I delivered the following Essay in a Repeal Reading-room. Indeed, it was there delivered, and there comprehended. I print it, that Englishmen may know that the time of the People is not employed merely in discussing Repeal politics, but in the search of sound opinion, and in the canvassing of topics of general interest.
T. M. N.
26, Summer-hill, Dublin.
You have asked me to deliver to you a lecture, in other words, to make a speech, and I am about to comply with your wishes; though, indeed, I think that the radical fault of Irishmen in public matters is, that they are great talkers and talking is a vice that it would be just as well not to patronise so warmly, nor to practise so incessantly. There are numerous shops opened by the State for the show, and occasionally sale, of this abundant article—the House of Commons, the Courts of Law, the Corporate Municipalities, the Boards of Guardians. These, and particularly some of the latter, have turned us into a nation of gabblers; the Celtic aptitude for quick, vehement, and hasty speech has left us, and we have fallen into a habit of what used to be called ‘grand palaver,’ dogged speechification, and incessant chattering. You see the public Forum, sometimes how nobly filled-sometimes how meanly. You see how the public taste is often defiled by bombastic, long-worded declaimers, whose only capacity is in the utterance of words, the magnitude and high-sounding of which contrast miserably with the infinitesimal meaning they wrap up. On the other hand, how delighted the world’s ear drinks in, with Bacchanal enjoyment, the accents of a Lamartine and an O’Connell; how sweetly or how fiercely the heart beats when mighty men like these pour forth abundant thought in glowing words. Man, the articulate animal, is then divine; he who excites impassioned thought, and they who are capable of such excitation, both bear the visible image of the Godhead in their faces and their souls. Oh! where is the triumph like to that of genuine speech, that comes rushing and sparkling from the inmost fountains of the heart! Men crave to drink it as in a famine the thirsty wretch craves the pure water; it is life to them, and joy. And what to him who can thus move the troubled deeps of Nature? It is delirious triumph. Think for a moment of one of the lost stars of our firmament, Sheridan, at that moment when, in the presence of all that was kingly and much that was noble and beautiful in England, he detailed the mighty wrongs of India—wrongs repeated now, not yet accounted for—and when his immortal cotemporary, that man of glorious talents and glorious sins, William Pitt, bowed before the supremacy of his genius, and declared himself to be incapable of judgment in the presence of the true Orator, the true Speaker of articulate words. What Roman triumph, with bloody chariot and attendant victims, could equal this? No Persian King—no wretched royal slave was tied to his wheels—the Majesty of England was his voluntary subject; no manacled slaves followed in his wake: it was the beautiful and brave that formed the retinue of his glory.
Oh! my friends, the speaking of the true speaker is a great thing to men, and a thing approved of God. In the public Forum, where law is dealt out, how grand the true speaker—how incomparably mean the mercenary drudge! Would that in the British Senate—that great assemblage of the most brilliant intellect and rarest wit in England, of men representing the greatest interests of the state, of the Landed Aristocracy whose lordly castles cover fair England’s beautiful realm, of the commercial principalities and the Factory Lords, of the brilliant family of Fashion, of high unstained and lofty lineage, older than the Norman and prouder than the Persian—in this grand Senate of the Rulers of Men—you had heard, that you had seen your countryman; him, I mean, who, compared with O’Connell, is like the elegant fluted column whose shaft is crowned with the costliest capital to the vast Gothic dome; would that you had heard Sheil, and seen that Spanish eye with its quick lightnings playing, and noted how the House—fastidious, dainty, critical—hung upon his inspired words and owned the proud supremacy of your Country’s Genius.
Had you heard James Whiteside defending the Father of his Country—had you heard that impassioned man who, in full years, enjoys the elasticity of youth, and with all a giant’s strength possesses boyish flexibility—then you would have known what divine power is given to words that rush impetuous from true hearts; then you would have seen the grand distinction of humanity, the power of soul over soul, the electric lightning of impassioned Thought. But there are sticks and stones that Orpheus could not move—the twelve pedlars in the box were the like.
Gentlemen, I propose to-night to talk and read about great men, and the base imitations and counterfeit likeness thereof.
In one respect, men resemble sheep. The sheep will follow their leader; so will the men. But, what in the poor beast is only contemptible instinct, may be in the higher animal the noblest act of reason, the wisest conclusion of the intellect. And who will say that the leader of the trembling herd is not the fittest to lead—and leads because he is the fittest? And so verily do I believe it to be with men—the strongest, the wisest, the truest will go first. And the obedient herd of men, with only a cultivated instinct, but having at the same time the divine possession of sympathy, will follow after. Indeed, my friends, it is most possible to mistake the leader, and to follow the counterfeit—men will do that, for it is a human thing to err; instinct never does it, it is inferior and infallible—and such mistakes make up a sorry history of human folly. But they are only temporary; the quack soon shows his quackery; the mimics of greatness are quickly discovered, even by the rude judgment of the vulgar, to be only images, and nature at once forbids the idolatry. These thoughts about leaders, which I have poorly expressed, are finely uttered by Thomas Carlyle, a man of wonderful genius, and with a language peculiarly his own: —
‘We have undertaken to discourse here for a little on Great Men, their manner of appearance in our world’s business, how they have shaped themselves in the world’s history, what ideas men formed of them, what work they did;—on Heroes, namely, and on their reception and performance; what I call Hero-worship and the Heroic in human affairs.
