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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Orators of Ireland

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The Orators of Ireland.

Mr. Napier, who was received with great applause, said.—

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,—

The theme upon which I venture to address you this evening is one which is calculated to evoke the warmest feelings of the Irish heart, and to recall some of the most sorrowful and withal inspiring episodes in the tragic history of the Emerald Isle. For to fitly discourse of the Orators of Ireland would be to speak of the real life of Ireland, to feel the pulsations of her heart, her passions, her joys, her griefs, her pride, her valour, her humiliations, her hopes and despair, her constancy to ideals, in a word it would be to pourtray the national organism as it existed through centuries of time, and to tell the story of its existence. D'Alembert, the French philosopher, says that "the prodigies worked by eloquence in the hands of a single man upon an entire nation are perhaps the most shining testimony of the superiority of one man over another," and surely never was a nation more influenced by the magic wand of the orator than Ireland. For many hundreds of years the Irish were compelled to rely upon oral speech as their only means of receiving both religious and political instruction, and newspapers were almost unknown, while books when they were not proscribed by alien laws were, because of their great cost, entirely out of the reach of the masses of the people. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Irish people reverenced the power of eloquent speech, and rallied round the pulpit, and the forum of the orator, with a fervour and enthusiasm which has never been surpassed. In ancient history there are similar instances of the great influence possessed by orators in moulding the national life of a people. The intellectual Greek citizens received their culture by oral speech from the philosophers in the sacred groves of the Academy, and by witnessing the dramas of Æschylus and Sophocles upon the civic stage. The philippics of Demosthenes almost unaided kept liberty alive in Athens for a generation, while in Rome the fame of the orator out-shone that of the greatest warriors. Tacitus, speaking in one of his dialogues of the reputation enjoyed by a distinguished public speaker in Koine, says, "Look through the circle of the fine arts, survey the whole compass of the sciences, and tell me in what branch can the Professors acquire a name to vie with the celebrity of a groat and powerful orator. He is the model which every parent recommends page 4 to his children. The provinces resound with his praise. Foreign nations court his friendship. The powerful orator has no occasion to solicit preferment, the offices of praetor and consul stand open to him;" In Ireland, too, it might be truly said that though she has had no offices of praetor and consul, or their modern equivalents, to offer to her eloquent sons, yet her applause and affections have been most generously lavished in every age upon her gifted orators, and their names are cherished with a love which is enhanced rather than diminished by time. There are many of the class of laudatores temporisacti who think that Ireland has had a golden age of oratory, and that outside of a certain sharply defined period no brilliant speak has been produced. With this view I am unable to agree. It is true that, the stirring events at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the present century called forth in Ireland a galaxy of orators, whose names have worthily become illustrious, but even the most brilliant performances of that period have certainly been equalled it later times, and there are men now living in Ireland, and some of them representing her in the Imperial [unclear: Senace], whose speeches, either for forceful reasoning or brilliant declamation or invective, could not be excelled by the choicest examples of the eloquence of past generations. (Cheers.) To even glance instructively at the long roll of Ireland's mighty orators, whose fame is embalmed in the history of their country, would be a task that would require more time than even a series of lectures would occupy. I must, therefore, content myself with a cursory review of some of the most famous in modern times, and endeavour by some short extracts from their speeches to illustrate their magic power over their fellow-men.

There can be no doubt that eloquent speech finds its most congenial nursery amidst free peoples, and that in despotically governed countries the art of oratory, if it exist at all, is stunted and blighted by the absence of those arenas for its cultivation which exist among nations where the seat of power is with the general body of the people. Though this is so as a general rule, there are instances where some of the most oppressed nations have produced brilliant orators, even in the periods of their deepest adversity, and assuredly Ireland is one of these, for though subjected to the iron rule of an intolerant bureaucracy, for nearly a hundred years since the extinction of her Parliament, there has never been in the history of any country in a similar period such a host of men who have achieved world-wide fame by their capacity for brilliant oratorical speech. Indeed, the greatest embarrassment of one who essays to treat of Ireland's orators, is to find a starting-point chronologically, and to make a selection of names, But I think that on this occasion I cannot do amiss if I take as the commencement of my period that glorious year when Ireland's complete legislative independence was declared and made manifest, viz. 1782, nor, I venture to say, shall I incur your censure if the first of Ireland's orators of whom I shall speak is the founder and sponsor of that independence—the eloquent, illustrious, and never to be forgotten Henry Grattan. (Applause.)

