Story type: Essay
In February, 1839, Henry Clay delivered a speech in the United States Senate, which was intended to smooth away the difficulties which his moderate opposition to the encroachments of slavery had erected in his path to the presidency. His calumniation of O’Connell called out the following summary of the career of the great Irish patriot. It was published originally in the Pennsylvania Freeman of Philadelphia, April 25, 1839.
Perhaps the most unlucky portion of the unlucky speech of Henry Clay on the slavery question is that in which an attempt is made to hold up to scorn and contempt the great Liberator of Ireland. We say an attempt, for who will say it has succeeded? Who feels contempt for O’Connell? Surely not the slaveholder? From Henry Clay, surrounded by his slave- gang at Ashland, to the most miserable and squalid slave-driver and small breeder of human cattle in Virginia and Maryland who can spell the name of O’Connell in his newspaper, these republican brokers in blood fear and hate the eloquent Irishman. But their contempt, forsooth! Talk of the sheep-stealer’s contempt for the officer of justice who nails his ears to the pillory, or sets the branding iron on his forehead!
After denouncing the abolitionists for gratuitously republishing the advertisements for runaway slaves, the Kentucky orator says:–
“And like a notorious agitator upon another theatre, they would hunt down and proscribe from the pale of civilized society the inhabitants of that entire section. Allow me, Mr. President, to say that whilst I recognize in the justly wounded feelings of the Minister of the United States at the Court of St. James much to excuse the notice which he was provoked to take of that agitator, in my humble opinion he would better have consulted the dignity of his station and of his country in treating him with contemptuous silence. He would exclude us from European society, he who himself, can only obtain a contraband admission, and is received with scornful repugnance into it! If he be no more desirous of our society than we are of his, he may rest assured that a state of perpetual non- intercourse will exist between us. Yes, sir, I think the American Minister would best have pursued the dictates of true dignity by regarding the language of the member of the British House of Commons as the malignant ravings of the plunderer of his own country, and the libeller of a foreign and kindred people.”
The recoil of this attack “followed hard upon” the tones of congratulation and triumph of partisan editors at the consummate skill and dexterity with which their candidate for the presidency had absolved himself from the suspicion of abolitionism, and by a master-stroke of policy secured the confidence of the slaveholding section of the Union. But the late Whig defeat in New York has put an end to these premature rejoicings. “The speech of Mr. Clay in reference to the Irish agitator has been made use of against us with no small success,” say the New York papers. “They failed,” says the Daily Evening Star, “to convince the Irish voters that Daniel O’Connell was the ‘plunderer of his country,’ or that there was an excuse for thus denouncing him.”
The defeat of the Whigs of New York and the cause of it have excited no small degree of alarm among the adherents of the Kentucky orator. In this city, the delicate Philadelphia Gazette comes magnanimously to the aid of Henry Clay,–
“A tom-tit twittering on an eagle’s back.”
The learned editor gives it as his opinion that Daniel O’Connell is a “political beggar,” a “disorganizing apostate;” talks in its pretty way of the man’s “impudence” and “falsehoods” and “cowardice,” etc.; and finally, with a modesty and gravity which we cannot but admire, assures us that “his weakness of mind is almost beyond calculation!”
We have heard it rumored during the past week, among some of the self- constituted organs of the Clay party in this city, that at a late meeting in Chestnut Street a committee was appointed to collect, collate, and publish the correspondence between Andrew Stevenson and O’Connell, and so much of the latter’s speeches and writings as relate to American slavery, for the purpose of convincing the countrymen of O’Connell of the justice, propriety, and, in view of the aggravated circumstances of the case, moderation and forbearance of Henry Clay when speaking of a man who has had the impudence to intermeddle with the “patriarchal institutions” of our country, and with the “domestic relations” of Kentucky and Virginia slave-traders.
We wait impatiently for the fruits of the labors of this sagacious committee. We should like to see those eloquent and thrilling appeals to the sense of shame and justice and honor of America republished. We should like to see if any Irishman, not wholly recreant to the interests and welfare of the Green Island of his birth, will in consequence of this publication give his vote to the slanderer of Ireland’s best and noblest champion.
