Belfast, in the year 1821, contained 37,000 inhabitants, and in 1831, 53,000. In ten years, therefore, its population increased about thirty per cent.,an increase unequalled in Ireland. The town has also greatly increased during the last ten years, probably in the same proportions as before, and may now contain nearly 73,000 inhabitants. It is remarkable that, as well in its linen trade as its increase of population, Belfast has kept equal pace with Dundee, in Scotland. In 1821, Dundee had 30,000 inhabitants; in 1831, 45,000; and has now over 60,000. The great increase is, in both places, caused by the linen manufacture, by which numbers of the inhabitants of the open country have been induced to become inhabitants of the towns.
This vast mass of human beings, and all the houses they inhabit, live and stand one and all on the ground and soil of one proprietor, the Marquis of Donegal, to whom the entire town belongs, to whom every citizen pays tribute. Two hundred and fifty years ago, it was still very insignificant, and James I. made a present of the barony of Belfast to Sir Arthur Chichester, who had done much to promote the English interests in this country, without having the least idea of the city that would grow up on it for his posterity. From this place the Marquis of Donegal, whose family
p.336name is still Chichester, takes his title of Lord Belfast. It is said that the present marquis could derive an annual revenue of £300,000 from the town, had not a former possessor let the ground at trifling rents, and for very long terms. This has, however, been of great advantage to Belfast.
The linen manufacture and the linen trade being the principal staple and support of Belfast, it therefore claims the greatest attention from the traveller. The linen-hall, a large quadrangular building, which was erected at the end of the last century, is the central point of this trade in Belfast. In this building, almost all the linen of the north of Ireland, destined for exportation, is collected, finished, sorted, and made up and dressed for those countries for which it is destined. Every considerable house has here its ware-rooms and stall, and a walk through the hall is therefore very interesting and instructive.
The linen is sent from here to London, to the United States, to British America, to Spain, to the Brazils, and, lately, to China also. For each market there is not only a particular kind of linen which it prefers, but for each there is also a particular mode of packing, and a particular mode of ornamenting the outsides of the packages. London receives the plainest packages: they must have no ornament of any kind, and every decoration of the linen would only awaken in the inhabitants of that city a prejudice against it. On the contrary, they are very particular and extremely nice about the quality of the linen; and London therefore always receives the best qualities in the plainest wrappers. An extensive linen manufacturer, who had the kindness to conduct me through his ware-rooms, told me that his people had once neglected the above rule, and had sent a bale of linen to a London house, each parcel of which bore on it a little ornament; he no longer remembered what the ornament was, but it might probably have been a couple of silver threads drawn through the band that enclosed the piece, or something similar. This immediately brought down a reprimand from the London dealer, who claimed a slight deduction from the price of each piece, on the ground that he had not ventured to offer the pieces thus ornamented to any of his customers until they had been repacked in a different manner. This individual, so sensitive respecting the external decoration of the linen, had at that time a capital of not more than £500; he is now worth £300,000, principally acquired, it is probable, by his accurate knowledge of the humours of his London customers.
The most directly opposed to the London market in this respect, is that of North America, for which the packages can scarcely ever be too highly ornamented. They are tied up with ribbons
p.337of various colours, and ornamented with birds, flowers, &c., which stand out prettily from the white linen. A very favourite linen in America is that on which appears a condor tearing a lamb,a vignette very common in the Belfast linen-hall on linen intended for America. American linen must be more dressed, repeated my friend. Manufactories and ware-rooms give the observer an opportunity of studying the character of distant lands and people.
As the whole of South America is accustomed to German linen, the Belfast speculators studiously give to the fabrics intended for Santa Cruz, Rio Janeiro, Pernambuco, &c., a German dress. They imitate both the German and Swiss linens in their external ornaments. In particular, they make use of the Prussian eagle, which they place with extended wings on all pieces destined for South America, that it may pass for the linen of Silesia or Bielefeld. The South Americans will take no linen on which they do not see this eagle. One of the Belfast linen merchants has procured a very ornamented coat of arms, of an old German family, which he puts on his South American linen. Thus every market has its whim, as my guide expressed himself.
Even to Germany, as to Hamburgh, for instance, considerable bales of linen are sent. I saw a great bale of parcels, all of which had on them a Swiss cottage, surrounded by flowers and birds, and which was destined for Hamburgh. They are sent there in order to be re-exported as genuine German manufacture. This speculation is possible, because as linen is cheaper in Belfast than in Germany, and as it pays no duty at Hamburgh, the transport costs but little; and the South Americans, when they know the linen comes from Hamburgh, and see the Swiss cottages, are satisfied that it is genuine German or Swiss linen they receive. This they do not call cheating, but speculation, or giving a dress. By this imitation of German linen, and also by obtaining labourers from Germany, this northern linen manufacture has greatly increased and improved. From France, also, some peculiar branches of the trade have been introduced. Thus, French or Belgian workmen have settled at Belfast, and there founded the now not insignificant manufacture of cambric. Many French linens also are here imitated; for instance, the Bretagne linens, which, as well as the German, are so much admired in Spain, and go by the name of Britannia.
