From United Irishman, (Vo. 13), 6th May, 1848
After all, it seems Ireland is not to wait for freedom till the end of summer, as many “evil-disposed persons” believed – no, nor to the dog-days; nay, perhaps, some bright morning in June may not see a single foreign usurper on our soil – so greedy is Lord Clarendon, the Well Disposed of that immortality which is due to the last of every tyrant line.
He cannot brook delay or disappointment; and we commend him for the notion. In him, and him alone, of men – and not in us, or in you, is the selection of the day on which the question of Irish independence shall be decided – a day not depending on the seasons, or the crops, or the sun, but on the moon, and himself, wholly. He has already fixed it twice in joke; it is the least he may have leave to fix it once at earnest.
He has already prepared to fall by three several insurrections, which nobody, most provokingly, intended; and, to say the least of it, it is only due to his Excellency, as a prerogative of his Chief Governorship over us, and all we own, that he should be permitted to “command” one.
A “well-disposed” Viceroy, itching for the notoriety of political martyrdom, and the mob sympathy of “midnight legislators,” in St. Stephens, is a rarity we are not used to, and the value of which it is not likely we shall ever appreciate duly. And now it is but May, and people talk of preserving peace and order for six months more; and there is no perpetuity of tenure in Dublin Castle – nor even tenant-right – so that let one labour never so hard to create a rebellion, he cannot dispose of his good-will, nor deserve any credit, if he do not actually reap his own harvest.
Horrible! What – after all the panic into which he has got his “better classes;” after all the proclamations, and addresses, and replies, and declarations, and assurances; after towing the Tagus fleet all the way to Cork, and bringing a steam frigate even unto Halpin’s Hole; after dragging into Ireland twice the usual English garrison, and keeping them awake, on iron beds, armed and accounted, night after night; after importing cargoes of cast muskets and uncast lead, roofing the bank with grenades, and mining the Castle from Ship-street to Cork-hill – to have no rebellion! It is a base design of “evil-disposed persons.”
What! – after arming himself with one coercion bill against the people he feared, and another against individuals who abused him; after employing his agents to swear they were in terror, as well they might be; and getting up divers meetings of other agents, to declare they were not in terror, but ready to fight, if any rebel said “boo” to them; the poor Chief Governor, even after employing a head commissioner of spies to select pikes, to justify his trepidation, and his head law-officer to fabricate two indictments, and a sham grand jury to prove his nerve and firmness – the well-disposed Viceroy! – Nay, after by great exertions, restoring confidence in the drawing-rooms of Leeson-street, and disposing troops so as, in the most scientific manner, to protect the pretty nursery-maids of Merrion-square, in their morning walks – after all this, to have not ever so little a rebellion!
To think of a man, calling himself a chief governor, and crying through the public thoroughfares for two long months with a piteous cry, “Will nobody, nobody rise in insurrection?” departing in peace and disappointment after all. G.W.F. Villiers returning to London as he came, after all this, with his carriages, and servants, and aides-de-camp, packed up and tied, having merely paid his bills and made his bow to admiring shopkeepers, would be the object of derision.
But her Majesty’s chief governor of Ireland, flying from a capital in insurrection, after, mayhap, knocking about in an open boat, like his Majesty “the great unwashed” Count Neuilly, or denuded of his last change of linen, which is the modern costume of royalty, would be quite another thing. Political disgrace would be the result of the former. The latter would entitle him to the coronet of a Marquis, and a seat at the table of kings. It is plain, then, his Excellency must have an insurrection, hit or miss, if only to save his character. And the style in which he goes about getting it up is so like himself, that we need only sketch it.
A week ago it was known that “evil-disposed” persons contemplated peace, law, and order, for some months. Next day it was universally known that the “Lord Lieutenant in council” contemplated quite the contrary; and to carry out his intention, resolved to lay on proclamations. Magistrates of Dublin county, paid and otherwise controlled, were immediately called together by him, and desired to address him, to the purport of the proclamation then and there prepared, and of other proclamations of which he wished to give public notice.
The magistrates met, as ordered; addressed, as ordered; and before the address was in the Viceroy’s hands, the proclamation which was to be supposed to have emanated from it, was divined, singular to say, by the Queen’s printer, and posted on the Castle gates by the Queen’s bill-sticker. The address was, however, duly presented; for these well-fed justices of the peace were ordered to complain of the “indiscriminate” manufacture and possession of arms by ill-fed people; and did accordingly.
