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AT CoNCILLATION HALL, DUBLIN, JULY 28, 1846.
LoRD MAYoR – I will commence as Mr. Mitchell concluded, with an allusion to the Whigs. I fully concur with my friend, that the most comprehensive #" measures which the Whig minister may propose, will fail to lift this country up to that position which she has the right to occupy, and the power to maintain. A Whig minister, I admit, may improve the province — he will not restore the nation. Franchises, tenant compensation bills, liberal appointments may ameliorate, they will not exalt; they may meet the necessities, they will not call forth the abilities of the country. The errors of the past may be repaired—the hopes of the future will not be fulfilled. With a vote in one pocket, a lease in the other, and “full justice” before him at the petty sessions, in the shape of a “restored magistrate,” the humblest peasant may be told that he is free; trust me, my lord, he will not have the character of a freeman, his spirit to dare, his energy to act. From the stateliest mansion down to the poorest cottage in the land, the inactivity, the meanness, the debasement, which provincialism engenders, will be perceptible. These are not the crude sentiments of youth, though the mere
commercial politician, who has deduced his ideas of self-govern
ment from the table of imports and exports, may satirize them as such. Age has uttered them, my lord, and the experience of eight years has preached them to the people. A few weeks since, and there stood up in the court of Queen's Bench an old and venerable man to teach the country the lessons he had learned in his youth, beneath the portico of the Irish Senate House, and which during a long life he had treasured in his heart,
as the costliest legacy a true citizen could bequeath to the land that gave him birth. What said this aged orator?
“National independence does not necessarily lead to national virtue and happiness; but reason and experience demonstrate that public spirit and general happiness are looked for in vain under the withering influence of provincial subjection. The very consciousness of being dependent on another power for advancement in the scale of national being, weighs down the spirit of a people, manacles the efforts of genius, depresses the energies of virtue, blunts the sense of common glory and common good, and produces an insulated selfishness of character, the surest mark of debasement in the individual, and mortality in the state.”
My lord, it was once said by an eminent citizen of Rome, the elder Pliny, that "we owe our youth and manhood to our country, but our declining age to ourselves.” This may have been the maxim of the Roman—it is not the maxim of the Irish patriot. One might have thought that the anxieties, the labors, the vicissitudes of a long career, had dimmed the fire which burned in the heart of the illustrious Roman whose words I have cited; but now, almost from the shadow of death, he comes forth with the vigor of youth, and the authority of age, to serve the country in the defence of which he once bore arms, by an example, my lord, that must shame the coward, rouse the sluggard, and stimulate the bold. These sentiments have sunk deep into the public mind; they are recited as the national creed. Whilst these sentiments inspire the people, I have no fear for the national cause. I do not dread the venal influence of the Whigs.
Inspired by such sentiments, the people of this country will look beyond the mere redress of existing wrong, and strive for the attainment of future power.
A good government may, indeed, redress the grievances of an injured people, but a strong people alone can build up a great nation. To be strong, a people must be self-reliant, self-ruled, selfsustained. The dependence of one people upon another, even for the benefits of legislation, is the deepest source of national weakness. By an unnatural law it exempts a people from their just duties-—their just responsibilities. When you exempt a people from these duties, from these responsibilities, you generate in them a distrust in their own powers. Thus you enervate, if you do not utterly destroy that spirit which a sense of these responsibilities is sure to inspire, and which the fulfillment of these duties never fails to invigorate. Where this spirit does not actuate, the country may be tranquil—it will not be prosperous. It may exist, it will not thrive. It may hold together, it will not advance. Peace it may enjoy—for peace and freedom are compatible. But, my lord, it will neither accumulate wealth nor win a character; it will neither benefit mankind by the enterprise of its merchants nor instruct mankind by the example of its statesmen. I make these observations, for it is the custom of some moderate politicians to say, that when the Whigs have accomplished the “pacification” of the country, there will be little or no necessity for Repeal. My lord, there is something else, there is everything else to be done when the work of "pacification” has been accomplished —and here it is hardly necessary to observe that the prosperity of a country is perhaps the sole guarantee for its tranquillity, and that the more universal the prosperity, the more permanent will be the repose. But the Whigs will enrich as well as pacify. Grant it, my lord. Then do I conceive that the necessity for Repeal will augment. Great interests demand great safeguards. The prosperity of a nation requires due protection of a senate. Hereafter a national senate may require the protection of a national army. So much for the extraordinary affluence with which we are threatened, and which, it is said by gentlemen on the opposite shore of the Irish Sea, will crush this Association, and bury the enthusiasts who clamor for Irish nationality in a sepulchre of gold. This prediction, however, is feebly sustained by the ministerial programme that has lately appeared. On the evening of the 16th, the Whig premier, in answer to a question that was put to him by the member for Finsbury, Mr. Duncombe, is reported to have made this consolatory announcement:
“We consider that the social grievances of Ireland are those which are most prominent, and to which it is most likely to be in our power to afford, not a complete and immediate remedy, but some remedy, some kind of improvement, so that some kind of hope may be entertained that, some ten or twelve years hence, the country will, by the measures we undertake, be in a far better state with respect to the frightful destitution and misery which now prevail in that country. We have that practical object in view.”
After that most consolatory announcement, my lord, let those who have the patience of Job and the poverty of Lazarus, continue, in good faith, “to wait on Providence and the Whigs;” continue to entertain “some kind of hope,” that if not “a complete and immediate remedy,” at least “some remedy,” “some improvement,” will place this country “in a far better state” than it is at present, "some ten or twelve years hence.” After that let those who prefer the periodical boons of a Whig government, to that which would be the abiding blessing of an Irish parliament; let those who deny to Ireland what they assert for Poland; let those who would inflict, as Henry Grattan said, “an eternal disability upon this country,” to which Providence has assigned the largest facilities for power; let those who would ratify the “base swap,” as Mr. Sheil once stigmatized the Act of Union, and who would stamp perfection upon that deed of perfidy, - let such men
“Plod, led on in sluggish misery,
But we, my lord, who are assembled in this hall, and in whose hearts the Union has not bred the slave's disease — we who have not been imperialized—we are here with the hope to undo that work, which forty-six years ago dishonored the ancient peerage and subjugated the people of our country.
My lord, to assist the people of Ireland to undo that work I came to this hall. I came here to repeal the Act of Union — I came here for nothing else. Upon every other question I feel myself at perfect liberty to differ from each and every one of you. Upon questions of finance — questions of a religious character — questions of an educational character — questions of municipal policy — questions that may arise from the proceedings of the legislature — upon all these questions I feel myself at perfect liberty to differ from each and every one of you. Yet more, my lord; I maintain that it is my right to express my opinion upon each of these questions, if necessary. The right of free discussion I have here upheld. In the exercise of that right I have differed sometimes from the leader of this Association, and would do so again. That right I will not abandon — I shall maintain it to the last.