The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
Protests from the Audience
Protests from the Audience.
Mr. Bradlaugh: Will you permit me to say that any Englishman who thinks that I have gone too far, any Irishman who thinks I have not gone far enough, anyone who questions the truth of any one of my statements, has now not only the most perfect right but the most wholesome duty to rise and object. If he thinks I am not right, he either knows why or he does not know why. If he knows why, he should speak so as to testify that I am not deceiving others; if he does not know why, I shall be happy to explain. (Great cheering.) After the cheering had subsided, a gentleman in the centre of the hall addressed the speaker as follows: "As an Irishman I believe my first duty is to thank Mr. Bradlaugh for the able and eloquent manner in which he has treated the question of Irish rights, and also I must beg to differ from him on some points. I look at the connexions of Ireland with England for the last 700 years, and I see how they have been fraught with so much mischief and misery to Irishmen. I look on them as two partners, and after the continuation of the partnership one, being more powerful, took advantage of its weaker partner and robbed him every day until he bled him of the last drop he had, and he then said: "I shall page 47 divide this establishment into three parts. I shall give you a third part, still holding control over you"; and that would be the consequence in any union that may continue between England and Ireland. I admit that England will be a Republic; but that Republic might act like many Republics which now exists. Behold bleeding Cuba! Cuba crushed by the Republic of Spain! I do not want any further connexion with England. I would like to see laws offensive and defensive existing between the two countries; but never, never again, I hope, will it be thought in the minds of Irishmen that they can get along with Englishmen as amicable partners. There must be a total separation of Ireland from England before an Irishman can be satisfied. No speech I have ever heard delivered has convinced me more of that fact, than the one I have heard to-night by one of the best English Republicans who ever appeared on the American platform. I am no stranger to Mr. Bradlaugh. I was fighting the battle of labor against capital; he also was fighting that right, against, probably, the mightiest power in Europe; and if there is any gentleman in England who has had my sympathy more than another it is Mr. Bradlaugh, for his boldness in daring the British Govornment at home. When the men of 1866-1867—whom some might call misguided—were breathing out their lives in British dungeons, and when Irish orators failed to interest themselves in their behalf, Mr. Bradlaugh called a meeting in Trafalgar Square for the purpose of speaking on injustice to Ireland and on the imprisonment of the Fenians; and the action of the meeting on that occasion helped the prisoners more than anything that had ever been done before. I hope Mr. Bradlaugh will get a warm reception from my countrymen throughout the length and breadth of America, and I hope that such a keen observer as he will be able to judge of the difference between the masses of the people here and in the old countries.
Mr. Bradlaugh: I shall most certainly fail in my effort to unite Irishmen and Englishmen, if all Irishmen conscientiously hold the view that our friend, who has spoken so kindly of me, has put forward. If separation is the only possibility, then I tell you, Irishmen, you could only win with the sword. There is no other way, and in that event I am afraid that I should conceive it to be my duty to be your enemy.
A voice: We thank you for your honorable declaration.
Mr. Bradlaugh continued to argue that separation could page 48 only be won by the sword at a time of England's weakness, and that would be a cowardly fashion.
Another gentleman questioned Mr. Bradlaugh's assertion that the man who fought for separation was not a patriot, and asked were Washington and the revolutionary heroes, and Emmet and the '98 men, heroes or murderers. There never could be a federation with England—there should be a total severance.
Mr. Bradlaugh replied that there was a distinction between Washington and his compatriots and the Irish heroes, inasmuch as the former fought against an infringement of their liberties, while the Irishmen fought for separation when they had no such excuse.
An English volunteer asked if it was believed that Mr. Froude, who had been so often alluded to, had come to America as an agent of the Government.
Mr. Bradlaugh answered: "Decidedly not". He believed that Mr. Froude had come on his own motion as much as he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had done.
An American asked why Ireland had not the same right to independence that America had. Mr. Bradlaugh said that he had never denied such right. But, first, the majority of Irishmen in Ireland did not wish for independence. The volunteer denied this, and said that we in this country have as correct sources of information as they had in England. Mr. Bradlaugh answered that more than 200,000 Irishmen had met in various parts of Ireland, and had given most decided expression to their opposition to an attempt to obtain independence.
The meeting closed.
There may be some difference of opinion honestly held, even amongst Irishmen, as to whether separation would be better for Ireland or not. Mr. Bradlaugh thought that it would not be for the better, and frankly said so. But whether or not, it will over remain a black mark against the Irish party that they have, with few exceptions, spoken and voted against the man who had thus eloquently pleaded against the wrongs which they are sent to Parliament to redress. After such pleading, however, I think words of mine are simply out of place, and will therefore conclude by once more asking: Does it read like the utterance of an enemy of Ireland; and, does Charles Bradlaugh merit the treatment which he has received at the hands of the Irish National party?"