This work is in the public domain.
The duties of a Chairman upon occasions like this are ordinarily of a trivial character. To introduce the lecturer, preserve order, and submit to the penalty of a vote of thanks for not occupying too much of the attention of the audience, is generally the routine of a Chairman’s duty. I would, however, be underrating the importance of this vast meeting, and neglecting a duty which I owe to the interests of justice and to the cause of peace, if, in face of the present crisis, I should hesitate to inflict myself upon your attention for a longer period than is convenient to myself or perhaps agreeable to you. To my friend, Mr George, I feel certain I need not apologise for trespassing upon his time and subject, and I am in hopes that my motives in dealing with the various intensified phases of the present situation will be appreciated by yon to the extension of an indulgent hearing.
The change that has come over public opinion upon the subject of Land Reform during my incarceration in Portland is so vast in its import to the cause with which I am identified that I am, I hope, pardonably anxious to justify the movement by the aid of which such a revolution in the popular mind of these countries has been effected. (Cheers.) Three years ago, when the cry of the “Land for the people” went up from a meeting in the west of Ireland, it was received with astonishment by our own countrymen, and branded at once as communistic and wicked in England. Yet an organisation for effecting the nationalisation of the land of this country is now numbered among its political forces, and has at its head such enlightened minds as Drs Russell Wallace and Clark. (Cheers.)
Peasant proprietary was ridiculed as ruinous and impossible by the late Lord Beaconsfield. (Hisses.) No, no; I must say I don’t approve of that. (Cheers.) I never carry resentment into the tomb. (Cheers.) He was our enemy while alive, but we must be just to his memory—(cheers)—and when we show mankind that we have learned the lesson of knowing how to be just, we shall prove that we deserve to be free. (Cheers.) He propounded his famous theory that three profits must necessarily be recognised in the agriculture of England, those of the landlord, the farmer, and the labourer; yet scarcely has his cloak of leadership fallen upon Lord Salisbury than the landlord’s profit is recognised as an evil in the rural economy of Ireland, and peasant proprietary finds a lodgement in the legislative programme of the English House of Lords. Those who believed with myself that peasant proprietary, immensely preferable though it be to landlordism, would not meet to the full the final solution of the Irish social problem, were two short years ago put down as Utopian dreamers, yet one of the most respected Bishops of Ireland has since proclaimed that “the land of every country is the common property of the people of that country—(cheers)—because its real Owner — the Creator who made it—has transferred it as a voluntary gift to them. Terram autem dedit filiis hominum. (The earth He hath given to the children of men.) Now, as every individual, in every country, is a creature and a child of God, and as all His creatures are equal in His sight, any settlement of the land of this or any other country that would exclude the humblest man in this or that country from his share of the common inheritance, would not only be an injustice and a wrong to that man, but would, moreover, be an impious resistance to the benevolent intentions of his Creator.” (Loud cheers.)
All these vast strides, taken in conjunction with Mr Gladstone’s legislation of the past and present year, ought to show, to every observing mind, that a movement from which such progress in economic thought has mainly sprung should not be lightly treated or hastily condemned because a storm of angry passions, inseparable from human struggles, has swept over an unfortunate country as a cotemporary phenomenon. (Cheers.) If movements for the social and political amelioration of a people are to be held responsible for the crimes that are incidental, not to them, but to the wrongs which they strive to abolish, liberty itself would be a blood-stained monster, and the cause of societary progress be a criminal pursuit. No one laments the murders and outrages that have taken place in Ireland recently more than I do—(hear, hear)—and no one will be found more ready or earnest to prevent them in future; but to charge their perpetration upon the Land League movement, as most English papers are doing, is as blindly unjust as to bring home to the French Reformers of 1709 the atrocities of the Reign of Terror, and fasten upon the memory of Mirabeau the sanguinary appetite of a Marat. (Cheers.)