Among the flax-mills of Belfast, the most important are those of the Messrs. Mulholland, which are far more extensive than the largest establishments of the same kind at Dundee. At Leeds, in England, are the largest and most splendid flax-mills in the United
p.338Kingdom, those of Marshall and Co. A linen-weaving establishment is very often established in connexion with these flax-mills; and the whole concern is then designated a linen-yarn factory. Within the last forty years, many cotton spinning and weaving factories have also been added; and on the whole, Belfast now numbers twenty-one great cotton and linen-yarn factories, some of which are so vast as to employ 2000 persons, and some of them rise to the imposing height of eight stories. A very considerable quantity of the linen, I believe much more than one-half, is still made in the country by hand-looms; yet power-weaving, as the English call weaving by machinery, is increasing every day. The melancholy and much-felt battle between the hand-loom and the power-loom, which in some towns of England has been decided in favour of the latter, is going on in Belfast.
As the growth of flax in the north of Ireland is insufficient for the supply required by the linen manufacturers, one sees in the great factories of Belfast, flax from all countries of the world, Russia, France, Holland, and even Egypt, all of which is used for various purposes. The largest and the best is brought from Egypt; the longest is the Russian, from Riga; the finest and most valuable is the Dutch. The flax of the county of Down is the most esteemed Irish flax. In some of the mills the flax is now broken by machinery, in what are termed the hackling-rooms. Flax-spinning by machinery was for a long time a matter of great difficulty to thinking heads, because the process to be invented for that purpose should be founded on principles quite different from those of the woollen and cotton-spinning machines, the flax consisting of a number of long smooth fibres, which could not be spun so easily as the short and closely-united threads of cotton and wool. At last it was suggested to pass the flax through warm water: by this means the fibres are divided, and, I believe, somewhat curled and tangled, so that they are easily spun into a continuous thread. By the warm water it was possible to dispense with the twisting and guiding hand of the spinning-girl; and in the great manufactories one girl can now, alas! superintend no less than fifty-four spinning-wheels. Thus all the busy, humming, little spinning-wheels are now melted into great, noisy, gigantic machines; and the many comfortable little rooms that resounded with the songs of the spinners are changed into spacious gas-lighted halls, in which the ruling voice of the inspector commands silence and requires unremitting toil.
The bleaching-girls are no better off than the spinners. Chemistry has now made such vast progress, that it supplies much quicker and more powerful means for the bleaching than the countryman
p.339has at his command. Avaricious speculation, which seeks to do every thing at the least possible cost, combines a multitude of resources for this purpose, and thus many little establishments are united into one large one. Hence, in the neighbourhood of Belfast, there are several extensive bleaching establishments, or, as they are called, Bleaching-grounds, or Linen-greens, which are usually the property of those gentlemen who have factories in the town. I visited one a few miles from Belfast: it consisted of great factories, of six-storied buildings, in the midst of beautiful meadows, with chemical works, labourers' cottages, and outhouses. The bleaching-grounds of Belfast are said to possess advantages over those of any other town in the United Kingdom. They are situated in a beautiful plain which surrounds Belfast, and lies at the feet of high and rather steep hills. The water, which flows down in abundance from these hills, and is of particular advantage in bleaching, never fails in any part of the year; and for this reason also water is as generally employed as steam, in Belfast, as the moving power for machinery. Belfast bleachers have even been taken over to England and Wales; but still it has been found impossible to attain the pure whiteness of the Belfast linen. The changeful climate of northern Ireland is probably extremely favourable to the process. The largest chemical factories are near at hand, at Glasgow, and partly too in Belfast itself.
I had scarcely any idea what a manifold and various apparatus of implements, buildings, machines, and chemical preparations, are required for the perfect management of so simple a process as bleaching. The art has been brought to so high a degree of perfection in these Belfast bleaching-grounds, that a large quantity of raw linen can be completely bleached in four and twenty hours. This rapidity is indeed by no means beneficial for the linen; but, under pressing circumstances, it may be sometimes useful to trade and to humanity. If, for instance, by such fires as those of New York or Hamburgh, great quantities of linen are consumed, it is possible, by these rapid processes, to provide the poor sufferers in a very short time with linen fully bleached. By the various processes to which the linen is subjected, the most various effects and tints of colour are produced,blue-white, pink-white, yellow-white, and chalk-white, according to the colour most in demand with their consumers. I do not know whether this has been carried to such perfection in Germany. The number and greatness of the chemical preparations I found on these bleaching-grounds amazed me. There is the wheat-starch, made in Ireland; the bleaching-liquid, brought from Glasgow and Belfast;
p.340the blue, prepared in Liverpool for the entire kingdom; and the vitriol, which is mixed with water in small portions. Then there are the various contrivances for saturating the linen with these compounds, and other machines to wash out these chemical preparations again after every soaking. There are the blueing, starching, wringing, and beetling machines, the last of which serve to give the linen its final gloss. The gloss is also of various kinds: there is the high-finished, the soft-finished, and the German-finished gloss. The Americans know this German gloss, and the Belfast bleachers must therefore attend to it. They also know how to place the beaters, that after the beetling it assumes a watered appearance. Then there are the drying-houses, where it is dried by the wind, or, if the case is urgent, by artificial heat. All these things are here so perfect that they seem to be prepared for every chance and necessity of trade, and to be able to comply with the whims of all the markets in the world.
