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Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2


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There is in all this much of the splenetic jealousy of an aged invalid towards a vigorous competitor, who has outstripped him in the race. O'Connell excited much hostility amongst the friends of emancipation by his opposition to the veto which they were willing to give to the British crown on the appointment of Roman catholic bishops by the court of Rome, as a security against the abuse of their power. But the more antagonists he had, and the more battles he fought, the greater was his hold on the Roman catholic priests and people. His power had arrived at its greatest height when the Canningites left the ministry, and Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald came to Ireland to seek the suffrages of the Clare electors as an influential member of the government. At first, no one had the least doubt of his triumphant return. He had been popular as chancellor of the exchequer in Ireland; he was a steady friend of catholic emancipation, for which he had always voted; he was personally popular; the gentry of the county were almost to a man devoted to him. It appears that Mr. O'Connell had at first no idea of starting against him. The proposal is said to have originated with Sir David Roose, who, having accidentally met Mr. P. V. Fitzpatrick on the 22nd of June, remarked that O'Connell ought to offer himself for Clare. Mr. Fitzpatrick then recollected having often heard Mr. John Keogh, of Mount Jerome, who had been the catholic leader for many years, express his conviction that emancipation would never be granted till a catholic was elected a member of parliament. If, when returned by a constituency, he was not permitted to take his seat, because he would not violate his conscience by swearing what he did not believe, John Bull, who is jealous of constitutional rights, would resent this wrong, and would require the oath to be altered for the sake of the constituency. The moment this thought occurred to Mr. Fitzpatrick, he ran to O'Connell, and begged of him to stand for Clare. They went to the office of the Dublin Evening Post, and there, in presence of Mr. F. W. Conway, the address to the electors was written. Still O'Connell shrank from the contest on account of the enormous cost. " You know," he said, " that, so far from being in circumstances to meet that outlay from my own resources, I am encumbered with heavy liabilities beyond my power of discharging. You are the only person with whom I am acquainted who knows intimately the catholic aristocracy and men of wealth. Would you undertake to sound them as to funds for the contest?" Fitzpatrick answered, "I will undertake it, and I am confident of success." Within an hour he got three men of wealth to put down their names for 100 each. The four then went round to the principal catholics of Dublin, and during the day they got 1,600 from sixteen persons. The country followed the example of the metropolis so liberally that 14,000 was raised within a week, and money continued to flow in during the contest. The supplies, however, were not sufficient for the enormous demand, and in the heat of the contest a messenger was sent post haste to Cork, and in an incredibly short space of time returned with 1,000 from Mr. Jerry Murphy, who himself subscribed 300, and got the remainder from its patriotic inhabitants. The sum of 5,000 had been voted by the association for the expenses of the election. They had been very anxious to get a candidate to oppose Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, and a popular protestant, major Macnamara, had been requested to come forward, but he declined, on the ground of his personal obligations to the ministerial candidate. Indeed, there were few of the smaller gentry in the county on whom he had not conferred favours by the liberal distribution of places among their sons. The Roman catholic gentry were quite as much indebted to him as the protestants, and they were not ungrateful, for they stood by him on the hustings almost to a man. Mr. O'Connell was preceded by two friends, Tom Steel and O'Gorman Mahon; the former a protestant, the other a Roman catholic: both men remarkable for their chivalrous bearing, and a dashing, reckless spirit, which takes with the Irish peasantry. A third agitator entered the field in the person of honest Jack Lawless, another leading member of the association, and one of its most effective speakers. This band was soon joined by Father Tom Maguire, a famous controversialist, from the county of Leitrim, who had just been engaged in a discussion with the Rev. Mr. Pope, and was hailed by the peasantry as the triumphant champion of their faith. There was also a barrister, Mr. Dominick Ronayne, who spoke the Irish language, and who, throwing an educated mind into the powerful idiom of the country, produced great effects upon the passions of the people. Mr. Sheil, second only to O'Connell in energy and influence, and superior to him in the higher attributes of the orator, in the fiery temperament and imaginative faculty which constitute genius, flung himself into the arena with the greatest ardour. On the Sunday previous to the election each of these agitators was dispatched to a chapel situated in a district which was the stronghold of one or other of the most popular landlords, for the purpose of haranguing the people after mass, and rousing their enthusiasm to the highest pitch. Mr. Sheil went to a place called Corrofin, situated in a mountainous district, the property of Sir Edward O'Brien, father of Mr. Smith O'Brien, who drove to the place in his carriage, drawn by four horses. There he saw the whole population congregated, having advanced from the rocky hills in large bands, waving green boughs, and preceded by fifes and pipers. The hitherto popular landlord was received in solemn silence, while his antagonist, Mr. Sheil, was hailed with rapturous applause. Sir Edward O'Brien consequently lost heart, and, leaving his phaeton opposite the chapel-door, went to church. Mr. Sheil gives a graphic description of Father Murphy, the priest of this rudely-constructed mountain chapel. His form was tall, slender, and emaciated; " his ample hand was worn to a skinny meagretude; his face was long, sunken, and cadaverous, but was illuminated by eyes blazing with all the fire of genius and the enthusiasm of religion 5 his lank, black hair fell down in straight lines along a lofty forehead. The sun was shining with brilliancy, and rendered his figure, attired as it was in white garments, more conspicuous. The scenery about was in harmony - it was wild and desolate." This priest met the envoy of the association on the threshold of his mountain temple, and hailed him with a solemn greeting. After mass the priest delivered an impassioned harangue. The spirit of sarcasm gleamed over his features, and shouts of laughter attended his description of a miserable catholic who should prove recreant to the great cause, by making a sacrifice of his country to his landlord. " The close of his speech," says Mr. Sheil, " was peculiarly effective. He became inflamed by the power of his emotions, and, while he raised himself into the loftiest attitude to which he could ascend, he laid one hand on the altar and shook the other in the spirit of almost prophetic admonition, and, while his eyes blazed and seemed to start from his forehead, thick drops fell down his face, and his voice rolled through lips livid with passion and covered with foam. It is almost unnecessary to say that such an appeal was irresistible. The multitude burst into shouts of acclamation, and would have been ready to mount a battery roaring with cannon at his command. Two days after the results were felt at the hustings, and while Sir Edward O'Brien stood aghast, Father Murphy marched into Ennis at the head of his tenantry, and polled them to a man in favour of Daniel O'Connell."

