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THE IRISH DISTURBANCE BILL.
I am well aware that, generally speaking, citations from the writers of antiquity are little applicable to our system of government and our code of morality. The opinions of men who lived two thousand years ago have little weight; but there is a passage with reference to the morality of the ballot, in a speech of the great Athenian, which I have never seen quoted, so forcible and so true that I shall be excused for adverting to it:
If,” says Demosthenes, in his speech on the False Embassy, addressing an assembly of five hundred judges who were to vote by ballot, if there be any man here sufficiently unfortunate to have been betrayed into a corrupt engagement to vote against his conscience and his country, let him bear in mind that to the fulfillment of that promise he is not bound ; that those with whom he has entered into that profligate undertaking will have no cognizance of its performance, but that there is a divinity above us who will take cognizance of his thoughts, and know whether he shall have fulfilled that duty to his country which is paramount
other obligation. Your vote is secret. You have nothing to apprehend; for safety is secured to you by the wisest regulation which your lawgivers ever yet laid down."
To all times and to all countries the principle thus powerfully expressed is appropriate. A dishonorable contract is void, and to the discharge of a great trust impunity should be secured. The franchise, you often tell us, is a trust granted; but for whom ? If for the proprietor of the soil, if for the benefit of the landlord, if it is in him indeed that the beneficial interest is vested, by all means let the vote be public, and let the real owner of the vote have the fullest opportunity of knowing with what fidelity the offices of servitude have been performed; but if the franchise is a trust for the benefit of the community, and if the publicity of its exercise conduces to its violation, then, in the name of common consistency, do not insist upon our adherence to that system of voting by which the object you have, or ought to have, most of all at heart, is so manifestly counteracted.
I do not rise to fawn or cringe to this house; I do not rise to supplicate you to be merciful towards the nation to which I belong - towards a nation which, though subject to England, yet is distinct from it. It is a distinct nation. It has been treated as such by this country, as may be proved by history, and by seven hundred years of tyranny. I call upon this house, as you value
the liberty of England, not to allow the present nefarious bill to pass. In it are involved the liberties of England, the liberty of the press, and of every other institution dear to Englishmen.
Against the bill I protest in the name of the Irish people, and in the face of heaven. I treat with scorn the puny and pitiful assertions that grievances are not to be complained of, that cur redress is not to be agitated; for, in such cases, remonstrances can not be too strong, agitation can not be too violent, to show to the world with what injustice our fair claims are met, and under what tyranny the people suffer.
There are two frightful clauses in this bill. The one which does away with trial by jury, and which I have called upon you to baptize. You call it a court-martial a mere nickname; I stigmatize it as a revolutionary tribunal. What, in the name of heaven, is it, if it is not a revolutionary tribunal ? It annihilates the trial by jury; it drives the judge from his bench, who, from experience, could weigh the nice and delicate points of a case; who could discriminate between the straightforward testimony and the suborned evidence; who could see, plainly and readily, the justice or injustice of the accusation. It turns out this man, who is free, unshackled, unprejudiced, who has no previous opinions to control the clear exercise of his duty. You do
away with that which is more sacred than the throne itself;
that for which your king reigns, your lords deliberate, your commons assemble.
If ever I doubted before of the success of our agitation for repeal, this bill, this infamous bill, the way in which it has been received by the house, the manner in which its opponents have been treated, the personalities to which they have been subjected, the yells with which one of them has this night been greeted, all these things dissipate my doubts, and tell me of its complete and early triumph. Do you think those yells will be forgotten? Do you suppose their echo will not reach the plains of my injured and insulted country?—that they will not be whispered in her green valleys, and heard from her lofty hills ? O, they will be heard there ; yes, and they will not be forgotten! The youth of Ireland will bound with indignation; they will say, "We are eight millions; and you treat us thus, as though we were no more to your country than the isle of Guernsey or of Jersey !
I have done my duty. I stand acquitted to my conscience and my country. I have opposed this measure throughout; and I now protest against it as harsh, oppressive, uncalled for, unjust; as establishing an infamous precedent by retaliating crime against crime; as tyrannous, cruelly and vindictively tyrannous.
THE LICENSE OF OPPOSITION.
XXI.-- THE LICENSE OF OPPOSITION.
GENTLEMEN, all power is, or ought to be, accompanied by responsibility. Tyranny is irresponsible power. This definition is equally true, whether the power be lodged in one or many; whether in a despot, exempted by the form of government from the control of the law; or in a mob, whose numbers put them beyond the reach of law. Idle, therefore, and absurd, to talk of freedom where a mob domineers! Idle, therefore, and absurd, to talk of liberty, when you hold your property, perhaps your life, not indeed at the nod of a despot, but at the will of an inflamed, an infuriated populace!
I trust there are few, very few, reasonable and enlightened men ready to lend themselves to projects of confusion. But I confess I very much wish that all who are not ready to do so would consider the ill effect of any countenance given, publicly or by apparent implication, to those whom, in their hearts and judgments, they despise. I remember that most excellent and able man, Mr. Wilberforce, once saying, in the House of Commons, that he never believed an opposition really to wish mischief to the country; that they only wished just so much mischief as might drive their opponents out, and place themselves in their room.
