Representative British Orations with Introductions and Explanatory Notes, Volume IV (of 4)
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A selection of the more important and representativepolitical addresses of the past two centuries,with biographical notes, critical comment, political,oratorical, and literary estimate.
Edited by Charles K. Adams, President of the Universityof Wisconsin. With an additional volumeedited by John Alden.
Four volumes, each complete in itself and sold separately.Each, 12°, gilt top, $1.25.
The orators included are: Sir John Eliot, John Pym,Lord Chatham, Edmund Burke, Charles J. Fox, SirJames Mackintosh, Lord Erskine, George Canning,Lord Macaulay, Richard Cobden, John Bright, LordBeaconsfield, William Ewart Gladstone, Lord Mansfield,Daniel O’Connell, Lord Palmerston, RobertLowe, Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Rosebery.
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
NEW YORK & LONDON
WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND EXPLANATORY
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
The Knickerbocker Press
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
The Knickerbocker Press, New Rochelle, N. Y.
In preparing this—the fourth volume of RepresentativeBritish Orations—a work which, inits three-volume form, has met with a large acceptancefrom the public, the editor has beenembarrassed by fulness rather than lack ofmaterial. Indeed, in its former shape, thebook fairly justified its title: it was representativerather than exhaustive of the subject.From the rich field of possible material theeditor has selected specimens of oratory diverseenough in style and occasion, but each,it is hoped, typical of the general trend of theperiod covered (1813–1898),—of the changefrom the passionate, partisan forensics ofO’Connell to the calm emphasis of LordRosebery.
Helps to the study of this period have naturallybeen many; but the editor must notivfail to acknowledge his constant indebtednessto the brilliant and invaluable “History of OurOwn Times” of Mr. Justin McCarthy, and in alesser degree to Mr. Fyffe’s “Modern Europe.”To Charles Gorham Marrett, Esq., he wishes torecord his personal obligations.
|In Defence of John Magee: Court of King’s Bench, Dublin, July 27, 1813.|
|On the Case of Don Pacifico: House of Commons, June 25, 1850.|
|Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke||225|
|Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke||232|
|Against the Reform Act: House of Commons, May 31, 1866.|
|The Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain, M.P.||285|
|The True Conception of Empire.|
|The Duty of Public Service.|
From the somewhat picturesque assemblageof Irish political agitators emerges the figure ofone in many ways the most picturesque, and,in most, the greatest of them. The period(1775–1847) of O’Connell’s activities discloseshim as one of the generation that came in withScott and Wordsworth—children of the overlappingcenturies, whom shortly the FrenchRevolution was to stir to many things strangeto the world of 1775.
The facts of O’Connell’s life arrange themselvesconcisely from his birth, August 6,1775, from a good family of County Kerry; hisFrench education at S. Omer and Douay; andhis legal sojourn at the customary Lincoln’sInn; to his call to the Irish Bar (May 19,1798), and the beginning of his identificationwith the Irish cause. From his speech in 18132in defence of Magee,—the basis of this selection,—thisidentification became ever morecomplete. It was in 1823 that he foundedthe “Catholic Association.” In 1828 he waselected to Parliament from County Clare, butwas not allowed to take his seat. He stoodagain, was again elected; and, in 1830, just atthe acme of his popularity, at last entered Parliamentunchallenged. Now followed withinand without the Commons the struggle forIrish liberties that is almost synonymous withthe name O’Connell. The year 1843 marks thehigh tide of his system of agitation by mass-meetings—the“Monster-Meetings,” so-called.This device of popular propaganda was O’Connell’sown; and probably none have everswayed more temperately than he the mightyforces of a Celtic audience, obedient to theincitations of impassioned oratory. For themost part in the open air and in the countrysideO’Connell would draw from a radius of manymiles a serious, sympathetic, and—strange tosay—sober host of peasantry, in whom his voice3woke infallibly the sense of race and religionas things to be fought for, not with the obviousmusket, but with orderly combination, moderatemeasures, and all that a tempered andsingle-minded zeal could do. The Irish peoplehad long hailed him as their “Liberator”; hewas the leader to whom they looked for CatholicEmancipation and the repeal of the forcedunion with Great Britain; and yet it is not theleast tribute to O’Connell’s powers that hewas able to restrain a people laboring underacknowledged wrongs, and racially prone toinsurrection, from any serious appeal to arms.The Government of that day was not movedby such considerations. The sequence of the“Monster-Meetings” was that O’Connell wasarrested and tried on what must now appear atrivial charge of treason. He was even convicted;but the sentence failed to receive theapproval of the House of Lords. Althoughclear of his difficulties, the man was broken,his superb powers gone; and like a true Catholiche had the wish to die at Rome. Before4he left England he appeared again in Parliamentand tried to speak—his fine voice sunk toa husky whisper. The report in “Hansard’sParliamentary Debates” of the day’s proceedings,in reference to this episode, is laconicallysignificant; it runs—“Mr. O’Connell was understoodto say * * *” On his journey,the “Liberator” died May 5, 1847, at Genoa,whence his body was returned. But in responseto a rhetorical instinct that was medieval, Celtic,and yet, one feels, in this case not unjustifiable,his friends caused his heart to be embalmedand sent to Rome, where it rests in the eternalsanctuary of Saint Agatha.
