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the Catholic Church, changing only the means employed for that purpose. She perfidiously broke the covenants of peace, though they had been written in blood, and established a penal code, disfranchising the Catholic Irish people of all civil, political, social, and domestic liberty, as well as of their ecclesiastical rights, and thus substituted for invading armies the sterner despotism of the law, and withdrew the sword to replace it with the scaffold.
Sir, I shall not detail that atrocious code, but will content myself by giving a description of it, drawn by Edmund Burke, seventy years ago—a description which time has now proved prophetic :
" It is," says he, “ a system full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well disposed, in all its parts fitted for the impoverishment,"—(yes, sir, these are the words,) "fitted for the impoverishment and the degradation of a people, and for debasing in them of human nature itself.”
The after history of Ireland, Mr. President, is a record of frequent and generous, but unavailing struggles, by or in behalf of the People, to cast off that code, and, more recently, to redeem the country from its desolating effects. In the year 1778, Grattan, Burke, and Flood, profiting by the enthusiasm awakened throughout the world by the American Revolution, and by the embarrassment of the British government in consequence of it, succeeded in obtaining from the British Parliament a relaxation of the rigors of the code in regard to education and the rights of property ; and, in the year 1782, when the exigencies of the British government had become more alarming, they succeeded in wresting from the British King and Parliament a renunciation of legislative and sovereign power over the Kingdom of Ireland ; and it was expressed in these solemn and memorable words:
* The rights claimed by the people of Ireland, to be bound only by laws enacted by His Majesty and the Parliament of that kingdom, shall be and are established, and, at no time hereafter, shall be questioned or questionable."
Sir, Ireland exulted for a delirious moment in national independence regained; but it was only for a moment, and that moment was delirious. Ireland required the repeal of the penal code, and demanded a constitution. The Parliament of the “Pale," constituted of a Protestant representation alone, and, being in the interest of England, refused both. Discontent, wide and deep, pervaded the Irish people. Emmett, Fitzgerald, and their associates, in 1798, conspired to raise the standard of insur
rection ; but they were betrayed, and the rebellion was crushed in
The government of Great Britain now assumed that the people of Ireland had tried, fully and fairly tried, the experiment, and had proved themselves incapable of exercising the franchise of self-government. The British Parliament, therefore, sent down to the Parliament of the Pale what was called an act of Union, and in the year 1800, that mockery of a legislature adopted it, and surrendered its own perfidious and pernicious existence. By that act of Union, Ireland, in May, 1800, was in name united, but was in fact absorbed, and became virtually a province of the British Empire, with only the shadow of a representation of the Protestant minority of the kingdom in the British Parliament. Daniel O'Connell, a jurist and advocate of surpassing genius, eloquence, and learning, inferring, from the failure of the men of 1798, that the time for a martial revolution had passed away, at least for the present, conceived the bold purpose of obtaining a repeal of the penal code and the restoration of his country to a place among the nations, by a process of civil agitation, always within the restraints of the law, and looking for the effect through the action of the King and Parliament of England. In the year 1829, he obtained a signal triumph in the passage of the act of Catholic emancipation. There remained but one step between this memorable act and the freedom and independence of Ireland. That step was the repeal of the Act of Union. But the ruin and desolation resulting from the penal code, which Burke had predicted, pressed too hard upon the march of the Reformer. Ireland could not wait the slow progress and doubtful success of civic agitation. The
The nation divided between the parties of “Old Ireland," following the lead of Daniel O'Connell and his peaceful standard, and of “Young Ireland,” under the revolutionary banner set up by William Smith O'Brien. Now, in point of fact, it is possible that even if the Irish people had remained united, neither of those policies would have been successful; but it is also certain, that when the nation divided and broke, both efforts signally failed. Daniel O'Connell died of a broken heart at Genoa, on a pilgrimage to Rome, and William Smith O'Brien, the leader of the Irish rebellion, being found without attendants, arms, or troops, was arrested, convicted of high treason, and sentenced to an ignominious death. His sentence, being commuted by the Crown, he is now an exile in Van Dieman's Land.
Simultaneously with the failure of these, the last efforts hitherto made for the redemption of Ireland, poverty and pestilence stalked abroad through that ill-fated country, exciting the sympathy of nations, and moving even the distant people and Congress of the United States to send relief. Depopulation of the island assumed a frightful momentum, and, from that time to this, has continued to give the last confirmation, which the most skeptical could have required, of the conclusion, that never on earth was a revolution more just or more necessary, than that attempted by William Smith O'Brien and his companions in exile.
