My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 6

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CHAPTER VI


TROUBLED WATERS: CONFLICTS WITH O'CONNELL


An indiscreet secretary summoned the attendance of Repeal Cavalry at the Clontarf Meeting—A proclamation issued forbidding the Meeting O'Connell submitted to the proclamation Effects of his submission—Attitude of the Young Ireland Party—Arrest of O'Connell and seven—other Repealers—Their trial and conviction—Juncture and character of Smith O'Brien—Policy of the Repeal Association under Smith O'Brien and Thomas Davis—Writ of error and decision of the House of Lords—Liberation of the State prisoners Position of Ireland at that time—Visits to O'Connell at Darrynane—His gradual abandonment of Nationality—The Federal controversy—Effect upon public opinion in Ireland—O'Connell repudiates the Federalists and quarrels with France and America—Tait's Magazine on the position—Slanders on Thomas Davis—Peel's Provincial Colleges—Controversy between O'Connell and Davis—Effect of the controversy on public opinion—Tour in the North with O'Hagan, Mitchel, and Martin—Dungannon, Charlemont and battlefield of Ballynahinch visited—Vice-tribunate of John O'Connell—Letters from Mitchel, Martin, and O'Hagan—Visit to Wicklow with T. D. M'Gee—Death of Thomas Davis and my wife within a week Letter from Father Mathew.


The language of the Mallow Defiance placed O'Connell and the Government under obligations which neither could evade with impunity. If O'ConnelPs haughty declaration represented his actual intentions there was force and spirit in the country at that time ready and willing to win the liberty demanded. But he was the trusted leader from whom the word of command must come; any one anticipating him would have been regarded as a dangerous traitor. And his language unfortunately did not represent his intentions. In the contest for Catholic Emancipation he had alarmed Wellington and Peel by the fear of an insurrection, and he counted on the same result on this occasion. But Emancipation had friends in England who would not have supported the Government in suppressing it by force. Repeal had no English friends; only one English member voted for so much as inquiry, and Ministers had no Parliamentary opposition to fear. The duty of the Government was equally stringent; they must yield what was demanded, as they had done before, or they must prepare for aggression. They took the latter course. The country was occupied by a strong army, barracks were fortified and provisioned, and strategical positions taken possession of. They waited for some favourable opportunity to arrest the movement, and this, after fifteen months of astonishing success, an unfortunate accident at length provided. An indiscreet secretary described the horsemen for whom a place was assigned at a projected meeting at Clontarf, as "Repeal Cavalry," and a proclamation was issued forbidding the Clontarf meeting to assemble. A proclamation is but an advertisement without any legal force, but O'Connell determined to submit to it, and that decision deprived the movement in a moment of half its dignity and all its terror. "Ireland," whispered one of O'Connell's old guard on this occasion, "was won at Clontarf, and now it is going to be lost at Clontarf." The policy of the young men was altogether unequivocal. They preached resistance to aggression as emphatically as O'Connell, but they desired to do the thing they counselled. Their hopes were centred on the employment of the prodigious power and enthusiasm of the time to secure the legislative independence of the island, as such a force had been successfully employed in 1782 for the same purpose. And, if a contest in arms ended in the separation of the islands, it would not have been an unwelcome termination of a long reign of contemptuous injustice. After the Clontarf submission they agreed in bitter humiliation that it was no longer possible to attain either of these ends during O'Connell's lifetime. After a short pause, another stroke was levelled at the National Party. O'Connell and seven other Repealers, of whom I was one, were arrested on a charge of conspiracy, and speedily brought to trial. I have told that story also, and it is not necessary to repeat it here. The State prosecution, like every stroke of the Government, drew new support to the cause. A number of the gentry, the most conspicuous of whom were Hely Hutchinson, brother of Lord Donoughmore, and William Smith O'Brien, joined the Association. O'Brien's historic descent and stainless reputation made his junction an epoch. To perfervid persons, indeed, he seemed the precursor of his entire class. He was immediately treated as the Tanist of the National Party, and the position he occupied from that time forth was singular and significant. He had none of the gifts which attract the multitude except a tall, striking figure, and a well-poised head. He was not an orator, as an Irish leader is expected to be, but a formal, and at times, a tedious speaker. His manners were not genial or winning, and he made few intimacies. But as his character developed in action he was recognised as a man who, when he recommended an inconvenient or hazardous proceeding, was always ready to undertake it himself; who might be counted on to keep his word with a rigid and even pedantic strictness; who was absolutely free from jealousy, who never uttered ill of any one, and whose lightest word was better security than the sealed bond of ordinary men. There was an anecdote current about him which was believed, because it was probable and characteristic. He had a duel with the brother of O'Gorman Mahon, and when the men were placed and the signal about to be given, O'Brien cried, "Stop! No signal, I pray." His opponent's second stepped forward and said with a serious countenance, "This is very irregular, sir. Pray, what do you want to say?" "I want," replied O'Brien, "to call your attention to the fact that the gentleman opposite me has let the cap fall off his pistol."

The State prisoners were tried before a jury on which, in a Catholic country, not one Catholic was permitted to sit, before judges the chief of whom was a furious partisan, and we were sent to prison before an appeal which had been lodged, on the advice of experienced lawyers, could be tried. The prison was under the control of the Dublin Corporation, and the imprisonment proved as little unpleasant as a holiday in a country house. But O'Connell was deeply humiliated, as any imprisonment impugned his legal infallibility, on which the people so confidently relied.[1]

During the imprisonment the National movement fell under the control of Smith O'Brien and Thomas Davis, and attained a dignity and practical method which compensated for the popular élan it had lost,[2] but it received a secret wound which could not be healed. O'Connell lost faith in the movement he had created, and began to ponder on the best means of retreat.

After we were three months in prison the judicial members of the House of Lords assembled to determine the strange question whether we had been legally convicted. Every step in the proceeding (it was contended) was tainted with error. The panel was badly arrayed, the offences were badly charged, and the Chief Justice so seriously misdirected the jury that the conviction was not a legal one. The Chancellor and Lord Brougham sustained the judgment of the Court in Dublin at all points, but three Whig Law Lords pronounced it fatally bad, and one of them declared in language which became memorable, that " such a system rendered the ad- . ministration of justice a mockery, a delusion, and a snare." We were discharged from custody, and O'Connell was restored to a people delirious with joy at his victory. But from that hour forth he never made one step in advance, or one serious effort to reanimate the National movement. At the moment this change of policy was only imperfectly realised by his ablest supporters, and was not at all suspected by the mass of the people.

The defeat and reversal of the State prosecution restored the prestige of the National movement as if by magic. Before Clontarf, when friendly foreign nations and converted domestic opponents did her homage, Ireland had won a position more powerful and impressive than she had occupied within the memory of living men, though some of them remembered Grattan and the Volunteers, and the good times now seemed restored. It looked like the dawn of liberty; the painful and tragic story of how it became the herald of disaster and humiliation must now be narrated.

After our release from prison I visited O'Connell at Darrynane, his mountain home in Kerry, in company with John O'Hagan and D. F. M'Carthy. The story is already told,[3] but I have since found among Davis's papers a letter I wrote him on this journey, warning him of a political storm brewing in the mountains, but with slight apparent belief in the danger, though it was real and imminent:—

"Take life easier, mon ami, you are doing far too many things at once. When you are in your normal health I have no objection to your driving as many horses as Neptune or Mr. Ducrow, but you have had no holiday this year. To enable you to get one, I will return to town immediately. You ask news of O'Connell. He is by no means disposed just now to lay his head upon the block if we do not reach the promised land in six months. Au contraire, he pictures the road we have to travel as long and dreary. Have you ever noticed that if you ask your way from an old man he magnifies the distance, while a boy makes nothing of it?