Knowing that if a fair hearing could be obtained in England for a reformer it would be granted in Manchester—(cheers)—the birthplace of English reform, I have come to plead the cause of the Land League upon ground that is hallowed by the blood of Englishmen—(cheers)—spilled in the cause of justice and progress. (cheers.) My object will be to show that to a tardy recognition of principles by English statesmanship, and an indifference towards, or hostility to, the just demands of the people of Ireland on the part of English popular feeling, are to be attributed the excesses that follow from justice long delayed, and crying evils allowed to pander to the dictates of unreasoning passion. Every one who is acquainted with the political career of John Bright—(some hisses)—and who has read the speeches of other English Liberal leaders, is familiar with the tone of scornful upbraiding with which, not they alone, but all the organs of the Liberal party, have assailed the Tories for their persistent opposition to all the great English reforms that have been carried from 1832 down to the Ballot Act of 1874. English Conservatism has been over and over again charged with initiating nothing for the national weal, and taunted with having obstructed all popular measures until success had placed them among the statutes of the realm. This hostility of the Tories towards the extension of popular privileges, as defined by their political rivals, is exactly similar to that of the people of England towards movements and measures in behalf of popular rights in Ireland. Neither English statesmen nor English public opinion ever trouble themselves to think of, propose, or initiate any legislative remedy for the wants and grievances that affect the wellbeing and contentment of the people of Ireland, but take up, as a general rule, towards such remedies as Irishmen propose and Irish public opinion endorses, the same antagonistic stand as that which is so loudly condemned when assumed by one English party towards the plans and proposals of the other. Thus every single Irish proposal for measures essential to our country’s needs has to encounter two hostile Conservative forces ere it can hope for lodgement within the domain of practical politics—namely, the hereditary or aristocratic in Great Britain and Ireland, and the ignorant or prejudiced on the part of the popular mind of England. (Hear, hear.) Hence not a single remedial Act passed, or remnant of penal laws removed, from the passage of the Act of Union until the Arrears Bill now before the House of Commons, but has had to be forced down the throat of English public opinion and Parliament by the intensity of Irish agitation. (Cheers.)
“The parallel, however, between the hostility of English Toryism towards popular rights in this country and that of English popular feeling against the recognition of identical principles in Ireland, would only be complete if the Conservative party had had the power to have suspended the Habeas Corpus Act preparatory to the concession of some remedy for English discontent, and had likewise imprisoned such of the Liberal leaders as were chiefly instrumental in forcing such remedy upon reluctant legislation. (Laughter and cheers.)
The question I would like to ask of Englishmen, who are now compelled to study the problem of Ireland’s pacification, is a simple and practical one. Is landlordism worth what its support is costing England—(“no”)—and the troubles and misery which it is entailing upon Ireland? (“No,” and cheers.) No rational mind acquainted with the treasure of blood and money that has been wasted in defending it against the assaults of its victims would hesitate a single moment for a reply to this simple question. The only grounds upon which anything like a reasonable defence of this anti-Irish and irrational system can be based are that it is English, that it has always been deemed essential to the maintenance of England’s power in Ireland, and that those whose interests would be affected by its abolition are the portion of the population of Ireland that is known to be the most loyal to the authority of England. Surely these reasons ought not to outweigh those which can be advanced by Irishmen, and which are supported by unprejudiced English thought upon the other side.
That the Irish land code is of English origin is true; but does this fact necessarily constitute it a good code, or one suited to the genius, customs, and wants of the Irish people? (Hear, hear.) These land laws are notoriously unsuited to the requirements of a progressive age, and have consequently been, in a great measure, swept away in every civilised country outside of Great Britain and Ireland. But had not this been the case, and were they still capable of being pointed to as suiting the feelings and social condition of one or more civilised nations, this would be no argument for their continuance in Ireland in face of their career of disastrous failure in that country, and in opposition to the interests and will of the Irish people. (Loud cheers.)