The "way having been thus prepared, Mr. O'Connell proceeded to the scene of the contest. On the day of his departure his carriage, with four horses, drove into the yard of the Four Courts, where he had been engaged on an important trial. Having concluded his address to the judges, he put off his wig and gown, and proceeded through the hall, where he was followed by the lawyers and the persons from the different courts, so that the judges were deserted. Stepping into his open barouche, accompanied by Mr. P. O'Gorman, secretary of the association, Mr. R. Scott, solicitor, and Father Murphy, the celebrated parish priest of Corrofin, he drove off amidst the cheers of all present. The greatest possible excitement prevailed along the whole route, and he enjoyed an ovation at every town he passed through. At Ennis, though he entered the town by daybreak, the trades and the inhabitants turned out in procession to meet him. Priests swarmed in all the streets, and in every face there was a joyous and exulting expression of triumph.

The court house on the day of nomination presented a striking scene. On the left hand of the sheriff stood a cabinet minister, attended by the whole body of the aristocracy and gentry, protestant and catholic, of the county Clare. On the right stood Mr. O'Connell, with scarcely a single gentleman by his side. But lie was " the man of the people " and of the priests, and so he was master of the situation. Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald was proposed by Sir Edward O'Brien, and seconded by Sir A. Fitzgerald. The ministerial candidate first addressed the freeholders. He was an accomplished gentleman and an excellent speaker. Mr. Sheil, who was present, remarked that he delivered one of the most effective and dextrous speeches it had ever been his good fortune to hear. His venerable father, who had voted against the union in the Irish parliament, was now on his death-bed, and the knowledge of the contest had been kept from him, lest the excitement should hasten his departure. In alluding to him, and to his own services to the county, Mr. Fitzgerald's eyes filled with tears, and there were few amongst his opponents, excited as they were against him, who did not give the same evidence of emotion: u and when he sat down, although the great majority of the audience were strongly opposed to him, and were enthusiasts in favour of the rival candidate, a loud and unanimous burst of acclamation shook the court-house."