Too evidently this is a large topic; deserving quite other treatment than we can expect to give it at present. A large topic—indeed, an illimitable one; wide as Universal History itself. For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, those great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realisation and embodiment of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world. The soul of the whole world’s history, it may justly be considered, was the history of these. Too clearly it is a topic we shall do no justice to in this place!
One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this is not as a kindred lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of Heaven; a flowing light-fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness;—in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them. On any terms whatsoever, you will not grudge to wander in such neighbourhood for awhile.’
This writer divides his Heroes into six classes:—the Hero as a Divinity; the Hero as a Prophet; the Hero as a Poet; the Hero as a Priest; the Hero as a Man of Letters; the Hero as a King. Gentlemen, all these are names of the same idea; these heroes are leaders of the People—they go before, the People follow after. When at Mecca the lurid brilliancy of a new great Heresy broke upon the world; when weeping and laughing thousands drink in the divine words of Shakespeare; when an ancient monarchy rolls in the dust before a Cromwell—what do we then behold? Obedient men acknowledging the true leader. It is the allegiance Nature pays to her own lofty attributes. We must follow; we must believe; we must fight; we must die, because He commands. In the rapid rivers of Russia hundreds of the old guard of Buonaparte were swallowed up; and, whilst the ruthless waters dashed about these human playthings, the only words that escaped from the expiring warriors was—’Live the Emperor!’ Ay, perish France—perish her millions of sons—perish Europe—perish human civilization, but live Napoleon! There was the true Leader; there was the true idolatry of men born to follow him. That was the religion of Nature: these her martyrs.
Hear this from Carlyle, in his comparative estimate of Buonaparte and Cromwell; there is great truth in it:—
‘Napoleon does by no means seem to me so great a man as Cromwell. His enormous victories which reached over all Europe, while Cromwell abode mainly in our little England, are but as the high stilts on which the man is seen standing; the stature of the man is not altered thereby. I find in him no such sincerity as in Cromwell; only a far inferior sort. No silent walking, through long years, with the Awful, Unnameable of this Universe; ‘walking with God,’ as he called it, and faith and strength in that alone: latent thought and valour, content to lie latent, then burst out as in blaze of Heaven’s lightning! Napoleon lived in an age when God was no longer believed; the meaning of all Silence, Latency, was thought to be Nonentity: he had to begin, not out of the Puritan Bible, but out of poor Sceptical Encyclopædias. This was the length the man carried it. Meritorious to get so far. His compact, prompt, every-way articulate character, is in itself perhaps small, compared with our great chaotic in-articulate Cromwell’s. Instead of ‘dumb prophet struggling to speak,’ we have a portentous mixture of the Quack withal! Hume’s notion of the Fanatic-Hypocrite, with such truth as it has, will apply much better to Napoleon, than it did to Cromwell, to Mahomet, or the like,—where indeed, taken strictly, it has hardly any truth at all. An element of blameable ambition shows itself, from the first, in this man; gets the victory over him at last, and involves him and his work in ruin.
‘False as a bulletin’ became a proverb in Napoleon’s time. He makes what excuse he could for it: that it was necessary to mislead the enemy, to keep up his own men’s courage, and soforth. On the whole, these are no excuses. A man in no case has any liberty to tell lies. It had been in the long-run better for Napoleon too if he had not told any. In fact, if a man have any purpose reaching beyond the hour and day, meant to be found extant next day, what good can it ever be to promulgate lies? The lies are found out; ruinous penalty is exacted for them. No man will believe the liar next time, even when he speaks the truth, when it is of the last importance that he be believed. The old cry of wolf! A Lie is no-thing; you cannot of nothing make something; you make nothing at last, and lose your labour into the bargain.’
But, though there was some counterfeit in Buonaparte, though he was to some extent a quack, yet he had, perhaps, more than any man that lived, the power of leading men. He had the French People to lead—a splendid people, the most glorious offshoot of the great Celtic tree—he knew them well, he studied them intimately, he became French himself, every passion and impulse of his mind, every articulation of his frame, became French; when he spoke, all France seemed to speak; every Frenchman said: ‘These are my thoughts—that is what I would say.’ And, accordingly, he led Frenchmen through the most enormous perils that men ever endured. On the burning sands of Egypt, under the shadows of the mysterious Pyramids—on the frozen soil of Russia, where nature is wrapped in icy sleep—he led his splendid levies to overthrow dynasties, and make, with crowns, and sceptres, and mitres, a Kingly Baton for France. And all this he did, because, having Frenchmen to lead, he knew how to lead them; he knew their desires, their powers, and their passions, and in what way they were to work and to be worked upon.
If he had been content to be a Hero as a Popular Leader, and had not the bad ambition to be Hero as a King, with these materials what wondrous works he could have done!