The assertion that landlordism is essential to the supremacy of English authority in Ireland, that it constitutes “the garrison” by which the country is held in subjection, is one of those popular English fallacies which only needs to be examined in order to be thoroughly exploded. Its origin is easily traceable to those who find security from the consequences of their treatment of the peasantry of Ireland in proportion to the extent of credit that it obtains in the English mind. If the landlords of Ireland were the only moral or physical power for the upholding of England’s authority in that country, about how long could our people be kept in subjection to their rule? Not for a single day—(cheers)—and as it is well known that an army of 30.000 troops and a military police force of over 12,000 men are deemed necessary to defend the property of the landlords, it would be a waste of words to refute the assertion that Irish landlordism is the safeguard of England’s supremacy in Ireland. (Cheers.)
Of all the institutions or laws bearing an English complexion in Ireland, and making a part of the machinery by which it is governed, landlordism presents the weakest points of attack, has always been, and must always continue to be, the most obnoxious factor of English rule, and would alone, in the absence of ever)’ other exasperating agency, keep the country in an unsettled state, fan the flame of social discontent, and inspire a national sentiment of disaffection towards the power that could sustain such a notoriously ruinous system. Instead of being England’s stronghold, it is just the reverse, as it renders the name and authority of English government responsible for all the injuries which it inflicts upon the country, and necessarily involves in the infamy of its acts the name of that power whose instruments are essential to their perpetration. (Cheers.)
The next argument that is adduced to sanction the support given by Englishmen to Irish landlordism is calculated to appeal even more strongly to popular feeling in this country than that just mentioned, as it is made to represent a loyal section of the population of Ireland as occupying an isolated situation in the midst of a disloyal majority, and in need of a protection which would not be required but for such loyalty. This is one of the trump cards of the Irish landlords, and has always been played in a most effective manner by them. But is it a true or honest argument? It is quite true that they constitute what is known as the loyal section of the Irish people, because they hold the land that was formerly the property of the Irish nation. (Cheers.) They could not be otherwise than loyal and grateful towards the power that guarantees them in its possession, and places in their unscrupulous hands as well the entire government of the country and the administration of the law—(hear, hear)— but would their boasted loyalty stand the test of a Government confiscation such as those by which the land was stolen from the people in the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Cromwell? (Cries of “No.”) They are loyal because it is their interest to be so—(cheers)—and they know as well as their persecuted tenantry could tell them that the laws by which they have succeeded in reducing Ireland to beggary and chronic discontent are detested, not because those in whose interests they are maintained are loyal to England, but from the fact of their being the root of every social evil under which the country is groaning, and the chief source of the poverty and misery that burden the lives of our people. (Cheers.)
Let me ask fair-minded Englishmen whether the selfish loyalty of a class is a justification for upholding a system which constantly invites twenty times its number to be discontented? (Cries of “No.”) Can a.boasted attachment to English rule be construed into a privilege of pauperising an Irish nation? (Never.) Let England by all means sustain what is just and wise to defend in the interests of her Irish ultra-loyalists, but let not Englishmen endeavour to perpetuate by all the influence and power of the empire an antiquated and obnoxious land code that stands forth to-day before the world with a record of centuries of failure unequalled by any institution that has ever fallen before the attacks of progress and enlightenment. (Cheers.) Such a policy is as unjust to the social well-being of the country as it is impolitic and ruinous to the popularity of English government, and should never be persisted in by a nation that claims to rule its dependencies in accordance with popular principles and in the spirit of constitutional law. A persistency in adhering to laws or institutions that are associated with certain phases of English conquest, but which time and the march of ideas prove not only to be no longer suited to societary wants, but a positive evil in a progressive age, has been the source of not a few calamities to the cause of the British empire, involving the prestige and name of England in more than one defeat and disgrace. If blind Conservative stubbornness will continue to disregard the consequences that have invariably followed from unbending opposition to the just and popular demands of a people, the continuance of Irish landlordism by English statesmen may prove a more costly blunder on this side of the Atlantic than did the imposition of unpopular taxes a century ago upon the then British colonies on the other side. (Prolonged cheers.)
