HotFreeBooks.com
Ridgeway - An Historical Romance of the Fenian Invasion of Canada
by Scian Dubh
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's Note: The nonstandard spellings of the original have been retained in this etext.]

RIDGEWAY.

AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE

OF THE

FENIAN INVASION OF CANADA

By SCIAN DUBH.

"On our side is virtue and Erin; On theirs' is the Saxon and guilt."—MOORE.

1868.



INTRODUCTION.

In the dark, English crucible of seven hundred years of famine, fire and sword, the children of Ireland have been tested to an intensity unknown to the annals of any other people. From the days of the second Henry down to those of the last of the Georges, every device that human ingenuity could encompass or the most diabolical spirit entertain, was brought to bear upon them, not only with a view to insuring their speedy degradation, but with the further design of accomplishing ultimately the utter extinction of their race. Yet notwithstanding that confiscation, exile and death, have been their bitter portion for ages—notwithstanding that their altars, their literature and their flag have been trampled in the dust, beneath the iron heel of the invader, the pure, crimson ore of their nationality and patriotism still flashes and scintillates before the world; while the fierce heart of "Brien of the Cow Tax," bounding in each and every of them as of yore, yearns for yet another Clontarf, when hoarse with the pent-up vengeance of centuries, they shall burst like unlaired tigers upon their ancient, and implacable enemy, and, with one, long, wild cry, hurl her bloody and broken from their shores forever.

Had England been simply actuated by a chivalrous spirit of conquest, alone, or moved by a desire to blend the sister islands into one harmonious whole, even then her descent upon Ireland could not be justified in any degree whatever. Ireland had been her Alma Mater. According to the venerable Bode and others, her noble and second rank flocked thither in the seventh century, where they were "hospitably received and educated, and furnished with books without fee or reward." Even at the present moment, the Irish or Celtic tongue is the only key to her remote antiquities and ancient nomenclature. The distinguished Lhuyd, in his Archaelogia Britannica, and the celebrated Leibnitz himself, place this latter beyond any possible shadow of doubt. Scarcely a ruined fane or classic pile of any remote date within her borders but is identified with the name of some eminent Irish missionary long since passed away. What would Oxford have been without Joannes Erigena, or Cambridge, deprived of the celebrated Irish monk that stood by the first stone laid in its foundation? The fact is every impartial writer, from the "father of English history" down to the present day, admits, that in the early ages, when darkness brooded over the surrounding nations, Ireland, learned, philanthropic and chivalrous, blazed a very conflagration on the ocean, and stretched forth her jewelled and generous hand to poor, benighted England, and fostered, in addition, the intellectual infancy of Germany, France and Switzerland, as well as the early civilization of regions more remote still. Then it was that the milk and honey of her ancient tongue and lore flowed out from her in rivers to wash the stains from the soul and brow of the stolid and unintellectual Saxon. Then it was, that her very zone gave way in her eagerness to pluck his Pagan life from gloom, and wed her day unto his night. But what of all this now?—The sin that is "worse than witchcraft" is upon him! His hands are stained with innocent blood! He has spurned his benefactress with the foot of Nero, "removed her candlestick", and left her in hunger, cold and darkness upon her own hearthstone.

Had not Ireland, at the time of the invasion, been cut up through the fierce pride and petty jealousies of her rulers, the English could never have effected a permanent footing upon her shores. Contemptible in numbers, shipping and appointments, the concentrated opposition of even a few petty chiefs could have scattered them to the winds, or sent them "howling to their gods". But, wanting in that homogeneity without which a nation must always remain powerless, the invasion of the territory of one individual ruler was often regarded as a matter of no very grave importance to those who were not his immediate subjects; so that from this cause, as well as from, the unhappy dissentions which harrassed the country at the period, the new colony found the means of establishing themselves upon the eastern borders of the island, and of possessing themselves of some of the walled towns, which they subsequently turned to such good account in fortifying themselves against surprise and baffling the pursuit of the natives, when worsted in the open field.

Whether the subtle influences of a common nationality moved Pope Adrian the Fourth—who was an Englishman named Nicholas Breakspear,—to issue the famous Bull granting Ireland to his fellow countryman, Henry the Second of England, or whether, as it has been alleged, no such Bull was ever issued, and that the one still extant is a forgery, it matters but little now. The Pope's claims extended to the spiritual jurisdiction of Ireland only; and even had he granted the Bull in question, and assumed the right of conveying the whole island to the English king, the transfer was obtained under false pretenses for, from the very wording of the document itself, it is palpable that Henry led the Sovereign Pontiff, to believe that Ireland was sunk in the grossest ignorance and superstition, and that, in making a descent upon it, he had only the glory and honor of the Church in view. So terrible a distortion of the facts of the case on his part, necessarily rendered all action based upon his statement morally invalid at least; and thus it is, that even those who have confidence in the genuineness of this Bull, regard it as utterly worthless, and at not all admissable into any pleadings which ingenious English politicians may choose to advance on the subject.

