My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 21
THE ROUT OF THE IRISH PARTY
Dr. Cullen and his policy—Mr. Gladstone's Budget and the Income Tax in Ireland—My contest with the House of Commons—Disastrous consequences of the Budget—Its effect on the Irish Land Bills—Election of John Sadleir—Death of Maurice Leyne—Address of American Dissenting Ministers on John Mitchel's pro-slavery opinions—Sheridan Knowles and his reminiscences of Hazlitt and Lawless—His sermon at a Baptist Chapel—Position of the League at this time—Notes from Edward Whitty—Experiments at the Malvern Water Cure—Tour in Belgium and France—Letter from Lucas on my return to Ireland—The Callan meeting—The Thurles meeting—Lucas' mission to Rome—His condition on returning to Parliament—The Australian Constitutions before Parliament—Policy of Robert Lowe—Conference with Lucas on our position—Farewell address to my constituents—Letter from Archdeacon Fitzgerald—Last letter from Lucas—Visit from D'Arcy M'Gee—Evening with Sam Lover—His stories about Sheridan Knowles—Speranza and Mr. Bohn.
I have sketched currente calamo the birth, growth, and marvellous success of the Irish Party. I must now fly through the tragic story of its decline and fall. After the Carlow election, in which Dr. Cullen had supported John Sadleir in vain, the Archbishop determined to take in hand more directly the initiative and control of public action in the country. When he was appointed Primate it was understood that he was sent to Ireland for the legitimate purpose of bringing the Church into closer harmony with the discipline of Rome, but the task to which he applied himself was the illegitimate one of controlling the public policy of the country, a task for which he was altogether unfit. He was unacquainted with Ireland, unskilled in the principles of Parliamentary government, and slow to comprehend or accept new ideas. He came from Rome enraged against the secret societies as the disturbers of Christendom, and confounded Parliamentary opposition with Continental Liberalism, which, from the necessity of its position, was driven to conspire. He got possession of a rooted conviction, which nothing could disturb, that I was what he called an Irish Mazzini. So far as he meant that, like the Italian patriot, I ardently desired to get rid of foreign rule at any cost, he was right; so far as he imputed that, like Mazzini, I would make war on religion for any human end he was ludicrously mistaken. His task was a formidable one; the bulk of the Catholic clergy were determined supporters of the Tenant League, which represented the interests of their parishioners; only a small minority, chiefly resident in towns, took the other side. But the majority of the bishops were understood to accept the direction of Dr. Cullen. His chief confidants were the Catholic gentry, who were in a panic about their rents, and described the Leaguers as levellers and plunderers. His political agents were Messrs. Keogh, Sadleir, and John Reynolds (three experienced intriguers), and a number of thoroughly upright English converts, who were profoundly ignorant of Ireland, and, where they had any politics, sympathised with the Tories. With these allies he set to work, with the best intentions doubtless, to ruin the projects of the League and with them the hopes of Ireland. It was soon whispered in the Lobby of the House of Commons that the genuine representatives of Catholic opinion in Ireland were not Lucas and Company, but Keogh and Company, and that it was to their guidance prudent men would look. This thing was said in the constituencies whereever it could get an audience, but more effectually said in the Lobby of the House of Commons, where it soon bore bitter fruit. At a meeting of the Catholic Association in Dublin, where the Archbishop presided, John Reynolds exhausted the resources of his foul vocabulary in assailing Lucas as a hypocrite and impostor.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the new Government was Mr. Gladstone, who signalised himself by Free Trade concessions worthy of the favourite pupil of Sir Robert Peel. But it was necessary to recoup the Treasury for relinquished taxes; and he proposed to recoup it by imposing, for the first time, an income tax on Ireland. The late Government had refrained from this measure, presumably regarding Ireland as already over-taxed m proportion to her resources, and Mr. Disraeli still objected to the proposal as inequitable. In Ireland it was considered deliberately and contemptuously unfair, and a. storm of resistance arose. As the Tories opposed it it could not be carried without the assistance of the Irish members, and it was thought impossible they could assent to it. But the dependence of Mr. Keogh's confederates on the Treasury and on their ecclesiastical patrons in Ireland was complete, and they believed they could defy popular resistance. On the second reading only one Irish member was absent. Of those present seventy-two voted against the Bill, but thirty-two went into the Government lobby. To me the financial relations of the two countries seemed more shamefully unjust than their political relations, for it is not difficult to believe that when a nation was held down by armed force, as Ireland was at the Union, and compelled to accept an agreement at the point of the bayonet, her pocket was rifled at the close of the performance. The National Debt of England at the Union was sixty times greater than that of Ireland, our only National Debt having been created by money spent by English officials chiefly in the systematic corruption and final purchase of the Irish Parliament. The countries had separate exchequers, but they were amalgamated seventeen years later, and Ireland made responsible for all the National Debt of England by a device almost too shameful for belief. The leaders of Protestant Ascendancy, and O'Connell for half a century after, exposed and denounced the injustice. Yet the system was not remedied, but intensified. At the end of the war with Napoleon, when taxes were reduced, the stronger partner effected a reduction of £100, in her own taxes, for every 20s. reduction conceded to Ireland. The Imperial expenditure was managed on the same principle. It had been demonstrated in Parliament ten years before Mr. Gladstone's Budget that in the naval expenditure for the defence of the Empire, for every pound spent in Ireland six hundred pounds were spent in Great Britain. With such a record it was past human patience to see a gentleman come down with austere countenance to propose as a beneficial measure new duties on articles in large consumption in Ireland, and the heavy