Considered from a purely political point of view, Irish landlordism is, perhaps, a greater failure than in any other respect. If its baneful influence upon the social economy of Ireland has been marked with general ruin to that country, its effects upon the attitude of the Irish people towards English law and supremacy—the support of which was contemplated as the chief end of landlordism when introduced into Ireland—have been scarcely less emphatic in their results. A system that is made to supplant another belonging to a subjugated people must possess two qualities that are essential to the permanency of all institutions substituted for those that are abrogated by a dominant power. It must equal or surpass in utility or popularity that with which the people upon whom it is imposed were familiar; or it must possess sufficient inherent force to command that respect or attachment which its shortcomings or unpopularity would fail to elicit. Wanting in the quality of intrinsic merit or favourable comparison with a superseded system in the estimation of those whose interests are at stake, the new code must necessarily be defective; deficient as well in the power to enforce its behests, It becomes a complete failure. Tried by these tests, how does Irish landlordism stand as a political institution? Instead of reconciling the people of Ireland to the loss of the national system which obtained among them for centuries previous to the English invasion, or winning them over to a willing acceptance of the new law, and to a submission to the power that upheld it, landlordism has had to sustain itself by every weapon of despotic power against an Incessant agrarian war from Its very inception in Ireland until the present hour. (Cheers.) Never has landlordism succeeded In obtaining a moral recognition from the Irish people. (Cries of “It never will,” and cheers.) Not for a single day has the Irishman ceased to look upon the landlord as a social enemy, or the law by which he was compelled to part with most of his earnings In the shape of rent, but as the detested instrument by which himself and family are impoverished and his country ruined. Illustration or evidence is unnecessary to sustain these assertions, as they are patent to all who have given the most cursory study to the Irish Land question, and stand uncontradicted by every English writer who has brought an impartial criticism to its investigation. As for the force by which Irish landlordism might retrieve its moral debasement in the opinions of our people, I have already shown, what is patent to all the world, that this politico-social system needs the constant guardianship of 12,000 military police and an army of over 30,000 soldiers to protect its very existence, and without the aid of which external power, as has been truly remarked by an English writer, “the property of the landlords of Ireland would not be worth a month’s purchase.”
I have endeavoured, in the foregoing remarks, to place this question of the abolition of Irish landlordism before the English people, not from a purely Irish point of view or upon grounds of abstract justice, but in the light of a reform involving serious English interests—proving that such interests are endangered infinitely more by the upholding of Irish landlordism than they could possibly be by its abolition. It is for Englishmen to make up their mind what course to pursue in furtherance of their own political interests. The people of Ireland have fully made up theirs—(loud cheers)—as to what is their just demand, and what the sentence that must be passed upon Irish landlordism. (Renewed cheers.) Mr Gladstone’s—(hisses and cheers)—I know there is a great deal, or rather it is considered by some that there is a great deal, in a hiss, but I for one never practise what I think is reprehensible—to hiss or attack a man not present to defend himself—(“hear, hear,” and cheers)—Mr Gladstone’s—(renewed cheers)—temporary expedient of fixing rent, backed by the undisguised despotism with which he means to combat Irish Land reformers, may satisfy some and frighten other Irishmen from further efforts to effect a complete settlement of the Irish social problem; but he deceives himself egregiously—(hear, hear)—if he believes that the Land League movement is about to efface itself all the world over because he has been converted to Mr Parnell’s views upon the Arrears question—(prolonged cheers)—and accepted the services of a Mr O’Shea in effecting the treaty of Kilmainham. (Laughter.) I think it well to just remind the jubilant Whigs who believe they have captured the whole Irish party through the diplomacy of a political go-between from Clare—(renewed laughter)—that the Land League movement was organised to effect the complete abolition of Irish landlordism—(cheers)—and that until that work is fully and completely accomplished there can be no alliance between the people of Ireland and the Whig party in this country. (Cheers). Mr Gladstone wants Ireland to give a trial to his second attempt to settle the Irish Land question. The people of Ireland will refuse to give any further trial to Irish landlordism. (Cheers.) Instead of having grappled with this festering social cancer in a courageous and effective manner, which his previous failure to cure the evil would reasonably warrant, he has proceeded upon the lines of his former mistake, and produced another experimental measure by which landlord and tenant, instead of being legally divorced, are both turned over into the hands of the lawyers, the country invited to place all its prospects of peace and prosperity in universal litigation, while the tenant farmers are asked to see their interests protected, and their happiness insured, in the existence of a Land Court composed of lawyers and Irish land agents. The spider inviting the fly into his net—(laughter and cheers)— is only equalled in seductive disinterestedness by Mr Gladstone introducing the Irish tenant farmers into a mixed gang of Irish “conservators of ancient barbarism” and Irish agents in order to be protected! (Laughter.) Even this much of legislation, small as it is, could not be given to Ireland without being spiced with the customary vindictiveness by which Irishmen are deprived of their liberty and their country flooded with troops, because the Whig party has been put to the inconvenience of attempting something for Ireland.