But who is Daniel O’Connell? “A demagogue–a ruffian agitator!” say the Tory journals of Great Britain, quaking meantime with awe and apprehension before the tremendous moral and political power which he is wielding,–a power at this instant mightier than that of any potentate of Europe. “A blackguard”–a fellow who “obtains contraband admission into European society”–a “malignant libeller”–a “plunderer of his country”– a man whose “wind should be stopped,” say the American slaveholders, and their apologists, Clay, Stevenson, Hamilton, and the Philadelphia Gazette, and the Democratic Whig Association.
But who is Daniel O’Connell? Ireland now does justice to him, the world will do so hereafter. No individual of the present age has done more for human liberty. His labors to effect the peaceable deliverance of his own oppressed countrymen, and to open to the nations of Europe a new and purer and holier pathway to freedom unstained with blood and unmoistened by tears, and his mighty instrumentality in the abolition of British colonial slavery, have left their impress upon the age. They will be remembered and felt beneficially long after the miserable slanders of Tory envy and malignity at home, and the clamors of slaveholders abroad, detected in their guilt, and writhing in the gaze of Christendom, shall have perished forever,–when the Clays and Calhouns, the Peels and Wellingtons, the opponents of reform in Great Britain and the enemies of slave emancipation in the United States, shall be numbered with those who in all ages, to use the words of the eloquent Lamartine, have “sinned against the Holy Ghost in opposing the improvement of things,–in an egotistical and stupid attempt to draw back the moral and social world which God and nature are urging forward.”
The character and services of O’Connell have never been fully appreciated in this country. Engrossed in our own peculiar interests, and in the plenitude of our self-esteem; believing that “we are the people, and that wisdom will perish with us,” that all patriotism and liberality of feeling are confined to our own territory, we have not followed the untitled Barrister of Derrynane Abbey, step by step, through the development of one of the noblest experiments ever made for the cause of liberty and the welfare of man.
The revolution which O’Connell has already partially effected in his native land, and which, from the evident signs of cooperation in England and Scotland, seems not far from its entire accomplishment, will form a new era in the history of the civilized world. Heretofore the patriot has relied more upon physical than moral means for the regeneration of his country and its redemption from oppression. His revolutions, however pure in principle, have ended in practical crime. The great truth was yet to be learned that brute force is incompatible with a pure love of freedom, inasmuch as it is in itself an odious species of tyranny–the relic of an age of slavery and barbarism–the common argument of despotism–a game
“which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at.”
But the revolution in which O’Connell is engaged, although directed against the oppression of centuries, relies with just confidence upon the united moral energies of the people: a moral victory of reason over prejudice, of justice over oppression; the triumph of intellectual energy where the brute appeal to arms had miserably failed; the vindication of man’s eternal rights, not by the sword fleshed in human hearts, but by weapons tempered in the armory of Heaven with truth and mercy and love.
Nor is it a visionary idea, or the untried theory of an enthusiast, this triumphant reliance upon moral and intellectual power for the reform of political abuses, for the overthrowing of tyranny and the pulling down of the strongholds of arbitrary power. The emancipation of the Catholic of Great Britain from the thrall of a century, in 1829, prepared the way for the bloodless triumph of English reform in 1832. The Catholic Association was the germ of those political unions which compelled, by their mighty yet peaceful influence, the King of England to yield submissively to the supremacy of the people.
[The celebrated Mr. Attwood has been called the “father of political unions.” In a speech delivered by his brother, C. Attwood, Esq., at the Sunderland Reform Meeting, September 10, 1832, I find the following admission: “Gentlemen, the first political union was the Roman Catholic Association of Ireland, and the true founder and father of political unions is Daniel O’Connell.”]
Both of these remarkable events, these revolutions shaking nations to their centre, yet polluted with no blood and sullied by no crime, were effected by the salutary agitations of the public mind, first set in motion by the masterspirit of O’Connell, and spreading from around him to every portion of the British empire like the undulations from the disturbed centre of a lake.