burthen of an income tax, and to see a score of Irish-born rascals supporting the proposal. When the measure got into Committee I described the Budget in plain terms, and ventured to tell the Government that they had obtained their majority for this iniquitous project by corruption as base as that employed by Walpole and the Pelhams two generations earlier. An indignant deserter moved that my words should be taken down, and after a fierce debate I was ordered to attend in my place next day that I might withdraw them or suffer the penalty of a refusal. I had the warm sympathy and active support of the Irish Party and the good wishes of the Opposition. When the House met next day there was an immense attendance of members, and the accommodation provided for strangers was crowded in all parts. I was assured I should be sent to prison, perhaps expelled, if I did not make an humble submission. My course was different. I declined to withdraw my words, but I undertook, if a Committee of Inquiry were granted, to prove that the career of Messrs. Keogh, Sadleir, and some of their associates justified all I had asserted. They had solemnly pledged themselves to resist such a Government as now occupied the Treasury benches, and broke their pledge for the bribe of office. But this was an inquiry which did not suit the Government. The Leader of the House objected to the investigation, on the ground that his colleagues had not been corrupted, but only converted to better opinions, and the deserters sat dull and gloomy amidst the jeers of the Opposition. The Irish Party insisted that a bribe was not less a bribe because it was not paid in a lump sum, but in quarterly instalments at the Treasury. As the Government proposed to let the subject drop without more ado, it was recognised that we had scored a decisive success, and the infamy of the transaction referred to was made known to the English people for the first time. From the Speaker's Gallery kindly eyes were looking down on the contest. Edward Whitty wrote me a hasty note:—
"Your quiet and respectful manner, but self-possessed and dogged, saved you, for manner is everything. Your walk out of the house was a stroll—a splendid coup. Unbounded admiration was general in the gallery. In my time no man ever went through such a scene. I am happy in thinking you have a fine adviser in Shee. Lucas behaved like a hero. The House has been idiotic—keep it in the wrong."
In Ireland the conflict created an enthusiasm which has long faded into obscurity, but the contemporary letters and journals were full of it, and a letter from Dublin, when one makes allowance for the undue kindness of the writer, will help to realise it:—
"We are all proud and gratified—I cannot tell you how much—at what has happened. And Dublin has fairly forgotten the Exhibition for the last two days. Passing any group on Saturday or yesterday in the streets one was sure to hear something about Gavan Duffy. And there has been no attempt even to deny that you did the thing bravely, skilfully, and successfully. The Four Courts gossip on Saturday freely admitted so much. … Nothing has happened that will so much damn the opposite faction. There is a great deal of dishonest twaddle that people might have listened to here, but this scene has given them an actual insight to the House. I have heard no one speak of it who did not utter himself as if it had passed under his own eyes. … After Keogh's talk about men who would slink before him in London, though they ranted and wrote here, it happens well and timely.—M.C."
Mr. Gladstone's Budget was carried, but it may be safely surmised that none of the parties to that baneful measure realised all its disastrous consequences. Mr. Gladstone must have known that he was imposing a heavy burthen upon Ireland, but he had not yet awakened from the delusion common to his class since the Norman conquest, that dependencies and colonies, partners and allies, existed mainly for the benefit of England. He was far from divining that he was inflicting a blow upon Ireland nearly as fatal as the Union. The unfortunate Irish deserters could not fail to know that they were abetting a wrong to their native country for their personal benefit. But it is probable that none of them knew that from that hour prosperity and contentment became impossible, that to every class and every man, not an official paid from the English Treasury, life would become a constant struggle, and that there would be carried out of the country yearly the profits of industry on which States thrive, and that public tranquillity, which is the balsam of life, would become impossible. The reader is invited to note that that measure originated the most serious part of the injustice disclosed by the Royal Commission on the Financial Relations of Great Britain and Ireland which is occupying Parliament and the Press while these pages are being written.
The vote of the Irish members on the Budget satisfied the Government they had nothing to fear from those gentlemen. The result was prompt and decisive. Lord Palmerston immediately told the Select Committee on the Land Bills that he saw no necessity for any legislation on the question. Next day Crawford's Bill was set aside by nineteen votes to nine. Mr. Napier's Bills were next taken in hand and carefully pruned. The Tenants' Compensation Bill, as it left the Committee, ignored Ulster tenant-right, and denied compensation for the class of improvements most commonly made in Ireland. The country had been rendered habitable by an industry like that which raised Venice on a quagmire or Holland on a sandbank. Yet all improvements more than twenty years in existence were confiscated. Inordinate rents had, as we know, created habitual arrears. In former measures a landlord ejecting a tenant was enabled to set off these arrears against any claims for compensation, but the modified Bill went a step farther, and declared that if a tenant was ejected for non-payment of rent or arrears he should not be entitled to compensation for any improvements whatever.
Half a dozen bye-elections occurred shortly afterwards. Three seats were vacated on petition by election committees. In two of them the late members who had deserted with Mr. Keogh presented themselves for re-election and were chosen. At Sligo, where an English gentleman had lost his seat on petition, Mr. John Sadleir presented himself, was proposed by the parish priest and supported by the Bishop, and got elected. In every constituency there was a group of manly, resolute priests and farmers who stood by the League, but they were warned that the hand of episcopal authority would fall heavy upon them.