Those whose complete vindication from the charges of their enemies is established by an enactment in the direction of the remedy which they called upon the people of Ireland to demand, are, nevertheless, flung into prison to gratify the vengeance of the Irish landlords; yet Englishmen marvel why there is disrespect for law and order in Ireland. English statesmen and the instruments of alien rule in that country have never failed in showing our people a way in which to violate their own laws, and it appears supremely ridiculous to find fault with and punish our people for profiting by the example of their rulers. (Cheers.)
It has ever been, and is still, the fate of English Ministers never to know how to remedy any of our admitted wrongs by what are termed “instalments of justice” in a politic or conciliatory manner. Our people must be driven either to open attempts at rebellion, or Ireland be plunged into a ferment of political agitation, ere British statesmanship will admit that such wrongs, or the questions that embrace them, come within the domain of practical politics. But that is not all. Before these recognised grievances can be partially or wholly redressed, or a modicum of justice conceded, the Habeas Corpus Act must be suspended in order that Dublin Castle may be propitiated by an equivalent instalment of political vengeance. Thus the credit which could be gained from a not ungrateful people by a judicious treatment of the social and political wants of our country is lost to England through the vindictive spirit by which her concessions are accompanied to a sensitive and impulsive nation. The concession upon the Arrears question is now offered side by side with a bill purporting to be aimed at secret societies and for the prevention of crime—(loud hisses)—but in reality intended to arrest the further public action of the people of Ireland towards the abolition of landlordism. Here, in the face of the most propitious hour that has presented itself to English statesmanship during the past eighty years for an effective settlement of the Irish difficulty, the fatal dual policy of the past is again resorted to, and outrage upon liberty, personal and political, is flung like a brand into Ireland, to excite again the angry passions which lead to lawlessness and crime. I am confident that if the healthy feeling of horror which was created throughout Ireland by the Phoenix Park tragedy was permitted to have its full effect upon the popular mind of the country, assassination would have been assassinated in Ireland by the melancholy event of the 6th of May. Now the country will see the use that Mr Gladstone is about to make of that event. (A voice: “No.”) The Land League movement is to be crushed. (Cries of “Never,” and cheers.) Every barrier that could stand between the people and landlord vengeance is to be removed in order that no political action in Ireland shall interfere with the subtle policy of the Whig Government in support of a doomed system. What will be the consequence? The people of Ireland can never place confidence in any English Government—(hear, hear)—that places the administration of its laws in the hands of Dublin Castle—(hear, hear)—that depot of centralised despotism—(loud cheers)—without a parallel in the history of constitutional government. Those in whom they have reposed confidence, to whom they look for guidance and support, are menaced with gagging laws, the very discussion of which in the English House of Commons has brought shame to the face of thousands of Englishmen.