"I don't think I told you how much pleased I was with the Christian Brothers' school at Waterford. The boys had an easy, contented look, as if they were in presence of a father rather than of a pedagogue. And the brothers have set the courageous example of using the illustrations of Natural History published by the Society for the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge. Note this as an evidence of progress. Though Natural History is of no sect, the thing would have been impossible five years, perhaps twelve months, ago.

"I did not tell you from Kilkenny a prediction of Cane's, it seemed so impossible. The lowered tone of the Association he insists is intended to prepare the way for abandoning the cause and silencing Young Ireland, if it be possible. Looked at historically would the attempt be very surprising? Is it not rather the exact thing to be expected. Roger O'Moore was denied a place on the Supreme Council of the Catholic Confederation, which but for his genius and daring would never have existed; and Wolfe Tone was in the end robbed of all authority in the United Irish Society which he created. But we rarely look at contemporary events historically. He may put us out of the Association indeed, but can he put us out of Ireland? It seems an easy task to disperse a few young men without fortune or authority, but it will not prove so easy if they are the heirs-apparent of the Ireland that is to be. They have Will and Conviction, I think, and these are the forces which have conquered the world. O'Connell said nothing to justify this suspicion suggested by Cane, but I had a mesmeric feeling while talking to him that there is storm in the air."

If any jealousy existed in O'Connell's mind it was certainly unfounded. The young men of the National movement, who by this time came to be discriminated from the ordinary following of the leader as the Young Ireland party, had no more desire or intention of disturbing O'Connell's authority than the Opposition of the day had of deposing Queen Victoria. They seconded his designs loyally, and were as proud as his . children of his gifts and his triumphs. But, unlike his Old Guard, they were not his soldiers, but the soldiers of Ireland, and if a divided duty ever arose there was no doubt which side they needs must choose. They had devoted to the deliverance of Ireland, as frankly as he had done, their lives and fortunes, and that mystic inestimable future so precious to youth, and their paths seemed destined to pass side by side to the end. On many minor points of policy O'Connell had cheerfully yielded to their wishes; on many other points they had cheerfully submitted to defeat at his hands; only one determined contest had taken place between them, and of that contest the country knew nothing. In the interval between his conviction and sentence, O'Connell suddenly proposed to the general committee, in private conference, to dissolve the Repeal Association, and to found another free from the vulnerable points attributed to the existing one in the State prosecutions. The proposal excited consternation among men who were determined never to retreat. The Association was the heir of the monster meetings; it had enrolled two million adherents; it had negotiated on equal terms with France and America; and its policy had moved every party in the Empire to sympathy or resistance. Its fall would be regarded in the Old World and the New as the collapse of the National movement. Besides, such a submission to the arbitray law of the Queen's Bench would render a writ of error futile and ridiculous. The young men respectfully and courteously, but unequivocally, declined to sanction the measure by their votes; and, if it were adopted, they intimated they would not feel at liberty to enter the new Association. O'Connell, whom experience had taught when to yield, abandoned his proposal, and it was never heard of outside of Conciliation Hall. But it must be now judged in connection with the events which speedily followed it, and there can be no serious doubt that it was a move towards the new policy on which O'Connell had secretly determined in Richmond Prison, to reconcile himself with the Whig party and let the national enthusiasm evaporate.

It may well seem impossible that the honoured and adored leader of the Irish people could sell the mighty space of his large honours for any Whig trash of boons or patronage. It is a painful, and in its consequences an intensely tragic story, which I would gladly put away from me, but it is impossible, for it explains all that followed for many years in Ireland. I will simply state the facts; they are so marvellous and so painful that the reader, I repeat, is only expected to accept them if the evidence prove irresistible. I cannot too earnestly exhort the reader to remember that O'Connell was old, infirm, and in the first stage of a disease under which he sank, and it may well be that he believed Repeal impossible in his lifetime; but it was open to him to proclaim his new conviction, and declare he would get all he could for Ireland before he departed. The best men in the Association (who were not overtaken by age or infirmity) would, no doubt, have refused to follow him into a compromise, but many from custom and reverence would have accepted his decision as necessarily wisest and best, and at any rate his conscience would be clear and his head erect. What he unfortunately determined to do was to maintain in public that he was still on the same track, and to conceal from the people, by painful and shameful devices, that he had altogether changed his purpose.

The threatened storm soon came, and came in a fashion wholly unforeseen. After my return from Darrynane Davis went to Belfast to meet Thomas O'Hagan, Sharman Crawford, and other leaders of the Federal party who were about to hold a conference in the northern capital. Davis wished well to their experiment, as we all did. It would bring men into the field likely to be listened to in England, and perhaps by the Irish gentry, and who were of undoubted integrity of character and purpose. O' Council made a vain attempt to draw them into the Repeal Association as Federalists only, but they would not listen to him. If they overcame their personal objections, which were rooted, they knew that the bulk of their followers could not be induced to enter Conciliation Hall on any pretence, and it was plain that the chief force of Federalism arose from the fact that it was an alternative to Repeal. It would have been a powerful auxiliary to the National movement if O'Connell had let it alone, but he had left prison with the determination to break definitely with the Mallow Defiance and the monster meetings, and retreat steadily to the status quo ante bellum whenever he had secured a decent pretence. As the Federalists would not come to him, he unhappily determined to go to them. In a long letter to the Repeal Association, dealing with a multitude of topics, this portentous sentence appeared:—

"For my own part, I will own that since I have come to contemplate the specific differences, such as they are, between simple Repeal and Federalism, I do at present feel a preference for the Federative plan, as tending more to the utility of Ireland and the maintenance of the connection with England than the proposal of simple Repeal. But I must either deliberately propose or deliberately adopt from some other person a plan of Federative Union before I bind myself to the opinion I now entertain."

Nor was this all. "The Federalists," he added, "cannot but perceive that there has been on my part a pause in the agitation for Repeal since our liberation from unjust captivity." The motive and meaning of this language were not so plain then as now, but they were plain enough.