The Catholic question has been but imperfectly understood in this country. Many have allowed their just disapprobation of the Catholic religion to degenerate into a most unwarrantable prejudice against its conscientious followers. The cruel persecutions of the dissenters from the Romish Church, the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s day, the horrors of the Inquisition, the crusades against the Albigenses and the simple dwellers of the Vaudois valleys, have been regarded as atrocities peculiar to the believers in papal infallibility, and the necessary consequences of their doctrines; and hence they have looked upon the constitutional agitation of the Irish Catholics for relief from grieveous disabilities and unjust distinctions as a struggle merely for supremacy or power.
Strange, that the truth to which all history so strongly testifies should thus be overlooked,–the undeniable truth that religious bigotry and intolerance have been confined to no single sect; that the persecuted of one century have been the persecutors of another. In our own country, it would be well for us to remember that at the very time when in New England the Catholic, the Quaker, and the Baptist were banished on pain of death, and where some even suffered that dreadful penalty, in Catholic Maryland, under the Catholic Lord Baltimore, perfect liberty of conscience was established, and Papist and Protestant went quietly through the same streets to their respective altars.
At the commencement of O’Connell’s labors for emancipation he found the people of Ireland divided into three great classes,–the Protestant or Church party, the Dissenters, and the Catholics: the Church party constituting about one tenth of the population, yet holding in possession the government and a great proportion of the landed property of Ireland, controlling church and state and law and revenue, the army, navy, magistracy, and corporations, the entire patronage of the country, holding their property and power by the favor of England, and consequently wholly devoted to her interest; the Dissenters, probably twice as numerous as the Church party, mostly engaged in trade and manufactures,–sustained by their own talents and industry, Irish in feeling, partaking in no small degree of the oppression of their Catholic brethren, and among the first to resist that oppression in 1782; the Catholics constituting at least two thirds of the whole population, and almost the entire peasantry of the country, forming a large proportion of the mercantile interest, yet nearly excluded from the possession of landed property by the tyrannous operation of the penal laws. Justly has a celebrated Irish patriot (Theobald Wolfe Tone) spoken of these laws as “an execrable and infamous code, framed with the art and malice of demons to plunder and degrade and brutalize the Catholics of Ireland. There was no disgrace, no injustice, no disqualification, moral, political, or religious, civil or military, which it has not heaped upon them.”
The following facts relative to the disabilities under which the Catholics of the United Kingdom labored previous to the emancipation of 1829 will serve to show in some measure the oppressive operation of those laws which placed the foot of one tenth of the population of Ireland upon the necks of the remainder.
A Catholic peer could not sit in the House of Peers, nor a Catholic commoner in the House of Commons. A Catholic could not be Lord Chancellor, or Keeper, or Commissioner of the Great Seal; Master or Keeper of the Rolls; Justice of the King’s Bench or of the Common Pleas; Baron of the Exchequer; Attorney or Solicitor General; King’s Sergeant at Law; Member of the King’s Council; Master in Chancery, nor Chairman of Sessions for the County of Dublin. He could not be the Recorder of a city or town; an advocate in the spiritual courts; Sheriff of a county, city, or town; Sub-Sheriff; Lord Lieutenant, Lord Deputy, or other governor of Ireland; Lord High Treasurer; Governor of a county; Privy Councillor; Postmaster General; Chancellor of the Exchequer or Secretary of State; Vice Treasurer, Cashier of the Exchequer; Keeper of the Privy Seal or Auditor General; Provost or Fellow of Dublin University; nor Lord Mayor or Alderman of a corporate city or town. He could not be a member of a parish vestry, nor bequeath any sum of money or any lands for the maintenance of a clergyman, or for the support of a chapel or a school; and in corporate towns he was excluded from the grand juries.
