There are few facts detailed in the following pages that need explanation here. If my motive in writing them were personal gratification, or simply a desire to preserve a memorial of scenes in which I took an anxious part, I might labour to make the narration more interesting to my readers, without any care for future consequences.

But through every disaster I preserved unbroken faith in the purpose and courage of my country. I believed, and still believe that her true heart is faithful to liberty and hopeful for the future; and this conviction involved me in a struggle with the apparently opposite tendency of the facts I was bound to narrate. Had I to write for a new generation, upon whom these facts could have made no false impressions, my task would be easy. I am persuaded that a simple statement of all that occurred would satisfy any candid mind that no disgrace attached to Ireland in her recent discomfiture. But I must needs confess that it is a task of extreme difficulty to reconcile her fall with the pre-conceived notions or present prejudices of those who read her story through the false medium of the press; nor do I hope for more than partial success from the details I have been able to give of the circumstances of which she was the victim and the dupe.

It is impossible fully to appreciate the pernicious effect of Mr. O’Connell’s teaching, without reviewing in minute detail the leading circumstances of his wonderful career and the matchless and countless resources with which he upheld his fatal system. In dealing with this part of my subject my difficulties have been multiplied and enhanced by a strong desire to do him no injustice, and to leave untouched by doubt or suspicion a character so intertwined with my country’s love. But it became necessary to refer to those acts which chiefly tended to increase the obstacles which beset our endeavours. In doing this, whether here or elsewhere in my narrative, if I use phrases which would seem to imply harshness to his memory, I wish them to be understood as applied in reference to the attempt to effect the deliverance of Ireland by force of arms, and establishing her entire and perfect independence. I have avoided this question, assuming that I wrote only for those who agreed with me in the belief that such is her true destiny, and the end for which her children ought to strive.

In this view of her recent struggle, there can be no doubt of the tendency of Mr. O’Connell’s policy to demoralise, disgrace, enfeeble and corrupt the Irish people, and it is in that sense, and that only, I have always spoken of him.

Another subject, of perhaps greater delicacy and difficulty, was the part taken by the Catholic clergy. On my arrival in America, I found a fierce contest agitating, dividing and enfeebling the Irish-American population. It was asserted on one side that the entire failure was attributable to the Catholic priests, and that in opposing the liberation of Ireland they acted in accordance with some recognised radical principle of the Church.

I could not assent to either of these propositions. I knew several priests who were fully prepared to take their share in an armed conflict; in fact, the vast majority of those I met at the time. And again, with respect to such as did interfere, and opposed the efforts of the people’s chiefs, I do not believe that one man was influenced by considerations connected with, or emanating from the Church, in its corporate capacity. Of Mr. O’Connell’s policy, already referred to, none were blinder victims than some of the priests. It had made such an impression on them that they scarcely could believe anything was real, or any sentiment was true; and when they admitted its truth it was only to prove its madness. Of other and more questionable motives I shall say nothing here.

But while I feel the injustice of the sweeping charge made against the whole body of the priesthood, I would be unfaithful to my purpose and my convictions if I concealed the acts and language of those among them, who interposed and unhappily exercised baneful influence on the abortive attempt of their unfortunate country. I shall only say further that what relates to them is the only part of my narrative which gave me shame to tell.

I have only a word to add in reference to certain proceedings in the Committee of the Association now made public for the first time. It may be said, and, I doubt not, will be said, that these were matters which we were morally pledged to keep secret. I readily admit that, although there was no obligation whatever, either expressed or implied, as to any subject discussed in committee any more than in the public hall, still, I should not disclose any part of its proceedings if I were not compelled by an imperative necessity. Upon one subject, and that the most important to the character of my illustrious friend, no other proof was available. And the tacit understanding, in virtue of which I would be disposed to admit any obligation of secrecy, does not and could not extend beyond such matters as would, if divulged, endanger the safety or impair the efficiency of the Association. What I tell of the proceedings of the Committee, even if it yet existed, would scarcely have any such effect. But every one knows it not only does not exist, but that is has left no memory which it would be possible to degrade. Its physical existence long survived the last spark of moral vitality, and its efficiency now consists in this, if it warn all men against the species of terrorism which finally prevailed in its councils and effected its overthrow.

In certain circumstances which I relate, I may possibly make some mistakes in the dates, owing to the difficulty of finding those dates in odd numbers and broken volumes of the Journals to which alone I have had access.

It would have given me the sincerest pleasure to add to the collection of heads, which I have been able to procure, those of others who took an honourable part in the Irish struggle. Foremost among them are John Martin and Kevin Izod O’Doherty, who followed in the footsteps and shared the fate of John Mitchel. But I am not aware that there are any likenesses of them in existence; at all events they are not to be obtained in this country.[1]

There are others, too, mentioned in my narrative, whose likenesses I would feel delighted to present to my readers, and some, who although cursorily or not at all mentioned, acted a noble and devoted part. Of the first, are the companions of my wanderings, James Stephens and John O’Mahony; and of the second, Doctor Antisel, Richard Dalton Williams, James Cantwell, Richard Hartnet, Patrick O’Dea, and indeed many others, of whose efforts and sacrifices it would be a source of pride to me to make honourable mention.[2]

I may be permitted to take this opportunity to assure them and others of whom I have not spoken that no name has been omitted by me from any feelings of dislike or any desire to depreciate the services and sacrifices of a single man among the hundreds, whose exile or ruin attests the sincerity of their convictions and the purity of their patriotism. Even with men who do not take the same view of last year’s history as I do, their names and characters will go far to redeem its darkest traces from shame and obloquy. They are now scattered over the wide earth, and there is not one among them from the highest to the humblest, whom I do not hold in the utmost honour and esteem.

New York, September 21, 1849.


[1] I am glad it has been found easy to supply these in this edition of the work.—Ed.

[2] Some of these will also be found in the present gallery—Ed.