriotic anti-English character. Temperance gives to the Irish greater domestic comfort, more order and moral strength, and stronger claims and hopes of National Independence. Perhaps the temperance conspiracy and the independence conspiracy will yet merge into one. The shoemakers had as a motto on their banner the words Craft dignified by Royalty. What pompous idea cobbling Paddy associates with these fine words I could never rightly make out.
Garlands and wreaths of flowers encircled the banners and the hall. A large table, in the form of a horseshoe, stood in the middle of the room; and long boards, laid on blocks of wood and barrels, served as seats. At the top of the horseshoe two arm-chairs were placedone for Father Mathew, and the other for the principal Catholic priest of the town, who was to preside at the meeting. Behind these arm-chairs, on the wall, was suspended a gigantic cornucopia, from which a number of shamrocks were represented as falling,another allusion to Irish nationality. On side tables stood vast numbers of teacups, and large piles of bread and butter; for at all the festive meetings of the temperance men, tea is the only drink, and bread and butter their only food. In London, the temperance tea-houses are very numerous; and in many of the towns and villages of England and Ireland, where a beer-jug or a whisky bottle was once displayed, a teapot and a few cups and saucers are now to be seen in the window.
My friend having still many arrangements to complete, I returned to the street. The night was pitchy dark, and two dim tallow candles, fixed upon the door-posts, threw a weak flickering gleam upon the crowd that was assembled outside the hall. The people were shouting one to another; and I heard some say that Father Mathew had already arrived; that a deputation of the principal temperance men had gone to meet him with music, and conducted him in; that he had alighted at the priest's, to refresh himself a little after his journey, and would shortly make his appearance. The contemplation of this scene produced something like a religious effect on my mind, and I thought of those scenes in the history of the Apostles, in which they describe their journeys, and the little towns they visited.
Father Mathew founded the Irish Temperance Society on the 10th of April, 1838, since which time he has been constantly
p.96travelling about Ireland, like the Apostles in Greece and Asia Minor, partly by his presence, eloquence, and encouragement, to strengthen the fidelity of those societies already formed, partly to recruit for new disciples, and to administer the pledge and award the medal and his blessing to such as wish to enrol themselves in the society. During that portion of the year not spent in travelling, he resides in Cork.
Suddenly arose the cry, He comes! he comes! and I heard at the other end of the street a burst of that most horrible(this term I ought not to use, since the instruments were blown in so estimable a cause)music, with which the temperance men open all their public meetings and processions. All the temperance associations have taken music into their especial service, and at their own expense have formed bands, which accompany their processions and enliven their soirées. At times they go in procession through the towns and their environs, and on these occasions, which generally occupy the whole day, all the adherents of the cause are invited. These excursions, for which in London steam-boats are frequently hired, are undertaken partly to promote suitable and beneficial temperance pleasures, and partly to show themselves to the public, for all which purposes the temperance bands may be requisite. In the Irish towns, however, it is also usual for these bands to promenade the streets on Sunday evenings. This is probably done to denote their existence, as well as to advance the cause, and stimulate the zeal of their adherents. But I must confess that my ear was not so attuned as to find any soothing harmony in their music; and were all their trumpets, clarionets, cornets-à-piston, and drums, blown and beat at random, I do not believe the discord could be much greater. It is a pity that better taste is not united with such a cause.
At the cry of He comes! he comes! I betook myself to my place, and seated myself at the end of a bench near my teacup, which had been kindly placed exactly opposite Father Mathew. All the other friends of temperance, young men, old men, women, and girls, also took their places. Young persons composed the majority of our assemblage.