O’Connell commenced his labors for emancipation with the strong conviction that nothing short of the united exertions of the Irish people could overthrow the power of the existing government, and that a union of action could only be obtained by the establishment of something like equality between the different religious parties. Discarding all other than peaceful means for the accomplishment of his purpose, he placed himself and his followers beyond the cognizance of unjust and oppressive laws. Wherever he poured the oil of his eloquence upon the maddened spirits of his wronged and insulted countrymen, the mercenary soldiery found no longer an excuse for violence; and calm, firm, and united, the Catholic Association remained secure in the moral strength of its pure and peaceful purpose, amid the bayonets of a Tory administration. His influence was felt in all parts of the island. Wherever an unlawful association existed, his great legal knowledge enabled him at once to detect its character, and, by urging its dissolution, to snatch its deluded members from the ready fangs of their enemies. In his presence the Catholic and the Protestant shook hands together, and the wild Irish clansman forgot his feuds. He taught the party in power, and who trembled at the dangers around them, that security and peace could only be obtained by justice and kindness. He entreated his oppressed Catholic brethren to lay aside their weapons, and with pure hearts and naked hands to stand firmly together in the calm but determined energy of men, too humane for deeds of violence, yet too mighty for the patient endurance of wrong.
The spirit of the olden time was awakened, of the day when Flood thundered and Curran lightened; the light which shone for a moment in the darkness of Ireland’s century of wrong burned upwards clearly and steadily from all its ancient altars. Shoulder to shoulder gathered around him the patriot spirits of his nation,–men unbribed by the golden spoils of governmental patronage Shiel with his ardent eloquence, O’Dwyer and Walsh, and Grattan and O’Connor, and Steel, the Protestant agitator, wearing around him the emblem of national reconciliation, of the reunion of Catholic and Protestant,–the sash of blended orange and green, soiled and defaced by his patriotic errands, stained with the smoke of cabins, and the night rains and rust of weapons, and the mountain mist, and the droppings of the wild woods of Clare. He united in one mighty and resistless mass the broken and discordant factions, whose desultory struggles against tyranny had hitherto only added strength to its fetters, and infused into that mass his own lofty principles of action, until the solemn tones of expostulation and entreaty, bursting at once from the full heart of Ireland, were caught up by England and echoed back from Scotland, and the language of justice and humanity was wrung from the reluctant lips of the cold and remorseless oppressor of his native land, at once its disgrace and glory,–the conqueror of Napoleon; and, in the words of his own Curran, the chains of the Catholic fell from around him, and he stood forth redeemed and disenthralled by the irresistible genius of Universal Emancipation.
On the passage of the bill for Catholic emancipation, O’Connell took his seat in the British Parliament. The eyes of millions were upon him. Ireland–betrayed so often by those in whom she had placed her confidence; brooding in sorrowful remembrance over the noble names and brilliant reputations sullied by treachery and corruption, the long and dark catalogue of her recreant sons, who, allured by British gold and British patronage, had sacrificed on the altar of their ambition Irish pride and Irish independence, and lifted their parricidal arms against their sorrowing mother, “crownless and voiceless in her woe”–now hung with breathless eagerness over the ordeal to which her last great champion was subjected.
The crisis in O’Connell’s destiny had come.
The glitter of the golden bribe was in his eye; the sound of titled magnificence was in his ear; the choice was before him to sit high among the honorable, the titled, and the powerful, or to take his humble seat in the hall of St. Stephen’s as the Irish demagogue, the agitator, the Kerry representative. He did not hesitate in his choice. On the first occasion that offered he told the story of Ireland’s wrongs, and demanded justice in the name of his suffering constituents. He had put his hand to the plough of reform, and he could not relinquish his hold, for his heart was with it.
Determined to give the Whig administration no excuse for neglecting the redress of Irish grievances, he entered heart and soul into the great measure of English reform, and his zeal, tact, and eloquence contributed not a little to its success. Yet even his friends speak of his first efforts in the House of Commons as failures. The Irish accent; the harsh avowal of purposes smacking of rebellion; the eccentricities and flowery luxuriance of an eloquence nursed in the fervid atmosphere of Ireland suddenly transplanted to the cold and commonplace one of St. Stephen’s; the great and illiberal prejudices against him scarcely abated from what they were when, as the member from Clare, he was mobbed on his way to London, for a time opposed a barrier to the influence of his talents and patriotism. But he triumphed at last: the mob-orator of Clare and Kerry, the declaimer in the Dublin Rooms of the Political and Trades’ Union, became one of the most attractive and popular speakers of the British Parliament; one whose aid has been courted and whose rebuke has been feared by the ablest of England’s representatives. Amid the sneers of derision and the clamor of hate and prejudice he has triumphed,–on that very arena so fatal to Irish eloquence and Irish fame, where even Grattan failed to sustain himself, and the impetuous spirit of Flood was stricken down.
