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SCATTERED throughout several countries on the western shores of Europe, there are to be found various confessedly ancient tribes of our fellow-men, between which there still exists a marked affinity in point of language. They are generally supposed to be the earliest waves of that tide of population which proceeded westward in Europe, till stopped in their progress by the sea, and most of them occupy at this moment nearly the same ground which they did in the days of Cæsar. If the sources of some of those rivers with which we have been long acquainted, have hitherto baffled all the enterprise of our travellers, so has the origin of those primitive races, the research of the learned. Their dialects being the children of one common Parent, and this unquestionably a very ancient tongue, these various tribes of course, belong to a people correspondingly ancient; but the neglect of their dialects has, in its measure, contributed to a discordance of sentiment with regard to the people, since, in the absence or deficiency of other data, languages may so far be regarded as the chronology of nations.
But whatever may be the opinion formed as to their descent, the treatment of these distinct races is a question of far greater importance than that of their origin or antiquity ; and it is certainly singular that every thing which has hitherto been done for them in the business of education or moral improvement has been the result not of any kind and considerate legislative interference or enactment, but of individual philanthropy and much entreaty. Prejudices of the narrowest order have been cherished for ages, particularly with regard to the language in which they have been born, and left far behind in the march of improvement, their present state has actually been ascribed, and even lately, to inaptitude for civilization, instead of its true and only cause,-the want of a vernacular literature, and of intelligent discourse with them in their own tongue. The language spoken in the vicinity of each of these tribes is of course that of the reigning power, and for ages most of them have been told that their only chance for elevation lay through that medium, though they did not understand it, nor do they understand it now.
These remarks apply in all their force, not only to the Basque language spoken both in Spain and France, and of which there are at this moment several dialects, and the Bas Bretagne spoken by a large population in Brittany, Belle Isle, and on the banks of the Loire running in towards the centre of France, but they apply to four dialects of the same parent spoken within the United Kingdom, including at least four millions of British subjects. Individual benevolence and earnest pleading have at last achieved for Wales, and in part for the Highlands and the Isle of Man, what ought to have been effected in ages long before the present generation. Indeed Wales now stands pre-eminent among these Celtic tribes for the advantages which she enjoys; but in Ireland, where at least three millions converse in Irish daily, to say nothing at present respecting oral instruction, the business of education in the vernacular tongue is only just begun. It is not that there have been no resolutions passed by the legislature in former ages, after deliberate and frequent discussion, terminating uniformly in one opinion,--the necessity for employing the language spoken daily; but in the following pages the reader will find that all these resolutions were as nothing,--that in no instance did they lead to any course of action, that each of them was but the expression of an unpursued order-Vox et præterea nihil. He will find that so entirely has the subject been neglected or opposed, that it is now above one hundred and sixteen years since the last of these public expressions of a sense of duty was uttered ; and that, though Irish education and oral instruction were precisely what this people at that time required, and require still, then it was that in regard to these subjects, all parties at home drew the curtains and retired to rest. In the following pages the reader may then observe what others were doing elsewhere while they slept.
In becoming more intimately acquainted with the sister kingdom, it will become a received maxim, that whatever evils exist, they are not to be, as they have often been, all run into one, or ascribed to one source, and of course one remedy or one species of benevolence cannot meet her condition. Each of those evils requires to be individually and wisely met with patience and kindness. Particular departments of her four provinces differ from each other as much as if they were a thousand miles apart.-the main land is surrounded, especially on the west and south, by thousands of Islanders, living detached in the adjoining seas, and the whole population of seven millions and a half is divided into two distinct classes, who daily speak two very different languages. It is to one of these languages, the Native Irish, and the people who use it constantly, that our attention must be confined in the subsequent pages.
If an accurate knowledge of the real state and condition of many a neglected district in Ireland be desired, it is absolutely necessary that a vigilant eye be fixed on this language. For illustration, I may ask, what should we think of any man, when referring even to Scotland
who should affirm, that in reference to it, there can be no pressing occasion for carrying education much farther at present, as the average now able to read there is about the highest in the world. “ If,” he says, " you -have one in nine, if not eight, able to read, what can you say to other countries ?" I reply, we have first to say, in reference to Scotland, there happens to be another langauge spoken there, and that the average in our High-lands and Islands is but as one to sixteen or seventeen. Now in the same manner, when any
writer with regard to Ireland numbers up her 560,000 English scholars, then looks at the average as one to twelve or thirteen, and begins to speculate as to the state of education--we have to add but there is another language spoken there ; and oh what a falling-off is here, whether we look at average or particulars ! Perhaps not one in sixty able to read, and that only within these very few years, or one in two hundred under tuition, is an average sufficiently melancholy. But every average supposes certain particulars or exceptions, compared with which the average itself would be a paradise.
Now for the actual state of things, whether as to education or oral instruction, in certain Irish mountains and plains and islands, we must refer the reader to what follows.
Did this people constitute only a small proportion of the population, our duty by them would be the same; but when their number in comparison with the aggregate body has become so large, it is not saying too much when we affirm, that there is nothing which essentially regards their best interests, that can safely be viewed as inferior to a subject of national importance. It is not denied that in contemplating the important interests of the United Kingdom, generally, the effectual improvement of Ireland is now the question of by far the greatest national importance. It is no longer important to Ireland alone, but almost equally so both to England and Scotland, and that not since the Union only, but