A Memorial of John Boyle O'Reilly from the City of Boston/Meeting in Tremont Temple
MEETING IN TREMONT TEMPLE.
The request received by His Honor the Mayor to call a meeting of citizens in Tremont Temple was in the following form:—
Hon. Thomas N. Hart, Mayor:—
The undersigned respectfully request you to call a meeting of the citizens of Boston, to take appropriate action upon the death of our late fellow-citizen, John Boyle O'Reilly.
|CHARLES H. TAYLOR,||FRANCIS A. WALKER,|
|JOHN H. HOLMES,||PATRICK DONAHOE,|
|PATRICK A. COLLINS,||ROBERT F. CLARK,|
|JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE, ||CHARLES F. DONNELLY,|
|ROBERT GRANT,||ASA P. POTTER,|
|THOMAS B. FITZ.|
Boston, August 21, 1890.
In response to the foregoing request His Honor the Mayor issued the following call:—
The citizens of Boston are requested to meet in Tremont Temple on Tuesday evening, September 2, 1890, at eight o'clock, to give expression to the loss sustained by all our people in the death of John Boyle O'Reilly, and to take appropriate action thereon.
THOMAS N. HART.
August 22, 1890.
At the appointed hour for the meeting an immense crowd had gathered in front of Tremont Temple.
They were the Irish-American and the Anglo-American and the Afric-American, in short, the people,—the people whom John Boyle O'Reilly had loved and loyally served,—and they were gathered together to do honor to John Boyle O'Reilly's memory.
It was an eager, but a patient and good-tempered multitude, and once the doors were opened, it flowed in almost noiselessly, mounting from the floor to the very last rows of the upper gallery, like a high tide.
Meantime, the guests invited to the platform had taken their places, and when Mayor Hart, Chairman Charles Levi Woodbury, and the other speakers appeared, there was not a vacant place in the vast auditorium.
The guests included the rectors of all the city churches, and many priests, personal friends of Mr. O'Reilly, from out of town. There were also the presidents of the Charitable Irish Society, the St. Botolph Club, the Papyrus Club, the Catholic Union, the Athletic Club, many prominent State and City officials and representative citizens of every ancestry and creed.
Over the platform was a fine crayon portrait of John Boyle O'Reilly, flanked by the Stars and Stripes and the Irish flag.
Mayor Hart, who was received with hearty and prolonged applause, called the meeting to order as follows: —
MAYOR HART'S ADDRESS.
Ladies and Gentlemen: We are met to honor all that was good and true and brave in John Boyle O'Reilly. When asked to call this public meeting for such a purpose, your Mayor could not but entertain the wish of so many citizens.
Mr. O'Reilly illustrated, I think, the principle of true Americanism: he stood for equality.
Personally, he has been thought rash. I have not always agreed with him, but his integrity has never been doubted; and the people, who do not confide easily, confided in him, because he truly believed what he sang in the most splendid of all his poems, at Plymouth, that
"The people may be trusted with their own."
It is easy to stand for equal rights when we are not to be the losers. John Boyle O'Reilly stood up for equal rights when he had reached a high station and wealth. In the height of his power he proclaimed the good American doctrine that
"There are no classes or races, but one human brotherhood;
There are no creeds to be outlawed, no colors of skin debarred;
Mankind is one in its rights and wrongs,—one right, one hope, one guard,—
The right to be free, and the hope to be just, and the guard against selfish greed."
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the presiding officer of this meeting.
Mayor Hart then gracefully introduced the Chairman of the evening, Hon. Charles Levi Woodbury.
REMARKS OF HON. CHARLES LEVI WOODBURY.
It is apparent in the faces of all before me, the spontaneous feeling of the heart that has called together this assemblage to-night in these vast numbers to pay a tribute of our respect and a token of our affection and esteem for the great and good man whose untimely death we deplore. For twenty years he has been among us, one of us, toiling in his daily toil, rejoicing in his hours of festivity and mirth, attending to all the duties of a citizen, and all the duties of a man. We knew, we felt him, and he grew to what he was amidst us; we saw the whole of it, and we recognized the brightness of his career, the fulness of his mind, and the lofty heights to which he reached. I would speak to you particularly of him as a citizen of the United States. He came here, and his first step upon landing on these shores was to embrace the opportunity of becoming a naturalized citizen. The principles of our Constitution, and the principles which mark our social life, the freedom, the order, the method, the rewards of industry, all broke upon his mind, and cheered and enchanted him with American institutions.
Had he been George Washington, Sam Adams, or John Hancock, he could not have loved more the institutions of America than these great statesmen loved that which they had created and which they saw around them. We feel so much for him as a citizen that we almost forget he was born in another clime. He assimilated himself so perfectly amongst us that we hardly turned to remember that he came to us an exile, a fugitive, a man whom the oppressors of Great Britain had tried to brand as a felon, and to put the mark of ignominy upon him, because he was a patriot and loved his people.
The same spirit which actuated Sam Adams and John Hancock and all our great revolutionary sires when they rose to arms, burned within his breast, when, as a boy, he threw his life, his fortune, and his future into the cause of Ireland. They succeeded, and he failed, but was not crushed. I am reminded, too, of a marked and striking similarity between him and Lafayette. Lafayette threw his young sword and his boyhood, here, into the cause of liberty; O'Reilly did the same, not in Ireland, but for the liberty of Ireland.
Lafayette, in his struggle for the liberty of France, was captured and made a prisoner, and an effort was made to crush out his young life and to crush out liberty with him. Boyle O'Reilly, under similar circumstances, was made a prisoner in Australia for the same effort and the same purpose. Both escaped from prison, and I am proud to say that both owed to America the effort and organization that enabled them to escape. O'Reilly had a frank and genial manner. He was true and loyal, tried and true always, and people learned to love him,—not only a class, but all classes. The rough and the polished, the poor and the rich, the Irishman and the American, all warmed to Boyle O'Reilly, and their hearts cling to him. It may be said that here, in free America, he founded an empire of love, an empire where no taxes were levied, where no offices were distributed, where no honors were scattered.