No subject in which Ireland was not directly interested has received a greater share of O’Connell’s attention than that of the abolition of colonial slavery. Utterly detesting tyranny of all kinds, he poured forth his eloquent soul in stern reprobation of a system full at once of pride and misery and oppression, and darkened with blood. His speech on the motion of Thomas Fowell Buxton for the immediate emancipation of the slaves gave a new tone to the discussion of the question. He entered into no petty pecuniary details; no miserable computation of the shillings and pence vested in beings fashioned in the image of God. He did not talk of the expediency of continuing the evil because it had grown monstrous. To use his own words, he considered “slavery a crime to be abolished; not merely an evil to be palliated.” He left Sir Robert Peel and the Tories to eulogize the characters and defend the interests of the planters, in common with those of a tithe-reaping priesthood, building their houses by oppression and their chambers by wrong, and spoke of the negro’s interest, the negro’s claim to justice; demanding sympathy for the plundered as well as the plunderers, for the slave as well as his master. He trampled as dust under his feet the blasphemy that obedience to the law of eternal justice is a principle to be acknowledged in theory only, because unsafe in practice. He would, he said, enter into no compromise with slavery. He cared not what cast or creed or color it might assume, whether personal or political, intellectual or spiritual; he was for its total, immediate abolition. He was for justice,–justice in the name of humanity and according to the righteous law of the living God.
Ardently admiring our free institutions, and constantly pointing to our glorious political exaltation as an incentive to the perseverance of his own countrymen in their struggle against oppression, he has yet omitted no opportunity of rebuking our inexcusable slave system. An enthusiastic admirer of Jefferson, he has often regretted that his practice should have so illy accorded with his noble sentiments on the subject of slavery, which so fully coincided with his own. In truth, wherever man has been oppressed by his fellow-man, O’Connell’s sympathy has been directed: to Italy, chained above the very grave of her ancient liberties; to the republics of Southern America; to Greece, dashing the foot of the indolent Ottoman from her neck; to France and Belgium; and last, not least, to Poland, driven from her cherished nationality, and dragged, like his own Ireland, bleeding and violated, to the deadly embrace of her oppressor. American slavery but shares in his common denunciation of all tyranny; its victims but partake of his common pity for the oppressed and persecuted and the trodden down.
In this hasty and imperfect sketch we cannot enter into the details of that cruel disregard of Irish rights which was manifested by a Reformed Parliament, convoked, to use the language of William IV., “to ascertain the sense of the people.” It is perhaps enough to say that O’Connell’s indignant refusal to receive as full justice the measure of reform meted out to Ireland was fully justified by the facts of the case. The Irish Reform Bill gave Ireland, with one third of the entire population of the United Kingdoms, only one sixth of the Parliamentary delegation. It diminished instead of increasing the number of voters; in the towns and cities it created a high and aristocratic franchise; in many boroughs it established so narrow a basis of franchise as to render them liable to corruption and abuse as the rotten boroughs of the old system. It threw no new power into the hands of the people; and with no little justice has O’Connell himself termed it an act to restore to power the Orange ascendancy in Ireland, and to enable a faction to trample with impunity on the friends of reform and constitutional freedom. [Letters to the Reformers of Great Britain, No. 1.]