Many little contrivances are here to be seen for measuring the strength of the different bucks. These scientific contrivances are now more and more exploding the ancient rule of thumb, that is, the old way the bleachers had of trying the strength of the bucking-washes by the tongue, and the taste. Many of the chemical instruments, and nearly all those made of glass, are procured from Germany; as is likewise the case in most of the manufactories of England where chemical apparatus is used.
Damask is now manufactured at Belfast in considerable quantities; and the inhabitants are not a little proud that their factories make damask even for the table of her most gracious Majesty.
Many other branches of trade have also been established at Belfast, especially during the last ten years. Several of these have been introduced by philanthropists, who dreaded, that, if the entire industrial activity, or the entire existence of the population, depended on the linen manufacture alone, great misery might be occasioned by adverse and unexpected changes, and who thus endeavoured to prepare and open the way for a more diversified activity. The growing necessities of the linen trade, which increased in refinement every day, also caused many other branches of industry to spring up and flourish. Thus there are here ironworks, glass manufactories, whitelead works, &c., most of which are offshoots from the great mother-factories at Glasgow. The most strange, and, at first sight, to a German, most inexplicable, of these subordinate trades, is that of the philosophical instrument makers, who are found all over England, but the true meaning of whose name I here for the first time discovered. By these are meant the makers of chemical and physical apparatus.
The most remarkable fact, however, in the history of Belfast manufacture and art, is that the first printing press was set up in this city so late as in the year 1696: printing was therefore introduced into many Russian towns much earlier than into this British city. Yet Belfast, since the introduction of printing, has, next to Dublin, produced more printed books than any other city in Ireland. Here, in 1714, was printed the first Bible in Ireland; and here the oldest Irish periodical, The Weekly Magazine, was established. Germany, therefore, has many older periodicals than Ireland. Seven newspapers are now published in Belfast, all more or less Whiggish, and, like the Roman Catholic papers of the south, not only opposed to the Tories, but also to the Church of England.
In the Irish rebellion, at the close of the last century, the Presbyterians of the north, and the Catholics of the south rose in concert, and at the same time: the former fought no less obstinately against the English troops than the latter, and they received all accounts of the progress of the French Revolution with as much exultation as the Catholics. Like the Catholics, they are favourable to republican, or, at least, to anti-aristocratic and anti-English tendencies. Nevertheless, they are no friends of the southern Catholics, and, under particular circumstances, are their bitterest enemies. O'Connell and his party have less influence in Belfast than in almost any other town in Ireland; and on all the agitation-expeditions and triumph-progresses which this great man makes through Erin's plains and towns, he carefully avoids Belfast. Of course he has some partisans here, whom he once visited; but he arranged it so that he arrived by night, in a mean-looking carriage, and went off again before the opposite party had time to concert and execute any movement against him. I was told at Belfast that the great musician Liszt had the misfortune to be taken for O'Connell in the neighbourhood of that city, and was very near undergoing something extremely disagreeable that was intended for the agitator. As Liszt approached from Newry, in a handsome chaise drawn by four horses, and it was rumoured that the carriage contained a celebrated man, some of the Presbyterian rabble imagined it was O'Connell. They stopped the carriage, cut the traces, and compelled the eminent pianist to dismount, in order that they might wreak their anger against him in Irish fashion. They merely wished to duck him in a neighbouring pond, and then to advise him to return to his carriage, and to be off to the south of Ireland. It was some time before they discovered that, instead of the well-fed, old O'Connell, a young artist had fallen into their hands. It is the peculiar and
p.342unfortunate characteristic of Irish parties, that they agree in scarcely a single point, and that their interests and sympathies are so different, that they can unite on no common ground for the good of all. It is true that all who live on the soil of Erin, are one and all Irish in some particular, and must necessarily feel a certain degree of sympathy for their fatherland, which they have either entered as colonists, or inhabited from times of old. The original native Celts, the English and Scotch colonists, the Roman Catholics, the Presbyterians, the High Churchmen, the poor tenants, the merchants, the landed gentry, have become, or have ever been, Irish. The name of Erin finds an echo in the hearts of all, and there is not one among them who does not lament her ill-fortune. They are all, too, in some way opposed to the pretensions of England: the original Celts and Catholics are, of course, the natural enemies of every thing English; the Presbyterians, as well as the Scotch, are opposed to the Established Church. Nay, the Irish Presbyterians have even their separate opposition against the Kirk of Scotland, which, as the mother-church, sometimes attempts to exercise a certain authority over the Irish synod. So, in like manner, the Irish High-Church party is by no means always in harmony with the English Church party; and the interests of the Irish Presbyterian, or Lutheran, or Roman Catholic trades'-people and manufacturers, of Celtic or Saxon origin, have always been clashing with those of England. The Irish nobility, too, by no means hold the same opinions as the English: the Irish nobleman is made the subject of raillery in England, and the English nobleman is no favourite in Ireland. From all this, one might expect that a fine, unanimous, and powerful opposition would have been formed in Ireland against England; and that all parties would at least join hands in patriotic exertions against England. The parties of other countries, as in France, for instance, always unite as soon as their country is threatened from without; and however violent party feuds may be, all are brothers as soon as the enemy appears.
