Oct. 26, 1849. — Still on board the Neptune, Simon’s Bay. A ship has arrived from England, but does not carry our destiny. Two weekly newspapers. News from Europe up to the 11th August. The Hungarians are still beating both Austrians and Russians in gallant style. It has begun to be highly probable that Hungary will be a free and potent nation. Whereupon the English newspapers have discovered that Hungary really was a nation, and had a right to assert her nationhood. Lord Palmerston, too, in Parliament, declares that the hearts of the people of England — bless their hearts! — are enlisted on the side of the Hungarians, if that be any comfort. Bern and Gorgey have brought matters so far. Lord Palmerston being asked why Britain should content herself with expressing an opinion against Russian intervention in Hungary — why not take arms? — answers, in the enthusiastic cant which now prevails, “That opinion is stronger than arms.” It is enough to make the Russian bear laugh.
British opinion, however, seems to be little regarded on the Continent. The levy of enlisted “hearts” is not reckoned a very formidable contingent. Clubs are trumps there, and hearts do not count.
This delightful spirit of peace which now rules British councils must be very satisfactory to the Sikhs and to the Irish. British reverence for “opinion,” also, is surely most comfortable in Ireland, where all anti-British opinion must be suppressed, and those who utter it imprisoned or transported.
I find a paragraph copied from the Globe, stating that Mr. Duffy, being now at large, and safe from any further trial on his present indictment, has advertised a new series of the Nation, to be shortly commenced; but the Globe adds, that the “Government” (the same fellows who so profoundly revere opinion — their own opinion) have refused to issue stamps for it. A law has been found, too — a most convenient law — whereby no newspaper in Ireland may publish anything at all, save by favour and Sufferance of the “Government” — or transmit a single number, even stamped, through the post-office, save by the courtesy of the postmaster-general, that is, of the same “Government.”
One is at first inclined to say, that the people of England are looking stupidly on at all these late proceedings in Ireland — blind to the danger that menaces their own liberties. But not so; every Englishman feels that by this tyranny over press and people in Ireland, British supremacy is the thing that is asserted. They know that it means simply “the Red above the Green.” They never dream of Irish government maxims being applied, or applicable to England; and they are right.
In this particular case of the Nation, however, if Lord Clarendon do indeed refuse stamps, it will be a gross blunder. He ought to allow Duffy to publish, for the new series will be perfectly constitutional, safe, and legal — cannot be otherwise after the evidence Mr. Duffy produced on his trial to prove his moral-force character; indeed, it will be such a newspaper, as, if not published by Duffy, Lord Clarendon ought to pay somebody to publish — taking care, also, to give it the very name, “The Nation.”
Oh, patient! patient public! A new series of the Nation, by Duffy — and after the scenes of the last few months. I know no parallel to this, except the “young spodizator,” whom Dr. Rabelais saw with his own eyes, earning his livelihood in a somewhat peculiar manner — namely, very artificially drawing Βδεσματα out of a dead ass, and retailing them at fivepence per yard.
Queen in Ireland. — This year her Majesty’s advisers deemed the coast clear for the royal yacht. Plenty of blazing, vociferous excitement, called “loyalty.” Loyalty, you are to know, consists in a willingness to come out into the street to see a pageant pass. Besides, the visit was most happily timed; the “additional powers” would not expire for a month yet. Habeas Corpus still in suspension; jails still yawning for seditious persons; Lord Clarendon still wielding his lettres de cachet. No happier combination of circumstances could be imagined; so her Gracious Majesty has come and enthroned herself in the hearts of her Irish subjects; and the newspapers are to say (at their peril) that a brighter day is just going to dawn for Ireland.
