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■ n»l 111^ 11^ 11^ II W I 1^ ^^^^^^^
» ■»<-»< "M" W >*"
GEORGE C. MAHON, Esq.,
TO THE LIBRARY OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN.
i— i — i-ii n~ i~i i~ii i~i i—i r —i — -ii~ -~ - *~ - -~- — — * - -*■ -~- i-~-m— ■-*■ i~i i~i i~i i~
WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN,
RELATIVE TO A
PRINTED FOR WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN.
JOHN O'DALY, 9, ANGLESEA-STREET.
The following Correspondence originated in the publication of a
Letter addressed by Mr. William Smith O'Brien, to the Editor of
" The Irish American" \* Newspaper published in New York. In
order to do full jneft&e to the aEgdftiettts of his antagonist,
Mr. O'Brien re-publishes herein the two Letters written by
Mr. Martin, in refutation of the opinions set forth by Mr. O'Brien
in his Letter to the Editor of The Irish American.
January 15, 1861.
Mr Dear Mr. Cole,
In the Irish-American of the 8th September, which I have read to-day,
I find the following passage :
" We are at a loss to conjecture in what way according to his views (i.e ,
the views of Mr. W. S. O'Brien) the lot of the Irish people could be injuri-
ously affected by a French invasion of Ireland."
Now, as I am not afraid or ashamed to state the reasons upon which my
opinions are founded, and as I am disposed to place much confidence in your
candor, I send you an extract from a letter which I had occasion to write to
a friend recently, in reference to the prospect of an invasion of this country
by French troops, under the command of the illustrious Marshal MacMahon.
My letter not having been written as a private communication, you are at
liberty to print this extract in the Irish- American, in case you so think fit.
Allow me to avail myself of this opportunity of telling you that I have not
forgotten the polite attention and useful information which I received from
you when I was in America.
May I beg you also to convey to my other friends an assurance that I
shall always regard my visit to America as one* of the most interesting
episodes of my life ;, and that their kindness has left impressions which can
never be effaced from my memory.
Believe me, very sincerely yours,
To W. L. CoU, Esq. WILLIAM S. O'BRIEN.
Proprietor of " The Irish American. 19
The extract to which Mr. O'Brien refers above is as follows :
" In my opinion the course taken bv some of the Irish journals, during the
last year and a half, in relation to France, has been in the highest degree
injurous to the national cause of Ireland. I am very far from discouraging
appeals to French sympathy. On the contrary, you will see by a ktter
which I have written to Mr. M. Martin, in answer to an obliging commu-
nication from him, which accompanied a copy of his pamphlet, lately presented
to me, that I am anxious to encourage the most friendly relations with
France. But I am not prepared to encourage— nay, more, I will do all in
my power to resist — an invasion of Ireland by France* I do so, not through
love of England, but for the sake of Ireland ; because I see as clearly as I
can see anything, that the following consequences would result from invasion :
First— I feel persuaded that, as the policy of France, as well as the policy
of all other nations, is egotistic and selfish, France will never invade Ireland
for the sake of promoting the interests of Ireland alone. I have read history
as largely a& any ordinary reader, and I cannot call to mind a single instance
down to the last invasion of Italy, in which France has acted a disinterested
part in reference to national wars. Thus, for instance, she has for fifty years
professed aympafy with Poland ; yet the wrongs of Poland, which would have
formed a justifiable casus beUi for an European war^atvlL^xu^xixa^^^
4 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
It would take too much time to review all the grounds upon which I make
this assertion ; but I assume that, if France invade Ireland, it will be with a
view to wound England — to avenge Waterloo— and that the discontent of a
certain portion of the Irish Catholics will be made the locus standi — the pretext
upon which the invasion would be undertaken.
The immediate result of an invasion — nay, even of preparations for an in-
vasion — necessarily must be to compel every Irishman to say to himself and
to his family — " It is quite manifest that we shall not be allowed to remain
neuter in the coming struggle. Which side shall we take V Now the
answer to this question will be, on the part of all the Protestants of Ireland,
without exception — " Knee we are compelled to make a choice, which is not
of our own seeking, we will take part with England. We will maintain the
Constitutional Government which subsists in this country ; though many of
us dislike England and English interference in our concerns ; but bad as it is,
we prefer it to Catholic ascendancy founded upon foreign intervention, and
maintained by a foreign despot." I will assume the state of things most
favorable to the views of the French party, though I am sure that such a
state of things could not be realized. I will assume that 100,000 French-
men are allowed to land in Ireland, and for a time to take possession of the
government ; yet, I still maintain, that even in such a case, the occupation
would only be of a temporary nature. The English nation may undergo
humiliation from the arms of France. London may be occupied even as
Moscow, and Berlin and Vienna, were occupied by a French force ; but the
English people cannot be conquered by France. The nations of Europe that
are most jealous of her power would not allow her to be conquered by France,
though they might rejoice in her temporary humiliation. A peace will be
made with England, and one of the conditions of that peace will be the
withdrawal of the French troops from Ireland. The withdrawal of that force
will be tantamount to a delivery of the Catholics of Ireland to the tender
mercies of the Protestants of the empire, who still form a large majority of
the inhabitants of the three kingdoms. Then follows a state of things not
very dissimilar to that which followed the surrender of Limerick — a century
of disasters to Ireland.
I have taken the most favorable view in supposing what I believe to be
an impossibility — that 100,000 Frenchmen, or a force which could not be
resisted, can be transported to Ireland before England is occupied by a French
force ; but I will now state what 1 believe to be the more probable contin-
gency that will actually result from the encouragement, by the soi-disant
nationalists of Ireland, of a French invasion.
A war will arise between France and England. The bulk of the French
force will be directed against England, and a diversion will be created, in
Ireland by sending over a force of 20,000, or, possibly, 30,000 men.
If 20,000 Frenchmen were to land in Ireland, they would be joined by a
very large portion of that section of the Catholics of Ireland who have
nothing to lose and everything to gain by a Revolution. They will be opposed
by all the Protestants, and by a large portion of those Catholics who are
content with English dominion in this country. An exasperated civil war
will thus arise. Conflagration and plunder, with alternate proscription and
confiscation, will thus be brought into the heart of our country by the soi-
disant nationalists of Ireland. An internecine war will be continued, perhaps
for years, and it will result in a termination similar to that which was brought
about by the insurrection of 1641.
You know very well that I would not on any account say anything volun-
tarily that would hurt the feelings of a friend, but my sense of duty to my
AND WILLIAM SMITH BRlEtf. »
country compels me to say, that such I believe to be the inevitable results of
the policy which has been put forward as the national policy of Ireland, by
some of the Irish newspapers, ever since the battle of Solferino.
Such I understand to be the policy advocated by the subscribers to the
MacMahon sword. Far be it from me to discourage our countrymen in their
desire to do honor to Irish genius, or to Irish valor, and to Irish success,
— whether it be manifested in the person of a MacMahon, or of an O'Neill in
France, or of an CDonnell in Spain, if the- subscription to the MacMahon
sword had simply borne this character, I should have been among the first to
subscribe to it ; but it is impossible for any one who lias read the proceedings
which have taken place in relation to this sword during the last year, to give
any other meaning to the appeal which has been made to the country, or to
the reception which that appeal has met, than that the presentation of this
sword is intended to be an intimation that MacMahon would be welcome here
at the head of a French army. For what is MacMahon ? It is true he be-
longs to an ancient Irish family — is, in fact, a scion of the race to which I
myself belong — but he has neither done nor suffered in the cause of Ireland.
He is simply the agent of a military despot, and he dares not even accept the
sword which has been offered to him without the permission of that despot.
Yet the Irish people are encouraged to look upon MacMahon as the future
King of Ireland.
When I returned from Australia I was in hopes that.it would be possible,
first, to suppress all idle boasting on the part of a nation which, after all its
vociferations and menaces, submitted servilely to the consequences of the
ignominious reverses which we sustained in 1848 ; next, that all true lovers
of their country, whether Protestant or Catholic, would unite in an effort to
put down the scandalous and bare-faced system of corruption which prevailed
during the whole period of my absence from Ireland ; further, that efforts
would be made to establish and to encourage a sound national fesUng — a feel-
ing which could be shared by Protestants as well as by Roman Catholics ;
and which should be based upon the sentiment of self-reliance ; — lastly, that
after having put the nation in an attitude of purity, strength, and nnity, we
should have been prepared to avail ourselves of every contingency that might
favor the advancement of the interests of Ireland, whether those interests
might be of minor importance — such as the establishment of a steam com-
munication with America, or the restoration of the Legislative Independence
of this country.
Truth compels me to declare that, instead of progress towards these .results,
we have, as it seems to me, retrograded. We have gone back to that wretched
state of feeling which prevailed during the last century, when the Catholics of
Ireland, instead of being led to consider what they could do to make themselves
respected by self-reliant efforts, were encouraged to whine for the assistance of
France and Spain — a system of policy which eventuated in the unfortunate
rebellion of 1798— the immediate precursor, and, as I believe, the proximate
cause of the Union, which we curse and deplore. * * • • *
As for any surreptitious arming of the people, we have seen to what miserable
results the operations of the Phoenix Clubs have led ; and I confess that I
would prefer that the Irish people should be left to the " chapter of accidents"
rather than that a similar experiment should be tried again. You know that
I predicted exactly what would happen in the case of the Phoenix organization,
and that my prediction came to pass to the letter.
If the " French party" proceed in the track which they appear to have
marked out for themselves, 1 believe that their failure will be equally complete,
though in a hundred-fold degree more disastrous.
6 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
LETTER OF JOHN MARTIN, ESQ., TO WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN.
BoOrevor, 1st January, 1861.
Mr dear O'Brien — Nearly four weeks ago, as soon as I saw your letter
respecting French intervention, I felt that I mnst take means to publish my
own sentiments upon that important question. Bat I have let week after
week pass by without attempting to reply to you, because it is sore against
my will to differ from you so seriously, and because I hare no relish for any
political task except that of trying to promote a union of all those of our
fellow-countrymen who in their hearts desire the freedom of Ireland. I have
never pretended to a leading place among Irish patriots, and probably few of
my fellow-countrymen would blame me if I refrained entirely from such an
ungracious task as this of publicly controverting your deliberate opinions.
Nevertheless, I think it best to speak out, and so obviate any misunder-
standings that might be produced by my silence. I would rather agree with
you than with any other Nationalist in Ireland. And when we differ, I feel
bound to examine your opinions and arguments, and to explain my own as
carefully as I can.
The object of your letter, as I understand it, is not to discuss the principle
of foreign intervention, but to argue that Ireland cannot hope for national
independence through the aid of France, or, at all events, of the actual
government of France ; and that, in the present circumstances of our country,
French intervention would produce such disastrous consequences as would be
worse than what we at present suffer from English rule. You do not mean
to deny the abstract right of an oppressed nation to seek for foreign aid in
order to free itself from a foreign yoke. You do not mean to deny that the
Irish people have a prefect right to seek for the aid of France, or of America,
or of any other foreign power whose arms might enable us to throw off the
English yoke, and to make ourselves an independent nation.
1 think it likely, however, that some persons in Ireland mistake your mean-
ing so far as to suppose that you reject altogether the principle of foreign in*
Invention, while many understand you as arguing, that however legitimate it
may be for the patriots of other oppressed countries to employ foreign aid, it
would be dishonourable for us Irish to contemplate our deliverance by such
n eans. The epithet you apply to those Irish writers who advocate French
aid-— wi-di ant Natianaliti»~-m&Y seem to countenance that mistake. And
some of ns Irish are almost educated into believing that what is honourable
and right everywhere else would be bate and wrong in Ireland. I shall, there-
fore, commenee by mentioning a few historical facts which serve to show what
other nations think of the principle of foreign intervention.
Since the institution of standing armies I do not think there is a single
example of a people which has succeeded in driving out its foreign masters,
and establishing its national independence without the help of foreign arms.
Let us note the revolutions of the last two hundred years. England had the
aid of a powerful Dutch army and fleet to effect her Revolution of 1688 ; yet
all the foreign force she had to contend against was the Irish soldiery seat
over by Tyrconnell. When the United States of Ameriea revolted agahst
English rule, they lost no time in applying for the aid of France. They suc-
ceeded in concluding a treaty with the French government in the year 17ft,
and from that time till the end of the war they enjoyed the aid of French
fleets and armies. Jefferson and Franklin, and Washington, were no sot-
AMD WILLIAM 8MIT1I BRIEX. 7
rfw««* patriots, anil they thought it beneurable policy to. invite French armies
M invade their country, and help them in driving om) the English power.
How valuable, how essential, the French aid was felt to he, may be judged
from one of Washington's letters to the American envoy at Paris, wherein he
urges the necessity of still greater supplies of men and money from France,
and declares that he considers it "impracticable to carry on the war without
the aids * then solicited, adding, " If France delays a timely and powerful aid
In this crjtical posture of our affairs, it will avail as nothing should she at-
tempt It hereafter." The crowning victory of die war, the capture of the
army and ships of Lord Coruwallis at Yorktown on the 19th October, 1781,
was gained by a, land force composed of 7,000 French and 9,00Q Americans,
supported by a fleet exclusively French. The Spaniards have always been
distinguished for their haughty jealousy of foreign interference ; and of all
foreign powers they have most reason to dislike England, whose flag waves
from the Reck of Gibraltar for a continual insult to the Spanish nation. Yet
they gladly availed themselves of the aid of England, when they rose to vin-
dicate their national independence against the attempt of Napoleon I. It
was the invasion pf Germany, by the armies of the Czar, that enabled the
Germans, in }81!J, to throw off the French yoke. Van lutein and Von Har-
denberg, whose enlightened statesmanship turned the formers of Prussia from
serfs into free proprietors ; BJncher, whose hatred of the foreign rule, not
even the revenge of Leipsic could satisfy ; the enthusiastic soul of Kerner,
the patriotism of all the Fatherland, welcomed the Cossacks for deliverers.
In that bloody struggle, which ended by the acknowledgment of a part of
Greece as au independent kingdon, the modem Greeks preformed deeds of
heroism worthy to be ranked with those of their ancestors at Marathon and
Thermopylae But the Greeks felt no scruple in accepting the aid of the
fleets of England, France, aoo> Russia. There U now living at Paris a friend
of Robert Emmet, an exile from Ireland since I8O3, who remembers with pride
that he served in the little army of 15,000 men, sent in 1828 by the French
government, to the aid of the Greeks. Belgium, with a population double
that of her Dutch sister and oppressor, obtained the help of a French army
to consummate her liberation. And Italy — in what position would the cause
of Italy be now, were it not for that invasion by the generous ruler of France
and his gallant people ? It is sad to think upon, but we must admit it to be
the fact that, bnt for French intervention, the Austrian power might be
supreme in every part of Italy to-day. Bnt for French intervention, an Aus-
trian Lord Lieutenant might be holding his court at Turin, and the staals-rath
of Vienna making laws for " that part of the United Kingdom called " Italy.