Among those who have lived for humanity, who have lived for their country, who have lived for their people, who have lived for their religious creed and their friendships, whose broad humane hearts have been able to tolerate distinctions and difference of politics and creed, so long as they were honest and not offensive, the personality of John Boyle O'Reilly will stand prominent from generation to generation; and, as time passes away, the same halo, the same reverence which is accorded to our revolutionary sires, who threw off the yoke, will be given to the name of John Boyle O'Reilly. God grant that it may be mentioned beneath the free flag of Ireland, by the free voices of her native citizens. I came here to-night to preside at your meeting, not to address you; there are those who know him more intimately, who have been thrown, perhaps, more intimately with him than I have, who can speak to you of him in closer and warmer and dearer terms, though I yield to none of them in my friendship for the deceased.
REMARKS OF THE VERY REV. WILLIAM BYRNE, D.D., V.G.
This immense assembly, filling this spacious temple, is itself a proof that we have come together to do honor to the memory of an extraordinary man. The man is John Boyle O'Reilly, whose untimely death we mourn, and whose departure is a loss to Ireland and America, and to humanity.
John Boyle O'Reilly was a many-sided personage. His character presented many phases to the public eye. A natural humanitarian, he was a Christian philanthropist. He was an Irish patriot and an American citizen. He was a true poet and an instructive public lecturer, a successful journalist and a patron of art, and an authority in athletic games.
While it is my privilege to allude to these various attributes of the departed, it is my duty to leave the treatment of them in detail to the speakers that are to follow me. Representing the Catholic clergy of this city, I will confine myself to an estimate of the man and his services to the Catholic Church. These services were many and very great, but to fully appreciate them we must call to mind some of his personal characteristics, for his most valuable services were the result of the influence these gave him. His abilities were as varied as his career was chequered and romantic. The halo of martyrdom in the cause of popular liberty was about his head. His engaging personality, genial soul, and mental alertness won for him hosts of friends in all ranks of society. He was an original thinker, and a deep student of everything that had a bearing on human life and happiness. To converse with him was not merely an intellectual treat, it was an invigorating mental tonic. It stimulated thought and suggested new ideas; it put one on his mettle to follow where he led, and to keep pace with the rapid movement of his mind.
He was at home with all sorts of men, and had bright ideas on diverse subjects. He discussed metaphysics with Harvard professors, art and literature with a Holmes, a Hosmer, or a Higginson, social problems with Wendell Phillips, ecclesiastical polity with priests and bishops, and the value of hereditary traits and aptitudes with the Adamses, Winthrops, Saltonstalls, Shattucks, and Woodburys.
He was something of a philosophic statesman, but very little of a politician.
And yet his popularity was so great, that had he chosen to accept public office, he could have aimed high with success, without the aid of the arts of practical politics. He would no more deign to flatter the populace than to cringe to power, or fawn upon tyrants. It was a privilege to know John Boyle O'Reilly, and an honor to be counted among his friends.
Without any credentials save his own genius and sterling character, he rapidly won his way to universal recognition in this city. His fame as a poet soon became national, and finally coextensive with the domain of the English language. He made friends without conscious effort, and often without even intending it.
His domestic life developed the more tender qualities of his nature and the deeper emotions of the heart. He was a devoted husband and a model father of a family. It was my privilege to know intimately the domestic side of his life, because I was for years his pastor. Apart from this fact, there were certain natural reasons why we took kindly to each other.
We were both Irishmen in a strange land,—he an exile perforce, I an emigrant, seemingly of my own free will, but really driven from home by the results of landlord exaction and bad laws. We were both born about the same time and in the same county, almost in the same parish, in full view of the royal hill of Tara, beside the historic River Boyne, whose banks are studded with the monuments of Ireland's golden age of nationhood and religion. The crumbling castle of Irish chieftain or Saxon lord, the Danish rath, the round tower, the huge Celtic stone cross, the ivy-mantled ruins of church and cloister, school and abbey, are found in its vicinity. The daily contemplation of these historic scenes awakened in us common sentiments of patriotism and religion. From our doors we could see the croppies' mound, the grave of the men who died for Ireland in '98, and the Hill of Slane on which St. Patrick lighted that Easter fire that proved the morning star of Christianity to Ireland.
When we were boys the patriotic fervor aroused in men's minds by the O'Connell agitation had not so far lost its force as to leave no impress on our youthful souls. Our patriotic enthusiasm was aroused even in our school days, by reading the history of our country and the speeches and writings of the leaders of the Young Ireland Party, Gavan Duffy, Smith O'Brien, and Thomas Francis Meagher.
Our youthful imagination was fed with the poetic fire of Tom Moore, Davis, Mangan, and Speranza. The political ferment and upheaval of 1848, coming to us as a recent history, was not without its influence. In 1853 we were old enough to take an intelligent interest in the Tenant Right League, so ably conducted by Gavan Duffy, Sherman Crawford, and Frederic Lucas, and so wofully wrecked by the treachery of Sadlier and Keough. On the failure of the Tenant Eight movement, I left Ireland, but John Boyle O'Reilly became a leading spirit in the futile effort of the Fenians to wrest from England by force what she refused to yield to persuasion. In this Fenian episode, his fiery zeal for the freedom of Ireland outran the slow-footed prudence of older politicians and clerical conservatism. In this critical time he never swerved in his loyalty to the Church of his Fathers. He was a splendid illustration of the kinship that exists between patriotism and religion, and showed that love of Holy Church and love of country can go hand in hand.
