Reported in the Limerick Reporter, 13 April, 1847.
Mr. Smith O’Brien, sir, has already prepared you for the resolution I am about to move. It protests against the last crime perpetrated on the nationality of Poland by the tyrants of Europe. It protests against the incorporation of the Cracovian Republic into the Austrian Empire. I suppose, my friends, you know the meaning of the word “incorporated.” Your countrymen in Skibbereen and Skull are suffering incorporation now. Against the committal of an act similar to that from the consequences of which they are suffering, the Irish Confederation is bound to protest. An Irish Parliament would have passed this resolution long ago, and acted on it; and we, although we are not able to act as becomes us, feeling that the sympathy of nations is of service to the world – seeing that the sympathy of the American people is of signal service to us – seeing too, that a time may come when our sympathy may be a protection to the conquered Polish nation – we, sir, now raise our voice against this hideous destruction of this last fragment of Sclavonic nationality.
Sir, it is late, and on this subject I shall not longer detain you. But it is the first time I have appeared in a public assembly, and I should be very unwilling, indeed, to sit down without speaking a word of my country. I should be very unwilling at any time, but especially now, when she needs all our thought and all our care. Her state is frightful. I have seen in Ulster, in my own native north – there where comfort and happiness, and bold and stalwart yeomen at once were, I have seen strong-boned men dropping on the roads before me. To this has it come at last. Such another year, I hope, will never pass over us.
A people, sir, which tamely lies down in its own land to starve, deserves to starve. If it be given to men to interpret the motives of the living God – and I for one do not believe this famine is His work – yet, what ever of it be His, was done by Him, I am convinced, to make the national existence of our country identical with our personal lives – to make us act like men, that we may live not like animals – to make us brave in self-defence. Before two months one of two things will come to pass here – there will be a new plantation on the graves of the old race, or else a great national existence. Great misfortunes, sir, are productive of great virtues. Nor have we yet reached the most trying season of this year – that time, when all farm labour in Ireland shall have ceased – when there shall be no public works to offer a resource to the people – when the few crops in the ground shall not have reached to maturity. That time, sir, will try the foreign governors of our country. And if we live on through that – if we live on to see another year’s crop torn from the mouths of a starving people, and carried to the tables of our masters – if we submit to this, sir, again, we deserve to be slaves for ever.