In the summer of 1847, when Bill-Ned’s decree was executed on our house, and when all the furniture was canted, notice of eviction was served upon my mother. The agent was a cousin of ours, and he told my mother it was better for her to give up the land quietly, and he would do all he could to help her. She had four children who were not able to do much work on a farm. She had no money, and she could not till the land. There were four houses included in the lease—our own house, Jack McCart’s house across the street, Jack Barrett’s house next door above us, and Darby Holland’s house next door below. Darby Holland had died lately, and he would get her his house rent-free during her life, and give her £12 on account of the wheat crop growing in the strand field, and let her have the potato crop that was growing in the hill field. My mother accepted the terms, and we moved into Darby Holland’s house.
The previous two bad years had involved us in debt; friends were security for us in the small loan banks in Ross and in Leap, and as far as the twelve pounds went my mother gave it to pay those debts. To give my mind some exercise in Millbank prison one time, I occupied it doing a sum in Voster’s rule of Interest, regarding those little loan-banks. I made myself a banker. I loaned a hundred pounds out of my bank one week, I got a hundred shillings for giving the loan of it; I got it paid back to me in twenty weeks—a hundred shillings every week.
I loaned it out again as fast as I got it, and at the end of fifty-two weeks, I had one hundred and forty-seven pounds and some odd shillings. That was forty seven per cent. for my money. I wish some of my tenants on the United Irishman estate would now go at doing that sum in the rule of Interest-upon-Interest, and let me know if I did it correctly. ’Tis an interesting exercise to go at, if you have leisure time; you cannot do it by any rule of arithmetic; I give out a hundred pounds the first week, and get in on it a hundred shillings interest; I lend out that hundred shillings, and get in on it five shillings: I hold that five shillings in my treasury till next week; next week I get in a hundred and five shillings; I lend out five pounds, and get in on it five shillings interest; I have now a hundred and ten borrowers for the third week, and have fifteen shillings in the treasury. So on, to the end of the twenty weeks, and to the end of the year, when my hundred pounds will have amounted up to £147.
The harvest time of 1847 came on. The potato crop failed again. The blight came on in June. In July there was not a sign of a potato stalk to be seen on the land. My brother John and I went up to the hill field to dig the potatoes. I carried the basket and he carried the spade. He was the digger and I was the picker. He digged over two hundred yards of a piece of a ridge and all the potatoes I had picked after him would not fill a skillet. They were not larger than marbles; they were minions and had a reddish skin. When I went home, and laid the basket on the floor, my mother looking at the contents of it exclaimed: “Oh! na geinidighe dearga death-chuin!” which I would translate into English as “Oh the miserable scarlet tithelings.”
I will now pass on to the year 1848. In our new house there was a shop one time, and a shop window. The shop counter had been put away; the window remained; that window had outside shutters to it, but those shutters were never taken down. One morning we found pasted on the shutters a large printed bill. My mother read it, and after reading it, she tore it down. It was the police that had posted it up during the night. It was an account of the unfavorable reception the delegation of Young Irelanders had met with in Paris, when they went over to present addresses of congratulation to the new revolutionary provisional government.
France had had a revolution in February, 1848. The monarchical government had been overthrown, and was succeeded by a republican government. King Louis Phillippe fled to England—as the street ballad of the time says:
Old King Phillippe was so wise,
He shaved his whiskers, for disguise;
He wrap’d himself in an old grey coat
And to Dover he sail’d in an oyster boat.
That you may understand thoroughly what I am speaking about, I quote the following passages from John Mitchel’s history of Ireland:
“Frankly, and at once, the Confederation accepted the only policy thereafter possible, and acknowledged the meaning of the European revolutions. On the 15th of March, O’Brien moved an address of congratulation to the victorious French people, and ended his speech with these words:
“‘It would be recollected that a short time ago, he thought it his duty to deprecate all attempts to turn the attention of the people to military affairs, because it seemed to him that in the then condition of the country the only effect of leading the people’s mind to what was called “a guerilla warfare,” would be to encourage some of the misguided peasantry to the commission of murder. Therefore it was that he declared he should not be a party to giving such a recommendation. But the state of affairs was totally different now, and he had no hesitation in declaring that he thought the minds of intelligent young men should be turned to the consideration of such questions as—How strong places can be captured, and weak ones defended—how supplies of food and ammunition can be cut off from an enemy, and how they can be secured to a friendly force. The time was also come when every lover of his country should come forward openly and proclaim his willingness to be enrolled as a member of a national guard. No man, however, should tender his name as a member of that national guard unless he was prepared to do two things: one, to preserve the State from anarchy; the other, to be prepared to die for the defence of his country.’