So inveterate the hostility that manifested itself on the part of the Irish towards the invader from the moment that his foul and sacrilegious foot first desecrated their soil, a reign of terror was at once inaugurated in the vicinage of his camp or stronghold, by those chieftains with whom he came into more immediate contact, and upon whose territories he more directly impinged. In the track of both peoples, "death follows like a squire." Neither truce nor oath was kept by the English; while their fiery adversaries, necessarily stung to frenzy at the presence of yet another invader in their midst, made sudden reprisals in a manner so unexpected and daring, that the laws of the hour like those of Draco, were literally written in blood. While the dash and chivalry of the Irish prevented them from adopting the stealthy dagger of the assassin, and prompted them rather, to bold and open deeds of death, the enactments of "The Pale" as the English patch or district was termed, were absolutely of a character the most demonical. According to their provisions, the murder of an Irish man or woman was no offence whatever; while the slaughter of a native who had made submission to the Pale, was visited with a slight fine only—not for the crime per se, but for the murderer's having deprived the king of a servant. From this it can be easily perceived, that a cowardly system of warfare obtained on the part of the English, which, were it not for the quick eye and fierce agility of the inhabitants, would soon have resulted in their total annihilation.

This foul and dastardly system of assassination was but simply a leading expression of the bastard nationality of the invader. Not one, single drop of proud, pure blood coursed through his veins. His degraded country had been in turn the mistress of the Roman, the Saxon, the Dane and the Norman, and he was the hybrid offspring of her incontinence. Consequently, he had neither a history nor a past of his own, calculated to prompt even one exalted aspiration. He was a mongrel of the most inveterate character, and was therefore, and inevitably, treacherous, cowardly; and cunning. Not so the brave sons of the land he so ardently coveted. Ere the mighty gnomon of "The Great Pyramid" had thrown its gigantic shadow o'er the red dial of the desert, they had filled the long gallery of a glorious past with an array of portraits, the most superb presented by antiquity. Before the Vocal Memnon poured forth his hidden melody at sunrise, or "The City of a Hundred Gates" had sent forth her chariots to battle, they had a local habitation and a name, and had stamped their impress upon many a shore. No people in existence, to-day, can look back to an origin more remote or clearly traceable through a countless lapse of ages than the Irish: and hence it was, that at the period of the Anglo-Norman descent upon their borders, the chivalry of a stupendous past was upon them: and having its traditions and its glories to maintain and emulate, and being, besides, inspired by the pure and unadulterated crimson tide that had flowed in one uninterrupted stream through their fiery veins for the space of two thousand years previously, they shrank from the treacherous and dastardly system of assassination introduced by the ignoble and cowardly Saxon, and struck only to the dread music of their own war cry.

Still, although in detail hostile to the invader, no great, united effort appears to have been made to rout him out root and branch, until he had become so powerful as to make any attack upon him a matter of the most serious moment, and had, in addition, enlarged his borders through sundry reinforcements from his own shores. The few more purely Norman leaders that were inspired with some desire at least for a more honorable mode of warfare, were utterly powerless among the overwhelming throng of their followers who had been long brutalized on the other side of the channel. In this connection the proud, revengeful and chivalrous natives were had at a sad disadvantage; for then, as to-day, they were characterized by a spirit of knight-errantry, which disdained to take an enemy unawares.

As an evidence that Henry had the spiritual welfare only of the people of Ireland at heart, and that the building up of the Church there was his sole object, no sooner did he land in that country, than he parcelled out the entire island among ten Englishmen—Earl Strongbow, Robert Fitzstephens, Miles de Cogan, Philip Bruce, Sir Hugh de Lacy, Sir John de Courcy, William Burk Fitz Andelm, Sir Thomas de Clare, Otho de Grandison and Robert le Poer. At one sweep, in so far as a royal grant could go, he confiscated every foot of land from Cape Clear to the Giant's Causeway, denied the right of the inhabitants to a single square yard of their native soil, and made the whole country a present to the persons just named. Perhaps history does not record another such outrageous and infamous act, and one so antagonistic to every principle of right and justice. Had there been a preceding series of expensive and bloody wars between both countries, in which Ireland, after years of fruitless resistance, fell at last beneath the yoke of the conqueror, it could be readily understood, that the victor would seek to indemnify himself for his losses, on terms the most exacting and relentless if you will; but in the case under consideration, no animosity existed between the two nations until the ruler of one, without even a shadow of provocation on the part of the inhabitants of the other, made a deliberate descent upon them, and ignoring the benefits conferred gratuitously by them, previously, on his own ungrateful land, subjected them to every barbarity and wrong known to the history of crime.