To the consternation of Nationalists, Maurice Leyne was struck down at this time. He had established a newspaper in Tipperary to combat the Sadleir faction, who held a local bank, and had nearly all the local Members of Parliament under their control. The committee of the journal, which was a joint-stock one, asked me to recommend a successor to Leyne, and I told them they had the right man at hand in Leyne's assistant editor. They preferred another, however, and lost a man who proved a brilliant journalist, and in the end an accomplished orator—A. M. Sullivan. A lady who knew Leyne well, and was a competent critic, wrote to me:—
"Is not Leyne's death, in the midst of the vigour that seemed to run riot in his veins, appalling? Poor Leyne—poor Zozimus! It seems to me we have never done justice to his noble qualities, and the flashes of true genius which broke through his extravagance and exaggeration. Death reveals his real proportions. The largest and raciest Irish nature amongst us all lay under the mass of inertness and feebleness, which, we were too apt to conclude, was the whole of his character.—M.C."
I must recur to my diary:—
"Yesterday Mr. Cobden showed me an American newspaper containing an address signed by about fifty Dissenting Ministers assailing John Mitchel for his late longing for a plantation of fat niggers, and most unfairly holding the Irish people responsible for his offence.
"I dined at John Brady's to meet Sheridan Knowles, and had a long talk with the poet. He has a brow somewhat retreating, but expressive eyes, and a sweet, pleasant mouth. He was accompanied by his wife, a lady who is too aggressively pious for social enjoyment, and constantly whips the poor man up to his Tabernacle. When the ladies vanished Knowles talked in a most frank and cordial manner. He was a professor of rhetoric in the Belfast Institution twenty years ago, and had had Emerson Tenant, Thomas O'Hagan, and Joseph Napier, all now eminent men, for his pupils, and they profited by his teaching. He had trained them, he said, in effective elocution, an art without which good speaking and good reading were impossible, but which any man might learn at any age. His dearest friend in Belfast was John Lawless—Jack Lawless, the Catholic agitator. Lawless was the soul of honour, always interesting and exhilarating, and sometimes exhibiting unexpectedly sound judgment. But the Athens of Ireland was an exile for a man of literary tastes. In London his best friend was William Hazlitt. He owed more to him than he could express for early counsel and encouragement. But for him he would probably never have been a dramatist. But it would not have much mattered. Marston's 'Patrician's Daughter' contained more poetry than all his own dramas. Hazlitt's one weakness was that he could not bear contradiction. I said Hazlitt was one of my earliest masters in literature, a man of wide and strikingly original powers; but what a fate he had endured! Slandered by the Blackwood gang, patronised by his inferiors among his usual associates, and recognised for what he really was by scarcely any compeer except Charles Lamb. Yes (Knowles said) and Lamb was a Tory who did not share any of his opinions. I mentioned that Horne, the author of 'Orion,' told me that having a strong desire to see Hazlitt after his death, as he had not been fortunate enough to see him before, he visited the house where he died. The body was lying on a piano covered with a sheet pas trop propre, and there was not a human being in attendance on a man who had done more for popular liberty and the personal freedom which is the cream of liberty than any of the Broughams or Jeffreys who had been swathed in patrician robes or seated on some high fauteuil. Yes (Knowles said) one thing a man had better make up his mind to, the rewards in public life rarely fell to the generous workers, and never to the pioneers. He had latterly taken to preaching (under the influence of Madame, we may surmise) in a Baptist Chapel, and was to hold forth that night. Our host proposed that we should adjourn from the table to the tabernacle and bring back Knowles to supper. The service was startling, stretching to the very borders of burlesque; in the prayer the preacher held a colloquy with his Creator which was probably unique in pulpit oratory. 'O God!' he said, 'who has graciously selected Thy servant to do Thy work, and peremptorily drawn him away from the fascinating pleasures of this world for Thy service, be pleased to ordain,' &c. I never heard Mr. Knowles again."
The leaders of the League did not mistake their position. The high tide of success was ebbing fast. They knew they had now opposed to them three great social forces—the Executive, the bulk of the Catholic bishops, and the entire landed gentry; and with them perhaps only a minority of the people, but a minority which comprised the best priests and the most intelligent farmers and traders in the island. There still came to the Council meetings aged priests and dauntless curates, who for the sake of the people were facing an hostility which would certainly thwart and might possibly ruin them. They believed that Dr. Cullen was more of an Italian than an Irishman, and so wholly immersed in ecclesiastical politics as to leave no place for patriotism. They saw with shame that he threw the protection of the Church around some of the worst men in the community, and employed the authority of the Holy See for purposes which it could never have been designed to promote. But they knew also that they had won the General Election against the same hostility, a little less pronounced; that they had carried their Bill to a second reading in the Parliament, which now repudiated it. They felt persuaded that the fate of an entire generation of honest husbandmen depended on their success, and they resolved to make another rally with all the strength that remained in them. Conference had become the established agency for maintaining a constant connection with public opinion, and a Conference was called for the 5th of October.
