Page images
PDF
EPUB

1843]

REPEAL ASSOCIATION

311

We have, indeed, a picture of O'Connell at one of these Repeal meetings from the pen of a distinguished English writer.1

Once to my sight the giant thus was given,
Walled by wide air, and roofed by boundless heaven :
Beneath his feet the human ocean lay,
And wave on wave flowed into space away.
Me thought no clarion could have sent its sound
E'en to the centre of the hosts around;
And, as I thought, rose the sonorous swell,
As from some church tower swings the silvery bell ;
Aloft, and clear from airy tide to tide
It glided easy as a bird may glide.
To the last verge of that vast audience sent,
It played with each wild passion as it went :
Now stirred the uproar-now the murmur stilled,
And sobs of laughter answered as it willed.
Then did I know what spells of infinite choice
To rouse or lull has the sweet human voice.'

But one of the most remarkable features in the Repeal movement was the creation of a new Irish party, whose teachings were destined to revolutionise the thought of the country.

In 1842, three young men-Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Osborne Davis and John Blake Dillon — founded a newspaper in Dublin to advocate the cause of Repeal, and to preach the doctrine of Irish nationality; to unite all classes and creeds in a single effort for the public weal; to obliterate the very memories of racial and religious dissension, and to sink all other distinctions in the common name and common faith of Irishmen. The paper was

i Lord Lytton.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

called the Nation. Duffy became the editor ; Davis his famous colleague. But soon both men-Duffy the 'brain,' and Davis the 'spirit of the enterprise--gathered around them a galaxy of brilliant writers, whose articles, essays, poems breathed a new soul into Ireland. The young men worked with O'Connell, but not under him. He had said on a memorable occasion, that 'all sublunary blessings' were 'too dearly purchased at the expense of a single drop of human blood.' They revolted at the doctrine, and believed that where argument failed the sword should be used. O'Connell's motto was ‘Justice to Ireland, or Repeal of the Union.' The motto of the Nation was ‘Repeal of the Union, or Separation. The young men, who came to be called the Young Ireland Party,' gradually drew away from O'Connell, and slowly but steadily drifted towards revolution. O'Connell saw the flow of the tide, and said, 'An outbreak will, sooner or later, be the consequence of the present afflicted state of Ireland. While I live, that outbreak will not take place; but sooner or later, if the Irish parliament is not restored, the day will come when England will rue her present policy in tears of blood.'

The Young Irelanders' at length developed into a Separatist party. "What is the tone of the new paper ?' a witty lawyer was asked some time after the establishment of the Nation. He answered 'Wolfe Tone.' And, indeed, the name of the great Irish rebel, which had never been pronounced by O'Connell, was recalled by the Nation, and held up for admiration and

[ocr errors]

1844]

TRIAL OF O'CONNELL

313

reverence.

In the end a breach occurred between O'Connell and Young Ireland,' and the result

was disastrous to the national

cause.

Meanwhile the English minister resolved to strike a blow at the Repeal movement. A great Repeal meeting was fixed to take place at Clontarf on October 8, 1843. On the very night before the meeting was proclaimed by the lord-lieutenant. O'Connell, to the disgust of the 'Young Ireland' party, obeyed the proclamation, and instantly issued orders to stop the people who were even then preparing to move forward to Clontarf from various parts of the country. No meeting took place. The people quietly obeyed O'Connell, for it was not in the power of the government of itself to arrest their progress without bloodshed.

About a week after the proclamation of the Clontarf meeting, O'Connell and a number of his colleagues, including the ‘Young Ireland' leader, Gavan Duffy, were arrested, and on the 16th of January 1844 placed upon their trial in Dublin on a charge of seditious conspiracy

The trial was one of the most remarkable on record — remarkable for the display of forensic ability which it called forth remarkable for the scandalous injustice which marked its progress at every stage. The bench was packed, the jury were packed, and the vast resources of the Crown were used with unscrupulous dexterity to secure a conviction. 'Next morning,' says Sir Gavan Duffy, writing of the way in which the trial had

been arranged, “it was known throughout the United Kingdom, and speedily known over Europe and America, that the most eminent Catholic in the empire-a man whose name was familiar to every educated Catholic in the world—was about to be placed upon his trial in the Catholic metropolis of a Catholic country before four judges and twelve jurors among whom there was not a single Catholic.' Of course O'Connell and his colleagues were convicted, and in due course (May 1844) sentenced to fine and imprisonment. The trial was afterwards (September 1844) reviewed by the House of Lords, on the appeal of O'Connell and his friends, and condemned by that assembly, Lord Denman denouncing it as a mockery, a delusion and a snare.' The conviction was squashed, and O'Connell and the repealers were, after a few months' imprisonment, set free.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ND now a great calamity befell

the land and broke the heart of O'Connell. Since the Union the agricultural population of Ireland had been in a state of destitution. 'Irish destitution,' said Gustave de Beaumont, a

French writer, in 1837, 'forms a genus apart; it is like no other destitution. There were constantly recurring periods of distress; there was sometimes famine; and the peasantry were always on the verge of pauperism.

The chief industry, indeed almost the only industry, was the land, and the land system

fatal to the prosperity and even to the comfort of the tenants. The landlords

[graphic]

was

6

« PreviousContinue »