It is no wonder that, with these common sources of feeling and bonds of sympathy, we should have become bosom friends as soon as we met and knew each other in this country. I used to think that O'Reilly had a special affection for me. Hundreds of other friends of his, I have no doubt, flattered themselves with the same notion; nor were they far wrong. O'Reilly was quick to discern whatever was good in the characteristics of each, and honored it with a corresponding regard. If not a king among men, he had some royal prerogatives, and one of these was the faculty of making each of his friends feel that he held him in special affection.
These qualities in our friend were the source of that influence that enabled him to render such valuable services to his country and his church. He was a conservative force in Irish political agitations, and on more than one occasion he reconciled warring factions at critical junctures in the Land League and Home Rule movements. He was a bond of union, harmonizing conflicting policies.
He was a Roman Catholic in religion. He was Catholic in faith, because he gave the assent of his will to all the truths of religion made known to him by reason, revelation, and the teaching of the church which he knew was founded by Christ. He was a Roman Catholic, because he accepted the Bishop of Rome as the divinely ordained head of that Church, and the ultimate judge in all disputed questions of faith or morals.
He knew the limits of human intelligence, and the fallibility of reason in the domain of religion, and was content to rest his faith on well-authenticated revelation, made through divinely appointed channels. His mind was too sane to rebel against these limitations, and too pious to blame the Creator for not making man perfect. Hence, he was free from that intellectual pride and self-sufficiency which impel some men to try to hew out for themselves a pathway in the mysterious regions of religion, and to invent a way of salvation all their own.
His open profession of faith in the Catholic religion was of great service to the church in this country. It showed once more what has so often been demonstrated, that great mental endowments and intellectual freedom are not incompatible with Catholic faith. The integrity of his life and character, moulded and sustained as they were by the moral precepts of the Catholic religion, helped in some measure to break down that dead wall of prejudice that unhappily divides Catholics from their fellow-citizens of other creeds. Without being learned in scholastic theology, he had a thorough knowledge of the substance of sound doctrine. He had the faculty of discerning the true and detecting the false in matters of doctrine, which is almost an instinct in those born and bred in the Catholic Church. He devoted many of the solitary hours of his prison life to studying Catholic doctrine.
He was a prudent and able defender of the Church. In his own way, and by methods open to every intelligent layman, he vindicated the claims of the Catholic Church to the loyal adhesion of her own children, and the respectful attention and thoughtful consideration of those beyond her fold. By availing himself of her sacraments, regularly attending divine worship in her churches, and profiting by her ministration of the Divine Word, he strengthened his own faith, kept the integrity of his moral character intact, and set a beautiful and powerful example.
On suitable occasions he explained to honest inquirers, and to the public at large, true doctrines of the Catholic Church, and cleared them from the false coloring sometimes given to them by ignorance or malice. He never courted conflict or wantonly provoked attack.
He was eminently a man of peace, and heartily detested all sectarian strife. When duty involved him in the irrepressible conflict between the Catholic Church and the sects, he faced the enemy with courage, and fought out the good fight with vigor and skill.
In controversy he was an honorable antagonist. He never delivered a foul blow or struck a fallen foe. He carried into the arena the noble manliness of the Greek athlete, and the Christian chivalry of the mediæval knight. If his adversary was so ignoble as to resort to means unworthy of honorable warfare, he withdrew from the field, preferring to be accounted vanquished rather than be defiled by contact with anything that was base or vile. As soon as a controversy became a vehicle for bitter recrimination or personal abuse he excluded it from the columns of "The Pilot," which he edited with such ability and success.
He preferred to loot at the bright side of things and the good that is in every man, and thus kept his soul at peace with all men, his temper sweet, and his mind serene. He saw and sung what was good in the Pilgrim of Plymouth Rock, the Puritan of Salem, the Virginia planter, and the Maryland colonist. He was singularly clear-sighted in the discernment of character, and hence the friends that he took into his confidence were always worthy of him, and remained loyal to the end. During his American career he was a potent force in Irish politics, one of the earliest promoters of the Land League agitation, a steady friend of the Home Rule movement, and a firm believer in the ultimate success of the Parnell Parliamentary Party.
He loved America and her institutions, but his heart was in Ireland. In spite of his bright prospects in this country, he told me some years ago that the dearest wish of his heart was to return to his native place by the River Boyne, and there edit a journal that would wield a powerful influence in shaping the future of Ireland and contributing to her prosperity.
I am proud to be numbered among his friends, and much pleased to assist at this memorial meeting.
I am glad of the privilege of being allowed to pay this slight tribute to his worth, and to do honor to his memory. Now that he is lost to us, we begin more fully to realize what a space he filled in our lives and in the community, and what a valuable treasure he was. His influence will long remain among us active for good. The charitable institutions he helped to found or foster will remain memorials of his goodness of heart and his love of humanity.
As a man we esteemed him; as a fellow-Catholic we are proud of him; as a patriot we applaud him; as a poet we admire him; but as a friend we love him.
REMARKS OF COL. CHARLES H. TAYLOR.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I have come here to-night as a journalist to pay my tribute to the memory of one who was a strong man in my profession in the good old city of Boston. I wish that I had the eloquence possessed by so many men of his race, that, with all the grace and dignity and fire of oratory, I might say what I feel and tell what I knew and appreciated in John Boyle O'Reilly. As orators, however, are born and not made, and I am not of them, I can but do my part in this magnificent demonstration by a brief, simple talk, none the less heartfelt because I cannot express myself as the occasion demands. I hope to be able, however, to contribute a thought or two to this grand testimonial to a citizen of Boston, for it is one which has rarely been equalled, and never surpassed in my recollection.
As you are well aware, men go forward in groups in a community, and twenty years ago I was among a large number of ambitious and industrious young men who were just beginning the battle of life in this city. Some of these young men were in the ministry, some in law, some in medicine, some in journalism, some in business, some in mechanics—all endeavoring to get on in life as best they could.
