Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/42

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prepared a splendid performance, with a stage erected in the back parlor, and an audience of little children, with one or two older friends from the Guardian office.

This happy, tranquil, care-free life, eminently congenial to the poet, did not satisfy the aspirations of the youth who was much more than a poet. Nevertheless, it was with many a heartache and some tears that he obeyed a call from his father to return home on the expiration of his term of apprenticeship, and seek employment on some Irish paper. There was something besides filial obedience impelling him when he left Preston, forever, about the end of March, 1863. He had become deeply imbued with the revolutionary principles, then so freely adopted by patriotic Irishmen in all parts of the world. He dreamed of making his country free—not merely independent of the British connection, but absolutely free—in short, a republic.

The Fenian movement was the crystallization of national discontent and aspiration for liberty, which had remained latent, but not dead, ever since the disastrous rising of 1798. O'Connell had failed to secure the repeal of the Union through agitation. The brilliant and daring spirits of "Young Ireland" had appealed to force, in 1848. Nothing came of it but defeat and humiliation. Irish orators have fervently characterized the condition of their countrymen as one of slavery. The phrase is unjust and misleading. The slave-master has a personal, selfish interest in the welfare of his bondman. The death of a slave means pecuniary loss to his owner; the escape of one is something to be prevented at any cost. It is business policy to keep the unpaid worker well and strong. Unfortunately for the wretched people of Ireland they were not slaves. When they died by thousands in the dark year of famine, when they fled the country by millions in the following years, their masters were unmoved by the one calamity; they rejoiced at the other. The vacant places were filled less expensively than by purchase at the auction-block. The sharp goad of hunger sent its victims to the human mart more surely than the slave-driver's whip. And political