For upwards of four hundred years of the English occupation—that is, from the landing of Strongbow down to the period of James the First, there was no legal redress for the plunder or murder of an Irishman, by any of the invaders, or for the violation of his wife or daughter. The laws of the Pale, enacted under the sanction of the King and the people of England, subsidized, in effect, a horde of ruthless assassins and robbers, with a view to striking terror to the hearts of the natives, and driving them into a recognition of the right of the usurper to rule over them, and dispose as he saw fit of their property and persons. This right, however, was never conceded in even the most remote degree; for, notwithstanding that the colony of foreign spears and battle-axes waxed stronger daily, the Irish element, disunited though it was, fought it constantly. True, that an occasional lull characterized the tempest as it swept and eddied through each successive generation; but never did Ireland assume the yoke of the oppressor voluntarily, or bow, for even a single moment, in meek submission to his unauthorized sway.

It would require volumes to recount a tithe of the frightful atrocities practiced by the invaders upon the rightful and unoffending owners of the soil during the long period just referred to, and especially towards its close, when that lewd monster, Elizabeth, disgraced her sex and the age. No language can describe adequately the various diabolical modes of extermination practiced against all those who refused to bow the knee and kiss the English rod. No code of laws ever enacted in even the most barbarous age of the world, could compare in fiendish cruelty with the early penal enactments of the Pale—so forcibly supplemented in after years by the perjured "Dutch boor" and the inhuman Georges. The foul fiend himself could not have devised laws more diabolical in their character or destructive in their application. So close were their meshes and sweeping their folds, that the possibility of escape was obviously out of the question; as their victim was met and entangled at every turn, until at last the fatal blow descended, and the unequal contest was ended. But more infamous and unjustifiable still, when "the foul invader" found himself occasionally unable to cope successfully with his brave and chivalrous antagonists, he had recourse to a darker and deeper treachery than even that which characterized the stealthy and unexpected stroke of his midnight dagger. He adopted the guise of friendship; and professing to forget the past, lured into his power with festive blandishments the chiefs of many a noble following, whom he dared not meet in open fight, but who, at a given signal, and while the brimming goblet circled through the feast, were suddenly set upon and foully murdered ere they could draw a dagger or leap to their feet. In corroboration of this assertion, we have only to refer to Mullaghmast, where a deed of this description was perpetrated; and of a character so cruel and dastardly, that the names of those concerned in the inhuman plot are now desecrated by every individual raised above the brute, or inspired with the hope of heaven.

Nor was there any mode of propitiating the satanic spirit which seemed to actuate the English against their opponents, from the first moment that they set their foot upon Irish soil; for, when, in the lapse of years, a portion of the inhabitants in the vicinity of the Pale, professed their readiness to conform to the manners, laws and customs of the invader, their overtures were rejected, and they were still held at the point of the sword, as "the Irish enemy," and denied the protection of the laws that they were ready to obey. In short, every move of the English, established beyond any possibility of doubt, that their sole object was the utter and complete extirpation of the natives, and the subsequent establishment upon their conquered shores of a dynasty from which every drop of pure, Celtic blood should be excluded forever.

But that day never arrived, and with God's help never shall. However she might have suffered or failed through an occasional traitor, Ireland, as a whole, fought against English usurpation from the moment that she became aware of its ultimate aims, and felt its growing power within her borders. There was, besides, in the two races, those opposites of character—those natural antagonisms which repelled each other with a force and vehemence not to be neutralized or unified by any process within the reach of even the most humane or astute ruler. They were too different peoples, with habits of thought, moral perceptions, and ideas of chivalry at total variance with each other as entertained by them individually. The great bulk of the English colony was composed of unprincipled freebooters and degraded Saxon serfs; the Conqueror having, a century previously, turned the masses of the English into swine-herds, banished their language from court, and reduced them to a condition of the most abject slavery. Hence their stolid brutality, the low plane of their intelligence, and their systematic murders. But, how different the condition of the Irish in this respect. Far ages previous, both learning, refinement, and the chivalrous use of arms, pervaded their shores. Evidences of the truth of this assertion lie scattered around us in every direction. Girald Barry—the English Cambrensis, William Camden, Archbishop Usher, Vallancey, Lord Lyttleton, and a host of others, all bear witness to the profound learning and noble chivalry of the Irish from the earliest periods; while the various educational institutions throughout the continent, founded shortly after the introduction of Christianity into Ireland, establish, upon a basis the most immovable, the truth of an assertion made by one of the authors just mentioned, namely, that "most of the lights that illumined those times of thick darkness proceeded out of Ireland". As may be presumed, then, a people so refined and chivalrous—so sensitive to all that was noble and elevated—a people who, as in the case of Alfred, had educated the very kings of the invaders, as well as plucked their subjects from Paganism, were averse to meeting the usurper on his own plane of warfare, and that consequently, the very pride and dignity of their arms walled in, as it were, the tyrant from any of those cold-blooded and dastardly atrocities which so disfigured his own career.

