It is certainly a pleasure to be able to converse for a quarter of an hour with a man so clever, so experienced, so distinguished, talented, and intelligent, and who, within the walls of his own house, is such an agreeable and hospitable host.
But I will speak as little of O'Connell in his private capacity as I would of the private character of any other man I became acquainted with. Many individuals are unknown beyond the narrow circle of their private life, and these belong entirely to themselves; others, again, appear on the stage of public life, as actors, as authors, or as statesmen, and thus, in some measure, lay themselves open to criticism.
Such men, so long as they wear the costume of the part they have assumed, it is allowable to judge, and speak of freely and openly, without committing any breach of decorum.
Nay, one may even be their determined public enemy, p. O'Connellin proportion as he has made himself more public, has retained less of himself for himself than any other man in England. He every where gives himself up to the gaze and judgment of the public, whether in parliament or at public meetings, in the streets, at elections, or in travelling. He scarcely ever ceases to lead a public life, and almost every thing he does is done before the eyes of hundreds or thousands.
PeelWellingtonand other great statesmen, hide themselves in the mysteries of their bureaux and cabinets, from which they issue forth in their public measures, and in person only in parliament, or at public dinners. O'Connellthe tribune of the people, is almost public property, flesh and bone; he even speaks of his domestic concerns at his popular meetings, for he is enabled to support his house and his family only through the indirect assistance of the public.
Whoever travels in Germanyor in any other country, for geographical or ethnographical purposes, and wishes only to make himself acquainted with the character of the country and its inhabitants, need not trouble himself much about the personal characteristics of our distinguished men. The Irish are a people after the old model, a people almost without a counterpart in the world.
In Germanywe have every where become too enlightened and too self-dependent for any individual to be able to raise himself to such preponderating authority. We laugh at all who call themselves prophets; but among the Irish the old faith in saints and miracles still exists. Here alone the mighty, the immortal, and the great still find a fertile soil, whence to obtain laurels and a halo.
The Irish are enthusiastic, credulous, blind, innocent as children, and patriotic, so that they are ready to abandon themselves to the most ardent admiration of a talented individual, and to raise him aloft on their shields and shoulders, as the Romans were wont to elevate their generals. They are also unhappy, and desirous to be relieved from their sufferings, and their full, wounded hearts are consequently ever ready to applaud and shower down praises on him p. In a well-regulated state, among an enlightened, well-governed people, where every one possesses some knowledge, and where every one has sufficient for his wants, the elevation of such a tribune of the people would be a pure impossibility.
It was not till Rome's infima plebs began to sink in misery and vice, that the tribunes of the people made their appearance on the stage.
In Irelandthere are more miserable poor beings, without rights and without property, than in any other country in the world; and it is therefore a soil suited for the production of talented, active, eloquent tribunes like O'Connell. For thirty years has O'Connell represented the vigorous and unwearied arm of Irelandwhich, during the whole of that period, has been threatening Englandand with which she is again wresting her plundered natural rights, one after the other, from the flames of an English parliament lighted to consume them.
I am not vain enough to suppose that I can furnish a complete portrait of a man so remarkable as O'Connelland I will not, therefore, attempt a task for which I feel myself incompetent. I will, however, endeavour to present those of my readers who have not had an opportunity of personally witnessing a muster, or even a company, of the Emerald Legionas O'Connellin his poetic flights, often calls his repealers, with a faithful picture of such a meeting, accompanied with a few remarks on some of those individuals so often mentioned in the newspapers, who were present on this occasion.
It was one of the usual repeal meetings, summoned by O'Connell to keep the fire of agitation alive among the people, and was held in the hall of the Corn Exchange. Although I arrived at the hour appointed, I found the hall already crowded to suffocation. Judging from external appearance, I concluded that the assemblage was entirely composed of such men from the counties of KerryClareand Kildareas I had seen in their proper costume of rags in the interior of the country.
To my great astonishment, very few whole coats, and not many we would call orderly and comfortable citizens, were to be seen. They were all standing or sitting on benches, ranged round the walls of the hall in an amphitheatrical form. In the middle was a table, at which some clerks and reporters were seated.
A gallery which ran round the room was filled with women, boys, and girls. Perceiving that there was still some room at the table in the middle of the hall, I endeavoured to force my way to it, and instantly found a multitude of helping arms, by whose good-natured assistance I was elevated above their he, and passed over the railing p. At the end of the table was an elevated seat for the chairman, and another for O'Connell at its side.
It is one of the most remarkable characteristics of the national character of the British and their political constitution, and one which has not been sufficiently admired by foreigners, that an agitation almost bordering on revolt can be borne and suffered by both, without their receiving any essential injury.
O'Connell 's uninterrupted career of thirty or forty years, as the popular tribune and agitator of Irelandis not more strongly illustrative of the extreme craftiness of this able man, who, although ever verging on the extreme limits of the law, yet never oversteps them, than it is of the political freedom and national character of the whole British people, as well as of their ministers and statesmen, in whose side O'Connell must be a most vexatious thorn, and the greatest stumbling-block, whilst they have never yet ventured on a single step beyond what the law allows, or injured a single hair of his head.
I will not here inquire whether it would be possible, either in France or Germanyfor such an individual to persevere in a similar course of agitation for so long a time, without entering a prison or being brought to the guillotine but I will p.
The shouting and cheers in the street, and the rolling of a carriage, announced the approach of the Lord Mayor, who soon after entered, accompanied by the chairman, whose name I do not remember. I must tell the truth: I was, I think, quite free from prejudice against O'Connellbut he appeared to me somewhat comical in his lord mayor's costume.