His Excellency, by pre-arrangement, administered indiscriminate condolence: and assured them that if ill-fed people should “indiscriminately” continue to manufacture and purchase “weapons which could only be intended for bad uses” – that is, pikes – he would proclaim Dublin by virtue of a bill to suppress “agrarian outrage.”
Hence follow two important facts – one, in Vice-regal evidence; the other, in Vice-regal law. 1st. That pikes can only be made for “bad uses;” and, second, that to make or buy a pike in a city is an “agrarian outrage” – it is hard to say on what, unless it be on a harrowing pin.
However, this you see is the state of the law. Lord CLARENDON has authority to consider a certain fabric of iron – viz., one pike – an agrarian outrage – to place a city where such continue to be made under coercion, and disarm it – that is, if it lets him. Lord CLARENDON has, further, one BROWNE, a head draftsman of agrarian outrage; who has one KIRWAN, to order agrarian outrage, at three shillings and six-pence; who has innumerable smiths, glad to earn an honest penny, no matter whether “law” may call it agrarian outrage or bigamy.
Whence it follows, by virtue of this machinery, that CLARENDON, BROWN, KIRWAN, SMITH, JONES, or ROBINSON, may place Dublin, before this ink is dry, under a bill to prevent Tipperary men from shooting bad landlords. Or, denuding the matter of law and logic; that there is in Dublin Castle a proclamation, cut and dry, for domiciliary visits to, and the disarming of, the citizens of Dublin, waiting Lord CLARENDON’s pleasure. And without BROWN or KIRWAN, this may be laid on any time. For we advise every man to arm himself while he can, cheaply and conveniently. It has always been the right of man to arm – it is still the “legal” right of Irishmen – it is now, more than ever, their duty to assert that right.
Limerick is already proclaimed – how the citizens of that city will act, we know not. But how the people of Dublin should act, should their city be proclaimed, is plain. In the first place, if Dublin be disarmed in peace and quiet, there is an end of Ireland. The capital secure, English rule can ride rough-shod over every province with ease. Distrust, dispiritment, cowardice, will spread over the land. Men everywhere will submit to the like ignominy, and quote the capital in defence of their conduct.
We shall be the cause of our country’s ruin, the object of our tyrants’ derision, and of the loathing and hate of men – what! After all our boasts, after cramping our means to purchase arms, after pledging ourselves before earth and heaven to defend our liberty to the death, tamely and hound-like, at the bidding of an English Viceroy, to gather up our guns, and pikes, and swords, and march up Dame-street and Cork-hill, and lay them meekly and submissively at his feet? Or ask leave to take them up again, and carry back, amid grinning soldiers, brands, and licenses home to our children? Or what till an emissary of the Castle enters our houses, insults our families, discovers our weapons hidden like secret crimes, and drags us off in felon’s gyves to the felon’s cell?
Are any of these the courses we shall adopt? Is this, indeed, the lesson we of the capital are about to teach our fellow-countrymen the island over? Is this the proof we are to give the nations of Europe of the truth, and courage, and manhood of Irishmen? Or shall we, when the day of “surrender” comes, withdraw into our houses, place our children in the most secure room, barricade door and window, oil gun and sharpen pike, and – when a police constable or other emissary of the Castle knocks politely at our door, and, without offence, requests our arms – politely, and without offence, from an upper story, answer, “No.” Shall we or shall we not, when force is resorted to, reply by force, and defend our houses, and properties, and lives, to the last, and sell them with our hearts’ blood only?
These are grave questions, which we may have to answer practically soon, and which it is as well to consider beforehand. If we adopt any of the former courses, we shall fail – fail irredeemably, and with dishonour. If we adopt the last, we may fail as individuals – we may fail as citizens, but we shall nobly and honourably fail. Right, justice, and honour will be on our side; and, in any event, our countrymen and the watchful nations of Europe will not be slow to avenge us. Or we may not fail. Perchance the means which the citizens of Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, Milan, and Palermo, have successfully and nobly used to resist unjust aggression, may not be found wholly inapplicable to the defence of our honour, our manhood, and our lives.
A man knocked on the head at a street corner, or shot through a window, or bayonetted, is a small matter in the abstract; but when this is done by a foreign usurper, pursuing a course of lawlessness, and crime, and brigandage, unprecedented in history; alternately slaughtering by famine and slaughtering by the sword a people too long patient and too inhumanly submissive – when this is done upon a man defending his right and his honour, at once discharging a public duty, and resisting a private wrong, maintaining law against ruffian despotism, and common human liberty against national oppression – when a crime like this is done on such a man, his body becomes the threshold of freedom, and from his wounds are heard tongues which tyrants never hear but once.
T. DEVIN REILLY.