What was the duty of the leading spokesmen of the National movement before this new danger? If the Association adopted the policy suggested all the men of character and influence won since the beginning of 1843 would surely abandon it, as they did later under kindred provocation. The respect and sympathy of foreign nations would be withdrawn from a people who did not know their own mind, and suddenly discovered that there was no substantial difference between a nation enjoying legislative independence and a province possessing a dependent legislature for domestic purposes. The result that would have ensued, and which the keen intellect of O'Connell could not but foresee, was the dwindling away of the National movement till it might be swopped, as it had been in '34, for a handful of promised boons from the Whigs. What ought to be done under the circumstances? I had no doubt indeed what ought to be done, but it was autumn, and all my colleagues were away on holiday, and I might commit them to a contest with O'Connell which they would have found some honourable means of evading. But clear as my duty was to them, there was even a higher duty to the multitude of young men in the country who believed that the Nation in all difficulties would be just and fear not, and whose faith and patriotism would be fatally shaken if their confidence proved to have been ill bestowed. I solved the difficulty by making the leading article in the next Nation a letter to O'Connell in my own name. I objected to the change he favoured, which I believed would equally damage Federalism and Repeal, and insisted, with careful courtesy, that the Association had no more right to alter the constitution on which its members were recruited than the Irish Parliament had to surrender its functions without consulting its constituents.[4] The letter was reprinted by the organs of all parties, and was commented on by nearly every political paper in the Empire, and finally by the journals of France and the United States. The Conservative Press generally predicted that the Nation would be speedily destroyed for its audacity, and that O'Connell's letter might be regarded as the funeral oration of Repeal. When Davis and my other friends returned to town, or could communicate with me, they cordially accepted the policy of resistance, and for nearly a month, during which O'Connell and the Association maintained absolute silence, the country was occupied with the controversy. The bulk of the National Press declared that, as far as the merits of the question were disclosed, they could not approve of the change indicated; others were of opinion that O'Connell must have good and sufficient reasons, which would be finally disclosed, for the course he took; and Mr. Richard Barrett, of the Pilot (the domestic organ of the O'Connell family), could discover no honourable motive for resistance to the leader's policy. There were serious reasons, however, to convince O'Connell that the people did not agree with him. The collection of the O'Connell annuity, the annual stipend paid by the people to their leader, was announced, but the old enthusiasm with which it was received was wanting. In his private correspondence, recently published, we find a letter from O'Connell to the Secretary of the Fund dwelling on this change:—

"Do you know that I have a feeling of despondency creeping over me on the subject of this year's tribute. It seems to have dropped stillborn from the Press. In former years, when the announcement appeared, it was immediately followed by crowded advertisements in the Dublin papers to meet and arrange the collection. The Cork, Waterford, Limerick, &c., newspapers followed, but there is not one spark alight."

And Michael Doheny, who met O'Connell at a public dinner in Limerick, given to him on his way back to town, wrote me that public opinion on the subject, which was occupying all minds, exhibited itself there in a manner offensive to the leader:—

"Your name was received with the loudest cheers; to such a degree indeed as, in my mind, to rouse the great man's wrath. But although the reception was most flattering, still there is a strong feeling that the Nation was wrong in intimating that Dan had abandoned the cause. To be sure most men who entertain that feeling have not inquired into the justice or the value of the argument in the Nation: they content themselves with saying that it is necessary to preserve the inviolability of his character."

The result of this controversy I abbreviate from "Young Ireland":—

On the 25th November O'Connell returned to the Association. His first task was to assert and justify himself. He replied to the critics who had discussed his Federal letter, passing lightly over the objections of Irish writers, but falling with intense bitterness on English and French journals. The Whigs were never, he affirmed, so hated in Ireland as now, and the reason was to be found in the conduct of their newspapers.

"It was to be found in the solemn insolence of the Morning Chronicle, the slanderous mummery of the Examiner, and the stupidity of Lord Palmerston's paltry Globe, which turned the just aspirations of the Irish people into unholy mockery. Even the Press of Louis Philippe took up the cry: Odillon Barrot's National began; but the Repealers were lovers of monarchical government and were Christians, two unpardonable offences in the eyes of the National. Thiers's paper, the Constitutional, joined the cry. Thiers published a history of the French Revolution, in which he related the September massacres, where hundreds of bishops and priests were murdered, in a style which made it plain that if he could he would enact that massacre anew. He was glad to have the animosity of such a man. Next came the Journal des Debats, which said, 'Let not O'Connell and Ireland imagine that in case of a war with England they would get assistance from France.' He hurled his contempt on the paltry usurper Louis Philippe and his newspapers. He would not accept Repeal at the hands of France. Sooner than owe anything to France he would surrender the cause of the country he loved best in the world. It was likely the National, the Constitutionel, and the Debats were not scoundrels for nothing. They gave money's worth to England, and they probably got money value in return."

But though O'Connell reprimanded his critics, he amended as far as possible the blunders they had exposed. He broke decidedly, and even rudely, with the Federalists.

"After the liberation of the State prisoners (he said) advances had been made to him by men of large influence and large property, who talked of seeking Repeal on what they called the Federal plan. He inquired what the Federal plan was, but nobody could tell him. He called upon them to propose their plan, the view in his own mind being that Federalism could not commence till Ireland had a Parliament of her own, because she would not be on a footing with England till possessed of a Parliament to arrange her own terms. Yet a cry was raised, a shout was sent forth, by men who doubtless thought themselves fitter to be leaders than he was, and several young gentlemen began to exclaim against him instead of reading his letter for explanation. It was not that they read his letter and made a mistake, but they made the mistake and did not read the letter. He had expected the assistance of the Federalists, and opened the door as wide as he could without letting out Irish liberty. But (he continued) let me tell you a secret: Federalism is not worth that (snapping his fingers). Federalists, I am told, are still talking and meeting—much good may it do them; I wish them all manner of happiness, but I don't expect any good from it."

If the writers of the Nation desired controversy, here was a tempting thesis. It might have been asked, If no one could tell him what the plan was of the Federals, how he came to give the "Federal plan" a preference over simple Repeal, which he had been advocating for thirty years? It might have been easily shown that these young men, of whose rashness he complained, asked to have no more done than he himself found it necessary to do to satisfy public opinion. The suggestion that he expected the Union to be first repealed and an Irish Parliament established before Federalism came to be mooted between the countries, was a text upon which they could have scarcely trusted themselves to write; for it was cynical experiments like this which had reduced O'Connell's influence over the educated classes so low. But instead of having recourse to any of these themes they uttered no personal complaint and no note of triumph, but urged the whole party on to a campaign of renewed hope and restored confidence.

The controversy was at an end, but O'Connell's unhappy experiment had produced only mischief. His supporters were seriously alarmed and Federalists were completely alienated. The English journalists occupied themselves largely with what they described as his defeat. "HB," the popular satirist of the day, exhibited him in one of his sketches as mastered by Young Ireland, and Tait's Magazine, at that time the organ of Philosophical Radicalism, summed up the controversy in terms which were considered not unfair or ungenerous:—

"The Agitator has ceased to be master of the agitation. The magician is impotent to exorcise has only a qualified and conditional power to command the spirits that his spells have evoked. He cannot now do what he will with his own; there is a power in the Repeal Association, behind the chair, and greater than the chair. Why did Mr. O'Connell take the first opportunity he could find to snap his fingers at Federalism so soon after having deliberately and elaborately avowed a preference for it? Not merely because Federalists stood aloof and did not seem to feel flattered by his preference, but chiefly because Mr. Duffy wrote a certain letter in the Nation—a letter, we may say in passing, which more than confirms the sense we have long entertained of this gentleman's and his coadjutors' talent, sincerity, and mental independence—refusing in pretty flat terms to be marched to or through the Coventry of Federalism. Mr. O'Connell has since, not in the best taste or feeling, sneered at 'the young gentlemen who thought themselves fitter leaders than he was'; but the young gentlemen carried the day, nevertheless, against the old gentleman. We see in this that there is a limit to the supremacy of this extraordinary man over the movement which his own genius originated; what he has done he is quite unable to undo; Repeal has a life of its own, independent of his influence or control; his leadership is gladly accepted and submitted to, but always under condition that he leads the right way."

The Federal controversy might pass as a skirmish arising accidentally one of the domestic broils no political party can altogether escape; but incidents followed which justify the belief that the advance to Federation was the first move in a deliberate design to relinquish the National cause, substituting for it some sort of alliance with the Whigs, and planting in Conciliation Hall instead of the powerful Repeal Association an organisation so feeble and mean-spirited that the Young Liberator (as Mr. John O'Connell came to be called in good-humoured irony, largely leavened with contempt) might be able to control it, when the leadership was bequeathed to him.