In May, 1832, O’Connell commenced the publication of his celebrated Letters to the Reformers of Great Britain. Like Tallien, before the French convention, he “rent away the veil” which Hume and Atwood had only partially lifted. He held up before the people of Great Britain the new indignities which had been added to the long catalogue of Ireland’s wrongs; he appealed to their justice, their honor, their duty, for redress, and cast down before the Whig administration the gauntlet of his country’s defiance and scorn. There is a fine burst of indignant Irish feeling in the concluding paragraphs of his fourth letter:–
“I have demonstrated the contumelious injuries inflicted upon us by this Reform Bill. My letters are long before the public. They have been unrefuted, uncontradicted in any of their details. And with this case of atrocious injustice to Ireland placed before the reformers of Great Britain, what assistance, what sympathy, do we receive? Why, I have got some half dozen drivelling letters from political unions and political characters, asking me whether I advise them to petition or bestir themselves in our behalf!
“Reformers of Great Britain! I do not ask you either to petition or be silent. I do not ask you to petition or to do any other act in favor of the Irish. You will consult your own feelings of justice and generosity, unprovoked by any advice or entreaty of mine.
“For my own part, I never despaired of Ireland; I do not, I will not, I cannot, despair of my beloved country. She has, in my view, obtained freedom of conscience for others, as well as for herself. She has shaken off the incubus of tithes while silly legislation was dealing out its folly and its falsehoods. She can, and she will, obtain for herself justice and constitutional freedom; and although she may sigh at British neglect and ingratitude, there is no sound of despair in that sigh, nor any want of moral energy on her part to attain her own rights by peaceable and legal means.”
The tithe system, unutterably odious and full of all injustice, had prepared the way for this expression of feeling on the part of the people. Ireland had never, in any period of her history, bowed her neck peaceably to the ecclesiastical yoke. From the Canon of Cashel, prepared by English deputies in the twelfth century, decreeing for the first time that tithes should be paid in Ireland, down to the present moment, the Church in her borders has relied solely upon the strong arm of the law, and literally reaped its tithes with the sword. The decree of the Dublin Synod, under Archbishop Comyn, in 1185, could only be enforced within the pale of the English settlement. The attempts of Henry VIII. also failed. Without the pale all endeavors to collect tithes were met by stern opposition. And although from the time of William III. the tithe system has been established in Ireland, yet at no period has it been regarded otherwise than as a system of legalized robbery by seven eighths of the people. An examination of this system cannot fail to excite our wonder, not that it has been thus regarded, but that it has been so long endured by any people on the face of the earth, least of all by Irishmen. Tithes to the amount of L1,000,000 are annually wrung from impoverished Ireland, in support of a clergy who can only number about one sixteenth of her population as their hearers; and wrung, too, in an undue proportion, from the Catholic counties. [See Dr. Doyle’s Evidence before Hon. E. G. Stanley.] In the southern and middle counties, almost entirely inhabited by the Catholic peasantry, every thing they possess is subject to the tithe: the cow is seized in the hovel, the potato in the barrel, the coat even on the poor man’s back. [Speech of T. Reynolds, Esq., at an anti- tithe meeting.] The revenues of five of the dignitaries of the Irish Church Establishment are as follows: the Primacy L140,000; Derry L120,000; Kilmore L100,000; Clogher L100,000; Waterford L70,000. Compare these enormous sums with that paid by Scotland for the maintenance of the Church, namely L270,000. Yet that Church has 2,000,000 souls under its care, while that of Ireland has not above 500,000. Nor are these princely livings expended in Ireland by their possessors. The bishoprics of Cloyne and Meath have been long held by absentees,–by men who know no more of their flocks than the non-resident owner of a West India plantation did of the miserable negroes, the fruits of whose thankless labor were annually transmitted to him. Out of 1289 benefited clergymen in Ireland, between five and six hundred are non-residents, spending in Bath and London, or in making the fashionable tour of the Continent, the wealth forced from the Catholic peasant and the Protestant dissenter by the bayonets of the military. Scorching and terrible was the sarcasm of Grattan applied to these locusts of the Church: “A beastly and pompous priesthood, political potentates and Christian pastors, full of false zeal, full of worldly pride, and full of gluttony, empty of the true religion, to their flocks oppressive, to their inferior clergy brutal, to their king abject, and to their God impudent and familiar,–they stand on the altar as a stepping-stone to the throne, glorying in the ear of princes, whom they poison with crooked principles and heated advice; a faction against their king when they are not his slaves,–ever the dirt under his feet or a poniard to his heart.”