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Henry Grattan was born in Dublin, on the 3rd of July, 1746. His father, James Grattan, was for many years Recorder of Dublin, and was one of the representatives of that city in Parliament from 1761 to 1766. His mother was a daughter of Chief Justice Marlay, and was of Norman descent. Grattan received his early education first from a teacher named Ball, in Great Ship Street, Dublin, and subsequently from a Mr. Young, in Abbey Street. He entered Trinity College in 1763, and was a fellow student and intimate of many young men who afterwards attained to great eminence in the State. In 1767 he became a law student at the Middle Temple, London, and while reading, or rather, as it was in those days, "eating" his way to the Bar, he used to frequent the House of Lords, and listen to the speeches of Pitt, Earl of Chatham, who was at that time electrifying the country with his eloquence. At this time Grattan became intensely poetical, and he was accustomed to ramble through Windsor Forest on moonlight nights composing sonnets. He devoted also many laborious hours to practising extempore speaking. This habit sometimes led to ludicrous results. It is related that his landlady in London wrote to Grattan's friends requesting that they should remove him, and look after him, as she believed he was wrong in his mind, owing to the fact that he was always rambling about the garden and shouting out to some imaginary person, whom he called "Mr. Speaker." (Laughter.) Mr. Justice Day records an anecdote of Grattan at this period of a somewhat amusing character. He says Grattan was wandering one moonlight night in Windsor Forest, when he encountered a gibbet. He stopped before it and began in eloquent tones to apostrophise the gruesome instrument, when suddenly he was startled by being tapped upon his shoulder by a prosaic pedestrian, who inquired "How the devil did you get down?" (Laughter). One of the circumstances in Grattan's life which probably had most to do with moulding his character, and shaping his career, was his acquaintance with Henry Flood, whom he met at the house of his sister, Mrs. Bushe, in Kilkenny. Flood was at this time probably the most famous man in Ireland, being the greatest Parliamentary leader that had appeared, up till that time, in Irish history. He was the champion of Irish legislative independence, and there can be no doubt that it was his great reputation that first roused Grattan to devote himself assiduously to the study of politics. Grattan entered Parliament in 1775, as member for the Borough of Charlemont, which was a pocket borough of Lord Charlemont. At this time Flood was moderating his opposition to the Government, and preparing to take office. From the moment of his entrance into the Irish House of Commons, Grattan began seriously to meditate upon the best means of rendering the Irish Parliament independent of the British Government. The Volunteers had arisen about 1777, and were becoming a highly efficient and disciplined force. In 1779 Grattan moved an amendment to the Address-in-Reply, in favour of free-trade, and a motion couched in more positive terms on the same I subject by Hussey Burgh, was unanimously adopted. On the 19th page 6 of April, 1780, Grattan moved his celebrated "Declaration of Irish Eight," in a speech which dazzled and aroused the whole country. He immediately became the idol of the people. The nation responded to his call for a national spirit. On February the 15th, 1782, the Volunteers held their historic meeting at Dungannon, when a resolution drafted by Grattan was passed as follows:—"Resolved, that a claim of any body of men other than the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland, to make laws to bind this kingdom is unconstitutional, illegal, and a grievance." (Cheers.) They also passed at this meeting another resolution, to the following effect:—"Resolved, that we hold the right of private judgment in matters of religion, to be equally sacred in others as well as ourselves; that we rejoice in the relaxation of the Penal Laws against our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, and that we conceive the measure to be fraught with the happiest consequences to the union and prosperity of the inhabitants of Ireland." (Cheers.) The great epoch-making day,—the 16th of April, 1782,—found Grattan full of enthusiasm for his appointed task, but physically debilitated through three years of overwork and excitement. He moved his resolutions affirming the Independence of the Irish Parliament, in a speech which even the patriot's enemies acknowledged was distinguished "for its fire, sublimity, and immense reach of thought." Lord Charlemont said, in reference to it, "If ever spirit could be said to act independent of body, it was on that occasion." Grattan's resolutions were carried by a large majority, and were subsequently meekly accepted by the English Ministry, led by Mr. Fox. At the time he accomplished this great revolution in the political status of Ireland, Grattan was only 36 years old, and his fame had spread throughout the length and breadth of Europe. In return for his services to the cause of Ireland, Parliament voted him a grant of £100,000, but though a man of the most modest means he declined the proffered gift. Later on, however, he was prevailed upon to accept one-half the amount. Grattan's eloquence was peculiarly of the kind to rouse a nation to revolutionary ardour. His oratory has been described as "a combination of cloud, whirlwind, and flame" but nevertheless his speeches lack not the qualities of the finished and persuasive debater. Lord Brougham says, "No orator of his age is his equal in the easy and copious flow of most profound, sagacious, and liberal principles, enunciated in terse and striking, but most appropriate language." All critics agree that Grattan's speeches exhibit a spirit of tolerance and humanitarianism which was rarely found in that age. His soul was thoroughly catholic, and he never displayed any insular prejudice, though surpassed by none in his patriotism. Sir James Mackintosh said of him, in the House of Commons, "When the illustrious dead are gathered into one tomb all national distinctions fadeaway, and not even the illustrious names of Burke and Wellington are more certainly historical, or more sure to be remembered by posterity, than that of Grattan." The year of the insurrection, 1798, found Grattan a physically broken man, and his health was always precarious for the remaining years of his life. page 7 When, after the quelling of the insurrection, the English Ministers prepared to accomplish the destruction of Ireland's legislative independence, Grattan's spirit was once more aroused. The circumstances under which he delivered his last speech against the Union are worthy of being told, as a marvellous instance of patriotic devotion. Upon the return of Grattan from the Isle of Wight, in 1799, he was urged to again enter the Irish House of Commons, and though extremely ill he consented to expend his rapidly diminishing bodily strength in his country's service. Mrs. Henrietta Grattan says, in his "Life and Times:" "Unable to bear the noise, we avoided hotels, and went to Mr. Austen's, in Dublin, to await the election, which, the Sheriff being friendly, was managed after 12 o'clock on the night of the 15th of January, 1800, the last session of the Dublin Parliament. At five o'clock in the morning, Mr. Tighe arrived on horseback in Dublin, and we heard loud knocking. Grattan was ill in bed, and said, "Why will they not let me die in peace?" He grew quite wild. I told him he must go to the House, and helped him downstairs, when he went into the parlour and loaded his pistols, for he apprehended assassination by the Union party. We wrapped a blanket round him, in the Sedan chair, and I stood at the door, uncertain whether I should ever see him again. Mr. McCan said that Grattan's friends had determined to come forward if he was attacked." I said, "My husband cannot die better than in defence of his country." (Applause.) The amendment of Sir L. Parsons was then being debated in the House. At 7 o'clock in the morning Grattan entered. He could scarcely walk, and was supported on either side. Ministers were not aware that the writ could have been returned. The House and galleries were breathless, and a thrilling sensation, a low murmur, pervaded the whole assembly, as this emaciated figure, sick in mind and body,—the founder, 18 years before, of Ireland's independence,—now came forward, almost in his last moments, to defend or fall with his county. His friends crowded round to assist. Bowes Daly, seeing he had his hat on mentioned it. "Don't mind me," said Grattan, "I know what to do." He was dressed, this soldier of '82, in the Volunteer uniform—blue, with red cuffs and collar. He had placed his cocked hat square to the front, till he advanced half way up the floor. He then stopped, and looked round the House, as one prepared for battle, then approached the table, took off his hat, took the oath and his seat, and as Mr. Egan sat down Grattan rose, and obtaining permission to speak sitting, to the astonishment of everyone spoke for upwards of two hours, going through the whole question." (Applause.) The following brief extract from this great speech will illustrate the eloquence, logical power and acumen, which characterised it throughout:—"The one great capital, fundamental cause of Irish discontent is the interposition of the Parliament of Great Britain in the legislative regulation of Ireland, the interference of that or any other Parliament, save only the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland. The Minister denies, in the face of the two nations, a public fact, registered and recorded, and he dis- page 8 claims the final adjustment of 1782. The Parliament of Ireland has, ever since its emancipation, concurred with England on the subject of war, but before their concurrence was barren, since it has been productive. In 1783 they voted a sum for British seamen, and on the apprehension of a war with Spain, in 1790, they voted another, and in the present war a third. So much more beneficial are the wild offerings of liberty than the squeezings, and eviscerations, and excruciations of power. Ireland considers the British Empire a great Western Barrier against invasion from other countries. She hears the ocean protesting against separation, but she hears the sea likewise protesting against union. She follows, therefore, her physical destination, and obeys the dispensations of Providence, when she protects, like that sea, against the two situations, both equally unnatural—separation and union,—but then she feels her constitution to he her great stake in the empire, and the empire the great security of her constitution. Wo give our strength to this Western barrier, for the security of our liberty, but if British Ministers should do that very mischief which we apprehend from the foreigner, namely, take away the constitution, they take away with that our interest in the British dominions, and thus withdraw at once a great pillar of liberty and empire. That constitution has been the inheritance of this country for 600 years The constitution the minister destroys is the condition of our connection. He destroys one of the pillars of the British Empire—the habitation of Irish loyalty. I say of her loyalty as well as of her liberty, her temple of fame as of freedom, where she had seated herself, as she vainly thought, in modest security and a long repose. Well, the minister has destroyed the constitution. To destroy is easy. The edifices of the mind, like the fabrics of marble, require an age to build, but ask only minutes to precipitate; and as the fall of both is of no time, so neither is it a business of any strength. A pickaxe and a common labourer will do the one—a little lawyer, a little pimp, and a wicked minister the other. . . . I have done with the pile which the minister batters, I come to the babel which he builds, and as he throws down without a principle, so does he construct without a foundation. This fabric he calls a Union. It is no Union, for it excludes the Catholics. It is an extinction of the constitution, and an exclusion of the people. He has overlooked the people, as he has overlooked the sea. I affirm that the blessings procured by the Irish Parliament in the last 20 years are greater than all the blessings afforded by British Parliaments to Ireland for the last century, greater even than the mischiefs inflicted on Ireland by the British Parliament. He—the minister—his budget with corruption crammed, proposes to you to give up the ancient inheritance of your country, to proclaim an utter and blank incapacity to make laws for your own people, and to register the proclamation in an act which inflicts on this ancient nation an eternal disability, and he accompanies these monstrous proposals by undisguised terror and unqualified bribery. The Constitution may, for a time, be lost, but liberty may repair her golden beams; and with redoubled heart page 9 animate the country. I see her in a swoon, but she is not dead—

Thou art not conquered; beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips, and in thy cheeks;
And death's pale flag-is not advanced there."