What will be the consequence? The field of Irish political strife will be left clear to the landlords, armed with unlimited power by Mr Gladstone, and the equally unlimited power of secret combination, freed from the antagonism and rivalry of an open movement. To which of these two powers will the victims ot Irish landlordism—those who know the implacable nature of landlord vengeance so well—secretly incline? I will answer this question in memorable words once uttered by John Bright: “When law refuses its duty, when Government denies the right of a people, when competition is so fierce for the little land which the monopolists grant to cultivation in Ireland, when, in fact, for a bare potato millions are scrambling, these people are driven back from law and the usages of civilisation to that which is termed the law of nature, and if not the strongest, the law of the vindictive; and in this case the people of Ireland believe, to my certain knowledge, that it is only by these acts of vengeance, periodically committed, that they can hold in suspense the arm of the proprietor and the agent—(hear, hear)—who, in too many cases, if he dared, would exterminate them. At this moment there is a state of war in Ireland. Don’t let us disguise it from ourselves. There is a war between landlord and tenant; a war as fierce, as relentless, as though it were carried on by force of arms. There is a suspicion, too, between landlord and tenant, which is not known between any class of people in this country, and there is a hatred, too, which, I believe, under the present and past system, has been pursued in Ireland, which can never be healed or eradicated.” These expressions of John Bright’s, years ago, face to face with a similar state of affairs in Ireland as that which confronts us now, I bring forward to show to Mr Gladstone and the English people what will be the consequences of this battle of vengeance that is going to commence between the landlords of Ireland and a great portion of the people of Ireland. In presence of this state of affairs in Ireland, vengeance is to be pitted against vengeance, the settlement of the agrarian war is to be left between the Clifford Lloyds—(loud hooting)—and the wild justice of revenge born of landlord oppression. I again ask, what will be the consequence? Had Mr Gladstone been in the confidence of the secret powers with which he pretends alone to grapple he could not have more completely played into their hands. It is only when a people despair of justice at the hands of their rulers, and see their hereditary enemies unopposed by any protective movement, that occult agencies are looked upon with favour by such people, and that the sympathies of the injured are extended to those who avenge the wrongs that are inflicted in the name of law. There is no power at the disposal of Mr Gladstone, there is no method short of the extermination of the whole Irish race, that can grapple effectually with a secret movement when it is made to appear as the only protector of a wronged and trampled people—(loud cheers)—and which confronts the mandates of unlimited despotism with the weapon of retaliation.
If the Land League is to be prevented from succouring the evicted, if every channel of political effort not favourable to Whig legislation on the land question is to be closed up, then, indeed, will the whole situation be surrendered to the secret movement, and lex talionis become the only refuge of despair. As the moral responsibility of the outrage epidemic of the past twelve months must, in my humble opinion, rest upon the Whig Administration for its coercive incitation to vengeance, so must the crimes that will follow additional coercion be placed at the same door. If Mr Gladstone is earnest in his efforts to put down crime, let him go to the source of all agrarian outrage, and remove Irish landlordism from Ireland. (Cheers.) If he be determined to put down secret societies, let him remove from the government of Ireland what makes English rule detested and English law distrusted—let him sweep away Dublin Castle—(loud cheers)—and show that he can repose the same confidence in Ireland that has not been abused in Canada. (Cheers.) If he believes that peace will be restored in Ireland while landlords have power to evict and the Castle power to trample upon every political opponent and every vestige of liberty, he has read the history of the Anglo-Irish difficulty to no purpose. As well might the doctor dream of restoring to health and vigour a patient in whose sensitive flesh the instrument that made the wound lies unremoved. I believe the admirable temper and manly self-control that has distinguished almost the whole of this country during the past fortnight, in face of what might have provoked an outburst of unjust and ungenerous wrath, together with the wide-spread anxiety that peace should be restored to Ireland and crime extinguished by generous and just legislation, would sanction measures of justice and conciliation which the past would not contemplate, and which the future, if embittered by angry passions and violence, may refuse to consider. Has Mr Gladstone the courage to respond to this feeling among the unprejudiced of his countrymen, and to make an heroic concession to justice and right; or will he continue, as in the new Coercion Bill, to be guided by the policy of a Forster—(loud hisses)—and the tactics of political adversaries? It would be vain for me to think that he would be guided in his actions by a man like myself. But humble and obscure though my origin and position may be—(prolonged cheers)—the son of an Irish peasant—(cheers)—who was refused shelter in an Irish workhouse by Irish landlordism; the son of an Irish mother who had to beg through the streets of England for bread for me—humble as that origin may be, the memory of that mother has made me swear that so long as I have tongue to speak, or head to plan, or hand to dare for Ireland—(cheers, during which a great part of the audience rose and applauded vociferously)—Irish landlordism and English misgovernment in Ireland shall find in me a sleepless and incessant opponent. (Renewed cheers.)