Most of them were sons of workingmen. They were proud of that fact then, and those of them especially who have had any success are prouder still of it to-night. I say this emphatically; for if there is a proud moment in the life of a man who starts from a humble home and makes a winning fight, it is when he lays his laurels at the feet of his dear old father; or, better yet, in the lap of his dear old mother, whose care and prayers were perhaps all she had to give him, if perchance, before success is fully assured, the forget-me-nots are blossoming above that mother's grave, the hope that perhaps in the spiritland she can realize that her care and prayers were not in vain, gives a thrill of joy and satisfaction which no earthly success can ever equal.
How well do I remember the bright, fresh-faced young man who came among us twenty years ago, made his entry into Boston journalism, and joined the group of which I have spoken. Need I tell you how welcome he was then, or how with his joyous and buoyant nature and his contagious helpfulness he cheered on every one of the group during the twenty years he was with us. It is hardly necessary; you who knew him so well need not be told what a delightful comrade he was, or what an inspiration he proved at times to the weary and the heavy-laden, when the battle seemed well-nigh hopeless. Many of those young men have made signal triumphs in different lines of work, and some of them are here to-night. It seems to me, however, that, in a large and broad sense, of all the group, John Boyle O'Reilly made the most conspicuous and gratifying success, especially from a journalistic and literary point of view.
And this was true. When some men succeed, others with a like measure of prosperity, or with a little more or a little less, are frequently jealous when one of their number stands out prominently, even when the achievement is deserving. No man was ever jealous of John Boyle O'Reilly. On the contrary, all were delighted with the position attained by this large-hearted, generous soul—this manly man among manly men.
It has been said that he died too young. How true that seems to us, and how it proves that death loves a shining mark. How many times upon the battlefield and in our every-day life at home death has called for the best, when it has seemed to us Ave could have named others who might have been better spared.
I once stood by the bier of a friend of mine who died at exactly the age at which John Boyle O'Reilly left us. The clergyman told us that the man died of overwork. In a limited sense he was right; in a broader view he was radically wrong.
One of the most curious things to me in human nature is to notice the way in which men wake up at maturity and show the qualities with which they are endowed. From out of the ranks of many thousands of men of ordinary capacity comes a rare man. He has ambition, industry, application, persistency, genius. He seems to carry two hundred pounds of steam where the ordinary man has one pound. He works day and night with a force and with an impulse which the ordinary man never feels, never realizes, and can scarcely comprehend. He knows he is working too hard, and that he cannot last; but he can no more halt than the water can cease to flow over the Falls of Niagara. The pages of history, all through the ages, are dotted with achievements of men of his class. They cannot stop if they would; they would not if they could. Why it is, no man can determine; and we can only believe that God in his infinite wisdom has designed that every man must work out his destiny with the ability and with the impetus which he finds in his soul.
John Boyle O'Reilly was one of those rare, ambitious, active, industrious, zealous, enthusiastic men who had a great deal of work to do in this world. He forged ahead at a pace which seemed to indicate that he realized that he was not to have a long life in which to accomplish it. We say that he died under fifty. When we consider how he worked for his native land, how he toiled in journalism and in literature, how he upheld his church, and how much time and labor he spent in helping the thousands who came across his path, do we not know that he performed the work which many an able man could not have accomplished in threescore years and ten? We all realize it without the necessity of an argument. We know also that few men have done so much in the seventy years which mark the orthodox limits of human endeavor, as he performed in his brief existence, and thus fulfilled his destiny.
John Boyle O'Reilly's faults were few, his virtues many. He did his work fearlessly and brilliantly. He did it, too, with a conspicuous ability which was seen and appreciated by men of all classes and men of all creeds. He has gone from among us, but he has left a record which the land of his nativity, his adopted country, and the city in which he lived will always cherish with pride, with honor, and with respect.
The Chairman.—Colonel Taylor was right. John Boyle O'Reilly was one of the hardest-working men in the country, and even his recreation and pleasures were those of physical exertion. We have here tonight the hardest-working man in New England for the past forty-five years, and I want you to take light from Gen. Benjamin F. Butler.
REMARKS OF GEN. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER.
Mr. Chairman: A perusal of the public journals for the past few days will show greater honors paid to John Boyle O'Reilly in the shape of memorial meetings like this grand one, and smaller meetings, where fewer people could be called together, than will be found in any other same period of time following the death of any President of the United States since Washington.
With such a record, why, then, need we come here to eulogize him, to speak well of him. His whole life was a eulogy to his character, his conduct, his bravery, and success. I can add nothing to what has been so well said of him in every relation of life.
His reverend pastor has told you that he was a many-sided man. From my knowledge of him that is very true. He might have had a side that his pastor did not know, because we are somewhat apt to conceal that side from the clergyman, and that side is the bad side.
But, my friends, that side is always shown to the lawyer. If a man has that side, some lawyer knows it. That lawyer is his most confidential friend, in whom he can confide next after his wife, and before his clergyman.
Now I, for more than twenty years, have maintained that relation with John Boyle O'Reilly. A most unprofitable client, for he has never had a lawsuit or a contention. And therefore I know that however many sides he had, they were all great and good. And I add my testimony in that regard.
He had one weakness, which was a very uncomfortable one to him, and that was, he could not hear a tale of woe or misfortune that he did not set himself about rectifying or relieving it. He could never resist, not only an appeal when made to him, but the most casual information of wrong done, and especially of wrong done to the poor and unprotected. And many of his visits to me were not for himself, but in behalf of others whom he thought I might aid, being carried on by the thrilling and fervent and thorough eloquence of an orator, who could set forth their cause well when the aggrieved party would fail. Many and many a time has he come into my office to tell me about some poor man or wronged woman, and I would say to him:—
"Well, what are they to you? "
"No more than they are to you, sir; but if you had heard them as I have heard them you could not help it."
That was the beautiful side of his character, which attracted me to him from the first; and we grew stronger and stronger in the bonds of affection and friendship, certainly on my part, as the other sides of his character presented themselves to me, and I could learn from him, as one side and the other came out toward me, how much there was in the man. And when the sad news of his early taking off came to me, no greater grief, save only the death of those nearest and clearest to me, has ever struck my heart.
All agree that he was a patriot to his native land, ready to give, and who did give, the highest sacrifices. All agree that to the land of his adoption he has given the best talent of his life. And if there was any drawback from that, it was, I have thought, that he was so in hopes that America should succeed, and thus save Ireland, that he was a little Irish in that as well as in everything else.
Of his genius as a poet, drawing from the very heart for inspiration, all men that have read what has been written of verse in the last twenty years know. That he was a natural orator in a very high degree is very easily expressed by saying that he was an educated Irishman. And it came to him by inheritance. But whoever had heard him on the platform knows it by experience.
That he was a statesman capable of living down, in the conservatism of after years, the enthusiasm and over-zeal of his younger career, and giving the highest and best and worthiest and most potent advice to his countrymen how Ireland could be saved, has been eloquently described by his pastor, and I need only to allude to it.
As a historian, when he chose to tell a tale upon any subject, and especially on the subject I have last mentioned, no more eloquent words, glowing with truthful fervor, can be found on any page.
Of his character as a Christian, everybody understood and knew what the reverend gentleman has told you.
Of his domestic life we know, because he was a complete man; and he had just what he had, and loved what he received,—the care and tenderness and affection of a loving, devoted wife, and the happiness, only to be known to a father, of intelligent and beautiful children.
My friend who has just addressed you, tells you that he achieved this in twenty years. Yes, that is true. And that he had worked over-hard, some people think. I don't think so, because no too hard-worked man could be as genial, as pleasant, and bright at all times and under all circumstances, when not suffering from some specific illness, as John Boyle O'Reilly. A man who could take his canoe and paddle it from the head of the Connecticut river into Long Island sound was able to do all the work he needed and ought to. The man that swam the angry ocean for miles to get his liberty was a man that could not be overworked on God's footstool.
But accident has taken him from us, and left us to think whether a man who achieves so much in the twenty years,—which time it takes a well-educated lawyer in England to get his first case,—what would he not have done if he had been left to us? What would not Ireland have received of counsel and advice? What would England receive of stern rebuke and the finding out of her errors? For what would America in her politics not have been indebted; what would history and song and story not have gained, if John Boyle O'Reilly could have lived on with us to the age of Gladstone the statesman, Bancroft the historian, or the poets, our own poet, and the poet Tennyson?
Twenty years multiplied in ever-increasing proportion by twenty years more, and twenty years more, and a fraction, and what would not John Boyle O'Reilly, if God had spared him to us, have achieved for his country, his adopted country, and for the world?
REMARKS OF COL. THOMAS W. HIGGINSON.
Mr. Chairman: You struck the keynote of the evening in describing the mission of our friend Boyle O'Reilly, as first and chiefly a mission of love and reconciliation. That, after all, was the strong point of this strong man's career.
Standing here as I do, one of various speakers, representing widely different positions in religion and politics and nationality, it seems to me that I have never been at a similar gathering where the speakers were so welded into sympathy by the quality of one man's mind. It is the thing which has given him his influence and usefulness here, and made him a reconciler between different races and different religions. It is a rare gift among us.
In the case of Boyle O'Reilly, attractiveness was a weak word for that charming personality which made itself felt by all who came near him, and which caused his fellow-members of the Papyrus Club—a collection of gentlemen who, being mostly journalists and literary men, are as little liable to compliment one another as any set I know—to declare in their funeral resolutions that he, their first president, was the best beloved of all their members.
That was the quality which made him peculiarly fitted to do his share in a work so momentous for Boston, so momentous for America, so momentous for the world, that it might well make a man willing to die before he is fifty, if he could contribute but a little towards accomplishing it,—the reconciliation in this community between the Roman Catholic Irishman and the Protestant American.
That was the mission that Boyle O'Reilly seemed just as distinctly sent among us to do, as if he had been born with that mission stamped upon his forehead, and as if a hundred vicar-generals had anointed and ordained him for the work.
And in doing this work he showed not merely the lovableness of his temperament, but its farsightedness. He knew that unless that work could be done, our city and our State and our country are confessed failures. He knew that American civilization was a failure if it was only large enough to furnish a safe and convenient shelter for the descendants of Puritans and Anglo-Saxons, leaving Irishmen and Catholics outside.
In doing that work he became our teacher. Himself a self-liberated convict, he set us free. Himself a faithful advocate of a great and powerful religion, he taught a standard of religious toleration such as many a Protestant has yet to learn.
Why, even here in Tremont Temple, they have not always got up to the level of that. And when he came to speak at Plymouth, or to speak of Wendell Phillips, he showed himself an American of the Americans in sympathy. He saw points in our history and in our moral antecedents which the American historian might well learn from him to appreciate.
As a literary man, I should speak of his literature, he showed his strength, on the one side, in that, and on another side, his fineness and his tenderness. In his poetry, the metre that came most congenial to him is that which might be called almost emphatically the Irish metre—the long, swinging measure of the magnificent ballad of "Fontenoy," the metre that makes superb the series of glorious pictures in Sir Samuel Ferguson's "Forging of the Anchor." That metre he handled, and he gave a new strength to it. But it was not his only side.
And I remember hearing him once, and some of my fellow-members of the Papyrus Club here on the platform will recall his reading to us once, on one of the ladies' nights celebrated by that literary club, a poem of five verses, called "Love's Secret,"—verses so exquisite in tone, touching with such pathetic poetry the very heart and core of the deepest tie that binds man to woman, that there is many a poet of America and England, whose verses fill the newspapers and magazines, who might well give all his fame if the authorship of these five verses could be transferred to him.
That was the combination that gave the charm to Boyle O'Reilly.
It sometimes seemed as if centuries of oppression, generations of protest against tyranny, were concentrated into a single burning paragraph that came from his pen. But then at other times, reading several numbers in succession, looking behind the surface, I could see the truth of what has been said here to-night,—that his influence on the cause of Ireland was, as everywhere else, a reconciling influence,—that he, at least, was conservative among radicals, and that the excesses and extremes that have occurred, and that we all deplore, would have been greater than they were, but for the influence of that well-considered and reasonable pen.
I am not one of those who can criticise a man who was so good an American for being not merely incidentally and occasionally, but steadily and underneath it all, an Irishman also.
I never have been among those who believed it to be the duty of an Irishman, as soon as he set foot on this soil and looted around for his naturalization papers, to forget the wrongs and sorrows he had left behind him.
I cannot complain of Boyle O'Reilly, that through life in his spirit he kept the green flag waving beside the Stars and Stripes, any more than I can forget the recorded joy of McClellan in the terrible battles of the Peninsula, when he saw the green flags borne by each regiment in Meagher's Irish Brigade come from the Second Army Corps to his relief.
In some ways Boyle O'Reilly was not enough of a reformer for me. I never could quite forgive him for not being like my friend and his associate, Colonel Taylor, a strong advocate of woman suffrage. But I can tell you that when the man who is doing two men's work all day still spends night after night in attending the invalid wife to whom he owes so much, and when, in making his last will, he has the courage and the justice to leave that wife the undisturbed possession of all his property and the executrix of his will, I am ready to sign an amnesty with him on the woman suffrage question.
And on other questions that lie before us in the future—on the questions that are gathering behind all the present questions and that bid fair to give the next generation a harder problem, much harder to solve than the mere question of slavery, Boyle O'Reilly is lost at the beginning of a contest where his fire and his judgment will greatly be regretted.
It is not for nothing that, as the last generation grew up reading Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," so this generation grows up reading Edward Bellamy and listening to Henry George, and wondering where it is all to end.
We none of us know where it is to end. We none of us know even how to state the new problems of the future. But we know that in these problems O'Reilly with his heart and his head, with his power of reconciliation not merely between different races and different religions, but between rich and poor, between learned and ignorant—we know what an influence he might have exerted, and we can deplore that.
But most of all we know this, that up to this time, and during these last ten years, as the poet Lowell said in his great "Commemoration Ode," that Abraham Lincoln had abolished all the old distinction between Puritan and Cavalier, so Boyle O'Reilly has done more than one man's work to abolish the old distinction between English-American and Irish-American. And let us do our part in his memory to keep it abolished henceforth.
REMARKS OF PRESIDENT E. H. CAPEN.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I count it a rare privilege, a high honor, to take part in this magnificent demonstration and bear my tribute, though a humble one, to the memory of our distinguished and ever to be lamented friend.
It is true that we cannot just yet find him his just place in letters; we have not sufficient perspective for that. It has taken two hundred and fifty years to assign Shakespeare his proper place.
But there are some qualities which need no perspective,—the quality of friendship, that subtile grace which binds kindred souls together, which betrays itself in the grasp of the hand, the glance of the eye, the intonations of the voice, and those unselfish deeds which friendship prompts. We cannot be too near that to appreciate it; the true friendship may grow firm in the memory, and become more sacred with time. And it is one of those things that the nearer we are to it the more we feel it is a living power. And no man in this present time has had more of these qualities which bind men together, which draw faith and impetus of those who are kindred minds, than he.
There are other qualities which can be immediately appreciated; for example, patriotism, that subtile sentiment which leads a man to feel that the spot on which he was born is the most precious spot of earth that is, which induces him to forget everything, and to give all that he has, even life itself, for the defence of kindred and home.
This quality our friend had, and it was his devotion to his native land that made him first famous throughout the world and secured for him a memorial, if it had done nothing else; and what is most striking and rare, the patriotism he had for Ireland, he also gave to the land that furnished him an asylum.
He loved Ireland as the greatest of his countrymen have loved it; but he loved America as well, and would have given the last drop of blood of his veins for America as cheerfully as for Ireland, if thereby he could have enhanced its glory. For a quality like this, nations have reared the proudest memorials to their sons, and given them the most glorious pages in their history; yet there are those who say that patriotism is a narrow virtue, that it fences off nations, breeds animosity between races, that you must not do anything to foster it, that future glory is a mere vanity, and that we must all put ourselves on the higher plane of humanity.
While I am a humanitarian, I do not believe in that doctrine. I believe that a sentiment engendered in human nature was planted there by God, is commendable, and to be fostered everywhere and on all occasions.
At all events, our friend did not hold his patriotism in any narrow fashion.
He was an Irishman with all the traditions, with all the wrongs of his country burned into his soul, and yet he had the grace to do justice to the grand achievements of Englishmen. He was an American citizen, not merely because he saw the possibility of the realization here of the dreams of his youth, the hopes and convictions of his maturer manhood, because, as some one has said, he saw that here Ireland might receive its emancipation, but because he saw in our institutions the type and the possibility of the realization of the great truth that God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth.
He was more than a patriot, because wherever he saw humanity oppressed he saw a brother in woe, and determined to give voice to the wrong. Nay, he could rise not only above the prejudices of his race and the traditions of his nation, but above even the scruples of his religion, and that is the hardest thing for man to accomplish in this world.
This man, a Roman Catholic, on New England soil, in daily association with the sons of Puritans,—the sons of men who hated the Papacy as the instrument of Satan, and whose descendants have not entirely got beyond the narrowness of their forefathers,—could yet describe in fitting terms, and show the appreciation of his mind and soul for the achievements of the founders of New England.
So that it is not only Ireland and America that may mourn his death, it is humanity, civilization, our common Christianity.
What honor shall we pay to such a man? It will be honor enough, I doubt not, if we can take all the virtues and all the achievements of his life into our own souls.