In Ireland, however, it is precisely the reverse. So often as the foe and oppressor, England, appears, so often she is sure to find numbers ready, through party-hate, to suppress a portion of their patriotic sympathies, and even to sacrifice a portion of their own interests, to save the remainder, and to satisfy their hatred. Thus, although the Irish landlords did not like the restrictions to which, before the Union, the trade of Ireland was subjected, and by which they were sufferers, they did not raise their voice against them, because they required the support of the English kings to retain their grants of property. Thus, again, although the Irish
p.343parliament did not like to be commanded by that of England, yet it showed itself obedient in order to retain its privileges. Thus, also, the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics, although both opposed to the Established Church and the Protestant aristocracy, yet hate each other so much the while, that they often desert and betray one another in the midst of the battle. It is said that, in the last rebellion, Presbyterian rebels looked on inactive, and took pleasure in seeing parties of Catholics cut down by the English, although it was against these very Englishmen they were both fighting.
Thus the interests of no two Irish parties run parallel with each other; and even though both are hostile to England, they are still more hostile to one another, and make friends with England half against their own inclination. People think and feel in Ireland so differently on the most important concerns of man, religion, government, nationality, &c., and are all so differently interested in each of these matters, that it is next to impossible to propose or to carry out any general measure which is not considered as poison by some, whilst by others it is received as a healing and refreshing drink. It is proposed to provide workhouses for the destitute: the Presbyterians are well pleased, because they hope to get rid of beggars and disorder; but the Catholics, whose church encourages almsgiving, are averse to it, in order not to be doubly taxed. Is it intended to provide schools for the people: the Protestants insist on the whole Bible being used in them; the Catholics, on the contrary, will have no Bible at all, and then education and civilization suffers. Is the draining of the bogs taken into consideration, or the cultivation of the barren mountains: the farmers applaud, but the great folks do not wish to lose the pasturage for their sheep; or the landlords applaud, and then the peasantry do not like to lose their turf. Is it intended to lighten the pressure of tithes on the farmers: the Established Church shakes her head, and the Catholic chapels nod encouragement. If people in the west rejoice that something is doing for the Celtic language and literature, and that a professorship of Celtic literature has been lately erected in the university of Dublin, it is made a subject for derision in the east; and the Union, to maintain which one party would die, another would give their lives to destroy. When these differences will cease, and all these prejudices be smoothed down, no one can foresee. At all events, the commencement which has been made proceeds at so slow a rate, that one cannot venture to calculate the distance of the goal. The Celts are but slowly disappearing before the advance of the Saxons, and a difference of language will long exist. The Catholics have still so
p.344much to demand back from the Protestants, and the latter are at this moment in the enjoyment of so many unjust privileges, and in possession of so much plundered from the former, that it will be long before both parties can meet without animosity and jealousy. The great landlords have not yet taken a step towards resigning the least part of their unjust rights over their tenants, and a partition and dissolution of the great estates has not been even dreamt of. In short, a reconciliation is yet so distant, that, in despair, one might almost exclaim, in the words of Moore
- When will this end, ye Powers of God?
She weeping asks for ever;
But only hears, from out that flood,
The demon answer,Never!
The religious dissensions and differences of Ireland claim the traveller's attention, especially at Belfast, for here he enters the central point of a new branch, not only of manufactures, but also of religion, namely, the Presbyterian. The three religions of Ireland, the Presbyterian, the Episcopalian, and the Roman Catholic, correspond with the three races which inhabit it,with the descendants of the original Irish, and of the earliest English colonists, who are all Catholics; with those of the later English immigrants, who are Protestants; and with the Scottish, who profess Presbyterianism. The principal seat of the Episcopalians is undoubtedly Dublin, where they are most powerful by means of the university; but they are scattered every where through the land, as its lords and masters. The stronghold of the Presbyterians is Belfast, where their Moderator, the head of their church, resides, and their general assembly is held. They compose the greater part of the population in the northern districts of Ireland; while in the south the Presbyterians are but few, as in Dublin, Dungannon, &c. The Catholics have no such central city, yet there are genuine Catholic towns, as Cork, Galway, Drogheda, &c. They form every where the principal mass of the population. In the north alone, they have been dislodged en masse by the Presbyterians, who have taken their places.