And, it is because of that fatal choice—it is because of his love of royal gauds, of royal names, of royal wives, that I agree with Carlyle in thinking that in his nature was some essential quackery. It was a bad choice for his enduring power—it was worse for his fame. He could have changed the world—he could have broken up the thrones that rest on ages, and made footballs of these crowns so often red with human blood—he could have made Democracy a King!—and thus been added to the list of men who create new ideas. He would have been then as great as Newton, as Shakespeare, as Dante, as Columbus. But, he would be King Napoleon, and son-in-law to the Austrian! Yet, as King or Leader, he was the man to lead Frenchmen, in whose hearts for ever he will be King. How beautiful, yet how sad, was his apotheosis, when his enemy gave freedom to his mouldering clay, and when the crafty knave that rules France granted to the corpse of Napoleon the sleeping-place on the banks of the Seine which his living heart had longed for. Oh! it was a divine act of Idolatry, a splendid Hero worship. Carlyle qualifies his opinion of the quackery of the Great Emperor thus, and note it well, for it contains the creed of a most distinguished and wonderful writer:—
‘Yet Napoleon had a sincerity: we are to distinguish between what is superficial and what is fundamental in insincerity. Across these outer manoeuvrings and quackeries of his, which were many and most blameable, let us discern withal that the man had a certain instinctive ineradicable feeling for reality; and did base himself upon fact, so long as he had any basis. He had an instinct of Nature better than his culture was. His savans, Bourrienne tells us, in that voyage to Egypt, were one evening busily occupied arguing that there could be no God. They had proved it, by all manner of logic. Napoleon, looking up into the stars, answers, ‘Very ingenious, Messieurs: but who made all that?’ The Atheistic logic runs off from him like water; the great Fact stares him in the face. ‘Who made all that?’ So too in Practice: he, as every man that can be great, or have victory in this world, sees, through all entanglements, the Practical heart of the matter; drives straight towards that. When the steward of his Tuileries Palace was exhibiting the new upholstery, with praises, and demonstration how glorious it was, and how cheap withal, Napoleon, making little answer, asked for a pair of scissors, clipt one of the gold tassels from a window-curtain, put it in his pocket, and walked on. Some days afterwards, he produced it at the right moment, to the horror of his upholstery functionary; it was not gold, but tinsel! In Saint Helena, it is notable how he still, to his last days, insists on the practical, the real. ‘Why talk and complain; above all, why quarrel one with another? There is no resultat in it; it comes to nothing that one can do. Say nothing, if one can do nothing!’ He speaks often so, to his poor discontented followers; he is like a piece of silent strength in the middle of their morbid querulousness there.’
However we may regret that Napoleon mistook his lofty destiny—that he sunk into Royalty,—we must acknowledge the force of his marvellous genius in every act by which he entitled himself to mount the throne of Charlemagne. Caesar, Alexander, Cortes, Pizarro,—these heroes were matched with unequal enemies. The barbarous Briton, the undisciplined Gaul, the soft Lydian, the trembling and enervate Mexican, were antagonists whom the mailed chivalry of Greece, and Rome, and Spain, might easily subdue. But Napoleon had to fight the civilization of Europe. Against him were arrayed the Thrones and Dynasties which men had been rearing for 2,000 years; an Ancient Church; and the prejudices of Ages. And against him were the ablest warriors in the world, and forces the best disciplined, equipped, and provisioned; as well provided as his own with all the munitions of the most refined warfare. Great empires, mighty principalities, like England, whose realm spreads from near the Arctic Pole, to the tropical heats of India,—Russia, vast, savage, rugged; the keen and diplomatic Prussia; bulky, many-princed Germany;—all these were combined in one vast phalanx against the Corsican. And he smote them all. He lifted that strong arm, nerved for such wondrous purposes, armed with divine commission to kill and destroy—and, by a blow, struck to his feet the Plausibility of centuries. Now hear the same thoughts in the striking language of a great living Orator and Statesman:—
‘But the vaulting ambition of the Great Conqueror at last overleapt itself. After his most arduous and, perhaps, most triumphant campaign, undertaken with a profusion of military resources unexampled in the annals of war, the ancient capital of the Russian empire was in his hands; yet, from the refusal of the enemy to make peace, and the sterility of the vast surrounding country, the conquest was bootless to his purpose. He had collected the mightiest army the world ever saw; from all parts of the Continent he had gathered his forces; every diversity of blood, and complexion, and tongue, and garb, and weapon, shone along his line;—’Exercitus mixus ex colluvione omnium gentium quibus non lex, non mos, non lingua communis; alius habitui, alia vestis, alia arma, alia sacra’—the resources of the whole provinces moved through the kingdoms which his arms held in awe; the artillery of whole citadels traversed the fields; the cattle on a thousand hills were made the food of the myriads whom he poured into the plains of Eastern Europe, where blood flowed in rivers, and the earth was whitened with men’s bones; but this gigantic enterprise, uniformly successful, was found to have no object, when it had no longer an enemy to overcome, and the victor in vain sued to the vanquished for peace. The conflagration of Moscow in one night began his discomfiture, which the frost of another night completed! Upon the pomp and circumstance of unnumbered warriors—their cavalry, their guns, their magazines, their equipage-descended slowly, flake by flake, the snow of a northern night,—’Tantaque vis frigoris insecuta est, ut ex illa miserabilii hominum jumentorumque strage quum se quisque allotere ac levare vellet, diu nequiret qui torpentibus rigore nervis, vix flectere artus potuerant.’ The hopes of Napoleon were blighted; the retreat of his armament was cut off; and his doom sealed far more irresistibly than if the conqueror of a hundred fields had been overthrown in battle, and made captive with half his force. All his subsequent efforts to regain the power he had lost, never succeeded in countervailing the effects of that Russian night. The fire of his genius burnt, if possible, brighter than ever; in two campaigns his efforts were more than human, his resources more miraculous than before, his valour more worthy of the prize he played for—but all was vain: his weapon was no longer in his hand; his army was gone; and his adversaries, no more quailing under the sense of his superior nature, had discovered him to be vincible like themselves, and grew bold in their turn, as the Mexicans gathered courage, three centuries before, from finding that the Spaniards were subject to the accidents of mortality.’
