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Chapter XV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

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There was one irritating circumstance connected with the Emancipation Act. The words, "thereafter to be elected," were introduced for the purpose of preventing O'Connell from taking his seat in virtue of the election of 1828. The Irish Roman catholics considered this legislating against an individual an act unworthy of the British senate - and, as against the great catholic advocate, a mean, vindictive, and discreditable deed. But it was admitted that Wellington and Peel were not to blame for it; that on their part it was a pacificatory concession to dogged bigotry in high places. Mr. Fagan states that Mr. O'Connell was willing to give up the county of Clare to Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, and to go into parliament himself for a borough, adding that he had absolutely offered 3,000 guineas to Sir Edward Denny for the borough of Tralee, which had always been regularly sold, and was, in point of fact assigned as a fortune under a marriage settlement. Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, however, rather scornfully rejected the offer, and Mr. O'Connell himself appeared in the house of commons on the 15th of May, to try whether he would be permitted to take his seat. In the course of an hour, we are told, the heads of his speech were arranged, and written on a small card. The event was expected, and the house was crowded to excess. At five o'clock the speaker called on any new member desiring to be sworn to come to the table. O'Connell accordingly presented himself, introduced by lords Ebrington and Duncannon. He remained for some time standing at the table, pointing out the oaths he was willing to take, namely, those required by the new act, and handing in the certificate of his return and qualifications. His refusal to take the oaths of supremacy and abjuration having been reported to the speaker, he was directed to withdraw, when Mr. Brougham moved that he should be heard at the bar, to account for his refusal. But on the motion of Mr. Peel, after a long discussion, the consideration of the question was deferred till the 18th. The Times of the next day stated that the narrative of the proceeding could convey but an imperfect idea of the silent, the almost breathless attention with which he was received in the house, advancing to and retiring from the table. The benches were filled, in an unusual degree, with members, and there was no recollection of so large a number of peers brought by curiosity into the house of commons.

The speaker's expression of countenance and manner towards the honourable gentleman were extremely courteous, and his declaration that he " must withdraw," firm and authoritative. Mr. O'Connell, for a moment, looked round as one who had reason to expect support, and this\ failing, he bowed most respectfully, and withdrew. The Globe, expressing the feelings of the English liberals on the transaction, said: " Mr. O'Connell has forced us to emancipate the catholics, he has brought us to that dreadful pass that we have all but lost our places - nay more, he has compelled us to separate from our old allies, the ultra tories; and we will, therefore, avenge our own embarrassments and the tears of John, lord Eldon, on his obnoxious person. Such are the sentiments which, should he, Mr. O'Connell, be sent back to be re-elected for Clare, will, we fear, be said by the more reflective portion of the public, to have influenced the conduct of government. On a technical point of law, they may, perhaps - though even this is doubtful - be defensible; but such technicality should not be suffered for an instant to interfere with or cloud the glory of an act like that of catholic emancipation; by which, in after ages, it will be the chief boast of the nineteenth century to have been distinguished."

On Monday, the 18th of May, O'Connell took his seat under the gallery. Seldom, if ever before, were there in the house so many strangers, peers, or members. The adjourned debate was resumed, and it was resolved that he should be heard at the bar. To the bar he then advanced, accompanied by his solicitor, Mr. Pierce Mahony, who supplied him with the books and documents, which had been arranged and marked to facilitate reference. His speech on that occasion is said to have been one of the most remarkable for ability and argument he ever delivered. It should be observed that his claim to enter the house without taking the oaths was supported from the first by the opinion of Mr. Charles Butler, an eminent English barrister, and a Roman catholic; but law and precedent were against him, and he would not be admitted. When Mr. O'Connell retired to his place under the gallery, he found the benches filled by the suite of the French embassy. Room was made for him between two gentlemen, who entered into conversation with him, and who spoke English like natives. One of these was Louis Philippe, and the other his son, the duke of Orleans.

Thus baffled, he returned to Dublin, where he met an enthusiastic reception. A meeting was held the next day, to make arrangements for insuring his return for Clare Sheil on that occasion delivered an eloquent speech. " Put Daniel O'Connell," he said, " and put men who will sustain him and co-operate with him, into parliament, and you will soon see that the men who so powerfully acted upon public opinion out of parliament will not be wholly destitute of influence within it. With what strength of adjuration will Daniel O'Connell appeal to the feelings and magnanimity of Englishmen, and on behalf of Ireland demand fair dealing with her! With his perfect knowledge of detail, his vast and minute information upon Ireland, his vehement eloquence, and, above all, the people of Ireland at his back, what may he not effect for his country? Let us then, to a man, become his abettors in this great struggle. We are all engaged, almost as much as himself, in this noble undertaking; and it will be proved to the minister, I trust, that there still is left a body of yeomanry in this country which, with the remnant of the elective franchise, like a broken sword, will be enabled to encounter the columns of the aristocracy, and give the rural despots battle. Yes! Daniel O'Connell will be thrown back upon the minister by the country! And what may we not expect that he may achieve? He that for so many years worked the great engine of public opinion, and wielded the wild democracy with such a gigantic arm, will exhibit the same efficiency. Rally, fellow-citizens, round the man that, in public despair, never ceased to hope - that was never weary when all others fainted - that never stopped when all others fell; that, by his indomitable spirit, his chivalrous intrepidity, and, above all, by his superior, heart-stirring eloquence, contributed more than any one that lives to disenthral his country from her bondage."

