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that, although the conduct of the Member for Dublin was not strictly in accordance with the rules of the House, he was not liable to any charge of corrupt or dishonourable dealing. It was generally understood, that Mr. O'Connell acted in this affair simply as the agent for Mr. Vigors, the other Member for the county, and for an association known as the Political Club, at Carlow, his only object being the accession of an additional vote to the Repeal cause.
The summer and autumn of this year were devoted to the organization of a general association, similar in its construction to the celebrated Catholic Association, but differing in its objects, which the founder declared to be, “ To place the Irish corporation towns under popular control, and to secure the election of their own municipal authorities. To watch over the registry of electors; and to use all legitimate means to procure the abolition of tithes."
Mr. O'Connell was at this time actuated by a strong desire to prevent those perpetually recurring appeals to law, which the contentious spirit of many of his countrymen was apt to induce. This feeling led him to propose, and afterwards to institute, by means of this association, a class of delegates named by him “pacificators;" two were appointed for each parish in Ireland. Their efforts were to be constantly directed to the preservation of the peace, and the suppression of feuds and faction fights, and every member of the association was expected to refer any quarrel or dispute in which he might be interested, to arbitration by these officers, in preference to resorting to courts of law. When we consider that Mr. O'Connell was himself a lawyer, and that from long habit his sympathies and prejudices must have been favourable to the legal profession, we can estimate the disinterestedness and patriotism of this measure, which tended to supersede the very profession of which he was himself a distinguished member.
The year 1837 was not productive of much advantage to Ireland: several public measures in which our hero took the greatest interest, were allowed to drop in consequence of the death of William IV., which took place in June. Mr. O'Connell was most active in calling upon the Irish nation to testify their loyalty on this occasion, and to evince their devotion to a young Queen, from whose amiable disposition and high moral principle he trusted that good to suffering Ireland must inevitably result. He strengthened the hands of her ministers, and exerted himself to promote the measures of the cabinet, with all the parliamentary influence he could command. But this did not prevent him from being publicly reprimanded by the Speaker of the House of Commons, on the 28th of February, 1838, for a general imputation of perjury; on the decisions of Election Committees. Statesmen of all parties acknowledged the truth of the honourable Member's assertions, and the wisest of them were anxious that they should be passed over in silence, but the obstinacy of Lord Maidstone forced the House to make itself ridiculous, and gave to Mr. O'Connell's accusations a publicity and importance which they could never have obtained but for this anomalous proceeding.
It was during this year that the Liberator lost a large portion of that popularity which he had hitherto enjoyed with the working classes of England, by the decided part he took in opposing the combinations of workmen in Dublin, Glasgow, and other large towns. His conduct on this occasion is an evident proof of the falsehood of the assertion so often put forth, that O'Connell was ever willing to flatter the populace, even in their grossest errors, if his personal influence could be increased by so doing. His speeches and his vote upon Lord Ashley's Bill for shortening the hours of labour in factories, had also a very unfavourable effect upon the English public, and there were not wanting persons who boldly insisted that the Member for Dublin was hired by the millowners of Lancashire, to betray the interests of the operatives and their children. It is one of the easiest of all methods of damaging the character of a political opponent, to charge him with corrupt motives; and with the multitude who have neither leisure nor ability to investigate the truth of the accusation, such assertions often pass current for proofs, and the calumniated party is pronounced guilty. That Mr. O'Connell's sentiments upon this question had undergone a change is beyond denial; but that he was actuated by any other than conscientious and well-grounded convictions, it is equally difficult to suppose. His conduct, also, in reference to the Chartist movement is open to the allegation of inconsistency; he took an interest in the plan, and signed his name as one of the original promulgators of the Charter, and yet, on after occasions steadily refused his assistance towards carrying it into practice. The explanation of this may be found in the fact, that however much he might approve of the principles of the measure when considered in the abstract, his judgment told him, that any change produced under the influence of the leaders of the Chartist agitation, would be an injury rather than a benefit to their followers.