He camethe great man, the Apostle of Temperance, who, after O'Connell, may be deemed the most prominent character in Ireland, since the great phenomenon of five millions of people joining hands in a noble cause is to be looked upon as entirely his work. As O'Connell rules the entire repeal association, and stands at the head of all repealers like a dictator, so the temperance cause almost entirely depends upon Father Mathew, who guides the whole vast association, and exercises a controlling influence
p.97which, under certain circumstances, may become of the greatest importance. He advanced slowly through the crowd, for every one wished to shake hands with him, and this he had to do right and left. At length he stood immediately before me, and sat down in his festooned arm-chair. My friend presented me to the priestly chairman, by whom I was introduced to Father Mathew, who addressed to me some friendly words of welcome. I found him a man of a decidedly distinguished appearance, and at once comprehended the influence which he cannot fail to have over the people. The public require, in the individual whom they are to obey, an imposing figure and appearance, and Father Mathew is really a handsome man. He is about the same height and figure as Napoleon, and is withal thoroughly well-proportioned, and well-built. Though not corpulent, his person is well-rounded, and displays nothing of the meagre, pale, sunken-cheeked, deep-eyed Franciscan monk. His complexion is very healthy, and fresh. His movements and manner are simple and without affectation; and in his tout ensemble there is something that demands and wins the good-will of all. His features are perfectly regular, well defined, and in the highest degree noble, with an expression of mildness accompanied by great decision of character, yet with more of the latter than of the former. His eyes are large, his glance calm, and he often keeps his eye steadily fixed for a long time on one object. His forehead is straight, high, and commanding; and his nosea feature which often displays so much vulgarity, and at other times so much delicacy and noblenessis particularly handsome, though perhaps a little too much arched in the middle. His mouth is small and well-proportioned; and his chin round, projecting, firm, and large, like Napoleon's. His whole face, though a little more round, has yet something of Napoleon in it. Though already in his fifty-fourth year, he appears in the fullest strength and vigour of life. He was born at Cork in 1789, where, till 1838, he lived almost entirely unknown, a simple Franciscan monk, highly esteemed in his own circle, and beloved as a distinguished speaker by his congregation, which was wholly devoted to him, especially the poor, amongst whom he distributed help, consolation, and advice, potatoes, and turf. Over their minds he even then exercised a perceptible influence. Out of Cork, and out of Ireland, his excellent properties, or even his name, were comparatively unknown.
In the year 1838, some Quakers, struck by the misery produced among the lower classes by drunkenness, resolved to found a temperance society in Cork; but their efforts proving unsuccessful, they begged Father Mathew to devote his talents and his powers
p.98of oratory to the cause. He did so, and on the 10th of April, in the same year, formed the first Total Abstinence Society. Having thus proved that he was equally capable of acquiring distinction in great matters as in those minor pursuits to which he had been hitherto confined, in a couple of years he became the influential man he now is, and the temperance cause sprung up beside him like a vast tree produced by magic, loaded from top to bottom with the choicest fruits. In 1838, three months after its formation, the society numbered five hundred members; in 1840, a million; and, in 1842, according to Father Mathew's own report, five millions!
It may be doubted whether history furnishes an example of so great a moral revolution, accomplished in so short a time, and whether any man ever so quickly obtained so great and bright a name as Father Mathew. In point of fact, there is something altogether unparalleled in the Irish Temperance Society. We have, indeed, often beheld old, decayed political fabrics tumbled down in a short time; we have even sometimes seen religious systems and principles of belief quickly vanish; but not till they had been previously undermined and warred against for centuries. Such sudden revolutions and rapid reformations were in these cases merely the visible and manifested effects of causes which had been long at work, although their operation was silent and unseen. But where is to be found a similar example of a people, wholly without preparation, without previous instruction, rising unanimously at the call of a single individual, in the very plenitude of their vices, (for the Irish were the greatest and most habitual drunkards in the world,)12 contending against itself, against its own passions, (not against the privileged classes, or its powerful priesthood,) tearing up sweet old habits by the roots, and confining itself to strict and rigorous abstinence! Here is an entire people doing what, in the middle ages, but a few pious monks were able to accomplish! How hard it is to fulfil that saying of Christ, that we should put off the old man and put on the new! Yet here we see the wonderful phenomenon of five millions of men fulfilling this command in one particular. They have put off an old man, worn out with diseases which have hitherto resisted the medicine of every physician, and have suddenly put on a new, vigorous, abstinent, and sober man.
