Page images

Mr. O'Connell in his oratory, differs widely from Burke; he possesses more of those useful powers, more of that business like conduct, the application of which was necessary for his advancement. Cast in a rougher mould, than some of his colleagues, less sensitive, less fastidious, less morbid, more anxious about the end than the means, desirous of resting his reputation and the question before him on some tangible basis, and comparatively careless of occupying an eminence in the ideal world, preferring to be an object of sight rather than of faith, Mr. O'Connell descended at once into the paths of literal life, and forcing his way through the crowd with the earnestness of a person intent at arriving at a certain and definite gaol, he was wholly unconcerned, whether the bystanders should remark the slovenliness of his gait, or the rustic violence of his speed, provided he at length reached the object which he sought. This singleness of purpose, this unity of design it was, that rendered such service to his cause, and impelled it forward in a rectilinear course. There was no complication of views and interests in his system to create any divergency. The resting places of his ambition were also the pivots of the question. This was the line of conduct that he pursued when he appeared on the bustings of the Kerry election, and it was also the spirit with which he entered into the contest. Of the lookers on, some laughed, some frowned, some wept, others stood on each side with wonder and amaze; but, meanwhile, Mr. O'Connell jostled on, pommelled this person, shouldered another, shoved the High Sheriff vut of the way, trod on the heels of the opposing candidate, and thereby expedited the object which he had in view, and attained the eminence his talents deserved.

Perhaps no two men of the present day are in their oratory more opposite and distinct than Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Sheil. The former's manner of roughing it,” as the phrase goes, does not suit the taste of the latter; his turn of mind is more aristocratical than that of his colleague ; less fitted for the plebeian contact of matter of fact and practical life, he may desire to place himself and the cause on a summit; but then he is also solicitous

that the ascent should be tracked with glories; no vulgar foot print must defile the haunts to be trodden by him; no rude concourse must throng his ways: the highway was made for the crowd, whilst to him, to wend round the mountains' side, and approach its brow through paces inaccessible to all, is more grateful than even the attainment of the pinnacle itself The two objects of placing the question in a lofty situation. and himself in an imposing attitude, throughout all its stages, not being coincident or in the same line, necessarily distracts his attention. His course is rather circuitous than direct. The simultaneous meetings of the Irish Catholics originated with Mr. Sheil, and their practical effect was certainly most adequate. Yet here the transcendental spirit is apparent; the poetry of the conception, and its utility, evidently strive in his mind for masteries ; at one time he compares them to “ Briareus upraising his hundred hands," then again he contemplates with enthusiasm “the universal genuflection," the common cry of liberty issuing from the altars of God, and then winds up with the practical effect; “two thousand three hundred petitions signed upon two thousand three hundred altars, and rushing at the same time into the councils of the legislature, may not excite alarm, but cannot be treated with contempt."

Whatever Mr. Sheil might have done by the force of his eloquence to promote the great cause which then occupied the entire population of Ireland, it must be admitted, nevertheless, that there was about Mr. O'Connell more of the operative, more of the artizan. It was he, who hewed the stones, and cemented them together; the beauty of the architecture and sculpture might not have been his, but by whom was the structure reared ? Doubtless by none but him. Its entablature, its frescoes, and its copitals, by giving an imposing grandeur to the whole, may have and must have compelled the blasphemer to venerate, when he came but to scoff and contemn, yet the rich carving and splendid imagery were, after all, little more than the non-essentials and accidents of the pile itself. They might vanish, but the edifice would still remain; whilst the former could never exist until the latter began to be. Mr. O'Connell might be called the labourer, Mr. Sheil was the sculptor, but, in as much, as the skill of the one is useless without the energy of the other ; since this is necessary, that irdispensable, we must pronounce, that the first of those two celebrated men was best calculated to further Catholic emancipation, and confirm the sentence of the public, which declared that on this occasion, Mr. O'Connell's talents and general capacity were paramount.