We thus find that the principle of foreign intervention has been sanctioned
by the example of the English, the Americans, the Spaniards, the Germans,
the Belgians, the Greeks, the Italians— all of whom obtained their deliverance
with the help of foreign armies, For above two centuries, no people have
proved able to establish their independence by their own unaided forces.
And the modem improvements in weapons of destruction and in military
organisation are increasing every year the advantages of trained soldiers over
untrained citizens, of established governments over the people they coerce. To
bid the Irish people abjure foreign aid, would be to bid them abjure all hope
of deliverance from the foreign yoke. England will never give up her twenty
millions a year of Irish plunder, until she be compelled by foreign intervention.
It may not, indeed, prove necessary for the foreign armies to enter Ireland.
England might yield to the apprehension of a French or an American invasiou
of her Irish province. Canada has obtained self government, in consideration
of her having such a powerful neighbour as the United States. Bnt it would
8 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
be vain for us to hope for our national rights from the justice of England, and
Tain now to think of driving out the English power by our own unaided
efforts. To desire foreign intervention, then, is a necessity of our situation ;
and what every patriot in Ireland ought to labour at is, to bring about a
good understanding between all ranks and sects, and combine all for that
cause in whose success all have a common interest, and give confidence,
moderation, and dignity, to our national counsels, and so place our nationality
in such an attitude before England, and before the world, as may command
the respect of our enemy and the sympathy of other foreign nations.
It is our peculiar misfortune that, while the masses of our people are
disaffected in a numerical proportion exceeded in no other subject country,
our aristocracy art nearly all attached to England, and our middle classes are,
perhaps, the least patriotic in the world. I do not say this to denounce our
upper classes. They are the creatures of circumstances, as all classes of men
are. And I am confident that these same Irish nobles and gentlemen, who
now see nothing ignoble or unmanly in standing idly by while foreign rule
plunders and insults their country, as never subject-country was plundered
and insulted by Czar or Kaiser — who stood idly by when foreign rule starved
millions of their countrymen, and confiscated the property of their own
order, • I am confident that those same men would prove gallant and
faithful guardians of the rights of Ireland, once we had our national indepen-
dence. But we must not ignore the sad fact that, at present, the great
majority of our middle and highest classes are either apathetic or hostile to
the national cause.
And it is this want of patriotism in those who ought to be the leaders of
the Irish people that makes some persons despair of obtaining the indepen-
dence of Ireland, and drives them to seek for refuge from English rule in
becoming subject to France, or to some other foreign power. I think such
ideas are gaining ground in Ireland, and, indeed, I regard your letter as
calculated (though quite against your will) to increase the numbers of the
party which begins to contemplate annexation to France as the only attain-
able relief from the miseries of English dominion. I will go farther, and say
that it is only the ignorance in which our people are kept of the real charac-
ter of the French government and laws that prevents the whole peasantry and
Working classes of Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, from belonging to the
French party. If they knew that French rale would introduce religious
equality and abolish tithes, would establish tenant right, and pursue the
policy of giving the cultivators a permanent tenure of the soil, would simplify
and cheapen the administration of justice, would give municipal institutions
by which every town and parish could regulate its own local affairs, would
abolish hereditary nobility, and give every man a free vote in the election of
the national legislature, and would do all that for less than one-fourth of what
we have to pay as our tribute to England — I think such a change of masters
might well be desired by all those of the Irish people who can content them-
selves with less than national independence. If our nobles and gentry will
belong to the English party, they need not think it strange to see the other
classes form themselves into a French party. The one is quite as honourable
a policy as the other.
Now, I belong to neither the English party, nor the French party, nor to
any party, but to Ireland. Though I think that the condition of my country
is more wretched under the English dominion than it could be under the
dominion of France, or Russia, or Turkey, or any other foreign power, yet I
would not lift a finger to obtain a change of masters. Independence is worth
all sacrifices ; but I would not cave to contend for gaining a new master who
AND WILLIAM BMlTH O'BRIEN. 9
, . . »
would insult and plunder me somewhat less than the old one. If raj fellow-
countrymen .will not join together to wrest from England the national rights,
in which every rank and sect, and every citizen in Ireland is a partner, let
them divide in English, and French, and American, and Russian parties, if
they will. But I do not despair of seeing them united for Ireland.
As this letter is already so long, I shall, with a second, finish what had
to say upon the whole subject.— Meantime, 1 remain, my dear O'Brieu,
LETTER FROM JOHN MARTIN TO WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN.
Rostrevor, 8th January* 1861.
My Dear O'Brien, — In my letter of last week I discussed, in a summary
manner, the national revolutions of the last two centuries, and attempted to
lay it down as a general rule that no subject country is able, by its own
unaided forces, and without foreign intervention, to free itself from the foreign
yoke, and establish itself as an independent nation. But there are two impor-
tant cases which I omitted to mention, and which may be considered as ex-
ceptions to that rule— our own Revolution of 1782, and the Hungarian Rebel-
lion of 1848-9.
The Irish Volunteers did actually extort from England a recognition of our
national independence, though: not a foreign soldier had come into Ireland to
our assistance, and no foreign government had so much as remonstrated with
England in our behalf. It was, indeed, a spectacle of unexampled happiness
— that of a nation which had conquered her rights, merely by appearing in
arms to demand them, with no bleeding wounds to staunch, no children slain
to mourn for. The Protestants of Ireland might well look back upon that
spectacle with pride, as a tribute paid to the patriotism and virtue of their
fathers. But, alas ! our Protestant fellow-countrymen of the present day,
show no disposition to emulate the patriotic spirit of the Volunteers. The
laws that bind this kingdom now are made and administered by a far other
body than the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland ; but where are the Pro-
testant gentlemen to pass Dungannon Resolutions ? And yet, even now, if our
Protestant nobility and gentry would take the part of country, as their fathers
did in 1782 — if they would respond, as their Volunteer fathers did, to the
calls of their duty, their interest, and honour — they would be welcomed by
acclamation as the leaders of the Irish people, and, with the powerful sympa-
thy of America and France, they might lead Ireland to independence without
a bloody struggle.
But the victory of the Irish Volunteers, though obtained without any direct
foreign aid, was greatly facilitated by the war in which England was then
engaged with France, Spain, Holland, and the revolted Americans. It v as
owing to the necessities of that war that England permitted her Irish subje :ts
to arm and organize their national force. And, in truth, we had indirec ;ly
the aid of the forces of France, Spain, and Holland, as well as those of fie
revolted Americans. England will never commit such a blunder again as tfiat
of permitting the Irish people to organize themselves into a National Guard.
English statesmen know well that to do so would be to unite Protestants and
Catholics, nobles and peasants, with one bond of patriotism. And, since the
English rule prevents us from standing up as armed volunteers, and trying to
vindicate our country's rights by means of Irish virtue and Irish resources^ we
10 COUUK8P0NDKNCB MTWBflN JQflN IfAttTIN
are reduced to tl>e condition of hoping for the day when pur enemy will be 4$
war with her match — with France, for instance.
The Hungarians, also, in their glorious Rebellion of 1848-9, enjoyed excep-
tional advantage both as to facilities for developing and exerting their own
national forces, and as to the crippling of their enemy by her entanglement in,
other wars. The Austrian government had to deal with the national revolt in
Italy, with the democratic insurrection in Vienna, itself, with the revolutionary
spirit that had been kindled all through Europe at the example of Paris.
And the Hungarians, were no conquered, disarmed, disorganized, impoverished
people like us, but a proud and powerful nation, with their own treasury, their
own army, their own executive, acknowledging no authority in the Austrian
Emperor but in so far as he was King of Hungary, and ruled according to the
laws and easterns of Hungary. Their nationality had not ^een destroyed, t he
resources of their country were but little wasted in tributes to Austria : Hun-
gary yet belonged to the Hungarians. The work of denationalisation had,
indeed, commenced, and some progress had already been made towards Ger-
manising Hungary. But it was to arrest that work tn the early stage that the
Hungarians rose in arms. They rose to guard against the danger of such
dreadful calamities as those under which we suffer, to avert that rnjn which
has fallen upon us. Hungary yet stood like the armed man who has spirit to
resent an insult, and strength to return blow for blow. And so it was that
the gallant Magyars reaped the glory of defeating all the forces of their op-
pressor by their own arms, and that the Austrian Government had to subject
itself to the disgrace of reconquering its Hungarian Kingdom by the armies of
I have occupied so much space with discussing those two historical cases of
Hungary and our volupteers, that it would lengthen this letter too much if I
were to bring forward all the arguments that arise to my mind in reply to your
speculations about the effects of French intervention in Ireland. Nor do I
regard this question as one of pressing importance, believing, as I do, that the
Emperor Louis Napoleon is sincerely bent upon maintaining peace with Eng-
land so long as he may be able to do so without injury to the honour and in-
terest of France, while English statesmen are growing more and more anxious
to avoid a conflict with France, so long as her resources are directed by so
wise and able a ruler as Louis Napoleon. I believe, indeed, that war must
come between the rivals. Neither will yield the first place to the other, and
an alliance like that which subsists between them at present cannot be perma-
nent. But the war may not come while Louis Napoleon lives, and after his
death there may arise confusions in France of bad omen for the cause of op-
pressed nationalities like ours.
It is needless, therefore, for me to say more upon the question of what
might be the poncy which the French government would adopt towards Ire-
land, in the event of a war with the English, than that I think it would be
a frank and generous policy, if Louis Napoleon should then be the ruler of
France. In my poor judgment there is no government in the world — and
there never was one— more sagacious, equitable, firm, moderate, and patriotic,
than the actual government of France. There is no other government which
in based upon the voluntary support of a larger proportion of its people, and
there is none less partizan and more truly national and popular* And there is
no other government so benevolent and generous in its foreign policy as is the
government of the Emperor Louis Napoleon. Such is the opinion that I
have taken the liberty of forming for myself in that matter, by my own ex-
aminations of the facts and documents that properly belong to it. I am
aware that my opinion will sound strange in Ireland, where it is usual for the
AND WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIISN. 11
Protestant newspapers to adopt such views upon all foreign and most Irish
questions aa may be presented by the London Times, or some other English
organ, and where the Catholic newspapers are too deferential to the feelings
of their hierarchy to contradict then) in a matter in which the Pope is con-
cerned. Now the English instinctively hate any man who exalts the power
of France ; and though they have some high qualities, they are perhaps, the
people the least capable in the world of judging fairly the acts and character
of any man whom they regard as their enemy. And the Catholic hierarchy
dislike Louis Napoleon, because he is unwilling to maintain much longer the
temporal sovereignty of the Pope against the consent of the people of Rome
and of Italy.
I say then, that if war should break out between France and England, and
if the French Emperor should consider it his interest to invade Ireland, for
the purpose of that war, I think he would deal honorably and generously
with the Irish people, Certainly French policy (as yon remark), like the
policy of all nations, is selfish. Certainly it is the interest of France that the
French Emperor is bound to consult, not the interest of us Irish. But if his
government considered it good policy for France, to expel the English power
from Ireland, why should not Louis Napoleon ally himself to the cause of
Ireland, just as Louis XVI. allied himself to the revolted Americans in order
to expel the English power from the state. And were he to ally himself to
the cause of Ireland, he would adhere to his engagments with the same firm-
ness and good faith with which Louis XVI. supported the cause of the United
States. What might be the fortune of such a war it is not for me to speculate.
It is enogh to say that the parties concerned, and, above- all, the people of
Ireland, pught to consider well the nature of the quarrel, the interest at stake,
the forces counted upon ; and to judge fbr themselves as wisely as they can.
And may God avert from our unhappy country the horrors of civil war !
These speculation are gloomy and repugnant to my feelings. I would
far rather contemplate such a condition of things in Ireland, as might enable us
to wrest self-government from the English without bloodshed and without
the danger of civil war. A repeal of the Union would satisfy all my wishes
for Ireland, and it wonld satisfy the wishes of ninety-nine out of every hun-
dred of the people of Ireland. It depends upon the conduct of our aristocracy
whether we are to have the happiness of obtaining our freedom as a united
people, in our existing social order, without disturbance of property— without
actual war, or whether we must trust to the chances of a foreign intervention.
Events have caused very many of our people to despair of the patriotism of
the Irish aristocracy. Constitutional agitation is become quite distasteful
to the Irish people, owing as well to the failures and disappointments that
have attended such attempts, as to the sacrifices that are requisite for suppor-
ting them. The peasantry cannot go on, year after year, giving patriotic votes
at the peril of eviction ; and the middle classes cannot continually sacrifice
their prospects of professional advancement. So long as the aristocracy are
upon the side of England, it is dangerous for the professional classes even to
acknowlege their patriotic desires. Fashion is against our cause— the dispen-
sers of patronage are against our cause. And consideration of this kind may
explain how it has come to pass that, whereas, up to 1848, five-sixths of the
people of Ireland, were declared nationalists, and among them a very large
proportion of the middle classes, now there very few members of parliament,
very few mayors, and but few lawyers, doctors, or merchants that publicly
profess themselves Repealers. Have they changed their mind as to the need
that Ireland has of self-government ? No; but they have lost hope of obtain-
ing repeal by constitutional action, they have lost hope of a successful insur-
12 COItltASPOKDENCfl BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
rection of the Irish people, they expect nothing from England's justice, and
they cannot operate upon her fears, and therefore they turn their eyes to the
foreign enemies of England, and secretly pray for deliverance throngh them.
—I remain, my dear O'Brien, sincerely yours,
CahirmoyU, January 14/A, 1861. ,
Mr Dear Martin.— I am not sorry that you have submitted for public
consideration, in the two letters which you have addressed to me, your ideas
respecting an invasion of this country by the forces of the Emperor of the
French. At a time when the public of England and Scotland discuss the
probabilities of a French invasion— at a time when Lord John Russell, the
British Minister for Foreign Affairs, proclaims to all mankind the doctrine,
that a nation is justified in seeking foreign aid when it is wronged, or believes
itself to be wronged by its rulers, it is quite proper that this important ques-
tion should be discussed with calmness and candour by the Irish people It
is better — far better to settle the question now by argument, than hereafter
.by the arbitrament of the sword.
