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Letter froin James O'Connell, E.sq.
F'alca Alarms of Flots
O'CONNELL, ESQ., M.Pc
The speech of Mr. O'Connell, with which we commence this volume, was in many respects a remarkable one. In the first place brings out in a clear light one great and marking feature of his policy, that of steady persistance in the use of tho ways and means that the constitution provides for declaring grievances and demanding redress ; persistance through every discouragement, and apparently, but only apparently, against hope itself at times.
In the next place it presents a lively picture of the state of things in Europe, at the period of the first Napoleon's first abdication—now not far from forty years ago; the hopes then rationaily entertained for human liberty--the opportunities then before kings and princes to give a permanent and enduring basis in the grateful affections of their enfran: chised subjects, to thrones and dynasties, yet but tremblingly re-established after the terrible hurricane of war and conquest that had for a while overset then. To us, at present. anxious spectators of the probable beginning of another mighty European controversy it! wms; who have had such ample material and time to judge of the faults, the follies, the nistakes, and the crimes that were committed in 1815, and that have borne such fatal fruit since (notably so ill that year of terrible distraction and disaster, and of still more terrible omen of future evd, the year 1848), there cannot be anything more interesting than the picture this speech gives of things and expectations at the moment in question, when kings and princes had the destinies of nations, as well as their own in their hands, to model them for good or ill, at their pleasure; and when a little wisdom, a little self-denial, a little generosity, a little faithfulness to the promises by which, in former moments of deadly peril they had won the heart-whole support of their people against the French invader, might have secured the lasting peace and happiness of the world !
In the third place this speech is particularly remarkable for the clear, penetrating, and decisive view that Daniel O'Connell took of the now generally condemned and exploded injustice of the Corn Laws Far otherwise were those laws at that time than condeinned. They were just being re-enacted after an interval of several years; and their re-enactment was, at the time we speak of, hailed by public speakers and writers as a measure of great wisdom. In Ireland, especially, were they beld up as eminently calculated to be of benefit and the assumed organs of public opinion here, and indeed whatever degree of public opi. nion then was active amongst us, fastened with a loving faith upon the plausibilities o the scheme, and set down as ill-judging, or ill-disposed, any one who attempted to stay the current, and urge a calmer and a larger consideration.
It will be seen how even Mr. O'Connell, himself, popular as he then was, and little capable as ie then or at any other time showed himself, of being daunted in any duty he had ore.
umdertaken, was obliged to content himsed with one brief, but clear and unmistakeable denunciation of the Corn Laws, and to proceed with what dispatch he might, to topics more in consonance with the feelings and persuasions of his auditory.
It will also be seen, that in truth, the whole case against the Corn Laws is stated in this speech, briefly, succinctly, powerfully. The debates of 1846, the proceedings of the antiCorn Law League in that, or in the busiest and most argumentative of its sessions preceding that year of its triumph, may be ransacked throughout, and not one argument will there be found that could add any thing to the force of Mr. O'Connell's declaration mado against those laws, in the very hour of their projection, when all the evils they were calculated to produce, and which had become patent and undeniable in 1846, were as yet mat. ters of speculation and prophecy.
This remarkable speech ends with another matter of note-one of those constantly recurring protests that Mr. O'Connell uttered from time to time throughout the whole of his long political career, against any species of compromise of the entire independence of the Catholic church.
The day on which he spoke was the 23rd of February, 1814, and the occasiou wasia Catholic meeting held upon that day, to consider and decide what course was to be "pursued to recorer Catholic rights. He is thus reported :
MR. O'CONNELL said that he wished to submit to the meeting a resolution, calling on the different counties and cities in Ireland to petition for unqualified emancipation. It was a resolu
a tion which had been already and frequently adopted; when we had persevered in our petitions, even at periods when we despaired of
success.; and it became a pleasing duty to present them, now that the symptoms of the times seemed so powerfully to promise an approaching relief.
Indeed, as long as truth or justice could be supposed to influence man ; as long as man was admitted to be under the control of reason; so long must it be prudent and wise to procure discussions on the sufferings and the rights of the people of Ireland. Truth proclaimed the treacherous iniquity which had deprived us of our chartered liberty ; truth destroyed the flimsy pretext under which this iniquity is continued ; truth exposed our merits and our sufferings ; whilst reason and justice combined to demonstrate our right-the right of every human being to freedom of conscience a right without which every honest man must feel that to him, individually, the protection of government is a mockery, and the restriction of penal law a sacrilege.
