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and are acts of omission to be esteemed so venial ?
MONTESINOS. You reprehend me justly;.. but it is only the inconsiderate expression that has exposed a well-considered meaning to this reprehension. What I would say is that (these flagrant instances excepted) England has in its own history some excuse for the want of policy which has been so grievously shown in the government of Ireland.
SIR THOMAS MORE. The want of policy may be explained thus, and therefore, to a certain degree excused. The conquest of that island was a thing of accident and adventure, and as it had been gained, so it was long kept: what better could be expected during the miserable reigns of John Lackland, and his imbecil son? The ambitious and able prince who succeeded had objects of nearer interest to engage his chief attention, so the settlement and improvement of Ireland were left to the slow process of feudal subjugation. But herein the English did not succeed in Ireland as the Normans had done in England; because the present authority of a King was wanting, and because the people were not in the same grade of civilization with them
selves; for which reason, the same intermixture, which had formed the Normans and the Saxons into one nation, could not take place. That union had not been effected here till after long struggles and grievous suffering, though there was unity of purpose here in a strong and remorseless conqueror, who was succeeded also by princes not inferior to him in decision and force of character. In Ireland, both the unity and the strength were wanting. Here, too, the institutions of the old inhabitants and of the invaders resembled each other sufficiently to be easily combined, and the languages, though widely different, were, in like manner, capable of combination. But in Ireland the people were of a different race; the languages so essentially unlike that no mixed speech could grow out of them; and the only thing in common between the native Irish and the settlers was their profession of a religion which had little or no influence upon the conduct of either.
It resembled, therefore, in this respect, the Saxon rather than the Norman conquest of England, .. for in the former the inhabitants were not subdued and incorporated, but exterminated, or more accurately speaking, displaced.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Both the people and the country were wilder, and, therefore, less easily to be subdued. The Britons were a civilized race, weakened by habits of long subjection, as well as by recent circumstances, and left without a governinent when they were in no condition to form one for themselves ; thus they were overcome by a people, barbarous indeed, but far advanced above the savage state, and whose system of society and habits of life were essentially warlike. The Baltic tribes, moreover, came not merely as invaders but as settlers;.. they moved, like the Helvetians in Cæsar's time, not as armies but as nations, with their wives and families, and took possession of the country, there to increase and multiply, and replenish the land as well as to subdue it. The Britons, after a long and brave struggle, retreated to the mountains, and being separated by those natural boundaries from the Northmen who successively established themselves in the more fertile and less defensible parts of the island, they became more and more barbarous during a long course of civil dissensions, while their neighbours were consolidating their strength, and improving in all things,.. till at length the broken and divided nation yielded to a conquest which brought with it no evil and entailed no regret. The English settlement in Ireland was begun by a handful of adventurers, and the country was full of those fastnesses which are impediments in the way, not only of conquest but of civilization. The greater part of those adventurers intermarried with the native women, .. the mother tongue prevailed among their posterity to a greater extent than might have been expected, and the native character was imbibed, when the more civilized one should have been superinduced.
MONTESINOS. Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores* they were said to have become.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Yet, with all disadvantages of misgovernment, the English for three centuries went on steadily in the work of subduing the land, and settling the parts which they subdued. But when the House of York asserted by arms its claim to the crown, the wars which ensued, dreadful as they were to England, proved in their consequence far more injurious 'to Ireland. For the chief persons among the settlers gathered what force
* How Irish this was, Spenser tells us was expressed by an odd proverb concerning O'Hanlan, in which it appears what was considered the most Irish part of O'Hanlan himself.
they could and crost to England, there to support their party, and look to the protection of their English estates; and in thus withdrawing them York, who had done much good in Ireland by an able and beneficent administration, entailed upon it greater and lasting evils; for the unsubjected natives, who were at that time confined to the mountains, and there so straitened, that their condition is described by saying they lived only upon white meats, took the opportunity which was afforded them, and recovered the greater part of their country; their countrymen, who were settling into habits of better life, joined them, and relapsed at once into their old barbarity; and the lands, which were thus repossessed by the Irish, were presently reduced to a wilder state than that in which the English had found them. The York and Lancaster wars endured long enough for them to keep what they had thus gained, and to gather strength there. Henry VII., in the early part of his reign, neglected Ireland, expecting a more convenient season for setting its disturbed affairs in order; by this improvidence, he brought upon himself some troubles which might otherwise have been spared; for the Yorkites received Lambert Simnel there, crowned him in Dublin, and raised a force with