I am delighted also to find myself in presence of a corporeal antagonist,
who is not ashamed or afraid to avow his opinions ; for, in truth, it pains
me to find this question debated by anonymous writers, who shrink from the
mora] responsibility of avowing in person opinions which may lead others to
ruin, whilst they themselves may escape under the protection of the mask
which they wear. As you have already announced to the public, that yon
are prepared to accept the relations established in 1782 between Great Britain
and Ireland, you and I differ only upon an abstract question — a question -
connected with contingencies which may never happen ; but for which, under
existing circumstances, we ought to hold ourselves prepared.
No man in Ireland is better entitled than you to be heard on such a subject.
You have given unquestionable proofs of the sincerity of your devotion to
Ireland. Though you appear in this controversy as my adversary, I am
bound to say that, in my intercourse with the world, I have never met in
private life so unselfish a man as you ; and I am inclined to believe that in
the public affairs of nations, there never appeared on earth a patriot more
single-minded and disinterested.
I feel assured also, that when we differ you will state frankly your reasons
for disagreement without bitterness or ill-will. In this respect you are unlike
ordinary controversialists, who cannot discuss even abstract questions without
resorting to personal vituperation, and often to the vilest calumny. In my
own case, I have been not a little amused to find how rapidly fulsome prais
• has been changed into unfounded detraction, whenever I have promulgated
opinions which are not acceptable to those with whom, in the exercise of my
right of private judgment, I may chance to differ.
I shall not notice the low scurrility of vulgar assailants, but there are some
. imputations upon my personal conduct which, in justice to my argument, I
feel myself bound to refute.
I am charged with inconsistency, because I refuse to invite a French army
to take possession of Ireland.
In this controversy it matters little whether I have been consistent or in-
consistent ; but, as my mission to France in 1848 has been misrepresented
AND WILLIAM SMITH (/BIUEN. 13
both by friends and foes, it is due to myself to recall the exact facts of the
After the substitution of a Republic in France for the dynasty of Louis
Philippe, I carried an address of congratulation from a large assembly of in-
habitants of Dublin to the Provisional Government of France — just as I
would carry an address of congratulation to the Hungarian nation next month,
if they succeeded in establishing, on a satisfactory basis, their national right
to self-government. I was not authorised or disposed to solicit either arms or
any other material succour from the French people in aid of the national
cause ; but I sought to enlist the sympathies of the French nation in behalf
of the Irish people — just as I would wish at present that our national cause
should engage the sympathies of all mankind. On my return to England
from France, I delivered in the House of Commons a speech, from which I
select the following extract, re-published a few weeks ago, by Mr. Mitchel, in
his work called '• The Last Conquest of Ireland/'
" Charges have been brought against me as an individual, and against the
party with whom 1 act. (oh ! and ironical cheers.) I am here to answer those
charges, both for myself and tor the party with which £ act ; and I will say
this with regard to my companions in the noble struggle in which we are en-
gaged (loud laughter) — that, though I have had an opportunity of seeing the
most distinguished men of all parties in this house, I never met a number of
men acting for a great political object who appeared to me, at least, to be
animated by such pure and disinterested motives (loud laughter) — as those
with whom it is my pride to act. Now, Sir, with regard to myself. I have
been called a traitor — (a tremendous burst of cheers followed this sentence,
twice renewed before silence was restored). 1 do not profess disloyalty to the
Queen of England— \ ironical applause). But if it is treason to profess dis-
loyalty to this house, and to the government of Ireland by the Parliament of
Great Britain — if that be treason, I avow the treason — ( 4 oh !' and great ex-
citement). Nay, more, I say it shall be the study of my life to overthrow
the dominion of this Parliament over Ireland — (hear, hear, and cries of ' oh T)
. . . . It has been stated that I went to France for the purpose of en-
listing French aid — (hear, hear)— that is to say, armed aid and succour for
my countrymen in the struggle in which they are engaged. This is a misap-
prehension— (oh ! oh! oh!) If I had gone to France asking for aid of an
armed fcind, believe me I should have come back accompanied by a tolerably
large legion of troops — (some laughter, and ' oh ! oh !'). You may believe
what I say. I only wish you had been in France — (a laugh). The language
I have held in Ireland and in France to my countrymen has been this — That
Irish freedom must be won by Irish courage and Irish firmness. I had no de-
sire to impose upon my country one description of servitude in the place of
another — (hear, hear,) — for I believe that the liberty qflreland,and its redemption
from its present position, were they won by foreign bayonets, couldonly be retained
in its possession by foreign bayonets ; and, therefore, it is not my desire or in-
tention to place my country under foreign dominion,' 9
It has been insinuated that 1 am bound by engagement not to overthrow
British rule in this country. Now I challenge the government of England to
produce a single line or evidence of any kind, which can tend to prove that,
from the day of my capture in 1848 until the present hour, I have directly
or indirectly entered into any compact, avowed or implied, that I wftuld ab-
stain from endeavouring to substitute an Irish Government for an English
Government in this land. In 1854 I was told that 1 was at liberty to leave '
Van Diemen's land, and I left that colony. In 1856 I was told that I was
at liberty to return to Ireland, and I returned to Ireland : but 1 woxjJUL ^\»
14 COKRESPONDEXCE BETWEEN JOUN MARTIX
consent to live a week ia this country if I did not feel myself to be in all re-
spects as free as any other Irishman to promulgate my opinions respecting all
the interests of Ireland.
Nor am I induced to resist a French invasion, by a sense of attachment to
England. I believe as firmly as I believe any other historical truth — that no
nation ever suffered so much from another nation as the Irish have suffered
from the English — or for so long a time, t believe equally that at no period
has Ireland suffered more from England than during the last twenty years.
I resent as warmly as any Franco-Hibernian, the insults which are daily offered
to my country by almost every organ of pnblic opinion in England. And I
have more reason than any living Irishman to resent the personal vituperation
of English writers, for I have been the object of unfounded and ungenerous
invective upon almost every occasion when my name has been mentioned in
an English newspaper or periodical since 1843.
But neither these national wrongs and insults, nor these personal invectives
shall tempt me to encourage my fellow-countrymen to engage in a course of
proceedings, which will eventuate in disasters, and throw back for a century
the progress which we might otherwise expect to attain.
You adduce a variety of examples which tend to shew that in recent times
no nation has thrown off the yoke of a bad government without foreign aid*
I cannot command the leisure requisite to enable me to analyse the cases which
you have adduced, but I feel assured that if leisure should permit a detailed
examination of the cases which you have brought forward in illustration of
your argument, I should be able to prove that they either do not resemble the
case of Ireland, or that they tend to confirm the conclusions which you seek
to overthrow. I shall do no more than submit the conclusions which I should
seek to establish in reference to them.
I should endeavour to prove that in 1688, the Revolution only substituted
one member of the reigning family in the place of another member of that
family, and that a Revolution would have dethroned James IL, even if Wil-
liam III. had been unaccompanied by a single Dutchman.
I should endeavour to prove that the American colonists would have ob-
tained their freedom, though perhaps not at so early a period, even though
they had been unaided by France — that the revolt of the American colonists
did not originate in foreign intervention, and that there was at no time
ground for apprehension that acceptance of French aid would lead only to a
change of masters.
I should endeavour to show that if Belgium had sought to deliver itself
from connection with Holland, by invoking the aid of a French army, instead
of battling for its own liberties, it would now be a province of Franee.
I should endeavour to show, in like manner, that if the Greeks had sought
deliveranee from Turkey by the intervention of a large Russian army, at the
commencement of their revolt, Greece would at this moment be a dependency
of Russia, the Greeks struggled from 1821 to the latter end of 1827 against
the most fearful odds, and during the greater part of this time they were
thwarted rather than aided by foreign intervention ; and even to this hour
they have not escaped the mischievous influence of diplomatic action which
resulted from the intervention of England, France, and Russia, in their favour
at the battle of Navarino.
1 should endeavour to show that you are not justified in designating the
alliance of Prussia with Russia in 1813—15 as a foreign intervention in
deliverance of an oppressed people. It was simply the combination of two
great powers against a common enemy, and bears no analogy whatever to the
case of Ireland*
AND WILLIAM SMITH o'lJRIKN. 15
I should endeavour to show that the case of Spain is au example
full of warning 'to the Irish people. In 1808, Spain was subject to
the most odious and contemptible government in Europe, and if ever a people
were justified in substituting a foreign dynasty for native rule, the Spaniards
were so justified. A part of the nation, including some of its most influential
inhabitants, invited Napoleon to place his brother upon the throne of Spain.
In consequence of this weakness on their part, Spain was desolated by war
during six years, but if the whole Spanish nation had by united action re-
pudiated the intervention of the French, this war would probably never have
taken place — I have recently read the History of the war of independence,
written by Count Toreno, himself a Spaniard, and I refer you to the pages of
that history rather than to those of Napier, u you wish to learn what is the
opinion of Spaniards relative to the eonduot pursued by the French whilst
they occupied the soil of Spain under circumstances when every motive of
honour and prudence ought to have restrained them from committing atrocities
which can never be forgotten whilst the history of their country is read by
Spaniards : you will learn also how unfounded is your notion, that the Spaniards
think that they have cause to bless the English nation for the succour afforded
I should endeavour to shdw that, when during the peninsular war, the
Portuguese invdked the aid of England in resistance to a French invasion,
they lost their independence of action and became, to use words applied by
Napier to them, " a vassal state? and further, that they have scarcely as yet
escaped from that vassalage though it was made manifest in the recent case of
the capture of French slavers by the Portuguese, that they can no longer rely
upon the protection of fcngland*
I now come to the recent war in Italy, which you regard as a case exempli-
fying the generosity of 1 Louis Napoleon* and encouraging oppressed nations to
seek deliverance bj an appeal to the Emperor of France, his Marshals and
I contend that throughout the proceedings, which have taken place in Italy,
Louis Napoleon has used Victor Emmanuel as an agent (a cat's-paw) for
carrying out his own dynastic aims, and for satisfying the pride and ambition
of the French nation, and that French intervention originated in a desire to
promote French aims, not in a desire to effect the deliverance of the Italian
It is natural that <every Frenchman should feel that the occupation of any
portion of the Peninsula hv Austria, is a disparagement to the honour of
France. The struggle of the rival influences of France and Germany in
Italy is no uew event. It has continued during many centuries, and no one
could have blamed Louis Napoleon, if he had warned the Emperor of Aus-
tria, that he must withdraw his troops From the soil of Italy, or hold himself
prepared to encbnnter the hazards of a war with France, supported by the
population of Italy. Neither conld he have been blamed if he had said to
Victor Emmanuel, "you must cede Savoy to us. The inhabitants of. Savoy
speak our language, and desire to he united to us ; we will take Savoy, and
indemnify you by giving you possession of Lombardy." But instead of boldly
avowing these designs, ne said that he made war " for an idea," he shuffled
from intrigue to artifice, from artifice to duplicity, from duplicity to open
falsehood, until he succeeded* by deceiving Europe, in obtaining possession of
Savoy, in cheating (Switzerland, and in kidnapping Nice, a province inhabited
)>y an Italian population, which therefore helongs to United Italy, by a right
as just as that which claims Venice or Sicuy for this imaginary Union.
1 contend, that Louis Napoleon has substantially vfola&^ft&XTC&i ^VT^^
16 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
Franca, that he has encouraged Victor Emmanuel to rob the Pope of his
dominions, and also, treacherously to steal the possessions of the King of Naples.
I contend, that Victor Emmanuel is, at this moment, little else than a
Viceroy under France, over a large portion of Italy, and that the Italian
people, dare not speak or act otherwise than according to the behests of the
Emperor of France. You know that I am as anxious as you are, that the
Germans should be chased out of Italy ; but I cannot congratulate the Italians
upon having obtained " independence, 9 * when they have but substituted one
foreign master for another.
Such, too, would be our lot if we should permit ourselves to appeal to
France for deliverance from England.
Let us take the case of Hungary, as the nearest parallel that can be found
to the case of Ireland. There is no nation in Europe for whom I entertain
respect more sincere than that which I feel for the Hungarians. They fought
bravely in defence of their national rights, and yielded only to irresistible
force ; but my respect would be changed into contempt, unmixed with pity, if
they were to call for aid from Russia to enable them to deliver themselves
from Austrian rule.
You have laid down a proposition which I have briefly endeavoured to
controvert. I will now meet you by a counter-proposition,— the same which
in 1848, I announced in the House of Commons, to the effect, that no people
was ever made free by a revolt which originated in foreign intervention.
If, indeed, we had succeeded in procuring a simultaneous rising of the
people in 1848 — if we had battled with even partial success for several
months — nay, even for several weeks, we might then have welcomed with
safety, the arrival of Volunteers, Arms, and Money, from France, America,
Spain, Belgium, Italy, &c ; but these auxiliaries would have been subject to
the direction of Irish policy, and Irish leadership. They would not have
arrived amongst us as dictators, who for the promotion of their own selfish
Interests had come to emancipate slaves whom they despised.
I have not taken up my pen to refute or to prove an historical theorem,
but if I were disposed to enter into such a disquisition, I feel comyinced that
I should be able to enumerate many cases, not forgetting even the Affghans,
in which nations have freed themselves from misgovernment without
the aid of foreign forces: — nay more, I am convinced that I should be
able to prove that no weak country, ever invoked the aid of a powerful
neighbour to originate a revolt against the dominion to which it was
.previously subject, without being thenceforth subservient to that power-
ful neighbour. I. find this lesson in the history of ancient Greece, in the
history of Borne, in the history of the Byzantine empire, in the history of
mediaeval Italy, in the history of France, in the history of England, (including
in that history its oriental policy.) I find it in the history of our own country.
I find in the annals of every nation, from the creation of the world to the pre-
sent hour, a verification of the fable of the horse, the stag, and the man— If
the horse calls in the man to protect him against the stag, the man being once
mounted, will for ever thenceforward continue to use him for the requirements
of domestic servitude.
Taught by these lessons, I earnestly implore my fellow countrymen to rely
upon themselves, not upon France, for deliverance.
By Irish resolution, by Irish wisdom, by Irish perseverance, not by the
legions of a foreign despot, must the children of this soil win freedom and
independence. By those who love to dwell upon the ancient memorials of the
Irish race, let it not be forgotten that Brian sought no aid from a foreign
potentate when he summoned the clans of Ireland to expel the Danes from
AND WILLIAM SMITH 0*BBIBN. 17
our beloved 'fatherland. Irish blood alone flowed at Clontarf in defence of the
national freedom of Ireland.
Let me say for myself, that when in 1843 I embraced the cause of Repeal
in a great national struggle, a struggle for life or death, I then heard no pul-
ing cry for French intervention — The national watchwords then were " Ire-
land for the Irish"!. ". Ourselves alone P..