“Addresses, both from the confederation and from the city, were to be presented in Paris, to the President of the Provisional government, M. de Lamartine; and O’Brien, Meagher and an intelligent tradesman named Hollywood, were appointed a deputation to Paris.
“These were mere addresses of congratulation and sympathy. De Lamartine made a highly poetic, but rather unmeaning reply to them. He has since, in his history, virulently misrepresented them; being, in fact, a mere Anglo-Frenchman. Mr. O’Brien has already convicted him of these misrepresentations.”
It was that “unmeaning reply” of Lamartine’s that the English government placarded all over Ireland one night in ’48. It was that poster I saw my mother tear down next morning. It is that memory, implanted in my mind very early in my life, that makes me take very little stock in all the talk that is made by Irishmen about France or Russia, or any other nation doing anything to free Ireland for us. They may do it, if it will be to their own interest to do it.
My friend, Charles G. Doran, of the Cove of Cork, comes to my assistance at this stage of my writing. He sends me a full copy of all that was printed on that poster which my mother tore down. He says:
My dear Friend Rossa:
I was struck when reading your exceedingly interesting “Recollections,” by two things, which I am sure must have struck others of your readers also—viz, that your mother must have been a very intelligent woman, and a very patriotic woman, to discern and so promptly resent the insult offered to the Irish people by the government, in printing and placarding the cowardly cringing pro-English reply of Lamartine to the thoroughly sincere and whole-hearted address of congratulation presented by the Irish deputation to the new provisional government of France. It would hardly surprise one to learn that the pro-English spirit pervading Lamartine’s reply was prompted by English influence—influence that, though working in direct opposition to the establishment of the Republic, was not adverse to availing of the new order of things to give a coup de grace to Irish hopes for sympathy from that quarter. Almost as soon as Lamartine had spoken his wretched response, the English government had it printed in the stereotyped Proclamation form, and copies of it sent to all parts of Ireland, and posted by the police on the barracks, courthouses, churches, chapels, market-houses—public places of every description—aye, even on big trees by the roadside—anywhere and everywhere that it would be likely to be seen. And it was seen, and read, and commented on, and criticised and bitterly denounced, and no matter what may be said to the contrary, it had the effect that England desired—it disheartened and weakened the ranks of the young Irelanders. At first, the accuracy of the proclamation was doubted, but a couple of days served to dispel the doubt which gave place to dismay and disappointment, and England scored; substituting confidence for uncertainty and uneasiness—Lamartine, her ally—not her enemy! As there are few Irishmen living at present who have ever read that document, or, perhaps, ever heard of its existence until referred to in your “Recollections,” I have transcribed it from an original copy, and send the transcript to you as you may find a nook for it in your pages some time or another.
Here it is:
REPLY OF THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT TO THE IRISH DEPUTATION.
“Paris, Monday, April 3, 1848.—This being the day fixed by the Provisional government for the reception of the members of the Irish deputation, Mr. Smith O’Brien and the other members of the Irish confederation went to the Hotel de Ville to-day at half-past three to present their address. They were received by Mr. Lamartine alone; none of the other members of the Provisional government being present. Besides the address of the Irish Confederation, addresses were presented at the same time by Mr. R. O’Gorman, Jr., from citizens of Dublin; by Mr. Meagher from the Repealers of Manchester, and by Mr. McDermott from the members of the Irish confederation resident in Liverpool. M. Lamartine replied to the whole of these addresses in one speech as follows:
“Citizens of Ireland!—If we required a fresh proof of the pacific influence of the proclamation of the great democratic principle, this new Christianity, bursting forth at the opportune moment, and dividing the world, as formerly, into a Pagan and Christian community—we should assuredly discern this proof of the omnipotent action of the idea, in the visits spontaneously paid in this city to Republican France, and the principles which animate her, by the nations or by sections of the nations of Europe.
“We are not astonished to see to-day a deputation from Ireland. Ireland knows how deeply her destinies, her sufferings and her successive advances in the path of religious liberty, of unity and of constitutional equality with the other parts of the United Kingdom, have at all times moved the heart of Europe!
“We said as much, a few days ago, to another deputation of your fellow citizens. We said as much to all the children of that glorious Isle of Erin, which the natural genius of its inhabitants, and the striking events of its history render equally symbolical of the poetry and the heroism of the nations of the north.
“Rest assured, therefore, that you will find in France, under the Republic, a response to all the sentiments you express toward it.
“Tell your fellow citizens that the name of Ireland is synonymous with the name of liberty courageously defended against privilege—that it is one common name to every French citizen! Tell them that this reciprocity which they invoke—that this hospitality of which they are not oblivious—the Republic will be proud to remember, and to practise invariably toward the Irish. Tell them above all, that the French Republic is not, and never will be an aristocratic Republic, in which liberty is merely abused as the mask of privilege; but a Republic embracing the entire community, and securing to all, the same rights and the same benefits. As regards other encouragements it would neither be expedient for us to hold them out, nor for you to receive them. I have already expressed the same opinion with reference to Germany, Belgium and Italy, and I repeat it with reference to every nation which is involved in internal disputes—which is either divided against itself or at variance with its government. When there is a difference of race—when nations are aliens in blood—intervention is not allowable. We belong to no party in Ireland or elsewhere, except to that which contends for justice, for liberty, and for happiness of the Irish people. No other party would be acceptable to us in time of peace. In the interests and the passions of foreign nations, France is desirous of reserving herself free for the maintenance of the rights of all.
“We are at peace, and we are desirous of remaining on good terms of equality, not with this or that part of Great Britain, but with Great Britain entire. We believe this peace to be useful and honorable, not only to Great Britain and the French Republic, but to the human race. We will not commit an act—we will not utter a word—we will not breathe an insinuation at variance with the reciprocal inviolability of nations which we have proclaimed, and of which the continent of Europe is already gathering the fruits. The fallen monarchy had treaties and diplomatists. Our diplomatists are nations—our treaties are sympathies! We should be insane were we openly to exchange such a diplomacy for unmeaning and partial alliances with even the most legitimate parties in the countries which surround us. We are not competent either to judge them or to prefer some of them to others; by announcing our partisanship of the one side we should declare ourselves the enemies of the other. We do not wish to be the enemies of any of your fellow countrymen. We wish, on the contrary, by a faithful observance of the Republican pledges, to remove all the prejudices which may mutually exist between our neighbors and ourselves.
“This course, however painful it may be, is imposed on us by the law of nations, as well as by our historical remembrances.
“Do you know what it was which most served to irritate France and estrange her from England during the first Republic? It was the Civil War in a portion of her territory, supported, subsidized, and assisted by Mr. Pitt. It was the encouragement and the arms given to Frenchmen, as heroical as yourselves, but Frenchmen fighting against their fellow citizens. This was not honorable warfare. It was a Royalist propagandism, waged with French blood against the Republic. This policy is not yet, in spite of all our efforts, entirely effaced from the memory of the nation. Well! this cause of dissension between Great Britain and us, we will never renew by taking any similar course. We accept with gratitude expressions of friendship from the different nationalities included in the British Empire. We ardently wish that justice may be found, and strengthen the friendship of races: that equality may become more and more its basis; but while proclaiming with you, with her (Great Britain), and with all, the holy dogma of fraternity, we will perform only acts of brotherhood, in conformity with our principles, and our feelings toward the Irish nation.”
There is the text of the document. It is printed with Great Primer No. 1 type, except the underlined portions which, to attract special attention, and convey an “Aha! see now what France will do for you?” are printed with English Clarendon on Great Primer body—an intensely black thick type.
Well, friend Rossa, that cowering Frenchman is dead, and that Republic which he so zealously guarded in the interest of England—not the Republic of the present, glory to it—is dead too! Had Lamartine lived to witness the revival of Trafalgar memories a few days ago, after a period of ninety years, I believe that he would bitterly regret ever having given birth to that disheartening document.
Hoping that you and yours are well, I am my dear friend Rossa,
Ever Faithfully Yours,
C. G. DORAN