Sir, it is not my object, in this review, to excite prejudices, here or elsewhere, against England, or against the Protestant Church within that kingdom. I have no such prejudices myself. I disclaim and disdain partisanship in regard to historic events. O'Connell was a Catholic; Smith O'Brien is a Protestant. The rage of the sects has died away in the agony of the catastrophe which has involved the people of both in a common desolation ; and wise and sagacious men in England look on the decay of Ireland as an alarming presage of the decline of the empire. But, sir, on an occasion like this, Ireland is entitled to, and from me she has received, her vindication. The policy of England was the policy of the age, and of the times, and of systems, and this is her sufficient apology.
The sympathy of the American people, then, in behalf of Ireland, is just.
I proceed to remark, that this sympathy derives intenseness from the conceded genius and proverbial virtues of the Irish people. The plains of Waterloo, and the heights of Abraham, attest that they are brave as well as sagacious in war. Like the Greeks, in their decline, they have enchanted the world with their wit and song and eloquence. They are confessedly confiding and generous to a fault, while their whole history and traditions, reaching now a period of a thousand years, exhibit not one instance of unlawful aggression. Is not, then, the tribute proposed by this resolution due to such a people? And if so, why shall it not be offered ?
I am answered, that this is a question for the British Government, and that it is they, and not we, who are to extend clemency or pardon to the Irish exiles. I grant it, fully grant it. But men and nations are moved by persuasion. What is asked here, is not an exercise of clemency, but only a word of persuasion to be whispered to the power that can grant it.
I am told that we may lawfully sympathize, as individuals, in the misfortunes of these unhappy men, and of their more unhappy country ; but that to this country as a political body-a state or nation--or to us as the representatives—the government of a nation such sympathy is forbidden. This seems to me equivalent to saying that we may indulge sentiments of generous compassion, but we shall never carry them into beneficent action. The sympathy of the several members of this Senate, or of this Congress, or of the individual citizens of the United States, will be unavailing. If that sympathy is truly felt by the nation, it can only be effectually expressed in the manner in which national sympathies, and determinations of the national will, are always made effective-by the action of the government. And, sir, let me say, that there is only one code of morals for mankind, and its obligations bind them equally, whether they be individuals, subjects, citizens, states, or nations.
I shall be told, that we may not intervene in this, which is a domestic affair of a foreign government. It is true that we may not intervene in the affairs of any government for unjust purposes, nor can we intervene by force for even just purposes. But this is the only restraint imposed on us by the law of nations. That law, while it declares that every government has the absolute right to deal with its own citizens, according to its own laws, independently of any other, affords a large verge and scope for the exercise of offices of courtesy, kindness, benevolence, and charity. It is Montesquieu who says that “the law of nations is founded upon the principle, that every nation is bound in time of peace to do to every other nation all the good it possibly can, and in time of war, the least evil it possibly can consistently with its own real interests.” It is upon this humane principle that diplomatic intercourse is maintained among the civilized nations of the earth, all of whom are, by the law of nations, regarded as constituting one great commonwealth.
Again, Mr. President, it will be said that if we adopt this resoIntion, it will, however harmless it be in itself, furnish a precedent for raischievous intervention, either by ourselves in the affairs of
other states, or by other states in our affairs hereafter. To admit this argument is to admit distrust of ourselves. We certainly do not distrust our own sense of justice. We do not distrust our own wisdom. So long as we remain here, then, we shall be able to guard against any such abuse of this precedent. Let us also be generous instead of egotistical, and let us believe that neither wisdom nor justice will die with those who occupy these places now, but that our successors will be as just and as wise as we are. So far as the objection anticipates an abuse of this precedent by foreign states, I have only to say, that if a foreign state shall ask of us just what we now propose, and no more, we shall have nc difficulty and no ground of complaint. If it shall ask more, we shall be free to reject what shall then be asked, as the British Government is free to reject our application.
Sir, this proposition involves a view of the relations of the parties concerned. The people of Ireland are affiliated to us, as we are to the people of Great Britain. Surely there can be no offence given by a younger member in offering mediation between the elder brethren of the same family upon a point of difference between them.
But what if Great Britain should take offence at this suggestion? What then? Why, then England would be in the wrong, and we in the right. The time has passed when this country can be alarmed, by fear of war in such a case. No one will confess that he indulges any such apprehension. Sir, Great Britain will not take offence. She knows that her greatness and her fame are well assured. She has no motive whatever to affect wounded sensibility. She will receive this suggestion in the same fraternal spirit in which it is made. Nor will she refuse the boon. She knows as well as we do, that rigor protracted beyond the necessity of security to the state, reacts. She knows full well, that for the present, at least, sedition sleeps profoundly in Ireland, and that the granting of this appeal will protract its slumbers. Great Britain will be thankful to us for our confidence in her generosity, for her motto is, “ Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.”
While it seems to me that it is certain that we may, with propriety and success, make this appeal to Great Britain, the circumstances in which we stand, in regard to Ireland, render the duty of making it imperative. But for the instructions and example of the United States, Ireland would never have attempted revolu