« PreviousContinue »
walked over the Tories. But what was the victory itself, compared to the sobriety, order, enthusiasm, and devotion that effected it? Persecution began. It was schocking that tenants should not perjure themselves—unheard of, that they should have a country--monstrous, that they should think of their religion! The bishops, who knew that the gospel was preached to the rich alone, were astounded; fulminations, lay, and clerical—the latter, however, of a much finer scarlet-went forth; but the Association existed. The new Rent was established. If a landlord was deaf to decency and humanity, his sensations were assisted by a punch from the halberd of the law. Physicians, very skilful in their professions, applied the stethoscope to the state of his property; the oppressed breathing, which mortgages had induced, was explored, and an antiphlogistic regimen instantly adopted. They bought up the encumbrances on his property; and, if he attempted to persecute his tenantry for their votes, soon compelled him to listen to reason. If all was ineffectual, the individual himself was alone to blame, that the cries of a wife and houseless children taught that law of“ wild justice, with which continued oppressions have embued the Irish peasant."
Meanwhile, the census, shewing the numbers of persons of the various religious persuasions in Ireland, which had been one of the objects of the new Association, proceeded. an extremely arduous task. To a government possessed of all the authoritative means of demanding information, and the wealth to facilitate every inquiry, a census of the people is no trifling effort; when we consider that it was done by a society, not only without the aid of the law, but impeded by it, we have, in the extent to which it was carried, one of the most wonderful achievements in political organization which has ever been accomplished. The plan was suggested by Mr Sheil
, and the chief portion of the labour was undertaken by the celebrated Dr Kelly, the Catholic Bishop of Waterford.
" It was about this time,” says Dr Murphy, “ that America sent her voice over the waters. A meeting had been held at New York, Judge Swanton in the chair, 'to give,' as the
resolution stated, efficient expression to their sympathy for the oppressed, and indignation at the conduct of the oppressors. A co-operating Association, on the model of the Irish, was formed, and a Rent put into process of collection. Similar meetings were held at Washington, Augusta, and Boston. Some time after, it was stated in one of the addresses, that permanent Boards were to be formed in every village; and that a general Congress, from all parts of the Union, was to to meet at Washington to devise the best means of assisting the Irish people. The spirit was not confined to the United States. It fell on Canada. Meetings were held in Nora Scotia, Newfoundland, &c.; and Rent, the great test of sympathy, transmitted from those colonies nearer home. On the Continent, Ireland excited an amazing interest. The spectacle, in itself so glorious, of a nation centending for its rights, had also something extraordinary in the character of the
Men, the most unreflecting, were surprised by the novelty. They had a confused, obscure feeling of the importance of the discovery; but persons of mind wide enough to embrace the subject, were startled at the new power thus introduced into the political world, and sat down to study its elements and results. The debates of the Association were translated into Italian and German; while the French, not contented with hearing came to see, with their own eyes, the working of such a system. The formation of a heart in Ire. land, shootir.g veins and arteries to the smallest member, furnished with all the apparatus of nerves, viscera, and absorbents, and performing its functions with the regularity of health, was a phenomenon to which, if all the circumstances be taken into consideration, no equal can be found in the physiology of society."
The enthusiasm with which the cause of Ireland was adopted abroad, was now one of the most startling, and, to the government, most alarming manifestations connected with it. In the first place, this was not a political movement suggested by men having a particular design before them, good or bad. It was the natural expression of the human heart, against oppres
sion-oppression in the abstract, exhibited in the case of an island with which the persons themselves had no connection, and in which they had no personal interest. The ladies of Maryland, with true feminine fervour, addressed their sisters throughout the United States, in such terms as—“It shall never be said that women, in whose hearts tender compassion ever loves to dwell,' shall remain deaf to the voice of misfortune in its most distressing forms! Shall we, dwelling in this region of happiness and peace, forget our fellow-creatures in a foreign land, bound to us all by the common laws of nature the children of the same Almighty Father, whom we are all enjoined to assist by the holy precept of the same divine Redeemer, 'to love our neighbours as ourselves.” But the abstract sympathies of foreigners were merely manifestations which would put the government to shame, and tñat it had been too much accustomed to; other and more serious arguments were, from time to time, wafted from abroad. Foreigners could not see any law of nature which bound the two islands together, and expressed a wonder that Ireland should submit to the tyranny of its assumed ally. As men are ignorant, until told, of the light their conduct will assume to the world, so was the British Government. When the Autocrat issued his proclamation against the gallant effort of the Poles, he called it " an unnatural rebellion;" and, very probably, he so termed it in all sincerity, and was extremely surprised when he saw a totally different view of it taken in other places. With the same complacency did the British Government view its method of “doing what it pleased with its own,” until it heard Ireland called on to defend itself, and felt that, to be the rival of Russia, was not a pleasing eminence -at least, for a nation boasting of its freedom, not a convenient one.