To-day, after the lapse (if seventeen years — years of hope and disappoint-
ment—years of suffering and dejection— I still repeat the cry, " Ireland for
the Irish r Ourselves alone ! —
If there is to be again a rally for Ireland, we can embroider in letters of
gold upon our national banners, no nobler sentiment than that which is
conveyed in the words,
" Ireland for the Irish 1 P
" Ourselves alone P
. " The work ; that should to-day be wrought
Defer not till to-morrow !
The help that should , within be sought,
Scorn from without to borrow 1 ;
Old maxims these — yet stout and true — r
They speak in trumpet tone,—
To do at once what is to do,.
And trast OURSELVES ALONE !'
Having commented upon the general principles which you announce in regard
of foreign intervention, I proceed now, to deal with the proposed application
of these principles to the case of Ireland.
As no distinct programme of operations has been submitted by any indivi-
dual or committee, I feel a difficulty in combating suggestions which have, as yet,
received no distinct form,; but in so far as I am able to conjecture from ambiguce
voces, such as usually precede civil commotion — from the scattered fragments of a
plan which have appeared in the Irish and American journals— the following
is the. scheme of salvation: which is designed for Ireland, by those, whom, for
the sake of distinction from other Irishmen, not by way of disrespect, I will
call " the French Party," " the Afrancesados" u the Franco-Hibernians," or
by any other name by which they may designate themselves.
It is proposed, that a French army — the more numerous the better — should
, land in Ireland, under the leadership of Marshal MacMahon. and it is assumed,
: that a large majority of the Irish nation will join such an invading force, and
that forthwith, a national government will be established which shall for
ever, thence forward, maintain the independence of Ireland.
In order to make the proposal palatable to the Gaelic portion of our popu-
lation, it is represented that Marshal MacMahon is the legitimate successor
of Brian Boroimhe, the greatest of the Bangs of Ireland. Countless blessings
are to follow the march of this deliverer, and when he shall be installed as King
: Patrick If the hated Church Establishment is to be destroyed, every tenant
. is to become sole lord of the soil which he now occupies, &c. &c. &c. I have
not seen as yet, that any thought has been beatcmed w^wsAVi*, <&&s&& *& <&&
18 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
honest and industrious labourers of Ireland, or upon the patient and skilful
artisans. Whenever an agrarian division of property shall take place, I hope
that their humble claims will not be forgotten.
Now, with respect to Marshal MacMahon, the principal actor in this great
drama, I am unwilling to say one word that is disrespectful to him, because I
feel as much pride as any Gallo-Hibernian can feel in the success of Irishmen,
whatever may have been their field of adventure. I glory in the fame won
in Spain by OTonnell, by O'Neill and MacMahon in France, by President
Buchanan, General Shields, and many men of Irish origin in America, as well
as in the fame of others who have distinguished themselves in every part of
the world. But as a student of Irish history, I must take leave to observe,
that though the MacMahons may have sprung from a branch older among
the descendants of Brian Boroimhe than the O'Briens, their claims to the
Royalty of Ireland, or even of North Munster, were never admitted by the
Gaelic population of Ireland. Six hundred years ago, they were chiefs of a
remote district in the county of Clare, Corcabaiscin (now the baronies of
Moyarta and Clonderalaw,) and at no time did they ever attain to a higher
dignity. I must take leave also to assert that Marshal MacMahon never
rendered any service whatever to Ireland, and never participated in any of
the sufferings which have been endured by many Irish patriots for their
devotion to her cause. I repeat also, that he has himself avowed to all
Europe that he considers himself the servant of Louis Napoleon by declining
to receive the sword which was presented to him by some zealous Irishmen,
until he was permitted to accept it by the Emperor whom he obeys.
With regard to the promised blessings which are to result to the Irish
people from the introduction of a French army, it is easy to captivate the
imaginations of an excitable people by prophesying triumphs and promising
benefits, but stern truth and an earnest desire for their welfare compel me
to implore my fellow countrymen not to allow themselves to be seduced by
such prophecies or such promises.
It is assumed that England will be unable to offer any resistance to an
invading army. Now, past experience tends to suggest doubts as to the
certitude of this assumption.
In the 16th century the Spaniards endeavoured to subvert English rule in
Ireland, and failed, though Philip II. unquestionably possessed resources
greater than Elizabeth could command.
In the 17th century Louis XIV., then unquestionably the most power-
ful monarch in Europe was unable to drive the English out of Ireland, though
assisted by the presence and authority of a monarch who was deemed by
many, even of his Protestant subjects, to be the legitimate ruler of both
England and Ireland.
In the 18th century, the French signally failed to overthrow English
dominion in Ireland, though at this period they proved themselves able to
overrun the greater part of Europe, and though the state of Irish feeling was
much more favourable than it now is to the projectors of a French invasion.
As the consequence of his having sought to bring foreign armies into this
country, the Irishman, not the foreigner, has suffered confiscation, exile, pro-
Now, at this moment the relative strength of France, in comparison with
that of England, is much less favourable to such an attempt, than it was at
any of the periods to which I have alluded.
We have seen during the last year, with what facility 150,000 citizen sol-
diers, have been rendered capable of taking the field in England. That
number could be doubled in six weeks, if an invasion were really apprehended.
AND WILLIAM SMITH o'bRIBN. 19
And although it is asserted that France now possesses a navy which is cap-
able of coping with that of England, yet this is at present only an assertion,
whereas it is an incontestable fact that in her mercantile marine England
possesses the power of bringing to her aid fivefold — perhaps tenfold — the Dum-
ber of experienced mariners that France can command. It is certain too,
that notwithstanding the ridiculous convention, by which England recently
deprived herself of the resource of privateering, yet as soon as a shot shall be
fired in Ireland, it will be as easy to arm every merchant vessel with rifled
cannon, and to call into action 150,000 English sailors, accustomed to the
use of the Enfield rifle, as it has been to arm and train the present volunteer
force of England.
The French Invasion of Ireland, will be carried on either by means of a
large force, or by means of a small force*
Now, assuming that a war between England and France is inevitable — an
opinion which at present prevails widely, and in which I concur — it seems to
me that it is quite natural, that the people of England, should prefer that
the main attack should be directed against Ireland, rather than against Eng-
land. They naturally wish that the horrors of war should be diverted from
their own soil to ours : and they know that the operations of the French
force would be carried on at a disadvantage in Ireland, when compared with
operations directed against die Southern Coast of England. For my own
part, I verily believe that the statesmen of England are acting (perhaps
unconsciously) in obedience to this instinct, when they leave the shores of
Ireland undefended, whilst they apply almost exclusively to the defence of
England, £12,000,000 out of the National Funds to which we contribute.
Nor am I convinced that the English would be displeased to see, in the
event of a war, a small French force, say 20,000 men, landed in Ireland.
The presence of such a force, would paralyse the political influence of the
Irish nation, and would cherish those discords amongst us which during
seven centuries England has successfully laboured to promote. If England
were to be assailed whilst Ireland was exempted from the horrors of war, it
is possible that the Irish nation would consider such a contingency to be a
fitting occasion for the recovery of its national rights. It is possible that
the Irish nation might tell the people of England, that they could expect no
sympathy or succour from us, until the Parliament of Ireland, of which, in
the moment of our weakness, they had deprived us by fraud and force, should
But whether these suspicions be well founded or baseless, it is certain that
the appearance of a French invading force in Ireland would introduce
amongst us, not only the customary evils of war, but all the horrors of civil
war— -the horrors of the worst of civil wars — a war of religious fanaticism.
If the people of Ireland were wholly Catholic, it might be politic on their
part to make Common Cause with the invaders.
If they were wholly Protestant, they would assuredly resist a French in-
vasion as one man.
But inasmuch as about one-fourth of our people are Protestants, whilst the
remainder are Roman Catholics, the following would be the result of an
A considerable number of most respectable, influential, and intelligent
Catholics would, from conviction and from a sense of Patriotic duty, join the
invader, and abide the hazards of a struggle. The sympathies of a great
majority of the Catholic population would undoubtedly be on the side of the
French or indeed of a Turk, if he were opposed to England •, fo& \fe&vt <g*«
20 CORBBSPOKDBNCB BETWEEN JOHN MAATIff
operation would be withheld until the balance of success might appear to
favour the invader. The French would be joined by all that class, which
consists of persons who wanting the perseverance and industry which are
required to enable a man to attain a satisfactory position in life, would be
glad to carve: out for themselves fortunes by robbing those who hare
acquired wealth by the exercise of industry and perseverance.
On the other hand, none of the Protestants of Ireland would unite with the
French. — At least I have not as yet found a single Protestant now resident in
Ireland, except you, who is desirous to encourage a French invader. A
few Protestants, perhaps, like myself, would not be afraid to remain at
home and to watch the struggle as spectators ; for, in reasoning upon this
question, I write for the sake of others rather than of myself. Personally I
would as soon receive a Frenchman into my house as an Englishman. Both
are equally foreigners to me, and I prefer the manners of the French to those
of the English. I entertain no apprehension, whatever, that the kind Catholic
neighbours by whom I am surrounded would molest me, or that the Franco-
Hibernians would confiscate the property of my family, in case I were disposed
to take no part in the struggle; "and even if the worst should arrive, I can
scarcely find myself in a more desperate condition than that which I was pre-
pared to encounter in 1848 for the sake of my country. Not for myself then,
but for the sake of my fellow-countrymen, do I write these lines of warning,
with a view to avert, if possible, evils which I believe to be impending, and
which will probably happen, unless the public opinion of Ireland shall renounce
all speculations of national deliverance which are founded upon the prospect of
a French invasion. Some few Protestants, I repeat, would remain at home,
spectators of the contest, but the great majority of those who live amongst a
Catholic population would flee from their homes — and would betake them-
selves to Dublin, Belfast, Armagh, Londonderry, Enniskillen, and other strong-
holds, in which they could obtain the co-operation of their fellow Protestants,
and succour from England.
Scenes similar to those of the civil wars of Elizabeth, of the rebellion of
1641, of the civil war of 1688, of the rebellion of 1798, would inevitably be
enacted. The houses, of such Protestants as might take part with England
against the invaders would be plundered, and the treasures of art accumulated
during centuries would be destroyed in an hour by incendiary conflagration.
If the events of the struggle should be favourable to the English party-
woe be to the Catholic Irishmen who shall have taken part in it. The French-
men will be treated with humanity, perhaps with courtesy, — but desolation of
their homes, confiscation of their property, massacre of their persons, will be
the lot of the Franco-Hibernians who shall have brought these Frenchmen
into Ireland. Neither will the monuments which are dear to Catholic piety
be spared. The barbarians, who now call themselves civilized and religious
Anglo-Saxons, have not spared the monuments of eastern art, in the case of
nations who never inflicted injury upon Great Britain, and against whom no
charge can be alleged except that they defended their country from
wanton and unprovoked aggression. Anglo-Saxon barbarians spared not the
Bazaar of Cabool, which is reputed to have been the most splendid work of
Eastern art. The ink is scarcely dry which tells us that Anglo-Saxon bar
barians have burnt the most splendid collection of the treasures of art that has
in modern times been seen upon earth — the Summer Palace of the Emperor
of China, the buildings of which are represented to have covered an area, the
diameter of which was not less than seven miles in length.
Think you that these barbarians will spare the memorials' of art which be-
long to a people towards whom they entertain an undying hatred, and who
shall have brought tm hereditary foe to invade their territories ?
. AND WILLIAM SMITH o'BUIBN. 21
• Think yon that the troops, which burned the Bazaar of Cabool and the
Summer Palace of Pekin, will spare the splendid churches and cathedrals
which have been recently erected by the Catholics in every part of Ireland ?
. How many a dismantled castle— how many a desecrated Church — how
many an ivy-clad Abbey — beautiful though in rain — still remain on Irish soil
as memorials which warn us to to beware of intestine strife. If war is
again to bring amongst ns renewed desolation, let ns at least encounter its
ravages for some cause which shall unite in one mass, the whole population of
this Island — a cause which shall be truly national — the cause, not of an Eng-
lish party or of a French party, but the cause of our common Father-land.
I have given offence to some friends for whom I entertain sincere respect,
and whose feelings I would not willingly wound, by calling the French party,
that is. the party amongst jus who encourage the French to invade Ireland —
soi-disant nationalists. I am sorry that I used this word, since it has given
offence to them ; but I cannot regard any man as an Irish nationalist, who
encourages a propagandism which tends to bring such calamities as these upon
ns, or who forces into internal collision the elements of which the Irish nation
is composed — who begins his work by introducing civil war, and ends it by
rendering this country a dependency of France.
I contend that the Irish Protestant is as much a portion of the Irish nation
as the Irish Catholic, — that such Catholics as would resist the intrusion of a
French force upon our soil are at least as well entitled to be considered Irish-
men as those who would bring a French invader into Ireland. The true
nationalist is the man who would seek to consolidate into one mass all sections
and classes of Irishmen for their common good, and who would encourage
them to protect their common country from the intrusion of every foreigner,
whether he call himself a Gaul or an Anglo-Saxon.
Let us now contemplate the case of entire success on the part of the French
invader, and of his allies the Franco-Hibernians. Let us assume that the
Protestants of Ireland are " put down" — crushed by the French party, as
effectually as the Catholics have been put down and crushed at the close of
the former civil wars of Ireland — what follows ?
Think you that the Protestant party and the Anglo-Irish Catholics will be
content to coalesce with the men by whom they have been put down, crushed,
deprived of their homes and properties ? To imagine such a result, is to be-
lieve that human nature is different from what it has been found to be in all
agea and in all climes* No! — The triumph of the French party must be se-
cured by the same means as those by which it was achieved. In like manner
as the triumphs of the English party in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eight-
eenth centuries have been secured by the maintenance of an English garrison
in Ireland, so the triumphs of the French party must be secured by the main-
tenance of a French garrison amongst us.
King Patrick I. must be surrounded by 50,000 Frenchmen, or otherwise
he must be prepared either to decamp, or to fight over again the battle of
rival interests, exasperated by mortal feuds and by religious fanaticism, as soon
as ever an opportunity shall present itself to the English party of recovering
their lost ascendancy.
Think yon that fifty thousand Frenchmen will be content to remain in
Ireland for the sake of " an idea" — to use the word by which Europe was
deceived when Louis Napoleon sent 200,000 Frenchmen to deliver Italy from
Austria ? — Alas ! experience and history tell us that individuals but seldom,
nations never, make sacrifices except where they hope to indemnify themselves
by the promotion of some selfish interest real or imaginary. There is a
French expression, exploiter, ("to turn to profit") which exactly describes the
22 THE CORRESPONDENCE OF JOHN MARTIN
use that England at present makes of Ireland. Ireland is at present eocplckie
by Englishmen. Under the rule of Patrick I. Ireland will be exploitee by
Alas ! alas ! Sad is the fate of a country for which those who call them-
selves its Patriots, its nationalists, can devise no system of national policy
more noble than that of surrendering it to the care of a foreign despot !