The splendid red fur-lined robe, and the long double gold chain, 22 methought did not at all become him: at least in London I saw a Lord Mayor whom all this finery became much better. This is no reproach to O'Connellfor there are many mighty spirits not made for uniforms. The cheers with which he was received were extremely animated, and each of the captains of the Emerald Legion was also received with great cheering.
Men, women, and children, all shouted and ed in the noise. Among these captains none attracted my attention more p. Nay, even his little grandsons lend their aid to the cause; and very lately O'Connell had his twenty-first or twenty-second grandson made a member of the Repeal Association immediately after his birth. On that occasion he said, he was an old man and might soon die, but that he would inoculate all his own and Ireland 's children and their children's children with repeal.
John O'Connellafter his father, one of the most distinguished members of the family, has externally little resemblance to the repeal patriarch. He is smaller and more delicately formed than his sire, whose features are all a little too broad, and his countenance is by no means so remarkable.
According to the general opinion, he is very talented, and deserving of esteem. What I heard him say was very pertinent to the subject, and he spoke more fluently than any other person who addressed the meeting.
The chairman having opened the proceedings with a short speech, next read the minutes of the meeting, and then announced various contributions to the repeal rent, which were deposited in a box on the table appropriated for their reception. John O'Connell then rose, and gave an of a journey through the interior of Irelandfrom which he had just returned. He described the magnificent meetings he had attended at BalliwatobberBallinmormaghKilkerrinKilbirryand other equally distinguished places, where he found all the most respectable inhabitants most determined anti-unionists, and devoted, soul and body, to the repeal cause!
Many priests had promised their support; and he calculated that, on the whole, at least 50, persons had pledged themselves for repeal at the various meetings he had attended. Then arose Dan himself, and adjusted his wig.
Reply to comments
In the heat of his speech he often accidentally touches his wig, sometimes pushing it off a little, and then pulling it down again into its proper position on the other side. It is said that he even took off this wig at a public meeting and exhibited his bald head. On the occasion alluded to he had severely criticized the conduct of a gentleman of the party opposed to him, and, indulging in witticisms on his personal appearance, had given him to understand that he was not the most handsome man in Dublin.
This gentleman replied, that so far as beauty or ugliness was concerned, he believed Dan owed all his beauty to his wig, and that if he were to take it off he would perhaps be still uglier than the speaker. At this the people began to laugh, and looked at O'Connell for his reply. Dan did not take long to consider, but actually took off his wig, and exposed his bald head, at the same time remarking, that as his opponent wished to see his bare head, he was ready to favour him with a view of it; it had become bald in the service of his country, and therefore he was neither ashamed nor sorry for it; whilst his fellow-countrymen would feel greater pleasure in seeing his uncovered head, bald and ugly as it might be, than with the wig on it.
By this ready tact, and the fearless, frank disregard of himself thus displayed, he turned the laughter and the sympathy of the audience to his own side. Besides this manoeuvre with the wig, he indulges in some other Intelligent and attractive 29 Ireland women city 29 habits while speaking. For instance, he hops or turns about on his heels as on a pivot, and even jumps up with his whole body. Every standing speaker, I believe, does this more or less, though not at such regular intervals as O'Connell.
In the French Chamber of Deputies there are individuals, especially persons of small stature, who at certain emphatic parts of their speeches raise themselves on the extreme tips of their toes, and stand thus for a long time, as if they would fly after their own p. Although O'Connell 's language is very clear and precise, still he does not speak so fluently as his son: he sometimes hesitates, thinks, and repeats himself; but all this ceases when he becomes warm and enthusiastic.
What struck me most, was that he possessed so much of the Irish brogue. He did not, it is true, say repalelike Tom Steeleand some others who were present; but he pronounced the English th almost like das, for example, de wisheswith some other Irish peculiarities of accent. This brogue is so difficult to be lost, that the most refined Irishmen always retain a portion of it, which is very unpleasant to English ears; and it is said that even the Duke of Wellington cannot wholly divest himself of it.
He repeats, over and over again, certain violent expressions and claptraps, the effect of which on his auditory he knows by experience, and which they are never tired of hearing and applauding. As certain words and thoughts recur over and over again in O'Connell 's speeches, like the white horse in the pictures of Wouvermannsor the waterfall in those of Ruysdaelso there are certain things which always make their appearance at the repeal meetings.
Letters from distant individuals are read, applauding and encouraging the repealers; facts calculated to awaken patriotism for Irelandand hatred against Englandare hunted out from Irish history; reports of repeal meetings, held in the provincial towns, are pompously communicated, in order to strengthen the enthusiasm of those present; money contributed for the repeal cause is handed in, and some suitable remarks, thanks, and praises bestowed on the givers.
Finally, whenever it is possible, some total stranger, from a distant country, as from America, is introduced, who makes a speech, or at least says a few words, declaring his own and his country's sympathy for Ireland. O'Connell himself regulates the whole, accompanying every incident and every event with a few suitable remarks, some high-sounding expressions to excite Irish patriotism, and various thrusts and cuts at England. Whithersoever we turn our eyes, England has reduced the nations to bondage. In Asia she has made slaves of a hundred millions of freemen.
In Africa there are English slaves. Around Australia she has wound her chains. It is the nature and the character of England to subject and to make slaves of all nations, far or near, that are not able to resist her. I do not say that we ought to follow the example of America in its entire extent, for to employ force is not our object. We can gain our purpose by the peaceful means of a legal opposition.
I am against, and declare myself completely opposed to, the employment of physical force. I am aware there are some amongst us who have recommended the employment of force; but I hope that, on calm and reasonable reflection, they will agree with me, and allow that I am right, when I assert that were we to have recourse to physical force, we would only totally ruin our righteous cause.