Now, gentlemen, I can not help thinking that there are some persons tampering with the question of reform something in the sanıe spirit. They do not go so far as the reformers; they even state irreconcilable differences of opinion; but to a certain extent they agree, and even coöperate with them. They coöperate with them in inflaming the public feeling, not only against the government, but against the support given by Parliament to that government, in the hope, no doubt, of attracting to themselves the popularity which is lost to their opponents, and thus being enabled to correct and retrieve the errors of a displaced administration.
Vain and hopeless task, to raise such a spirit and then to govern it! They may stimulate the steeds into fury, till the chariot is hurried to the brink of a precipice, but do they flatter themselves that they can then leap in, and, hurling the incompetent driver from his seat, check the reins just in time to turn from the precipice, and avoid the fall? I fear they would attempt it in vain. The impulse, once given, may be too impetuous to be controlled; and, intending only to change the guidance of the machine, they may hurry it and themselves to irretrievable destruction.
In reply to Lord Lyndhurst (1837), who had stigmatized the Irish as aliens.
THERE is a man of great abilities not a member of this house, but whose talents and boldness have placed him in the topmost place in his party — who has been heard to speak of the Irish as * aliens.” Disdaining all imposture, and abandoning al} reserve, he distinctly and audaciously tells the Irish people that they are not entitled to the same privileges as Englishmen; that they are “aliens.” Aliens ? Good heavens! Was Arthur, Duke of Wellington, in the House of Lords, and did he not start up and exclaim, “ Hold! I have seen the aliens do their duty!” The “ battles, sieges, fortunes that he has passed,” ought to have come back
him. He ought to have remembered that, from the earliest achievement in which he displayed that military genius which has placed him foremost in the annals of modern warfare, down to that last and surpassing combat, which has made his name imperishable, — from Assaye to Waterloo, — the Irish soldiers, with whom your armies are filled, were the inseparable auxiliaries to the glory with which his unparalleled successes have been crowned.
Whose were the arms that drove your bayonets at Vimiéra through the phalanxes that never reeled in the shock of war before? What desperate valor climbed the steeps and filled the moats of Badajos ?* All, all his victories should have rushed and crowded back upon his memory; Vimiéra, Badajos, Salamanca, Albue'ra, Toulouse ; and, last of all, the greatest Tell me, for you were there, - I appeal to the gallant soldier before me (Sir Henry Hardinge), who bears, I know, a generous heart in an intrepid breast ; - tell me, for you must needs remem
on that day, when the destinies of mankind were trembling in the balance, while death fell in showers; when the artillery of France, leveled with the precision of the most deadly science, played upon them ; when her legions, incited by the voice, inspired by the example, of their mighty leader, rushed again and again to the onset, - tell me if, for an instant, when to hesitate for an instant was to be lost, the “ aliens” blenched! And when, at length, the moment for the last decisive movement had arrived ; when the valor, so long wisely checked, was at last let loose; when with words familiar, but immortal, the great captain commanded the great assault, tell me if Catholic Ireland with less heroic valor than the natives of your own glorious isle precipitated herself upon the foe! The blood of England, Scotland,
* Pronounced Bad'a-hös.
JUSTICE TO EAST INDIANS.
Ireland, flowed in the same stream, drenched the same field. When the chill morning dawned, their dead lay cold and stark together; in the same deep pit their bodies were deposited; the green corn of spring is now breaking from their commingled dust; the dew falls from heaven upon their union in the grave! Partakers in every peril, in the glory shall we not be permitted to participate ? — and shall we be told, as a requital, that we are estranged from the noble country for whose salvation our lifeblood was poured out ?
XXIII. THE LOVE OF POPULARITY. The honorable gentleman who opened the debate on the other side of the house, on the first day of this lengthened discussion, was pleased to ask me, in terms of great civility and kindness, whether I do not love popularity. Sir, I am not insensible to the good opinion of honorable men, such as he who put to me this question. I am not insensible to the good will of an enlightened community. The man who disregards it is not worthy to hold a high official station in a country which boasts a popular constitution.
I have encountered too many of the vicissitudes of public life, not to know how to meet censures which I am conscious I do not deserve. On the other hand, I desire to retain popularity ; but I would hold it honorably, or not at all. “ Laudo manentem ;' or, to use the more beautiful paraphrase of Dryden :
“I can applaud her, — when she's kind ;
But when she dances in the wind,
I puff the runagate away.” Yes, sir, I love, I covet, I enjoy popularity ; but I will not court it by the surrender of my conscientious judgment, or by the sacrifice of my settled opinions.
XXIV. – JUSTICE TO EAST INDIANS. Sir, are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive ? Or do we think we can give them knowledge without awakening ambition ? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent ? Who will answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative by every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives