Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/320

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by his forcible presentation of an industrial question, behind which lay the ruling aspiration of his life—the welfare of his native land.

To make a paradox, those who knew him best thought they knew him least when, as constantly happened, he surprised them anew by some fresh revelation of his wonderful versatility. "He is a poet, a dreamer," said the prosaic people, impatient when his honesty stood like a stone wall before this or that political scheme. "He talks eloquently of Ireland's sufferings," said others; "but what has he to say about Ireland's real needs?" He had this to say, and when he said it before the Beacon Club of Boston, shrewd, practical business men that they were, they listened entranced to his masterly, sensible plea, couched in the language of cold truth.

The occasion was the regular monthly dinner of the club at the Revere House, on Saturday, February 21, 1886; his subject: "The Industrial and Commercial Aspects of the Irish Question."

I was asked to speak on a question which has no fun in it. However much humor there may be attached to the general characteristics of my countrymen, there is nothing but tragedy connected with the industrial and commercial questions of Ireland. The general view of Ireland and the Irish question is relegated to the sentimental. In truth, it is one of the most material and practical of questions. Very few men take the trouble of questioning the statement that has been given to the world by the interested party for 100 or 200 years. The statement has been made that the Irish people are simply a troublesome, purposeless, quarrelsome people, who could not govern themselves if they had an opportunity. That is the tribute which injustice pays in all cases to morality. If a man injure another man he must also injure his character, in order to stand well in the community, to justify his own action, for if he did not, his fellow-men would drive him out. England has injured the Irish people with a set purpose, and also injured their industrial and commercial interests. The sentimental question is simply the natural desire of men to rule their own country and make their own laws. The Greeks were applauded in London the other day when they said: "We want to work out the Greek purpose among Greeks." The Greeks are no more a distinct nationality than the Irish. A fight that has gone on 750 years between a weak