An essential part of such a scheme was to sap the influence and disparage the character of such men as would probably offer a vigorous resistance, and finally to hustle them out of the Association. That this was the design in 1845 is my conviction after having witnessed all the transactions. But I submit the case absolutely to the judgment of the reader, exhorting him again to accept no fact which is not well established, and no theory which the facts do not render irresistible. At the outset let it be remembered that the young men could have no personal object in a conflict with O'Connell; their personal interests were manifestly all the other way. O'Connell might shut them out from a public career during his lifetime, or for ever, and in my own case he might destroy a journal which conferred a large influence and a liberal income. The motives which induced us to disregard these dangers may reasonably be presumed not to have been unworthy ones. We had been accustomed from boyhood to love and reverence O'Connell, and we recoiled from a conflict with him as generous boys recoil from a dispute with their father. But the National cause was far above all sympathies and affections; the Irish people for long centuries had watered it with their blood, and in the half century which has since ensued, we know by what sufferings and sacrifices they have laboured to maintain and defend it. Only those who condemn all this long martyrdom as national folly can doubt what was the duty of the sentinels at the gate, when they discovered the intention of letting the enemy into our citadel.

The second trouble came in a manner as unexpected as the first, and it was one in which the duty of the young men seemed as peremptorily prescribed by their character and convictions. From the date when the Times advised the Prime Minister to conciliate Ireland, rather than coerce her, the Whig Opposition pressed the same counsel on him in many keys. It is probable that the last thing they expected was that he would take their advice, but at the opening of the session of 1845 Sir Robert Peel had the supreme civic courage to declare that he desired to make peace with Ireland. There was heat with the United States which might kindle into war, and before engaging in a conflict with America he hoped to revive concord at home. There was a dangerous conspiracy in Ireland against the authority of Parliament, which could not be broken up by force; but he was persuaded it might be broken up by forbearance and generosity, and he was about to make the experiment. His first proposal was to increase and make permanent the provision for supporting Maynooth College, where students for the Catholic priesthood were penuriously and inadequately educated. This measure, which was received with applause in Ireland, and with a roar of disapprobation from the English Dissenters, after much resistance became law. The second proposal was of a still larger scope. It was a plan for establishing middle-class education in the Irish provinces. Genius or patriotism could not devise a measure more stringently needed. The State, which had endowed preparatory schools, colleges, and a University for Protestant education, had made no provision for the sons of the Catholic gentry and professional classes. There was not then, and there is not now, a body of gifted young men so ill- equipped and disciplined to fight the battle of life anywhere in Europe or in the greater Christendom which embraces three continents. The proposal was welcomed in the House of Commons by the Irish members, including on the occasion a nephew of O'Connell. The middle classes in Dublin and Cork hailed it with rapture. It was proposed to educate Catholic and Protestant students together, an arrangement which seemed to Thomas Davis to insure concord and liberty in the near future. What it was to me, to whom education was the essential and indispensable preliminary of freedom, I need not describe, but as I was no longer a member of the Association I could only help it with the pen.[5] The task of safeguarding our policy from misrepresentation fell on Davis, and was performed with the calm enthusiasm and exact knowledge which a great minister gives to a vital law. When the new proposal was mentioned in the general committee there was universal congratulation, till John O'Connell entered and declared that it was an abominable attempt to undermine religion and morality in Ireland. Amid the wonder and contempt this criticism created his father arrived, and echoed the objections of his son. Hitherto O'Connell had always advocated the education of Irish youth in the same colleges that they might become good citizens and good patriots; but he broke with his past opinions on this occasion, as peremptorily as he had broken with the Mallow Defiance. Under these circumstances Davis besought him to keep the question out of the Association. Members had been invited to join' as Repealers whatever were their opinions on other .questions, and it would not be fair to compel them to take sides in a controversy like this. By crossing the street it could be discussed outside of the Association, and good faith with their colleagues preserved. O'Connell peremptorily refused this concession. At the next meeting of the Association he and his son assailed the Bill without stint, and Davis and Dillon defended it. Next day a requisition was privately presented to O'Connell asking that the subject might be mentioned no more till the Catholic bishops, who were about to hold a conference on the Bill, should have spoken; as the requisition was signed by forty members of the general committee, including all the barristers and country gentlemen, and indeed every man of education outside the O'Connell family, he thought fit to consent. The respective parties were to be at liberty, during the truce, to urge their views on the country outside the Association; Davis and I wrote largely on the subject in the Nation. O'Connell sent several articles anonymously to the Freeman's Journal, and Mr. John O'Connell interpreted the truce as authorising him to use the machinery of the Association to get petitions signed for the total rejection of a measure of which the bulk of the governing body approved.

Why did O'Connell break with his past life, and insist on the utter rejection of a measure which might have been amended into a consummate system of middle-class education? At the time we knew only half the truth. He had never shaken himself free of Whig entanglements. It was not five years since he had been drudging on their behalf in the House of Commons; and it was to them he owed his recent deliverance from prison. He was determined that Peel should not outrun his friends in popular favour by a second success. But he was equally influenced no doubt by the determination to make John his successor, and John knew that the only sort of Association he could control was one which had resumed the old sectarian character of Corn Exchange agitation. O'Connell had a sincere desire, no doubt, that no institution should be established dangerous to Catholic faith; but Peel, who wanted to make peace with Ireland, would have consented to any amendments which could be carried through the British Parliament. Half a century has since passed, and thousands of young men have failed in the battle of life for want of the education and discipline which opened the way to fortune for so many Scots, Belgians, and Swiss.

The Catholic bishops at length deliberated. They declared that they were ready to co-operate with the Government in founding provincial colleges, but that the proposed scheme did not make provision for the religious and moral discipline of students separated from their families, and was, on other grounds, also dangerous to their faith and morals. They suggested amendments which would render the measure acceptable, but they could not support it in its present form.

When the Association met, O'Connell declared triumphantly that the bishops condemned the nefarious scheme, which must now be utterly rejected. John O'Connell followed, denying that the bishops had given any sanction to mixed education. Davis was about to reply vindicating the actual character of the Bill and the actual decision of the bishops, when he was anticipated by another speaker. I have described in the "Life of Thomas Davis" the scene which followed, and as it influenced the whole future life of O'Connell, of Davis, and of the Association, I must reproduce it here:—

"Among Davis's fellow-students in college was a young man named Michael George Conway. He was gifted with prompt speech and unblushing effrontery. But he wanted conduct and integrity, and had gradually fallen out of men's esteem. He had been recently blackballed by the—Young Irelanders, he believed—in the 'Eighty-two Club, and he came down to the Association burning for revenge. He fell on a chance phrase of Barry's in the debate, misrepresented it outrageously, and declared that it was characteristic of his party and his principles—a party on which the strong hand of O'Connell must be laid.

"'The Calvinist or Episcopalian of the North, the Unitarian, the Sectaries, every man who had any faith in Christianity was resolved that it should neither be robbed nor thieved by a faction half acquainted with the principles they put forward, and not at all comprehending the Irish character or the Irish heart. Were his audience prepared to yield up old discord or sympathies to the theories of Young Ireland? As a Catholic and as an Irishman, while he was ready to meet his Protestant friends upon an equal platform, he would resent any attempt at ascendancy, whether it came from honest Protestants or honest professing Catholics.'