When it met it became plain that there were now two parties face to face one which still upheld the fidelity of Messrs. Sadleir and Keogh, and another which saw in them the worst enemies of the cause. At the outset Dr. M'Knight declared that there was one member to whom the farmers owed more than to any other man in Parliament, and that was Mr. William Keogh. Before the Conference had digested this amazing proposition the learned Doctor proceeded to charge Mr. Lucas with deliberate treachery to the Tenants' Cause. At the Conference Mr. Sharman Crawford said not a word pro or con of this amazing charge, while men around him exploded with indignation, but a week later he published a letter completely adopting it. There were few things which the Northern delegates might not have done with impunity, so strong was the desire to retain them in the League, but to whitewash sordid traitors and disparage a man who was devoting his life to the Cause was past human endurance. A vote of confidence in the Independent Party and of censure on the deserters was adopted. The Northern deputies did not attend the subsequent meeting, and when Dr. M'Knight returned home he wrote of the Conference with fierce hostility. All these men are now dead, as I too shall soon be, but I have no doubt, and before their death some of the Northerns had no longer any doubt, that Lucas was undeviatingly faithful to the Tenants' Cause. A strong man rarely escapes the aberrations to which strength has a tendency; and though he was a calm and philosophical thinker, he easily became a passionate and fanatical controversialist, not consciously unjust to his adversaries, but harsh and unmeasured: and after this incredible imputation much may be forgiven him. I may repeat that the Northerns from the beginning feared him as a bigot, mistaking for bigotry the devotion of a profoundly religious man to the faith which he had embraced at so many sacrifices; and Dr. M'Knight, from the foundation of the League, took as much pains to warn me against Lucas as Dr. Cullen took to warn Lucas against me. But a crisis had now come when the League had to choose—and I especially, who was most closely allied with the Northerns, had to choose—between parties who no longer trusted each other, and we chose unhesitatingly the man of highest integrity and plainest disinterestedness. My judgment on the controversy is that Crawford was misled by shameless falsehood on the part of the new officials, and was grossly unjust to Lucas; and that Lucas, too indignant to rest on the solid ground of his character and services, which furnished ample protection, became an aggressor in turn, and was unjust to Crawford. In the height of his indignation Lucas used language respecting him which it was hopeless that a cold, proud man would ever forgive.
During the recess the leaders of the League were entertained at public banquets by their constituents, for while the Support they received diminished in area it increased in intensity. They seized these occasions to enforce the moral which the situation of the country preached: all the disasters which had befallen the people were no one's fault but their own.
"Of the five-and-twenty deserters who have gone over to the enemy" (said one Leaguer) "there are three-and- twenty of whom I could have told with as much certainty twelve months ago as at this hour that they would betray the country on the first opportunity. If constituencies will elect men notoriously corrupt or notoriously allied with the Whigs, it is too absurd to pretend that an experiment has failed because they have done what any man might have foretold they would do. If you were going to fight, and selected poltroons for officers, of course you would lose the battle. If you were going to try a suit at law, and selected blockheads for counsel, of course you would lose the case. But does that prove that with brave men and wise men you would fail? Look at the candidates recommended or assisted by the Tenant League; not one single man of them has proved untrue."
Against all these reverses fortune supplied one signal set-off. In Mr. Sadleir's contest for Carlow, Mr. Dowling, an elector who refused to support him, and threatened to canvass his tenants against him, was arrested by one of Sadleir's election agents on his way to the hustings, and carried to the local office of the Tipperary Bank. There were bills of his in the bank which had not come to maturity, and he had given to a friend who endorsed them a bond as a counter security. On this unripe bond he was arrested. As no attorney could sign the certificate in such a transaction without risk of being struck off the roll, the name of a dying attorney was forged to the instrument. In these proceedings it was proved that Mr. Sadleir had intervened, not merely through agents, but personally by direction and control. When he came to be examined, however, he denied everything and repudiated everybody, but the jury disbelieved him and found a verdict for the plaintiff. When the news was flashed throughout the Empire the sensation was intense. One of the Queen's Government directing a fraudulent arrest, supported by deliberate forgery, was an unheard-of scandal; but it was still worse to have such an official disbelieved on oath by a respectable jury. He was compelled to resign his office and quit Downing Street for ever. In most civilised countries this exposure would have ruined and scattered the political connection which he had created, but in Ireland it ruined no one but Mr. Sadleir. Happily villainy is not an agreeable pursuit. I saw Mr. Sadleir at this time when he came to the House to vote on a party division, and his face was appalling. He had always been a dark, mysterious person, but now he looked wild, haggard, and repulsive. None of us had any suspicion that he was an undetected forger and a swindler, but it seemed that thwarted ambition had turned his blood into liquid mud.
During the recess the gentleman who accepted the succession to John Sadleir in the Treasury, and two County members who had violated their pledges and voted steadily in the interest of the landlords, presented themselves for re-election, and Mr. John O'Connell, the old marplot of popular agitation, found the era a convenient and agreeable one for returning to the House of Commons; and they were all elected. When Parliament met the natural consequences followed. The Government were asked on behalf of Mr. Napier what they had done with his Bills, of which they had taken possession. Lord John Russell, in the slow and discontented drawl which was his ordinary method, declared that nothing had been done because it was not desirable to do anything. The Lord- Lieutenant and other persons in Ireland, with the best information, assured him that there was no longer need for legislation; there was a good harvest, a friendly feeling existed between landlord and tenant, and the question was settling itself.—On the face of God's earth there was not a country so miserable and hopeless as Ireland at that time. The population were flowing out of it like water from a vessel which had been staved. The workhouses were crammed with inmates stricken with the diseases that spring from want and neglect, the landlords were still levelling homesteads and rooting out the native race, and nothing was to be done for remedy or alleviation. Nothing was to be done, and three-fourths of the representatives elected by the stricken people assented in silence, and three-fourths of the bishops, born and bred among them, sanctioned the perfidy.