More than thirty years have elapsed since I first took a part in the political
affairs of Ireland, and wondrous indeed are the changes of public sentiment
which I have witnessed during that period. Whilst O'Connell, the greatest ot
popular tribunes, was an exponent of the opinions of the Catholics of Ireland,
it might have been supposed that the tendency of Catholic sentiments was
democratic —for, though he never encouraged republican aspirations, he car-
ried to their extreme verge the demands of democracy, under what is called
" Constitutional Monarchy."
Of late years, on the contrary, those who study, as I study, the organs of
Catholic opinion, might imagine that a very large majority of the Catholics of
Ireland are ardent supporters of despotism, whether considered in the abstract
as a system of Government, or as it has shown itself in the actual exercise of
despotic rule, in the case of Austria, Naples and France.
And who is this French despot that is to be the protector of Irish nation-
ality, in case the Franco-Hibernians realise their present aspirations ? As
for Patrick I. whatever bo his personal inclinations, he must necessarily be as
subservient to the Emperor of France when he becomes King of Ireland, as
he has been whilst he was simply Marshal M'Mahon. As long as French
soldiers surround the throne of Ireland, so long Ireland will necessarily be a
dependency of France.
Who then is this our imperial Protector ? Let others fawn upon success —
I will not imitate the example which has been set me by Queen Victoria and
by all the leading statesmen of England. I refused to bend my knee to an
usurper when I was in exile in 1854. I refuse in 1861 to accept an usurp-
ung despot as the Protector of my country.
History has written in indelible record that Louis Napoleon began his reign
by perjury and murder, and, in so far as I have been able to sean his conduct
since his acquisition of power, I have seen little to make me doubt that he has
realised, and will continue to realise the truth of the dictum pronounced long
ago by Tacitus — Imperium flagitio qucesitum nemo unquam bonis artibus
exercuit — " No one ever exercised righteously a sway acquired by crime."
He has ruled during ten years, and I admit that within that decennial
period France has exhibited an appearance of prosperity which is almost
unexampled in her former annals. France has enjoyed the glory of victory
over her armed antagonists, and has drunk a still sweeter cup of enjoyment
in the abasement and humiliation of a professed ally— once called her heredi-
tary foe — now her humble instrument or dupe.
As much could be said in favour of the Rule of the Roman Emperor
Augustus — yet what man of free spirit would wish to have lived as the thrall
Before we congratulate France upon her apparent prosperity, we have to
enquire how far this prosperity and these victories are due to the wisdom and
prudence of Louis Napoleon, and how far they have been purchased by
sacrifices which will hereafter cost the French people both financial disaster
and national humiliation.
A spend thrift is always congratulated upon his prosperity as longs as his
expenditure lasts, yet he is rushing to ruin even whilst receiving these con-
gratulations—Louis Napoleon, surrounded by 600,000 soldiers, can keep
AND WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN. 23
Europe in a state of fretful anxiety— can inflict many financial privations
upon rival nations, bnt the French should remember that fifty years have
not elapsed since their noble country was occupied during several years by a
Foreign foe, and that similar causes generally produce similar results.
In the meantime, What has been the condition of Frenchmen who are entitled
to the rights of personal and national freedom ? To every French patriot —
to every Frenchman who has been unwilling to become the agent of a des-
potism which he abhors, public life in all its departments has been closed. In
America the son of a coal-heaver may become president of the republic — in
England he may become minister of a free people, and being placed in the
council of his sovereign by the will of a free people can dictate their wishes
to that sovereign— but the French statesman must enter the palace of the
Emperor as an eunuch enters the palace of an eastern despot — an emasculated
sycophant and slave — If a man of cultivated intellect such as Montalembert be
desirous to discuss the political interests of his country he must expect a
prosecution. If a French Bishop desires to publish his views in relation to the
Father of the Catholic Church/ he finds himself inhibited from doing so except
through indirect channels of communication. I have been recently told that
in certain circles in Paris interchange of thought is effected by passing man-
uscripts from hand to hand, and every one who knows anything of French
society will tell you that during the last ten years no man has dared to speak
out freely in a place of public resort his sentiments upon the political condition
of his country, lest he should be overheard by a genteel mouchard employed
as a spy over the social intercourse of Frenchmen.
In this country we nationalists have had occasion to complain of prosecu-
tions of the press and of trials by packed juries, but by what right can we
complain of these iniquities, if we are prepared to approve of them when per-
petrated in another country ? Were the French imperial rule to prevail in
Ireland there is scarcely a newspaper, whether conservative, whig, or
nationalist, that could venture 4o publish such articles in relation to Govern-
ment as appear every week with impunity in Ireland. The mockery of trial by
jury as handled in 1848, by the British Government against us, was at least as
valid a guarantee for personal freedom as trial before an agent commissioned
by the Emperor, or as deportation to Cayenne without trial of any kind.
We are told indeed that this system of Government is to be modified, and
that in future Parliamentary orators are to be allowed to discuss freely the
interest of their country, and that the press will be permitted to canvass witii
some degree of freedom the acts of the Imperial Government.
" Better late than never." It does not surprise me that the Emperor should
have found it necessary to modify his system of Government. He has lost
the confidence of a large portion or the Catholic Clergy. He therefore natu-
rally wishes to secure friends among that intellectual class of Frenchmen who
desire to witness the establishment of constitutional Government in France.
Besides it would be preposterous that he should assume the character of
Liberator of the subjects of Austria, if he were not to make to his own sub-
jects concessions of political liberty at least as popular as those which have
been recently inaugurated by the Emperor of Austria.
It is difficult to predict what will be the practical effect of these vaunted
concessions : but we may form conjectures for the future founded upon past
experience, and, for myself, I have no hesitation in saying that if a system
of rule were to be established in Ireland by the French party similar to that
which has existed in France during the last ten years, I would prefer to emi-
grate to the United States, to British America, to Australia, to Spain, to Bel-
gium, or to Greece, rather than endure such a system of rule.
I am attached to Ireland both by the traA\tvra& <& \s^ tasSc^ *&&. \s^ xse^
24 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
own personal intercourse with its inhabitants. The sway of Great Britain in
this country imposes upon me much that is painful to my feelings : but if J
were required to submit to such degradation as every Frenchman who possesses
the soul of a freeman has endured under the rule of Louis Napoleon, I should
lode as little time as the circumstances of my family would permit in emanci-
pating myself by voluntary exile from so galling a servitude.
Knowing that you are not a professional agitator, and that your mind is
naturally inclined to candour, and also, that you have spent many months in
France, I confess that I am astonished to find in your first letter the following
paragraph, which, of course, is intended to intimate that the French already
enjoy themselves the blessings which they are to confer upon us when they
become " our masters."
" 1 will go farther, and say that it is only the ignorance in which our
people are kept, of the real character of the French Government and laws,
that prevents the whole peasantry and working classes of Ireland, Protestant
and Catholic, from belonging to the French party. If they knew that French
rule would introduce religious equality, and abolish tithes, would establish
tenant right, and pursue the policy of giving the cultivators a permanent
tenure of the soil, would simplify and cheapen the administration of justice,
would give municipal institutions, by which every town and parish could
regulate its own local affairs, would abolish hereditary nobility, and give
every man a free vote in the national legislature, and would do all that for
less than one-fourth of what we have to pay as our tribute to England — I
think such a change of masters might well be desired by all those of the Irish
people who can content themselves with less than national independence."
An Irish peasant reading this paragraph, would imagine, that, in France
every landlord is compelled to let his land on a perpetual lease, and that his
rent is settled by arbitration— which is the general idea assigned to the term
fixity of tenure, or as you designate it a permanent tenure of the soil, and that
there is no process in France for the recovery qf land from a tenant.
Now I admit that in consequence of the testamentary laws of France by
which property is divided amongst all the children of a proprietor instead of
its being inherited by the eldest son alone, there is in France a much greater
number of proprietors than are to be found in England or Ireland. There
are, in fact, several millions of proprietors in France ; but you know very
well that some of the most humane and intelligent of the French writers on
Social Science do not hesitate to affirm that this infinitesimal subdivision of
property is injurious rather than beneficial to France. Upon this question —
one of the most difficult in the whole range of Social Science ~ I offer no
opinion, nor shall I answer any of the following questions upon my own
authority, or upon any authority that I could cite, but I will ask you to refer
to some eminent French jurist or publicist, who is well acquainted with the
laws and institutions of both Ireland and France, and invite him to answer
candidly the following questions.
1. Whether in France a proprietor of lands and houses, is not at liberty
to contract with a tenant for the temporary occupation of such land and
houses ? whether the tenant may not agree to take any tenement for such
term, whether for one year or for twenty, as may suit the convenience of
both parties, and whether the landlord is not entitled to recover possession of
such tenement after the expiration of the term for which such contract was
2. Whether justice is not administered with as much purity in the courts
of Law in Ireland, as in the courts of Law in France ?
3. Whether Irishmen do not possess in the institution of Trial by Jury
/even subject to the manipulation which it undergoes on the part' of agents
AND WILLIAM 8MITH O'BRIEN. 25
of the British Government in the case of political prosecutions) a guarantee for
personal liberty at least as valid as those which are possessed by a subject
of the Emperor Louis Napoleon ?
4. Whether it is or is not true, that within the last twelve months, at least
one author has been subjected to fine or imprisonment for having published
political writings which in Ireland might have been published with perfect
impunity: and whether at least one newspaper has not within the same
period been suppressed by Governmental authority, acting independently of
the tribunals of justice ?
5. Whether the* Municipal Councils of Ireland . are not more free from
intervention on the part of the Central Government than the Municipal
Councils of France ? 1 admit that our Grand Jury system is not as satis-
factory as it ought to be, but it is at least free from intervention on the part
of the Central Government. Nor does it appear to be felt as a practical
grievance by the Irish people. Both in Parliament and out of it, I have
repeatedly during the last thirty years endeavoured to induce the Irish farmers
to call for the substitution of elected Fiscal bodies in lieu of Grand Juries
appointed by nomination. Others have done more than I have done in the
same direction, but we have never been able to obtain from the public opinion
of Ireland any considerable support for these efforts.
6. Whether the inhabitants of the city of Paris, and of other cities in
France, do not complain bitterly of the excessive local taxation to which
they are subject ?
7. Whether there is not in each department a governmental agency, " a
prefecture," which not only occasions considerable expense to the community,
but also tends to bring under the operation of governmental influence all the
transactions of Provincial society ?
8. Whether in addition to a gendarmerie, dependent upon central authority,
which, like our police, is found in every part of France, there is not also an
organised system of secret espionage at the command of the police authorities
of France ?
9. Whether the passport system of France, has not imposed many vexations,
not only upon foreigners, but also upon the natives of France ?
10. Whether every Frenchman is not subject to military conscription, by
which he may be taken from his home, and compelled to serve for a certain
number of years in foreign countries ? Whether under this law he may not
be compelled to engage in wars as iniquitous as that carried on at present
against China, even though his conscience may revolt against snch wars ?
11. Whether the present Emperor of France has not within the last ten
years added at least fifty millions sterling to the national debt of France ?
12. Whether the maintenance of the present naval and military force of
France, does not impose upon the French people an enormous amount of
taxation, and even compel the people of Ireland to sustain an increased amount
of taxation which the British Government have been induced by the armament
at present carried on in France to impose upon the Irish people ?
13. Whether the institutions which yon designate as "the National
Legislature" of France, have not under the political organisation devised by
the present Emperor of France been regarded by a great majority of man-
kind, rather as a department of government designed for the registration of the
decrees of the Emperor, than as the National Council of a Free people.
Procure an answer to these .questions, and we will then proceed to consider
whether we ought to exchange the ills which we at present suffer, for those
which the French endure. For my own part, after having on various
occasions travelled through different parts of France, I am disposed to say
26 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOIIN MARTIN
that if u a change of masters" can produce no greater amount of freedom for
the people of Ireland, that which is at present enjoyed by the people of France
— the Irish Nation will do well to consider whether it is not
" Better to bear the ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of."
I shall say nothing in reference to the promise which you make, that the
French when they become "our masters'* will abolish the hereditary
nobility of Ireland, except that I shall feel truly obliged to any one, be he
Frenchman, Anglo-Saxon or Irish Nationalist, who will extricate the Irish
nobility from the false position in which they at present stand. I know no
class of citizens in any country who are in a more contemptible position than
" the hereditary nobility" of Ireland ; because, with the exception of a small
number who entertain conservative opinions, they are not admitted to the
privileges of Peers of Parliament, and yet they are disfranchised in regard of
all the electoral honors to which ordinary citizens may aspire. As for the
prestige which is accorded to noble birth, there is no leveller in the land who
can take from noble families that advantage. It depends not upon human
institutions, but is founded upon the instincts and ineradicable tendencies of
Having thus set forth some of my reasons for warning the people of
Ireland, against reliance upon the prospect of a French invasion as a means of
deliverance from the rule of England, I shall proceed to examine the causes
of past failure, and afterwards to lay before them the system of national policy,
which appears to me to be most conducive to their honour and welfare.
AND WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN. 27
Let us first enquire — What have been the causes of former failures ? Let
us not shrink from rigid self-examination, bat frankly ask ourselves, how far
the relations at present existing between this country and England are
attributable to Englishmen, and how far to ourselves ?
I will not review the pages of our early annals, further than to observe,
that as the Anglo-Saxons became masters of Britain, because a party amongst
the natives called in foreign aid, so in Ireland the Normans were enabled to
acquire a footing, because a party amongst the natives appealed to foreign aid
to protect themselves against internal enemies— even as a party amongst
ourselves desire at present to call in the aid of the French, to enable a portion
of the Catholics of Ireland to override the English party in this country.
This proceeding has been repeated on many subsequent occasions. In the
thirteenth century for instance, a discontented member of the reigning family
of North Monster called in the Normans to assist him to recover the
sovereignty of that district, and the counties of Clare, Tipperary, King's
county, and limerick, were consequently. wasted by civil war during a period of
more than sixty years.
Passing over the period of history, which intervened between 1169, and
1782, I find that the volunteers of 1782, nobly maintained the rights of
their country without foreign aid, and established such international arrange-
ments between Great Britain and Ireland, as ought to-day to satisfy any
patriotic Irishman, — international relations which would have satisfied me in
1848, and which would still satisfy me, though the late Sir Robert Peel, and
many other Englishmen, influenced by a spirit of petty malignity, could
impute to me no higher motives for my conduct in 1848, than a desire to
recover the throne which was formerly occupied by my ancestors.