In all reforms and revolutions there have ever been thousands of men who derived some accession of wealth or territory by the change. In Luther's reformation many princes took a willing
p.99part, because there were convents, fat prebends, and church property to be confiscated. In the French Revolution the conquerors divided among themselves the property of the nobles. The labour of these revolutionary heroes was also comparatively easy, as they sailed with the great stream, which carried men away with it to enrich them at the expense of others. But in this Irish temperance reform every one of its most zealous promoters seems to be a loser from the beginningfrom Father Mathew its author, up to the English Government. One of Father Mathew's brothers was the proprietor of a large distillery, in which two other brothers had considerable shares. His sister was married to another great distiller, named Hackett: in short, all his relations were in some way connected with whisky-making, it having hitherto been difficult to find a person in Ireland who was not related to a distiller. All these people, therefore, have been deeply injured in their worldly prosperity by this reform, brought about by the exertions of their relative, who did not allow himself to be deterred from prosecuting what he deemed generally beneficial, by regard for private interests. The distillers, publicans, and hotel-keepers, were more numerous in Ireland than in any other country, and exercised a very direct influence over the lowest classes of the populace. It was therefore against this influential body, who held the sweet poison ever in their hands, as the goddess Hebe held the divine nectaragainst men, the business of whose lives it was to strive to lull to sleep the good guardian angels of the people it was against them the storm arose. The nobility and the clergy must also have been heavy losers, whilst the government revenue was materially diminished. All these losers could only behold in the distant perspective those advantages which would be derived from more sober and orderly subjects, and must therefore have been interested in the continuance of the old order of things. And as to the people themselves, who were to abstain from drink, what had they to gain by this reform? Were they not rather called upon to subject themselves to what they deemed the hardest of privations? Were they not required to renounce that which they considered their only consolation in all their deep misery? They were to be unfaithful to the dram-glass, which was to them the Lethean draught of forgetfulness, to wash away all their oppressive woes! They were to devote themselves to a sobriety, which, at its very beginning, would render them more keenly alive to all that was oppressive in their condition, and which only showed them a few fair and profitable results in the far distance.
All classes seemed thus to be interested in opposing the progress of temperance, and the cause had to struggle against the strong
p.100current created by the interests, the inclinations, and the passions of men. Benefits were, it is true, held out; but these were of so peculiar, I might almost say, of so unearthly, a nature, as rarely to have any charms for sinful men. Order, industry, virtue, peace with all men, domestic happinessthese were the fruits which the Apostle of Temperance affirmed would be produced by sobriety and abstinence. Nor was this all. Increased domestic comfort was to be the reward of the poor; the more punctual payment of rents was promised to the landlords in return for the aid to be derived from their example and influence; whilst to the government the hope was held out of better and more loyal subjects. These advantages, however, were all uncertain and remote, and required great sacrifices on every side, before they could be realised. Yet the people flocked together passionately, even madly, by thousands, nay, by hundreds of thousands, made all these sacrifices, and allowed themselves to be converted by the great Apostle, whose glorious triumph has scarcely ever been equalled. In one day Father Mathew frequently admitted from 4,000 to 8,000, and upon one occasion 13,000 persons, into the temperance society. On his first visit to Galway, no fewer than 200,000 individuals flocked together to see and hear him, and, for the most part, to be enrolled on the list of teetotalism. As the Irish Temperance Society has been five years in existence, and as it now numbers five millions of members, it must, on an average, have received nearly 3,000 daily. These are extraordinary occurrences, for which the historian can hardly find a parallel; and the affair is more honourable to the Irish nation than any thing else that has hitherto been known of it. For the rest, it is natural, and consistent with human nature, that the whole reform was by no means solely effected by purely spiritual and virtuous means; and it is equally conceivable that all who favoured the cause were not alike influenced by pure enthusiasm for the weal of mankind or the love of temperance.
As to the means by which the temperance movement was created and kept in motion, they were nearly similar to those by which all theories, principles, and parties are promulgated and extended in Great Britain. I have already mentioned that the teetotallers, like the Chartists and other political societies, have their public demonstrations, their great processions, their numerous meetings, and festive parties. On these occasions speeches are listened to, frequently interspersed with noise, tumult, and tasteless music; and it has often occurred to me, that the intemperate zeal with which the British people advocate the principles which they have once adopted, (not excepting even temperance
p.101itself,) must frequently lead to extravagances, which is only an intemperance of another description. Their music is loud and without taste, the speeches declamatory and vaunting, the meetings often continue till the night is far advanced, and, by the temperance people, are concluded with dancing and noise. Like all other parties, the temperance men avail themselves of the services of those great declamatory organs, the daily and weekly journals, in which eulogistic and frequently exaggerated reports of their proceedings are inserted. The Life of the Very Reverend Father Mathew, with an account of his miraculous labours in favour of Teetotalism, has also been written, and printed over and over again, and tens of thousands of copies distributed among the people. In these memoirs are set forth, in prominent characters, the multitudes who have assembled around him each day, and the thousands to whom he has administered the pledge on each occasion. Innumerable tracts have been written on the pernicious effects of intoxicating liquors, on the benefits of temperance, on the future prospects of Ireland, and on a hundred other subjects connected with it. Unlike the letters of Father Mathew, which are written in an animated evangelic style, these tracts frequently display that boasting, diffuse, and exaggerated language which is peculiar to all English parties. Even for the popular theatres tasteless pieces are written, such as The Life of a Drunkard, in which the drunkard becomes a murderer, and is hanged on the stage itself. Such are the adjuncts which accompany the beautiful and truly inspired speeches and acts of Father Mathew, and many other sincere friends of the noble cause; and all this he is obliged to permit, nay, even to sanction, because it is usual with men, and especially with Englishmen, to do nothing without noise and show.
