Daniel O'Connell.

The select speeches of Daniel O'Connell, M. P. online

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forcing it on Ireland were strongest— abandoned when the Catholicism for which our
fathers suffered and died, seemed uast human help, and "the gates of hell" for a moment
seemed about to " prevail."
Wliy should we then despond in this our present crisis of Catholicism ?
We have not alluded to Mr. O'Connell's professional career as yet 'n this volume, as no
reports, except of the most meagre and scant}'' description, are to be found of his bar
speeches, during the interval it embraces. His advance in the profession was great, and
Ilia income, term after term, and circuit after circuit, greatly increasing, with a rapidity
entirely unprecedented. Unfortunately, however, for this work, the reports of many and
many a powerful law argument, and many an effective address to juries, are so meagre
and imperfect, that it would be only a waste of the reader's time to give them in the pre-
sent collection. Such of his forensic efforts, however, as have been recorded with any
appearance of accmacy or due care, will, as heretofore, be found in our pages.


In January, 1S17, Mr. O'Connell gave every assistance in his power to an abortive attempt
made in Dublin to get up a society of " Friends of Reform in Parliament." It was com-
posed of Protestants and Cathohca, and, though Its numbers were very limited, and Its
duration did not extend beyond a few meetings and dinners, it was so far valuable as
being the first occasion since the Union, when Irishmen of dift'erent creeds had associated
on something like terms of equahty in one body.

Early in February occurred a collision with the vetolats, or " seccdcrs. "Prnfitiiig by the
geceral apathy we have mentioned as prevaOing in the populai' mind, this misciable little


coterie had leen busy in their smtOl way, meeting, speechifying to ench other, resolving
and labouring with infinite pains to show the minister how anxious they were to subserve
Ills hostility to Irish ecclesiastical independence, if he would only renew and carry on
his attacks with his pristine activity.

The following notification from them appeared in the Dublin papers, at the end of Janu-
ary :—

" It is the intention of the gentlemen who have called the meeting of the 4ih of February
next, while they adhere strictly to the principles contained in their petition of last year
(u e. the secedere' petition entrusted to Mr. Grattan), to evince, by the measure which they
intend to proprs& to the meeting, a desire that the general feeling of the Roman Catholic
body may, as far as possible, be attended to ! in any 'arrangements that may eventually
accompany a bill of relief to the Catholics of Ireland.'"

It-is amusing to note the coolness with which this little knot of trimmers annomicc
their gracious desire to have some consideration for the opinions of the rest of Ireland.

The meeting was advertised for the day above stated, and to be held at No. 50, Eccles-
ttreet. Mr. O'Connell and the leading gentlemen of the popular movement determined
that it should not be one of a hole and comer description ; and accordingly he, with seve-
ral of his colleagues, attended at the time and place named. They were stopped in the hall
by a servant boy, who slioived tliem a resolution signed by Lord Southwell and Sir Edward
Bellew, to the effect that the meeting was confined to those who had been parties to
sending a Catholic petition to llr. Grattan in the preceding year. But, as tlie public
advertisement had announced no such reservation, they refused to be bound by this private
arrangement, and accordingly proceeded up stairs.

Nicholas Mahon opened the battery on the astoxmded vetoists assembled in scanty num-
bers np stairs. He said he attended in the assertion of his right as a Catholic, to attend
to what waa his individual concern, as M-ell as that of the budy at large, and thereforo
would remain.

Lord Southwell referred to the terms of the notice in the hall, and " hoped gentlemen
would withdraw."

Mr. O'Connell said, he for one would certainly not do so. He entirely denied the right
of any portion of the Catholic body to form thamoclves into a privileged class, or an Orange
lodge, out of which they could exclude any other Catholic looking for emancipation.

Besides, he said, he had come there that day in the perfect spirit of conciliation, and to
make propositions that might tend to combine the entire Catholic body in one great exer-
tion. The propositions were so reasonable that nothing could resist them, but a deter-
mination to dissension, or for the veto,

Ther* was a long consultation between Lord Southwell, Sir E. Bellew, and his brother,
Counsellor Bellew. At last Lord Southwell being moved to the chair,

Sir Edward Bellew, disclaiming personal disrespect, moved to adjourn, as persons not
Bummoned were present. Mr. O'Connell opposed the motion, and after some time, suc-
ceeded in getting the motion withdrawn.