I have not disinterred from Hansard a line of the speeches of the Leaguers in Parliament, but there is a little story worth recording as an illustration of the sort of evidence on which English opinion as respects Ireland is sometimes founded. Sir Francis Head a retired Governor of Upper Canada, published a book entitled "A Fortnight in Ireland," for which the Irish Constabulary furnished materials in the shape of violent speeches delivered at tenant-right meetings, and reported by them to headquarters. Most of these speeches were made by the Reverend This or That; and they were naturally cited in a Maynooth debate to illustrate the discipline of that institution. Was a system to be tolerated which produced firebrands like these reverend orators? When my time came to speak I took up the reprehended speeches and read three or four of the strongest of them amid ironical cheers. The sentiments seemed to me, I said, not unjust or unreasonable under the circumstances which existed in Ireland, but in any case I submitted that it would be rash to hold Maynooth responsible. (Oh! oh! and ironical cheers.) I would only trouble them with a single fact in support of this conclusion; every speaker, without exception, whom I had quoted was a clergyman, but he was not a priest but a Presbyterian minister! There was an anonymous speech indeed in the collection particularly objectionable to Irish landlords, and it might seem impossible to relieve Maynooth from the imputation of having trained this unnamed speaker at any rate. But I undertook to prove a negative even in that case. (Oh! oh!) Yes, I really could not allow Maynooth to run away with the credit or reproach of this performance, for I recognised in it a policeman's version of a speech which I had myself delivered in the Tholsel of New Ross.
I can recall no period in a long lifetime so entirely destitute of recreation as the years I spent in the House of Commons. The business in which I was determined, if possible, to succeed swallowed up my whole life. I breakfasted on Blue Books and lunched on Irish correspondence, and I never had leisure to go to a theatre or exhibition, and if I dined out once or twice a week it was apt to be with men immersed in the same pursuit, where nothing was changed but the venue. When a bore of vigorous lungs was on his legs, I sometimes escaped to Westminster Abbey for an hour, or if a debate arose in which I took no interest I made for the National Gallery, but these were rare chances. One pleasure only I allowed nothing to interfere with. I spent a couple of hours every Sunday with Thomas Carlyle in Hyde Park, or Battersea Park, with an occasional detour to John Forster's at Palace Gate. But the society of men of letters of my own age, which I would have preferred to a banquet at Buckingham Palace, I had to abandon. Edward Whitty, a man of genius and a sympathetic friend often made the occasion for me, but his notes of that date announce constant disappointment:—
"I had up a lot of people to meet you on Sunday evening Mahony (Father Prout), Pigott (Leader), Hannay, Peyrat (of La Presse) and others, and was sorry that you could not come the day was sunny at Hampstead and the claret and cigarettes were encheering. …
"For a variety of reasons I am anxious to see you at the earliest possible moment, and beg of you to name time and place. …
"Jas. Hannay, B. C. Aspinall and his charming wife, and two or three others expected to meet you here last evening. I know you wanted to see more of Aspinall, but that will be scarcely possible, for he is going to Australia. Why a man of his fine powers, and who was born to flutter between Brompton and the Boulevard des Italiens, should betake himself to the new and dismal land I cannot conjecture."
The long days in Committee, the long nights in the House, constant anxiety and disappointment prostrated a constitution never robust, and I was advised that a considerable holiday was the only alternative to a catastrophe. There are few things more difficult to a busy man than to idle, but I resolved to comply. A prodigiously exaggerated account of the Malvern Water cure by Lytton Bulwer induced me to try that establishment; and the rest, regular hours and simple fare were balsamic. When I regained strength I went on the Continent with my wife to complete the holiday. We visited Belgium, got some idea of the farming of peasant proprietors in the most thickly populated district in Europe, inspected many atéliers d'apprentissage where a generous attempt was then being made to teach to the ignorant simple industries by which they might live, and we saw historic places of Irish interest to learn the eternal fate of the exiles for conscience sake; the men of to-day we found could scarcely distinguish Ireland from Iceland even in the Collège Irlandais; we saw the great dead city of Bruges, the living and thriving Antwerp, and the capital, the Petit Paris of the Low Countries. We revelled in the grand gothic architecture of churches, chateaux and hôtels-de-ville, and in the domestic art of the Flemings contrasting with the Italian pictures, with which we were best acquainted, as the realistic story of Robinson Crusoe does with the visions of Dante. Then a run to Paris, and, after two months of pleasant idling, home to Dublin. I had been kept constantly informed of the proceedings of the League, and I knew that Dr. Cullen thwarted it more and more. At his instigation Father Tom O'Shee, the founder of the first Tenants' Society, was ordered by his bishop to quit a political mission on which he had been sent by the League, and return immediately to his parish, and all the League priests who could be intimidated had naturally become apathetic. Not one priest of the county or city of Dublin now attended the Council except Father Bernard Daly, a gifted and dauntless curate. Sergeant Shee had a fierce conflict with Lucas in the newspapers; Lucas having charged him, and as the result proved, justly charged him, with deserting the principles and policy of the League. But worse awaited me. An express from Lucas was brought me calling on me to attend a Callan meeting where the fate of our party and principles were nakedly at stake. My health was not altogether restored, but the appeal was too passionate to be resisted. After describing the serious difficulty which had arisen, Lucas added: "This new order of things will require very careful and resolute handling; and if there were no other reason, your presence at Callan will be absolutely necessary. Do, therefore, come, for God's sake, unless the field is to be abandoned at once." These were the facts. The League had determined to hold county meetings throughout the South in succession, and Father Keeffe, one of the founders of the first Tenants' Protection Society, was forbidden by his bishop to attend the meeting in his own parish which threatened to be prejudicial to Sergeant Shee, and directed to refrain from any further interference with public affairs. If a bishop could do this with impunity the Irish contest was at an end, for elections could no more be won without the help of the local priests than Charles Edward could have raised the Scottish Highlanders without the help of their chiefs. I attended the meeting, and before it was held came to an understanding with Lucas and the Callan curates on the measures to be taken. The senior professor of Theology in Maynooth had advised that the bishop had exceeded his authority as fixed by canon law. An appeal to the Pope and the Propaganda was determined upon, and the case was so critical that it was agreed that we should resign our seats in Parliament as a signal protest if the Pope did not restrain the Apostolic Delegate and the bishops who sympathised with him from destroying the cause of the Irish farmers by illegitimate methods.
