Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

M. Paul-Dubois, then, has the advantage of temperamental sympathy, wise forerunners, and a long tradition. He had, further, the advantage of language, for it is perhaps only in French that Sociology can become scientific without ceasing to be human. His personal equipment is of the first order. Son of the late President of the Acadèmie des Beaux-Arts, son-in-law of the great Taine, and himself one of the chief officials of the Cour des Comptes, he is a member of the group which Brunetière's erudite enthusiasm gathered round the Revue des Deux Mondes. Was it not Taine who originated the phrase "well-documented," and made it the touchstone of all books dealing with social or historical science? At all events it is in that spirit of thoroughness that M. Paul-Dubois has wished to write. The extent of his reading may be gathered from the references in his foot-notes. He paid more than one visit to Ireland, and had he but met some member of the Irish party-of which he writes with a harshness that is constantly in contradiction with itself-he might fairly claim to have met everybody. The Irish reader of his book may not be in entire agreement with his conclusions. To someone armed with special knowledge on this subject, his exposition may seem inadequate; to someone moved by special passion on that subject, his criticism may even prove an irritant; but, when all is said, his five hundred crowded pages represent the attempt of a mind, at once scientific and imaginative, to see Ireland steadily, and to see it whole. If it is comforting to be understood, it is also of some profit to be misunderstood in a friendly way. M. PaulDubois confesses on our behalf no sins that some one or other has not already shouted from the house-tops. Whatever he may have to say of the internal life of Ireland, his verdict on the international issue is given clearly

1

and definitely for Ireland and against England. His voice is raised for the Gaelic League, and against linguistic Imperialism; for the ploughed field, and against the grazing ranch; for Home Rule and against the Act of Union. One may wish to enter a caveat against this or that contention, but the book is founded not on prejudice, or unreasoned feeling, or raw idealism, but on a broad colligation of facts; and, with all reserves made, I believe that it will in due time take rank with the great studies of modern communities like Bodley's "France" and Münsterberg's "The Americans."

What then, is the Irish Question as seen by this sociologist, so inspired and so equipped? It is "an extreme case of social pathology," an instance of the phenomenon called arrested development. It is to history that one naturally turns for proof and illustration of this thesis; and if, as a great Shakespearean critic has said, tragedy is simply waste, the history of Ireland as it passes before us in M. Paul-Dubois' Introduction, marshalled in sombre and picturesque lines, is essential tragedy indeed. It matters nothing whether we approach it in the spirit of those who desire revenge or of those who desire reconstruction: the impression is the same. A civilisation shaken by Norse invasion before it had quite ripened; swept by Anglo-Norman invasion before it had quite recovered: a people plunged in an unimaginable chaos of races, religions, ideas, appetites, and provincialisms; brayed in the mortar without emerging as a consolidated whole; tenacious of the national idea, but unable to bring it to triumph; riven and pillaged by invasion without being conquered-how could such a people find leisure to grow up, or such a civilisation realise its full potentialities of development and discipline? There are writers who would have us burn our Irish

[ocr errors]

Histories. But the historical method imposes itself,
not out of political passion, but by a mere scientific
necessity; upon all students of contemporary social, or,
indeed, spiritual problems. What is no doubt important
is that the past should be studied by the social reformer
not for its own sake but for the sake of the present, and
from the point of view of the present. It is by this purpose
that M. Paul-Dubois has been guided in his masterly
Historical Introduction; and I do not know of any
summary of the same length which traces the forces
of current Irish life so clearly to their origins, and sets
the fabric of fact, by which we are to-day confronted,
in such true and vivid perspective. But over and beyond
that, his Introduction possesses the interest of literature.
The period since the Union has never been outlined
with more telling or more human touches. O'Connell,
the inventor of that "constitutional agitation. which
is now the prime weapon of all democracies, passes away
leaving "a great memory but not a great party." Young
Ireland affords us the supreme instance of the antithetical
temperaments ever to be found in Nationalist politics:
Davis, the reformer, inspired by love of Ireland, and
Mitchel, the revolutionist, inspired by hatred of England.
And so through Famine and Fenianism we come down
to the brilliant feebleness of Butt, and the icy passion
of Parnell, who "had more followers than friends," and
to the struggle of the Gaelic Renaissance for "psycho-
logical Home Rule."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

II.

FOR this is, in last analysis, what M. Paul-Dubois takes
to be the deep malady of Ireland: She has not gained
the whole world, but she has come perilously near losing
her own soul. A certain laxity of will, a certain mystical

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

scepticism in face of the material world, an eloquence which, in depicting Utopias, exhausts the energy that might better be spent in creating them, a continual tendency to fall back on the alibi of the inner life, make Ireland the Hamlet, or still more, the Rudin of the

nations./Is this to say that she is unfit for modern, economic civilisation? By no means. M. Paul-Dubois, having sounded every weakness and surveyed every difficulty, ends with the belief that the forces of re-growth will prevail over the process of decay; and that although Ireland's last cards are now on the table, she is capable, if she plays them well, not only of preserving an ancient people but of creating a new civilisation.

What is the path to this achievement? First of all, under the present regime, England is the enemy. If Ireland is to realise herself, she must become mistress of her own hearth, her own purse, and her own cupboard. She does assuredly stand in urgent need of peace from politics, and so far her Unionist critics are right. There is indubitably a deep sense in which a nation's life begins where her politics end. People speak as if the outcry against Parliamentarianism were a novel and a unique thing. But, fifty years ago, Marx taught all realists to crack the shells of political formulas and parties, and judge them by the moral and economic kernel within. To-day you can pick up anywhere in Paris or Brussels half-a-dozen pamphlets called "The Crisis of Parliamentarianism," "The Absurdity of Parliamentarianism," or "The End of Parliamentarianism." But that peace from the purely political struggle, which is so indispensable if Ireland is to develop character and create material wealth, can come to her only as a result of political autonomy. Until autonomy is won-carrying with it a re-adjustment of taxation-" on the cause must go." And the politicians

[ocr errors]

who keep it going, whatever their special party or tactics, are playing the part of economic realists quite as effectively as any worker on the land or at the loom.//

M. Paul-Dubois naturally devotes many chapters to the Land Question./He rightly treats it as a complexus of three questions, the tenure, the distribution, and the use of the land. The first two are being solved, in a fashion, at the expense of Irish rates and taxes, by the Estates Commissioners and the Congested Districts Board. Landlordism is dying, and dying meanly, "its last thought being of a bargain to be made." The edifice of Feudalism is being dismantled at a cost that raises a very real menace of national bankruptcy, but at all events the grim walls are coming down. But while the liberation of the Irish countryside from landlordism was necessary, it is not sufficient. The farmer must learn to use his land productively; and so there must be a great development of agricultural education, leading up to a general system of "mixed farming." He must learn to combine; and in this respect, at least as regards the small holders, Co-Operation possesses the secret of the future. He must come free of the egoism and pessimism which have remained in his blood since the Great Famine and nothing can expel these except the singing and dancing Gaelic League. But, even with all this accomplished, be will still be a snake-strangled Laocoon until he has in some wise reformed and mastered his Railways and Banks.

When we turn to the industrial condition of the country we find, since the Union, a steady degeneration of economic tissue. Population doubles between 1800 and 1841, but manufacture decays. The cotton workers of Belfast fall in number within that period from 27,000 to 12,000; and the factory hands of Dublin from 4,938 to 682. The

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »