THE history of Ireland is shown in the few contents of this little volume, not to be wanting in evidence favourable to the advent of a peaceful and prosperous union of that island of Celts, or by whatever name its mixed inhabitants of many origins are to be known, with the people of Great Britain, composed of no less diverse races. Hitherto, indeed, such union, although earnestly sought by the wisest, has been utterly unattainable in consequence of the deep-seated vicious desire of territorial conquests prevailing over the better sense of constitutional duty, signified by the solemn declaration in an Act of Parliament, that, "to make wars for conquest's sake is repugnant to the wishes and genius of the British people." That welcome evidence will, however, be accepted without reluctance. Yet, notwithstanding its force, good writers continue to hold to this day, and they are supported by a common belief, that some mysterious adverse temperaments naturally divide our respective populations, fixing them eternally in "hostile camps." Long ago, on the other hand, in a like controversy, it was maintained sagaciously, that striking discrepancies in the social conditions of different nations, have a more intelligible source in the character of governments, not in climate or parentage. Surely, moreover, even the few authentic facts here produced must, although much neglected by statesmen, tend triumphantly to silence the wretched strife so long ruinous to Ireland, nor less costly to Great Britain. Nor is anything here offered for consideration, essentially inconsistent with the vast historical stores now at length opening among us officially in order to clear up all past obscurities in the national annals. The speculative prospect too, of a hopeful issue in our onward career, is wonderfully strengthened by the testimony of the very ablest administrator ever engaged in the holy mission of popular conciliation in Ireland. This was the late Thomas Drummond, who won the hearts of the whole Irish people. He it was who declared, with fatal truth, that, to our mutual damage, Ireland is still unknown to the British people. He did better. By familiar study of the Irish popular character from his early manhood to the close of his too short career, he learned to know it well. Then he as bravely spoke out what he knew to the credit of the people, so as to obtain large assent to his intelligent designs for the benefit of the hard-tried land. His elaborate testimony before a Parliamentary Committee-the Roden Committee of 1839; his famous maxim, that "property has its duties as well as its rights;" and his official measures, might be cited with confidence on this head. But all this was simply the fruit of his keen insight into the trustworthiness of the peasantry as he met them in their wild mountains during the Irish survey so long ago as in 1823. "I am sure," he said, in effect, "that all fear of mischief to our work from these Irish is unfounded. They will not damage a man exposed on the hills." His wise conclusion was, that Ireland needs only justice for her regeneration, and that with just measures vigorously carried out, our union will never be broken.
His personal experiences alone seem to have led this eminent statesman of our day, to act upon a strong confidence in native Irish capabilities, unaware as he may have been of genial convictions like his own having in less auspicious times induced others as worthy as himself, to struggle for better rule in Ireland only to be disappointed. The object of this volume is to reproduce a good work of one of the most memorable of those older worthies exactly as he originally wrote it, with a brief sketch of some of the happier antecedents, and probably the seeds of his labours.