The volunteers of 1782, being for the most part Protestants, acted
nobly in relation to England, but they failed to obey the dictates of wisdom
and justice in their dealings with their own countrymen, and thus they, though
Irishmen representing every race that has made Ireland its home, sowed the
seeds which brought forth bitter fruit in 1789 and 1800. If the volunteers
of 1782 had secured for their country Reform in Parliament and Catholic
Emancipation the rebellion of 1798 would never have taken place, nor would
the English government have dared to propose to either country the suppres-
sion of the Parliament of Ireland. In 1800, a Protestant oligarchy basely
sold the legislative institutions of their country, (an Irish aristocrat being their
factor on the occasion) whilst a large portion of the Catholic population of
Ireland looked on with acquiescence, if not indifference, being deluded by
fallacious hopes of emancipation, suggested by the Prime Minister of England
and his Irish minions.
Let ns not now throw upon England alone the shame of a transaction in
the criminality of which Irishmen so largely participated.
After the lapse of nearly thirty years, Catholic Emancipation was effected
by a movement which I am justified in calling truly notional W*rs& *&&»&>-
26 CORRKSPONDKXCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
• . * • *
cipation was won by the action of the Catholic masses, aided by a large
and influential body of Irish Protestants.
To me, it will ever be a source of pride that my family formed a portion
of the phalanx of Irish Protestants by whose aid Catholic Emancipation was
achieved. During a period of thirty years my father supported the claims of
the Catholics, and in the division lists by which Catholic Emancipation
was consummated in 1829, the names of my brother and myself are recorded.
With the blessing of heaven, the name of O'Brien, as well as the names of
many other Protestant families, shall also be recorded amongst those who will
hereafter restore to Ireland its legislative independence.
The next great question which occupied public attention in Ireland, was-
the Repeal of the Union — When first it was brought forward in 1830 — 1831,
I thought that the agitation of it was indiscreet and premature. I thought
that an adequate trial should have been given to the operation of the Eman-
cipation Act, and for this reason I discouraged, rather than assisted the early
agitation of this question. Bnt having closely watched, during a period of
twelve years, the mode in which Irish questions were treated in the British
Parliament, I arrived at the conclusion which had been instinctively adopted
by a large mass of my fellow countrymen. I united my efforts with those of
the Repealers of Ireland, at a time when they were discouraged, as well as
exasperated by the prosecution of Mr. O'Connell. I joined the Repeal
Association npon an express understanding, repeatedly confirmed both in
public and private, and solemnly recorded in the celebrated Vow of the
Rotunda in 1845, that the. Repeal question should never, under the influence
of corruption or intimidation, be compromised, betrayed, or abandoned by the
Has the Irish nation adhered to that pledge ? Have the individuals who
solemnly bound themselves by that engagement adhered to it with fidelity ?
I am unwilling to ask these questions, because I know that they must ne-
cessarily give pain to many for whom I entertain sincere regard, I shall not
scrutinize the motives of those who have receded from it. My own conscience
tells me that I have kept faithfully the pledge which I gave on that occasion ;
and I will not assume a right to reproach others, whose consciences may satisfy
them that this pledge has long ceased to bind them by its solemn obligation.
But, whilst individuals may plead reasons which are satisfactory to them*
selves or others for abandoning the cause of Repeal, the fact that it has been
abandoned during the last ten years is incontestable. Dublin, which was
formerly the head quarters of Repeal, has of late years become chiefly re-
markable for the " toadyism" and sycophantic servility which it displays towards
the succession of English viceroys who occupy the Castle. In the city of Cork,
the authorities, many of whom were formerly ardent Repealers, not satisfied
with the ordinary homage paid to Lords Lieutenant by their satellites, ac-
tually paid to Lord Eglinton the strange compliment of baptising their Lunatic
Asylum with the beloved name of Eglinton. On the week of my return to
Ireland, I found all classes of the inhabitants of the important city of limerick,
a city which ought to be the most national in Ireland, prostrate at the feet
of an English Lord Lieutenant. On the day of my return to Ireland after
eight years of imprisonment and exile, 1 suffered the mortification of finding
engaged in the presentation of addresses to an English viceroy, not only the
corporate authorities of Limerick, but even the Congregated Trades. These
were for the most part the same individuals who had in 1845 offered to me
an ovation, such' as has been seldom seen in Ireland, for having resisted the
illegal authority nsuipcd by the British House of Commons over the conduct
and person of an Irish Member of Parliament. In Clonmel, the reverend
clergyman who officiates as leader and spokesman of the Catholic population,
AND WILLIAM SMITH* o'BM'KN. 29
when recommending at the last election to the suffrages of the people an esti-
mable gentleman, formally announced that " Repeal is dead 9 — and celebrated
its obsequies by sending to the British Parliament this gentleman, who has
since become a Whig Lord of the Treasury. In Galway it has been in like
manner proclaimed that the Lever contract is more dear to the Irish nation
than even Repeal itself ; and an English speculator has been sent to represent
that important city in the British Parliament by a constituency which could
with equal facility have returned an ardent nationalist. Ennis, Athlone, and
other patriotic towns have given lucrative places under the British Govern-
ment to accommodating patriots, and exult in the imperial patronage which
they have thus acquired.
Seeing these things how can any reasonable man reproach the British Par-
liament for delaying — I will not say for refusing — to restore to the Irish people
that Legislative Independence, the attainment of which appears to be so
much a matter of indifference to the Irish Nation. Let us be just even to our
foes. The indications of public opinion which have recently presented them-
selves to the world, might lead not an Englishman alone, but even a sympa-
thising Frenchman or American, to believe that the Irish people were not in
earnest when they clamoured so eagerly for Repeal.
Truth compels me to remind you, that if we have not as yet recovered our
Parliament, we have chiefly to blame ourselves for past failure and disap-
pointments. — The means by which repeal might have been attained were two-
Repeal might have been attained by Parliamentary action sustained by
what has been called legal and constitutional agitation ; or it might have
been obtained by the simultaneous rising in arms of all those who had pro-
claimed their desire to establish the national independence of Ireland, and
their determination to encounter every hazard which might be required in
efforts for its attainment.
The Irish people have adopted neither of these methods.
The accession of the whigs to office in 1846 was the trying crisis of the
system of legal and constitutional agitation. As long as the Tories were in
office, no repealer could hope for an appointment under the British government,
and where there is no temptation there is no virtue in resistance ; but when
the whigs came into power they renewed the intrigues which had been suc-
cessful in 1835 at the time when the " Irish vote" was secured for the
whigs by what has been called " the Litchfield compact," the characteristics of
which 1 need not here describe.
In an unhappy hour these intrigues were successful — a practical, though
not an avowed compromise of the demand for repeal, was secured by the
whigs in 1846, even as it had been realized in 1835. The unopposed re-elec-
tion of Mr. Sheil tor Dungarvan was the first-fruits of this compromise ; the
expulsion of the Young Ireland party from the Repeal Association was the
second result. The Irish people were taught to look for beneficent legislation
to the British Parliament, in a specified number of measures, and for *• paternal
government," to the administrative action of an Irish Viceroy, (Lord Bessbor-
ough) : they were encouraged also to seek a large share of local anu imperial
patronage. These were equivalents which appeared to some to justify an
abatement of their ardour for repeal.
From the hour in which this compromise was effected, the attainment of
repeal by Parliamentary action was rendered hopeless until some new course
of events should again awaken the energies of the Irish people.
I have no hesitation in stating it to be my sincere conviction, that if in
1846 the Repealers had steadfastly resisted the temptations e&ttefc^ xkssw^
and had adhered to the vow of 1845, we staoxM^X. M* tmssqwolVW^Ws^
30 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
in enjoyment of an Irish legislature without having gone beyond the limits of
legal and constitutional agitation*
In such case, the secession would never have taken place, "the peace
resolutions," which have been recently renounced by the Catholic hierarchy
in sending military aid to the Pope, would never have been brought forward.
The election of 1847 would certainly have given to us at least sixty Re-
pealers in Parliament, and possibly seventy.
Now, after a Parliamentary service which stretched over a period of more
than seventeen years, I ought to know something about the resources of
Parliamentary parties and the means of Parliamentary action. Founding my
assertion upon this experience, I aver that a party consisting of sixty sincere
and ardent Repealers, of whom 1 will assume that at least one-third would
have been capable of taking a part in debate, could have so completely
occupied the time devoted to legislation by the House of Commons with the
discussion — the fair and legitimate discussion of topics relating to Ireland—
that the people and statesmen of England, would have at length implored the
Irish members to go home and debate the concerns of their country in an
Irish Parliament ; and Buch Parliament would have been restored to all its
privileges by the common consent of both nations.
Not only did this compromise, and the subsequent acceptance of office by
many Repealers, who became dumb as soon as they began to receive the
crumbs which fell from the table of their employers, prove fatal to the cause
of Repeal, bnt it tended to augment all the horrors of the famine, and to lay
the foundation of every abandonment of principle which has subsequently dis-
graced the character of Irish Politicians. To it may be traced the shameless
vote given by Irish members in opposition to the proposal of Lord George
Bentinck (which proposal they had previously encouraged) for the execution of
a general system of Railways in Ireland, as a means of saving the labouring
population from famine without subjecting them to the degradation of pauper-
ism. I will not now enumerate in detail the other consequences which
resulted from this compromise. Perhaps, I shall be induced or compelled
at some future time, to retrace the proceedings of the British Parliament in
relation to Ireland during the last thirteen years, and in such case, I fear that
I shall find that English statesmen have been sustained in every injurious
measure which they have inflicted upon this country by the votes of a large
proportion of the representatives of the Irish people.
The second method by which the independence of Ireland might have been
acquired, was by a simultaneous rising of the Irish people, and by the employ-
ment of physical force. In treating this branch of my argument, 1 am com-
pelled to speak of myself more than 1 could wish, because, both by foes and
friends, the responsibility attendant upon the abortive insurrection of 1848,
has been thrown almost exclusively upon me.
English writers have adopted towards me a tone of contempt and ridicule,
which I accept as one of the natural consequences of failure, and though I
deem the language which has been used towards me to be more worthy of
exasperated fish-women than of a people which encourages insurrection every-
where, except amongst the nations which it oppresses, I am content to allow
facts to vindicate my memory against unmerited aspersion. English malignity
can find no more becoming designation to apply to an Irish gentleman, who,
desiring nothing for himself, hazards life and property for the sake of his
suffering fellow countrymen, than the oft repeated term of " the Hero of the
Cabbage garden," and imputes personal cowardice to a man who ought
rather to have been reproached for having exposed his person to danger in a
manner which nothing but his excessive anxiety to spare the blood of his
fellow countrymen could justify.
AND WILLIAM SMITH o'BRIKX. 31
These indignities I treat with the contempt which they deserve, but I con-
fess that I have been deeply wounded by the language which has been em-
ployed towards me by some of my own confederates.
I have been the object perhaps of a greater amount of sympathy, both in
Ireland and in foreign countries, than has been bestowed upon any living
man. That sympathy has been accorded by Irishmen to whom I was op-
posed, and who would have resisted me in open manly fight, as well as by
those who participated in the aspirations which I had indulged for the restor-
ation of my country's freedom ; but I have not been defended as I ought to
have been defended. During the whole period of my absence in exile
scarcely a voice was raised in my behalf which did not disavow all approval
of my designs. " He loved his country, not wisely, but too well," was the
apologetic sentiment with which expressions of sympathy were generally con-
nected. It has been left to me to repeat since my return the declaration
which I made when standing in the prisoners' dock at Clonmel in 1848 — a
declaration which emperilled my life when it was made — " that 1 had done
my duty to my country, and that every man in Ireland ought to have followed
my example." Not content with disavowing participation in my designs,
some of those who abandoned me in Tipperary have circulated both in this
country and in America statements which are utterly untrue with regard to
my conduct during the week which terminated in my failure at Ballingarry.
I am unwilling to suppose that these misstatements have been made wilfully
by these persons with a view to exonerate themselves from blame by throwing
upon me the whole responsibility of our failure; but in any case those who have
made assertions disparaging to me, ought to have satisfied themselves as to the
truth of their assertions, and a sense of generosity might have suggested to
them that they ought to have been slow to reproach me with a failure which
might never have occurred, if they had like myself kept the field as long as a
shadow of support, or a hope of success remained for the Cause.
I -am writing now for history, and 1 contend that the attempt made by me
in 1848, though it was in the nature of a forlorn hope, was not deserving of
the ridicule which has been cast upon it by English writers and by some Irish-
men who if it had been successful would have been among the first to claim
participation in the honour and profit of such success.
In the summer of 1848, I resolved to perambulate the whole kingdom of
Ireland, not with a view to raise an immediate rebellion, but to marshal the
Repealers of Ireland into such an attitude, as would give the weight of
physical force to the representation of their determination to rescue their
country from the misrule of the British Parliament. In this promenade I
visited successively the counties of Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Dublin, Mcath,
Wexford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. A cannot estimate the number of able-
bodied Irishmen by whom I was met at less than fifty thousand, and
amongst these masses a large proportion consisted of young men who were
remarkable for their intelligence, and more competent to undertake the duties
of an Officer than half the captains in the British army. Every where I was
stimulated to call the population of Ireland to arms, and was assured of sup-
port as soon as I should give the signal. I hesitated to throw the country
into convulsion, and should probably have delayed for an indefinite period to
summon the people to arms, if I had not been compelled by the suspension
of the Habeas Corpus Act, and by the issue of warrants for the arrest of the
leading confederates and of myself to form a hasty decision. By the issue
of these warrants, we were left only the choice of one of the three following
courses of proceeding.
1. That of allowing ourselves to be imprisoned without resistance.
32 CORRBSPONDBNCB BBTWBBN JOHN HABTIK
2. That of taking refage in foreign countries.
3. That of resisting onr capture by open force.
Looking back to the past with the light afforded by actual experience, I
am disposed to think that we ought to have gone to prison, and that we ought
to have left to onr captors the embarrassments which would have resulted from
keeping in confinement men whom they dared not bring to trial. '
Taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, I resolved to
appeal to my fellow countrymen, and if supported by them, not only to resist
capture by force of arms, but also to liberate Ireland for ever from
the anti- Irish legislation of the British Parliament. I have never entertained
for one moment a doubt that under the many oppressions to which Ireland
was subject in 1847 and 1848, the people of Ireland would have been fully
justified in revolting against the domination of the British Parliament, and
the act for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus was, as it were, a casus belli
which, perhaps designedly, was intended to provoke a premature rebellion. I
must solicit the indulgence of my readers whilst I avail myself of this oppor-
tunity to set forth in outline a true statement of the occurrences which took place
at this period. From the time when perjured witnesses were hired by the
agents of the British Government to swear falsely against me at Clonmel
down to the most recent misstatements which have appeared in the narratives
of my friends, a multiplicity of untruths, wilful or unintentional, with respect to
my motives and conduct, have found currency in the popular annals of the
period which has intervened since August 1, 1848. I abstain from enter-
ing into details because I could not record them without compromising indivi-
duals whose names I am not disposed to mention.