(Loud cheers.)

How prophetic do those words of the illustrious patriot now seem to us, after the lapse of 93 years, and while the Imperial Parliament is struggling to restore to Ireland her plundered liberties. Grattan well knew that the instinct of nationality among his fellow-countrymen was invincible, and would not permit to die the aspiration for the restoration of their independent Parliament. Sinking into the grave he cheered the hearts and animated the hopes of Irishmen of succeeding generations, by those emphatic words with which he apostrophised Ireland—"Thou art not conquered!" and after over 70 years of unparalleled oppression since the voice of Grattan was stilled in death, after nearly one hundred Coercion Acts have been employed to crush the spirit and extinguish the hopes of the Irish people—they stand to-day within measurable distance of final victory as fresh and undaunted as they were in 1782, exulting that the hour of their liberation is at hand, and that in the womb of time a great future awaits redeemed and regenerated Ireland. (Cheers.) Grattan died in London, whither he had gone to present the Catholic petition for emancipation. He was buried with the greatest honours in "West-minster Abbey.

The next illustrious son of Erin of whom I shall treat is Richard Brinsley Sheridan—(applause)—who has achieved immortality no less by his oratory than by his literary and dramatic genius. Sheridan's father was a teacher of elocution, and at one time was manager of Drury Lane Theatre in London. He published a work on elocution, which was dedicated to Lord Bute, and which procured for the writer a pension of £200 a year. He also published "The Life and Writings of Dean Swift," and a pronouncing dictionary. Sheridan's mother was a novelist of some note. He received his education at the celebrated public school of Harrow. His tutor, Dr. Parr, thus writes of him:—"I saw in him vestiges of a superior intellect. His eye, his countenance, his general manner were striking. His answers to any common question were prompt and acute. We knew the esteem and even admiration which all his school-fellows felt for him. I had much talk with him about his apple-loft, for the supply of which all the gardens in the neighbourhood were taxed, and some of the lower boys were required to furnish it. I threatened, but without asperity, to trace the depredators through his associates up to their leader. He with perfect good humour set me at defiance, and I never could bring the charge home me to him. I often praised him as a lad of great talents—often exhorted him to use them well—but my exhortations were fruitless." This testimony of his teacher proves Sheridan to have been one of those geniuses which ripen slowly, and that as a youth he had that careless yet happy disposition which has so often characterised many of his countrymen. Sheridan exercised a strange fascination over all with whom he was associated, both relations and page 10 strangers. His sister writes of him, "I admired, I almost adored him. I would most willingly have sacrificed my life for him." In 1774 Sheridan wrote the immortal comedy of "The Rivals," which was brought out, in 1775, at Covent Garden. Subsequently he wrote the "School for Scandal," "The Duenna," and many other dramas well known at the present day. Sheridan at this time had achieved some social prominence by his wit and powers of conversation. Through Lord John Townsend he became acquainted with Mr. Fox, who declared him to be the wittiest man he had ever known. He was introduced to Burke, and was elected a member of the splendid Whig Club known as Brooks's. He was returned to the House of Commons for Stafford, in October, 1780, and made his maiden speech on the 20th of November following. The report of this speech says: "He was heard with particular attention, the House being uncommonly still while he was speaking." In 1782 Sheridan was made a member of the Government, taking the portfolio of Secretary of the Treasury. When the impeachment of Warren Hastings, for his conduct in India, was undertaken in 1787, the charge relating to the spoliation of the Begum Princesses of Oude was allotted to Sheridan. His speech was delivered on the 7th of February, 1787, and occupied five and a-half hours. Mr. Burke declared it to be "the most astonishing effort of eloquence, argument, and wit united, of which there was any record or tradition." Mr. Fox said, "All that he had ever heard, all that he had ever read, when compared with it dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before the sun," and Mr. Pitt admitted "that it surpassed all the eloquence of ancient or modern times, and possessed everything that genius or art could furnish to agitate and control the human mind." (Applause.) The following extract will give some idea of the richness and power of his speech:—"Had a stranger at this time gone into the Province of Oude, ignorant of what had happened since the death of Suja Dowla, that man who, with a savage heart, had still great lines of character, and who, with all his ferocity in war, had still with a cultivating hand preserved to his country the riches which it had derived from benignant skies and a prolific soil; if this stranger, ignorant of all that had happened in the short interval, and observing the wide and general devastation, and all the horrors of the scene—of plains unclothed and brown—of vegetation burnt up and extinguished—of villages depopulated and in ruin, of temples unroofed and perishing, of reservoirs broken down and dry—they would naturally inquire what war has thus laid waste the fertile fields of this once beautiful and opulent country? What civil dissensions have happened, thus to tear asunder and separate the happy societies that once possessed these villages? What disputed succession, what religious rage has with unholy violence demolished these temples, and disturbed fervent but unobtruding piety in the exercise of its duties? What merciless enemy has thus spread the horrors of fire and sword? What severe visitation of Providence has dried up the fountain, and taken from the face of the earth every vestige of verdure? Or, rather, page 11 what monsters have stalked over the country, tainting and poisoning with pestiferous breath, what the voracious appetite could not devour? To such questions, what must be the answer? No wars have ravaged these lands and depopulated these villages—no civil discords have been felt—no disputed succession—no religious rage—no merciless enemy—no affliction of Providence which, while it scourged for the moment, cut off the sources of resuscitation—no voracious and poisoning monsters: no, all this has been accomplished by the friendship, generosity, and kindness of the English nation. They have embraced us with their protecting arms, and lo! those are the fruits of our alliance. What, then! shall we be told that, under such circumstances, the exasperated feelings of a whole people, thus goaded and spurred on to clamour and resistance, were excited by the poor and feeble influence of the Begums? When we hear the description of the paroxysm of fever and delirium into which despair had thrown the natives, when on the banks of the polluted Ganges, panting for death, they tore more widely open the lips of their gaping wounds to accelerate their dissolution; and while their blood was issuing, presented their ghastly eyes to heaven breathing their last and fervent prayer, that the dry earth might not be suffered to drink their blood, but that it might rise up to the throne of God, and rouse the eternal Providence to avenge the wrongs of their country. Will it be said that these were brought about by the incantations of these Begums in their secluded Zenana? or that they could inspire this enthusiasm and this despair into the breast of a people who felt no grievance, and had suffered no torture? What motive then could have such influence in their bosom? What motive? That which nature, the common parent, plants in the bosom of man, and which, though it may be less active in the Indian than in the Englishman, is still congenial with, and makes part of his being, that feeling which tells him that man was never made to be the property of man; but that when, through pride or insolence of power, one human creature dares to tyrannise over another; it is a power usurped, and resistance is a duty; that feeling which tells him that all power is delegated for the good, not for the injury of the people; and that when it is converted from its original purpose the compact is broken, and the right is to be resumed. That principle that resistance to power usurped is not merely a duty which he owes to himself and to his neighbour, but a duty which he owes to his God, in asserting and maintaining the rank which he gave him in the Creation! to that common God, who, where he gives the form of man, whatever may be the complexion, gives also the feelings and the rights of man,—that principle which neither the rudeness of ignorance can stifle nor the enervation of refinement extinguish—that principle which makes it base for a man to suffer when he ought to act, which tending to preserve to the species the original designations of Providence, spurns at the arrogant distinctions of man, and vindicates the independent qualities of his race." (Loud cheers.) He concludes his first speech against Hastings in these words: "We cannot behold the workings of the page 12 hearts, the quivering lips, the trickling tears, the loud and yet tremulous joy of the millions whom our vote of this night will for ever save from the cruelty of corrupted power; but though we cannot directly see the effect, is not the true enjoyment of your benevolence increased by the blessing being conferred unseen? Will not the omnipotence of Britain be demonstrated to the wonder of nations by stretching its mighty arm across the deep, and saving by its fiat distant millions from destruction? And will the blessings of the people thus saved dissipate in empty air? No! If I may dare to use the figure, we shall constitute heaven itself our proxy to receive for us the blessings of their pious gratitude and the prayers of their thanksgiving. It is with confidence, therefore, sir, that I move you on this change that Warren Hastings be impeached." (Applause.) In Sheridan's subsequent speech against Hastings, in the second charge, he thus scornfully contemns the plea of State necessity which had been set up: "State necessity. No, my Lords, that Imperial tyrant State necessity is yet a generous despot; bold is his demeanour, rapid his decisions, and terrible his grasp. But what he does, my Lords, he dares avow, and avowing scorns any other justification than the great motive that placed the iron sceptre in his hands. But a quibbling, pilfering, prevaricating State necessity that tries to skulk behind the skirts of justice; a State necessity that tries to steal a pitiful justification from whispered accusations and fabricated rumours: no, my Lords, that is no State necessity: tear off the mask and you see the coarse, vulgar avarice, you see peculation lurking under the gaudy disguise, and adding the guilt of libelling the public honour to its own private fraud." Sheridan, after a life in which he had drunk deeply of the cup of pleasure, died in comparative poverty, in London, on the 7th july, 1816, and was buried in Poet's Corner, in Westminster Abbey. The funeral was attended by an unprecedented array of distinguished men The pall bearers were the Duke of Bedford, the Karl of Lauderdale, Earl Musgrave, the Bishop) of London, Lord Holland, and Lord Spencer. Among the mourners were H.R.H. the Duke of York, H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Argyle, and a brilliant array of Marquises, Earls, and distinguished commoners. After the funeral, Tom Moore, the Irish poet, published the following verses:—