Notwithstanding that, after four hundred and twenty years of outlawry the most cruel and unrelenting, the Irish were, (12th James I. 1614.) at last, admitted within the pale of English law, and recognized nominally as subjects at least, so long had they been subjected to the grinding heel of oppression, and the baneful influences of continuous warfare, and so long, also, had the usurper been accustomed to treat them as enemies, that this recognition of their claims upon humanity availed them but very little. Under the new regime, their freedom was merely technical only; for now the terrible ban of the Reformation, intensified by the cruel spirit evinced throughout the whole of Elizabeth's infamous reign, was upon them, and their persecution, which had so long been regarded as a matter of course, experienced but little diminution through the attempted toleration of her weak and pedantic successor. Still, frightful and unprecedented as was the ordeal through which they had passed, they preserved their nationality, and clung to their traditions, hoping one day to rid themselves of their oppressors, as they had already done in the case of the Danes; and in this way has the case stood between both parties up to the present hour.

Although long previous to the Reformation, the atrocities practiced upon Catholic Ireland by Catholic England were of a character the most revolting, and although the murderous hand of the invader was never stayed by the knowledge or conviction, that both parties professed a common creed and knelt at a common altar, yet the intensity of the sufferings of the Irish, or what may be termed their studious, refined, and systematic persecution, began with the civilisation of Elizabeth. The new creed of the three preceding reigns had not, up to that period, acquired sufficient strength to exert its deadliest influence against the ancient faith of the people, or to be introduced as a new agency of oppression in the case of Ireland; but now, no sooner had the "Virgin Queen" ascended the throne, than the heart of the tigress leaped within her; and, breaking loose from every restraint, human and divine, she at once pounced upon the unfortunate Irish, and sought to bury her merciless fangs, with one deadly and final crash, in their already bleeding and lacerated vitals. The coarse, cruel fibre of an apostate and libertine father, and the impure blood of a lewd mother, had done their work in her case. From the first to the last moment of her reign, she combined the courtesan with the assassin. She was the murderer of Essex, said to have been her own son and paramour; and was, at the same time, the mistress of more than one noble besides Leicester. According to her own countryman, Cobbett, she spilled more blood during her occupancy of the throne, than any other single agency in the world for a commensurate period; while her treatment of Ireland, under the "humane guidance" and advice of such cruel wretches as Spenser, was neither more nor less than absolutely satanic. For fifteen long years she never ceased to subject that unhappy land to famine, fire and sword. Every device that her hellish nature or that of her agents could concoct for the total extirpation of the people, was put into the most relentless requisition by her. Under the guise of the most sincere friendship, her deputies, times without number, betrayed many of the leaders of the Irish into accepting their hospitality, and then foully set upon them and murdered them while they sat unsuspecting guests at their festive board. And yet, notwithstanding her penal laws, her blood-thirsty soldiery, and all her revolting persecutions, the Irish were more than a match for her in the open field, and ultimately embittered the closing years of her life. From the first moment of the invasion, the O'Neills—Kings and Princes of Aileach, Kings of Ulster and Princes of Tir-Eogain—as well as other chiefs and leaders, fought the Pale incessantly: and now, after a lapse of nearly four hundred years, again evinced to the world, that Ireland was still unconquered, and regarded England as a tyrant and usurper. And yet the opposition of those chiefs and rulers to the hirelings and paid assassins of this infamous woman and her corrupt associates, was of a character the most chivalrous. Unaccustomed to cowardly deeds of blood, these proud warriors preferred to meet the enemy face to face, and decide the issues of the hour in fair, open fight. They could not entertain the Saxon idea of disposing of an adversary by the stealthy knife of the professional murderer; and hence it was that their pride and chivalry had ever been taken advantage of: the invaders being convinced that no reprisals of a character sufficiently dastardly or atrocious to meet their own depredations, would be indulged in by their chivalrous opponents. In evidence of the spirit that actuated both parting individually in this connection, we may refer to the massacre of Mullaghmast, on the one hand, where the English, under professions of the purest friendship, lured many of the Irish chiefs and nobles to a conference or council, and then suddenly pouncing on them, murdered every, single soul of them in cold blood; while, on the other hand, we may contrast with this cowardly act—which is but one of a series of the same sort—the noble and generous conduct of Tir-Oen, at the battle of the Yellow Ford, in 1598, where, after defeating the Queen's troops with terrible slaughter, taking all their artillery and baggage, as well as twelve thousand pieces of gold, the remainder of the shattered army was totally at his mercy, when he might have put every soul that composed it to death. Unlike the cowardly invader, the field once won, he sheathed his sword, and ordered the remnant of the enemy to be spared, as they were unable to fight longer, and commanded that they should be conducted in safety to the Pale. In these two instances we have a thorough insight into the character of the invader and the invaded: so that not another word need be said upon this part of the subject.