The Presbyterians in Ireland form a separate church of their own, organized on the model of that of Scotland, and called the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, or Ulster, which is its peculiar province. Its foundation dates from the year 1642, and it has therefore existed just 200 years. At different times, as in the Kirk of Scotland, various secessions and reunions have taken place in the bosom of this Irish Presbyterian Church. These schisms were principally caused by the general synods, which had retained the strict orthodoxy of Calvin, Knox, and the Scotch reformers
p.345requiring that Presbyterian ministers should subscribe the Confession of Faith framed in the year 1644, by the assembly of the Presbyterian divines at Westminster. This Confession of Faith exactly corresponds with the decisions of the synod of Dortrecht, and contains the most strict Calvinism ever comprised in any creed. When many preachers afterwards objected to signing this Confession, claiming for every one the right of a perfectly free interpretation of the Scriptures, there arose a division of the Presbyterians into Seceders or Nonsubscribers and orthodox Calvinists. At the head of the former stood the Secession Synod; at the head of the latter, the Great Synod of Ulster. In the year 1840 these two synods were again united into a General Assembly. A few congregations only have not assented to this reunion, and now form separate synods of their own. For instance, there is the Presbytery of Antrim, consisting of nine churches, which seceded so early as 1720; then there is the Remonstrant Synod, or, as it is also called, the Reformed Presbyterian Synod of Ireland, which consists of four presbyteries, or twenty-six congregations, who maintain the principle of nonsubscription to creeds. From these twenty-six congregations, five have lately seceded, at the annual assembly in 1840, and again form a little body of their own. The members of the last-named community are principally Unitarians, who worship God the Father solely and alone. The Lord Jesus Christ they consider the Son of God and Ambassador of the Father, the divinely appointed and inspired Saviour of man from the evils of ignorance and sin. But they do not regard him as God, nor do they reverence him as such. They deem the Holy Ghost to be a power, virtue, or agency, which emanates from the Father. On these points all Irish Unitarians agree; but concerning a variety of less important points they hold an equal variety of opinions. These Unitarians have, however, less in common with our German Rationalists than this might lead one to suppose. We do not maintain that form of rationalism preached by Paulus, Ammon, and Strauss in your country, said an esteemed Unitarian minister to me; although, indeed, some of us are not unacquainted with the writings of these men. This is very true: a German Rationalist, and an Irish Unitarian, are two very different beings.
As the subscription of the Westminster Confession of Faith produced the Nonsubscribers, so the circumstance that the various presbyteries did not insist upon perfectly unconditional and unqualified subscription,that some did not desire any subscription at all,that others permitted an addition like this: We subscribe the Westminster Confession of Faith in so far as it is founded
p.346upon holy writ and agreeable to it,all this, I say, had the effect of causing many rigorous congregations, who insisted on strict subscription, to unite and form Presbyterian bodies of their own. These are, the Covenanters, who have thirty-five congregations in Ireland; and the Anti-bounty Seceders, who form about nine or ten. All these have no connexion with their brother Presbyterians.
On the whole, there are now about four hundred and ninety Presbyterian congregations in Ireland, which are divided into about forty presbyteries. The whole Presbyterian population, in the year 1834, amounted to 642,000 souls; but now it is supposed to far exceed 800,000. The Unitarians have forty congregations, or societies, consisting of 42,000 souls.
The province of Ulster had, in 1831, a population of 2,386,000, and it now probably amounts to 2,500,000: nearly the third part, therefore, is Presbyterian. In Belfast, the proportion of the Presbyterians to other religious communities is computed as follows:
The most remarkable feature in the spirit of the Presbyterian Church is its missionary and proselytising zeal, which has increased greatly in influence and extent since the reunion of the two great Presbyterian bodies, in 1840. First, there is a foreign mission, for India and other foreign countries; then, since 1841, a Jewish mission, for the conversion of the Jews, which, in conjunction with similar societies in Glasgow and Edinburgh, has sent missionaries to Pesth and Jassy, to labour among the seed of Abraham for the everlasting gospel. And, finally, there is also a home mission, which is the most interesting of all. This home mission has three objects: first, to promote the building of churches in the north of favoured Ulster; second, to reanimate declining congregations, and to establish new ones in the south and west of Ireland; and, thirdly, to instruct, in the knowledge of the Gospel, through the medium of their own tongue, those who speak the Irish language only.
