From The Irishman, 4 January, 1879.
To the People of Ireland:
Fellow-countrymen – Ireland has had one record for seven hundred years – that of a continuous struggle against English domination. In that struggle our forefathers have, at all times, borne an honourable part. You are bound, by every sacred tie and every noble aspiration, to follow in their footsteps. The issue is now put plainly before you. On the one side you are invited to join the ranks of the constitutional agitators – the divided Home Rulers, Parnell, O’Connor Power and Co., and their transatlantic allies – who, by this invitation, declare that they have abandoned all hope of recovering the freedom of our country, by the only means through which it has ever been achieved by any enslaved nation – namely, a resort to arms, at the time when such a course might be adopted with effect. On the other hand you are requested, by the true Nationalists of Ireland, to be prepared to assert your principles and rights wherever the opportunity shall arrive, by the same weapons and by the same means which your English enemies used when they deprived you of your national independence.
Many inducements have been held out to you during recent years to depart from the paths of duty, and lend your aid to the schemes of false-hearted demagogues. Constitutional agitation has appeared in our midst, in many forms and under many disguises, but it has always produced the same demoralising results. It made its last appearance under the specious name of Home Rule, and pretended to represent the patriotic aspirations of the people of Ireland. But the so-called national demand, made from the Home Rule platform, took a strange and unnatural shape – viz., a closer connection with England, and a surrender of the right of Ireland to separation. This delusion, however, could not last, and it is now almost entirely dispelled. To avert its destruction it is proposed that a compact be entered into – an unholy alliance be formed – between the Home Rulers and the Irish Nationalists! In this crisis it is our duty to make our countrymen aware that such a proposal will never be entertained – such a surrender of the principles of the Irish people can never take place. Those who make any such proposal only do so on their own responsibility, and thus without any authority whatsoever.
Individuals may apostatise, but then the people will spurn them, and move onward on the path that leads to freedom!
Time may have cooled the hot blood of some of our late compatriots, or, perhaps, the hospitalities they enjoyed in the bastilles of Great Britain may have instilled into their minds grateful sentiments which they by this proposal endeavour to express. But the Irish people do not share these feelings, notwithstanding the frequent attentions which they have received at the hands of their English rulers. The movement which is styled the ‘New Departure,’ openly and systematically advocates a Parliamentary agitation, thereby placing, so far as in their power, the destinies of a nation in the hands of time-servers and self-seeking aspirants for political honours. We have confidence that you will continue to uphold the true standard of national freedom. Irish nationality and English connection are absolutely irreconcilable. In the words of James Stephens, the greatest organiser of revolution in Ireland: –
“We must be true to ourselves, to our principles – never playing fast and loose with what is the most sacred bond of all society, our honour, our pledged word, our oath. It will not do to be a sworn “rebel” in private and a sworn “loyalist” in public. There is no profit and much shame in political thimble-rigging. Woe to the people whose leaders [?] succeed in dragging them into such foul and slimy ways. The true patriot leader will always aim at what is greatest and best, and try to realise the great and good by the noblest and purest, as well as the most practicable means, knowing well that if kings or their ministers may effect revolution by crime, it is only by the exercise of public virtue that an oppressed people has ever risen or can ever rise to freedom.”
We must all, as Irishmen, take a firm and decided course in the present crisis of our national affairs, disavow all connection with and relation to all classes of agitators on a constitutional basis, whether prompted by ambition or ignorance at home, or dictated in the same interest by some of our fellow-countrymen abroad, who, having once suffered for the cause of Ireland, now appear willing to desert their former patriotic principles, at the bidding of an expiring American faction, which, by its treacherous conduct, at a memorable period of our history, was the cause of precipitating a struggle which could have ended only as it did, in disaster and disgrace to the nationality of Ireland.
By order of the
EXECUTIVE OF THE I.R.B.
Ireland, Nov. 18, 1878.
GOD SAVE IRELAND.