And in this manner have the O'Neills and the Irish fought the English up to the present hour. Circumstances have, we know, from time to time, caused a lull in the tempest of arms, but the moment opportunity served the smouldering fires burst forth anew. Not a single day of pure and happy sunshine has ever obtained between England and Ireland, since the flag of the former first flew over the latter. Throughout every single hour of seven hundred long years, Ireland has been secretly plotting or openly fighting against England. Not one solitary reign, from Henry II down to Victoria I, but has been marked with Irish dissatisfaction of English rule. Either in the aggregate or in detail, the Irish people have, throughout that long period, been constantly asserting their right to independence, and their unalterable antipathy to the presence of a foreign power upon their shores. And the same spirit that fought the Henrys, Elizabeth, William and the Georges, is alive still, and lighting their descendants to-day; 1688, 1798, 1848, and 1868 are all episodes of the same history; and the volume now must soon be closed. Humanity and civilisation, common justice and the laws of nations, demand that a people who have battled against tyranny and usurpation for seven successive centuries, and who have still preserved intact their identity, their traditions and their altars, shall be no longer subjected to the brute force and infamous exactions of a freebooter who has so long played false to every principle of honor, and who has been the highwayman of powers and principalities for countless generations.

The record of England in relation to Ireland, is one of the most atrocious known to the history of mankind. It is fraught with the blackest ingratitude, the vilest injustice, and the direst oppression. Notwithstanding that Ireland first gave her an alphabet, and taught her how to spell her name—notwithstanding that Irish missionaries had nurtured her early educational institutions and reclaimed her from Paganism, she misrepresented their religion and their learning in high places, stole in upon them while they slept, and turning upon them like the frozen snake in the fable, robbed them of their independence, and loaded them with chains. Every year of her accursed dominion upon their shores has been marked with some new and overwhelming oppression. She has spit upon their creed, broken their altars, hunted them down with blood-hounds, robbed them of their estates, exiled them penniless to foreign shores, banned their language, murdered their offspring, destroyed their trade and commerce, ruined their manufactures, plundered their exchequer, robbed them of their flag, deprived them of their civil rights, and left them, houseless wanderers, a prey to hunger, cold and rags, upon their own soil. Of all this she stands convicted before the world; and for all this she must alone, so sure as there is a God above her. Ireland still lives, and so do her wrongs. The O'Neills and thousands of brave scions of the past, are still with her, while the rank and file of her sons are as bitterly opposed to English usurpation to-day as they were seven hundred years ago. Besides, at the present hour, the approaches to their final triumph are made luminous with the generous countenance of free America, and the glorious conviction that heaven bends benignly over them; and thus it is that they now stand shoulder to shoulder in eager anticipation of the coming hour, when their banners shall yet once more be flung to the winds, as, with a cry that rends the very earth, they dash down upon their deadly and relentless foe, and smite her hip and thigh as of yore; dealing her the last fatal blow that forever seals her infamous doom.

In the order of Providence, a great corrective, or reactionary principle, attends the misdoings of nations, that, sooner or later, exerts itself in restoring the equilibrium of justice, and avenging the infringement of any of those laws, human or divine, constituted for the welfare and guidance of our race. Whether on the part of governments or individuals, no act of palpable cruelty or barbarity, has ever escaped the censure and reprobation of all good and true peoples since the world became civilized; so that in this connection, the oppressed or injured party has always had the countenance and sympathy of humanity, at least. True, that an effective expression of this sympathy may have often been chilled or embarrassed in individual cases by political considerations or unworthy interests; but then the tendency to illustrate it was there, and in this sense alone, it has often exerted a benign influence. Hungary, Greece, Poland, &c., have all, in turn, had the sympathy of mankind; and so have had the oppressed colonies and people of Great Britain. The cruel treatment, treachery and fraud practiced in the name of justice and religion upon the Sepoys of India, by England, have awakened the deepest commiseration in the bosom of all good and true governments, and aroused, at the same time, the strongest indignation even on the part of nations not over-scrupulous of chains themselves. In like manner, the condition of Ireland has, from time to time, commanded the attention of the world; and, through the cruel expatriation of her children, made itself felt more widely perhaps than that of any other nation. When England perjured herself for the hundredth time, and violated the Treaty of Limerick, she exiled to France a host of our countrymen, who afterwards met her at Fontenoy, as the Irish Brigade, and trailed her bloody and broken in the dust. The wrongs of the past were with them. The cruelties of the Henrys, the murders of Elizabeth, the confiscations of Cromwell, and the perfidy of William, so nerved their arm at the period, that their charge upon the English is mentioned as one of the most memorable and destructive on record. But if they had more than sufficient grounds for dealing a death blow to the power of the tyrant then, how must this debt of vengeance have accumulated since; when, to the wrongs already enumerated are to be added the atrocities of the Georges, as well as those of their worthy descendant—that traitress to humanity, whose hands have been just imbrued in the innocent blood of Allen, O'Brien and Larkin, and who now holds in thrall, within the gloom of her noisome dungeons, some of the noblest spirits that have ever breathed the vital air in this or any age of the world? How, we say, must this debt of vengeance have been heaped up since; and may we not, under its terrible pressure, the next time that we have a fair opportunity of meeting the enemy face to face, anticipate a repetition of that glorious charge in every individual descent we make upon her ranks, until we shall have ground her into pulp, and avenged the blood of our martyrs, which has for ages been crying aloud from the ground, "how long, Oh! Lord?"