"During the delivery of this false and intemperate harangue O'Connell cheered every offensive sentence, and finally took off his cap and waved it over his head triumphantly. He knew, as all the intelligent spectators knew, that a man destitute of character and veracity was libelling men as pure and disinterested as any who had ever served a public cause, and he took part with the scoundrel. It was one of the weaknesses of his public life to prefer agents who dared not resist his will; but this open preference of evil to good was the most unlucky stroke of his life. Twelve months later he died, having in the meantime lost his prodigious popularity and power; and of all the circumstances which produced that tragic result the most operative was probably his conduct during this day.

"Davis followed Mr. Conway. The feeling uppermost in his mind was probably suggested by the contrast between the life of the man and his new heroic opinions; and it will help to/put the reader in the same standpoint when I inform him that the pious Mr. Conway a few years later professed himself a convert to Protestantism, to obtain the wages of a proselytising society.

The reader knows in some degree what Thomas Davis was, what were his life and services, what his relations to his Catholic countrymen were; that he had left hereditary friends and kith and kin to act with O'Connell for Irish ends; and they may estimate the effect which the attempt to represent him as a bigot had upon the generous and upright among his audience. John Dillon ruptured a small blood-vessel with restrained wrath; others broke for ever the tie which had bound them to O'Connell. He was not worthy, they declared, of the service of men of honour, who used weapons so vile against a man of unquestioned honour.

"Davis took up the question of the colleges, and examined it with undisturbed temper and judgment. He did not regard himself as a debater, but he proved on that occasion to be a master of debate. Cool, resolute, good-humoured, he raised and disposed of point after point with unbroken suavity in a manner I have never heard exceeded in legislatures or party council.

"'I have not,' Davis said on rising, 'more than a few words to say in reply to the useful, judicious, and spirited speech of my old college friend, my Catholic friend, my very Catholic friend, Mr. Conway.'

"Mr. O'Connell—'It is no crime to be a Catholic, I hope.'

"Mr. Davis—'No, surely no, for ——'

"Mr. O'Connell—'The sneer with which you used the word would lead to the inference.'

"Mr. Davis—'No, sir; no. My best friends, my nearest friends, my truest friends, are Catholics. I was brought up in a mixed seminary, where I learned to know, and, knowing, to love my countrymen, a love that shall not be disturbed by these casual and unhappy dissensions. Disunion, alas! destroyed our country for centuries. Men of Ireland, shall it destroy it again?'

"While he spoke O'Connell, who sat near him, distracted him by constant observations in undertone; but the young man proceeded with unruffled demeanour and calm mastery of his subject. He cordially approved of the memorial of the Catholic bishops, which declared for mixed education with certain necessary precautions. They asked for 'a fair proportion' of professors, meaning beyond dispute, that the remainder should be Protestants—this was mixed instruction. They demanded that, in certain specified branches, Catholic students should be taught by Catholic professors this was a just demand, but it implied a system of mixed education. He, like them, objected to the Bill as containing no provision for the religious discipline of the boys taken away from the paternal shelter; and, beyond all, he denounced it for giving the Government a right to appoint and dismiss professors—which was a right to corrupt and intimidate.

"O'Connell, who had already spoken for two hours, made a second speech in reply to Davis. His peroration was a memorable one. The venerated hierarchy, he insisted, had condemned the principle of the Bill as dangerous to the faith and morals of the Catholic people.

"'But,' he said in conclusion, 'the principle of the Bill has been supported by Mr. Davis, and was advocated in a newspaper professing to be the organ of the Roman Catholic people of this country, but which I emphatically pronounce to be no such thing. The sections of politicians styling themselves the Young Ireland Party, anxious to rule the destinies of this country, start up and support this measure. There is no such party as that styled "Young Ireland." There may be a few individuals who take that denomination on themselves. I am for Old Ireland. 'Tis time that this delusion should be put an end to. "Young Ireland" may play what pranks they please. I do not envy them the name they rejoice in. I shall stand by Old Ireland; and I have some slight notion that Old Ireland will stand by me.'

"When O'Connell sat down consternation was universal; he had commenced a war in which either by success or failure he would bring ruin on the national cause. Smith O'Brien, and Henry Grattan, who were sitting near him, probably remonstrated, for in a few minutes he rose again to withdraw the nickname of 'Young Ireland,' as he understood it was disclaimed by those to whom it was applied. Davis immediately rejoined that he was glad to get rid of the assumption that there were factions in the Association. He never knew any other feeling among his friends, except in the momentary heat of passion, but that they were bound to work together for Irish nationality. They were bound, among other motives, by a strong affection towards Daniel O'Connell; a feeling which he himself had habitually expressed in his private correspondence with his dearest and closest friends.

"At this point the strong, self-restrained man paused from emotion, and broke into irrepressible tears. He was habitually neither emotional nor demonstrative, but he had been in a state of nervous anxiety for hours; the cause for which he had laboured so long and sacrificed so much was in peril on both hands. The Association might be broken up by the conflict with O'Connell, or it might endure a worse fate if it became despicable by suppressing convictions of public duty at his dictation. With these fears were mixed the recollection of the generous forbearance from blame and the promptitude to praise which marked his own relations to O'Connell, and the painful contrast with these sentiments presented by the scene he had just witnessed. He shed tears from the strong passion of a strong man. The leaders of the Commons of England, the venerable Coke, John Pym, and Sir John Eliot, men of iron will, wept when Charles I. extinguished the hope of an understanding between the people and the Crown. Tears of wounded sensibility choked the utterance of Fox when Burke publicly renounced his friendship. Both the public and the private motives united to assail the sensibility of Davis."[6]

Smith O'Brien and Henry Grattan again interposed, and O'Connell and Davis were induced to interchange courtesies and good wishes; but a blow was struck from which the Association never recovered. Davis's friends were enraged at the misrepresentation to which he was subjected, and at the ingratitude of O'Connell, and though sacrifices of feeling were made for the public cause the wounds inflicted bled inwardly. Peel's Bill passed without amendment, and though the Primate and the bishops of the three cities in which the institutions were planted determined to accept the new colleges, the bulk of the Catholic episcopacy withheld their sanction, and the institutions maintained only a feeble and unprosperous existence. I have since lived for five and twenty years in a country where a system existed which illustrates the wicked policy of refusing to amend a scheme of education which might have been made a strength and a blessing to Ireland. I have encountered hundreds of young Irishmen of bright and intelligent natures, but without practical training, and who for want of it fell into the humblest pursuits; and on the other hand there was in Melbourne and Sydney a University where students of all religious denominations are educated together without ampler provisions for their morals and religion than Peel was willing to make in Ireland, and on the Senate of each there was a Catholic archbishop; and while these pages are being written I see with satisfaction that the Sovereign Pontiff is sanctioning rules for the education of Catholic students at Oxford. The sacrifice of Peel's proposal was made to the low ambition of Mr. John O'Connell, and unfortunately it was not the last nor most serious sacrifice demanded for that pitiful result. It was now whispered among the followers of the Young Liberator that the friends of mixed education ought to retire from Conciliation Hall, or if they did not retire ought to be expelled. Davis wrote to Smith O'Brien:—

"O'Loghlen (Sir Colman) and all whom I have consulted are firm against secession. O'Loghlen proposes, and I agree with him fully, that if O'Connell on his return should force the question on Conciliation Hall an amendment should be moved that the introduction of such a question against the wish of a numerous and respectable portion of the committee is contrary to the principles of the Association and likely to injure the cause of Repeal. A steady, elaborate discussion for a number of days would end in the withdrawal of the motion and amendment, or in rendering the motion, if carried, powerless. An explanation would follow, and—the cause would still be safe."