For the evils of absenteeism, the non-residence of the wealthy landholders, draining from a starving country the very necessaries of life, a remedy is sought in a repeal of the union, and the provisions of a domestic parliament. In O’Connell’s view, a restoration of such a parliament can alone afford that adequate protection to the national industry so loudly demanded by thousands of unemployed laborers, starving amid the ruins of deserted manufactories. During the brief period of partial Irish liberty which followed the pacific revolution of ’82, the manufactures of the country revived and flourished; and the smile of contented industry was visible all over the land. In 1797 there were 15,000 silk-weavers in the city of Dublin alone. There are now but 400. Such is the practical effect of the Union, of that suicidal act of the Irish Parliament which yielded up in a moment of treachery and terror the dearest interests of the country to the legislation of an English Parliament and the tender mercies of Castlereagh,–of that Castlereagh who, when accused by Grattan of spending L15,000 in purchasing votes for the Union, replied with the rare audacity of high-handed iniquity, “We did spend L15,000, and we would have spent L15,000,000 if necessary to carry the Union; “that Castlereagh who, when 707,000 Irishmen petitioned against the Union and 300,000 for it, maintained that the latter constituted the majority! Well has it been said that the deep vengeance which Ireland owed him was inflicted by the great criminal upon himself. The nation which he sold and plundered saw him make with his own hand the fearful retribution. The great body of the Irish people never assented to the Union. The following extract from a speech of Earl (then Mr.) Grey, in 1800, upon the Union question, will show what means were made use of to drag Ireland, while yet mourning over her slaughtered children, to the marriage altar with England: “If the Parliament of Ireland had been left to itself, untempted and unawed, it would without hesitation have rejected the resolutions. Out of the 300 members, 120 strenuously opposed the measure, 162 voted for it: of these, 116 were placemen; some of them were English generals on the staff, without a foot of ground in Ireland, and completely dependent on government.” “Let us reflect upon the arts made use of since the last session of the Irish Parliament to pack a majority, for Union, in the House of Commons. All persons holding offices under government, if they hesitated to vote as directed, were stripped of all their employments. A bill framed for preserving the purity of Parliament was likewise abused, and no less than 63 seats were vacated by their holders having received nominal offices.”
The signs of the times are most favorable to the success of the Irish Liberator. The tremendous power of the English political unions is beginning to develop itself in favor of Ireland. A deep sympathy is evinced for her sufferings, and a general determination to espouse her cause. Brute force cannot put down the peaceable and legal agitation of the question of her rights and interests. The spirit of the age forbids it. The agitation will go on, for it is spreading among men who, to use the words of the eloquent Shiel, while looking out upon the ocean, and gazing upon the shore, which Nature has guarded with so many of her bulwarks, can hear the language of Repeal muttered in the dashing of the very waves which separate them from Great Britain by a barrier of God’s own creation. Another bloodless victory, we trust, awaits O’Connell,–a victory worthy of his heart and intellect, unstained by one drop of human blood, unmoistened by a solitary tear.
Ireland will be redeemed and disenthralled, not perhaps by a repeal of the Union, but by the accomplishment of such a thorough reform in the government and policy of Great Britain as shall render a repeal unnecessary and impolitic.