We have said that the misdoings of nations are, in the order of Providence, attended with a corrective or reactionary principle, which, sooner or later, exerts itself in restoring the equilibrium of justice; and in no case has this been made more apparent than in that of Ireland. When under the frightful pressure of famine, murder and robbery, her children fled her shores, and sought refuge in the open arms of free America, the tyrant who had caused their exile, never fancied, for a moment, that she was laying the foundation stone of her own ultimate destruction, and gradually forming an Irish Brigade on this continent, which should, one day, with a terrible rebound, repay all the cruelties and wrongs to which she had subjected them from generation to generation. She little fancied, that in each individual Irishman that she had driven from his native shores to seek an asylum beyond the seas, she had sent forth an agent of her own destruction, that would colonize, in common with his exiled brethren, the whole world with a sense of her infamy, and build up, on this free continent, an opposition so tremendous to her interests in every connection, that it should command the attention of every civilized people under the sun, and shake her institutions and existence to their very centre. As is invariable in such cases, she administered the antidote with the poison; and transformed the victims of her wrongs and cruelties into enemies and soldiers; and now that, in the aggregate, they assume the proportions of a powerful and antagonistic nation outside her borders, they only await the hour when they shall descend upon her to the hoarse music of their ancient war cry, and, on the banks of the Shannon, and by the Blackwater, smite her hip and thigh, as of old; but this time without generously escorting her broken and disabled ranks to the borders of the Pale, or permitting them, in the hour of defeat, to recruit their exhausted forces, so that the fight may become more equal.

From the landing of Strongbow, in 1171, at Port Largi, then on subsequently called also the Harbor of the Sun, near Waterford, down to the sacking and burning of Magdala, the capital of King Theodoras, in the present year of grace 1808, the history of English rule and conquests has been one of bloodshed, perjury and crime. Look where you may, and you encounter continuous atrocities similar to the massacres of Elizabeth and Cromwell, or the blowing of the Sepoys of India from the mouth of the cannon of the invader. Well may the ensign of England wear an encrimsoned hue; for, from time immemorial, it has been stooped in the blood of the nations: and that too, without her people having ever fought a proud or decisive battle single-handed. Her fame, in this connection, rests solely upon the influence of her gold and the power of foreign bayonets. Scotland and Ireland have been the main stay of her armies; her native element, per se, affecting their composition in but a secondary degree. The muster rolls of the Peninsula, and the supplementary field of Waterloo, have attested this assertion to the fullest. The fact is, her laurels, for the most part, have been gathered by Irish hands. Taking advantage of the proud daring and chivalry of our people, in connection with the poverty and oppression which she had wrought among them, she shook her gold in their half-starved faces, as she does to-day, and lured them into her service whenever she had a point to attain in the field. Through this channel, and through it alone, the fame of her arms became established; the true aspirations of her own sons seldom exceeding the exalted limits of a bread riot, or the sudden exploits incident to some poaching expedition. As a general thing, the English are traders and diplomats, rather than soldiers. Their character for bravery has been won through the lavish use of their subsidizing gold, rather than through any innate warlike propensities on their part. They have never fought for a myth, or an abstract, chivalrous idea; but always for some bread and beef object, however apparently unconnected with the project said to be had in view. In the exemplification of their Christian missionary spirit, too, this feature of their character is abundantly set forth. Wherever they have succeeded in introducing the Gospel among the heathen, they have subsequently inserted the wedge of civil discord, to be followed on their part by the sword of conquest. No more forcible illustration of this can be found than that presented by India, and other of their dependencies that we could name. In Ireland, also, the same spirit has been evinced; but under different circumstances. She was already civilized and Christianized when the invader first landed upon her shores; but in no way was he enabled to totally overthrow her independence, except through the instrumentality of the brand of religious discord, which, for upwards of two hundred years, he had kept flaming at the foundations of her nationality. It was the hostility bitterly fomented between the Protestants and the Catholics of Ireland, from 1782 to the year 1800, that led to the so-called Union, and from this latter period left her, to the present hour, at the mercy of one of the most relentless and unprincipled despotisms that has ever disfigured the annals of the human race.