Oh, it sickens the heart to see bosoms so hollow,
And friendships so false in the great and high-born,
To think what a long line of titles may follow,
The relics of him who died friendless and lorn;

How proud they can press to the funeral array,
Of him whom they shunned in his sickness and sorrow;
How bailiffs may seize his last blanket to-day,
Whose pall shall be held up by nobles to-morrow.

Was this, then, the fate of that high-gifted man,
The pride of the palace, the bower, and the hall;
The orator, dramatist, minstrel, who ran
Through each mode of the lyre, and was master of all:

page 13 Whose mind was an essence compounded, with art,
From the finest and best of all other men's powers;
Who rul'd like a wizard the world of the heart,
And could call up its sunshine or draw down its showers.

Whose humour, as gay as the firefly's light,
Play'd round ev'ry subject, and shone as it played;
Whose wit in the combat, as gentle as bright,
Ne'er carried a heart-stain away on its blade.

Whose eloquence, brightening whatever it tried,
Whether reason, or fancy, the gay or the grave,
Was as rapid, as deep, and as brilliant a tide
As ever bore freedom aloft on its wave.


Of all the great Sons of Ireland who in the field or forum have achieved distinction for themselves, and added lustre to their country, there is none more illustrious, nor who as a subject for the biographer or historian is more fascinating and picturesque than that incorrupt-able patriot, and prince of forensic orators, John Philpot Curran. (Cheers.) His early life, and rapid rise to the most exalted station, read like a romance. Curran was born in the little village of Newmarket, in the County of Cork, and was the son of a peasant, whose intelligence secured for him the post of seneschal on the manor of his landlord. The seneschal had the power, from the lord of the manor, of adjusting disputes among the tenantry, to the extent of forty shillings. His mother, whose maiden name was Philpot, though uneducated, was a woman of great natural shrewdness and native wit, and to the last day of her life was almost adored by her gifted son. When she died he placed on her tomb, in Newmarket, this inscription: "Here lies the body of Sarah Curran. She was marked by many years, many talents, many virtues, few failings, no crime. This frail memorial was placed here by a son whom she loved:" Curran's life might have been passed in obscurity, and Ireland and the world would have been immeasurably poorer had it not been for the kindness and perspicacity of a parson, the Rev. Mr. Boyse, who recognised the rough jewel of Curran's genius, and determined it should pass under the hand of the educational lapidary. I had better let Curran tell, in his own words, the story of how Mr. Boyse first took him by the hand. He says: "I was then a little ragged apprentice to every kind of idleness and mischief, all day studying whatever was eccentric in those older, and half the night practising it for the amusement of those who were younger than myself. Heaven only knows where it would have ended, but, as my mother said, I was born to be a great man. One morning I was playing at marbles in the village ball alley, with a light heart and a lighter pocket. The gibe and the jest and the plunder went gaily round; those who won laughed, and those who lost cheated; when suddenly there appeared amongst us a stranger of a very venerable and very cheerful aspect: his intrusion was not the least restraint upon our merry little assemblage, on the contrary, he seemed pleased and even page 14 delighted. He was a benevolent creature, and the days of infancy (after all the happiest we shall ever see), perhaps rose upon his memory. God bless him! I see his fine form at the distance of half a century, just as he stood before me in the little ball alloy in the days of my childhood. His name was Boyse. He was the Rector of Newmarket. To me he took a particular fancy. I was winning, and was full of waggery, thinking everything that was eccentric, and by no means a miser of my own eccentricities: everyone was welcome to share them, and I had plenty to spare after having freighted the company. Some sweetmeats easily bribed me home with him. I learned from poor Boyse my alphabet and my grammar, and the rudiments of the classics. He taught me all he could, and then he sent me to the school at Middleton,—in short he made a man of me. I recollect it was about five and thirty years afterwards; when I had risen to some eminence at the bar and when I had a seat in Parliament, and a good house in Ely Place, on my return one day from Court I found an old gentleman seated alone in the drawing-room, his feet familiarly placed on each side of the Italian marble chimney piece, and his whole air bespeaking the consciousness of one quite at home. He turned round—it was my friend of the ball alley. I rushed instinctively into his arms. I could not help bursting into tears. Words cannot describe the scene which followed. "You are right, sir, you are right: the chimney piece is yours—the pictures are yours—the house is yours: you gave me all I have—my friend, my father." (Applause.) He dined with me, and in the evening I caught the tear glistening in his fine blue eye when he saw his poor little Jackey, the creature of his bounty, rising in the House of Commons to reply to a Right Honourable." (Applause.) Curran, upon leaving the school at Middleton, entered Trinity College, Dublin, in June, 1767. He achieved no academical success, and always spoke contemptuously of his college and its Professors. While at Trinity College, it is related, his wardrobe was so scanty that he had but one shirt, and he was often arraigned before the college authorities on the charge of wearing a dirty shirt. He pleaded his inability to wear a clean one, and cited the case of Barry Yelverton afterwards Lord Avonmore, who also was compelled to pass through his academical course the happy possessor of a solitary linen garment. From Trinity College he proceeded to London, and succeeded in entering as a student of law at the Middle Temple. He at this time supported himself by writing for the press. He read voraciously, not confining himself to law, but drinking deep at the fountains of the best English and French literature. He had grave misgivings as to the possibility of future success at the bar, as his voice was harsh and unpleasant, and he stuttered wofully. However, by declaiming Shakespeare, and other authors, before a large looking glass, he cured himself of stuttering, and by a constant attendance at debating societies he acquired a sweet and well modulated voice. His first speech, delivered in "The Devils" debating society of Temple Bar, was as follows: "Mr. Chairman"—Having uttered those words he grew page 15 pale, lost his presence of mind, and sat down amidst the derisive applause of the assembly. Undismayed by his failure, he continued to attend as a silent spectator the debates at "The Devils," and a few weeks after his maiden speech he was referred to contemptuously by one of the speakers as "Orator Mum." Curran, who had that evening been dining on cold mutton, washed down by copious draughts of Irish potheen, was so stung by the insult and inflamed by the whisky that he rose, and to the surprise of all, and the consternation of his assailant, delivered a stinging and passionate harangue, which completely redeemed his former want of success. In 1774 he married his cousin, a Miss Creagh, but the union was an unhappy one. His partner was uncongenial, and of an indolent disposition, and he always lamented the mistake he had made. In 1775 he was called to the Irish Bar, and attended the Cork sessions in his first year. He then proceeded to Dublin, and lived with his wife in humble lodgings upon Hog Hill. Term after term he paced the hall of the Four Courts, but briefs came not. At last an opportunity arrived. A powerful noble of the County Cork, Lord Doneraile, had committed a savage assault upon an aged priest, named Father Neal. The priest sued Doneraile at the Cork summer assizes of 1780, but could get no barrister to take up his case against so powerful an adversary. Curran heard of the matter, and though penniless and briefless with the responsibility of a wife and two children, he determined—Protestant though he was—to plead the cause of the outraged man of God against the brutal aristocrat. He entered the Court, and to the dismay of Doneraile and his friends succeeded in obtaining from a hostile jury a verdict for the priest for £30 damages and costs. (Applause.) Curran was compelled to fight a duel with a Captain St. Leger, a relative of Doneraile's, in consequence of some remarks he made in the course of his address to the jury. Three weeks after the trial poor Father Neal died, leaving Curran his solemn blessing. Curran's rise at the Bar after this case was phenomenally rapid. He joined the Volunteer movement, so pregnant with good to Ireland, and in 1783 he entered the Irish House of Commons as member for Kilbeggan. He was Flood's colleague. Of Curran's speeches at the Bar, the most famous are those delivered in defence of The United Irishmen, and among the best reported are those delivered in defence of Mr. Rowan, who was Chairman of The United Irish Society, and in defence of Peter Finnerty for libel. I quote a fragment of the latter: "Gentlemen, let me beg of you for a moment to suppose that any one of you had been the writer of this very severe expostulation with the viceroy, and that you had been the witness of this never-to-be-forgotten catastrophe; let me suppose that you had known the charge upon which Mr. Orr was apprehended, the charge of abjuring that bigotry which had torn and disgraced his country, of pledging himself to restore the people of his country to their place in the constitution, and of binding himself never to be the betrayer of his fellow labourers in that enterprise; that you had seen him, upon that charge removed from his industry and confined in a gaol; that through page 16 the slow and lingering process of twelve tedious months you had seen him confined in a dungeon, shut out from the common use of air and of his own limbs; that day after day you had marked the unhappy captive, cheered by no sound but the cries of his family, or the clanking of chains; that you had seen him at last brought to his trial; that you had seen the vile and perjured informer deposing against his life; that you had seen the drunken and worn-out and terrified jury give in a verdict of death; that you had seen the same jury, when their returning sobriety had brought back their conscience, prostrate themselves before the humanity of the bench, and pray that the mercy of the Crown might save their characters from the reproach of an involuntary crime, their consciences from the torture of eternal self-condemnation, and their souls from the indelible stain of innocent blood Let me suppose that you had seen the respite given, and that contrite and honest recommendation transmitted to that seat where mercy was presumed to dwell; that new and before unheard-of crimes are discovered against the informer; that the royal mercy seems to relent, and that a new respite is sent to the prisoner—that time is taken, as the learned counsel for the Crown has expressed it, to see whether mercy could be extended or not—that after that period of lingering deliberation passed a third respite is transmitted; that the unhappy captive himself feels the cheering hope of being restored to a family that he had adored, to a character that he had never stained, and to a country that he had ever loved; that you had seen his wife and children upon their knees giving those tears to gratitude which their locked and frozen hearts could not give to anguish and despair, and imploring the blessings of eternal Providence upon the head of him who had graciously spared the father, and restored him to his children.

Alas! nor wife, nor children, more shall he behold;
Nor friends, nor sacred home.

Often did the weary dove return to the window of his ark, but the olive loaf was to him no sign that the waters had subsided. No seraphic mercy unbars his dungeon, and leads him forth to light and life, but the minister of death hurries him to the scene of suffering and of shame, where unmoved by the hostile array of artillery and armed men collected together to secure, or to insult, or to disturb him, he dies with a solemn declaration of his innocence, and utters his last prayer for the liberty of his country. Let me now ask you, if any of you had addressed the public ear upon so foul and monstrous a subject, in what language would you have conveyed the feelings of terror and indignation? Would you have stooped to the meanness of qualified complaint? Would you have been mean enough—but I entreat your forgiveness—I do not think meanly of you, had I thought you that base and vile instrument, attuned by hope and by fear into discord and falsehood from whose vulgar string no groan of suffering could vibrate, no voice of integrity or honour could speak, let me honestly tell you I should have scorned to fling my hand across it, I should have loft it to a fitter minstrel. If I do page 17 not, therefore, grossly err in my opinion of you, I could use no language upon such a subject as this that must not lag behind the rapidity of your feelings, and that would not disgrace those feelings if it attempted to describe them." (Applause.)