As these subjects are all new, highly interesting, and little known to us, I will here give a short account of the home mission from MacCombe's Christian Remembrancer for 1842, and will avail
p.347myself of the words of the essay itself, which are very characteristic of the opinions and language of the Presbyterians:
In Cork, Clonmel, Athlone, Galway, Carlow, and other important posts, where very promising congregations now exist, this object has been already effected. We have every reason to believe, that, by the establishment of these congregations in the midst of a benighted land, a vast deal of good has been already done; not only because many precious souls will now be thereby trained and fitted for immortal glory and happiness, but particularly
p.348because now a lasting testimony for the truth is deposited even in the midst of surrounding superstition and infidelity. During the last eight months this work has been carried on with particular success by two missionaries, Simpson and Knox, who were sent out to reconnoitre the land. By their exertions very promising openings and congregations have been called to life at Wexford and New Ross. Tralee, (the best centre for the exertions of all missionaries in Ireland,) Killarney, Miltown, Bandon, are points in which the exertions of the church have been crowned with remarkable success. But the work of the dissemination of truth will not be fully carried out, till every Presbyterian, and every Protestant of every creed, has the ordinances of the gospel near at hand. He alone who has himself visited these places, and knows the extent of their abandonment, can fully estimate the importance and the necessity of erecting in the country the standard of the cross.
The last, and perhaps the most important, object of the exertions of the home mission, concerns the bestowing the knowledge of the gospel on the Irish-speaking population of our island, almost a third of the entire population. And yet for such a mass of immortal souls not the least sympathy has hitherto been shown, even by the Protestant church. Most of them are totally ignorant of the English language, and no attempt has been made to approach them by another medium. The Presbyterian church at last has lately resolved to give the gospel to these people in their own language, and for this object it employs two means. The first is, preaching in the Irish tongue. This was long a pious wish in our country. It is now at last in our power to apply this means. During the past year (1841) the Rev. Henry MacManus, who, with great fluency and strength, can address his countrymen in the language they love, has travelled about every where, preaching the word. He has already visited the towns of Galway, Sligo, Clifden, Westport, Drumcornwick, Brickhill, Boyle, and other places in the west. He has also travelled through a great part of the northwest. The reception he almost every where met with was very favourable, and the readiness and the desire of the people to hear him was so great, that one may entertain the hope that the time of grace for our country, even the set time, is at last arrived. The second means is, the erection of Irish schools. There are about three millions of Irish who speak the Irish language, and love it as their mother tongue. In the year 1818, a Bible was printed, in the Irish language and character, by the British and Foreign Bible Society; and the work of circulating the Scriptures among the Irish-speaking population then begun, has now ripened into
p.349the present system of teaching and learning through the medium of the Irish language. The schools are very simply contrived, and can be quickly increased to any amount at pleasure. A suitable person is appointed as teacher, in every district where a school is wanted; the pupils are his neighbours and relatives, to the distance of two or three miles round him. They meet alternately at each other's houses for instruction, every evening, after their work is done, and on the Lord's day, morning and evening. They begin to read and to spell in a little primer, which has been written and printed for them; when they have learned this by heart, a portion of Scripture is put into their hands; they then begin and continue to study the word of God, till they are able to read it with ease and fluency, while at the same time they learn to translate it into English. A portion of it they learn by heart also. The schools are visited thrice a year by an inspector, who reports on their condition to the superintendent. All the teachers very frequently meet at the superintendent's, to be further instructed in the saving doctrines of the Bible, and to be encouraged in the business of teaching, by little premiums and presents. Besides all this, Scripture-readers are engaged to travel about from village to village, and from house to house, in order to maintain among the people the habit of reading and hearing the word of salvation.
This entire system of Irish teaching was established by the Presbyterian church in the beginning of 1835. In the first year, 30 schools were founded; since then they have gone on increasing in number, and in this present 1842 they amount to 223. The scholars last year examined in these schools by the inspectors, amounted to 5407, all Roman Catholics, who learned to read the Holy Scriptures in Irish, and to translate them into English. Not one of these scholars was younger than fifteen, and many hundreds were over fifty and seventy years of age. Many of the teachers have even renounced the errors of Popery, and the knowledge of the Light is making rapid progress among them all. The field of our activity is wide, the necessity great, and the machinery is good. What might not a fully united, zealous, and vigorous Presbyterian church accomplish, if she called forth all the powers that stand at her command!
So much for the remarkable activity of the Presbyterian church of Ireland, which calls itself pre-eminently a missionary and an apostolic church.
The Irish Sunday-schools, which differ from those above described, by being open merely on Sunday, and conducted by unpaid teachers, mostly originate from this Presbyterian church, as the following interesting view of the number of Sunday-schools in the
p.350various provinces of Ireland clearly shows. The first society for the formation of Sunday-schools was founded in 1809, and on the 1st of January, 1841, there were,
|In Ulster: 2,010||with 169,377||and 15,891|
|In Leinster: 455||with 33,540||and 2,969|
|In Munster: 394||with 19,094||and 2,045|
|In Connaught: 169||with 8,668||and 763|
|In all Ireland||3,028||with 230,679||and 21,668|
Here again it is apparent how greatly education has been neglected in the west of Ireland, since in Ulster there are single counties in which the Sunday-schools contain from four to five times as many pupils and teachers as the whole five counties of Connaught put together.
