Page images
PDF
EPUB

“Think! oh, think! of that exile—the hopes, the longings, which will grow each day more anxious and impatient!

“Think! oh, think! of how, with throbbing heart and kindling eye, he will look out across the waters that imprison him, searching in the eastern sky for the flag that will announce to him his liberty, and the triumph of sedition !

“Think! oh, think! of that day when thousands and tens of thousands will rush down to the water's edge as a distant gun proclaims his return. Mark the ship as it dashes through the waves and nears the shore. Behold him standing there upon the deck-the same calm, intrepid, noble heart. His clear, quick eye runs along the shore, and fills with the light which flashes from the bayonets of the people. A moment's pause! and then, amidst the roar of cannon, the fluttering of a thousand flags, the pealing of the cathedral bells, the triumphant felon sets his foot once more upon his native soil, hailed and blessed and worshipped as the first citizen of our free and sovereign State !"

In January, 1854, in New York, the eloquent Irishman welcomed Mitchel from exile in a speech of marvellous power :

Where, as we find it here, is the intrepid spirit which penetrates, reclaims, and populates the wilderness; by which the valley is filled, and every mountain and hill brought low, and the crooked is made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; before which the reptile and the wild man recede; in whose breath the golden grain multiplies, where the hawk and the sour-weed and the bittern have been; at whose touch cities, wealthier than those the gates of which were of bronze, spring up; at whose mandate fleets whiten the wilderness of ocean, bury the harpoon in the snows of the North, gather the fruits and shells of the coral islands, outstrip in capacity and speed the ships of the oldest commonwealths, knock at the gates of the Amazon and demand admittance, through regions of untold wealth, to the rampart of the Andes-threaten the wooden walls of Austria, and from the muzzle of their murderous gun rescue the forlorn worshipper of freedom-and, at last, consummate the magnificent design of the Genoese-breaking the mystic seal which has so long shut out the world from that empire which, we are told, is fragrant with the camphor, the cedar, and the laurel--than which China has not been more inscrutable, nor India more opulent, nor Athens better skilled in the gentler sciences and arts ?”

A portrait of the Irish orator Grattan, from his lecture in California in 1864:

“What of him? He had a great cause, a great opportunity, a great genius. The independence of Ireland the cause ; the embarrassment of England with her colonies the opportunity. With the magnitude of both his genius was commensurate. He was equal to his friends-as he himself said of his great rival Harry Flood—and was more than equal to his foes. When he spoke, the infirmities and deformities of man disappeared in a blaze of glory. His eloquence was more than human. It was a combination of cloud, whirlwind, and flame.' Nothing could resist it; nothing could approach it. It conquered all or distanced all. Like the archangel of Raphael, it was winged as well as armed. His intellect was most noble. His heart was not less divinely moulded. Never before did so much gentleness, so much benignity, so much sweetness, so much courage, so much force, unite in one poor frame. The brightest event of Irish history is the great event of that great man's life. If it is the brightest, let us refer it to his genius, his spirit, his ambition. His love of country was intense. 'He never would be satisfied so long as the meanest cottager in Ireland had a link of the British chain clanking to his rags.' Thus he spoke, moving the declaration of independence. The last time he appeared in the Irish Parliament was at midnight. He had come from a sick-bed. They gave him leave to sit while he addressed the House. For a moment-for a moment his agony forsook him. Men beheld before their eyes a sublime transfiguration. “I rose,' said he, 'with the rising fortunes of my country ; I am willing to die with her expiring liberties.' Had he been at that hour inspired with the republicanism of Wolfe Tone, his career and glory would have been complete."

Immediately succeeding this lecture, Meagher delivered another in the same hall, on Curran, of which the following is a specimen :