Lord Brougham does splendid justice to his subject; but there is a military writer, Colonel Mitchell, who has shown a marvellous bigotry towards the martial fame of Napoleon Buonaparte—the bigotry of incredulity. The Colonel says that he was no soldier. Gentlemen,—I know nothing of the art of contending forces, but this I know, that it would take two or three Colonels to convince me that Napoleon was not a soldier. With him I climb the Alps, and, looking back, I see his mighty army toiling up the huge ascents, his enormous parks of Artillery, his vast compact and crushing masses of Cavalry;—I see him surmount the brow of these lofty children of Nature; and now he rushes down upon the rich plains of Piedmont; five Austrian armies, more numerous than his own, are swept from the world; the Ionic temples of Italy are stables for his horses; he sits by his watch-fire in the naves of Cathedrals; his soldiers seize the master-pieces of ancient Art, and drag from Rome what Rome dragged once from Greece. I see in his train, the Holy Pontiff, Christ’s Vicar upon Earth, a Captive. If these be not a Soldier’s doings, what is a Soldier? These were the fierce echoes in the nineteenth century of the cries of rapine, uttered by the Vandals and the Goths in the passages of the Alps. This was the greater Hannibal, and this, says Mitchell, is no Soldier! Oh! Colonel, stick to the art of drilling—leave mighty war to Caesars and Napoleons.
Gentlemen, the writer whom I have to-night chosen to introduce to your admiration, Thomas Carlyle, has in his classification omitted the heroism of the Patriot. Let me try if I can, after an humble fashion, supply that deficiency.
There is no word so prostituted and defiled as patriot. Sacred name, so full of significant meaning, comprising in its vast grasp so much fine sensibility, such utter unselfishness, such bravery, such devotion, such religion! When I see the men whose audacity sometimes claims thee as theirs, blest with no delicacy of soul, no tenderness of heart, no vigour of reasoning, no integrity of purpose, with mean objects to fulfil, to build up fortunes, to self-aggrandize, to gain the empty honours of rabble fame,—I am sick at the unholy and irreverend pollution. ‘Liberty,’ ‘Love of Liberty,’ in the mouths of wretches worse than Marat, but of weaker villany, whose ‘love of liberty’ is but the lust of rapine and disease of cupidity—who would pull down Thrones and Altars, and erect upon their débris the Brothel and Gin-palace. Ay, I know what love of liberty is. I know what Liberty is. I learned it young:—
‘Sed civitas, incredibile memoratu est, adepta libertate, quantum brevi creverit: tanta cupido gloriæ incesserat. Jam primum juventus simul laboris ac belli patiens erat, in castris per usum militiam discebat; magisque in decoris armis et militaribus equis, quam in scortis atque conviviis, lubidinem habebant. Igitur talibus viris non labos insolitus, non locus ullus asper aut arduus erat, non armatus hostis formidolosus, virtus omnia domuerat. Sed gloriæ maxumum certamen inter ipsos erat; sic quisque hostem ferire, murum ascendere, conspici, dum tale facinus faceret, properabat; eas divitias, eam bonum famam, magnamque nobilitatem putabant; laudus avidi, pecuniæ liberales erant; gloriam ingentem, divitias honestas volebant. Memorare possem, quibus in locis maxumas hostium copias Populus Romanus parva manu fuderit; quas urbis natura munitas pugnando ceperit, ni ea res longius ab incepto traheret.’
But, are these the grand results that scores of our modern patriots are anxious to achieve? No. But such were the aims of Rienzi, such of Mazzini, such of Kosciusco, and such pre-eminently were the views of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. As I describe to you these two last great men—men formed in an hour when Nature was in her most delicious mood—you have but to reverse my picture, and you will at once have before you the counterfeits which but too often have ruled mankind.