A little later he renewed the subject with his friend:—

"I will not interfere again till an attempt be made to pledge the Association to vile resolutions. If the O'Connells wish, they can ruin the agitation (not the country) in spite of any one. Between unaccounted-for funds, bigotry, Billingsgate, Tom Steele missions, crude and contradictory dogmas, and unrelieved stupidity, any cause and any system could be ruined. America, too, from whence arose 'the cloud in the west' which alarmed Peel, has been deeply offended, and but for the Nation there would not now be one Repeal Club in America. Still we have a sincere and numerous people, a rising literature, an increasing staff of young, honest, trained men. Peel's splitting policy [a policy which split up the Tories], the chance of war, the chance of the Orangemen, and a great though now misused, organisation; and perhaps next autumn a rally may be made. It will require forethought, close union, indifference to personal attack, and firm measures. At this moment the attempt would utterly fail; but parties may be brought down to reason by the next four months. Again, I tell you, you have no notion of the loss sustained by John O'Connell's course. A dogged temper and a point of honour induce me to remain in the Association at every sacrifice, and will keep me there while there is a chance, even a remote one, of doing good in it."

The period of recess arrived; O'Connell and O'Brien went into country quarters; the young men in general set out on their autumn excursions, and the dangerous marplot, Mr. John O'Connell, was left in control of the Association. My holiday was taken in an excursion to our native Ulster, with John O'Hagan, John Mitchel, and John Martin. Mitchel was a young attorney living in the village of Bannbridge, whose acquaintance I made when I resided in Belfast. I had made him known to my Dublin associates. He had contributed one article, entitled " Convicted Conspirators," to the Nation during the State Trials, and one review of -a pamphlet, but I detected a capacity for writing, and invited him to contribute a volume to the Library of Ireland, which he was to bring with him on this excursion. Martin was a gentleman farmer of unusual education and culture, whom I met then for the first time. We set out in extravagant spirits, but a month which would otherwise have been a social honeymoon was overcast at every point where the Dublin newspapers brought us an account of the Young Liberator's exploits, or some fierce comment on them by our friends in the South and West. MacNevin wrote me:—

"John O'Connell is the most mischievous public man in Ireland. The Association is now merely a Catholic Association. Repeal or any high or honourable principle of Nationality is never heard there. … Look at the Corporation. Is that the spirit of municipal freedom? Oh Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Anvers!"

I have described elsewhere the disastrous results which followed the attempts of this modern Phaeton to drive his father's chariot of flame:—

"Week after week new outrages were committed against the fundamental principles on which the national confederacy rested. It was open to Irishmen of all political opinions who desired the repeal of the Union; but it was suddenly pledged to a Whig- Radical programme of measures to be obtained at Westminster. It was bound to cultivate the goodwill of friendly nations; but the two most friendly nations in the world, the only two which took any genuine interest in our affairs, were wantonly insulted. O'Connell himself, as we have seen, declared that he would not accept Repeal if it were to be obtained with the assistance of such a people as the French, and on another occasion he proffered England Irish assistance in a conflict with the United States to pluck down the stripes and stars! That the Association should be free from sectarian controversy was a condition of its existence; but week after week harangues were delivered on the German Catholic Church, and the holy coat of Treves. Richard Scott, one of the most respectable men in the movement, an adherent of O'Connell from the Clare election down to that day, was asked by the Young Liberator 'how he dared' to come to the Association to remonstrate against the attacks on America as unwise and unnecessary.

"The move towards Whig- Radicalism greatly alarmed Smith O'Brien who counted on Tory adhesions. He wrote to Davis:—

"'Having received lately intimations of support of the Repeal cause from quarters in which I did not in the least expect to find it, I am doubly disappointed in rinding that the policy about to be adopted by the leaders of the Association is such as to destroy all my hopes of immediate progress.'

"Of the attack on America, Dillon wrote to Davis:—

"'In Dublin everybody is indignant at O'Connell meddling in the business. His talk about bringing down the pride of the American Eagle, if England would pay us sufficiently, is not merely foolish, but false and base. Such talk must be supremely disgusting to the Americans, and to every man of honour and spirit.'

"The effect of the mispolicy was speedy and signal in America. The Repeal Associations in Baltimore, New Orleans, and other cities were dissolved, and the native Press was furious against Irish ingratitude. But the attack on individual liberty outraged Dillon more than the blunders in public policy.

"'I have just read,' he wrote to Davis, 'with inexpressible disgust, the speech of John O'Connell, and the scene which followed between himself and Scott. It behoves you to consider very seriously whether the Nation is not bound to notice this matter. … My notion is that Scott has a right to protection, and that the public will, or ought to, feel indignant if this protection be withheld. The Nation could not possibly get a better opportunity of reading a longrequired lecture to Johnny. The immediate topic is one on which public opinion is universally against him. … [Mr. Scott, who was an old man long associated with O'Connell, and having no relation with the Young Irelanders, made a slight effort to pacify America by excluding from Conciliation Hall negro slavery, Texas, Oregon, and the whole range of Transatlantic questions upon which O'Connell and Mr. John O'Connell had been haranguing.] Can anything be more evident than the puerile folly of it? When the Americans were engaged in their own struggle only fancy one of their orators coming down to the Congress with a violent invective against the abuses of the French Government of the day. It is impossible latterly to bear with the insolence of this little frog. There is no man or country safe from his venom. If there be not some protest against him, he will set the whole world against us.'

"The most respectable of the recent recruits began to waver. Grey Porter had retired, and Hely Hutchinson declined to enter Parliament, though a southern county was offered to him. This was the condition of public affairs a few weeks after the question of the provincial colleges was forced upon the Repeal Association." [7]

The Northern tourists did not follow the ordinary track of travellers, but made a new one running from one historical site to another. We visited the rude little church of Dungannon, where the Volunteers had held their memorable Convention. It had got new aisles since '82; at that time it could not accommodate more than three hundred persons on the ground floor. There is no memorial of the great transaction of which it was the theatre. A few Volunteer flags would have been welcome. At Charlemont, now a mere hamlet, we visited the first fortified place which opened its gates to Sir Phelim O'Neill, afterwards the quarters of his illustrious kinsman, Owen Roe. The site is one of the most commanding in Ireland. Owen could survey nine counties from the battlements, and feast his eyes on the fertile plains of Armagh and the noble waters of Lough Neagh. We traversed the field of Benburb, where Owen completely overthrew the army of Munro and the Ulster Puritans. We knelt at the reputed grave of St. Patrick at Downpatrick, and visited the tomb of Thomas Russell, the Protestant patriot of '98. The reputed grave of the Irish Apostle is shamefully neglected. No monument, no railing, no cross, and the naked sod scratched into holes, doubtless by the piety of the poor people who love to carry a fragment of the clay to their homes. The tomb to the memory of Russell in the Protestant church was not erected by public spirit, but by the private affection of a woman, Miss M'Cracken, sister to his friend, Henry Joy M'Cracken. We made a détour to the graveyard where the first Presbyterian minister, hanged for his connection with the United Irishmen, sleeps in an old Dominican Abbey. I kept a diary of that journey, from which I shall only extract an account of the battle of Ballynahinch, the first battle Catholics and Presbyterians fought side by side for Ireland. It was furnished to us on the battlefield by one of the survivors named Innes:—