Sir Edward next moved two resolutions draivn np by his brother : the otic calling on Mr.
Grattan to move on their petition of the last year, and the other expressly recognizing the
right of the legislature to make a law controlling the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic
Church, but praying of them not to infringe either.

These resolutions were seconded by Randall M'Donnell, Esq., and opposed in stroDg

Mr. O'Cr-nnell next spoke. The following is the newspaper extract, c^ven oy autho-
rity : —

" He first pointed out the weakness and imbecility of the Catholic cause .ast year, which
he traced to division and dissension In the Catholic body. This was freely and fully

" He then adverted to the ' reasons' by which the ' seceders' had last year justfied their
division. First, * intemperance.' He asserted that there was now not a shadow of intem-
perance. This, too, was admitted on all hands.


" Secondly— V/tg ipirodwtioji 0/ extraneous topics: He asserted that all extianeoiis

topics had then been abandoned ; and thia also was admitteiL

''ThivCiXy—^ taking away the petilion from Mr. Grattan.' This point he offered to con-
cede. It could easily be done without interfering with the petition iu Sir Henry Panieli s
hands. Another petition may be instantly prepared to be given to Mr. Grattan, and that
petition Mr. O'Connell offered to sign, if it excluded the veto

"Fourthly—' the want of any offer of conciliation, cr arrangement in the petiiiom of the
people.' EvQn thia had been obviated. The people this year had adopted a petition
already signed by I.ord Fingal and Lord Southwell. Sir Edward Bellew, and otlicr.s. And
they bad actually given up the point of simple Repeal, by acceding to the anT.ngemeni
v'hich was short of the veto — domestic nomination

'These were all the alleged causes of dissension and division. The popular party had
conceded all, or were ready to concede all of them— and Mr. O' Co-mull farther offered to
i7take any other concession which could produce unanimity — anything connected with uq
expressed or implied assent to any vetoistical measurt; ahvaj s excepted.

"He then called on the aeceders to say, whether they would do anything, or take any
one step for unanimity; and to this question, though put repeatedly, he could get no

"He lastly showed, tTiat bctorP' this meeting, there was perfect unanimity; and if the
seceders did not, by now coniiisg lui-ward, take away from the Catliuiic cause tlie strength
which unanimity would otherwise give it, there was, in the present state of aftairs, tlie
gi'eatest likelihood of success, unless the cause was retarded and embarrassed by conflict-
ing petitions, and discordant petitioners.

He concluded by entreating at all events, further deliberation, and an adjournment for
tliiee or four days, with the appointment of a committee, to consist of Sir E. Bellew,
Randal M'Donnell, James Connolly, and Nicholas Mahon, Esqrs., who could meet in the
meantime from day to day, aiid consider whether tbere were any means of reconciling all
parties in the Catholic body, and procuring unanimity.

"Mr. James Connelly proposed, anu Counsellor Howlcy seconded an adjournment
accordingly, and Mr. R. M'Donnell assented to it, saying that the meeting would ceitainly
be inexcusab e with the country, if it did not, at least, make an attempt at conciliation.

" The proposition, however, was rejected by fourteen to four. Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Mahon,
Mr. M'Laughlin (Cornelius), Mr. O'Kelly, and the otlier popular Catliuhcs, were excluded
from the vote by the Chairman, on the ground of their not being parties summoned. The
minority were Messrs. JI'Donnell, Connolly, Howley, and Phelan. The majority are
described as seven barristers, (or ' counsellors"), of wh,om two v/ere pensioners, viz., Belleiv
and Lynch (Sir Edward Bellew), two persons totally unknown, and three very young men
equally unknown ; 'and tlius (continues the report we have extracted from) was totally
rejected all affectation of wishing to strengthen the Catholic cause by mianiraity, or of
concealing any longer the ardent desire for a veto.'