The Presbyterians of the north are as unwearied in their exertions in the field of scientific inquiry as in that of religious enlightenment. The whole north of Ireland, the favoured Ulster, in this respect, as far out-shines the rest of Ireland, as Scotland does the rest of Great Britain; and just as the Scotch are superior to the English in education and enlightenment, so are the people of Ulster to the rest of the Irish. Belfast is at once the Edinburgh and Glasgow of Ireland, on a smaller scale. Like Edinburgh, it is the seat of many learned and scientific societies: of horticultural, agricultural, statistical, literary, and historical societies, of a mechanics' institute, a society of natural history, and, lastly, of several musical societies. I visited the institutions and collections of some of these societies.
The society of natural history possesses a little museum, in a handsome and elegant building. This is one of the numerous museums which have of late years been established in all the towns of England; but, upon the whole, the museums of our middle-class German towns are not only older, but richer, and in better order than these British provincial museums. The museum of Belfast contains many interesting Irish antiquities, found in the neighbourhood, and also curiosities of natural history; but here, to his disappointment, the traveller seeks in vain for what, above all things, he has the best right to expect,I mean a complete, well-arranged, satisfactory, and instructive collection of every thing illustrative of the Giant's Causeway, and, in general, of all the interesting volcanic formations of the north of Ireland. Every provincial museum has no doubt its particular function, since each is generally directed to the investigation of some one important department of natural history. Belfast this great city so
p.351rich in scientific materials and learned men, is, without doubt, above all things called upon to exert all its powers to collect in its museum every thing calculated to convey to the inquiring, information and a clear conception of a natural phenomenon, for which the north of Ireland is celebrated throughout the entire world, namely, of those remarkable basaltic formations on its coast.
Some specimens of those coasts are, of course, found in the Belfast museum; but when I think how nobly illustrative many of our German provincial museums are of the geological structure of their neighbourhoods, as the Prague museum of the formation of Bohemia, and the wonderfully arranged collections in Graz illustrative of the structure of the Alps, with regret I must say that in this respect Belfast is far behind them. In vain the traveller inquires after a complete collection of all the volcanic masses of which the northern coast consists,in vain, for an arrangement of them, according to the order in which nature has disposed them, or for a model of the Giant's Causeway in wood, or for a clear, accurate model in plaster, or any other material, of the entire northern coast,all of which it is a disgrace to Belfast not to possess. The traveller, going to visit this wonder of nature with his head full of expectation, and returning from it with his head full of speculations, finds, alas! nothing, or at least very little, of all these things here.
In general the stranger finds more to interest him in the private than in the public collections of the English. The former are usually much richer, and kept in the most admirable order; whilst the latter seem to be only in the course of formation. Of the private collections of pictures, compared to the public, this is very different; and the public libraries, which form the oldest of all classes of collections in England, are of course an exception; but the finest and best collections of natural history and antiquities are generally those of private persons, who zealously devote themselves to some particular branch. In Belfast, there are some private collections unique in their kind, such as Dr. Drummond's wonderful collection of sea plants, and Dr. Thompson's complete and elegantly arranged collection of shells.
The Botanic Garden of Belfast was laid out in 1830, and a great many English botanic gardens have been established within the last twenty years. I was invariably surprised by the extreme youth of all these scientific institutions in England, which has still to accomplish for its remote districts what we have long since done in Germany. The Belfast Botanic Garden is, next to that of Dublin, the finest in Ireland, and as excellent as any in England. It has some advantages over that of Dublin; for although
p.352these cities are only eighty miles apart, their climates are very different, the summer at Dublin being much warmer, and the winter more severe, than at Belfast. The enlightened director of the garden, who told me this, thought that this fact might be explained by Dublin having a great plain on its landward side, while Belfast, being on that side surrounded by high hills, receives all its air from the sea. In this garden the cypress was growing in perfect health in the open air, under the 55th degree of latitude, as also the arbutus, which does not grow wild here, as in the south of the island. For this, however, the north is compensated by the yew, which is peculiar to it. A beautiful collection of heaths ornaments the garden; and among them are seen remarkably large ones, which grow in the bogs of Ireland. One division of the garden, called the British Garden, particularly interested me: it contained a collection, as perfect as possible, of all the plants indigenous to the British Isles. There was here a complete collection of grasses, which are of great importance to British gardeners, who take such pride in beautiful grassy lawns. Here I saw no less than 400 species of grass, all indigenous in England. In the larger English towns there are gardens in which grasses only are cultivated, and the production of these, and the sale of their seeds, form a distinct branch of trade. The festuca ovina, the poa trivialis, the poa nemoralis, are grasses which make a good thick, fresh, short verdure, and are therefore much in request for lawns. Australian plants also thrive very well in the temperate atmosphere of Belfast, and in general through all Ireland; and among these are many already diffused far and wide through the Irish gardens. The Irish myrtle was cited to me as an example. This introduction of plants from all parts of the world into England, which has no very rich herbarium of its own, increases daily. A rose, originally brought from China, is now common in Ireland, where it flourishes winter and summer in the open air.