Nor are the motives by which individuals are induced to enter the temperance societies all alike pure and disinterested. I have already mentioned that the Irish beggars sometimes adorn themselves with the medal, because they know that it gives them a better chance of receiving alms. Many of the upper classes are said to have taken the pledge merely to set an example to their inferiors, and in the hope that sober tenants will be better able to pay their rents than drunkards. Many have also joined the societies as an excuse for their niggardliness and avarice; for many niggards think themselves extremely fortunate in having found in temperance an excellent and praiseworthy pretext to conceal their avarice and spare their guineas. These now give their families and guests water instead of wine, and tea instead of punch; and since temperance has become the order of the day in Ireland, nobody dares to grumble at the substitution. Others have been led, as I before
p.102stated, to become teetotallers, not from a love of temperance, but through a species of fanaticism and superstition; and these not only hope by this means to secure their salvation in the next world, but also ascribe certain beneficial and protecting powers to the blessing of Father Mathew, as well as to the medal, which they make a sort of talisman.
All these things are, I repeat, extremely natural and not to be avoided; for not only are they based in the nature of man, and would therefore show themselves any where, but they are also a portion of the Irish character, and unavoidable in Ireland; whilst in other countries they either display themselves in a different manner, or not at all. In Germany, the temperance cause would take quite a different course, and very different means would be made use of for its advancement. There, teetotalism could hardly succeed: it would not be taken up with the same religious, almost fanatical, enthusiasm; few would be found to hang the medal round their necks; and the tumultuous meetings and soirées would not take the same shape. In a word, German temperance would assume a completely different physiognomy. So much is connected with the diffusion of temperance, that one may almost safely predict from its adoption a complete reform of the whole social condition of the Irish, since it chiefly aims at the infusing into the people a taste for a description of pleasure and enjoyments widely differing from those they formerly enjoyed in the whisky-shops.
As temperance tea-parties, such as that which I attended, are now almost daily given in all places in England and Ireland, it may be interesting to my readers to learn how it was conducted. The chairman opened the meeting by congratulating himself and this little town on its being deemed worthy of a visit from the great Apostle of Temperance. As often as he mentioned Father Mathew he bowed reverentially to him, designating him as the great Apostle of Temperance, the great god-gifted man, and by other equally high-flown titles. I thought of Christ, who, when his disciples praised him, said that no one was good but God in heaven; and I fancied that Father Mathew, who repudiates the miracles which the people ascribe to him, should likewise have disclaimed the gross flatteries which the orator uttered in his presence. Such a course would unquestionably add greatly to his other merits. But pompous and exaggerated expressions are so generally characteristic of the Irish, that incense of this nature, sprinkled upon him by his friends, may perhaps be necessary to maintain his reputation and influence with the people. (I forgot to mention that on his entering the room the band struck up the
p.103English triumphal air, See, the conquering hero comes! How is it possible to countenance such arrant flattery!)
Father Mathew then rose, and expressed his joy at finding himself again in Kilrush, and at seeing assembled around him so many of those who on his first visit had taken the pledge, and were still faithful to their vow. He then detailed (amid the continual cheers of the meeting, and ceaseless cries of hear! hear!) the most recent results of their great cause. In particular he gave an account of his last journey across the Channel to Glasgow, where, he said, no fewer than 80,000 persons of all religious persuasions assembled to meet him, and where he had shaken hands with thousands upon thousands: and though he was but a powerless straw on the great stream of temperance, he was received in Glasgow as if he were an angel come down from heaven (ipsissima verba). There are in Glasgow alone 50,000 Irish, and to these his visit must indeed have been particularly acceptable.