The character of O’Connell challenges thebiographer. In everything, perhaps, save hislove for moderation, the man was Celtic; andevery one does not care for the Celt. Surelyhe had the defects of the race: improvidence,unbounded invective, a speech too prodigal ofepithet and ornament, the ultrasanguine temperament,and, more or less, the histrionicpose. Oppose to these that, as a Catholic,5under great provocations, he was tolerant; asan agitator, moderate in his programme; as aman, generous, high-spirited, and, after a convivialyouth, notably temperate. Manifestly itis a character that lends itself to the old-stylebiography of balance. The easiest estimate ofit is to say outright that O’Connell was puredemagogue; but if so, he was one of thegreatest. He lived in a time when the conductof political discussion knew no amenities.It was the day of slander, innuendo, highwords for high words, and then—the duel.For the high words, see O’Connell’s reportedspeeches almost anywhere; as for the duelling,he had killed his man at the outset of hisprominence, and lived a life of repentance forit. No man, it appears as we read the diatribesof the day, has been more soundly abused inEnglish: his replies seem almost to strain thelanguage of abuse. Thus it is that to themodern taste his style so often strikes a falsenote, and seems a crude mixture of passionand prejudice unworthy of a fame so great.6Therefore O’Connell can least of all men bejudged merely by his own words: the critic hasalways to remember the place and the moment,—thecrowded, sympathetic court-room, thebiased judge and hostile jury; or the myriad;upturned faces on a green hillside, mobile toeach turning of the rhetorical screw. At suchhours O’Connell must have yielded to his ownart; the orator was subordinated to oratory,and often said ridiculous things.
It was all of a character with O’Connell’stemperamental intensity. In the usual senseof the word, then, he cannot be called a demagogue—amere puppet of the popular will.When the people and O’Connell had twominds about a question, it was not the “Liberator”who changed. Thus, for his oppositionto Trades Unions, he was mobbed and hootedin the very streets of Dublin. Nor did he takethe demonstration seriously; he knew hispeople too well for that. In a word, his appealand influence were racial rather than parochial;he must be counted not as a great7politician, or even statesman, but as one ofthe “shepherds of the people,”—in Mr. Gladstone’sphrase, an ethnagogue.
His genius found its play in a completeand overwhelming attack of any project: themaxim, μηδὲν ἄγαν, was never its game. As ayoung man, he forged early to the front of hisprofession; as he gained freely, so he wasalways in debt; and when, as one of the leadingadvocates of Ireland, the ambition ofO’Connell looked farther and saw, as one mustfancy, a higher art in agitation, he abandonedthe certain prosperities of a legal career andleft at his death barely £1000. He was a manof emotions, then, subject to moods and aberrations;best at ex tempore effort; poorly read—singularto state—even in Irish history; and ifa great orator, surely an orator with somethingof the actor there. His name will be cherishedamong his people as one in whom their wrongsfound an eloquent and imperative voice; theworld will be disposed to regard him as afine example of the partly ineffectual, partly8admirable type Reformer, whose particular programme,as yet but half realized, was, in Mr.Lecky’s words,A “to open in Ireland a new era,with a separate and independent Parliamentand perfect religious equality.”
A “Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland,” N. Y., 1872, p.226.
IN DEFENCE OF JOHN MAGEE: COURT OF KING’SBENCH, DUBLIN, JULY 27, 1813.
The speeches delivered at Dublin in the summer of 1813by O’Connell as counsel for John Magee, then on trial forlibel, have received the exequatur of Mr. Lecky, who considersthem as the “Liberator’s” greatest efforts at the Bar.Magee was the proprietor of the Evening Post newspaper, inwhich, on the occasion of the Duke of Richmond’s departurefrom Ireland, there had appeared comments on his conductas Lord Lieutenant in which the Government, probably withsome eagerness, had discovered a libellous tendency. For theEvening Post was notably pro-Catholic; what was more, itscirculation and influence were large; and the Governmentfrom its own standpoint had good reasons either to repressthe sheet or to change its political complexion. Hence thesomewhat tenuous charge of libel laid against Magee.
The specimen here presented of O’Connell’s eloquence was,after the trial, piously published by Magee, and later includedin that badly printed volume, “Select Speeches of O’Connell,”edited by his son, and published by J. Duffy, Dublin,1865. With some difficulty a probable text has been constructedout of the impressions of worn types and obviousmisprints then given to the world.
The speech itself will be found to be characteristic ofO’Connell. The bitter fountains