The meeting was an immense one, and representative leaguers from various parts of the country attended, and the local clergy were headed by their Archdeacon and some of the most venerable and influential of their order.
Lucas addressed himself to the question which was uppermost in all minds. The well-beloved priest of Callan, he said, was forbidden by ecclesiastical authority to take any part whatever in public affairs. Father Keeffe was determined to practise the most exemplary obedience to his bishop. But the ultimate authority of the Church was the Supreme Pontiff who sits at Rome, and who has the right to decide in all causes in the last resort. As a loyal and obedient son of the Church, he and some members of Parliament were resolved to bring before the Holy See, for its official decision, the question whether the honest clergy of Ireland were to be silenced by authority and their mouths closed for ever. What the clergy of Ossory, what the clergy of other dioceses in Ireland, might consider it their duty to do he was not in a condition to say; but, as regards laymen and politicians, before a month was over some of them would cross the sea and find themselves, with the blessing of God, beneath the shadow of the Vatican.
If the final decision of the Church closed the mouths of honest priests, and upheld pledge-breakers, place-beggars, and all those who made politics a dishonest game, he, speaking in the name of some there present, but speaking above all his own conviction, would declare that he saw no other course for honest and sane men to take but to wash their hands of public affairs altogether, and to abandon all hope of protecting the rights and interests of Ireland in the Parliament of Great Britain.
At the public dinner which followed the meeting I reiterated the declaration which Lucas had made on our behalf. I had come there, I said, almost without visiting my own home, because the stroke aimed at Father Keeffe, which was the first open exercise of a policy long pursued in secret, was one fatal to the people's interest. Whether the Bishop of Ossory had exceeded his legitimate authority I would not undertake to say; but of one thing I was certain, honourable men would decline to maintain a contest with bigots and oppressors in the House of Commons if they were to be betrayed at home by bishops of their own Church, and, for my part, I would resign my seat in Parliament as an emphatic protest.
The second county meeting took place at Thurles, where, though the archbishop was a partisan of Dr. Cullen's, sixty-two priests had signed the requisition, and twenty thousand persons were said to be present. George Henry Moore took sides decisively with his colleagues at Callan. Lucas started for Rome and was to be followed by a lay and an ecclesiastical mission as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made.
Lucas was gifted beyond most men to conduct the mission he undertook, and in Rome he had the aid and countenance of the Archbishop of Tuam and the Bishop of Clonfert; but it is needless to follow the story into detail, for the mission altogether failed. Before any lay tribunal in the world he would have been more than a match for Dr. Cullen, but before Propaganda it was different. And the help he expected from Ireland did not come promptly, and sometimes did not come at all. The Tablet was silent during his absence, but I maintained our cause in the Nation week after week, and Moore and I held public meetings and kept up a constant correspondence with the districts which designed to help the mission to Rome, but the story has been abundantly told already. From the Pope Lucas had a gracious reception in recognition of his services to the Church. On an intimation by his Holiness that he would carefully consider any facts submitted to him in writing, Lucas sat down in the unwholesome summer of Rome to write a State paper on the condition of Ireland. Before it was finished his health failed so rapidly that he was obliged to leave it incomplete and return precipitately to London. So painful a change had been wrought in his health and appearance that the doorkeeper of the House of Commons repulsed him as a stranger, and when he came among his colleagues they could hardly recognise him. But he was cheerful, and confident that the English air would soon restore him to health. In a few days he went on a visit to the country house of our friend Richard Swift, at Wandsworth.
The Australian Colonies were at this time engaged in framing constitutions which had to be sent to Westminster for confirmation, and some of the Irish in Melbourne and Sydney besought the Irish members to give these measures benevolent attention when they came before the House. This was a task very acceptable to me, and I undertook it promptly. I knew that Robert Lowe, who understood Australian politics better than any man in Parliament, intended to be heard on the subject, and I told him I could bring him help he did not count upon if our intentions with respect to the Bills were lot dissimilar.