Edmund Burk was right when he declared in his place in Parliament, if we remember correctly, that the Penal Laws enacted by England against Ireland, were characterized by an ingenuity the most fiendish on record, and an attempt to oppress, degrade and demoralize a people, without a parallel in the history of even the most barbarious ages. Within the recollection of persons now living, nine-tenths of the population were held in a condition of the most abject slavery, and treated as aliens and enemies at their own doors. Add to this the fact, that, previous to the granting of Emancipation, scarce a generation had passed away since their priests were murdered at the altar, or hunted down with dogs, like wild beasts; their goods and chattels seized upon by any emissary of the government, and at a nominal valuation appropriated to his own use; their creed and language denounced and outlawed; their children deprived of the light of learning under a penalty the most fearful; and, wherever the tyrant had the power, their lands confiscated and handed over to their oppressors. The wonder has long been, that, under such a terrible regime, Ireland had not sunk into the most hopeless barbarism, or that England had not absorbed her, until, as Lord Byron once observed on the subject, they had become one and indivisible, as "the shark with his prey." No more desperate attempt has ever been made to blot out a nation, and none has ever failed more signally; for, notwithstanding this dreadful cannonade of ages, backed up with the final and murderous assault of the Reformation and the Georges, Ireland, to-day, is more powerful and united than she has ever been since the sceptre of the Dane was broken upon her historic shores. This fact is sustained by evidences teeming upon us from every point of the compass. A great and mysterious embodiment of her influence, and a vague and oppressive sense of her unseen presence, hang ominously over all the councils of her task-masters, and build up strange dynasties in the disturbed slumbers of even royalty itself. Nor bolt nor bar can shut out the low mutterings of her approaching thunder, or exclude her ubiquitous hand from tracing, in letters of blood, the impending doom of her infamous oppressor upon the wall. Heaven has decreed it; and thus it is, that, in more than one quarter of the globe the exiled children of her matchless hills and vales have multiplied into a positive power, that, inflamed with the memories of her undeserved sufferings, shall, one day, be precipitated upon her enemies with the most destructive and overwhelming effect, and humble them forever in the dust.

To avert this blow has now become a desideratum so great with England, that all her cunning and genius are brought to bear upon the subject. So long as Ireland was dependent solely upon her own resources, and the spirit of revolution confined strictly within her borders, England felt herself competent to avert the evil day, for an indefinite period, through the instrumentality of the rope and the bayonet; but now that beyond the seas, the terrible war cloud of Fenianism fills the whole west, surcharged with vengeance and the great, broad lightnings of American freedom, she reels to her very centre, and begins to loosen her hold, claw by claw, upon her victim, in the hope that her lacerated and bleeding prey may be satisfied with a partial release from its sufferings, and still permit her to hold it in her modified clutch. Here she shall fail, however; for the people of Ireland know her too well to permit her to breathe the same atmosphere with them, or preserve the slightest footing on their soil. They know her to have been a traitor, a perjurer, a robber and an assassin, throughout the whole of her infamous career. Besides remembering her at Mullaghmaston and Limerick, they had a taste of her quality in 1782, when, under the pressure of the Protestant bayonets of the famous "Volunteers," she, by a solemn act of her King, Lords and Commons, in Parliament assembled, swept Poyning's despotic Law from her Statute Books, and relinquished FOREVER all right and title to interfere in the local affairs of Ireland, only to perjure herself subsequently, by creating rotten boroughs and dispensing titles and millions of gold, for the purpose of controlling those very same affairs, not only more effectually than ever, but with the further view of diverting all the resources of the country out of their legitimate channels into her own hands, so that she should be at once the tyrant, and the purse and conscience keeper of our race. They remember all this, we say, and now they are about to call upon her for an account of her stewardship, and make her foot the bill, and that, too, to the very last farthing.

Of course, we are aware that much of the elevated mind and strength which invigorate the Irish element on this continent, in this connection, is to be attributed, unquestionably, to the sublime lessons of the great American people, and the generous sympathy they evince invariably in regard to nations deprived of the blessings of freedom. Time was, we are aware, when the children of Ireland had no such exalted idea of human liberty as they possess to-day, and when they would have hailed the return of kingcraft to their shores, on the restitution of their independence, with every demonstration of pleasure; but that period has passed away, and forever. Having once tasted the blessings, and imbibed the idea of American institutions, they have now cast aside every sentiment of barbarism in this relation, and stepped out on the broad platform of justice and common sense; ignoring the mere accident of birth, and paying homage only to those attributes and characteristics which, in themselves, tend to the elevation of the human family, and which are not confined to any peculiar class or people.