Mr. Tim O’Brien does the honours of the city of Dublin to the British sovereign; presents her with the keys of the “gate” — a gate somewhere between Irishtown and the end of Lower Baggot Street, where was no city gate in my time. And Mr. Tim O’Brien is made, or to be made, a baronet. Now, it is certainly the sheriff of last year rather, who ought to have been so honoured. No gentleman in Ireland deserves reward from the Queen of England more richly than last year’s sheriff. If the intercession of so humble a convict as myself would have any weight with her Majesty, I should venture to recommend Mr. French (that is the individual’s name, I believe) for something handsome. And if my fellow-felons, Messrs. Martin and O’Doherty, were not so far off, I feel sure they also would be happy to add their testimony in his favour.
N.B. — The newspaper I have seen says the Queen met with nothing but loyalty; and that “Young Ireland was nowhere to he seen.” And the Times asks triumphantly, “Where were the vitriol bottles?” as if anybody had proposed to sprinkle the Queen with vitriol.
N.B. (2) — Her Majesty wore, at Cork, a “green silk visite”; also, carried a parasol of purple silk (perhaps vitriol proof). Her Majesty first touched Irish soil at the Cove of Cork, which is henceforth Queenstown. Her Majesty did not visit Spike Island.
N.B. (3) — Her Majesty, on board her yacht in Kingstown harbour, took her children by the hand, and “introduced them (in dumb show) to the Irish people,” in a very touching manner.
N.B. (4) — Synod of Ulster had a deputation of their paid preachers to meet her Majesty in Dublin. Oh! where were the Remonstrant Synod? Do they apprehend no danger to their little donum?
N.B. (5) — Her Majesty did not visit Skibbereen, Westport, or Schull; neither did she “drop in” (as sometimes in Scotland) to dine with any of the peasantry, on their “homely fare.” After a few years, however, it is understood that Her Majesty will visit the West. The human inhabitants are expected by that time to have been sufficiently thinned, and the deer and other game to have proportionately multiplied. The Prince Albert will then take a hunting lodge in Connemara.
But Ireland, as I see by these same papers, has had a far more royal visitor. Carlyle has been there again, in company with a gentleman named Forster. I have no doubt that he will be delivered of a book on the subject of Ireland soon. Unless I much mistake his symptoms, he was going on with such a book eighteen months ago. There will be a curious book!1 I trust that I may be in some part of the world whither its winged words will find their way; for, indeed, Thomas Carlyle is the only man in these latter days who produces what can properly be termed books.
Meantime enter a basket, with superb clusters of grapes — African grapes: smooth and round, with a glow of opaline light in the heart of them — clusters that might seduce Erigone.
1850 — Jan. 1st. — Still riding at anchor in this weary Simon’s Bay. There is no change whatever since I made my last memorandum — more than two months ago; and how much longer we may have to stay, nobody can guess. About three weeks since arrived to the governor a despatch from Earl Grey, simply acknowledging the receipt of his alarming and objurgatory despatches of August last, and adding that he will send a final order for the further disposal of the prisoners on board the Neptune, “after he shall have heard of the arrival of that ship at the Cape” — that is to say, after the prisoners shall have been five months or so in a close unwholesome prison here, recruiting after their five months’ voyage. There is something very cool in this. The colonists are nearly frantic; they made sure that, in reply to Sir Harry Smith’s August despatches, would come an order to take the Neptune away; and are now mortally afraid that when the extreme measures of the ultra-party (denying victuals to the army, etc), shall come to be known in England, ministers will think themselves bound, for the dignity of the Empire and the United Service, and all that, to coerce the Cape into receiving this one shipload at least. A new feature in public opinion here is, that it now pretends to commiserate the poor convicts, so long detained in custody by Lord Grey’s cruel delay. If Sir Harry Smith, now, had but complied with the urgent demand of these philanthropists three months ago, and sent the Neptune to cruise between this and the South Pole, the poor convicts would have seen the end of their sorrows long since: and the Neptune, cruising there, in secula seculorum, would have been a new Flying Dutchman to the mariners of the south.
