From An Authentic Account of the Riots in Birmingham, July 1791. The text has been rendered into modern English.
July 14, 1791.
NEITHER on marble nor on brass can the rights and duties of Men be so durably registered, as on their memories, and on their hearts. We, therefore, meet this day to commemorate the French Revolution, that the remembrance of this great event may sink deeply into our hearts, warmed not merely with the fellow feeling of Townsmen, but with a sympathy which binds us to the human race, in a brotherhood of Interest, of Duty, and of Affection.
A Revolution of such moment to mankind, involving so many millions, embracing so great a country, and completed in so short a time, is apt to confound and perplex by the magnitude of the object, and the rapidity of its motion. We, therefore, think it best to attach our minds upon one simple sublime truth, where our opinions may centre, and our judgments find stability. We are men of plain, and we hope, found understandings – We will disentangle ourselves from those bewitching bonds with which an enticing and meretricious eloquence has of late vainly endeavoured to tie down the Freedom and the Strength of Manhood; and neither sophisticated by genius, nor rendered miserable by refinement and mystery, we will think and declare our thoughts, not as Politicians, but as Men, as Citizens, and as Volunteers!
As MEN, therefore, we think, that Government is a trust for the use of the people – the PEOPLE, in the largest sense of that misapprehended word. We think that the Public Weal is the end of Government, and the forms of Government are merely the mutable means for obtaining this end; means that may be modelled or changed by the real will of the Public; a will supreme; – paramount to all other authority.
As CITIZENS, we think, that no people can promise unconditional obedience; and that obedience itself ceases to be a duty, when the will of the people ceases to be the law of the land.
As VOLUNTEERS, we think, that the Force of the People should form the guarantee of Freedom; and that their freedom is the only sure guarantee of Public Happiness.
Here, then, we take our stand – and, if we be asked, what is the French Revolution to us? We answer – MUCH.
First, Much as MEN. It is good for human nature that the grass grows where the Bastille stood. We do rejoice at an event which seemed the breaking of a charm that held universal France in a Bastille of civil and religious bondage. When we behold this enormous and misshapen Pile of Abuses, cemented merely by custom, and raised upon the ignorance of a prostrate People, tottering to its base – to the very level of equal liberty and common weal, we do really rejoice at this Resurrection of Human Nature; and we congratulate our Brother MAN, coming forth from the Vaults of ingenious torture, and from the Cave of Death. We do congratulate the Christian World that there is in it one great Nation, that has renounced all ideas of conquest, and has published the first glorious Manifesto of Humanity, of Union, and of Peace. In return, we pray to God that Peace may rest in their Land; and that it may never be in the power of Royalty, Nobility, or a Priesthood, to disturb the harmony of a people, consulting about those Laws which must ensure their own Happiness, and that that of unborn Millions. The French Revolution is therefore much to us as MEN, and much to us, Secondly, as IRISHMEN. We too have a Country, and we hold it very dear – so dear to us its interest, that we with all civil and religious intolerance annihilated in this land – so dear to us its Honour, that we with an eternal stop to the Traffic of Public Liberty which is bought by one and sold to another – so dear to us its Freedom, that we with nothing so much as a real representative of the national will, the surest guide and guardian of national happiness.
Go on then – Great and Gallant People! – To practice the sublime philosophy of your legislation; to force applause from nations least disposed to do you justice; and not my conquest, but by the omnipotence of reason, to convert and liberate the world – a World whose eyes are fixed on you; whole heart is with you; who talks of you with all her tongues. You are, in very truth, the Hope of this World; of all except a few men in a few Cabinets, who thought the human race belonged to them, not they to the human race; but now are taught by awful example, and tremble; and dare not confide in armies arrayed against you and your cause.
Resolved unanimously, That a Copy of this Declaration be forthwith transmitted, in our Name, by our President, to the National Assembly of France.