Father Mathew's eloquence is one of those endowments for which he is particularly admired. In point of fact, he possesses a sonorous voice, and, what is much more important, a glowing enthusiasm, and a firm conviction of the success of the cause. He occasionally hesitates, and even stammers. After he has been speaking for some time quite fluently and rapidly, he seems all at once unable to find some suitable word, or to express an idea sufficiently quick. His speech stops short, his tongue no longer obeys him, the construction of his sentences becomes entangled, his thoughts grow confused, he stops for a moment, he grows red, his regularly beautiful countenance becomes even distorted, he begins to make some convulsive efforts, and to help out his meaning with some movements of his hands, till at length the knot is suddenly unloosed, the thoughts again begin to flow, the new idea is born, the tongue again recovers its volubility, and the speech rushes along, sonorous and copious as before. I believe that this stopping and hesitation, which might seem to be a defect in an orator, often increases the interest with which Father Mathew is listened to. It is said that Alexander the Great, though a handsome man, had a stiff wry neck; and this, as Plutarch informs us, all his courtiers imitated, because in him they found it particularly interesting. When the figure or the language is generally beautiful, sundry little defects and irregularities only render this beauty still more interesting; and this, I believe, is the case with the occasional hesitation of Father Mathew. At first I imagined he was a little affected in this respect but I afterwards found it was a natural defect.
Father Mathew has a very pretty and delicate hand, and dresses well, almost elegantly. He usually wears a fine black great-coat, and his linen is dazzlingly white. There is something particularly distinguished and gentlemanlike in his entire person and appearance, which is the more remarkable, as he has ever been a man, of the people, has laboured and spoken for the humble and poor alone, and is beloved by them especially. Men of the people not unfrequently endeavour to increase their popularity by an affectation of cynicism, of which O'Connell is an instance, there being nothing elegant or gentlemanlike either in his person or appearance.
Father Mathew concluded his address amid universal and long-continued applause, the noise being equally as great as when he first entered the room. The people clapped their hands, stamped their feet, shouted, whistled, and the tumult was still farther swelled by the noise of the trumpets. A corpulent old man, one of the leading personages of the society, from whose brow the tea he had drunk was rolling down in big drops of perspiration, (Theeschweißtropfen,) continually waved his handkerchief, exclaiming, Again! again! at the same time looking at Father Mathew with a sort of triumphant air, in order to read in his countenance an expression of joy and satisfaction. All this seems to be an indispensable appendage to temperance in Ireland.
In the intervals between the speeches the band in the gallery played Irish or English national melodies, but without the least regard to time, although the leader kept beating it most diligently. In the meantime we emptied cup after cup, and conversation became general around the table. On each of the cups and plates there was a portrait of Father Mathew, in the act of giving his blessing and the medal to the peopleanother addition to my list of overstrained Irish flatteries.
I asked Father Mathew whether he had any intention of extending his labours beyond Ireland and Scotland. He replied that he had long thought of visiting some parts of Germany in particular, but had hitherto been deterred by his ignorance of the language, which he feared would prove the greatest obstacle to his success. As an inspired apostle of temperance, he would be of use in almost every country, especially if he took the field against all kinds of intemperance. But to qualify him for this, the gift of tongues must descend upon him, as it did upon the Apostles of the New Testament; and I do not think it probable that he will ever extend his mission beyond his own island, and those towns of England in which his countrymen are most numerous. He will always find ample employment at home in keeping alive and regulating
p.105the motions of the society he has formed. I believe prudence alone prevents him from going to London, which he has not yet visited. Should he, however, make his appearance in the capital, the commotion would be great, and many would probably be crushed to death in the crowd.13 Even here, in the little town of Kilrush, the throng was great enough. The fair sex, in particular, had forced their way close up to the table, and with the exception of the chairman, Father Mathew was wholly surrounded by young women, and in truth, most lovely and bright-eyed ones they were. The fame of the Limerick lasses doubtless extends to those of Kilrush. A charming little girl, about eleven or twelve years of age, sat at the feet of the apostle; by his side were some older ones, who at times caught his hand and pressed it. Some were sitting in each other's laps, merely for the sake of being near and occasionally looking at the holy man.
In some of the intervals old Irish melodies were sung by the young people. Many of these were very beautiful; for although, in the early ages, Ireland was but little esteemed among the other nations of Europe, she has received from those remote periods, melodies more enchanting and exquisite than are to be found any where else in the world. At this meeting, as in all British festivities, there was no lack of toasts, prefaced by long speeches. The toast proposed with the most elaborate speech, though by no means received with the greatest enthusiasm, was The Irish Clergy.
