TENAKILL, ABBEYLEIX, Tuesday, June 21st, 1847
DEAR SIR – On receiving yours of Saturday, 19th, I determined to go at once to town without waiting for your answer to mine of Friday last, which I was aware had been posted too late for that evening’s mail. I was four miles from home on my way to the coach office yesterday when a mounted servant overtook me with your letter of Sunday.
On reading it I returned home: and if your opinions be those of the majority of the acting (I should perhaps say talking) members of the Council – as I take for granted they are – I scarcely know whether I can call, or consider myself any longer a member of the Confederation. Indeed I have little doubt that you go farther with me than the great majority. At least I had more dependence on you than on any other of the number – always excepting Devin Reilly. But perhaps I was wrong.
I know them and you by speeches and writing only. But men may speak and write forcibly, and yet act very feebly, and be very competent to criticise, yet utterly incompetent to construct. Ireland’s greatest and last opportunity was in your hands – a revolution that would have put your own names in the blaze of the sun for ever was in your hands; you have flung it away as the cock flung the diamond, useless to him, as the crisis was to you.
Vain to him the flash of the gem he could not polish; vain to you were the lightnings of heaven – and the meteors of earth which you could or would not kindle and guide. Three letters of mine were published. It was the second, not the third I said was published in smothering silence.
The sentence cut out of my last was “formed by and out of the same body which had produced the “Irish Party” formed at a private and close meeting, without public requisition, consultation, or concurrence” – was this a misstatement or fact? No matter.
I never recognised the landowners as an element or as part and portion of the people. I recognised them as “aliens and enemies” whom I solicited to join with and become a part of us, and of a new Irish nation – as a “foreign garrison” whom I required to become a “national guard” before it should be too late.
It is now too late. In two months, at least, we might appeal in vain. Let us appeal to them, if you will, during those next two months; but let us appeal by the only argument they can understand – the argument of acts – the argument of PREPARATION.
In reply to the first letter I ever received from you (March 9) I wrote to you a hurried note in which I did not precisely state my views and principles. But I stated the main principle to Mr. D’Arcy McGee in a letter of the same date, which I requested him to hand you. Did he do so? I suppose not. At least you appear to be under mistakes as to my objects which I cannot permit you to retain.
I have nothing to do with the landlord-and-tenant question, as understood. The question of the tenure by which the actual cultivator of the soil should hold his land is one for an Irish Parliament. My object is to repeal the Conquest – not any part or portion but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years – a thing much more easily done than to repeal the Union.
That the absolute (allodial) ownership of the lands of Ireland is vested of right in the people of Ireland – that they, and none but they, are the first landowners and lords paramount as well as the lawmakers of this island – that all titles to land are invalid not conferred or confirmed by them – and that no man has a right to hold one foot of Irish soil otherwise than by grant of tenancy and fee from them, and under such conditions as they may annex of suit and service, faith and fealty, etc., these are my principles.
To such landowners as could be brought to recognise the right of the Irish people, and to swear allegiance to this island-Queen, I would grant new titles. Those who might refuse should cease to be landowners or quit this land, and their lands be vested in the occupying tenants.
The mode of argument to be employed in convincing the landlords of the truth of the principle I have stated, and of persuading them to recognise it (and Independence) is very simple. To show them we are owners de jure, we have only to prove we are owners de facto. Easily done.
Our means, whether of moral agitation, military force, or moral insurrection, are impotent against the English Government, which is beyond our reach; but resistless against the English garrison who stand here, scattered and isolated, girdled round by a mighty people, whom their leaders alone have turned into mean slaves and sneaking beggars.
Should the landlords be blind to the argument I have mentioned, and England come to the relief and rescue of her garrison, then of course there should be resistance and defence, just of the kind required to drill and discipline, as the hare-course, short and sharp, trains and tempers and hardens the blood-hunter.
The question of time is everything. I want a prepared, organised and resistless revolution. You would only have an unprepared, disorderly and vile jacquerie. You plead against locking the stable door until the horse has been stolen, or is about to be stolen. But the lock and key have yet to be forged. You won’t help to forge them.
But you may possibly overtake us and help to see the door locked by others. Good. You throw away the elections too, for on no other argument than mine will you get a frieze coat to vote for you. Ireland was ready to strip for battle, and none flinched but the fire-eaters. I respectfully declined to be proposed as member of the “Irish Council.”
You won’t help to form tenant-leagues? As a support or a check. I want that one guarantee of the good faith of the Confederation. Under assurance of support from them I made use in my published letters of what must now appear as cowardly threats, never meant to be fulfilled.
I now understand why and how Ireland is a slave. Show this to Mr. Duffy, and to Mr. D’Arcy McGee, or to anyone else at your own discretion. A few months’ law for the English garrison is all Mr. Duffy requires. Egad! – Mr. Duffy was bred a townsman! A few months – and the star of Ireland has gone down for ever.
Three-fourths of the tenant-farmers of this country are served with ejectment notices, and this year the bailiff follows in the track of the reaper. The corn will be seized in the sickle – A few months! – Who, what and where is Devin Reilly? He made two speeches at the Confederation, which is all I know of him.
If the man be equal to the speeches – not always the case – he ought to be the foremost man in the Confederation. As this may be possibly be my last letter to you, I conclude it with some pain and regret.
JAMES F. LALOR