The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas et Prevalebit. MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1881. Mr Gladstone and the Irish.
TOWN EDITION. [.lssued at 4.30 p. m. j
The latest accounts from the Home Country tell us that it has been found necessary to furnish Mr Gladstone with an armed escort even when he is merely journeying to or from his own house, in order to protect him from assassination. As the present Premier has never been charged by his enemies with either physical or moral cowardice, it may fairly be assumed that this protection is needed. It is known that threats of deliberate murder have been almost publicly thrown out in Ireland, and quite recently there came to hand the report of a Fenian meeting held in America under the auspices of the infamous scoundrel O’Donovan, called Rossa, at which a decision to perpetrate the crime was decided upon. If it were accomplished the name of Ireland and the Irish would be eternally disgraced by the blackest deed the annals of the country can show, and every enlightened foreigner could only point a finger of scorn and loathing at i a nation calling itself a Christian people sunk so low as to do such a deed. 1 We should be sorry truly to suppose the majority of Irishmen capable of sympathising with such a crime. Nevertheless it is a melancholy fact that many of them do, and thus, apart from all consideration of the terpitude of the crime in itself, are guilty of the grossest ingratitude to the best benefactor Ireland ever had. Let Irish history be searched through from the earliest time, and it will not be found that there ever was a British statesman who made so strenuous an endeavor over a period of many years to remedy the real wrongs of Ireland. The disestablishment of the Irish Church Establishment, and the just settlement of the long vexed land question, were two reforms of such grandeur that in any other civilised country the author of them would be lauded to the skies in the national poetry, and immortalised in marble by the national sculptor. Unfortunately Irishmen who themselves know and appreciate what Mr Gladstone has done for their country have not shown anything like befitting independence of the scum of their countrymen, and with few exceptions have allowed the noisy ruffians, who try to pose as patriots at Fenian meetings, to express what seems to many persons the sentiment of the nation, and that is—that Ireland’s greatest benefactor should be deliberately murdered. Here and there some isolated bishop or priest has taken a firm stand on behalf of public morals, and has denounced the intended crime, but we wish we could say that the Church as such has done so. We believe it has the power and influence to control the stormy passions of an ignorant and excited peasantry, and say—- “ Hitherto shall thou come, and no further,” if it only chose. But it has not as yet done so. A more complete contradiction than has been furnished lately in the case of the Irish people could scarcely be given to the often repeated fallacy—that the instincts of a people are always in the right direction. The vox popali has lately been demonstratively proved in Ireland to be quite as often the vox Diaboli as the vox Dei. Justice, honor, humanity, disinterestedness, lofty statesmanship, may be appreciated by the masses, but it is quite as likely that they may not be. The reward of popular approbation at any rate is one which no wise public man should look for, but only the approbation of his conscience and his God. It was public opinion that banished Aristides, and made Epaminondas a scavenger, pressed the cup of hemlock to the lips of Socrates, the dagger to De Wilt’s heart, and the crown of thorns to the forehead of One who shall here be nameless. It is in itself a poor motive for any deed worth doing. “ Great,” says an eloquent writer, “as are the achievements o( inferior principles of action, the love of power or the pursuit of glory, the only heroism fitted for the last extremity of circumstance is that of disinterested duty. Others may wisely and firmly use their outward resources to the last, but the Christian hero, when all these are gonp, Las yet to spend himself.” i j:: 0V
To those who have watched with admiration Mr Gladstone’s career, and particularly his conduct with regard to Ireland, the assassin’s knife—if it murders him—will only convert a hero into a martyr possessed of still larger influence for making followers and disciples. • - -