Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/299

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

perate lunatics who would burn down London—it is time for both sides to pause.

It is time for both England and Ireland to answer this question: Is it too late to be friends?

In the present hour of her calamity and grief, we say to England that she can steal the exultation out of Irishmen's hearts by granting the justice that they now ask, but will soon demand, from her. A hundred years ago, when she had to grant Ireland a free Parliament, the position of England was not so perilous as it is now, nor had the Irish people then one tenth of their present strength.

One magnanimous statesman in England, one leader with the courage and wisdom of genius, would solidify the British Empire to-day with a master stroke of politics. He would abolish the Union, and leave Ireland as she stood eighty-five years ago, a happy, free, confederated part of the Empire.

Such a policy would silence the dynamiters and radicals, satisfy and gratify the Irish people throughout the world, strengthen the British Empire, and make America thoroughly sympathetic. There are twenty million people in the United States who as kindred feel the rise and fall of the Irish barometer; and the policy of America must largely respond to their influence in the future.

It is only a question of a few years till Ireland obtains all that she now asks, and more, without England's consent. Nothing can stop the wave of Irish nationality that is now moving. At the first rattle of the conflict in India or Europe, Ireland's action may mean the ruin or salvation of the British Empire.

England may think that an offer of friendship from her would now come too late. She knows her own earning in Ireland, and may well doubt that her bloody hand would be taken in amity by the people she has so deeply wronged. But let her offer. She is dealing with a generous and proud and warm-hearted race. We know the Irish people; we gauge their hatred and measure their hope; and we profoundly believe that the hour is not yet too late for England to disarm and conquer them by the greatness of her spirit, as she has never been able to subdue them by the force of her armies.

Again, a fortnight later, he wrote, "It is not too late," expressing his belief that the people of England were even more ready for the word of peace than those of Ireland, only that the selfishness of their rulers stood in the way. "Send an olive branch to Ireland, Mr. Gladstone," he said, "before it is too late. Let the end of a great life become sublime in the history of Great Britain and Ireland by a