Page images
PDF
EPUB

were just the reverse.* They apparently lived in a dream about Ireland, and thus prepared

* If the last words of Robert Emmet are compared with those of M'lvor they certainly show the superiority of Irish eloquence. The latter says to his judge—" Proceed then, in the name of God, to do what is permitted to you. Yesterday, and the day before, you have condemned loyal and honourable blood to be poured forth like water. Spare not mine. Were that of all my ancestors in my veins, I would have peril'd it in this quarrel." Emmet, in precisely the same situation, exclaimed—(Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion) :—" If the spirits of the illustrious dead participate in the cares and sorrows of those who were dear to them in this transitory life, 0 ■ever dear and venerable shade of my departed father, look down with scrutiny on the conduct of your suffering son, and see if I have for a moment deviated from those true principles of morality and patriotism which it was your care to instil into my youthful mind, and for which I am now about to offer up my life. My Lords, you are impatient for the sacrifice. The blood which you seek is not congealed by the artificial terrors that surround your victim—it circulates warmly and unruffled through the channels which God created for nobler purposes, but which you are bent to destroy for purposes so grievous that they cry to Heaven. Be ye patient. I have but a few words more to say. I am going to my cold and silent grave, my lamp of life is nearly extinguished—my race is run. The grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosom. I have but one request to ask at my •departure from this world, it is, the charity of its silence.

their ardent minds alike for an imaginary success and for a probable failure.

This success, however, was very different from the practical triumph of their ignorant, excited followers. The Irish of their imaginations only existed among a few personal friends. Their adherents were inspired by wholly different feelings, hopes, and designs, and only joined them owing to their common hatred to British rule. This is clearly proved by Tone's diary, as well as by the language of both the Emmets.* But

Let no man write rny epitaph, for, as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudiceor ignorance asperse them. Let them and me repose in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed,. until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done."

* "Clarke asked me what I thought of some of the Irish priests yet remaining in France. I answered that he knew my opinion as to priests of all kinds; that in Ireland they had acted all along execrably; that they hated the very name of the French Revolution; and that I feared, and, indeed, was sure, that if one was sent from France, he would immediately, from the esprit de corps,. get in with his brethren in Ireland, who would misrepresent everything to him."—Life of Tone, vol. i. p. 68.

these leaders were well prepared for defeat, trial, and sentence. Nothing then lay before them but their reputation, and to its vindication they devoted that moral courage and eloquence which have established it in the hearts of posterity.

After the Culloden defeat, the British Jacobites apparently remembered little about their brave leaders, celebrated in the noble works of Scott,* who, as before observed, said little at any time, leaving their acts and motives alone to vindicate their fame. All Irish revolutions, or attempts at revolutions, from '98, inclusive, have been distinguished by fervent speech-making and animated, glowing, powerful language. The Scottish Jacobite revolts displayed nothing of the kind whatever. But the Irish rebel leaders, as if foreseeing utter failure in actual warfare, appealed to their powers of eloquence throughout, and to it they chiefly trusted for the vindication of their memory.

Since their time many popular leaders have appeared on the troubled scene of Irish politics,

* Waverley, Bob Boy, and Bedgauntlet.

and have all, though in different degrees, incited their adherents against British legislation. O'Connell, though most popular with his fellow Roman Catholics, eagerly demanding repeal of the Parliamentary Union with Great Britain, always recommended loyalty to the British throne, but he had little or no influence over Irish Protestants. The objects of the fardescended Irish, yet Protestant, chief, Smith O'Brien, were apparently more fanciful, not only than those of O'Connell, but than those of his political associates, Messrs. Meagher, Duffy, Mitchel, &c*

These leaders, though able and energetic men, never obtained the influence of O'Connell, who was in almost every respect an admirable representative of Irish Catholic feeling and character.f

* "His Conservatism never wholly abandoned him. He had a horror of revolutionary doctrines."—Sullivan's NewIreland, vol. i.

t "An Irishman and a Catholic, above all things, O'Connell was the idol of the nation. There was no rival to his supremacy, there was no restriction to his authority. He played with the fierce enthusiasm he had aroused with the negligent ease of a master. The noblest instance of his moderation is furnished by his constant denunciation

He was far more respected in Ireland than anysubsequent political leader. O'Brien and the other chiefs of the '48 or Young Ireland movement, which can hardly be called a rebellion, were easily arrested, and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, without obtaining much popular sympathy. Their peculiar opinions, like those of the "United Irish" leaders, had, compared to O'Connell's, very little effect on the minds of their fellow-countrymen.*

After the lapse of more than twenty years, during which the Fenian Society, headed by James Stephens, advocated republican revolution, which was condemned by Cardinal Cullenf and

of rebellion. O'Connell uniformly warned the people against appealing to arms."—Lecky's Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland.

* "The Young Irelanders, like the leaders of the Rebellion of 1798, were chiefly Protestants—very young and very enthusiastic men. The great characteristic of the party was its advocacy of rebellion. Mr. Mitchel declared that, next to the British Government, he regarded O'Connell as the greatest enemy of Ireland, for it was altogether owing to his eloquence and to his principles that the Irish people could not be induced to follow the revolutionary movement of 1848."—Lecky's Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland.

t See Sullivan's New Ireland, vol. ii. chap. iv.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »