Letter to Robert Peel calling for Repeal to be suppressed
Miss Butler’s, Maryborough.
I address you on a subject of the greatest interest and importance, of as much interest and importance to me, or to the humblest individual in Ireland, as it can possibly be even to you; and from no motive but that of doing what I consider may be a great, though a silent and humble, service to the country I belong to; yet it is with much hesitation that I venture to do so, because I am not at all sure that either my subject or motives will be considered a sufficient apology for intruding on your time.
I have long seen and felt—what every man who retains, in this most contagious country, the use of his own mind, and of his own senses, to see, to hear and to judge for himself, perceives—the absolute necessity which exists, that all agitation for political objects should entirely cease, before any improvement can be effected in the condition of the Irish people. I am most anxious that the present Repeal-movement should be speedily and safely suppressed—not imperfectly and for a period, but fully and for ever. To effect that object I wish to contribute whatever little aid it may be in my power to give.
I am firmly convinced that on the course of proceeding which Her Majesty’s Government may adopt in dealing with this agitation, depends the state of this country for very many years. I know that their course will be determined and formed upon the evidence before them. I am ignorant of the sources from whence that evidence may be derived, and of the extent and character of the information which is in their possession, or at their command. I am inclined to fear, however, that it may possibly not be such as can altogether be relied upon for enabling Her Majesty’s Government to see the facts of the present movement in their true dimensions and colours, or to form a correct estimate of the effects likely to follow any particular line of action.
I cannot help considering that I am— from facilities of position and other circumstances better acquainted with the existing movement—its extent, strength, leaders, motives, means and intentions—than most, or perhaps than any one, of those whose means of information are at the service of Her Majesty’s Ministers. I can scarcely conceive, more especially, that any person holding an official situation can possibly know the agitation or the agitators so thoroughly and truly as I do. They see only the exterior of that agitation—I see its interior. I live within it. My father and family and most of my near relatives are actively engaged in it.
I wish to furnish you with whatever information I am possessed of so far as I think it may be of any importance in directing your course; but I am not aware by what rule Her Majesty’s Government are guided in receiving—or to what extent, or in what manner, they may be willing to receive—or whether they may consent at all to receive— information from any others than the local authorities. I am not at all desirous of doing what might—if done without being authorised be very justly considered as an intrusion and an impertinence.
May I therefore request your permission to communicate to you such facts respecting the present agitation and the probable results of the several modes of proceeding which Her Majesty’s Government may adopt in reference to it, as I think it may be of any consequence that you should be put in possession of.
If there be any particular points on which Her Majesty’s Government may be desirous of information, and if specific questions be put to me on these points I will answer them as fully as I can—provided, of course, that such questions be of a general nature, not in reference to individuals.
I address you rather than Sir James Graham, because I do not consider that such a matter as the existing movement in this country belongs more peculiarly to any one minister of the crown than to another; or if it do, that it is to that minister who is the reputed head of the Administration. If, however, a strict adherence to forms be necessary, or be preferred, be good enough to let me be informed whether I may address my statement to Sir James Graham, in order to prevent the necessity of having to write for his formal permission and the consequent loss of time which a simple reference to the Home-Secretary would involve.
I mark this letter as “private” simply because my family—friends are all violent Repealers. But it is only in Ireland that I wish it to be considered as “private”—and that merely for the present, as it is probable that I shall soon be obliged to join the Conservative party openly and actively.
Let your answer be addressed to—James F. Lalor—care of Miss Butler— Maryborough.
I have the honour to remain Sir,
Your obedient servant,
James F. Lalor.
P.S. Though my name is subscribed to this letter, yet, without some explanation, it would, to you, be an anonymous one. I beg to state, therefore, that I am a son of Mr. P. Lalor, of Tenakill, in the Queen’s County, who was one of the representatives for that County in Parliament some years since—and who then was, and I regret to say, still continues, a zealous and active Repealer. It was he who first planned and proposed the late system of passive resistance to the collection of Tithes. He belongs to the highest class of what, in this country, are called “Gentlemen-farmers”—so that, as regards station in society, I am placed pretty nearly at the point of contact where all ranks of Repealers touch.
I was, myself, at one time something more than a mere Repealer, in private feeling—but Mr. O’Connell, his agitators, and his series of wretched agitations, first disgusted me into a conservative in point of feeling, and reflection and experience have convicted me into one in point of principle. I have been driven into the conviction, more strongly confirmed by every day’s experience, that it is only to a Conservative Government, to her landed proprietors, and to peace that this country can look for any improvement in her social condition.
I have now furnished you with all the particulars of information which I think necessary to enable you to judge how far reliance may be placed on the statements I wish to make—so far as my opportunities of obtaining correct information and of forming a correct judgement are concerned. As to my wish and intention to make only true statements, and my honesty of purpose in making them, you must, in forming your opinion, depend in a great measure, for the present, on whatever internal evidence the statements themselves may afford, if you be willing to receive them. I address to Privy Gardens, not knowing whether I act correctly in so doing.
J. F. L.’
- Thomas P. O'Neill, James Fintan Lalor, Golden Publications, Dublin, ISBN 0954566602