Hungary is down — Venice, Rome, Baden, all down, and the Kings and Grand Dukes are everywhere rampant — for the present. In their very rampant folly and fury, lies hope for the future. Parma — even Parma, forbids people to meet “under pretence,” of casinos, circles and the like. The Austrians are hanging and shooting general officers, and scourging noble ladies on the bare back. Kossuth, the immortal governor, and Bem, the fine old general, refugees in Turkey. Other Hungarians and Poles flying to the United States. Justice and right everywhere buried in blood. Has the people’s blood then been shed utterly in vain? By God, no! The blood of men fighting for freedom is never shed in vain — the earth will not cover it — from the ground it cries aloud, and the avenger knoweth his day and his hour. Hungary is henceforth and for ever a great nation — how much greater now than before her bloody agony! how much grander her history! how much richer her treasure of heroic memories! how much surer and higher her destiny! It is through this bloody travail and by virtue of this baptism of fire, and only so, that nations ever spring forth, great, generous and free. If Ireland, in ’82, instead of winning her independence from the coward foe by the mere flash of unbloody swords, had, like America, waded through carnage to her freedom, like America she had been free this day. A disastrous war even, had been better than a triumphant parade. Indeed, those lines of Byron are profoundly true and noble: —
“For Freedom’s battle once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son
Though baffled oft, is ever won.”
Ah! then. Freedom, once it is fairly and dearly won, is no commodity for trading politicians to sell, as the high-minded chivalry of Ireland sold and delivered our ’82 simulacrum of liberty.
In the meantime it is amusing to the mind to see the self-complacency of all literary organs of “Order,” as they call this chained quiescence.
In India, the enemy’s government are preparing for the invasion of Cashmere, no doubt to establish order there. Gholab Singh holds Cashmere, and has a fine army and 150 pieces of cannon.
But England in Asia and England in Europe, are two very different things. In Europe, that truly civilised and Christian nation is only offering her opinion; and it gives me sincere pleasure to remark how cordially that is contemned on all sides, and how the nations are beginning to perceive that the old — cannot afford to fight. The London newspapers praise everything that succeeds: they patted Hungary on the back for a month or two, but now congratulate Austria most warmly, and the Times recommends to the Emperor England’s dealings towards Ireland, as an example for his future administration of Hungarian affairs. By the same rule they ridiculed the French excessively at first for their attack upon Rome; but now find that, after all, the cause of the French was the cause of “Order,” and that, therefore, it is all right. The anxiety they show to keep on good terms with France, especially, is highly diverting to the benevolent mind which remembers the superhuman friendship between France and England about the breaking out of the great Revolution. What is highly satisfactory is that Europe is clearly beginning to understand all this British cant about “Peace” and “Order,” to know that it means simply credit-funds, and the commercial status quo. And Europe will act accordingly. The events of last year have brought the prestige of Britain immeasurably and irremediably down. This is good.
Have been reading the Quarterly Review on Lyell’s tour in North America. The Quarterly rejoices, quite generously, in American Art, and “Progress,” and so forth — but is mainly solicitous that the Americans should — for their own sake, of course — stay at peace. “For,” says the generous reviewer, “As the future of America, to be a glorious future, must be a future of peace, so we would hope that it may be fruitful in all which embellishes and occupies and glorifies peace.” — Most balmy language! but was it in peace, then, that Athens or Corinth grew great in art? Was it in times of peace that Holland, from a community of clodhoppers, sprang up into a high-spirited and noble nation, renowned in art and in all which embellishes and hallows, et cetera? Was the age of Louis Fourteenth an age of peace to France!
When the Italian cities were becoming the chosen home of Learning, Freedom, Commerce (honest Commerce), Art, and Glory — was there peace in the land in those days? As for America herself, what made America? Was it peace? In short, everybody in America as well as everybody in Europe must by this time understand thoroughly the British peace-cant.