One week ago this very night I beheld a spectacle such as is rarely given to mortal man to behold. Standing on the piazza of my cottage by the sea, I looked out upon the waters of the bay. The moon, almost full, hung midway in the sky, and shining over the island that stood at the mouth of the bay, and shot out great rays of light, flashing like a giant's scymitar, as if to guard the entrance to the bay. The rays of the moon reflected in the water made it a pathway of light, reaching from the horizon almost to my very feet, seeming like a pathway for the footsteps of the angels as they go about on their noiseless errands among men. On the other side the waves sparkled and looked as if the Almighty were casting jewels into the sea.
As I listened to the wavelets breaking on the shore, it reminded me of the music of the silver bells, while over the hills from the great reefs that lay beyond came the ceaseless roar of the ocean surge. On every breath of the wind was wafted the odor of the sea, mingled with the balm of the spruce and the fir.
As I stood and took it in with all my senses, I thought that it was not unlike our lamented friend. For his faculties always flashed out light that glistened like rubies, revealing and defending the truth at once.
The brilliancy of his mind illuminated every subject that came within the circle of his thought, reminded one of a strength as fathomless and as resistless as the sea, and there was in him so much of true humanity that we could not come into his presence without being affected as by a tonic.
The mystery of taking him we cannot fathom; we can only trust in the wisdom of the Power that guides and rules. But there is this which we may say, that when the sons of the Pilgrims and the sons of Irishmen, in that time now at hand, emigrants walking shoulder to shoulder, shall join hands together to rear a more perfect civilization than the world has yet seen; when the descendants, if you please, of Cromwell's soldiers, in goodly intercourse with the sons of those who were their victims, shall march together towards the realization of the highest and noblest system of humanity; when Protestant and Catholic shall join with each other in producing a type of Christianity more gracious, more beautiful, more pure than any that has yet been experienced, bringing the life of our Divine Lord and Master nearer to the hearts of men than it has ever yet been,—this man shall have his proper place, this man will be recognized as a prophet and a seer, as the very instrument of God in bringing about the glorious consummation.
Let the nation mourn him, let it raise the lamentation in one shout together, let New England sing his requiem; nay, let Boston, the only truly exclusive city on the American continent, the only city that has traditions which she may guard with religious jealousy, make room amongst the vaults of her most distinguished sons for the dust of this, her adopted son, who entered as fully into her life as any of those in whom her own blood flowed, and who was in sympathy a true Bostonian; let her give him a niche worthy of his fame along with those who are allied with her history.
REMARKS OF EDWIN G. WALKER.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: Men that are oppressed, or denied the enjoyment of any of the rights that belong to them, are apt to feel, and most keenly, the hand of the Almighty when it falls on one who is not of their peculiar kind, if he was their friend and an outspoken defender of their rights; and so it was on that early Sabbath morning when the Angel of Death visited the pleasant summer home of John Boyle O'Reilly, and softly whispered in his ear, "Your troubles are over and your triumph is complete."
It is hardly to be thought that a people whose injuries he tried to have redressed, but who were still bowed down beneath the weight of wrongs, could understand at once that God doeth all things well; but after a little time spent in reflection, the fact did appear, and then they were prepared to join with those that met to honor the memory of him who, by his noble deeds, had won their love and respect.
I come here to-night because John Boyle O'Reilly was the friend of my race, and for the purpose of joining with those who are present for the accomplishment of something that will tend to perpetuate his memory.
Some of us in America will never forget those who contended for the right when our people were being harassed by the use of the lash, the chain, the blood-hound, and the auction-block.
Still, on the day when we were relieved from the forced acknowledgment that there was no law in this nation that forbade the doing of acts as vile as those I have just mentioned, we were immediately confronted by another ugly side of the thing, that had pursued us during all the time of our existence here. First to be noticed was the desperation that took possession of the former slaveholders when they realized they had lost the complete control of those who had too long and too quietly permitted themselves to be their bondmen. Next, we had to face the meanness of those in the country who were always ready and anxious to sustain and support the holding in slavery of the American black man. Then, again, there were the timid, those who did not believe in chattel slavery; but they lacked the courage needed for its destruction, and the removal of the rubbish that its going out would leave. These three parts came together and made up the enemy that met us before the ink was dry that gave force to the Emancipation Proclamation. So we had, instead of actual chattel slavery, a state of things that called loudly on the veteran Abolitionists to retain their guns, and for new recruits to come in quick, in order to keep the army in a proper condition to meet the foe that had been defeated, but not positively conquered.
Early amongst those who responded to the call of Wendell Phillips and his faithful band was the young, vigorous, and. dashing John Boyle O'Reilly. He was quick to grapple with the many-headed monster that had been formed out of the debris that had been left to show that slavery once had a standing in this land.
With his pen, John Boyle O'Reilly sent through the columns of a newspaper that he edited in this city, words in our behalf that were Christian, and anathemas that were just. Not only that, but he went on to the platform, and in bold and defiant language he denounced the murderers of our people and advised us to strike the tyrants back. It was at a time when the cloud was most heavy and more threatening than at any other period since reconstruction. At that time our Wendell Phillips was stricken by the hand of death, and then it was that some doubted that they would ever be able to see a clear sky. But in the midst of all the gloom we could hear Mr. O'Reilly declaring his determination to stand by the colored American in all contests where his rights were at stake.
The loss of Mr. Phillips was a severe blow to my race in this country; but as long as Mr. O'Reilly lived and spoke, we felt that we had at least outside of our own people one true, vigilant, brave, and self-sacrificing friend, who, like Mr. Phillips, claimed for us just what he claimed for himself.
In the little time that I have been standing here, I have talked to you about John Boyle O'Reilly from the standpoint of one who belongs to a race not yet delivered from the clutch of the oppressor.