Curran's ready wit at the bar is proverbial. On one occasion he was examining a country squire, who was defending a suit brought for the price of coals. Curran was for the plaintiff. "Now, sir, did not the plaintiff deliver you the coals." "He did, sir, but"—"But what? On your oath wasn't your payment slack?" (Laughter)." On another occasion he was cross-examining an informer, and the witness appealed to the Bench for protection. "My lard, my lard I can't answer at all, at all, yon little gentleman, he's putting me in such a doldrum." The judge, Lord Avonmore, Curran's schoolmate, exclaimed, "A doldrum, Mr. Curran, what does he mean by a doldrum?" "O, my Lord, it's a very common complaint with persons of this description, it's merely a confusion of the head arising from a corruption of the heart." (Laughter and applause.) Curran was just as unsparing to the Bench when occasion offered. In one of the State trials of 1803 he was in the act of delivering one of his impassioned addresses to the jury. When he was stating a certain proposition of law the judge, who had all along shown a strong bias against the prisoner, shook his head evidently in token of disagreement with what Curran had submitted. The witty advocate, stopping the course of his speech, said: "I see, gentlemen, I see the motion of his Lordship's head. Common observers might imagine that that implied a difference of opinion, but they would be mistaken, it is merely accidental. Believe me, gentlemen, if you remain here many days, you will yourselves perceive that when his Lordship shakes his head there's nothing in it." (Laughter.)

Curran was appointed Master of the Rolls in 1806, but he resigned the office through ill-health in 1814. It may be of interest to know in what manner Curran prepared his great orations. He did not write them out and commit them to memory, but thought over his subject well in strolling through his grounds at night, or when playing the violin in his drawing room. He then jotted down on the back of his brief, or on a sheet of note paper, the heads of his discourse, and a few thrilling sentences to introduce in the various parts of his speech, and to form, as it were, cues for the several branches of his subject. Many of Curran's images are inimitable. Thus his description of the informer O'Brien:. "I have heard of assassination by sword, by pistol, and by dagger, but here is a wretch who would dip the evangelists in blood." He referred to the informer Reynolds as one "who measured his importance by the coffins of his victims, and appreciated his fame in the field of evidence as the Indian warrior did in fight, by the number of scalps with which he could swell his triumphs." Curran's caustic answer to an Irish nobleman who had voted for The Union, is an excellent specimen of indignant retort. Said this gentleman to him, "I can't tell you, Curran, how frightful our old House of Commons appears to me." page 18 "All, my Lord," replied Curran, "it is only natural for murderers to be afraid of ghosts." (Applause.) After his resignation of the Mastership of the Rolls, domestic troubles, in addition to the misfortunes of his country, rapidly enfeebled Curran's frame, at no time very robust. He lived in these last days principally at his country house, "The Priory," a few miles from Dublin, where he was wont to assemble the most promising young men of the city to partake of his hospitality. He occasionally visited Paris and London, where he was always welcomed by the most brilliant circles. In July, 1817, while dining with Tom Moore, he was attacked with paralysis, and was ordered to the South of Europe. Before undertaking the journey he proceeded to Ireland to settle some business, and on his return to London, on the 8th of October, he was attacked by apoplexy, and six days afterwards painlessly expired, at 9 at night, in the presence of his children, and his dearest friend Mr. Godwin. No more fitting conclusion to this hurried sketch of the life and works of this great Irishman could be made than to quote the words of Thomas Davis, in speaking of the death of Curran: "Round the grave he sanctifies, before the effigy of that inspired face which was but the outside of his soul, and oftenest of all in communion with his undying thoughts, let the young men of Ireland bend. His life was full of labour, daring patriotism and love. He shrunk from no toil, and feared no peril, for country and fame and passion. He was no pedant,—good by rule,—or vicious from calculation. He strove because be felt it noble and holy and joyous to be strong, and he knew that strength comes from striving. He attained enormous power, power of impassioned eloquence, and he used that power to comfort the afflicted, to guard the orphan, to rescue his friend, and avenge his country. A companion unrivalled in sympathy and wit; an orator whose thoughts went forth like ministers of nature, with robes of light, and swords in their hands; a patriot who battled best when the flag was trampled down, and a genuine, earnest man, breathing of his climate, his country, and his time. Let his countrymen study what he was and did, and let his country guard his fame." (Loud cheers).

The next Irishman of whom I shall speak is that illustrious statesman, orator, and author, whose genius has shed a lustre upon the English language throughout all time, and whose fame is as imperishable as the language itself—Edmund Burke. (Cheers.) Edmund Burke was born in Dublin in 1730. His parents were rich but honest, his father having accumulated considerable property from his lucrative practice as an attorney. Burke received his early school impressions in Castletown Roche, under a village schoolmaster. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1744, at the age of 15 years. At College his chief studies were history, and political and moral philosophy, but he also had a great fondness for the classics, and translated the conclusion of the Second Georgic of Virgil. He began to study for I he Bar at the Middle Temple, London, in 1750, but his health giving way he was never called. He became a volumin- page 19 ous writer for various periodicals of the day. His first serious work was the "Vindication of Natural Society," and this was immediately followed by his celebrated "Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful." The severe application necessitated by the composition of this work completely broke down his health for a time, and he was compelled to visit Bath to recruit. Here, however, he received a remarkable compensation for the sufferings he endured physically, for he fell in love with Miss Nugent, the daughter of his doctor, and after a brief courtship married her. The union, notwithstanding that Miss Nugent was a Roman Catholic and Burke a Latitudinarian Protestant, proved to be in every respect a happy one. After some years of literary drudgery he became acquainted with Lord Charlemont, who introduced him to the celebrated "Single Speech Hamilton," then Chief Secretary for Ireland. Hamilton engaged Burke as secretary, and after a short service obtained for him a pension of £300 a year from the Irish Civil List. In 1765 he became Private Secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, and shortly after entered the House of Commons as member for Wendover. This was the period of the celebrated "Stamp Act," which was one of the immediate causes of the American rebellion. The parliamentary reputation of Burke was made almost by his first speech. Johnson says: "Probably no man at his first appearance ever obtained so much reputation before." In 1771 Burke was appointed agent to the State of New York, a Civil post worth £1000 a year. He at this time was a prominent opponent of the insane policy of the Government to tax the American colonists, and one of his most splendid speeches was made on a motion to repeal the abhorred tea duty. From 1771 to 1782 Burke was recognised as one of the leading, if not the very foremost of parliamentary orators in the House of Commons. In 1782 he became a member of the Rockingham Ministry, his portfolio being that of Pay-master of the Forces. His fame at this time led the students of Glasgow University to choose him for the great historic position of Lord Rector of their College. In 1786 Burke moved in Parliament for the prosecution of the Governor General of India—Warren Hastings. The conduct of the impeachment of Hastings was committed by the House of Commons to a body of managers, the chief of whom were Burke, Fox and Sheridan. Burke's speech on the impeachment of Hastings was considered by all competent judges to be the greatest oratorical masterpiece ever produced by man, immeasurably excelling the renowned speech of Demosthenes "On the Crown." The trial of Hastings began in 1788. Burke's speech occupied the first four days of the proceedings. As is well known the trial lingered for seven years, and ended in the acquittal of the accused on technical grounds. Hastings himself confessed that on listening to Burke's speech he (the accused) thought himself the greatest monster that had ever existed on earth. Mr. Erskine, speaking of Burke's achievement, said he "shook the walls of Westminster Hall with anathemas of superhuman eloquence." During one of Burke's page 20 most thrilling passages describing the enormities of Debi Sing, the whole audience was swept by an audible thrill of horror, while execrations were murmured on all sides by the noble judges and auditors, and many of the peeresses and other ladies swooned away. Lord Thurlow said that many of the audience would probably never recover from the shock of Burke's speech.