On the 1st of June O'Connell started for Ennis. All the towns he passed through turned out to cheer him on, with green boughs and banners suspended from the windows. He arrived at Nenagh in the night, and the town was quickly illuminated. Having travelled all night, he retired to rest at Limerick; and while he slept, the streets were thronged with people, anxious to get a glance at their " liberator." A large tree of liberty was planted before the hotel, with musicians perched on the branches, playing national airs. The Limerick trades accompanied him in his progress towards Ennis, where his arrival was hailed with boundless enthusiasm, and where a triumphal car was prepared for him. Thus terminated a progress, during which he made twenty speeches, to nearly a million of persons. There were yet nearly two months to the election, and the constituency of ten-pound freeholders had yet to be formed under the new act. The landlords of the county were still, almost to a man, against him.

Amongst the most determined of his opponents was Sir Edward O'Brien, father of Mr. Smith O'Brien. The latter published an address to the electors of Clare, against O'Connell's pretensions. He stated in his address that the people had been led away from their landlords by false pretences. This was answered by Mr. Sheil, in a letter to the Globe - so strong, that parts of it were omitted. Sheil being applied to by Mr. Greig, as Smith O'Brien's friend, to supply the omitted parts, did so without hesitation, observing that his suppressed statement was: - "The assertion of Mr. William Smith O'Brien was a lie, and he knew it to be so; " and that among the other words suppressed were these: - " Blackguardism, gross nonsense, personal impertinence, audacious falsehood, and political baseness and ingratitude." The consequence was an affair of honour, which, fortunately, had no serious result. The quarrel is interesting, when considered in reference to Smith O'Brien's future connection with O'Connell in the repeal agitation. On the 30th of July O'Connell was a second time returned for Clare without opposition, and the event was celebrated with the usual demonstrations of joy and triumph.

Pending this election, a very curious episode occurred with reference to the Beresford family. Towards the end of the year 1829, Mr. Villiers Stuart, who had been triumphantly returned against the Beresford interest in 1826, retired from the representation. The contest had cost him £30,000; and, notwithstanding this, he was continually beset by a host of people, claiming money from him under various pretences. As he would not satisfy their rapacious demands, they hooted him when passing through the streets of Waterford. This so disgusted him that he accepted the Chiltern Hundreds. Conciliation being now the order of the day between protestants and Roman catholics, Mr. Pierce Mahony, O'Connell's solicitor, agreed to become the conducting agent of the Beresford candidate, provided O'Connell and Sheil were engaged as counsel. To this those two gentlemen consented, O'Connell stipulating that the services to be rendered should be merely professional, and not political. He wrote to his solicitor, " If the offer of it, under these circumstances, shall be repeated - a matter of which I entertain some doubt, as out of term I made Villiers Stuart pay me £600 - my professional remuneration I will leave to you and your brother." He added that he had always been exceedingly well treated by the Beresford family, when they employed him as a professional man. The candidate selected was lord George Beresford; and, in addition to the twenty guineas " retainer," Mr. Mahony was authorised to say that O'Connell should receive £300 for his fee, whether there should be a contest or not; and £600 if there should be a contest. Sheil, in addition to his retainer, was to have £200 if no contest, and £400 if there should be one.

On second thoughts, however, Mr. O'Connell was convinced of the impolicy of the transaction; or, as his biographer puts it, " on consultation with his friends in Dublin, he saw at once the danger of trusting the professions of the Beresfords;" and he resolved forthwith to put an end to the negotiations, alleging, as an excuse, that he might be called upon, as a member of parliament, to act as a judge of transactions in which he had been engaged as counsel. The affair, however, got abroad, and the Times commented strongly on the fact that O'Connell had consented to become counsel for the Beresfords in an electioneering contest against the liberal party; and that he withdrew from the engagement, after huxtering for a higher fee. O'Connell defended himself in an elaborate letter, and attacked the Times in return.