Truth, reason, and justice are our advocates ; and even in England, let me tell you, that those powerful advocates have some authority. They are, it is true, more frequently resisted there than in most other countries : but yet they have some sway among the English at all times. Passion may confound, and prejudice darken the English understanding; and interested passion and hired prejudice have been successfully employed against us at former periods ; but the present season appears
siugularly well calcalated to aid the progress of our cause, and to advance the attainnıent of our important objects.
I do not make the assertion lightly. I speak after deliberate investigation, and from solemn conviction, my clear opinion, that we shall, during the present session of parliament, obtain a portion at least, if not the entire, of our emancipation. We cannot fail, unless we are disturbed in our course by those who graciously style themselves our friends, or are betrayed by the treacherous machinations of part of our own body.
Yes, every thing, except false friendship and domestic treachery, forebodes sucoes.
The curse of man is in its great advance. Humanity has been rescued from much of its thraldom. In the states of Europe, whero the iron despotism of the feudal system so long classed men into two species—the hereditary masters and the perpetual slaves; when rank supplied the place of merit, and to be humbly born operated as a perpetual exclusion ;-in many parts of Europe man is reassuming his natural station, and artificial distinctions bave vanished before the force of truth and the necessities of governors.
France has a representative government ; and as the unjust privileges of the clergy and nobility are abolished; as she is blessed with a most wise, clear, and simple code of laws; as she
; is almost free from debt, and emancipated from odious prejudices, she is likely to prove an example and a light to the world.
In Germany the sovereigns who formerly ruled at their free will and caprice, are actually bribing the people to the support of their thrones, hy giving them the blessings of liberty. It is a wise and a glorious policy. The Prince Regent has emancipated his Catholic subjects of Hanover, and traced for them the grand outlines of a free constitution. The other states of Germany are rapidly following the example. The people, no longer destined to bear the burdens only of society, are called up to take their share in the management of their own concerns, and in the sustentation of the public dignity and happiness. In short representative government, the only rational or just government, is proclaimed by princes as a boon to their people, and Germany is about to afford many an example of the advantages of rational liberty. Anxious as some kings appear to be in the great work of plunder and robbery, others of them are now the first heralds of freedom.
It is a moment of glorious triumph to humanity; and even one instance of liberality freely conceded, makes compensation for a thousand repetitions of the ordinary crimes of military
monarchs. The crime is followed by its own punishment; but the great principle of the rights of man establishes itself nov on the broadest basis, and France and Germany now set forth an example for England to imitate.
Italy, too, is in the paroxysms of the fever of independence. Oh, may she have strength to go through the disease, and may she rise like a giant refreshed with wine ! One thing is certain, that the human mind is set afloat in Italy. The flame of freedom burns ; it may be smothered for a season ; but all the whiskered Croats and the fierce Pandours of Austria will not be able to extinguish the sacred fire. Spain to be sure, chills the heart, and disgusts the understanding. The combined Inquisition and the court-press- upon the mind, whilst they bind the body in fetters of adamant. But this despotism is, thank God, as unrelentingly absurd as it is cruel, and there arises a darling hope out of the very excess of the evil. The Spaniards must be walking corpsesthey must be living ghosts, and not human beings, unless a sublime reaction be in rapid preparation. But let us turn to our own prospects.
The cause of liberty has made, and is making, great progress in: states heretofore despotic. In all the countries in Europe, in which any portion of freedom prevails, the liberty of conscience is complete. England alone, of all the states pretending to be free, leaves shackles upon the human mind; England alone, amongst free states, exhibits the absurd claim of regulating belief by law, and forcing opinion by statute. Is it possible to con
, ceive that this gross, this glaring, this iniquitous absurdity can continue ? Is it possible, too, to conceive that it can continue to operate, not against a small and powerless sect, but against the millions, comprising the best strength, the most affluent energy of the empire 3-4 strength and an energy daily increasing, and hourly appreciating their own importance. The present system, disavowed by liberalized Europe, disclaimed by sound reason, abhorred by genuine religion, must soon and for ever be abolished.
Let it not be said that the princes of the Continent were forced by necessity to give privileges to their subjects, and that England bas escaped from a similar fate. I admit that the neressity of procuring the support of the people was the mainspring of royal patriotism on the Continent; but I totally deny that the ministers of England can dispense with a similar support. The burdens of the war are permanent; the distresses occasioned
; by the peace are pressing; the financial system tottering, and to