During the parliamentary recess of 1838, O'Connell's ever active spirit devoted its energies to the formation of the Precursor Society. The objects of this association were two-fold: First, To obtain for Ireland a larger share in the representation, to which the amount of her population fairly entitled her; and, by this increased influence, to secure an equal share of the privileges accorded by the Reform and Municipal Corporation Acts to the English and Scotch portions of the empire; and secondly, if defeated in this, to prepare the way for a new and gigantic organization of the whole country for a repeal of the Legislative Union.
The year 1839 was stained by the assassination of Lord Norbury, an Irish nobleman of great talents and sterling virtues. This crime, and others of a similar character, was seized upon by the Conservative party as indications of the misgovernment of Ireland, and they demanded a committee of inquiry in both Houses of Parliament. In the Lords, they carried their motion, but in the Commons the presence of O'Connell was sufficient to insure their defeat. He defended the conduct of the Irish Viceroy, Lord Normanby, and called public meetings in Dublin and other cities in Ireland, at
which he procured votes of confidence in the existing administration. It may with truth be said, that the Whigs owed their existence as a ministry, to the eloquence and the votes of the Irish party, who acknowledged the Member for Dublin as their leader. He had, for a long time, held the fate of the cabinet in his hands, and as the price of his support, a large portion of the government patronage was placed at his disposal, and the mode in which he dispensed it, gave satisfaction to all but his political adversaries.
The year 1840 witnessed the passing of the Irish Municipal Corporation Reform Act'; which, although far inferior to the Bill introduced in the first instance, was still a point gained by the Catholic party, in the sister kingdom. It had been repeatedly lost in the Lords, and was at last conceded most unwillingly. The bulk of the peers had a dread of increasing the power of the great agitator, and they viewed with jealousy any measure that met his approbation; in proportion as his influence extended with the Irish nation, they endeavoured to limit it in the senate. Our space will not allow us to enumerate the various attacks which were made upon Mr. O'Connell, both direct and indirect. He declared that he was “the best abused man in Europe," and it must be acknowledged that he was rarely slow in replying to his adversaries in language as bitter as their own. His speeches, made at the meetings held at the Corn Exchange, Dublin, abound in personalities and invectives, and though often justified in his remarks by the provocation he received, it must have been at times a subject of regret to himself, as well as his friends, that he allowed his tongue to give utterance to sentiments and censures, which, in cooler moments, his better judgment must have condemned.
Mr. O'Connell's ministerial friends held their places merely upon sufferance, and the year 1841 saw them abandon the seals of office to the Conservative party. They went into opposition, and with them of course, our hero. At the general election, which took place on this occasion, he was returned for the county of Cork, by a large majority.
The reform of the Dublin corporation, which followed the passing of the act of the last session, led to his admission to the dignity of alderman in that city, and in this year he filled the civic chair. His conduct as a magistrate, was unexceptionable; he never permitted his politics to interfere with his duties as a citizen, and Dublin will long remember with gratitude, the benefits she experienced from his rule.
Daniel O'Connell was neither Whig, Tory, nor Radical; he fought under no banner but his own; he was in turn the friend and the foe of all the great parties in the state, yet he had a bias in favour of the Melbourne and Russell ministry; he hoped to win something for Ireland from their fears, if he could not obtain it from their sense of justice, and during their tenure of office he attended to his parliamentary duties with great punctuality; but on the succession of the Conservatives, under Peel, he felt that his presence in the House of Commons was nearly useless. The battle of repeal must commence in the land of its birth, and he set to work with a determination to create, in a brief space of time, a popular feeling, that should be sufficiently powerful to compel the imperial government to listen to his demands. The Repeal Association superseded the Precursor Society, and the whole of Ireland, actuated by one spirit, loudly demanded a restoration of its national parliament. “Monster Meetings,” as they were called, were now held in various parts of the country, amongst the principal of which may be named, those on the royal hill of Tara, the Curragh of Kildare, and the Rath of Mullaghmast. The people were drilled and marshalled under appointed leaders ; they proceeded to these gatherings with the order and precision of a trained army, heralded by banners expressive of their determination to have a repeal of union, and preceded by bands of music, they marched in large bodies, for many miles, attended the meetings, listened to the speeches of Mr. O'Connell and his associates, and then retraced their steps to their distant homes, without tasting intoxicating liquors, or the slightest violalion of the law. But more than all, they laid aside the insensate faction fights