After the outbreak of the French revolution, the excesses that were perpetrated in Paris caused Burke's attachment to Liberal principles to be greatly modified, and there can be no doubt but that he was unnecessarily scared by the reign of terror. At this time he published his great work "Reflections," which was hailed with the most flattering criticisms, and achieved enormous popularity, 30,000 copies being sold in the first year of publication. In 1794 occurred that terrible event which nearly bereft our gifted countryman of his reason, and completely broke him down physically, viz., the death of his only son, a young man of brilliant parts, and upon whom Burke bad lavished all his affection and centred the fondest hopes. He had educated the hoy with the greatest care, and cherished the belief that he would eclipse his own fame. At the time of his fatal illness young Burke was secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. When Burke and his devoted wife found their beloved boy was sinking under an incurable malady, they were inconsolable. The end came with tragic swiftness. On the day of his death the young man, wishing to comfort his parents, rose from his bed and staggered to the adjoining room, in which they were. He assured them that he was stronger, but the pallor of death on his features could not deceive them. Then he said, "Speak to me, my dear father—speak to me of religion—speak to me of morality—speak to me of indifferent matters for I derive much satisfaction from all you say." Just then, hearing the wind whistling through the trees, he repeated Hilton's lines:—

His praise, ye winds that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft, or loud, and wave your tops ye pines,
With every plant in sign of worship wave.

He fell back into his father's arms, on concluding these words, and expired. Burke was frantic with grief, and behaved as if his reason had departed with his son's spirit. Throwing himself upon the corpse he called aloud, in heart-rending tones, to his son to come back, "the hope of his age, the stay of his life, the only comfort of his declining and now joyless years." This irreparable loss utterly unfitted Burke for politics. His body soon became debilitated, and his grief was) evidently like a canker eating away his life. He died at Beacons-field, and the post-mortem showed death was owing to enlargement of the heart caused by his intense sorrow. The greatest notabilities of the land attended at his obsequies, the pall-bearers being the Duke of Portland, the Duke of Devonshire, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker and Earls Fitzwilliam and Inchiquin. Burke's eloquence was eulogised almost in ecstatic terms by all the critics of his age. Dr. Johnson said: "He pours forth his eloquence like a perpetual stream." Time will not permit of more than one short illustration of the oratory of page 21 this great man, and I select his description of "The March of Hyder Ali:" "When at length Hyder Ali found that he had to do with men who either would sign no convention, or whom no treaty and no signature could bind, and who were the determined enemies of human intercourse itself, he decreed to make the country possessed by these incorrigible and predestinated criminals a memorable example to mankind. He resolved, in the gloomy recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to leave the whole Carnatic an everlasting monument of vengeance, and to put perpetual desolation as a barrier between him and those against whom the faith which holds the moral elements of the world was no protection. He became at length so confident of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no secret whatsoever of his dreadful resolution. Having terminated his disputes with every enemy and every rival, who buried their mutual animosities in their common detestation against the creditors of the Nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the arts of destruction; and compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation into one black cloud he hung for a-while on the declivities of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on this menacing meteor, which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly burst, and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no age had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants, flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered. Others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank or sacredness of function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an unknown and hostile land, Those who were able to evade the tempest fled to the walled cities, but escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine. The alms of the settlement in this dreadful exigency were certainly liberal, and all was done by charity that private charity could do: but it was a people in beggary: it was a nation which stretched out its hands for food. For months together these creatures of sufferance, whose very excess and luxury, in their most plenteous days, had fallen short of the allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, without sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished by a hundred a day in the streets of Madras." (Applause.)

This short extract shows, I think, the marvellous descriptive powers and wealth of glowing phrase which shine throughout all of Burke's speeches, and in passing from this prince of orators I would observe, that he who wishes to explore the capabilities of the English language can find no mine so rich, or containing such varied treasures, as the oratory of Edmund Burke. (Cheers.)

page 22

The year 1848 saw Ireland touched by the revolutionary spirit which was then so active in Europe, and the youth of the nation were profoundly stirred. The young Irelanders thought that the hour to strike for their country's freedom had at length arrived. Among the fiery patriots of that epoch no name shines with such undimmed lustre, or stands out with greater picturesqueness than that of the orator Thomas Francis Meagher, known historically as "Meagher of the Sword." (Loud cheers.) He was one of the talented band who, under the name of "Young Irelanders," despairing of O'Connell's constitutional policy, sought to win their country's freedom by force of arms. The insurrection of '48, that year of general revolution, was fore-doomed to failure, though its seeds had been sown with toilsome ardour and patience. The "Young Irelanders" believed that Ireland could never be free until her people became educated. The motto on their banner was, "Educate, that you may be free." They desired to purify the political atmosphere by ostracising mere place-hunters, and those who used both religion and clergy as instruments for the advancement of private ends, or the scarcely less noble objects of "Whiggery." The newspapers at this time were few and dear, and it was a work of appalling difficulty to appeal to the intelligence of the masses. The National Schools, and the Christian Brothers' Schools, had not yet done their work, and intellectually the people were almost in a state of Cimmerian darkness. The Nation newspaper, started in 1842, by the present Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, then a young journalist. Thomas Osborne Davis, and John Blake Dillon, father of Mr. John Dillon, M.P, had accomplished much to revive the drooping spirits of the people, and after its establishment it might truly have been said that "a soul had come into Erin." (Applause.) Prior to the outbreak a great meeting was held in Conciliation Hall, in Dublin, which resulted in the final split between the "Young Irelanders" and the partisans of constitutional measures. The Lord Mayor was in the chair. At this meeting, in speaking to a resolution affirming that the use of arms was at all times unjustifiable and immoral, Meagher delivered a magnificent panegyric on the sword as a means of wresting a nation's freedom from tyrant hands. From this speech I make the following extract, which will sufficiently illustrate Meagher's brilliant and impassioned style of oratory: "The soldier is proof against an argument, but he is not proof against a bullet. The man that will listen to reason, let him be reasoned with. But it is the weaponed arm of the patriot that can alone prevail against battalioned despotism. Then, my Lord, I do not condemn the use of arms as immoral, nor do I conceive it profane to say that the King of Heaven—tho Lord of Hosts—the God of Battles, bestows his benediction upon those who unsheath the sword in the hour of a nation's peril. From that evening on which, in the Valley of Bethulia, he nerved the arm of the Jewish girl to smite the drunken tyrant in his tent, down to this our day, in which he has blessed the insurgent chivalry of the Belgian priest, His almighty hand hath ever been stretched forth from His Throne of Light to consecrate the flag of page 23 freedom—to bless the patriot's sword!—Be it in the defence or be it in the assertion of a people's liberty, I hail the sword as a sacred weapon, and if, my Lord, it had sometimes taken the shape of the serpent, and reddened the shroud of the oppressor with too deep a dye, like the anointed rod of the High Priest, it has at other times, and as often, blossomed into celestial flowers to deck the freeman's brow. Abhor the sword—stigmatise the sword!—no, my Lord, for in the passes of the Tyrol it cut to pieces the banner of the Bavarian, and through those cragged passes struck a path to fame for the peasant insurrectionists of Inspruck! Abhor the sword—stigmatise the sword!—no, my Lord, for at its blow a giant nation started from the waters of the Atlantic, and by its redeeming magic, and in the quivering of its crimson light the crippled colony sprang into the attitude of a proud Republic—prosperous, limitless, and invincible! Abhor the sword—stigmatise the sword!—no, my Lord, for it swept the Dutch marauders out of the fine old towns of Belgium, scourged them back to their own phlegmatic swamps, and knocked their flag and sceptre, their laws and bayonets, into the sluggish waters of the Scheldt. My Lord, I learned that it was the right of a nation to govern itself, not in this hall, but on the ramparts of Antwerp. I learned the first article of a nation's creed upon those ramparts, where freedom was justly estimated, and where the possession of the precious gift was purchased by the effusion of generous blood. My Lord, I honour the Belgians for their courage and their daring, and I will not stigmatise the means by which they obtained a citizen King and a Chamber of Deputies." (Applause). At this stage of his discourse Meagher was interrupted by John O'Connell, who said either he or Meagher should leave the Repeal Association. Some disorder ensued, and Meagher and his friends left the hall in disgust.