The sentiments of O’Connell in regard to the means of effecting his object of political reform are distinctly impressed upon all his appeals to the people. In his letter of December, 1832, to the Dublin Trades Union, he says: “The Repealers must not have our cause stained with blood. Far indeed from it. We can, and ought to, carry the repeal only in the total absence of offence against the laws of man or crime in the sight of God. The best revolution which was ever effected could not be worth one drop of human blood.” In his speech at the public dinner given him by–the citizens of Cork, we find a yet more earnest avowal of pacific principles. “It may be stated,” said he, “to countervail our efforts, that this struggle will involve the destruction of life and property; that it will overturn the framework of civil society, and give an undue and fearful influence to one rank to the ruin of all others. These are awful considerations, truly, if risked. I am one of those who have always believed that any political change is too dearly purchased by a single drop of blood, and who think that any political superstructure based upon other opinion is like the sand-supported fabric,–beautiful in the brief hour of sunshine, but the moment one drop of rain touches the arid basis melting away in wreck and ruin! I am an accountable being; I have a soul and a God to answer to, in another and better world, for my thoughts and actions in this. I disclaim here any act of mine which would sport with the lives of my fellow-creatures, any amelioration of our social condition which must be purchased by their blood. And here, in the face of God and of our common country, I protest that if I did not sincerely and firmly believe that the amelioration I desire could be effected without violence, without any change in the relative scale of ranks in the present social condition of Ireland, except that change which all must desire, making each better than it was before, and cementing all in one solid irresistible mass, I would at once give up the struggle which I have always kept with tyranny. I would withdraw from the contest which I have hitherto waged with those who would perpetuate our thraldom. I would not for one moment dare to venture for that which in costing one human life would cost infinitely too dear. But it will cost no such price. Have we not had within my memory two great political revolutions? And had we them not without bloodshed or violence to the social compact? Have we not arrived at a period when physical force and military power yield to moral and intellectual energy. Has not the time of ‘Cedant arma togae’ come for us and the other nations of the earth?”
Let us trust that the prediction of O’Connell will be verified; that reason and intellect are destined, under God, to do that for the nations of the earth which the physical force of centuries and the red sacrifice of a thousand battle-fields have failed to accomplish. Glorious beyond all others will be the day when “nation shall no more rise up against nation;” when, as a necessary consequence of the universal acknowledgment of the rights of man, it shall no longer be in the power of an individual to drag millions into strife, for the unholy gratification of personal prejudice and passion. The reformed governments of Great Britain and France, resting, as they do, upon a popular basis, are already tending to this consummation, for the people have suffered too much from the warlike ambition of their former masters not to have learned that the gains of peaceful industry are better than the wages of human butchery.
Among the great names of Ireland–alike conspicuous, yet widely dissimilar–stand Wellington and O’Connell. The one smote down the modern Alexander upon Waterloo’s field of death, but the page of his reputation is dim with the tears of the widow and the orphan, and dark with the stain of blood. The other, armed only with the weapons of truth and reason, has triumphed over the oppression of centuries, and opened a peaceful pathway to the Temple of Freedom, through which its Goddess may be seen, no longer propitiated with human sacrifices, like some foul idol of the East, but clothed in Christian attributes, and smiling in the beauty of holiness upon the pure hearts and peaceful hands of its votaries. The bloodless victories of the latter have all the sublimity with none of the criminality which attaches itself to the triumphs of the former. To thunder high truths in the deafened ear of nations, to rouse the better spirit of the age, to soothe the malignant passions of. assembled and maddened men, to throw open the temple doors of justice to the abused, enslaved, and persecuted, to unravel the mysteries of guilt, and hold up the workers of iniquity in the severe light of truth stripped of their disguise and covered with the confusion of their own vileness,– these are victories more glorious than any which have ever reddened the earth with carnage:–
“They ask a spirit of more exalted pitch,
And courage tempered with a holier fire.”
Of the more recent efforts of O’Connell we need not speak, for no one can read the English periodicals and papers without perceiving that O’Connell is, at this moment, the leading politician, the master mind of the British empire. Attempts have been made to prejudice the American mind against him by a republication on this side of the water of the false and foul slanders of his Tory enemies, in reference to what is called the “O’Connell rent,” a sum placed annually in his hands by a grateful people, and which he has devoted scrupulously to the great object of Ireland’s political redemption. He has acquired no riches by his political efforts his heart and soul and mind and strength have been directed to his suffering country and the cause of universal freedom. For this he has deservedly a place in the heart and affections of every son of Ireland. One million of ransomed slaves in the British dependencies will teach their children to repeat the name of O’Connell with that of Wilberforce and Clarkson. And when the stain and caste of slavery shall have passed from our own country, he will be regarded as our friend and benefactor, whose faithful rebukes and warnings and eloquent appeals to our pride of character, borne to us across the Atlantic, touched the guilty sensitiveness of the national conscience, and through shame prepared the way for repentance.0 views