Taken From Vol. II. of the Life of John Mitchel by William Dillon, published 1888. The short preface in italics is Dillon’s.
At Tipperary (on 16th February 1875), John Mitchel made what may fairly be called his last public speech. Some hours later he spoke a few words to the people at Clonmel; and some ten days later he again spoke a few words at Cork to the audience who had come to hear him lecture. But, practically speaking, it was at Tipperary that he made his last public speech. He was extremely weak – hardly able to stand up while he spoke. But the spirit within was still unconquered. I give the speech – interruptions and all – as I find it in the newspapers of the day: –
Men of Tipperary, it is true that I have come over more than three thousand miles of this globe’s surface to the people of Tipperary to get returned by them to Parliament (loud cheers). It was nothing to come three thousand miles to receive such an honour as I have received this day, and especially such a distinguished honour as I received yesterday (cheers). I would have come from the North Pole for it (cheers and laughter). It makes it the more impressive upon me that I have not even the honour to be a Tipperary man. I have the honour to belong to Down, but I suppose Down is as Irish as Tipperary (cheers). At any rate I am an Irishman (loud cheering).
A voice. – The first Irishman living.
Mr. Mitchel. – I am an Irishman, and I think you all seem to acknowledge that (cheers and laughter). My friend, Mr. Doran, has alluded to some steps he thinks the Government are about to take – that is, the British Government over in London (laughter). There is a man over there in London who writes novels (laughter), and he is of opinion that he knows better who Tipperary should elect than you do – that is his opinion (great laughter).
A voice. – He lies.
Mr Mitchel. – Now, if Tipperary is to submit to the dictation of the novel writer, why, the next thing will be Cork, and then he will go to Limerick, and will make them all select for their representatives such men as he shall approve of.
A voice. – Limerick is not rotten, sir.
Mr Mitchel. – No, I think not. Men of Tipperary, some years ago the British Government selected me as a fit subject to carry a felon’s chain, and to bear the penalties of felony at the antipodes. And now, when I have returned here, you, the people of Tipperary, have thought me the very person worthy of being your representative at her Majesty’s counsels, to offer her Majesty’s ministers and advisers the best and all my information and talents to help them to govern a free country (laughter). I am now going to help the English, the Scotch, and the Welsh to govern their own countries as well as to govern this country. It seems they cannot do it without us (laughter); and I have only this much further to say to you – you have had little experience of me yet. You have only heard or read of me. Well, there is one thing I wish to state to you, and it is – that as long as I have the honour of representing you I will not sell you (cheers). I will not trade upon you in any shape or form. The efforts and sacrifices the people of Tipperary have made in putting me in the very proud position I hold to-day – these efforts and sacrifices I will not trade or traffic upon (loud cheers). I will not be found haunting the doors of ministers, pressing them to give little offices and places to by constituents, or the relations of my constituents (cheers). I am not going to say to his lordship, the Premier, or the Secretary of State, “Now, in my district of so-and-so there is a very eminent and influential constituent; he has a little estate, and it will gratify him to be made a J.P; or he has a cousin or brother-in-law who would like a good office – inspector of police, say” (laughter). “Now,” I should continue, “you will gratify me and maintain me in my county, barony, or parish, and we will maintain you and your administration” (cheers). That is a fair bargain. Now, I suppose a great many of you know that is the sort of bargain and traffic made every day in London (hisses). I hope the days of that base trade are nearly at an end. I think there is a better class of representatives now going over to London than we used to have (cheers). I did not say, recollect, that I am ever going to London at all. I didn’t promise to go to London. I have not pledged myself to that effect; but whether I go to London or stop here at home, I think Tipperary may be very sure I will never bring disgrace upon her (enthusiastic cheering).