At the commencement of the proceedings, Father Mathew had cautioned the speakers to refrain from all political allusions. The only question which occupied them, he said, was the cause of temperance, and the slightest allusions to religious and political differences (which they, as temperance men, ought to consider as not existing at all,) should be totally avoided. This admonition, however, was disregarded by one of the speakers, who alluded to O'Connell and his exertions in a manner that could not fail to be displeasing to every one who was not a partisan of this tribune of the people. Order! order! exclaimed Father Mathew to this individual, with a commanding voice. This was, properly speaking, the duty of the chairman; but as he neglected it, Father Mathew immediately grasped the reins; and the quick and zealous manner in which he did so, and the promptness with
p.106which he was obeyed, satisfied me of his ability to preserve strict order at his meetings, and of his firm adherence to the rule whereby no discordant tone of the political parties, by which Ireland is rent asunder, is permitted to destroy the harmony of this pure and evangelic cause.
Towards midnight, after innumerable speeches and replies, toasts and counter-toasts, Father Mathew left the meeting. The tables and teapots were now removed, and a merry dance commenced, which must have continued some hours, as it was morning when I heard the temperance band playing their melodies through the street as they returned home.
At nine o'clock on the following morning, Father Mathew was again at his post. This time, however, the scene of his labours was the church, where he read mass, and then distributed temperance medals to some hundreds of persons who presented themselves for that purpose. This medal is a round piece of pewter, about the size of a five-franc piece. Upon it are stamped the words of the pledge, which are to the effect, that the holder will abstain from all intoxicating liquors, and do all in his power to dissuade others from using them. Some persons, as I have said, wear them constantly as a kind of amulet. They frequently hang them round the necks of their children, who are admitted into the society long before they know any thing of intoxicating liquors, evidently for the same reason that the Russians and other nations cause the sacrament to be administered to their children, before they know any thing of its signification. The wealthy have silver medals, which they wear on festive occasions. Along with this medal each person receives a paper, a sort of diploma, or certificate of admission into the society. In Ireland this medal is called the pledge, and to take the pledge means the same as to become a member of the society. On the other hand, to break the pledge means to break the vow, and again return to intemperance. This of course is frequently the case, and it is not unusual to hear expressions of regret that so many have broken the pledge. Nor is this surprising. On the contrary, it is a wonder that so many millions conscientiously and faithfully confine themselves within the narrow bounds to which the temperance pledge confines them. It often happens that individuals come to Father Mathew with repentant confessions, return him their broken pledge, and entreat him to administer it once more. This he usually does, after inflicting on them some slight ecclesiastical punishment for breaking their vow. Frequently, too, people give him back the pledge, and entreat him entirely to release them from their vow, which circumstances make it impossible for them to keep. Thus, some
p.107time ago, a soldier of the 88th Regiment, who returned his pledge, assigned as his reason for so doing, that his colonel would not permit any soldier in the regiment to be a teetotaller. There are some officers who yet adhere to the old system, and imagine that a sober, water and tea-drinking soldier cannot be as efficient as one who drinks whisky and beer. Other officers, on the contrary, (and this class, I believe, are the most numerous,) are of opinion that the Irish temperance soldier is much more orderly and obedient, and more generally serviceable.
There are numbers, also, who have manifold ways of evading their vow. Many, I was informed, allege that they only pledged themselves not to drink intoxicating liquors in any wine, beer, or whisky shop, but that they may fill their glass in the house and drink it in the street. Such cases may occur, but they are, I have little doubt, extremely rare. Father Mathew himself related to me a strange case of an old colonel, who was much tormented by the gout. He had not personally taken the pledge, but two of his sons were teetotallers. He sometimes used to resolve, probably when he was suffering from his disorder, to devote himself to temperance. At such times he would borrow a medal from one of his sons, and wear it as an amulet to counteract his wish for intoxicating liquors. But no sooner had the gout disappeared, than his love for the bottle again returned, and the medal was forthwith restored to his son. As long, however, as he wore it, he strictly refrained from drinking a single drop; and his conduct in the matter may be regarded as not a little characteristic of the manner in which the Irish frequently appreciate both the medal and the pledge.
