History of Ireland Engels 1870

Notes for the “History of Ireland”

First Published: in German in Marx-Engels Archives Vol. X, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1948;
Source: Marx and Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1974;
Transcribed by: Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive.

Ir[ish] literature? — 17th century, poet[ical], histor[ical], jurid[ical], then completely suppressed due to the extirpation of the lr[ish] literary language — exists only in manuscript — publication is beginning only now — this is [possible] only with an oppressed people. See Serbs, etc.

The English knew how to reconcile people of the most diverse races with their rule. The Welsh, who held so tenaciously to their nationality and language, have fused completely with the British Empire. The Scottish Celts, though rebellious until 1745[218] and since almost completely exterminated first by the government and then by their own aristocracy, do not even think of rebellion. The French of the Channel Isles fought bitterly against France during the Great Revolution. Even the Frisians of Heligoland,[219] which Denmark sold to Britain, are satisfied with their lot; and a long time will probably pass before the laurels of Sadowa and the conquests of the North — German Confederation[220] wrench from their throats a pained wail about unification with the “great fatherland.” Only with the Irish the English could not cope. The reason for this is the enormous resilience of the Irish race. After the most savage suppression, after every attempt to exterminate them, the Irish, following a short respite, stood stronger than ever before: it seemed they drew their main strength from the very foreign garrison forced on them in order to oppress them. Within two generations, often within one, the foreigners became more Irish than the Irish, Hiberniores ipsis Hibernis. The more the Irish accepted the English language and forgot their own, the more Irish they became.

The bourgeoisie turns everything into a commodity, hence also the writing of history. It is part of its being, of its condition for existence, to falsify all goods: it falsified the writing of history. And the best — paid historiography is that which is best falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie. Witness Macaulay, who, for that very reason, is the inept G. Smith’s unequalled paragon.

Queen’s Evidence. — Rewards for Evidence.

England is the only country where the state openly dares to bribe witnesses, [be it] by an offer of exemption from punishment, be it by ready cash. That prices are fixed for the betrayal of the sojourn of a political persecutee is comprehensible, but that they say: who gives me evidence on grounds of which somebody can be sentenced as the contriver of some crime or another — this infamy is something not only the Code, but also Pr[ussian] common law have left to Eng[lish] law. That collateral evidence is required alongside with that given by the informer is useless; generally there is suspicion of somebody, or else it is fabricated, and the informer only has to adjust his lies accordingly.

Whether this pretty usage [saubere Usus] has its roots already in Eng[lish] legal proceedings is hard to say, but it is certain that it has received its development on Irish soil at the time of the Tories"’ and the penal laws.

On March 15, 1870, when the government removed an Irish sheriff (Coote of Monaghan) on the plea that he had packed the jury panel, G. H. Moore, M. P. for Mayo, said in Parliament:

“If Capt. Coote had done all the things of which he had been accused, he had only followed the practice which, in political cases, had been habitually sanctioned by the Institute Executive.”

As one instance out of many that might be cited, he would mention that though County Cork had a proportion of 500,000 Catholics against 50,000 Protestants, at the time of the Fenian trials in 1865,[222] a jury Panel was called, composed of 360 Protestants and 40 Catholics!

The German Legion of 1806-13 was also sent to Ireland. Thus, the good Hanoverians who refused to put up with French (bondage] rule, were used by the English to preserve the English rule in Ireland!

The agrarian murders in Ireland cannot be suppressed because and as long as they are the only effective remedy against the extermination of the people by the landlords. They help, that is why they continue, and will continue, in spite of all the coercive laws. Their number varies, as it does with all social phenomena; they can even become epidemic in certain circumstances, when they occur at quite insignificant occasions. The epidemic can be suppressed, but the sickness itself cannot.


218. A reference to the uprising of the Scottish highlanders in 1745. The rebellion was the result of oppression and eviction from the land carried out in the interests of the Anglo-Scottish landed aristocracy and bourgeoisie. Part of the nobility in the Scottish Highlands, who supported the claims to the English crown of the overthrown Stuart dynasty (the official aim of the insurgents was to enthrone Charles Edward, the grandson of James II), took advantage of the dissatisfaction of the highlanders. The suppression of the rebellion put an end to the clan system in the Scottish Highlands and brought about increased evictions.

219. The Island of Heligoland (North Sea) was in early times settled by a Germanic tribe, the Frisians. Having become a Danish possession in the 18th century, it was captured by the English in 1807 and ceded to England in 1814 by the Treaty of Kiel. In 1890, England gave Heligoland to Germany in exchange for Zanzibar.

220. The Prussians defeated ‘the Austrians in the Austro-Prussian war on July 3, 1866, near the village of Sadowa, in the vicinity of the town of Königgraetz in Bohemia (now Hradec Králové).

North-German Confederation — a federal German state established in 1867 under the leadership of Prussia after her victory over Austria in 1866. It existed until the formation, in January 1871, of the German Empire, incorporating in addition to the North-German Confederation the South-German states.

221. The name given in Ireland to those who took Dart in the movement against the colonial authorities and landlords in the latter half of the 17th and early 18th centuries. The name was derived from the original meaning of the word — a bully, a ruffian. The Tories were mostly peasants, their leaders — expropriated Irish noblemen. At the end of the 17th century there emerged detachments made up of peasants alone — the rapparees. The authorities used extremely brutal methods in the fight against the Tories and rapparees. Those caught were hung, drawn and quartered. People giving information leading to their capture received high rewards. In England the nickname Tory was given by the Whigs to their opponents — the representatives of the conservative aristocratic circles, supporting the absolutist claims of the Stuarts, who were restored in 1660.

222. A reference to the trial held in Dublin in the autumn of 1865 of the prominent participants in the Fenian movement, accused of organising an anti-government plot. The main accused were O'Leary, Luby, Kickham and O'Donovan Rossa, the publishers and editors of The Irish People, the Fenian newspaper suppressed by the police on September 15. Many other Fenians were also arrested on denunciation by agents provocateurs and traitors. The picked jury was composed of supporters of English rule hostile to the Irish revolutionaries. The sentences were extremely severe: O'Leary, Luby and Kickham were sentenced to twenty years of penal servitude and O'Donovan Rossa to penal servitude for life.