“ These testimonies naturally gave an impetus to the Association. The rent increased, and drew, in the innumerable channels of its course, a more intense sympathy, and a more prompt, as well as regular organization. Meetings, attended
with the same result, grew in number and spirit. The crown sat easier on the brows of the Association. With much coolness and method, it began to consolidate its authority. A system of national education was established. The collection of the revenue was better provided for. An admirable plan, simple but effectual, charged with that responsibility two Catholic church wardens; and, to give uniformity to the system of internal government, one was to be elected by the parish meeting in the new vestry—the other was to be appointed by the parish priest, whose masculine understanding, discretion and patriotism, might well be intrusted with the power. Liberal and election clubs were also spread through the country; but, to exhibit, in a striking manner, the wonderful unity of feeling, the simultaneous meetings were commanded. It now became evident to all men, that emancipation must pass, or the government would be, even in name, ejected from Ireland. Sober persons were astonished at the apathy of the Ministry; and loud indignation would soon have followed; for who could contemplate risking everything dear to him, in order to uphold the continued oppression of the kingdom by a contemptible faction. Lord Anglesey, a man of ancient generosity of soul-more like a character of chivalry, than a modern soldier—was unceasing in his representations; and he was strongly seconded by every person who witnessed, with his own eyes, the state of affairs-particularly by inilitary men, who transmitted their profound astonishment at the organization, order, peace, and spirit of the people. It was discovered that the obedience of the army reeled. Great numbers were Catholics—all were men—and continued discussion had completely shaken their minds. They had no taste to butcher persons whose sole offence was that they professed the religion held by many of themselves. To blunt their bayonets in the hearts of men struggling for their rights ; seemed to brave soldiers, base and cruel. The next great step was the formation of Brunswick Clubs, by which the country was divided into two large, though utterly disproportioned battalions. Bu: to add to the effect of this, so shameless and naked was the lust for blood displayed at those meetings, particularly by clergymen of the established church, that they seemed to have been made drunk by the Association, with some sanguinary mixture, and turned out on the platform, to disgust the world with the cause which they vomited out, in raw and undigested pieces, into the bosom of public decency. Something similar to this, but much weaker in effect, was lately produced by the denunciations of dandy officers :-"Let the Lords kick out the Reform Bill, and leave us to deal with the people—let us at the Unions." Prudent persons heard this language with misgiving as to the effect; humane persons with aversion; and brave men with contempt. The result was exactly opposite; and these bullyings were certainly then, as they always will be, when addressed to such a nation as the British, the most direct means of advancing reform. Lord Plunket said, in the House of Lords, with perfect truth, that the Brunswick Clubs were the fast friends of emancipation.
It is seldom that a country recovers from a state of subjection arising from foreign aggression, unless that, throughout the long period of its adversity, some line of demarcation has been maintained between the conquered and their conquerors, by which the assimilation was prevented. To this cause may be attributed the preservation of the desire for national independence amongst the Irish, which even the barbarous rigour of the penal laws failed to subdue. The disfranchised Catholic regarded the statutes that degraded him as the bonds by which the Protestant invader held his country in servitude; and thus the sense of wrong that he suffered for conscience sake, was aggravated by the recollection of the foreign hand by which it was inflicted. The operation of the penal laws, too, by maintaining the barriers that divided the two classes from each other, tended effectually to preserve and augment this renovating spirit. The power of the one degenerated in its ascendance, as the strength of the other increased in its prostration; but never, during the lapse of time that preceded the crisis of