From The Irish People, December 5, 1863.

If at times the soul is staggered and appalled by the long agony of our People, it speedily takes nerve and hope from the spectacle of their sublime tenacity. Mark, we write emphatically of the People—the hoodwinked and misled, the duped and victimised toilers of this land. As for those who despise, or pretend to despise, the toilet—who say that, alone, he can do nothing, we have—when at our lowest—contempt, or—when all ourselves—a pity they could never measure. We neither write about these men nor the class they belong, or would fain belong, to: it and they—from the first royal traitor to the latest caitiff who bartered the national trust for ignoble ease—have been rich in betrayal and calumny of the People they could not use, or using, scorned. And this may be said, while mindful of all the ‘gentle blood’ that has ever flown for Ireland—a blood so precious that the spots it fell on are for ever hallowed in our souls. The memory of these great exceptions, however, the more strongly confirms the fact, that the real glory of our cause must be sought for in the action of the People alone. From the very beginning to this day, they have been the same: single-hearted, self-forgetting, self-denying, faithful and devoted, their constant aspiration has been after freedom, their constant aim and struggle to win it at any risk or sacrifice.

Those who know all this—their many virtues and proverbial valour—have often asked themselves how such a People could have remained so long enslaved. Yet the question is easily answered: they did not know themselves—their rights and duties, power and dignity;—nay, of themselves they took no thought whatever, thinking only of Ireland, and those who, in their eyes, were the living embodiment of her cause. This was their greatest drawback—greatest bane. For the men they fought and died for could scarcely have freed Ireland and would never have done justice to them. All things considered, there was no fair prospect of Irish freedom before HUGH O’NEILL’s time. We had, perhaps, a better chance with OWEN ROE, had that great soldier lived. But neither these nor any before them would have done justice to the People. The idea of such justice does not emanate from Kings. The People, however, gave no thought to this; and so, believing it for Ireland, they fought not only for RED OWEN but for SHAMUS a***![1] At length, they begin to get the needful light; and thus, for the first time, we have the promise of truthful hope and liberty, with popular justice. This was mainly due to TONE—one of the first, if not the very first, of Irishmen. Above the gross realities of the age, he took its noblest spirit to his soul, and with it tried to quicken all the land. He was not only a great organizer but a great teacher by word and deed, and his deeds and words have been great motive-powers ever since. Hope never dawned so brightly on this isle as when TONE and HOCHE sailed for it, steered by Freedom. That hope went out in darkness; and the great soul who first taught large-fronted justice to our fathers, died in the enemy’s hands. For him the People went through years of blood, wrong, and woe, yet not the less promptly did they throng round the kindred spirit who succeeded TONE. He, too, fell—ROBERT EMMET fell—we know how, and left us a memory to fill the soul with ruth and wrath. Fain would we hide from men and angels the time that followed ROBERT EMMET’s death. Till then the Irish people had been taught to speak and act like men. But now they are trained, like a beggar or a dog, to pray and whine. At any time, and under any circumstances, this would have been a saddening sight. How peculiarly woeful here, where the actors in the melancholy farce, not knowing what they do, call lustily on a mocking or disgusted world to come and applaud their base delusion! Mark here again the action of the People. They are but given some sparks of the sacred fire of ’98, and lo! the isle is all ablaze. Wisely fed and tended that light would have flashed on Liberty; but so much was it blown on that it scorched a few, and then, neglected, it just flickered once and left us to darkness, and the ways of shame. After the true creed comes, of course, the false—after the manly word, at least, if not the manly blow, come the whine and the dodge. The yield of this creed was now a suicidal swindler and an assassin judge. To most the cause of Ireland then lay dead as a corpse on the dissecting table! Who first took heart of grace and breathed on it? The People: truthful, devoted and daring as ever, they kindled once more the holy fire now glowing through the land.

Sweet are the uses of adversity. The precious jewel it has given to the Irish People is—Knowledge of ourselves. The want of this self-knowledge had always been our bane; possessed of it, we have our antidote. We now know that this island through and through is ours—the Irish People’s; and that, being ours by right, it is our duty to make it so in fact. We also know our power and how to wield it wisely for the common weal. We know, moreover, how we can trust one another, working strongly to the cherished end. And then—why, ‘put your trust in God, my boys, and keep—.’ CROMWELL is great!

[1] Cartlann: Séamus a’ chaca, the nickname of King James II, which in English literally translates to ‘James the shit.’