I have seen extracts from the new Nation. Mr. Duffy can hardly find words for his disgust, his contempt, “his utter loathing” of those who will say now that Ireland can win her rights by force. I thought so. The Times praises the new Nation, and calls its first article “a symptom of returning sense in Ireland.”
The Ballingarry folly, this Nation calls “an utterly unsuccessful revolution.” Young Ireland calls upon his countrymen to accept the defeat of Ballingarry. Ireland’s strength, he thinks, was tested at Ballingarry. If the country (says Young Ireland) could have been saved by human prowess, hâc dexirâ fuisset, at Ballingarry. Therefore, Mr. Duffy is for the system of Irishmen growing individually independent, energetic, and truthful men (under British rule) — and then when they shall feel, after stem self-examination, that they are fit to manage their own affairs, then dissolve the Union with England. Thus blasphemes this traitor: thus snivels, rather, this most pitiable sinner.
The Cork Southern Reporter echoes the new Nation, and even tries to go beyond it in treason. Mr. Barry quarrels with Mr. Duffy for keeping the independence of Ireland before men’s eyes even as an ultimate and far-distant object; he is for “putting it in abeyance,” that is, dropping it altogether. Mr. Barry, therefore, is stupid and cowardly, but not half so dishonest as Mr. Duffy. These poor creatures will soon have few readers among the country people.2
One number of the Irishman has come to my hands: it is published at No. 4 D’Olier Street, and by Fulham; and the editor is Joseph Brennan. This appears to be the true representative of the old Nation; but they have not a proper staff of competent writers for it. The Irishman professes to preach the doctrines of me, J. M. If I am their prophet and guide, I am like to lead my votaries and catechumens on a cruise to the Southern Ocean — αλαδε μνσται. Yet, I know not. Mr. Fulham is a man of business; possibly they calculate on the jury-packing system being blown and broken down; and if they be right in that calculation, they have the game in their hands. I would they had two or three dashing writers!
Last July, the “Government” got up a very horrid massacre in the County Down. There was a great Orange procession of armed men: they marched with banners displayed, through a district chiefly inhabited by Catholics; and there, at Dolly’s Brae, between Castlewellan and Banbridge, a collision took place, of course: a large force of police and military was present, and they took part, also, of course, with the Orangemen: five or six Catholics were killed, five or six of their houses burned; only one Orangemen or two seriously hurt — and the procession went on its way in triumph. Lord Roden, it appears, had feasted the Orangemen at Bryansford, and excited them with “loyal” toasts; and afterwards, when informations were sought against the Orange rioters at the hands of the said Lord Roden, presiding at a bench of magistrates, he very properly refused. Very properly, for there is no law in Ireland now. I know no reason why Orangemen should not burn Papists’ houses now.
However, this demonstration went somewhat beyond the Government intention — or they pretend that it did; and they take Lord Roden to task. Lord Roden justly feels this to be a piece of treachery as well as insolence — reminds the government that they wanted a loyal demonstration in Ulster this year. Well, this is a loyal demonstration. What would they have? Government, however, feels constrained, by virtuous public opinion, to dismiss Lord Roden and two other rampant Orangemen from the Commission of the Peace.3
In the South, there is a universal feeling this winter that the persons who raise com ought to provide for their own sustenance before any other charge, even rent: it is called a horrid conspiracy in the newspapers: the country people meet by night in armed parties, and carry off grain, etc., to places of safety, leaving the bailiffs and poor-rate collectors to mourn over empty haggards. They also beat off, or shoot, or stab the police, when those functionaries interfere. All this also is quite right. The people know now that there is no law in Ireland, no property, no rights: they are in a state of nature, and they know it at last. Any other nation in Europe, under similar circumstances, would have recognised that fact three years ago.
Jan. 15th. — It blew a hard gale from the S.E. last night: this morning a strange ship, with only one mast standing, was seen deeply bedded in the sands here in Simon’s Bay. She had been driven in during the night. Turns out to be a slaver, captured in the Mozambique channel, and sent here under charge of a naval officer. She will be allowed to go to pieces where she lies, and her materials will be sold.