It is useless to think that Mr Gladstone would be influenced by my advice, but had my voice been listened to when I last emerged from the prison into which his Government thrust me in 1870—(shame)—the sad history- of the past two years would never have to be written, and the Ireland of to-day might have been otherwise than a standing reproach to English government. I tell him now, that, although the Arrears Bill may land his Government over a temporary difficulty, the very next season of scarcity or partial famine that unpropitious seasons will bring upon Ireland, will re-open the Irish Land question, and call into play the same passions and provoke the same strife between conflicting interests that have brought the Land League into existence and forced the hands of unwilling legislation. If he persists in dealing only with the Irish social problem as intensified by the Land League agitation, instead of grappling with it as Irish Land reformers propose in connection with a train of retrospective ruin, present discontent, and the certainty of landlordism continuing to move in a circle of reproductive wrong, he will bequeath the settlement of the Irish Land war to the future, and leave the primary cause of Irish poverty, disaffection, crime, and misery to the country he is anxious should look to him as its friend.
Dark as is the present outlook for Ireland, I do not despair. (Hear, hear.) In a period of unexampled trial, the attitude of her people has been steadfast, courageous, and unbroken. The march of the social has dragged the settlement of the national question in its wake. If victory has not yet crowned the efforts of the Land League, we have called into existence the elements of proximate success. (Cheers.) From every prison in Ireland voices will go forth to teach the oft-repeated lesson that force is no remedy—(cheers)—against a cause which rests for support and sanction upon the ordinances of God and the dictates of justice and reason. Every parish in Ireland will have one or more in its midst that has suffered in the cause of liberty and fatherland; and from this outcrop of national sentiment, from men unjustly punished, women imprisoned—(shame)—and children indoctrinated in the creed of patriotism and social rights, will spring a generation before whose might no wrong can stand, and from whose birthland every vestige of social and political servitude must fall, as falls the withered leaves of autumn before the angry blasts of winter. (Cheers.)
Ere concluding what I fear has been a too lengthy speech—(“No, no”)—I feel compelled to make a few observations upon a subject which, of all others that are discussed in connection with the present state of Ireland, is the most painful to dwell upon. The outrages that have been committed during the past year in Ireland, culminating in the assassinations of the 6th of May, 1882, have placed the character of our country in a very odious light before public opinion throughout the world. The prejudice that has been thus excited against our cause will not permit of that calm and dispassionate inquiry which would trace to the primary source of all agrarian crime what our enemies have endeavoured to fasten upon a movement that has aimed at the removal of the one grand incentive to murder and revenge. It was in vain that over and over again it was pointed out that if the leaders of the people were deprived of liberty and evictions allowed to proceed, fierce passions would be evoked, and a spirit of evil unchained, throughout Ireland. The sanguinary record of the past twelve months is the sad fulfilment of these predictions. But who or what has suffered in consequence of such crimes? Apart from the obloquy which they are made to bring upon our country, they, and they alone, are responsible for the check that has been given to the Land League movement, and for the crisis with which we are now confronted. Granting all that can be said on the head of provocation—all that can be quoted to show that the balance of crime and outrage has ever been on the side of our oppressors in the past—when will we learn the lesson which common sense and prudence teach, that the one grand fatal error in all popular movements is to allow the promptings of individual passion to silence the warnings of moral sense and prudence in order to seek a selfish and criminal gratification, regardless of all consequences to a people’s cause? (Hear, hear.) Are there not far nobler principles and more exalted and manly aspirations bequeathed to us from the past than those of hatred and revenge? If the powers on high seem indifferent to interfere in the defence of right, shall the cause of justice be sullied by unholy vengeance? If the one supreme danger that besets the path of this great movement be that of outrage, and the greatest obstacle in the way of success be the gratification of passionate resentment, why should not policy, prudence, morality, and religion stay the suicidal acts of those who retaliate for the wrongs inflicted upon injured men? If Irish landlordism finds its only support from public opinion in appearing to be the victim of a people’s implacable vengeance, why should its life be prolonged by the excesses of its victims? (Hear, hear.)
