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wise have been divided from the rest of Europe, and devastated by terrible intestine contentions, has been much benefited by being united to so great and powerful a country as England, which has both the ability and the will to promote the true welfare of the Irish people. Eng. land will, by degrees, employ the great advantages afforded by the excellent soil and situation of Ireland, and thus conduct that country, torn as it is by all possible distresses and misfortunes, to a happier existence.
Conclusion.- Warlike and Peaceful Colonizations.-Resemblances and
Differences. Before and Now.
DENMARK and Norway, as is known, are not distinguished by any remarkable extent of fertile and densely-populated country. The whole population in both those kingdoms does not at present amount to three millions; and in ancient times it scarcely seems to have been greater, even when the southern portion of the present kingdom of Sweden still belonged to Denmark.
Nevertheless, Denmark and Norway were able, in ancient times, to send forth great multitudes of people to other countries. Not only were Greenland, Iceland, the Shetland Isles, the Orkneys, and Faroe Isles, colonized from Norway, but also considerable districts in Scotland and Ireland. Many Norwegians, moreover, settled in England and Normandy. At the same time Danes emigrated in great numbers to Normandy, North Holland, and especially England, where they colonized, we may say, the whole of the extensive district to the north of WatlingaStræt, or almost half England.
We are not informed that Denmark and Norway were emptied of their population in consequence of these great emigrations, or even that there was any sensible want of inhabitants to supply agricultural labourers and soldiers. In the immediately following centuries Denmark was powerful enough to make the Baltic a Danish lake. We can hardly, therefore, assume, like the monkish chronicles of antiquity, which naturally breathe both fear and hatred of the Scandinavian heathens, that the Norwegians and Danes were merely barbarous Vikings, who procured themselves a footing in the western countries only through brute force. On such grounds we should be perfectly unable to explain satisfactorily how Denmark and Norway, with a proportionately small population, should have been able (without becoming too depopulated) to send out at once such a host of people as were evidently required to take possession, by force of arms, of those rich western lands, and also, it must be observed, to maintain their conquests for centuries. If, instead of blindly following these partial and prejudiced chroniclers, we adhere to what the traces of the nature and importance of the Scandinavian emigrations clearly prove, namely, that from the eighth to the twelfth century, and contemporary with the destructive Viking expeditions, peaceful emigrations from the North constantly took place—which, in reality, were just as effective, perhaps even more so, than the purely warlike expeditions of conquest—this matter will be placed in a far more probable and intelligible point of view. As we have seen, sagacity and the arts of peace, together with navigation and trade, in no slight degree assisted the Danes and Norwegians to procure a footing in the British Islands, and especially in England and Ireland. By perseverance and ability in the occupations of peace as well as war, they were soon enabled to gain the ascendancy in the most important seaport towns; whence, by means of various connections of trade, friendship, and family alliances, they extended their influence and dominion over the adjacent towns and districts. They gradually multiplied themselves, and were joined by fresh immigrants; and thus the foundations were almost imperceptibly laid of Scandinavian colonies, which awaited only the coming of some bold military adventurer to appear as independent, nay, even as dominant states. The great warriors to whom history assigns the honour of the conquests in England and Ireland—and, we may also add, Normandywould scarcely have been able to obtain them with the generally inferior numbers under their command, had not the Scandinavian merchants, and other peaceful colonists, both opened the way for them, and afterwards supported the conquests they had achieved. It is, on the whole, obvious that the ancient Northmen possessed a very great talent for colonization, which their kinsmen, the English of modern times, seem to have inherited from them.
But as the Scandinavian colonies in the British Islands varied greatly in importance, so also must the effects which they produced have been somewhat different. In Ireland, as well as in Scotland, where the Norwegians met with tribes who, in spite of their apparent Christianity, stood rather below them in civilization, they kept themselves more apart from the natives. In Ireland, especially, they dwelt in their own strongly-fortified towns; where, until late in the middle ages, they maintained their own characteristic language, manners, customs, and laws. But in consequence of this, their Norwegian ipstitutions had no real influence on the development of the national life or institutions of Ireland. At most they merely contributed to facilitate the introduction and establishment of the analogous Anglo-Norman institutions into the Irish cities. In England, on the contrary, where the Scandinavian colonies were far more numerous and powerful than in Scotland and Ireland, the Danish colonists certainly sought, after the Scandinavian fashion, to maintain in the midst of a foreign country their pure Danish laws, manners, and customs. Yet here the Danes, owing to the superior civilization which prevailed among the earlier Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of England, were soon influenced by their language and culture, and became more and more amalgamated with them. Nevertheless the Danes in England were sufficiently numerous and independent to maintain the most important of their free Scandinavian characteristics, which coalesced with, and by degrees visibly impressed themselves upon, the more modern English manners and institutions.
The Danish colonies in England, and the Norwegian colonies in Scotland and Ireland, had so far the same historical importance that they essentially conduced to found a new life, both externally and internally, in the British Islands, partly by extending trade and navigation, partly by subduing, or at least weakening, the power of the AngloSaxons, the Scotch, and the Irish, and thus in general preparing for a kindred race (the Normans) the dominion over all these people. It is well known that the Norman sway and the Norman spirit established themselves in Scotland and Ireland far later than in England a circumstance chiefly owing to the conquests and settlements of the Norwegians in those countries having been far less extensive and important than the Danish conquests in England. Yet that the Danish-Norman spirit predominating in England has been able to maintain to our times its dominion in Scotland and Ireland also, is no slight evidence of the excellent and solid manner in which the Norwegians must originally have prepared the way.
I have shown that the memorials of the great exploits performed by the Danes and Norwegians in the British Islands still appear as fresh and vivid as if they were of modern date. In this respect, the national pride of those nations will find complete gratification. Still, however, it is possible that a general view of the mighty achievements of the ancient Northmen in the western lands may awaken mingled feelings in many a Scandinavian of the present day. The thought may involuntarily arise in him of what the North was, when its victorious fleets appeared in the north, south, east, and west, and when Scandinavians exercised dominion far and wide, and what it is now-confined
within narrow boundaries, menaced from many quarters, and without any preponderating influence on the state of Europe. Beyond the precincts of the North, he will no longer hear his native language, which in former times frequently resounded on foreign shores. The North was forced to shed some of its best and noblest blood; and yet the Northman must now be content, if he can succeed in tracing out, by means of a few words in the popular language, by the names of towns and districts, or by halferased runic inscriptions on bauta stones, where it was that the “ Danish tongue” once prevailed, and where the barrows still rise which cover the race that spoke it.
But such morbid complaints will necessarily vanish when the Scandinavian considers how vividly the ancient power of his race has again displayed itself to the world, and how mighty have been the results of the Norman expeditions; but especially when he ponders on the notorious fact, that the North sent out the flower of its youth and strength, not merely to destroy and plunder, but rather to lay the foundations of a fresher life in the western lands, and thus to impart a new and powerful impulse to human civilization. In our times, besides, it is not chiefly in conquests and the lustre of external greatness that the true happiness and glory of a nation should be sought.
A people, which, like the Scandinavian, have preserved—together with the memorials of former great achievements, and of conquests bringing blessings in their train-enough of the character and courage of their forefathers, not only to maintain the freedom and independence of their country, but also, in comparison with other nations, an honourable place in science and art, cannot justly be said to want either glory or happiness.