Of musical societies, there are now four in Belfast,the Anacreontic, the Choral, the Harmonic, and the Society of Harpers, all of which give frequent musical festivals, concerts, and rehearsals. Thalberg, Liszt, and other great musicians, have always visited Belfast, whilst they have neglected Limerick, Cork, and other towns of the south. I mention this, because it is well known that other manufacturing towns, as Manchester and Birmingham, are famous for their musical taste, and their numerous musical societies and festivals; whilst Liverpool, and other trading towns, are as inferior to them in this respect, as Edinburgh is to the manufacturing Glasgow; and because the question may be raised,
p.353whether, in manufacturing towns, particular circumstances prevail, which are favourable to the development and cultivation of a taste for music?
The Harpers' Society is the oldest musical society in Ireland. It was founded and supported in a singular manner, at the suggestion of some Irish patriots residing in the East Indies, who were probably more affected by the beautiful Irish melodies, when they sang them among themselves, far from their native land, and who contributed funds for the instruction of some blind boys as harpers at Belfast, and to establish concerts there on this old national instrument. Perhaps a few patriotic Irishmen, in the East Indies or China, will some day, mindful of the wonders of their fatherland, send money to Belfast for the formation of a geological museum, to illustrate the Giant's Causeway, and every thing connected with it.
I have already mentioned the Harpers' Society at Drogheda. In the last century there were no such societies in Ireland; and from this one might suppose that harp-playing was now again beginning to flourish, as in the time of the bards of old. But in this we would perhaps deceive ourselves as much, as if from the present schools, professorships, and other exertions for the Irish, Gaelic, and Welsh languages, we were to expect their revival. Sympathies and exertions like these are wont to arise only when an art or science is on the decline; and are often a sign less of its vigour than of its death, like the last flaring-up of an expiring flame. In respect to language, there is no doubt of this. In respect to the harp we cannot decide. Yet Dr. Bunting, who has published a collection of national Irish melodies and a dissertation on Irish music, assures us, that, admirably as some living harpers still play the Irish compositions on the harp, not one of them comes near to those who were present at the great musical meeting at Belfast, in the year 1792, and the most distinguished of whom were, Denis Hempson, Arthur O'Neill, Charles Fanning, and seven others. So much is certain, that the Belfast Harp Society has not fulfilled the expectations it excited, and that it is now dissolved.
Among the other public institutions of Belfast, as in all towns of Ireland, and in all manufacturing towns of England, the fever hospital claims the attention of the traveller. The excessively crowded dwellings of the labouring classes, and the increase of wretchedness and poverty, augment the dangers arising from contagious fever to an extraordinary degree, and render the question of fever hospitals, their better arrangement, and their extension, one of pressing importance to the municipal authorities and the
p.354Government of England. As I visited this hospital, and as my friends supplied me with the reports of its operations, I may be able to supply my readers with some interesting information concerning it. From the tables of the number of patients received into the hospital, it appears that, fever has been constantly increasing. From the year 1818 to 1836, the number annually admitted usually amounted to between 300 and 600. The highest number during that period was 1621. In the year 1837, the number amounted to 1987; and in 1838 it rose to the unparalleled one of 3363. Since then, indeed, the number has again diminished, but it has never been less than 1000. The average of six years, previous to 1837, was 750 annually; and of the six years since 1837, upwards of 1500. These numbers are not proportionate either to the increase of the population or the extension of the hospital. In malignity and obstinacy, these Irish fevers appear to be on the increase; for the periods of their prevalence seem to be always growing longer. Before the year 1818, an epidemic infectious fever never lasted in Belfast longer than eight months. In 1818, an epidemic lasted ten months; and in 1836, there was one that continued over a year,the longest ever heard of here. These fevers prevail almost solely among the poorer classes, and are caused by their bad food and wretched mode of life. Every wet year, which injures the harvest, also produces an increase of fever. When the wealthy are attacked by fever, they are attacked with greater violence and more fatally. Certain localities of this town suffer more from fever than others. This is also the case in Manchester, Glasgow, and other towns, where these epidemics prevail. It is remarkable, that none of all my ten reports showed that season had any influence upon the fever, but that it appeared to prevail with equal severity the whole year round.
To the report for last year is appended a table, showing the occupations of the patients, which gives an idea of what classes suffer most from fever. This table will not be completely available until it is accompanied by a statement of the number of persons in the various trades and callings in Belfast. Among 2056 patients, 704, or more than one-third, were millworkers and weavers. There were but six bleachers, although the number of this class in Belfast undoubtedly bears a far greater proportion to the entire population. 423, or more than a fifth part of these patients, were of the class of servants. It is also remarkable that females appear more liable to fever than males. In almost every year there were in the hospital from ten to twenty per cent, more women than men. Yet the fever is not so violent and fatal to the former as to the latter; for nearly all the tables show that the
p.355deaths of the men exceeded those of the women by ten or twenty per cent. The cause of this may be, that the men, on whose labour the subsistence of their families principally depends, are not sent into the hospital until the disease has become very violent. Fever seldomer attacks persons of advanced age, but when it does it is the more violent.