On the coasts of America, Cecil Lord Baltimore had settled his colony—that colony had swelled into giant proportions—and the town, called by the name of the Irish seaport, was the forerunner of the great cities of the American Republic. A new nation arose—the startled Indian saw a White Race coming, not armed with swords, nor clothed in the horrors of war, but of soft white cheek, and pleasing smile, and words of peaceful traffic, and Christian love. Before this new invasion, the genius of Indian civilization retired, rebuked. The Indian race is nearly extinct. When the new country grew great, new feelings came to the bosoms of the people; it was strange, they thought, to be ruled by the small and arrogant insular speck from which their Fathers came. And the occurrence, at the time of a bad minister, precipitated a revolution, whose pregnant throes worked with a vigorous Republic. Who were its fathers? Franklin and George Washington.
Franklin was son of a tallow-chandler—(most of the Americans were similarly descended, the conditions for republicanism being, as you see, very good)—he was what we call a Nobleman of nature, neither descended from a royal strumpet, nor from any silken jackanapes about the court—he was a Man, the tallow-chandler’s son. He adopted the trade of Printer—noble handicraft! too often in vulgar, uninformed hands. He set types; and soon he gave the glowing thought, the vigorous reasoning, the manly knowledge, which made those types be instinct with immortal Truth. From setting types, he went to make empires. He was the missionary of Insurgency to England, and it is said received an insult from a lawyer there, which he only remembered to contemn. He was one of the Parents of the new Republic; and that eye that often had grown dim over printers’ ink, and that hand that had set the type, saw and signed the Declaration of Independence. Brave printer! brave Benjamin Franklin! thou didst draw down lightnings from the heavens, and snatch the sceptre from the tyrant’s hands.
Why, my friends, was this tallow-chandler’s son so mightily eminent, and were the steps hard as marble on which he climbed the Temple of Fame? Soft as velvet were they; for God loved the tallow-chandler’s son. Let me read to you out of this book,—published by that excellent Society, of which the moving spirit is an illustrious Man, much ill-treated by English journalism, from the lordly Times to dear Jerrold’s delightful Punch. (Shame on him, that he does not forgive errors not of the heart—does he not remember Bolingbroke, and Bacon, and Shaftesbury, and a hundred other giants, who had children’s errors?) The Printer soon got on. And let us first record his Marriage. It is a great event, my friends, in the biography of Man. I am a young man; but I have young faces at home looking into mine with wondering love and tenderness. And let me tell you, Marriage is a great event in the biography of poor, nervous, trembling Nature. Franklin—the familiar friend of the skies, who extracted from the firmament the forked lightning, and played with the giddy Devil as though it were of his own house, and was a young Benjamin sent out to nurse in Heaven—married a woman. Believe me, she was a choice woman. I do not know if she could have put to blush the Venus Leo found in the Pescheria. But Franklin’s choice was surely all that man could ask. Beloved marriage!—sweet barter of fond hearts!—soft traffic!— the universal Free Trade of generous Humanity. ‘In the year 1730 he married a young woman named Reade, to whom he had been attached before he went to England.’ He did not—in the mighty works of which he was the Chiefest Engineer, whose rolling sound shakes Empires and perplexes Kings—forget the little playful smile, the fond, soft look turned upwards from the depths of woman’s heart into the loftier height of Manhood;—no, he came back from England, and her Rosslyn insults, to her he had early chosen for his heart’s home.
Why was he great, my friends? Thomas Carlyle—why merited he a place in your Book of Heroes? It was not that in him was to be discovered a brilliant genius or any startling quality; but there was a rare assemblage of attributes meeting in that man. He enjoyed a perfection of common sense, and an intimate acquaintance with the heart and motives of man, that gave the appearance of unerring wisdom to all his words and acts. He was of untiring energy, firm as a rock in his own convictions, with great powers of self-control, and an obstinate will. His love of country was intense and practical—he followed no Chimera, and sanctioned no Absurdity. He saw what Nature made America—what man could make her; and he weighed well the means. The experiment on Liberty was as practical as that on lightning. On the same principles he drew both from the clouds. He succeeded in obtaining a National Government and founding a New Empire. On the 3rd September, 1783, one year after the Volunteers had established a temporary constitution here, the Recognition of America was signed, the obstinacy of the Ministers of the King having refused to acknowledge the independence of a country where the Generals of England had been dishonoured, and her armies led captive. And he owed this consummation—to which, of all men perhaps, he the most contributed to the perfection of his moral and intellectual character; for, over that fine assemblage of qualities—that massive sense, that earnest will, that calm and serene reason, that resolution in right, that fortitude in adverse things—presided a pure, profound integrity. With all his astronomic skill, with all his power over the forked angers of heaven, he could as soon move the Sun from the appointed path, as he himself be moved from the ways of lofty honour.