"The night before the engagement the insurgents were mustered on the Hill of Ednavady. The Presbyterians, who were greatly in the majority, commenced singing psalms which contained expressions offensive to the Catholics, and it was reported that Munro, the Commander, said they should have a Presbyterian Government, which gave great offence. Bullocks were roasted and whisky distributed, and the insurgents regaled themselves too plentifully. Dr. Swailes, one of the leaders, advised a night attack on the town, which was occupied by soldiers, but a spy discovered that they were not drunk, as had been reported, but on the alert, and that the yeomanry, some of whom were supposed to be friendly, were mixed with the regulars to keep them under control. About three o'clock in the morning the soldiers attacked the United Irishmen, and the battle continued to nine o'clock. A diversion made in the interest of the insurgents was very successful. A party entered the town by the rear of the houses and fired on the troops from the front windows; but they were finally dislodged. Ninety-eight dead bodies of insurgents were found on the field (a symbolical number it was thought), and about as many more were killed in the retreat. Munro was taken next day in the house of a man of his own party, still living, who was believed to have sold him to the enemy. I asked whether Munro wore any uniform. 'No,' Innes said, l he wore his ordinary dress during the battle, with the exception of a green cockade in his hat.' There was a green flag in the ranks, and the force was divided into companies under officers selected by Munro."

Finally, on an autumn evening, we entered Donegal, and paused before the lofty and impressive Castle of O'Donnell, Prince of Tyrconnell, where the Four Masters compiled their great historical collection. When we reached the hotel, weary with travel and exhausted with emotion, I found awaiting me a letter announcing a change for the worse in the health of my wife, and I had to turn my face immediately towards home, and travel night and day till it was reached. The alarm proved premature, and Davis urged me to rejoin my friends, but this was not to be thought of. A joint letter from the tourists speedily followed me:—

"Derry, August 22, 1845.

"My dear Duffy,—Yesterday, in Rathmelton, we received your letter, and were indeed delighted to find that the alarm about Mrs. Duffy was over. We have had a most delightful tour through Donegal, and only arrived here yesterday; but we missed you sadly. On Slieve League, at Dunlewy, at Horn Head, and wherever the earth and the heavens were grandest, we thought with regret that you should have been turned back from the very threshold of such glorious scenery, and by so melancholy a cause; but we shall meet again in Donegal, and end the tour another day. O'Hagan's journal ought to be good, for he spends a good deal of time writing it. He has turned out a capital mountaineer, and will tell you of strange passages that he and I have gone through amongst the hills: how we walked twenty-five miles through woods and morasses one day, and were at last benighted about fifteen miles from any shelter, in the midst of a pathless wood that stands now as wild and shaggy and savage, as it was one thousand years ago; how we struggled on all night, having fortunately moonlight, and not liking to lie down to sleep in the wood, inasmuch as we were wet to the bone; how, towards morning, we reached the hotel, weary, wet, and famished with hunger, &c., &c. In short, I have good hopes of making a tourist of him yet if he survive my instructions.

"Poor Martin has had a good deal of illness, but has pushed on gallantly. However, he was not out with us in the night adventure.

"I am hurrying home, and intend to be in Bannbridge on Tuesday, when I will work hard till I finish Aodh,[8] and will carefully refer to my index expurgatorius of Carlylish phrases.

"We got the Nation yesterday, and simultaneously asked each other which of us was the enthusiastic gentleman referred to in 'Answers to Correspondents,' who requires his letters to be addressed to the Merman of the Rosses, and Roaring Meg. We approve highly,all of us, of 'Our Correspondent's' account of the Enniskillen meeting, and disapprove of giving so much good language to the treacherous Evening Mail.

"The other two are going to complete this letter, and will doubtless give you some valuable information and instruction, which you will receive with high respect. Very truly yours,


"My dear Duffy, I must write my name upon this paper as one of the Co. of tourists. We have had delightful climbing of great wild mountains, and looking down over the brink of fearful sea-cliffs, and rambling through endless dismal wastes of moor and bare fields of rock, and among deep, silent, dark glens, where lie the mountain lakes, gloomy or placid—and we have heard the sullen roar of the Atlantic, and seen the long lines of foaming waves advancing in battle array, and like all the proud old armies of men rushing into oblivion. And we have viewed ruins dear to Irish hearts—seats of ancient learning, dwellings of Irish power and pride. And we have had great nights of ' tea and Sartor.' But our one great sorrow was that you were away. Still, it is most satisfactory that the alarm which recalled you was not well founded. When we meet we must have great talks over our adventures, and we will live in hope of a grand tour next year. O'Hagan journals at a great rate. I must leave room for him.—Sincerely yours,

"John Martin."


"My dear Duffy,—I have only got time and space left to assure you of my hearty joy that you found Mrs. D. so much better than we feared, at the same time the regret we all of us felt at losing your society, and your losing the glorious scenery of Donegal. No matter, it is well worth a summer to itself, and please God we will give it one again.

"I will try and make my journal as good as possible, but I greatly fear it is very stupid. Unlike Byron, 'Description's not my forte.' If my genius does not lie in that direction, where then does it lie? We are just about to start to see Royal Aileagh. To-morrow to Coleraine.—Your affectionate friend,

John O'Hagan."


As Davis vehemently resisted my proposal to resume work at -once, I spent a few days in Wicklow with a new friend recently arrived from America, Thomas D'Arcy M'Gee, of whom I shall have to speak presently. A note I sent to Davis tells how we employed our time:—

"We have established a personal acquaintance, almost a friendship, with all the glens of Wicklow, sunny Clara, gloomy Glendalough, soft Avoca, rugged and purple Glenmalure, the woody Downs, and dark Dunran. M'Gee is full of original thought and will be a serviceable recruit."

On the Northern excursion Mitchel read aloud the MS. of his volume for the Library of Ireland, and we found it spirited and graphic, but spoiled by many involuntary imitations of Thomas Carlyle. He promised to eradicate these blemishes, and while I was still in Wicklow he wrote me on the subject of the book:—

"Bannbridge, September 11, 1845.

"My dear Duffy,—I thought you were probably still in the county Wicklow, and yesterday I sent a Preface to Mr. Davis requesting him to look over it, and if he did not like it to alter it. There seems to be some importance attached to that part of a book (a part which I take leave to think wholly unnecessary), and one would not wish to disgust one's dear public with the first page. Will you take a look over it and make it right if you think it in any part wrong?

"As to the Carlylean phrase about Hugh na Gavelock, out with it by all means. I shall begin to hate the name of Thomas.

"I enclose a copy of an old letter which I found in the notes to the battle of Maghrath (it is also printed in the State Papers, Henry VIII.), which it struck me would be a desirable addition to the Appendix. If you think so, pray give it to the printer; it could be introduced by a note at page 8, where the numbers of the Ulster clansmen that composed O'Neill's army are specified. I send the note, if there be no room or it be otherwise inconvenient it can be well dispensed with.

"The reason I did not ask you to copy the letter of Essex for me is that I know you must be very much occupied, probably more than O'Hagan, and I was unwilling to trespass on your time. I am very much obliged to you for the attention you are giving to the bringing out of this book—the parturition of it. I need not say I wish it a safe delivery.

"I am sorry to hear Davis is ill. You, I hope, are now quite strong and able for your work. Yours very truly,

"J. Mitchel.