This may wear the appearance of preaching to the inherent weaknesses of human nature, a fruitless effort to stay those excesses of passion that are beyond the control of reason and religion, as their acts are unforseen and above the power of any Influence to arrest. But it is heart-rending to think that, were it not for the excesses of the past year, the cause of justice would by this time have triumphed, and Ireland would stand to-day in the position of a victor in her own cause and that of humanity also. (Cheers.) Had the promptings of revenge not frustrated the plans of the Land League, Irish landlordism could no more have withstood the forces that our plan of action had arrayed against it than could a rotten hulk, rigged with matchbox spars and tissue-paper sails, bear up against the fury of an equinoctial gale. (Cheers.) As for the other class of outrages that have stained the record of our country during the same period, no language is sufficiently strong with which tp reprobate and condemn them. As in those above alluded to, comparison with similar classes of crime in this and other countries is of no avail to avert the stigma which their commission fixes upon our peasantry. As to the individuals who perpetrate these horrible brutalities, whether actuated by the incomprehensible motive that could prompt a tenant farmer to perform them, or by the worst design that would incite the degraded instruments of Irish landlordism to their perpetration for the purpose of bringing odium upon the cause of Irish Land Reform, no difference of opinion can exist in Ireland or England as to the punishment which such crimes deserve. The wretch who is capable of such monstrous barbarity towards a dumb and inoffensive beast, places himself beyond the pale of human sympathy, and merits being branded with some indelible mark of popular execration, that should point him out for ever to his fellow-man as infamous and detestable.
And now, one word more before I conclude. Amidst all the troubles of the present movement, and in face of the opprobrium that has been heaped upon Ireland by its enemies in this country, there have not been wanting generous and justice-loving Englishmen who could brave the storm of popular prejudice in defence of the cause of the Land League and its leaders. (Cheers.) What Irishman’s heart would refuse to beat with the warmest throbbings of gratitude at the name of honest Joe Cowen? (Loud cheers.) Or who among us could read the declaration of Mr Storey—(cheers)—in the House of Commons, on Friday night, unmoved, when he asserted that if twenty English Radicals had seats in that Assembly, the Coercion Bill of last year would never have been passed into law? (Cheers.) When the representative of England’s artisan class also declares that the voice of the country is against further coercion for Ireland, and in favour of justice to our people’s cause, can we not see that other Broadhursts—(cheers)—are In the background, and that the tide of popular English feeling is turning in the direction of fearless and unprejudiced equity in the policy of ruling Ireland? (Cheers.) The stand taken during the excited temper of the past fortnight by the Pall Mall Gazette, and some few more English journals, to avert an outburst of unjust resentment against us in this country, is worthy of the highest praise for its enlightened and courageous advocacy of dispassionate justice replacing the hereditary policy of coercion for Ireland. Should we not endeavour to multiply such advocates here in England? It is easy of accomplishment. It needs no sacrifice of principle or national aspiration; it calls for nothing but what it is our moral duty to perform, our best policy to pursue. Let outrage cease in Ireland—(cheers)—let no suspicion of sympathy on your part here in England be made to arise at any act, great or small, that seeks justification from past events in the history of our country, and rely upon it that the number of the Cowens, Storeys, Broadhursts, Taylors, Laboucheres—(cheers)—Lawsons, Collings, and Thompsons, will multiply and lend to the cause of Ireland’s social and political rights the cause of justice and humanity, the manly advocacy of fearless English minds, and the unstinted sympathy of generous English hearts. (Prolonged cheering.)