This is surely the stormiest coast in the world — the wind at this season almost constantly from the S.E., and once in ten days there is always a furious storm. During calms the weather is very hot now: I trust I am not to spend another Christmas in light clothes, panting under an awning. I wish the southern hemisphere well, but shall not take up my abode here if I can help it. I respect the Southern Cross, but pray that my own destiny may be cast under Arcturus and his suns. All the traditions and associations of times and seasons are reversed and confounded here: think of May morning falling at Hallowmas! — and instead of burning a yule-log, wooing thorough draughts and hiding from the flagrant sun at Christmas! What becomes of St. Swithin and his showers? Of Candlemas and its ice?
Si Sol splendescat Mariâ purificante
Major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.
What a wrong-sided view of Christianity you get in these parts! Why, the apple-trees are in blossom at Halloweve, and on St. John’s Day men wear thick greatcoats in the house.
Besides, there is no action, no living, properly to speak, in a country so remote from all the great centres of this world’s business: whatever is done here can only be said to be inchoate, provisional, and not a perfect act, until news of it go to England, and an answer return. You address yourself to the public opinion of your countrymen through the newspapers, and for three months your eloquent remarks lie frozen, or if not frozen, at least sodden, in the “region of calms,” and the sultry trade winds — it is all the same — your countrymen do not hear a word you say until the whole affair is months old, and when the result of your appeal comes to hand, perhaps you are dead. You are three months in arrear of events, and will never come up with them — panting steam toils after them in vain. Heavens! while I sit scribbling here, there may be a European campaign half fought out — the credit funds may be burst — Changarnier or Oudinot may be in Buckingham Palace — Tipperary may be. In short — in short — it will never do, wasting time here, pretending to be alive on what Milton calls the backside of the world. If I am put ashore within the Colony, under whatsoever vigilance of custody, it will go hard, but I will revisit the glimpses of the moon. But be still, O my soul!
The agitation and excitement here still continue as violent as the newspapers and Anti-Convict Association can contrive to make them; but with all they can do there is evidently an abatement from the original fervour of anti-convict rage, though none whatever in the universal determination to adhere to the pledge, in its strictest letter, if Graaf Grey should ultimately order the convicts to be landed. Meanwhile we all await the Downing Street doom, and I, at least, with perfect equanimity and good humour. It was on the 12th of October (three months ago yesterday), that the Eurydice frigate sailed out of this Bay bearing intelligence which was expected to elicit Lord Grey’s final despatch; and it is therefore possible that the mystic packet of red-tape destiny is now off Madeira, or Ascension, or beating to windward near the coast of Brazil, or scudding to leeward under close-reefed topsails in the latitude of Tristan d’Acunha. Or the ship may have gone down with the red-tape in her — or the Eurydice herself may have been lost on her way home. Ah! miseram Eurydicen! Or the Ministry may have gone out, and the new Colonial Secretary will know nothing about it — must have a correspondence with the Cape before be can decide anything; a few half years, more or less, will make little difference to a crew of convicts. Did ever human destiny hang before on so precarious a tape?
As to the place we are likely to be sent to, if not landed here, conjectures are numerous and wild. The favourite guess now seems to be that the Neptune is to make a beginning of a new penal colony in N6w Guinea, among the Papua cannibals. At the Cape, or at New Guinea, our reception promises to be equally hospitable — here the people would give us nothing to eat — there they would feed us indeed, but only to fatten us for their own tables. These are cheering speculations.