"I scorn to dedicate it to you or to Davis, lest you should think I wanted a handsome review in the Nation. Thomas O'Hagan has got a book dedicated to him already. John O'Hagan is a very young gentleman who 'writes poetry.' I can't bear to inscribe it with the name of any distinguished person, and on the whole will take John Martin."


I found when I returned to the Nation office that Mr. John O'Connell's industry had not been limited to the public affairs of the universe. He found time to sow suspicions of Thomas Davis as a dangerous, intriguing infidel, whose friends acquiesced in his dark designs. The young men in towns treated these rumours with contempt, but they made a serious impression on the Catholic clergy. Among a pious people irreligion is the most unpardonable of offences, and from this time rumours were circulated in many parts of the island that the Young Irelanders were the enemies of God and their country. Dillon wrote me from Mayo that Repeal was dead in that county, and that there was but one priest who was not unfriendly to the Nation, but that one, he added, was worth all the rest. Doheny sent a similar report from Tipperary, and bade me gauge the force of the popular sentiment by the fact that a doctor lost subscribers to his dispensary among the clergy because he would not give up the obnoxious journal. A few of the Repeal Reading Rooms were induced to abandon so dangerous a teacher, and it seemed certain that a sectarian controversy would spring up, in which ignorance and bigotry would be on one side, and intelligence and integrity on the other. More was done in a month in what was scoffingly called the Vice-Tribunate of John O'Connell, to lower the force and damage the character of the Repeal Party than ever had been done in twelve months to animate and elevate them.

To crown these troubles came suddenly without forecast or warning the heaviest stroke that could befall the young men or the unconscious country. Thomas Davis died after a week's illness.[9] By God's inscrutable providence it has often been the fate of Ireland to suffer the loss which nothing can compensate, the loss of the guiding mind. Brian fell while his soldiers were still hot with the triumph at Clontarf; Hugh O'Neill died in exile while his principality was being partitioned among strangers; Roger O' Moore died when the nation which he had awakened was on the threshold of its greatest conflict; Owen Roe died when he was leading the army which had conquered Munro at Benburb to encounter Cromwell, and now again the soul which inspired the new generation was suddenly withdrawn.

I passed from the deathbed of Davis to that of my young wife. In a moment the tender grace which sweetened life, and the manly friendship which fortified it, were gone. My closest intimates feared that my life was rendered for ever desolate, and perhaps barren. The language of Father Mathew represents the consensus of many friends:—


"Cork, September 28, 1845.

"My dearest Friend,—It is not to speak words of comfort, but to mingle my tears with yours, that I intrude on the privacy of your affliction. Your loss is complete and irreparable, and you must go sorrowing to your grave. I, too, have drunk deeply of the bitter cup, and can therefore sympathise in your bereavement. May the God of all consolation console you in this your great tribulation. To your ever to be lamented lady I had the pleasure to be introduced at Moira, and I rejoiced in the prospect of long and unalloyed happiness that your marriage with one so virtuous, so accomplished, so amiable, opened to your hopes. May God grant you grace so to live as to ensure you through Christ a blissful reunion with your beloved wife in the eternal world. Ever mindful of her and you in the Holy Sacrifice and in my humble prayer, I am, my dearest friend, your ever affectionate

"Theobald Mathew."

But the result was different. I found comfort in action and inspiration in the design to vindicate my friend's memory so insidiously assailed, and carry on his labours to their final issue.

  1. The Government promoted at this time a second prosecution, in which I was for a time the defendant. Father Davern, a notable Tipperary priest, charged Lord Hawarden with deliberately exterminating his Catholic tenantry, and gave the names and residences of some hundreds of tenants driven out of their holdings to perish. Lord Hawarden was a court official, and as he flatly denied the charge Sir Robert Peel required him to vindicate himself by the prosecution of his libeller. His solicitor wrote to me saying Lord Hawarden would gladly pass over the journal to reach the real offender, if he would acknowledge the authorship. I replied that the land system in Ireland wanted to be investigated, and I was ready for the inquiry. O'Connell, who knew that Father Davern was a man of great popular influence, intimated to him that if he was sure of his facts, the Repeal Association would undertake the defence, and Father Davern immediately announced himself as the author, and was accepted as defendant, and I heard no more of the case at that time.
  2. "Four Years of Irish History."
  3. "Young Ireland," bk. iii. chap. ii.
  4. Federalism, as it was then generally understood, meant little more than the creation of a Legislative Council, with fiscal powers somewhat in excess of the fiscal powers of a grand jury, but not authorised to deal with the greatest concerns of a nation—domestic and international trade, the land code, education, national defences, or the subsidies to religious denominations. "Young Ireland," bk. iii. chap. iii.

    A précis of the arguments employed may be borrowed from a former narrative. I denied the proposition that Federalism was better than Repeal as a national settlement, and contended that it was not better but worse:—

    "The Imperial Representation on which it is based is calculated to perpetuate our moral and intellectual subjection to England. It will teach the aristocracy still to turn their eyes to London as the scene of their ambition. It will continue to train them in English manners, feelings, and prejudices, and establish permanently a centre of action apart from their native country. By the same process it will plant deeper the evil of absenteeism. It will compel Lords and Commons to reside out of the country, and continue the drain upon our resources in which you found so strong an argument for Repeal."

    A share in the control of the Empire, I contended, was an inadequate compensation for accepting an Irish Legislature with shorn authority, for our minority in the Imperial Parliament would be as powerless hereafter as it was powerless at present to control the colonial policy of the Empire. It was, moreover, a settlement not less difficult to obtain; for while Repeal only contemplated the restoration of a Constitution which formerly existed in Ireland, Federalism raised a new and serious difficulty by necessitating a reconstruction of the Empire on a new basis, with local legislatures in each of the three kingdoms.

    I then urged, as courteously as I could, the delicate objection that Federalism, whatever were its merits, would not be promoted by his adopting it.

    "Federalism has undoubtedly the advantage of Repeal in one point it is less hated. Unionists have not been trained to regard it as a raw head and bloody bones. They look upon it with comparative calmness, and are certainly more likely to become reconciled to it than to Repeal. But it would not be in a better, but in a worse, condition for effecting this purpose if the National Party adopted it to a man. The Lords used to think it an excellent reason for rejecting measures that they were countenanced by O'Connell, and I fear party prejudice at home would treat Federalism in the same way. To be misunderstood and misrepresented is the progressive tax upon greatness, and since you are a millionaire you cannot complain of paying in proportion."

    I warned him that, even if Federalism were desirable, the way to create a party for it was not by identifying it with Repeal. The men mooting the question were men who always kept a day's march behind the people. If he had begun three years before by asking for Federalism they would be now speculating on "justice to Ireland" and the restoration of the Whigs; and if ever he fell back on their ground he would inevitably find it deserted; Federalism was the shadow of Repeal, he could not get nearer to it or farther from it. "Young Ireland," bk. iii. chap. iii.

  5. After the State Trials, when O'Connell's proposal to dissolve the Repeal Association was resisted, I suggested as a compromise that the journalists should retire from the Association, which was accepted, and there was now no editor on the committee.
  6. "Short Life of Thomas Davis." London: Fisher Unwin.
  7. "Short Life of Thomas Davis." London: Fisher Unwin.
  8. "The Life of Aodh O'Neill, Prince of Ulster," which he was writing for the Irish Library.
  9. The detailed story of that tragic event may be read in the "Short Life of Thomas Davis."