Mr. O'Connell rose to address the people in reply. It was manifest that he considered great exertion to be requisite in order to do away with the impression which his antagonist had produced. It was clear that he was collecting all his might, to those who were acquainted with the workings of his physiognomy. Mr. O'Connell bore Mr. Fitzgerald no sort of personal aversion, but he determined, in this exigency, to have little mercy on his feelings, and to employ all the power of vituperation of which he was possessed against him. "This," remarks Mr. Sheil, "was absolutely necessary; for if more dextrous fencing had been resorted to by Mr. O'Connell, many might have gone away with the opinion that, after all, Mr. Fitzgerald had been thanklessly treated by the catholic body. It was, therefore, disagreeably requisite to render him for the moment odious. Mr. O'Connell began by awakening the passions of the multitude in an attack on Mr. Fitzgerald's allies. Mr. Gore had lauded him highly. This Mr. Gore is of Cromwellian descent, and the people detest the memory of the protector to this day. There is a tradition (I know not whether it has the least foundation) that the ancestor of this gentleman's family was a nailer by trade in the puritan army. Mr. O'Connell, without any direct reference to the fact, used a set of metaphors, such as 1 striking the nail on the head,' 'putting a nail into a coffin,' which at once recalled the associations which were attached to the name of Mr. Gore, and roars of laughter assailed that gentleman on every side. Mr. Gore has the character of being not only very opulent, but of bearing regard to his possessions proportionate to their extent. Nothing is so unpopular as prudence in Ireland; and Mr. O'Connell rallied Mr. Gore to such a point upon this head, and that of his supposed origin, that the latter completely sunk under the attack. He next proceeded to Mr. Fitzgerald, and having thrown in a picture of the late Mr. Perceval, he turned round, and asked of the rival candidate with what face he could call himself their friend, when the first act of his political life was to enlist himself under the banners of ' the bloody Perceval? ' This violent epithet was sent into the hearts of the people with a force of expression and a furious vehemence of will that created a great sensation amongst the crowd, and turned the tide against Mr. Fitzgerald."

