From The Nation, May 30, 1846.
Do you recollect, men of Ireland, how often and how long you have fought the battles of a beggarly British faction, when you thought you were fighting for your freedom?
Do you remember, when the agitation of Repeal commenced under the auspices of your great leader, the struggles you made to return men of the people, from the people, with the people, to Parliament? Do you forget that these men were thorough, out-and-out Repealers?
Do you remember, upon the last accession of the Whigs to power, how the agitation of Repeal languished – how much of the energy and devotion that had characterised the national party merged in an attachment to the measures of the Whigs – and how the brave, homely, honest men you had first returned as your representatives, were forced to give way to aristocrats, fine gentlemen, Whiglings, place-hunters, patronage-mongers, and advocates of the moderate, the servile, and the genteel?
You know not how soon you may be called upon again to send men to Parliament. Shall they be of the right sort – shall they be men of one idea – men of the Repeal – men of one soul – the soul of Ireland – men of one act – how soonest and best to do your work; or shall they be men of moderate measures – men of compromises, expedients, instalments – men of the ‘beloved’ NORMANBY, or the ‘amiable’ MORPETH – men of jobs, scheming, and humbug – Lords of the Treasury, or Vice-Presidents of the Board of Trade – men representing you exactly so far as it will serve themselves?
Whoever they may be, dear friends and countrymen, pray consider your own interests in this election; pray, remember that you have fought other people’s battles long enough; have the courage now to fight your own. Send men to Parliament to do your business or keep them out to do their own. Fine gentlemen are not required; large fortune, high station, are not what you want; you do not want gentlemen ready to take office, or dispense the offal of patronage for their country’s good; you do not want Englishmen to represent you. Lawyers, who are looking to be made Judges, and looking at nothing else, will never do your business; take care, then, that you are not besotted enough to do theirs.
But, above all, beware of the Whigs. The Tory is an open enemy – a determined opponent; as long as Tories are in power, your antagonists stand confessed; the Whigs, on the contrary, with equal hatred, join duplicity and cowardice. In your contests with British factions the difference between Tory and Whig is, that with the Tory you have a fair stand-up fight, while the Whig lures you into an ambuscade, and, when he has got you at his mercy, calls in the Tory to help him to give you a thrashing.
By keeping out the Whigs you have all the advantages derivable from a party against you, but out of office, in opposition to another party against you, in office. The Whigs, for example, will probably try to damage the Coercion Bill, though, we need not tell you, they introduced and maintained a Coercion Bill of their own, and would again; still, as long as they are out of office we may hope something from their spite – for a hungry Whig is the most spiteful animal in nature.
But by helping the Whigs to power, you have Whigs and Tories all on one side, and all against your country. The Tories are rich, powerful, and comparatively careless of office; the Whigs are in the main needy, miserable, and greedy of a job; the Tories will gladly relinquish to the Whigs the doing of this dirty work, and the Whigs are delighted at the prospect of having this work to do.
Friends and countrymen, you are either liars, slaves, and cowards, or you MEAN Repeal; if you mean Repeal, you cannot elect one Whig to the ensuing Parliament, without convincing the world that you are agitating under false pretences, and that Repeal is with you a pretence, a swindle – that you don’t believe it.
What a pretty figure any Repeal constituency will cut which elects a Whig, a sham-Repealer, or a Precursor, having the power to send an out-and-out, thorough-going, man of the Repeal!
What shame, what sorrow to the honest men of Ireland – what joy to the trucklers, sham-Repealers, dealers in humbug – what a warning to brave men, who, like the man lately in jail for you,1 may hereafter prepare their hearts to suffer for your country!
We warn you in time – we caution you now to select men of YOUR choice, tried and approved, but not blindly trusted in. Look out your men in time; let them be intensely Irish; put to them pointedly what you want them to do, and pledge them to do it; let them be hard-working men, and if they don’t talk much, it is no great matter – perhaps they may think the more.
Don’t select a puppy or a jackanapes – plain men, of honest, homely habits, should be your choice; but one thing they must be – out-and-out REPEALERS, at CONCILIATION HALL, and everywhere else.
The Whigs will come out with a sprat on their hook to catch you – Municipal Reform may be the name of the sprat, or Extension of the Franchise, or something that means nothing; the appropriation clause was the last sprat; you bit then – don’t bite now.
Perhaps the sprat put on to hook you may be some Liberal lawyers to be made judges. We admit the value of Liberal judges – we grant the importance of having as many judges as possible with the confidence of the people; but judges, whether Liberal or not, must judge according to law; and Repeal is of much more moment than the interests of any lawyer, be he who he may.
More damage will be done to your sacred cause, to which you have pledged your word of honour, by the election of one Whig to misrepresent a Repeal constituency, than all the good you can derive from advancing the interests or fulfilling the ambition of any lawyer, or any other man, who is ready to go as far as he can to do your business, provided only he be allowed to stop exactly when he has done his own.
When did Repeal show most nobly, most strongly, before the eyes of men and nations?
Precisely when it showed most manfully, most uncompromisingly, most sternly.
When did Repeal look least respectable – least formidable?
Precisely when it mixed itself up with Whiggery.
You have had fair warning – we have counselled you in good time. Don’t attempt to shuffle off your responsibility.
Repeal, men of Ireland, rests with you.
Let Repeal constituencies look not to themselves, their affections, their predilections in the election of representatives – BUT TO THEIR PLEDGES, THEIR COUNTRY, AND THEIR SACRED HONOUR.
1 William Smith O’Brien, Pro-Repeal Member of Parliament for Limerick. Would later emerge as one of the leading figures of the 1848 Young Ireland Rebellion.