The case brought forward against me at Clonmel was that I had left Dublin
in July 1848 with a view to raise a rebellion in Tipperary. Now the agents
of the British Government who submitted this case to a jury packed in order to
convict me held in their own hands evidence sufficient to convince any candid
and generous mind that it was very improbable that such was my design.
After my capture at Thurles, believing that gentlemanly feeling was not
wholly extinct in the breasts of those who were opposed to my political prin-
ciples and conduct, I incautiously placed in the possession of General M'Donald
an order authorising him to receive a portmanteau which I had carried with
me from Dublin and had left in the care of a Mend at CasheL. That port-
manteau was taken to the Gastle of Dublin. Its contents were there ransacked
and carefully noted by Sir Thomas Bedington, then under secretary for
Ireland, and lest there should be any doubt as to the minuteness of the
inspection, every scrap of paper which the portmanteau contained was noted
with the initials of the private secretary of Sir Thomas Redington. Many of
these documents still remain in my possession. In that portmanteau were fouud
letters from various friends, including some from my wife which were subse-
quently handed to the subordinate law officers of the Grown and which have no
since my return been restored to me. There were found collections of Poems,
Rentals, Parliamentary memoranda, and a large number of miscellaneous
papers which had been accumulating for some years in Dublin, and which I
had taken with me with a view to their being left at my residence in the
County of Limerick. Now it might have been taken for granted by an Irish
Gentleman, who had formerly been my political ally, if not my personal friend,
that no man who designed to raise a rebellion within a week would have
carried into the district which was to be the scene of conflict such a collection
of private papers as that which was subjected to the scrutiny of Sir Thomas
Redington, and from this circumstance alone he might have been informed
that the case brought forward against me by the agents of the government
was false ad initio.
AND WILLIAM SMITH O'bRIBN. 33
• fie this as it may, the fact is that I went to the County of Wexford with
a view to pay a long promised visit to Mr. Maher — that I was naturally
anxious not only to meet an old friend, bat also to become acquainted with a
part of Ireland which I had never before seen— that it was my intention
when I left Dublin to proceed from the County of Wexford to the agricul-
tural show at Kilkenny, and afterwards to return home to Oahirmoyle, de-
signing to visit the north of Ireland on a repeal mission after a short repose in
the County of Limerick.
. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, though not wholly unexpected
by me, took our party by surprise, and an immediate message was sent to me
from Dublin, to announce my approaching arrest. That message reached me
at Mr. Matter's house, near Enniscorthy. I immediately left the residence of
my kind host, and proceeded to Kilkenny, intending to be governed as to my
future conduct by the feeling of the country. At Enniscorthy, at Graigue,
at Kilkenny, I stated to large masses of able-bodied men the circumstances
of our position, and was everywhere advised to resist an arrest. The feeling
manifested at Carrick-on-Suir, was so intense, that I hesitated no longer, and
I proposed that as large a body of fighting men as could be collected, should
march back to Kilkenny, and that each man should take with him a supply
of provisions sufficient for three days. I calculated that before we reached
Kilkenny we should find ourselves surrounded by an. accumulating mass of
armed peasantry, and that aided by the confederate clubs of Kilkenny, we
should be able to take possession of that city. I was not present at the dis-
cussion to which this proposal gave rise, but I was informed that it was
deemed inadvisable to carry it into effect. Discouraged not a little by this
resolution, 1 proceeded to Cashel, and with a view to be near Kilkenny, which I
regarded as an excellent centre for action, subsequently directed my steps
to Mullinahone, where I was met by nearly two thousand able-bodied men.
To them I announced my intention of resisting an arrest. Then followed the
overt acts, which were described in the indictment as High Treason, but
which my counsel informed me ought to have been placed in a different class
of crime— the visit to the Police barrack at Mullinahone— -our stoppage of a
troop of Cavalry at Killenaule— the attack upon the Police at Ballingarry,
ollowed by my arrest at Thurles after I had remained in concealment for a
few days amongst a peasantry who were too much intimidated to protect me,
%*t who, to their eternal honor, declined to avail themselves of the opportunity
oTatquiring a large sum of money (£500) by betraying me.
How in regard of these transactions I am not disposed to blame any one
except the minions who consented to abdicate the character of Irish gentlemen
and perform the dirty work required from them by the British government.
The Irish peasantry exhibited no reluctance to risk their lives in the con-
test. On the contrary they appeared eager for the fight— but an Irish peasant
"will not fight, even in the cause of his country, unless he obtain the sanction
of his Priest. Now the Catholic Clergy were not disposed to give such sanction.
I have never concurred in the reproaches which have been lavished upon them
for their conduct in 1848 by Conservatives and even by Repealers. They
conscientiously believed that it was their duty to prevent their flocks from
incurring the penalties which await those who engage in unsuccesful revolt.
A great majority of the Catholic Clergy had, on the discussion of the Peace
resolutions which gave proximate occasion to the secession, denounced what
has been called " the young Ireland party." I ought perhaps rather to blame
myself for not having been warned by their admonitions, than to blame the
Catholic Clergy for having given the advice which they deemed most conducive
to the interest of their flock. I do not even blame those confederates who
34 CORRESPONDENCE BBTWEBN JOHN MARTIX
abandoned me because they saw more dearly than I, that without the
concurrence of the Catholic Clergy our efforts to bring the Catholics into the
field would be altogether unavailing. I have indeed felt deeply wounded
when I have found that men who never risked their own persons Jot an hour
have imputed our failure not to its true causes but to ray weakness.
I never laid any claims to leadership. Every man of the fifty thousand who
had incited me to take up arms was as much bound as myself to expose his -
life and fortunes to danger in the cause of Ireland; Had there been a
simultaneous rising in all parts of Ireland we could have easily held our ground
in Tipperary. I have been reproached because I did not encourage the
peasantry to sack the houses of the Protestant gentry, and steal the sheep of
the Tipperary farmers. My answer is, that I contemplated a national Revolu-
tion, not a civil war or an agrarian insurrection. I had staked my all for the sake
of my suffering fellow-countrymen. Was it too much to expect that others too
should make some slender sacrifices? If we had been able to keep the field for a
fortnight we should have organised a system of requisitions, and guaranteed pay-
ment, in the event of success, to all who might advance supplies for
the national army. When I was in Greece I heard that many of
the merchants of Hydra and Spezzia, had in the struggle against the Turks
encountered the risk of absolute ruin by advancing supplies of ail kinds to
their insurgent fellow-countrymen. Was it too much to expect that the
farmers of the County of Tipperary should at least for a few days supply-
sustenance to a patriot force acting in a cause which they approved as their
own cause and the cause of their country ? For my own part I feel persuaded
that they would cheerfully have made these sacrifices if they had been
encouraged to do so by the Catholic Clergy.
Ridicule has been cast upon me because I encountered the forces of the
British Government without adequate preparation, and without adequate
munitions of war — money and anna. Within the last fortnight I have been
taunted for having expected to displace British authority in Ireland, by a
Coup de main on the part of an unarmed peasantry. Such sneers appear to
me to be wholly undeserved. Revolutions have occurred in every country
in the world, but rare indeed have been the instances in which a government has
permitted without interruption an organized armament of its discontented sub-
jects. From one end of Europe to the other dynasties had been displaced or
thrones had been shaken by the efforts of multitudes acting without previous
preparation against governments which relied upon impregnable fortifications,
ana immense standing armies. In Ireland, there was not in 1848 a single fort-
ress, except Spike Island, which might not have been scaled and stormed by a
handful of resolute men. The Artillery Barracks of Ireland, would have fur-
nished guns and ammunition as a provisional supply, and if we could have
kept the field for six weeks, we should have been furnished with the munitions
of war by our fellow countrymen in America. The subdivision of almost every
district in Ireland into innumerable fields, which is one of the characteristics of
this country, would have rendered the movement of cavalry and artillery an
operation of great difficulty, if the roads had been stopped with innumerable
barricades which might have been easily raised by the Peasantry.
But even if I were to admit that in point of material resources we should
have been subjected to great disadvantages, I must still doubt whether the
triumph of the British forces would have been as assured as those who now
fling scorn upon our attempt affect to imagine it. If the Catholic Clergy had
sanctioned the rebellion, at least one-fourth of the British army, and three-
fourths of the Irish Police would have joined the Patriotic force of Ireland.
The chartists of England and Scotland were at that time arrayed in bitter
hostility against the government, and would have given employment to the
AND WILLIAM SMim o'SBIBN. 35
remainder of the army. In London, in Liverpool, in Manchester, in Glasgow,
in Sheffield, in Birmingham, and other manufacturing towns, there were im-
mense multitudes of sympathising Irishmen, who would have revenged by
conflagration or open warfare any atrocities perpetrated upon their fellow
countrymen at home, and the sympathies of every Catholic Nation in the
-world, would have been given to the oppressed and insurgent Catholics of Ire-
land. At the same time the Protestants of Ireland were more discontented with
the $ritish Government, (chiefly on account of the famine measures) than
they have been at any period since 1782. A large body of Irish Protestants
had formed a Repeal Association in Dublin, and even in Ulster there were
many Protestants who would have shared with their fellow countrymen all
the dangers of a conflict for the independence of Ireland.
I have enumerated some of the grounds on which I based my hopes of
success, but I felt in 1848 that 1 had volunteered on a "forlorn hope ;" and
1 now reproach myself bitterly with having miscalculated the chances of suc-
cess. This error of judgment has been most disastrous, not only to indivi-
duals, but also to our country at large ; and the more I lament these conse-
quences, the more do I feel it to be my duty to strive to avert the evils which
will be inflicted on Ireland, in case those against whom this argument is di-
rected should succeed in inducing the Emperor of the French to send an in-
vading army to Ireland.
Is it wonderful that, admonished by past experience, every noble-minded
Irishman should loathe "the tall talk," the boastful announcement of valiant
deeds hereafter to be performed in which some Irish writers and popular
orators still indulge : —
" Preux chevalier, n'en dontez pas,
Doit ferk haut et parler baa."
Not less than arm uplifted in the fight,
Speech free from boast beseems a noble knight
A brave man seldom vaunts the achievements which he has performed ; a
braggart seeks to win applause by glorifying himself in anticipation of imagin-
ary triumphs, but in the hour of danger shrinks from the perils with which
he finds himself environed. In 1848 the Irish people obtained a fair and
legitimate opportunity of fighting for their lives and liberties. I leave to others
the arbitration of the question, whether they acted wisely in shrinking from
the conflict ; but the fact is that they did not fight. It matters little whether
the Wame of failure lies justly upon me or upon others ; but the fact is re-
corded in our annals — that they preferred to die of starvation at home, or to
flee as voluntary exiles to other lands, rather than to fight for their lives and
liberties. Being solicitous to maintain the national dignity of our country, I
earnestly implore them to abstain henceforth from all pompons announcements
of the victories which they intend hereafter to win, either with or without the
aid of a French marshal and French legions.
38 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
Not without pain and humiliation have I uttered the truths which I have
spoken in the preceding pages : but if we are to commence a new career oi
agitation for the Legislative Independence of Ireland, it is absolutely neces-
sary that we should perceive, and avoid the mistakes which have occasioned
former failure. Acting under this conviction, I have endeavoured to prove to
you that the Irish people ought rather to blame themselves than the English
nation, if they are not now in possession of a domestic legislature, inasmuch
as they might have obtained it either by a persevering course of Parliamen-
tary action, or by a simultaneous insurrection of the Repealers of Ireland. The
result of the past failure has been that many honest patriots who, in 1843,
were fully convinced that a Repeal of the Union was desirable and attainable,
have abandoned the cause in despair. Apathy and distrust have, in the breasts
of a great majority of our population, taken the place of that impetuous con-
fidence which prevailed at the monster meetings of the year 1843. In that
year it would not have been an exaggerated estimate to assume that
five-sixths of the Irish people were favourable to a Repeal of the Union. On
the other hand a superficial observer might have believed, in the year 1859,
that the cause of Repeal would not again engage the support of one Irishman in
every hundred of our population.
I have said much that is discouraging, and I acknowledge that I have felt
deep discouragement in relation to the success of a cause to which the last
seventeen years of my life have been devoted, Do 1 then counsel the people
of Ireland to resign themselves to despair ? By no means ! On the contrary,
many circumstances tend to convince me that if we be true to ourselves, and if
we act towards each other in a spirit of just consideration for the opinions and
rights of every section of the population, we may hope eventually to obtain
for our country the advantages of domestic government and of Legislative
Twenty-five years ago the Colonies of Great Britain were governed by the
imperial Bureaucracy of Downing-street, whereas now the Canadian and Austra-
lian Provinces, the Cape of Good Hope, New Zealand, and even Newfoundland,
are ruled by ministers who are responsible to Parliaments which for the
most part represent faithfully the sentiments prevailing amongst the popula-
tion that inhabits these Colonies respectively. We have seen that autono-
my, t. e. self-government, is to be restored to Hungary, and the only question
which now remains for disscussion between the Hungarians and the Austrians
is — what functions shall be assigned to the local diet of Hungary, and
what functions shall be reserved for the imperial government and legislature ?
The case of Hungary affords an exact parallel to that of Ireland ; and it
is not too much to expect that the government of England will eventually
make concessions at least as conformable to the wishes of the innabitants of
these islands, as those which have been yielded by the government of Austria.
But let us deal fairly with our adversaries, and first ask ourselves, whether
the British Parliament would, under present circumstances, be justified in
volunteering to abrogate the Act of Union. What evidence has the state of
feeling which has prevailed during the last ten years afforded of a nature
tending to shew that the Irish people desire the establishment of a local
Parliament in Ireland ?
AND WILLIAM SMITH 0*BRIBN> 37
There are at least eighty seats in Ireland, which are subject to popular
influence, and for which it would be as easy to return to Parliament a Re-
pealer as to return a Whig or a Conservative, in case such were the desire of
the population whom Whigs and Conservatives now represent. An occasion
recently presented itself in which every public man in Ireland had an oppor-
tunity of testifying his sentiments on this subject, either by his personal
presence or by letter. How many members of Parliament availed themselves
of this opportunity to signify their adhesion to the cause of Repeal ? Two !
The ODonoghue and Mr. J. F. Maguire.
In how many of the municipal Councils of Ireland, would a resolution in
favour of Repeal be carried by a majority of the municipal Councillors ? I
fear that even in those boroughs in which Catholic influence is -ascendant such
a resolution would at present find but little suppo: t — and still less would it
obtain support in those towns in which Protestant influence prevails.