On that hand which signed the Declaration of American Freedom, which held the lightning captive, there was no spot. ‘Upon the integrity of this greatman, either in public or in private life, there rests no stain. Strictly honest, and even scrupulously punctual, in all his dealings, he preserved in the highest fortune that regularity which he had practised as well as inculcated in the lowest.’ Here, in this man, Gentlemen, you have a model. He was of your own rank; he had no bread ready-baked for him to eat; his was the manly inheritance of labour; and in the drops of his forehead was his bread and the bread of his children made. He is the model man of pure democracy—self-reared, self-taught, self-made—learning as he worked, and looking upward in his toil to the lofty place his soul was fixed on gaining. From night’s peaceful reign and tranquil sleep he stole away the hours—his sleep was action; his repose was yet to come—to come with his greatness, and not till then. But, with this massive character, he had agreeable lights thrown over the moral landscape; he was witty, graceful, and of a temper that nothing ruffled, calm and deep; he had a smile of soul for ever brightening his familiar circle, to all loving, gentle, tender as a child—a Titan, but with the heart of woman. He was honest; and public honesty and private integrity—remember it, Irishmen, for you live in a country which, from the first hour of English rule, has been a frightful scene of public depravity and corruption—are the only security which will save a state, are the brightest ornaments of public men, the stoutest bulwarks of a nation’s Liberty. Looking back on his long life—he was eighty-four when he died, after having served his country as an ambassador and a governor, having served mankind by his wholesome teachings and serenely brilliant example, having served science by wonderful discoveries, and after having proved that sense and honesty are the best elements of statesmanship—he could say, ‘I would willingly live over again the same course of life, even though not allowed the privilege of an author, to correct in a second edition the faults of a first.’ His memory is now part of America—he has left the impression of his being in a Mighty Country.
Another man, equally undistinguished for any rarely brilliant genius, who contributed to the establishment of American Liberty, who was the first uncrowned King of the New World,—was George Washington. I have often thought that we have much mistaken Washington, and that the opinion of his being but a middling-minded man was an error. It seems as if in the calm grandeur of his character existed the loftiest attributes, arranged, however, with such proportionate symmetry, so finely relative, and so chastely regular, that, as at St. Peter’s, we fail to note the great proportions of each capital and dome, and are lost in rapture at the assembled magnificence of all. His name—the name of Washington!—Oh! is there here a man with whom that name is not a household word, a venerable and divine tradition of the heart? From the earliest days of memory, from the very dawn of my boyhood, I remember that grave and sad face, with benignant care upon its massive brow;—it was my idol as it should be yours,—as it should be of all men who think that integrity is the first Man’s virtue, and Liberty the greatest National possession. George Washington was peculiarly the hero of the people; his life proves to what an eminence they may be raised, by plain qualifications, and the acquisitions which all the people may possess, and by the virtues which all the people ought to cultivate—not to make village Washingtons, for a Washington may be only wanted once in a century—not to lead to great eminence always, but to enable each man to discharge the duty he stands charged with to his God, his country, his children, and himself. This is to be a Washington. To do the thing well you are appointed to do, to be the Providence of the circle you are centre of, to be to yourself a continual peaceful joy, to your friends a prop and stay, to your family a king and priest, to your state a useful subject, to your country a loving child. That is to be in the sphere where God wills that you should move a very Washington—as good and as beloved, though not so eminent, as he whom Nature first smiled upon near the waters of the Potomac.
When, in 1775, Washington was elected Commander-in-Chief of the American Army of Liberty, he declined to accept a salary. He fought for America, not for gold, not for the spolia opima of conquest, but for the laurel and the mural crown,and he had fought, and fought nobly. Early in the war, his courage and coolness had marked him out to lead. In 1755, he was with Braddock in the surprise of the British in the woods near Monongahela. There he escaped unhurt, though three horses were killed under him, and his dress was pierced with balls. With the crafts and ‘devilries’ of Indian warfare he was familiar for Washington was, like the rest, a missionary of that white civilisation, beneath which the Indian race lies buried, never more to rise, until in judgment.
When, by his arms, he had freed his country, and chased the invader from her shores, his wisdom cemented the mighty work his valour had begun; —he might have worn a crown—with more than the sincerity of Cromwell he would have spurned the royal gift, if offered;—he had at his command a victorious and an angry army, but he refused to profit by their mutinous affection; he persuaded them to return home;—he presented the accounts of his receipts and disbursements during the war, the items of which were entered in his own pure princely hand; —he asked no favour or reward for himself, but recommended the soldiers of the people to the people’s generosity; and then, crowned with the purest fame man ever won, gracefully retired to private life, and the grave pleasures which he loved. He founded a College at Virginia, now called after his name; and, during his privacy, he promoted a multitude of schemes of improvement to his country. But, though he lived retired, he was the governing and the guardian mind of America. He wished to see the States united in one grand confederacy, where every member, enjoying its own local privileges and liberties, should, in one great principle alone, centralise. From this identity of principle, and localisation of power, he expected—and his wisdom has become prophecy—that a great Republic would spring up, spreading its arms over the vast Continent—a new and separate People, a new and separate Nation, a new and separate World. And that grand dream of civilisation, that wise and magnificent scheme, is approaching quickly its amplest realisation. Gradually is the red race disappearing, gradually is the power of all rival white races retiring before the Republicans; and whilst England is wrangling about a few parallels of latitude, the Americans are penetrating every interstice of their Continent. With a hard, energetic, restless, untiring, unsensitive character, they possess great talent and vast industry, and widely and deeply are they laying the foundation of that Republicanism, which I believe to be the political destiny of all nations.
