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Then come we to the last remedy-civil war. Some gentlemen say that, sooner or later, we must fight for it, and the sword must decide. They tell us that, if blood were but shed in Ireland, Catholic emancipation might be avoided. Sir, when honorable gentlemen shall be a little deeper read in the history of Ireland, they will find that in Ireland blood has been shed,—that in Ireland leaders have been seized, trials have been had, and punishment has been inflicted. They will find, indeed, almost every page of the history of Ireland darkened by bloodshed, by seizures, by trials, and by punishments. But what has been the effect of these measures? They have, indeed, been successful in quelling the disturbances of the moment; but they never have gone to their cause, and have only fixed deeper the poisoned barb that rankles in the heart of Ireland.
Can one believe one's ears when one hears respectable men talk so lightly-nay, almost so wishfully-of civil war! Do they reflect what a countless multitude of ills those three short syllables contain? It is well, indeed, for the gentlemen of England, who live secure under the protecting shadow of the law, whose slumbers have never been broken by the clashing of angry swords, whose harvests have never been trodden down by the conflict of hostile feet—it is well for them to talk of civil war as if it were some holiday pastime, or some sport of children.
'They jest at scars who never felt a wound.”
But that gentlemen from unfortunate and ill-starred Ireland, who have seen with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears the miseries which civil war produces ; who have known, by their own experience, the barbarism, aye, the barbarity, which it engenders ;—that such persons should look upon civil war as anything short of the last and greatest of national calamities, is to me a matter of the most unmixed astonishment.
I will grant, if you will, that the success of such a war with Ireland would be as signal and complete as would be its injustice. I will grant, if you will, that resistance would soon be extinguished with the lives of those who resisted. I will grant, if you will, that the crimsoned banner of England would soon wave in undisputed supremacy over the smoking ashes of their towns and the blood-stained solitude of their fields. But I tell you that England herself never would permit the achievement of such a conquest; England would reject in disgust laurels that were dyed in fraternal blood; England would recoil with loathing and abhorrence from the bare contemplation of so devilish a triumph !
SIR ROBERT PEEL (1788-1850)
A LEADING CONSERVATIVE ORATOR
HE oldest son of a leading cotton manufacturer, who had
amassed a great fortune in this growing industry, Sir Robert
Peel made his mark in politics as his father had done in manufacture, gradually rising in reputation and influence, until in 1841, he became Prime Minister of the British Realm. The Irish constabulary, founded by him, are still known as “Peelers,"in recognition of their origin. But the most important political question in his administration was that of the repeal of the Corn Laws. This he had at first opposed, but in 1846 he made an eloquent speech in its favor, and, by the aid of his followers and the Liberals, those oppressive laws were removed from the English statutes. This action made Peel very popular, but his career was suddenly ended by a fatal fall from his horse in July, 1850.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CLASSICAL EDUCATION [On the 11th of January, 1837, on the occasion of his installation as Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, Peel made an eloquent address to the students on the benefits of the higher education. We select a passage from this in preference to his political speeches, as possessing a broader and more enduring interest.]
“It is very natural,” says Sir Joshua Reynolds, “ for those who are unacquainted with the cause of anything extraordinary, to be astonished at the effect and to consider it as a kind of magic.
“The travelers into the East tell us that when the ignorant inhabitants of those countries are asked concerning the ruins of stately edifices yet remaining among them, the melancholy monuments of their former grandeur and long-lost science, they always answer that they were built by magicians. The untaught mind finds a vast gulf between its own powers and those works of complicated art which it is utterly unable to
fathom, and it supposes that such a void can be surpassed only by supernatural powers."
We have, in the instance of Cicero, the stately edifice, the monument of intellectual grandeur ; but we have also the evidence of the illustrious architect to prove to us by what careful process the foundations were securely laid and the scaffolding gradually erected. Our wonder at the perfection of the work may be abated, but what can abate our admiration and respect for the elevated views; the burning thirst for knowledge and for fame; the noble ambition which “scorned delights, and lived laborious days "-which had engraven on the memory the paternal exhortation to the hero in Homer, the noblest, says Dr. Johnson, that can be found in any heathen writer.
The name, the authority, the example of Cicero, conduct me naturally to a topic which I should be unwilling to pass in silence. I allude to the immense importance to all who aspire to conspicuous stations in any department of public or learned professional life, the immense importance of classical acquirements, of imbuing your minds with a knowledge of the pure models of antiquity and a taste for their constant study and cultivation. Do not disregard this admonition from the impression that it proceeds from the natural prejudice in favor of classical learning, which an English university may have unconsciously instilled, or that it is offered presumptuously by one who is ignorant of that description of knowledge which is best adapted to the habits and occupations of society in Scotland.
Oh, let us take higher and more extensive views ! Feel assured that a wider horizon than that of Scotland is opening upon you; that you are candidates starting with equal advantage for every prize of profit or distinction which the wide circle of an empire extended through every quarter of the globe can include.
Bear in mind, too, hat every improvement in the means of communication betwen distant parts of that empire is pointing out a new avenue to fame, particularly to those who are remote from the great seat of government. This is not the place where injustice should be done to that mighty discovery which is effecting a daily change in the pre-existing relations of society. It is not within the college of Glasgow that a false and injurious estimate should be made of the results of the speculations of Black and of the inventive genius of Watt. The steam engine and the railroad are not merely facilitating the transport of merchandise, they are not merely shortening the duration of journeys, or administering to the supply of physical wants. They are speeding the intercourse between mind and mind; they are creating new demands for knowledge; they are
fertilizing the intellect as well as the material waste; they are removing the impediments which obscurity, or remoteness, or poverty, may have heretofore opposed to the emerging of real merit.
They are supplying you, in the mere facility of locomotion, with a new motive for classical study. They are enabling you with comparative ease to enjoy that pure and refined pleasure which makes the past predominate over the present, when we stand upon the spots where the illustrious deeds of ancient times have been performed, and meditate on monuments that are associated with names and actions that can never perish. They are offering to your lips the intoxicating draught that is described with such noble enthusiasm by Gibbon : “At the distance of twenty-five years I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the Eternal City. After a sleepless night I trod with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum ; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Cæsar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool or minute investigation.”..
By every motive which can influence a reflecting and responsive being,—"a being of large discourse, looking before and after,”—by the memory of the distinguished men who have shed a lustre on these walls ; by regard for your own success and happiness in this life; by the fear of future discredit; by the hope of lasting fame ; by all these considerations do I conjure you, while you have yet time, while your minds are yet flexible, to form them on the models which approach the nearest to perfection. Sursum corda! By motives yet more urgent; by higher and purer aspirations; by the duty of obedience to the will of God; by this awful account you will have to render, not merely of moral actions, but of faculties intrusted to you for improvement; by these high arguments do I conjure you so “to number your days that you may apply your hearts unto wisdom ”-unto that wisdom which, directing your ambition to the noble end of benefiting mankind, and teaching you humble reliance on the merits and on the mercy of your Redeemer, may support you“ in the time of your tribulation ; " may admonish you "in the time of your wealth ;” and “in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,” may comfort you with the hope of deliverance.