Now if a large majority of the Irish nation are careless about the attain-
ment of a domestic Parliament, by what right does a small section of the
Catholic community feel itself authorised to invoke the appearance upon our
shores of a French army — an army which could not even communicate with
the people of Ireland in the language by which we express our thoughts ?
A certain class of Catholic writers always speak of the Irish nation, as if it
were a Catholic nation, and ignore the fact that at least one-fourth of the in-
habitants of this Island profess the Protestant faith. Now I contend that
my Protestant fellow-countryman, whether he agree with me in opinion, or
disagree with me, whether he be of Danish, of Gaelic, of Norman, or of Saxon
descent, is just as much entitled to the name of an Irishman, as any Catholic in
this land — and that not only ought his rights and interests to be protected by
solid guarantees, but that even his prejudices and traditions deserve to be res-
pected as much as the prejudices and traditions of the Catholic inhabitants of
Ireland. The Catholics are justly proud of the valour which was displayed by the
Catholic army at the siege of Limerick, and so little are the Protestants disposed
to question the propriety of this sentiment, that many Ultra-Protestants have
subscribed to the Testimonial which is to be erected to the memory of Sarsfield.
Now a reciprocity of toleration ought to induce the Catholics to look with respect,
if not with complacency, upon the pride with which the Protestants of Ulster call
to mind the valour shewn by Protestants in defence of Deny. God forbid that
I should say one word in apology for the cruelties and insults which have
been too often inflicted upon their Catholic neighbours by the Orange-men of
Ireland. I have always thought, that the Orange-man who cries out " to
hell with the Pope," in order to annoy his Catholic neighbour, ought to be
ducked in the nearest horse-pond — but I am prepared to contend that no
movement deserves to be called National, which is not supported by a con-
siderable proportion of the Protestant population of Ireland.
I have already shewn yon that Catholic Emancipation was supported not
only by all the Catholics of Ireland, but also by a very large, intelligent and
influential section of the Protestants of Ireland — why should not Repeal be
carried by a similar combination ?
For my own part, I believe it to be demonstrable in argument that the
Catholic would reap no advantage from a Repeal of the Union, which would not
be shared by his Protestant fellow-countrymen, provided Repeal be obtained by
the combined operations of the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland. If indeed
Ireland were to be wrested from England by a French army, the Protestants
of Ireland would lie at the mercy of a Catholic majority which would be sus-
tained by French bayonets. But if Ireland were rescued from English
domination by the conjoint action of Irishmen, of every denomination, the
38 CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHN MARTIN
future government of Ireland must be carried on upon the principleof maintaining
a just equality between all the sects which inhabit this Island. Were an ascen-
dancy to be arrogated by any section of the people, the Legislative indepen-
dence of the country would be endangered, because the oppressed section
would naturally seek protection in foreign intervention.
Now, at the risk of displeasing many of my Catholic friends, I must frankly
tell them that the tone of language and of action,' which has been held - by
Irish Catholics of late years, has tended to alienate rather than to conciliate
their Protestant fellow-countrymen.
When those who were disposed to have given their adhesion to Repeal
found that a large proportion of the Patriots who from 1843 to '48 advocated
the cause of repeal, hurried to surrender the cause as soon as they were tempt-
ed, by the bait of English patronage — a bait which has sometimes been rich
and gilded — but which has often been the meanest garbage — they naturally
were led to distrust Irish patriotism. In fact the term " Irish patriot" is now
considered by a large portion of mankind to be synonymous with " expectant
placeman," and it is feared, that such men would sell the Parliament of their
Country after Repeal even as it was sold in 1800.
When the Franco-Hibernians tell the Protestants that Ireland can only
be saved from perdition by the introduction of a French army into Ireland,
the Irish Protestant is induced by this language not only to cling more closely
to a connection with England — but also to consider how," in the event of an
invasion, he can best protect himself against his Catholic neighbours.
When the Protestants of Ireland find that a section of the Irish Catholics
laud the despotisms of Austria, and of Naples, or of France, as they have
been administered since 1848, they naturally infer that those who commend
despotism in its application to foreign countries, would introduce it into this
country if they should obtain the power to do so by the establishment of a
Parliament in which Catholic influence would become predominant.
When they find that a section of the Catholics of Ireland, commends the
conduct of those who carried away a Jewish child from its father, (as in the
Mortara case) because it was surreptitiously baptized by a Catholic nurse,
they naturally infer that they too would be deprived of their children under
similar circumstances in case the Catholics should obtain an ascendancy in
the government of Ireland.
For my own part I am not prevented by such language from advocating
a Repeal of the Union, because I believe that if we possessed an Irish
Parliament, the good sense and liberality of a majority of the Catholics
would aid the liberal Protestants in putting down intolerance of every kind,
but I confess that as long as such language is held by the Catholics of Ireland,
so long I shall expect but slender success in our endeavours to obtain the
support of Protestants for the cause of Repeal.
Let us suppose, however, that the Protestants of Ireland possess sufficient
manliness to protect them against alarms founded upon the langnage of a
small number of individuals, — language which is accepted, rather than appro-
ved, by the great mass of Catholics of the Ireland. If they possess such self-
reliance, I know no reason why they should not be the convinced — even as
you and I, being Protestants, are convinced that the interests of Ireland
would be protected and advanced by an Irish legislature to a degree which
can never be hoped for under an United Parliament. If I find hereafter that
a sound national feeling shall take the place of those spurious and illiberal
notions of patriotism which have lately prevailed, I shall perhaps apply
myself to the task of proving to my fellow-countrymen, that they could lose
nothing and that they would gain much by the restoration of the Parliament of
AND WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIBN. 39
Ireland— Others, abler than J am, ought also to undertake this task, and feeling
entire ooofidettee in my own convictions, I do not despair that we shall be
able to convince many who now hesitate by the same reasoning which has
As soon as such convictions shall have established themselves in the public
mind of this country it will be easy to shape a national policy suited to the
cironmsta ne es of die hour: but in the meantime let us : labour to encourage
nati on al feeling in every department of our social relations.
Let us encourage Irish literature.
Let us encourage Irish schools, colleges and universities.
Let us encourage Irish Art.
Let us encourage Irish Music
Let us encourage the Irish Drama.
Let us encourage Irish Public Works.
Let us encourage Irish Manufactures.
Let us encourage Irish Agriculture.
Let us encourage Irish Commerce— including under this head, direct com-
munication with France and America.
Let us encourage National Amusements.
Let us encourage Irish Manhood by the use and exercise of arms.
.If an invasion of England should be undertaken, let us say to the people of
France, "You profess to be friendly to Ireland. If you really be our friends,
manifest that friendship by abstaining from making our country the theatre of
war." Let us say to the English nation, "You may withdrawyour troops for the
defence of your own country. Give us back the Irish soldiers whom you have
seduced into your army. You have refused to allow us to become accustomed
to the use of arms. You have taken our money for the purpose of protecting
jour own ports, whilst you have left ours undefended : but the Irish people
are able and willing to protect their own island. We shall be happy to
receive an English Officer here as a visitor, even as we would receive a Russian,
or a Spaniard, but we want him not as Protector. We will tread in the foot-
steps of our fathers, who in 1782 undertook to protect their beloved fatherland
without the assistance of an English Officer, or of an English private soldier."
If ever the influential leaders of the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland
combine to hold such language as this to the Irish nation, it would be easy to
place under arms in a month a volunteer force of 200,000 men, and it would
no longer be necessary to whine for foreign assistance to give effect to the
national will of Ireland.
It is supposed by some that the dangers which would arise to the
"Established Church" is one of the causes of apprehension which deter
Protestants from seeking a Repeal of the Union. I think this an error. A
majority of the Ulster Protestants are Presbyterians, and therefore care little
for the Church Establishment : and amongst those who nominally adhere to
it there are many (and those the most earnest in regard of religious obser-
vances,) who think that the Church Establishment thas been injurious rather than
serviceable to the Protestant religion.
As an institution the Church Establishment is wholly indefensible. It
would be surrendered by the British ministry and Parliament if any embarrass-
ing amount of pressure were brought to bear upon it, and there are few Protes-
tants who believe that it will last during another generation, even though the
Legislative Union should be maintained.
I avail myself of this opportunity to express my dissent from the opinion
of those who think that the Irish nationalists ought to take no part in the
election of members of Parliament. It seems to me to be sheer folly to place
40 CORRESPONDENCE BBTWBBK JOHN MARTIN
in the hands of an adversary any implement by which he can wound,
members of Parliament most be elected, and since members, being representa-
tives of at least a section of the people, will always possess both influence and
prestige, it seems to me that this element of power should be added to the
national strength rather than wantonly thrown away. I am not prepared to
advise that our members should be expected to attend the sittings of the
House of Commons; but they ought not to be exempted from labour or
responsibility. Even under existing circumstances few changes would give me
so much satisfaction as that which would arise from witnessing the assemblage
in Dublin of forty or fifty Irish members sitting contemporaneously with the
British Parliament— scrutinising all its acts — condemning bad measures,eupport-
ing good ones— and suggesting changes that would be beneficial to the Irish
people or to mankind.
Thirty or forty Irish Patriots would be exposed in London to temptations
which have already been found irresistible, and their opinions would be over*
borne by hostile majorities. Their moral influence both in England and Ire-
land would be greatly augmented if they were to speak from a council cham-
ber in Ireland surrounded by their approving fellow countrymen. This ex-
periment was tried under very disadvantageous circumstances by the Parlia-
mentary Committee of the Repeal Association, yet as far as the elements which
we could command would permit, the experiment was eminently successful.
The Irish members should reserve to themselves the right of going to Lon-
don, whenever the interests of their country could be promoted by such
migration, and as soon as they became sufficiently numerous to be able to
uphold an Irish National party in the House of Commons, they might perhaps,
find it conducive to the National interests to transfer altogether their sittings
to London, with a view to make the House of Commons* an arena for the
debate of every imaginable question that could be brought forward in con-
nection with the interests of Ireland. Such a migration, however, would pro*
bably be unnecessary, for whenever seventy or eighty able and honest Nation*
ahsts shall be selected to represent our demand for an Irish legislature, we shall
have little difficulty in realising the attainment of that object.
Let us not however be again cajoled by speculators — by men who at the
Hustings avow themselves to be Repealers, and send a subscription of £5 in
aid of the cause- 1 - a class well known in the annals of our former agitation,
as Five Pound Repeal M. P's — men who as soon as elected by confiding
constituencies, began to traffic with the English minister for the private advan-
tage of themselves, or of their families. I would rather choose as my repre-
sentative an honest man who differed with me in opinion upon every political
question, than one of these schemers who betray the cause which they affect
Above all, let the constituencies of Ireland be inexorable in depriving of
popular confidence and support, all members who manifest an intention to
sell themselves and their country to the British minister. Our toleration of
honest difference of opinion ought to be unbounded ; but to reward cor-
rupt tergiversation, is to encourage betrayal, not only in the case of the
individual who accepts the proffered bribe, but in the case of all other trustees
of the people who are subject to temptation.
A new generation has sprung to manhood since the disasters of 1848 fore-
closed for a time the hopes of the Irish nation. This young generation has
not shared the errors, or encountered the animosities, which have befallen
those who partook in the last agitation for Repeal. Their hopes have not
been blighted, and their spirits are, I trust, both more pure, more chivalrous,
and more free. A nation ought never to despair. Its rights are indefeasible.
AND WILLIAM BMITH o'bBIBN. 41
Invincible therefore ought to be its resolution to maintain those rights.
Defeat and disaster test the character of a nation. If true manhood prevail
they serve bnt as stimulants to the exhibition of all manly virtues. Persever-
ing determination seldom fails to win success. Either the Irish nation desires
to be emancipated from the domination of the English Parliament, or it does
not desire such emancipation. If the people of Ireland be content with a
system of rule which impoverishes and degrades them, let them cease to mur-
mur, and cheerfully submit to the thraldom which they now endure. But if
they feel that their country is injured, oppressed, and dishonored by its legis-
lative connection with England, let them adopt such measures as will convince
the statesmen of Great Britain that the safety and the well-being of the British
empire would be secured by the restoration of the Irish Parliament, and
imperilled by a compulsory maintenance of the Legislative Union.
I firmly believe that there are amongst the youth of Ireland, Protestant as
well as Catholic, many thousands of young men gifted with intelligence and
patriotism who earnestly desire that the Irish should be masters on their own
soil — that if the interests of this country require the establishment of a packet
station or a public work, they ought not to be compelled to sue to any other na-
tion for its accomplishment by means of Irish resources, which ought to be under
their own control. As long as you continue to talk to these men about French
intervention, you sow discord instead of promoting agreement. You do ex-
actly that which every one who wishes to maintain the Union would desire
you to do. Not many months have elapsed since a resolution was passed in
the Historical Debating Society of Trinity College, Dublin, to the effect that
the Legislative Union between England and Ireland, ought not to have been
effected in 1800 — and Ex-chancellor Napier endorsed that resolution, with
the reserve contained in the legal dictum — Fieri non debuit, factum valet.
" The deed ought not to have been done, but having been done, it is now of valid
effect," in other words, "lapse of time sanctions wrong." Now without meaning
any disrespect to Mr. Napier, with whom I have on various occasions been on
terms of friendly relation, I venture to suggest to him that his dictum may be
very good law, but that it is not consistent with Christian doctrine. The commis-
sion of crime, says the law of Christ,ought to be followed not only by repentance
but also by restitution. If the English people committed a crime twenty
years ago in massacreing and plundering the Chinese, because the Chinese
government would not permit die introduction into China of opium by Anglo-
Indian merchants, such crime affords no justification for still continuing to
massacre the inhabitants and to plunder the cities of China.
I venture to submit to the students of Trinity College, that if a crime
was commited in 1800, by those who gave up our Parliament, we ought repair
that wrong by abrogating the Act of Union, and I venture to amend the
dictum pronounced by Ex-chancellor Napier, as follows, Fieri non debuit ;
factum not valebat, non valet et nunquam valebit. — "The deed ought
never have been done ; having been done it never was valid in moral
effect, it is not valid, and it never will become valid." I regard this
debate as a most encouraging indication of the growth of a national
spirit amongst the young Protestants of Ireland ; but I greatly doubt whether
one Protestant student in Trinity College would, even if exempted from all
personal considerations, which may place under restraint the expression of
his opinion, affirm in public debate or in private conversation that it is desir-
able that the people of Ireland should seek to obtain emancipation from the
rule of the British Parliament by invoking the aid of the present Emperor of
France, or of a French army, even though that army should be commanded
by a descendant of the greatest monarch of Ireland