It was on the great theatre of Catholic emancipation that the abilities of Mr. O'Connell first exhibited themselves in that wonderful light which has thrown a never fading lustre round his name; which has endeared him to his countrymen, and given him a power, greater, he himself confesses, than a subject should be allowed to have. At the same time, we cannot wilfully close our eyes to some parts of Mr. O'Connell's career in the service of his suffering countrymen, in which the natural vehemence of his nature led him into the commission of acts, and the utterance of expressions, which were censured even by those, who granted him their unequivocal support and regarded him, in general, as the only individual in whose hands the destinies of Ireland ought to be trusted. It must also be observed, that there were some individuals around him, whose total disregard of even the commonest courtesies of civilized life, was so great, as to lose sight of all decorum in their speeches wounding the living for the sins of the dead, and thereby alienating from their ranks many of the more sober and rational part of their adherents, who although they were willing to go every prudential length for the recovery of their rights, yet, were by no means disposed to lose sight of all moderation in their measures, and excite the popular hatred and indignation against the most distinguished characters of the state, not caring at the time, whether the statements had any real foundation in truth.

In corroboration of the justness of the above remarks, we will make some extracts from the speeches of Mr. O'Connell, and others of his adherents, which were delivered at Limerick

at a meeting of the Roman Catholics, in which such sentiments were uttered, as excited the utmost indignation in this country, and even injured the Catholic cause in Ireland.

“In the latter period of the present reign, .(says Mr. O'Connell,) every administration has had a distinct principle upon which it was formed, which serves the historian to explain all its movements. Thus the principle of the Pitt administration was to deprive the people of all share in the government, and to vest all power and authority in the crown.

In short, Pitt's views amounted to unqualified despotism, the great object he steadily pursued through his ill starred career. It is true, he encouraged commerce, but it was for the purposes of taxation, and he used taxation for the purposes of corruption. He assisted the merchants, as long as he could, to grow rich, and they lauded him. He bought the people with their own money, and they praised him. Each succeeding day brought some new in road in the constitution, and the alarm which he excited, by reason of the bloody workings of the French revolution, enabled him to rule the land with uncontrolled sway. He has bequeathed to his successors the accumulated power of the crown, a power which is so great, as to sustain the nonentities of the present administration. The principle of Pitt's administration was despotism. The principle of Perceval's administration was peculating bigotry, bigotted peculation. In the name of the Lord, he plundered the people. Pious and enlightened statesman ! he would take the money only for the good of their souls ! The principle of the present administration is still more obvious. It has unequivocally disclosed itself in all their movements, It is simple and single. It consists in falsehood; falsehood is the bond and link which connects this ministry in office. Some of these pretend to be our friends ; you know it is not true; they are only our worse enemies for their hypocrisy."

The foregoing passage is however mild and inoffensive, compared to the following, which was contained in a speech delivered at Dublin, within a month after the funeral of Mr. Perceval.

“ But two obstacles impeded its advancement (i. e. the Catholic emancipation) which neither moral nor political causes could remove, the principles of a minister and the conscience of a king. The minister said it was resisted by his reason, the king declared it was resisted by his morality. The king was religious, the bigots were obstinate, bigotry in this, as in all other cases, adopted the pretences of religion to counteract the purposes of religion. The bigots of the day beset the monarch, they said to themselves in the language of the great poet.

The oath, the outh's, the thing,
In which we'll catch the conscience of the king.

“ In this way they succeeded in convincing the sovereign that concession to the Catholics must be perjury to him. Thus the semblance of religion and the substance of bigotry united to oppose the free worship of God. Against these two uncommon obstacles, moral and political causes worked in vain ; in vain would reason expostulate with bigotry, in vain would it argue with religious conscientiousness. Reason could do nothing with the one or the other, secondary causes must fail to remove such obstacles, human causes could not remove them— man could not remove them--none but God could remove them. God has removed them. By the two severest visitations with which man can be afflicted, by the loss of reason and the loss of life; these two impediments to your emancipation have been dislodged; your king no longer ranks with the rational, and the minister of that king is now numbered with the dead, as a subject and a man. I must in common with you all, sincerely deplore this two-fold affliction, but as a moralist and a christian, it may be permitted to infer, that these awful signs of the times may appear to the eye of the unborn historian , but as the distinct evidence of a controlling providence, that for the future, man's free worship of his Creator, is, as it were written by the hand of God, and that it now stands a record in heaven, that the time is past and never

« PreviousContinue »