Mr. O'Reilly tried, and did help us to reach a place far in advance of the one that we occupied when he espoused our cause. If I have seemed to dismiss all else, and only spoken of him in connection with the grand things which he did for my people, I know that you will not find fault with me. I remember that from his youthful days up to the close of that quiet and solemn moment when his soul was borne on in the arms of his Saviour to its peaceful and eternal rest, he never permitted an opportunity to pass him when he could strike a blow for the people in his native island, nor did his great heart ever fail to beat for the downtrodden of all mankind.
REMARKS OF HON. PATRICK A. COLLINS.
"For Lycidas is dead ere his prime,
. . . and has not left a peer."
Even in this solemn hour of public mourning it seems hard to realize that we shall see him no more. Men who knew us both will expect from me no eulogy of Boyle O'Reilly. You mourn the journalist, the orator, the poet, the patriot of two peoples, the strong, tender, true, and knightly character. I mourn with you, and I also mourn—alone.
But, after all, the dead speak for themselves. No friend in prose or verse can add a cubit to his stature. No foe, however mendacious, can lessen his fame or the love humanity bears him.
Yet we owe, not to him, but to the living and to the future, these manifold expressions of regard—these estimates of his worth. The feverish age needs always teaching.
Here was a branded outcast some twenty years ago, stranded in a strange land, friendless and penniless; to-day wept for all over the world where men are free or seeking to be free, for his large heart went out to all in trouble, and his soul was the soul of a freeman; all he had he gave to humanity, and asked no return.
Take the lesson of his life to your hearts, young men; you who are scrambling and wrangling for petty dignities and small honors. This man held no office and had no title. The man was larger than any office, and no title could ennoble him. He was born without an atom of prejudice, and he lived and died without an evil or ungenerous thought.
He was Irish and American; intensely both, but more than both. The world was his country, and mankind was his kin. Often he struck; but he always struck power, never the helpless. He seemed to feel with the dying regicide in "Les Miserables," "I weep with you for the son of the king, murdered in the temple; but weep with me for the children of the people—they have suffered longest."
Numbered and marked and branded; officially called rebel, traitor, convict, and felon, wherever the red flag floats; denied the sad privilege of kneeling on the grave of his mother—thus died this superb citizen of the great Republic.
But his soul was always free—vain are all mortal interdicts.
By the banks of that lovely river, where the blood of four nations once commingled, in sight of the monument to the alien victor, hard by the great mysterious Rath, over one sanctified spot dearer than all others to him, where the dew glistened on the softest green, the spirit of O'Reilly hovered, and shook the stillness of the Irish dawn on its journey to the stars.
Henry M. Rogers, Esq., then introduced the following Resolutions in memory of John Boyle O'Reilly:—
The citizens of Boston, in tender memory of their fellow-citizen, John Boyle O'Reilly, and in recognition of the loss they have sustained, have assembled on this second day of September, 1890, to give expression to their appreciation of his character.
They are grateful, first of all, that he was their fellow-citizen; that he was one with them in thought and feeling; that he strove with them for the welfare and prosperity of the city of Boston, which he loved as they love it.
Holding no public office and wishing none, he exemplified the influence of the good citizen who is earnest in well-doing, and who is animated only by the desire to serve his kind.
His loss to this city will be felt in every good work, in every field of usefulness.
While they recognize their loss of his association with them as a fellow-citizen and friend, they fully appreciate that he was a man of too wide sympathies and too generous humanity to be restricted within the limits of any city.
As a patriot he had suffered for the country of his birth, and so lovers of liberty throughout the world hail him and claim him as their brother.
As a poet he had sung songs that had won the hearts of men and turned their thoughts upward, always toward a higher reach for humanity; and the sick, the suffering, and the oppressed, the downtrodden and those who had grown faint-hearted, took new life and new courage from his words, and to-day claim their brotherhood with him.
As an orator who found his eloquence in his own heart, and who poured it out because of the deep well from which his inspiration was drawn, he is claimed by all champions of humanity, by all lovers of their kind.
As a journalist, strong in his own convictions, yet recognizing that not what a man says, but what he is, is the true test, he grew nearer and nearer, as his years went on, to that broadest plane where duty to his God and to his fellow-man, and not pride of opinion nor pride of statement, takes the first place. His fellow-journalists saw this, and they, too, claim kindred with him.
As a man he strove for humanity with earnest and unfaltering trust, believing that out of his manhood man's redemption under God would come.
And so in the minds of his fellow-citizens he stands as the type of young, strong, vigorous manhood, an inspiration and an encouragement.
"Wherever man recognizes manhood, wherever doubt and distrust come between man and his ideal, the enthusiasm, the virility, the faith of John Boyle O'Reilly in his brother man may be remembered, and doubt and distrust will give way, and man everywhere lay claim to him.
His fellow-citizens, in loving remembrance, bear testimony to his worth and record their admiration of his character.
They tender to his widow and family their respectful sympathy, and ask that this memorial of him may be forwarded to them as an expression of the feelings of this meeting.
On motion of Thomas J. Gargan, Esq., the following Resolution was passed:—
Resolved, That Col. Charles H. Taylor, president of the Press Club; Gen. Francis A. "Walker, president of the St. Botolph Club; Robert F. Clark, president of the Boston Athletic Association; James Jeffrey Roche, president of the Papyrus Club; Thomas B. Fitz, president of the Catholic Union; Gen. Michael T. Donohoe, president of the Charitable Irish Society; the Very Rev. William Byrne, Arthur H. Dodd, Edgar Parker, Asa P. Potter, A. Shuman, Richard F. Tobin, Edward A. Mosely, Dr. James A. McDonald, Henry A. McGlenen, Dr. Francis A. Harris, John J. Hayes, Hon. Patrick A. Collins, be appointed a committee, with full powers, to receive all subscriptions that may be offered, and use the same in the erection of a public memorial, or memorials, in honor of the late John Boyle O'Reilly; said committee shall have power to add to their number and fill all vacancies.