In dedicating to you this narrative, I have been influenced by one consideration only. I have no title to your friendship. I cannot claim the most remote affinity with your career in arms. There is nothing connected with this sad fragment of history, either in fact or hope, to suggest any association with your name or achievements. But as my main object is to show that Ireland’s failure was not owing to native recreancy or cowardice, I feel satisfied that of all living men, your position and character will best sustain the sole aim of my present labour and ambition.
In past history, Ireland holds a high place; but her laurels were won on foreign fields, and the jealous literary ambition which raised adequate monuments to these stormy times denied to her swords the distinction they vindicated for themselves in the hour of combat. The most brilliant, unscrupulous and daring historian of France degraded the niggard praise he accorded them by making it the medium of a false and contemptible sneer. “The Irish soldier,” says Voltaire, “fights bravely everywhere but in his own country.”
Without pausing here to vindicate that country from such ungrateful slander, it is enough to say that you were not placed in the same unhappy position as the illustrious exiles from the last Irish army—soldiers of fortune in the service of a foreign prince. You were a citizen of this free Republic, and a volunteer in its ranks; it was your country, and you and your compatriots who followed the same standard did no dishonour to those who were bravest among the brave on the best debated fields in Europe.
In the wreck of every hope, all who yet cherish the ambition of realising for Ireland an independent destiny, point to your career as an encouraging augury, if not a complete justification for not despairing of their country. It is because I am among those that I have claimed the honour of inscribing your name on the first page of this, my latest labour in her cause.
I remain, dear Sir,
Very respectfully and sincerely yours,
New York, Sept. 20, 1849.