“Ruins, blossoms, sterility, vegetation, storms, silence, vitality, desolate repose—such the history of Ireland ; such the character of the people by whom that history has been written. Of that character John Philpot Curran is the fullest and truest expression. His endowments were many, and were great. His gentleness, exquisite sensibility, deep mournfulness-a mournfulness which no festivity, no triumph, could ever thoroughly dispel ; his noble eloquence, heroism, honesty-all in him were lovable and great. Then the circumstances in which we find him so often win us to him, and make us love him. Look at him in London, where, as Harry Grattan had done before him, he was eating his way to the bar. There he is, without a friendwithout one affectionate soul' (the poor little fellow piteously ejaculated)‘in whom he could take friendly refuge from the rigors of his destiny.' What could one so sensitive, so miserable, so lonely, do? Is not the road to fame and fortune too steep, too bleak, too rough, for that poor outcast child? We shall see by-and-by. Yet, as if he hadn't enough on his own account to trouble him, look how lovingly he shares the sorrows of the poor French doctor who had just lost his wife and was nursing a little orphan on his knee. For himself, he cares not that he is a beggar! But, for that poor father—for that poor sickly child--oh! how the heart of the poor Irish lad beats ! and how fondly he wishes he had something, he had plenty, he had a fortune, for them! 'Surely,' thus he meditates and moralizes, 'for such a purpose it is not sinful to wish for riches.' This sensibility accompanies him all through life, and so does that mournfulness and dejection of spirit.”

And finally his religion, for he was at once a Catholic and a republican:

"I raise my voice for the republicanism of Rome. If the majority of the Roman citizens declare for a republic, I pronounce emphatically for the deposition of the temporal power of the Pope. Let the Forum be rebuilt ; let the Senate and the Roman people resume their ancient rule! Let the city of the Gracchi put on once more the civic crown! Who upbraids me with apostasy in thus inciting emulation in the war of freedom? Who ejaculates it is unholy? Does it involve a recantation of the faith in which I was baptized ? Involve a repudiation of the teachings of the Fathers ? Denial of the sacraments? Irreverence of the ceremonies? Infidelity? Impiety? Apostasy? What is it? If it be a crime, let us have a definition; if it be a crime, let us have an exposition of it-the law, the logic, and the evidence. If it be a crime, I am guilty through excess of ignorance; for neither in creed, nor gospel, nor the Fathers have I discovered the verse, chapter, note, article, or passage which forbids me, as a Roman Catholic, to claim for Rome what it is lawful and highly righteous and creditable in me to claim for Sicily, for Sydney, for Mexico, or Moscow. Here, in this instance and at this day, I stand prepared to resist the temporal power of the Pope as strongly as it is more than probable I would have done had I lived in the days of Adrian the Fourth, when, according to Augustine Thierry and others, his Holiness commissioned the Plantagenet to enter the Kingdom of Ireland, and there procure payment to the blessed apostle Peter of the annual tribute of one penny for each house.'

It was not till the war broke out that I met Thomas Francis Meagher at my residence in Philadelphia and my rooms in Washington. Needless to say that he was a charming companion, with just enough of the Irish brogue to give flavor to his humor. He was an early volunteer on the Union side, and did much to swell the Union army by Irish reinforcements. He fought bravely, some say rashly; but he never faltered in his devotion to his adopted country. After the war, he was appointed by President Johnson Secretary of the Territory of Montana ; and on the night of July 1, 1867, he died at Fort Benton, on the steamer George A. Thompson, and was buried on the 14th of August following in the city of New York, in his forty-seventh year. Perhaps I could not better illustrate his character than by using the words of his compatriot and friend Richard O'Gorman, spoken over his grave:

“What matter to him now whether men praise or blame? The whole world's censure could not hurt him now. But for us, the friends who are left behind; for you, his companions in arms; for me, who was the friend of his youth, and who have loved him ever; for the sake of those who are nearer and dearer to him, of whose grief I cannot bring myself to speak—of his father, his brother; of his son, on whose face he never looked; for the sake, more than all, of that noble lady whose endearing love was the pride and blessing of his life : for all this we do honor to his memory, and strive to weave, as it were,

this

poor chaplet of flowers over his grave. His faults lie gently on him. For he had faults, as all of us have. But he had virtues too, in whose light his errors were unseen and forgotten. In his youth he loved the land of his birth, and freely gave all he had to give, even his life, to save her and do her honor. He never forgot her. He never said a word that was not meant to help her and raise her. Some things he did say from time to time, which I did not agree with, that seemed to me hasty, passionate, unjust. When men speak much and often, they cannot help sometimes speaking wrong. But he said always what he thought; he never uttered a word that was unmanly or untrue to the cause that was darling to his youth. In Ireland, in

« PreviousContinue »