Mr. Pierce Mahony's active mind hit upon another conciliation project, which assumed the more respectable form of the " Wellington Testimonial." Soon after the act of emancipation received the royal assent, Mr. Mahony and a number of Irish friends were below the bar in the house of lords. The duke of Leinster came over to congratulate them on the event. After some conversation, it was agreed that a committee should be formed to set on foot a subscription for raising a testimonial to the duke. A committee was formed the next day, its most active members being the duke of Leinster, Mr. Agar Ellis, afterwards lord Dover, the earl of Darlington, and Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Mahony acting as secretary. It was arranged that a public meeting should be held in the London Tavern to promote the object, the chair to be taken by lord Fitzwilliam. An hour before the meeting, when the resolutions drawn up by Mr. Mahony were in course of distribution to proposers and seconders, in the ante-room of the great hall, the knight of Kerry arrived with a message from the duke, requesting that the object should be abandoned. "It appeared that though the duke was exceedingly flattered by the proposed compliment, he was greatly embarrassed by it, because of the king's jealousy and irritation. George IV., it was said, absolutely fancied that it was he who won Wellington's battles; and, influenced by the same kind of delusion, he imagined that he alone ought to be honoured for the achievement of emancipation, notwithstanding his deep-seated opposition to the measure. This feeling produced misunderstandings and bickerings at Windsor, and the duke endeavoured, by declining the proposed compliment, to terminate these feuds. However, after a good deal of discussion in the ante-room, and impatience on the part of those who attended, the meeting was held, resolutions were passed, speeches were made, including an eloquent one from Thomas Moore, the poet, whose 'Irish Melodies’ contributed in no small measure to prepare the English mind for the changes which Wellington effected. This appears to have been the end of the Wellington testimonial."

The truth is, Mr. O'Connell had no idea of continuing the game of conciliation, except with a view to ulterior objects. He did not conceal, even in the hour of his triumph, that he regarded catholic emancipation as little more than a vantage ground, on which he was to plant his artillery for the abolition of the legislative union. After the passing of the Emancipation Act, he appealed as strongly as ever to the feelings of the people. "At Ennis," he said, "I promised you religious freedom, and I kept my word. The catholics are now free, and the Brunswickers are no longer their masters; and a paltry set they were to I be our masters. They would turn up the white of their eyes to heaven, and at the same time slily put their hands into your pockets. . . .What good did any member ever before in parliament do for the county of Clare, except to get places for their nephews, cousins, &c.? What did I do? I procured for you emancipation." " The election for Clare," he said, " is admitted to have been the immediate and irresistible cause of producing the Catholic Relief Bill. You have achieved the religious liberty of Ireland. Another such victory in Clare, and we shall attain the political freedom of our beloved country. That victory is still necessary, to prevent catholic rights and liberties from being sapped and undermined by the insidious policy of those men who, false to their own party, can never be true to us) and who have yielded not to reason, but to necessity, in granting us freedom of conscience» A sober, moral, and religious people cannot continue slaves - they become too powerful for their oppressors - their moral strength exceeds their physical powers - and their progress towards prosperity is in vain opposed by the Peels and Wellingtons of society. These poor strugglers for ancient abuses yield to a necessity which violates no law, and commits no crime; and having once already succeeded by these means, our next success is equally certain, if we adopt the same virtuous and irresistible means." The Roman catholic prelates, however, seemed to have been satisfied with the achievement of emancipation, and to have received the boon in a very good spirit. There was one of their number who, more than all the rest, had contributed to the success of the work. This was Dr. Doyle, so well known as "J. K. L.," unquestionably the most accomplished polemical writer of his time. Having received his university education in Portugal, he had an opportunity of appreciating the advantages of the British constitution in comparison with others, and when an Irish bishop, even in the midst of agitation, and in all the heat of controversy, he never missed an opportunity of bearing the strongest testimony to its unrivalled excellence. The signature of "J. K. L." represents his name and title, James Kildare Leighton. Under this signature he published " Letters on the State of Ireland," "A Vindication of the Principles of the Irish Catholics," and other productions, which, for power of argument and eloquence, for profound learning and a lofty moral tone, have never been approached by any of his brethren in Ireland. He maintained an extensive correspondence with liberal statesmen, by whom he was greatly respected, and exerted a boundless influence over his Roman catholic countrymen. He differed from O'Connell in scorning all finesse and falsehood, and in being thoroughly disinterested. He was a genuine, truthful man, pure in morals, and elevated in character, genial and affectionate in private life; but firm, and sometimes austere, in his character as a bishop. He resembled the duke of Wellington remarkably in some things, especially in his stern devotion to duty, regardless of consequences to himself or to others. The influence exerted by his writings and his character it is difficult to over-estimate. There is no doubt that it was Dr. Doyle's pen, far more than O'Connell's tongue, that brought round the educated minds of Great Britain to see the justice of catholic emancipation. His examination before the committee of the house of lords, in 1825, would alone have stamped him as a man of extraordinary abilities and attainments, whose talents and learning were consecrated to a high moral purpose - that purpose being the regeneration of his country.

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