A circumstance which I will now mention ought not to be passed over in silence. For every medal which Father Mathew distributes he receives thirteen pence. This is confessedly more than the actual cost of the medal, which is probably obtained for a very small part of that sum. But assuming that it costs one-half, and that Father Mathew (as, according to his own account, is the case,) has distributed five millions of medals, these have produced him a clear gain of 2,500,000 shillings, or more than £100,000. It is, however, universally asserted that the motives by which Father Mathew is influenced, are too noble and elevated to permit him to apply to his own private use any portion of the vast sums which he has thus received, and that the whole amount is devoted to purposes of general utility. He makes frequent gifts of £50, £60, or £80 to charitable institutions, and every where privately assists the poor. He is also building a handsome and costly church in Cork for which, it is true, he makes special collections, but on
p.108which he likewise expends a portion of the produce of the medals. Besides this, his continual journeys are attended with heavy expenses, which are incurred not for himself, but for the great common cause. Though this is the view generally taken of the matterand I am firmly convinced it is the correct onestill I cannot suppress the wish, that Father Mathew would have nothing to do with this money. Could not some wealthy friends be found to contribute the cost of these medals? And would a Franciscan monk lose aught of his influence if he were to travel on foot, like the Apostles of old, and, like Christ, avail himself of the hospitality of his friends? He could not then, it is true, fly with such speed and activity from one end of the country to the other; but his fame would be still greater, and he would stand without blemish, not only before God, but altogether beyond the reach of evil and censorious tongues. His exertions would thus, perhaps, be still more salutary and useful, and his blessing would certainly be still more highly prized by the people. Or, is it come to this, that in our money-hunting age, those men only are revered, prophets and apostles though they may be, who know how to make money as well as how to spend it? In this respect Father Mathew has some distant resemblance to O'Connell.
The chief object of the Irish Temperance Society may be expressed in two words, total abstinenceperfect, unlimited, and unconditional renunciation of all intoxicating liquors. There are some temperance societies which only require abstinence from whisky, and permit the use of other less pernicious liquors, as beer, wine, &c., and only forbid excess and intoxication. The Irish, especially Father Mathew, contend that this degree of abstinence is insufficient, at least for Ireland; since, if any avenue to the bottle were left, the whole broad path to intoxication would again be speedily opened, and a relapse to drunkenness the all too frequent consequence. They therefore devote themselves to total abstinence, or, as they designate it in one word, to teetotalism, and call themselves teetotallers, in contradistinction to other temperance people. At first I imagined that this strange title had something to do with tea, and meant nothing but tea. Teetotal is, however, an old Irish word in general use, which signifies entirely, as, he is teetotally ruined.
Rejoicing in the good fortune which had given me an opportunity of seeing so closely the great Apostle of Teetotalism, the gifted divine, the God-gifted, as he is also called, and with silent wishes for his future success, and a long life, I left the little town of Kilrush. Whether this reformation, so victoriously commenced, will continue and prosper, may perhaps be doubted; but
p.109it is at all events certain, that much of its success depends upon Father Mathew and his personal exertions. It is he in whom the people confide. He alone it is from whom they will receive the pledge; and his blessing alone, in the minds of the people, has strength to bind and to protect. His great eloquence, his restless and devoted activity, his energetic enthusiasm for the great cause, unite the whole together, and give strength and power to the remarkable spell beneath which so great a part of Ireland's evil spirits lie in chains. Should he be prematurely removed, which may God forbid, it cannot be doubted that the young giant-work would be in the greatest danger, just as the repeal cause would receive a fatal blow from O'Connell's death. On the shoulders of these two individuals rests a vast load of responsibility; and where could two men be found possessing qualifications equal to those of O'Connell and Mathew? Who then can wish too often that the life of the virtuous, eloquent, and talented Father Mathew may be prolonged! But his parting-hour will arrive; and will his work survive his deathwill it last? Or will the Irish people again sink into their old drunkenness and torpidity? It is in vain that we look back to the history of the Irish people for a solution of this question: the phenomenon is unique, and we have nothing to compare it with. Nothing remains for us therefore but to turn to the character of the people, and the nature of the cause itself. The former affords us less ground for hope than the latter. The Irish are and ever have been addicted to extravagance and dissipation; they are thoroughly lazy, and in addition, they feel themselves oppressed and in bondage. All these circumstances are calculated to seduce them back to the path of dissipation. The principal features of a nation's character are not easily changed; nay, they seem to be eternal and indestructible. The Irishman will therefore probably find, in his character and in his political condition, continual temptations to intemperance and drunkenness. Besides, he is inclined to superstition; and as there is too much reason to believe that his faith in the divine mission and endowments of Father Mathew, rather than his own strong resolves and firm wishes to reform, are the bonds which at present confine him within the limits of temperance; it is therefore to be feared, that as soon as this magician quits the stage every thing will again sink back into its old weakness and sluggishness.