This is the work of Washington and Franklin,—this is the work of true men and honest men. They spoke truth and acted truth,—they told no lies,—they did not deal doubly, their souls were clear and single. They had a work to do, to drive out the English tyrant—they stripped to the work, and they did it; but not till, by all peaceful means, by entreaty, remonstrance, petition, by diplomacy, much sending of ambassadors and delegates—they sought to avert the terrible necessity of war. But England was stern, and held on, as she ever does, till the sinews of her clenched hand are cut. The result, as the result will always be where true men and honest men are at the work, was Liberty. And there stands the mighty monument of these two men—a grand Popular Empire.
Let us now for a moment pause to consider the duties of each of us to ourselves and our country.
Man lives in communities, and is by no means a solitary animal. He cannot rest contented with his own poor joys and sorrows; but, by a law of Nature, must mingle up his heart and passions with the hearts and passions around him. Don’t believe any man who tells you that you are born to be like that rustic fool on the bank, waiting till it pleases Jove to make the stream go by. No—you must bridge it, my friends. Man’s stuff is in your arms—man’s heart beats in your bosom—man’s brain swells out your head in various characterization—you must be a man, not a mere dealer in hardware, law, or surgery. I do not mean, and I pray you to observe it, that a man is to neglect the current business of his life,—that he is to thrust himself into every affair of state,—that he is to spend his excited hours away from his wife and children in ward conventicles, and in making silly speeches,—that he is to pauperize his children, and degrade himself by lazy politics and indolent news-gathering. No, I think we have too much politics in Ireland and too little money-making, too little manly industry, too little self-dependence, too much love of the excitement of speechifying and listening to speeches, which, for the most part, are filled with fury and sound, and signifying nothing. But what I look on as every man’s duty is this:—whilst, by patient industry or daring skill, he accumulates the means of living, of advancement, of aggrandizement, of luxury, he must remember that the security for his possessions, the laws which guard him and his property, which protect the weak against the strong, which make the nightly highway as safe as the mid-day street,—nay more, the laws which guarantee to man personal dignity and protection, guard his good name and shield his honour; the armies which are on foot to resist the enemy, and the fleets that guard the coast, are all the progeny of Freedom; and that the nation which has not these, which is not prompt to act and able to act, which depends upon another—is not FREE. The conclusion from all which is surely plain. That it is the duty, the sacred duty of all men, to guard the Freedom of the nation, if she enjoy Freedom, and to struggle for it deliberately, if she have not.
But the mode of struggling for freedom has undergone great changes. The illustrious Man who now, in the setting of his days, reflects a chastened splendour on his beloved land,—when young, and bold, and vigorous, and impassioned,—when, added to the wisdom, which still increases, he had the young indomitable energy of his superb nature, he then, Daniel O’Connell, one of the men who, as I said before, create ideas, did create the idea of a new Power in politics. That power is moral. Liberty is not now always to be won with blood, but by patient labour of the moral man. By educating your children in the divine doctrines of your glorious Faith—beautiful, poetic, infallible—and in the high duties due by man to man, and by man to the state and to public liberty,—by teaching them to be, in whatever trade or mystery they follow, perfectly knowing, skilled, like Franklin,—by teaching them that it is by prudence, temperance, cleanliness of heart and body,—by mutual gentle forbearance,—by boldness to the enemies of their liberty, and hearty friendship to the friends of their country,—by seeking aid everywhere where honour will allow you to seek it, but not with any compromise of principle, by DIRECTNESS and TRUTH,—by measuring what you say, and saying what you mean, your success is to be won. These are the doctrines I hold of you, my countrymen and my country. These are the doctrines I probably would hold were I an Englishman, or the denizen of any more favoured country than my own.
These, I say, are my doctrines. They are the doctrines of that mysterious individual, whom I think some learned gentlemen have disavowed, very unnecessarily, all the time that he is alive, and well, and easily recognizable, except by such as are stone-blind, I mean—YOUNG IRELAND. And for these doctrines of Truth, Religion, and Public Honesty, a roar has been raised against them, such as angry Russian Bears would vainly imitate:—
‘Hark! how Ralph to Cynthia howls,
Making night hideous: answer him, ye owls!’
They have called Young Ireland an infidel. A base invention! They are infidels who say so;—infidels as to all that is honourable, generous, or noble in human nature. They are sceptics of the existence of a politician without a base motive, or a patriot that would not look for a place. Such an existence is an inconvenience to the camp followers who raised this cry, much of which was done by the basest miscreants of journalism;—for you know how sensitive low company is to the presence of a Gentleman, and how a deeper red than her carmine springs to the cheek of the prostitute when a chaste woman appears.