" Jlr. O'Connell then rose and said, that he had done his duty. He had exerted every
faculty of his mind, and every good feeling of his heart, to promote unanimity. He had
taken away all pretext— all colour or shadow of excuse from the few who had set them-
selves up in opposition to the Catholic body, and had made them, by their own act, demon-
sti'atethat they only sought for dissension and distraction, and that they had no other
ultimate object but to increase the corrupt iiifluence of the ministry, at the expense of
Ibe religion and liberty of Ireland I

"He would no longer consent to remain among them; but lie would a-mounce to them
this undoubted truth, that theLr puny efforts for a veto were poor and impotent, and
would be blasted by the voice of the Catholic clergy and people of L'eland, whose ztaloua,
honest, and conscientiotis opposition to that measure, only accumulated us the attempt to
betray them appeared more manifest. It was ridiculous to expect .success for . hat measure,
fiom such miserable support, against the universal voice of Ireland.

" Mr. O'Connell and the Other gentlemen of the jiopular pai'ty then withdrew. '

A separate statement of this affair was, a few days afterwards, put forward by Mr. Bellew,


phlefly giving liis own speeches on the occisinn in fuller detail, and varying in some nnim-
portant particnlars from the preceding. There was, howeverj no impeaelir''.sr.^ of the
main facts as already given.

Notwithstanding the refusal of the *' seceders" to do their part in the work ot concilia-
tion, a " conciliating committee" of Catholics was formed, to endeavour to keep matters
in the right channel, and at the same time suggest any concessions compatible with pre-
serving Catholic inilependence.

This body issued a circular, inviting the co-operation of every Catholic. It was iJrawn
lip in the spirit of Mr. O'Connell's remarks to the Eccles-street coterie; repudiating the
veto, secur'.ties, &c., &c., as matters against which the nation had pronounced } and siig-
gecting as follows : —

" There is an an-angeraeut which would take away all pretext of argument for our ene-
mies, and which has already been sanctioned by our prelates, and received the ful. appro-
bation of the people — it is that of domestic nomination.'*

Under this title was meant the system prevailing at the present day, when the Catholic
bishops of Ireland are selected by the Pope out of a list or lists forwarded to him from the
prelates of the province and the clergy of the vacant diocese. It had come practicully into
operation in the recent election of as excellent a bishop, and as true a patriot as ever lived
— the late Right Rev. Dr. Kernan, Bishop of Cloghcr.

A short speech of ilr. O'Connell's, at one of the first meetings of the Conciliating
Committee,"' gives a striJiing \-iew of the difficulties and perils besetting the Catholics at
this time : —

" Mr. O'Connell said he rose for the purpose of moving to
postpone the aggregate meeting from Friday next (the 28th
February, 1817), to a future day.

There were many reasons which readered this postponement
expedient, perhaps necessary ; the principal one was the threa-
tened suspension of the habeas corpus act. It was not yet
known whether Ireland was or was not included, or to be in-
cluded within the effect of such suspension ; if it were, then it
appeared to him that the best course to pursue ■should be to
vnthdraw the Catholic petition altogether, and to abandon all
claims for legislative relief, until the constitutional protection
from unjust imprisonment should again be available. There
was no pusillanimity in this advice, and the only credit he
claimed with his oppressed countrymen was, that of being capa-
ble of giving them advice of such a tendency.

If it were deemed right to offer up a victim to that rancorous
and malignant hatred which the bigots in Ireland cherished
against those who had exerted themselves for Catholic freedom, he
for one was perfectly ready to be that victim j but at present it
struck him, that one example of unjust suffering by a Catholic,
would only encourage the bigots amongst their enemies, and the
venal amongst themselves, and, perhaps, prevent many honest
but more cautious persons from ever coming forward.

Besides the suspension of the habeas corpus act, which would
leave the personal liberty of every individual in the land at the


mercy of the minister of the day, whoever he may be, appeared
to him an evil of such tremendous magnitude that all lesser
evils should give place to it ; and, in the contemplation of so
monstrous a calamity, they should forget their individual grie-
vances. As long, therefore, as that vital part of the constitution
should remain suspended, he, for one, would most earnestly re-
commend the suspension of all meetings, petitions, and applica-
tions to the legislature.

There was another point of view in which he deemed this re-
laxation from petition necessary. When the habeas corpus act
shall be suspended, the minister might take up his threatened
veto bill, under the name of an emancipation bill. He might
seek to enlarge his own influence upon the ruins of the Catholic
Church in Ireland, under the name of emancipation. If any
man dared to call the people together to remonstrate against
the veto— if any attempt were made to resist it by the expres-
sion of public indignation, would it not be competent for per-
sons in power to interrupt the organs of the public sentiment,
and to immiu-e them in prison for as long as they might think
fit. Thus, while the opponents of the veto were silenced by the
hand of authority, and sent, perhaps, into solitary confinement,
to expiate in the long and heavy hours of seclusion, their crimi-
nal fidelity to the ancient faith of Ireland, the veto might be
enacted ; as if in pursuance of their own petition. To obviate
those fearful possibilities, it would be best to withdraw the peti-
tion, and officially to inform the legislatui'e that all we desired
for the present was, to be left in a state of oblivion !

