From Weekly Freeman’s Journal, 20 March, 1875.
Newry, March 17, 1875.
It is time that I should formally and most gratefully thank you for all the noble efforts and sacrifices that you made in the second Tipperary election. Since two days before the polling I have been confined to bed at Mr. Irvine’s house, in this county of Armagh, which has not only disabled me from paying my respects in person in every town of Tipperary, but has prevented me up to this moment from addressing to you this letter of thanks. While I express my gratitude for what you have done, I know that it was not done for me, but for the electoral privilege of your county. For me it is enough to have furnished the occasion to that powerful county of making so emphatic and so peremptory a protest against the English system of Parliamentary government in Ireland; and your second election struck a heavier blow than the first. It interprets the first and drives it home. At the first of the two elections, when I was declared elected without opposition, it was open to your enemies to say: –
“That was a surprise – that was a mistake. The gentlemen who was to oppose this rebel accidentally was not there. A telegram miscarried; a coach broke down. Let Mr. Disraeli only give us another chance and we shall soon see that the county has no occasion for this ‘felon.’”
Well the Queen’s Minister most courteously gave them their chance, with all manner of courtesy towards them, but with the most blackguard brutality towards the electors and the elect of Tipperary. Now, the second election turned out a more damaging and damning pronouncement than the first. I was returned again by a majority of more than twenty-three hundred, not counting some five hundred spoiled votes – a most overwhelming majority under the circumstances of this case.
Then at once arose the question for me – Having been honoured with this high responsibility, what am I to do with it? Not that I laboured under any doubt or perplexity on that subject. I thought that there was no man in Tipperary, nor in Ireland, who really supposed that I was going to creep up to the bar of the House of Commons and crave permission to take oaths and my seat, or that I would appear, cap in hand, before Monahan and Keogh and the other election judges, to defend my election against a petition by a Mr. Moore. In short, I concluded that all was already one. All that was possible for the Tipperary franchise or Tipperary freeholders to accomplish was already won.
I am made aware by letters from friends in the county that some of my worthy supporters feel a little aggrieved at my pausing suddenly at the triumphant declaration of the poll on the second election. They have given me, by unequalled personal exertions, a superb majority in Tipperary, and they feel reluctant, perhaps naturally enough, to see that great power stop in the mid-career of its triumph, and I think that I should do something to carry on the war at the bar of the house and before the judges. But there is no war now to be carried on; we have come to the very end. The matter as it stands is now complete. Your county has used her franchise in the very best manner possible – that is, in making a desperate protest against the whole system of pretended Parliamentary government in Ireland. If, nevertheless, any friend of mine in Tipperary thinks he has reason to be surprised at my manner of meeting the present emergency, or that I have, ever at any time or in any manner, led him or others to suppose that I should act otherwise than I am doing, I can only refer him to my whole past political career, and to all my published writings and speeches, so far as they relate to this subject of Irish representation in the English House of Commons. More particularly, I refer him to that lecture I delivered in New York on my return from Ireland last summer, a lecture which was reprinted in almost all the Irish journals, and which was intended rather as a manifesto to the Irish in Ireland than as an address to the people of New York. In it occurs the following sentence: –
“Yet certainly it was my full intention, if any vacancy in the representation of any county or borough existed, or should occur, during my stay, to offer myself to the electors, not merely to test the question whether I was eligible or illegible, but, if elected, to originate, and to get other members to join me in adopting, the system once put in operation by O’Connell, of declining to attend in the Parliament at Westminster – that is, of discrediting and exploding the fraudulent pretence of Irish representation in that Parliament.”
So now, my friends of Tipperary, I ask your favourable construction, and bid you farewell for the present, with God save Ireland.