A Free People

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A Free People  (1782) 
by Henry Grattan
Delivered to the Irish parliament on 16 April 1782 on the news that the King would not oppose the motion that the Irish Parliament should pass its own laws.

I am now to address a free people: ages have passed away, and this is the first moment in which you could be distinguished by that appellation.

I have now spoken on the subject of your liberty so often, that I have nothing to add, and have only to admire by what heaven-directed steps you have proceeded until the whole faculty of the nation is braced up to the act of her own deliverance.

I found Ireland on her knees, I watched over her with a paternal solicitude; I have traced her progress from injuries to arms, and from arms to liberty. Spirit of Swift! Spirit of Molyneux! Your genius has prevailed. Ireland is now a nation. In that new character I hail her, and bowing to her august presence, I say, Esto Perpetua!

She is no longer a wretched colony, returning thanks to her governor for his rapine, andto her king for his oppression; nor is she now a squabbling, fretful sectary, perplexing her little wits, and firing her furious statutes with bigotry, sophistry, disabilities, and death, to transmit to posterity insignificance and war.

You, with difficulties innumerable, with dangers not a few, have done what your ancestors wished, but could not accomplish; and what your posterity may preserve, but will never equal: you have moulded the jarring elements of your country into a nation. You had not the advantages which were common to other great countries; no monuments, no trophies, none of these outward and visible signs of greatness, such as inspire mankind and connect the ambition of the age which is coming on with the example of that going off, and form the descent and concatenation of glory: no; you have not had any great act recorded among all your misfortunes, nor have you one public tomb to assemble the crowd and spread to the living the language of integrity and freedom.

Your historians did not supply the want of monuments; on the contrary, these narrators of your misfortunes, who should have felt foryour wrongs, and have punished your oppressors with oppressions, natural scourges, the moral indignation of history, compromised with public villany and trembled; they excited your violence, they suppressed your provocation, and wrote in the train which entrammelled their country. I am come to break that chain, and I congratulate my country, who, without any of the advantages I speak of, going forth, as it were, with nothing but a stone and a sling, and what oppression could not take away, the favour of Heaven, accomplished her own redemption and left you with nothing to add and everything to admire.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.