It was necessary that Roman catholic electors should take an oath and obtain a certificate of their having done so from a magistrate. The friends of Mr. Fitzgerald insisted that this oath should be taken, which caused considerable delay; but a magistrate having been obtained, the freeholders were sworn en masse. Brought into a yard, inclosed within four walls, twenty-five voters were placed against each wall, and thus the oath was simultaneously taken. The effects of this machinery upon the poll soon became manifest. Mr. O'Connell ran ahead of his opponent, and on the second day the result was no longer doubtful. Mr. Fitzgerald would have abandoned the contest, but the landlords resolved that the last man whom they could command should be polled out. They exerted themselves to the utmost to prevent the defection of their tenantry. The most influential of them had their freeholders mustered in a body, and came forward to the hustings at their head, exhorting, promising, threatening, reminding them of past favours, and hinting at the consequences of forsaking their best friends and natural protectors; but the moment O'Connell or a priest appeared, shouting, "Vote for your country, boys! " "Vote for the old religion!" "Down with Vesey!" " Hurrah for O'Connell! " they changed sides to a man, with a wild, responsive cheer. One priest, Father Coffey, adhered to Mr. Fitzgerald. " But," says Mr. Sheil, " the scorn and detestation with which he was treated by the mob clearly proved that a priest has no influence over them when he attempts to run counter to their political passions. Pie can hurry them on in the career in which their own feelings impel them, but he cannot turn them into another course." The generality of the orators were heard with loud and clamorous approbation; but at a late hour one evening, when it was growing rapidly dark, a priest came forward on the platform, who addressed the multitude in Irish. Ten thousand peasants were assembled before the speaker, and a profound stillness hung over the almost breathless mass. For some minutes they continued thus deeply attentive, and seemed to be struck with awe as he proceeded. Suddenly the priest and the whole multitude knelt down with the precision of a regimental evolution. Priest and people were both silent, but they were offering up a mental prayer for mercy on the soul of one of Vesey Fitzgerald's voters, who had died that day, and had been accused of taking a bribe. The polling, which lasted five days, at length closed. The court-house was again crowded, as on the first day. Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald appeared again at the head of the aristocracy, and Mr. O'Connell at the head of the priests and the " Forties." The moment the latter was declared by the sheriff duly elected, the first Roman catholic M.P. since the revolution, a friend presented him with a letter to be franked. Addressed to a member of the house of commons, it was posted that night, and when it arrived at its destination it was handed about amongst the members, exciting curiosity and astonishment. It was said also to have found its way to the king, who probably felt thankful that his brother, the duke of York, did not live to see " Daniel O'Connell, M.P." Mr. O'Connell made a speech, distinguished by just feeling and good taste, and begged that Mr. Fitzgerald would forgive him, if he had on the first day given him any sort of offence Mr. Fitzgerald came forward, and unaffectedly assured him that whatever was said should be forgotten. He was again hailed with universal acclamation, and delivered an admirable speech. During the progress of the election, he could not refrain from repeatedly expressing his astonishment at what he saw, and from indulging in melancholy forebodings of events of which these incidents were perhaps but the heralds. " Where is all this to end? " was a question frequently put in his presence, and from which he seemed to shrink. Mr. Sheil, in a speech at the close of the election, thus accounted for the phenomenon: - "We have put a great engine into action, and applied the entire force of that powerful machinery which the law has placed under our control. We are masters of the passions of the people, and we have employed our dominion with a terrible effect. But, sir, do you, or does any man here, imagine that we could have acquired this formidable ability to sunder the strongest ties by which the different classes of society are fastened, unless we found the materials of excitement in the state of society itself? Do you think that Daniel O'Connell has himself, and by the single powers of his own mind, unaided by any external co-operation, brought the country to this great crisis of agitation? Mr, O'Connell, with all his talent for excitation, would have been utterly powerless and incapable, unless he had been allied with a great conspirator against the public peace; and I will tell you who that confederate is - it is the law of the land itself that ha3 been Mr. O'Connell's main associate, and that ought to be denounced as the mighty agitator of Ireland. The rod of oppression is the wand of this enchanter; and the book of his spells is the penal code I Break the wand of this political Prospero, and take from him the volume of his magic, and he will evoke the spirits which are now under his control no longer. But why should I have recourse to illustration, which may be accounted fantastical, in order to elucidate what is in itself so plain and obvious? Protestant gentlemen, who do me the honour to listen to me, look, I pray you, a little dispassionately at the real causes of the events which have taken place amongst you.... In no other country, except in this, would such a revolution have been effected. Wherefore? Because in no other country are the people divided by the law from their superiors, and cast into the hands of a set of men who are supplied with the means of national excitement by the system of government under which we live. Surely, no man can believe that such an anomalous body as the Catholic Association could exist excepting in a community that has been alienated from the state by the state itself. The discontent and the resentment of seven millions of the population have generated that domestic government which sways public opinion, and uses the national passions as the instruments of its will. It would be utterly impossible, if there were no exasperating distinctions amongst us, to create any artificial causes of discontent. Let men declaim for a century, and if they have no real grievance their harangues will be empty sound and idle air. But when what they tell the people is true - when they are sustained by substantial facts, effects are produced, of which what has taken place at this election is only an example. The whole body of the people having been previously excited, the moment any incident such as this election occurs, all the popular passions start simultaneously up, and bear down every obstacle before them. Do not, therefore, be surprised that the peasantry should throw off their allegiance when they are under the operation of emotions which it would be wonderful if they could resist. The feeling by which they are actuated would make them not only vote against their landlord, but would make them scale the batteries of a fortress, and mount the breach; and, gentlemen, give me leave to ask you whether, after a due reflection upon the motives by which your vassals (for so they are accounted) are governed, you will be disposed to exercise any measure of severity in their regard? "

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Pictures for Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2

The Priest of Corofin and Mr. Shell.
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Lord Morpeth
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