Lowe was at this time one of the most remarkable men in the House of Commons, and never rose to speak without attracting wide attention. He was unusually tall and erect, and so distinguished by the white hair and pink eyes of an albino that the House always recognised him. His speeches were excellent for sense and spirit, but he contended with physical impediments which only a powerful will could overcome or hold in check. You observed in a moment that he did not see anything which was going on around him, and was completely ignorant of the impression he was making. He spoke philosophical and epigrammatical sentences in a monotone which plainly betrayed that he was speaking language committed to memory. Since Edmund Burke no one had probably delivered speeches so intrinsically important with so little of the art of a rhetorician. He was not popular, a mischance which I have always attributed to his blindness, for such a deficiency renders a man habitually silent, leaves him incapable of recognising his acquaintances when he casually encounters them, and perhaps impatient of being accosted by persons whom he may fail to identify.
We fought the interests of the colonies with persistency and some success, but I am not writing history.
When Lucas was rested a little I went to visit him at Richard Swift's, and then for the first time for six months we had an opportunity of confidential talk.
"We talked (says my diary) from seven o'clock till late in the night, only to discover a wide and irreconcilable difference in our views of duty just now. Lucas said the Pope had requested him not to quit Parliament and so leave Catholic affairs without an adequate spokesman, and he had determined to follow the Holy Father's advice. I said we were bound in the most specific manner to retire if the appeal to Rome failed, and it had failed egregiously. What would our promises be worth for the future if we did not fulfil this one?
"Lucas said he could not admit the memorial had failed, as no answer was yet sent to it. He had duties as editor of the Tablet which he could not neglect. Doubtless he had, I said, and I offered no opinion respecting them, but as an Irish representative he was bound to resign his seat in compliance with a promise of a most specific kind which he and I had made. He could not cloak the responsibility, for I should certainly keep my promise. He said his constituents did not wish him to resign. Very likely, I replied, they did not, nor did mine, but the object with which I had consented to make such a promise in concert with him was to teach the Irish people the difference between Irish members who had abounded in promises which came to nothing, and men who meant what they said, and he by nature and discipline surely belonged to the latter class. But I am determined to retire, and Lucas is determined to hold on."
I told my constituents in a public address that it was no longer possible to accomplish the task for which I had solicited their votes, and that I would therefore resign my seat. To avoid the pain and humiliation of a controversy with Lucas in the face of rejoicing enemies I allowed the fact that I was retiring in fulfilment of a pledge which we had made in common to fall into the background, but some newspapers assumed that he was about to take the same course, and he wrote a letter to the Times stating that that was not his intention. To my closest friends I intimated that I would not only leave Parliament, but leave Ireland; there was no longer a field for me in a country which could be induced to repudiate a policy on which its safety and almost its existence depended. Among the League priests the man with the greatest capacity for awakening enthusiasm and stimulating action was Archdeacon Fitzgerald. To him and others I wrote that my retirement was to fulfil a specific pledge, but did not relieve him or such as he from prolonging the contest. This was his reply:—
"April 9, 1855.
"My Dear Mr. Duffy,—If Duffy and Lucas with all the honest ardour of the purest patriots and with intellectual resource, vigour and energy of the first order, having moreover at their command two widely circulated and popular newspapers, if such as these despair of stemming the overwhelming torrent of corruption, selfishness and apathy on the one part, and blind and miserable delusion on the other, what can others do? The alliance between the North and South is broken up—O'Shea, and Doyle and Keeffe are in penal exile—Maher is a Sadleirite—the Whig Lord Primate, Cullen, will Italianise the old sod, and Bishop Browne is a bottle-holder to the Right Hon. Oath-and-pledge-breaker, William Keogh—all hope for the poor of Ireland is dead, and in rhyme and reason 'there is no more to be said.'
After a little time some of the friends nearest to Lucas assured me that he was in a much more dangerous condition than he supposed, and that he would be for a long time, perhaps for ever, unfit for serious labour. I was deeply touched by a calamity brought on by the constancy and courage with which he had performed his task at Rome, and I wrote to him to put our recent controversy out of his mind, as I went into exile remembering only the good battle we had fought together for a good cause. The last letter but one which I got from him came in reply:—
"I was delighted, my dear Duffy, to receive your very kind note on my return to Brighton from London on a visit to the doctor. The little scene to which you refer was most painful to me, and I am, above all things, delighted that we may now consider the affair at an end. There may be a difference of opinion, but I am sure you acquit me of entertaining towards you anything but kind and affectionate feelings, such as I have no doubt whatever you entertain towards me. … It is to me a subject of the deepest regret that you are going from Ireland not only on public grounds, with regard to which I consider it a calamity but on private grounds, and because the absence of such a friend as I have always felt you to be makes our wretched politics very much more distasteful than they have hitherto been."
At this time, the autumn of 1855, D'Arcy M'Gee made a long-meditated visit to Europe to see old friends whom he had not forgotten and who had not forgotten him. We lived much together, and exchanged confidences on Irish affairs. We dined one evening with Dr. Brady, and I met Sam Lover at close quarters for the first time. Poet, painter, and lyrist as he undoubtedly is (says my diary), I have found it hard to like him. He is an Irishman under protest. There is not a gleam of the divine fire of nationality in all his writings. He helped O'Connell against the Established Church, and his written and lithographed satire on the bishops was piquant but a little too savage, but in the contest to make Ireland a nation he is always absent without leave. In manner and bearing he is a superb Jackeen. His face is comical, but not plastic or expressive. It is the face of a droll; his stories are of the stage species, without natural humour. They are carried off by a certain boisterous pleasantry, but in print would be deadly dull. We spoke of Irish poetry and fiction, and M'Gee, it seemed to me, said better and truer things than the elder poet. There was one criticism of Lover's, however, which I thought profoundly true. The best of Irish novels, he said, was Gerald Griffin's "Collegians." Best not only in the plot, which is intensely interesting, but because every class of Irishman, from the highest to the lowest, was represented in it. Carleton and Banim blundered the Irish gentleman, but the more sensitive nature of Griffin enabled him to understand society, which he had not much frequented.