He concluded by saying he would move a postponement until
Tuesday next ; by which day it would be known whether the
present protection of the law would remain, or be taken away.
That result would enable the Catholics to determine on their
course of proceedings.

What a state ot things 1 A whole people likely to have to petitioD, not for a positive
boon — not for an act of relief, but to is let alone I And yet the only thing at all novel in
the circnmstances would have been, that any attention should be given to their humble
supplications I

The next post relieved the Catholics of this fear ; Lord Sidmouth expressly declaring in
the House of Lords, when moving the first reading of the h .beas corpus suspension act,
that there were no circumstances requiring that its operation should be extended to Ire-

But, out of one trouble or difficulty, the Catholics were a long way from being at ease
or in safety. The Irish vetoists were as hard at work, or harder than ever. Both Mr.
Grattan and Sir Henry Parnell declared openly and unreservedly for tlie veto ; and at the
same moment an alarming letter from the He v. Richard Hayes, agent for the a»ff -vetoists
6t Rome, was received, detailing intrigues in support of the measure which tlireatened to
be successful with the authorities there.


The following is fan abstract of this long and deeply- interesting letter : —

It commences with stating that the hopes of the vetoistical party at Rome, with Car-
dinal Gonsalvi at their head, had been revived by the coming of "young Wyse, late of
Wnterford, and a Counsellor Ball;" that "these youths had repeated to the cardinal, to
the Pope, to Cardinal Litta, and other oflQcials, that ' all the property, education, and
respectability of the Catholics of Ireland were favourable to the veto ; that the clergy
were secretly inclined to it, hut were overruled by the mob,' Ac, &c.

. It is true that Cardinal Litta now abhors the veto more, if possible, than any Catho-
lic in Ireland ; and the Pope is resolved to take no step without his advice; yet you may
judge of the intrigue, when the miserable farce of- these silly hoys is given the importance
of a regular diplomatic mission."

The letter then went on to complain of.*the stoppage and interruption of his con-espon-
dence mth Ireland, in its passage -through different countries: — '* Wlmt a combination of
misfortunes — Italian villany, French tyyanny, British corruption, vetoistical calumny, and,
more than alL apparent Irish neglect, have conspired to throw your affairs into the utmost
difficulty and danger. Now or never a more powerful effort should be made in Ireland,
or the infernal veto, with all its tribe of evils, religious and political, will sink the wretched
oountrj" of our birth and dearest. affections, lower than she has been even in the periods of
bloody persecution V*

The writer concluded by requesting to have two coaojutors sent to him : Dr. Dromgoola
and the Rev. Mr. M'Auley.

Mr. O'Connell postponed the consideration of this' important document until after the
approaching aggregate meeting.

On Thursday, March the 6th, this meeting took place. The following were the resolu-
tions adopted *

" Resolved — That we duly appreciate the value of unanimity
amongst the Catholics, and approve of the measures lately resorted to,
in order to produce that desirable result. But we cannot recognize
any basis for such unanimity, save such as shall exclude any species of
vetoistical arrangement whatever.

" Resolved- That the people of Ireland, in former times, sustained
the loss not only of civil liberty, but of their properties, and many of
them their lives, rather than relinquish the faith and discipline of the .
ancient Catholic Church of Ireland ; and that we, their descendants,
are equally attached to that faith and discipline, and equally deter-
mined to adhere thereto, notwithstanding any temporal disadvantages
penalties, pains, or privations.