The Irish Confederation had been established by the Young Irelanders in 1846, on their secession from the Old Repealers, who sought to compel them to disavow and condemn all who should advocate physical force as a means of redressing Ireland's wrongs. On the 12th of February, 1848, John Mitchell—(applause)—started the United Irishman, a weekly newspaper, and boldly called the people to anus. Young Ireland Clubs were started in many counties, military exercises were indulged in by masses of men, and the news of the success of the revolution in France stirred the nation's heart. The clergy, however, were against the movement, and the people were passionately devoted to the priests for the heroism displayed by the latter during the dark days of the famine. The insurrection which followed, as is well known, was crushed at Ballingarry, where Smith O'Brien was only able to gather a body of half-clad peasants instead of the thousands of well drilled Volunteers that he had fondly hoped would respond to his call. Meagher had accompanied O'Brien to Tipperary, and had left him on the morning of July 29th, 1848, at Ballingarry, before the catastrophe, and with no thought of the disaster which later on on that day was to crush the hopes of Ireland for a generation. On August the 12th following Meagher was ar- page 24 rested near Holycross, in Tipperary, while walking with some friend. He was shortly after placed on his trial at Clonmel for high [unclear: treaso]. The jury was packed by the Government officer, in accordance [unclear: wit] well-established English practice in Ireland. The trial lasted [unclear: s] days, and resulted in a verdict of guilty. Whiteside, afterwards judge, and Isaac Butt, who 24 years later founded the Home [unclear: Ru] movement, had defended Meagher with great forensic skill, bu[unclear: t] no purpose. When Meagher was asked, according to the formula, he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passe upon him, he delivered himself of an eloquent and pathetic little speech, which will keep his name and memory green as long as there is an Irishman who loves his country's annals, and the patriotism self-sacrifice, and love for the motherland, which they chronicl[unclear: e] every page. Time forbids my quoting this speech at length, but cannot forbear giving you its moving and melancholy final word. "No, I do not despair of my poor old country, her peace, her liberty her glory. For that country I can do no more than bid her hope. To lift this island up, to make her a benefactor to humanity, [unclear: instea] of being, as she is now, the meanest beggar in the world, to [unclear: restor] to her her native powers and her ancient constitution—this has [unclear: be] my ambition, and this ambition has been my crime. Judged by the law of England, I know this crime entails upon me the penalt[unclear: y] death, but the history of Ireland explains that crime and justifie[unclear: s] Judged by that history I am no criminal, and I deserve no punishment. Judged by that history, the treason of which I stand convicted loses all its guilt, has been sanctified as a duty, and will be ennobled as a sacrifice. With these sentiments I await the sentence of the Court. I have done what I felt to be my duty. I have spoke now, as I did on every other occasion during my short life, what felt to be the truth. I now bid farewell to the country of my birth of my passions, of my death—a country whose misfortunes have invoked my sympathies—whose factions I sought to quell—whose intelligence I prompted to a lofty aim—whoso freedom has been my fatal dream. To that country I now offer as a pledge of the lov[unclear: e] bore her, and of the sincerity with which I thought and spoke and struggled for her freedom, the life of a young heart, and with [unclear: tha] life the hopes, the honours, the endearments of a happy, a prosperous and honourable home. Proceed then, my Lords, with that sentence which the law directs—I am prepared to hear it—I trust I am prepared to meet its execution. I shall go, I think with a light heart, before a higher tribunal—a tribunal where a judge of infinite goodness, as well as of infinite justice, will preside, and where, my Lords, many, many, of the judgments of this world will be reversed. (Cheers.) The capital punishment was remitted for transportation and Meagher was sent to Tasmania, whence in 1852 he escaped to America, where he rose to be a Brigadier-General in the United States Army. He was accidentally drowned in the Mississippi in 1867.

Time will not permit me even briefly to refer to that king of page 25 popular orators O'Connell, nor to a host of others who have worthily upheld the oratorical reputation of Irishmen, men in our own time like A. M. Sullivan, O'Hagan, Father Tom Burke, T. W. Croke (Archbishop of Cashel), and Sexton. The stream of eloquence from Irish lips flows on to-day as of yore, and is just as potent as ever in the making of history and moulding the destinies of the race.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, looking back over the past stormy century of Irish history, have we not much to justify us in being proud of our race. We have seen in the men whose deeds and lives I have imperfectly sketched, examples of the highest genius, the most exalted patriotism, the most unbounded courage; men whose self-sacrifice and devotion to their motherland have entitled them to an earthly as well as a heavenly immortality, and who kept a live from generation to generation the burning love for national freedom in the hearts of Irishmen which has been the sustaining and impelling force of the movement to which we owe the impending legislative enfranchisement of Ireland. Considering the divisions that have alas! almost incessantly torn our people asunder, the Irish patriot must indeed at all times have been possessed of the heart of a lion. It was the settled policy of the governing classes and nation to keep up internal dissensions among the governed. As the sweet national singer, Thomas Davis, said:

From Dermot's crime to Tudor's time
Our clans were our perdition:
Religion's name since then became
The pretext for division.

May we not hope that the time is now near when all unhappy divisions will be healed, and Irishmen of all creeds will meet as fellow citizens upon a common platform? May we not now consider that the lives of the great Orators of Ireland have not been spent in vain,—that a rich harvest of freedom, the seed of which was sown by them, will speedily be garnered by our kinsmen at home, and that ere the eloquent voice of the great patriarch-statesman who now rules the British Empire is hushed in the silence of the grave, its tones will be heard proclaiming in England's historic Senate-house the success of the crowning act of his illustrious career—the resuscitation of the Irish Legislature. (Applause.) When the day of Ireland's liberation shall have arrived, and the voices of her people's representatives shall once more be heard in the old Parliament house in College Green, then will come too, in that joyful hour, the apotheosis of the illustrious dead, the soldiers and the orators who fought and struggled for their country's liberty, and whose watchword until their latest breath was—"Ireland a Nation" (Loud and long continued applause.)

Mr. John D. Connolly (United States Consul) proposed, and Mr. W.Duncan, J.P., seconded, "That a hearty vote of thanks be passed to Mr. Napier for his eloquent and instructive lecture." The motion was carried unanimously, amidst enthusiastic cheers.