Brady talked of Maxwell, and told some ugly stories of the prebend of Balla. Lover said his life was loose, but his disposition was generous. His wife's friends said that he left her to starve, but he probably did all he could for her. On one occasion Maxwell wanted Lover to spend the day with him, and as an inducement he enclosed 20 to be sent to Mrs. Maxwell. Brady said Maxwell had latterly lost all care about his reputation, and would do any sort of work for prompt wages. I said Maxwell was the antetype of Lever, and might have done quite as well if he had been half as prudent.
Lover told very well, even dramatically, a story of Sheridan Knowles concerning the responses at a baptism, in which he was a sponsor. The officiating minister, in a nervous voice, admonished him, inasmuch as he had promised on behalf of the child that it should serve God, that it was his duty to see that the infant at a proper age was taught the prayers prescribed by the Church, and all that a Christian ought to learn for his soul's health, and Knowles responded in a voice of stage thunder, "All this I will most faithfully perform." The best of the joke, added Sam, is that before the week was out he would forget the existence of his gossip and the baby. But his other stories about Knowles were of the Handy Andy species, and not very credible. Knowles (said he) had announced at a dinner-table that he was going into the country next day. "Is there anything I can take anywhere for any of you lads, or anything I can do for you in the country; I have plenty of leisure and good-will at the service of my friends." "Where are you going?" one of them demanded. "Oh," said Knowles, "that is a point I have not yet determined."
Speranza committed a task to me which led me in the end into an awkward position. The editor of Bonn's Library was publishing a volume of translations from Schiller, and she wished me to offer a translation of "Love and Cabal," which she had written, to Mr. Bohn for the purpose. I gave the MS. to him accordingly, and he promised to consider it and communicate with her. After a time she informed me that she could get no answer of any sort from him, that the volume was published, and finally that she found her poem in it under his own name, with some altogether trifling alterations. I called on Mr. Bohn for an explanation, and only met a great deal of vehement wrath, and an absolute denial that he had used any of her poem. I then asked him to return the MS., but I did not succeed in getting it back. I can say no more of this transaction from my own knowledge, but I have never doubted that Speranza's statements were strictly accurate. These last days in the House of Commons were depressed by the constant recollection of the great experiment which had been baffled and defeated; but I was determined not to be utterly subdued by fortune. I was still under forty, in reasonably good health, and
"My quiver still held many purposes."
- Nearly forty years after this Budget debate, when Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill was before the public, I wrote a pamphlet on the measure in which the necessity of inquiring into our financial relations before establishing a new Exchequer was insisted upon, and a Royal Commission on the subject suggested. "It is not a sentimental grievance which may be dismissed with other forgotten wrongs belonging to the dead past, but a practical one, altogether outside of party and which will largely determine the future fortune of the country. A Royal Commission (I said) of competent financiers ought to inquire and report on this subject. The inquiry must be now or never."
- Dr. Hanlon.
- "League of North and South." Chapman and Hall.
- This note will indicate the moderate and reasonable grounds taken up by the friends of Australia:—
"34, Lowndes Square, May 12, 1855.
"My dear Sir,—If you will fix with your friends any hour on Tuesday or Wednesday that is most convenient to them I shall be very happy to attend, to give them such information as I can on the subject.
" Please let me know what you decide. My impression is that we ought not to oppose the Second Reading of the Victoria Bill, the objections to which are rather to its form than to its substance, and that can be put right in Committee.
"The New South Wales Bill, should, I think, be opposed at every stage.—Believe me, my dear sir, very truly yours,
- To my Sydney friends I wrote:—
"I did my best to have your nominee Upper House abolished. The reports in the papers give you no notion of any one's speeches except Lowe's, whom they report fully because he was connected with the colonies. But on colonial subjects they do not take the trouble of being either full or accurate with any one else. Lowe, Alderley, Lord Lyttleton, Walpole, myself, and others had a consultation on the best course to be taken, but the obstinacy of Lord John rendered all our operations useless, and now, before the Bill has received the Royal assent, he is no longer Colonial Minister."—Letter from C. G. Duffy to Edward Butler, published in the Sydney Empire.
- I will quote only one paragraph from my farewell address: "It may be thought I despair too soon of the present time. If there be any who honestly think so, let them try to do better, and may God prosper them. For me, I have tried. For seven years I have kept the green flag flying alone, or with but a handful of friends; for twice seven years I have thought, written, and acted to one sole end. In these years I have been five times prosecuted by the English Government in '42, in '44, in '46, in '48, and '49, and wasted thirteen months of my life in English prisons. I have 'spent and been spent' cheerfully, in fortune, health, peace, the duties of home, and the rights of my children; often with less aid than opposition from those who professed the same opinions, always in exhausting personal conflict with a hired Press, and all who lived, or hoped to live by corruption. It may be the result is small, and I am an unprofitable servant, but I have done my best."
- The Dublin equivalent of Cockney.
- Lady Wilde.