" Resolved — That the Catholic prelates of Ireland, assembled in
solemn synod, did unanimously enter into the following resolution —
' That it is our decided and conscientious conviction, that any power
granted to the Crown of Great Britain, of interfering directly or indi-
rectly in the appointment of bishops for the Roman Catholic Church
in Ireland, must essentially injure, and may eventually subvert, the
Roman Catholic religion in this country.' "
Upon the following resolution being read :—

" Resolved — That we should not receive, as a boon, any portion of
civil liberty, accompanied by that which the Catholic prelates and peo-
ple of Ireland have condemned as essentially injurious, and probably
destructive to our religion ; and we do solemnly declare, that we infi-
nitely prefer our present situation in the state, to any emancipation
which may be directly or indirectly coupled with the veto ;"



Mr. Woulfe (late Chief Baron), rose and made a very hono:iratle n^trfictation of his o^va
07ir.lonR in favour of the veto ; and commentecl sharply upon the condiiet of the secedora.
Oq the fifth reiulution, viz. :—

" Tliat the concurrence of nil cla38e? of Catho}ic3 in the measure of
doine^tic nomination^ ought to prcvivil unanimously amongst ourselves,
aiir. to obviate the alarms, however unfounded, of the enemies of our

Mr. O'Connell requested, before it was pat, that Mr. Gnittau's late letter should be read ;
which being done, ho addressed the meeting, recoramecding that an answer should be
returned, distinct, emphatic, and unmistakeable \ repudiating all species of veto. He then
proceeded to expliiin away a mistake of Mr. Woulfe's. Domestic nomination was not a
now suggestion, but a return to the ancient practice of the Catholic Church. Ho concluded
with Qu earnest appeal to the Catholics to imitate their enemies in unanimity, und ulti-
mate Euccees would be theira.

Letters were nccordingly addressed, not only to Mr. Grattan, but to the other chief par-
liamentary advocates of the Catholic cause, conveying the spirit of these resolutions. Mr.
Grattan returned a simple acknowledgment of receipt. Lord Donoughuiore, on the con-
trary, expressed his warm concurrence v/ith the eentiments of the majority of the Irish
nation ; and his entire abhorrence of any arrangement that would give the British minister
more power of corruption than he already had. Equally satisfactory was the letter of Sir
}Ienr>- Pai-ncU.

A motion was subsequently made in the House of Commons, to take into consideration
tho Catholic claims, and in the discussion upon It, the views of the Catholics with regard
to the veto and its substituie — "domestic nomination," were explained. But Catholic and
liish affairs were, now that the war was long done, and England busy setthngher accounts _
after it, matters of very secondary importance, and so the motion was hastily negatived.

A most respectful address, of the same tendency, was also forwarded to the bishops, and
by them generally well received, and responded to with renewed pledges against the veto

The next meeting of the Catholic Board was occupied with u matter, which b.ad already
drawn forth the strong condemnation of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and his coad-



Mr. O'Connell said that on the last day of meeting, he gave
notice that he would move for a committee to draw up a dis-
avowal of the very dangerous and uncharitable doctrines con-
tained in certain notes to the Rhemish Testament. He now
rose to submit that motion to the consideration of the Board.

The late edition of the Rliemish Testament in this country
gave rise to much observation. Tliat work was denounced by
Doctor Troy. An action is now depending between liim and a
respectable bookseller in this city, and it would be the duty of


the Board not to interfere, in the remotest degree, with the sub-
ject of that action, but on the other hand, the Board could not
let the present opportunity pass by of recording their senti-
meats of disapprobation, and even of abhorrence, of the bigoted
and intolerant doctrines promulgated in that work. Their feel-
ings of what was wise, consistent, and liberal, would suggest
such a proceeding, even though the indecent calumnies of their
enemies had not rendered it indispensable.

A work called the British Critic had, no doubt, been read by
some gentleman who heard him. The circulation of the last
number has been very extensive, and Succeeded, almost beyond
calculation, the circulatiou of any former number, in conse-
quence of an article which appeared in it ou the late edition of
the Ehemish Testament. He (Mr. O'Counell) said he read that
article. It is extremely unfair and uncandid ; it gives, with
audacious falsehood, passages as if from the notes to the Rhemish
Testamentj which cannot be found in that work ; and, with
mean cunning, it seeks to avoid detection by quoting without
giving either text or page. Throughout, it is written iu the
ti'ue spirit of the inquisition : it is violent, vindictive, and un-
charitable. He was sorry to understand that it was written by
ministers of the Established Church ; but he trusted that wheu
the charge of intemperance should be again brought forward

Online LibraryDaniel O'ConnellThe select speeches of Daniel O'Connell, M. P. → online text (page 5 of 52)