I have omitted to make a regular record of the “anti-convict movements”; for, in fact, there is so much sameness in them that I tire of reading the papers. The symptoms of a chronic disorder, being the same every morning, would not be interesting to read of. But from yesterday’s Commercial Advertiser I will copy two letters, the reading of which, and consultation thereupon, formed part of the business of the Association at its last meeting: —
“Sir, — About the month of October last I sent three waggons of mine, with sheaves, to the town-market. On their arrival there a young man of colour came and offered my children a reasonable price (without mentioning what it was for); but when the bargain was closed, he would show where the waggons were to be unloaded. The waggons were subsequently brought by that lad to New Street, behind the residence of Adrian Beck; and when they were unloaded, Adrian Beck made his appearance, and paid for the sheaves. My children have, consequently, sinned innocently, because, as the bargain had been already concluded, and the best part of the sheaves delivered, they had no alternative. But this had, however, the effect that my children were placed under the pledge, as also myself, with a wife and young children. This has gone to the extent that no one will buy from, or sell to them or me. And moreover, I have in consequence been summoned by one of my creditors, who, but for this occurrence, would not have done so. I therefore beg leave to pray you, as chairman of the Anti-Convict Association, to bring my case before your meeting, and kindly to decide in my behalf, in order to prevent my total ruin. Expecting a favourable answer, I remain, etc.,
WENTZEL PETER LAUBSCHER.”
Poor Laubscher lives in the district of Stellenbosch; and the Association have simply referred him and his complaint to the local authorities, that is to the Stellenbosch Branch Association. The truth is, Mynheer Laubscher’s account of himself is not satisfactory: he was bound, or his innocently sinful children were bound, to be sure they were not selling their sheaves to a traitor; and Adrian Beck is a well-known supplier of convicts and government: I know his name as the name of a “bad member” months ago; and while I eat his bread and beef I denounce him as a traitor.
The other letter is from Hendrick Johannes Morkel: —
“SIR, — It is with great reluctance that I again trouble you, but circumstances render it unavoidable. You are aware, sir, that for an alleged violation of the pledge all intercourse was dropped with me by the public. When I perceived it, immediate steps were taken by me to disprove the charges thus falsely laid against me, and satisfy the public mind that I was perfectly innocent of what I was accused of. I applied to the Anti-Convict Association of Hottentots Holland for the privilege of having my case inquired into; and, if found innocent, to be restored to public favour. This, my application, has been entirely disregarded; and I find that I can no longer endure the pain of public contempt, whilst I sincerely regret any proceeding of mine which may have been construed into an act of disrespect for the opinion of the public; and being desirous of granting all my influence and support to the Anti-Convict Association, in order to aid the people in accomplishing this grand object, I beg to request that the A.-C. Association of Capetown, as the parent of all the other Associations, will cause the necessary inquiries to be made into my case, and to see justice done to one of its true members.
I have, etc.,
H. J. Morkel.”
With this letter came a certificate, signed by the delinquent’s father, solemnly declaring that the “sheep were sold” under a mistake. — Referred, as before, to the local association.
See how “public contempt” brings this fellow to his knees! He is ready to sink into the earth at the imputation of so shameful a crime as being loyal to Downing Street and traitor to the Cape.
Thus public opinion with a high hand rules the Cape. How, in the meantime, the governor and commodore get their supplies I know not; but so it is, they eat and live. And as for the convicts, I wish the unconvicted Irish could keep half so good a table.
1 It has not come to light yet; and one is even inclined to hope that it may have miscarried. Carlyle cannot write rationally about Ireland; and he believes that Carthage has a mission to conquer the world. Bothwell, 1st January, 1852
2 I have seen reason to believe that I did injustice to Mr. Barry in the above. I find that Mr. Barry, after the signal failure to make so much as an insurrection (to say nothing of a revolution) in ’48, openly, frankly, and without any arriere pensée, gave up the cause of Ireland as a distinct nationality, accepted the provincial destiny, and concluded that Ireland must make the best of that. In freely avowing this change of sentiment he was at least not “cowardly” — whether stupid or not will appear hereafter. — J.M. .
3 It was proved, however, on the investigation into this case, that the Government had sent a supply of arms shortly before to Belfast, out of Dublin Castle, for distribution amongst the Orange Lodges. — J.M.