I tell you, this cry must cease. There may be no Young Ireland party—but there are Young Ireland doctrines. They are doctrines which teach men to be honest and true, with hearts that you could look into as into Lough Neagh, and see thence reflected the noble works of God;—doctrines, which must be heard and recognised and prevail: or what can or ought to become of our cause and our country?—doctrines which teach women to be chaste, and loving, and true. These are the doctrines of Infidelity—these are the doctrines of Young Ireland,—which will prevail.
I suppose that what I have thus been saying will be reviled; of course it will. There are, in the various insect transformations which take place in the intellectual as in the lower nature, certain stages through which moderate talent often travels,—as, for instance, crawling effort, limping failure, and cankerous envy;—human insects who have been Palmers in this pilgrimage of defeat, cannot endure even the moderate success which I am happy to perceive my Lecture has had here tonight. They will tell you that I assume the manly virtues I affect to teach; and surely it is no extravagant praise to a man that he loves the truth and always speaks it—that he endeavours in his place (as all men should, you in yours of tradesmen, and I in mine of literary man) to do his duty skilfully and well. They will tell you I am proud, and vain, and arrogant; you know how true that is. But, take these things for granted—take for granted what is said, that our
Noctes Canaque Deum
are held in very strange recesses, to which the esoteric world can by no means gain access; and that we are a vain knot of youth, ruthlessly sporting with the tormented principles of Philosophy, the misapprehended truths of history, and the exquisite sculptured imaginings of Alexander’s favourite, Praxiteles, Phidias, and Leontius. But there is a value in mystery, and on this head I must needs be ominously silent.
Now, my good friends, you are repairing to your homes, and you will not forget what I have said and done. I have discoursed to you of the failings you certainly have, and the virtues you certainly may acquire; I have brought before you a number of the Heroes of our lower world; and, with an humble tongue and very loving heart, have discoursed about their merits, for this sole purpose—that I might induce you in your lowly sphere to wrestle in the imitation of great examples. When a father wishes to fill his child’s eye with beauty and his young soul with love, he cannot do better than place before his constant view some such divine work as the ‘Christus Consolator.’ The lovelily abased attitude of the woman at the foot of our Lord—the young melancholy on the face of mourning childhood (ah! why should childhood ever weep? a country is not Christian where infancy is a martyr)—the benignant Divinity lightening the Man-Face of the Omnipotent Son of God—these glorious creations will sink into the child’s soul, and he will grow up, if not an artist, at least with artistic sentiment. It is said that man’s love of round forms is got from the child’s sweet familiarity with the Mother’s generous breast.
You, though men, are children in many things—you want instruction; you want examples; you have now heard of HEROES worth imitating. This probably will not produce any heroism in you, though it will be something Heroic. There may be a small supply of Franklins, Washingtons, Bolivars, Tells, Davises, Rienzis, or O’Connells (and I assure you, friends, these are my Household Deities, sitting with me at my meals, gladdening my children’s eyes, and giving greater brilliancy to my wife’s dear smile); but the block of Humanity which virtuous Industry can mould into any lofty shape of sculptured beauty—and vicious indolence can degrade to a Satyr or a Fawn, a lewd Silenus or a leering Pan—is here around me, as it were in a great natural unhewn and unworked quarry. Surely some masterpiece will come from this, some gem, when Nature is so prodigal of her finest marble. But, at all events, the whole multitude shall be raised above the condition of the Satyr or the Silenus.
 This must be taken rather generally—for there are many poor intellects and dull wits there. I hope I do not invade privilege.
 The Greatest of them all belongs to us.
 Liv. xxiii., 12.
 Liv. xxi. 58.
 This fine passage is from Lord Brougham’s vivid portraits of Statesmen in the Time of Geo. III. Knight’s Edition in his Shilling Volumes, 2nd Series, Vol. I., p. 184.
 I translated this passage to my audience. They were Dublin, not Kerry. Had they been the latter, who talk classic Latin in their bogs and on the sides of their noble, unproductive hills, no translation would have been required. I need not say the author is Sallust.
 See a work on the United States in the useful Library of Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh. It is an excellent statistical and historical work.
 Though not a bad man.
 The book I was using was one of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
 ‘Lives of Distinguished Men.’
 I believe it was Wedderburne that insulted Franklin. The story of Cobbett’s love-making is beautifully and gracefully told in his ‘Advice to Young Men.’ I had it from his lips, and it is like Franklin’s, only more full of sensibility.
 Lord Brougham’s Sketch of Franklin.
 Franklin received five thousand pounds after his English services. He had relinquished his trade, and devoted himself entirely to the service of the State, which was niggardly enough to him. These free gifts of Nations, to men they love, are honourable to those who give and those who receive.
 The only favour he asked was, that his letters should come to him postage free.
 Praxiteles was the first who executed a nude figure of Venus, (perhaps that afterwards discovered by Pope Leo X. in the Porto of Octavia in the modern ‘Pescheria.’)
 Leontius was the first sculptor who expressed the nerves and veins, and arranged the hair. This appears singular, when we reflect that Phidias preceded him.
 This is a most divine engraving, from the picture of Scheffer, a living German artist resident in Paris.