On the other hand, if we consider the temperance cause itself, there is no doubt that at this moment it restrains the greatest part of the nation within salutary bounds, and has kept it there for four years. This space of time is long enough to make the people feel and acknowledge the many advantages of their altered mode of
p.110life. Better health, greater domestic peace, diminished expenses, increased prosperity, are blessings perceived by the temperance man very soon after he has taken the pledge. But other advantages result from it which are not equally appreciable or so speedily perceptible, and whose fruits can only ripen in the distant future. Amongst these may be enumerated an increased taste for instruction and information; better education of children, and, ultimately, of the entire people; an increased feeling of independence, and a wish for freedom; and, finally, the emancipation of the oppressed inferior classes.
The leisure hours which the drunkard passed in a state of brutal insensibility, the temperance man spends in reading. Since he thus gains time and taste for the cultivation of his mind, he will pay more attention to the education of his children, and thus the civilization of the people will be improved. The drunkard is the most helpless being in the world, and always dependant upon others. Hence it is quite usual for those who wish to make others their dependants, to accustom them to the use of intoxicating liquors. The sober man alone is capable of governing himself, and a feeling of independence will arise among the hitherto deeply subjected Irish. They will be raised in their own esteem, and consequently in that of others. Intelligence and knowledge, which are also power, and the acquisition of property, which produces greater independence, will increase that desire for freedom which is inseparable from a manly character, and ultimately produce a freer political constitution. Much of what O'Connell, at the head of his Helots, now fiercely and vainly demands, mast be granted to a sober, intelligent, thriving, and freedom-loving people.
Still greater than any kind of knowledge, and still stronger than all good or bad resolves, is the power of habit. Should Father Mathew survive, and retain his activity and his influence, until the Irish are led by temperance to adopt other manners and habits, and consequently to change their national character, the battle will then be gained, and success secured for ever. The body can so accustom itself to water as no longer to be able to do without it, and no longer wish to touch intoxicating liquors. Five millions of people are at this moment employed (by suddenly interrupting the progress of their old customs, and adopting those which are entirely new,) in thoroughly changing their inclinations and dispositions, in making themselves quite new beings. They are becoming acquainted with feelings of the existence of which they had before no idea; they have invented new pleasures and social joys, which did not, for them, previously exist; in a word, the threads of better and improved habits have been spun, and the
p.111further development, strengthening, and permanence of these must be the most ardent wish of every friend of man.
It is curious that Christianity also spread through Ireland with a rapidity similar to that which has marked the progress of temperance. It burst forth, says Thomas Moore, on receiving the first beam of the apostolic light, and, with the sudden maturity of a northern summer, at once covered the entire land with fruits and blossoms. The foundation of this phenomenon Moore finds in the versatility which is peculiar to the Irishman, in the ease with which he submits to new impulses and influences, and which form so prominent a feature in his character. Christianity, notwithstanding the rapidity of its adoption, has now existed fourteen hundred years in Ireland. This, then, is a good omen for temperance. The former, however, had this advantage, that heathenism was exterminated in all the countries around, and that the Irish retained their Christianity in common with the entire world. But the vineyards, distilleries, and breweries will not be rooted out of the neighbouring countries in a similar manner.
Figures speak a very simple language. I shall therefore conclude this subject by allowing figures to speak for the cause of Father Mathew; as these clearly prove how much the consumption of spirituous liquors has decreased in Ireland since he made his appearance. In 1833, the quantity of malt used for making beer, whisky, &c., was 1,970,000 bushels. From this year there was a constant increase till 1836, when it amounted to 2,511,000 bushels. Since 1836 there has been a constant decrease, till, in 1840, it was only 1,600,000 bushels, or little more than half the quantity of 1836. The spirit duty amounted
p.112The consumption of liqueurs also was about one-fourth less in 1840 than in 1838.
Compare with this the following sums for England and Scotland:
|Duty on British Spirits||1838||£2,520,000||£1,437,428|
|Import Duty on Wine||1838||£1,590,000||£121,004|
Scotland affords the most remarkable, and at the same time the most melancholy example, of increased intemperance. In that country the consumption of malt has increased, in thirty years, from 784,000 to 4,309,000 bushels, or six-fold. In Ireland, during the same period, the consumption diminished from 3,033,000 bushels in 1810, to 1,604,000 in 1840; and even in England, the increase was only from 23,541,000 bushels in 1810, to 34,000,000 in 1840a quantity which does not exhibit any great increase of intemperance, since the increase of population must have been in nearly the same ratio. If we compare this consumption of malt with the population of the three kingdoms, it appears that, in 1840,