Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/167

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
129
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

resented by every man of the Irish race as an insult. "He's a friend to an Irishman!" The poor, helpless Irishman! The man who is not allowed to vote; the man who can't look after his affairs; the man who has not sense to judge who is the best man to be elected; in a word, the poor, blind foreigner, who stands all alone with every man's hand against him, is expected to rally to this call, and support the man who is "a friend to an Irishman!" What does it mean, this worn-out rant?

Are we debarred from equality? Have we not got the ballot? Have we not got reason enough to judge as American citizens what American citizen we should vote for? There are certain men to whom this character is commonly given, and with some justice. In the days of old bad feeling, when we were not so strong that we could walk entirely alone, we did want friends, and the men who showed the brotherly feeling then should not be forgotten now. But the idea of allowing every new candidate for office, every raw youth from the country, every cunning fellow who aspires to anything, between the offices of President of the United States and that of policeman, to bid for the Irish vote by sending it out in large letters, "He's a friend to an Irishman," is simply an insult, and should be resented accordingly.

There was need just then of a public censor like this young man, who had no selfish or political ends to gain, and who struck boldly and untiringly at everything openly or secretly inimical to the welfare of his race. He broke no lances against wind-mills. When he saw an abuse, he attacked it with all his might, and never abandoned the fight until the abuse was ended. The "comic" Irishman of stage and novel was mercilessly criticised by him, at the same time that he recognized where the responsibility primarily lay. "We do not dream," he said, in speaking of a particularly offensive performance by a troop of so-called "Hibernian Minstrels," "that the people who have established them will remove them; these people are too ignorant or too selfish. But they depend on the public,—and the Irish-American public,—for support. Let us laugh at the good-natured attempts of Englishmen or Americans to portray Irish humorous character; but if we want to see the truth, let us do it ourselves and do it truthfully. But this copying of the worst attempts of people who do not understand the Irish character, and this exaggeration by our own people of the most offensive misrepresentations of