When it becomes understood, that ever since the introduction of printing, and the consequent diffusion of book and newspaper literature throughout Europe, the history and people of Ireland have been subjected by the invader to every description of the grossest misrepresentation, it will create no small degree of surprise, that the country has survived the assault, or that she presents to-day a compact individuality, that commands the sympathy and respect of most of the nations of the earth. Heaven, itself, must have inspired the vigor, truth and heroism which, through a lapse of seven hundred years, have battled for the right against the most fearful odds, and that now arms her, on both sides of the Atlantic, with the mighty resolve which cannot fail to result in her final redemption from the chains of the oppressor. Her vitality in this connection has scarcely a parallel in the history of the past; from the fact, that she has been subjected to a twofold persecution—that of semi-barbarism, and that of civilization also. The atrocities of the hybrid freebooters that invaded her shores in the twelfth century, were not more revolting than those which characterized her rulers six hundred years subsequently, when they were engaged in founding educational institutions, and printing whole cargoes of ten-penny Bibles, for the purpose of pandering to the whims of the age, and doing honor to the spirit of the royal Pacha who moulded his creed to his lusts, and left his rottenness a loathsome legacy to his successors. Yes, the wonder is, that she has survived all this, and, instead of falling into the vortex prepared for her, now stands with her uplifted arm, awaiting the propitious moment, when she can deal a final and irresistible blow to the ingrate that, in days of yore, she had warmed into intellectual life on her own hearthstone.

If there had been anything in the climate, soil, people or geographical position of Ireland, to operate against her prosperity as a nation, or calculated to retard her progress in any connection whatever, there might be some misgivings in relation to the causes of her poverty and degradation; but as the most reliable political economists, and even those unfriendly to the Irish name and race, admit that no such drawbacks exist, we look, of course, to the system of government to which the country has been so long subjected, as the source of all the evils that have so cruelly and pertinaciously beset it. McCollough, Wakefield, Foster, and other English writers, bear the highest testimony to the richness of its soil, the salubrity of its air, and its other great natural advantages. Its harbors, bays, lakes and rivers are among the finest in the world, while its neglected mineral wealth is presumed to be all but inexhaustible. In addition to this, it is stated by Dr. Forbes—one of the Court physicians, who had made a tour of the kingdom—that the inhabitants are of a character the most industrious, and bear up under the oppressive system which weighs upon them in a manner the most heroic. It is to opinions from such sources as these we point, with every degree of confidence, as they cannot be charged with being prejudiced in our favor; and were we inclined to be more diffuse upon the subject, we might quote author after author, and all of English proclivities too, who bear evidence to the suggestive character of the elements of material wealth which we possess in every relation, and which, through the disastrous policy pursued towards us from generation to generation, have been paralyzed and prostituted to an extent that almost defies comprehension.

Why did England violate a solemn pledge, given in 1782, to the effect, that she relinquished all claim to interfere in the management of the local affairs of Ireland, and conceded to the people of that country the undoubted and inalienable right of conducting their own internal affairs upon any basis they thought proper? After having experienced the beneficial results of this policy upon the sister kingdom for a space of eighteen years, why did she revoke the act establishing it, and force the hated Union upon a people, a majority of whom were not free to express an opinion upon the subject, or to resist a measure thrust upon them through perjury, intimidation, bribery and fraud? The reason has long been quite obvious to the world—the manufacturing interests and the trade and commerce of Ireland have ever been and must ever remain antagonistic to those of England. This fact has always influenced the legislation of the latter country, and brought it to bear heavily and unjustly upon almost every Irish project that has been undertaken for the last three hundred years. When any particular Irish manufacture was found to interfere with the interests of a similar one in England, instantly devices were set on foot by the enemy to crush it, or so embarrass it that its destruction could not fail to follow. It was banned and taxed out of the market until it died. In this way, the silk, glass and woolen manufactures of the country were destroyed; the latter having so injured the English manufacturers in the time of William the Third, that they presented a memorial to this dignified and affectionate son-in-law of James, praying that the manufacture in Ireland might be suppressed, as it was interfering with the success of the woolen trade in England; which prayer the king entertained favorably, and promised to grant. In this way, from the earliest days of the invasion, the interests of Ireland have been trodden under the feet of the oppressor; while, in a religious point of view, her people have been held for generations in the most frightful bondage, and constrained to contribute to the maintenance of a Church which nineteen-twentieths of them believed to be heretical, and which had been thrust upon them in violation of every right, human and divine.

Now, however, it is brightening up on the verge of the horizon, and, like chickens, England's untold acts of infamy and oppression, in regard to Ireland, are coming home to roost. In every city and hamlet, throughout the great Republic of the United States, and in every town and village in Ireland, as well as throughout the rural districts, there exists a regiment or detachment of the vast army of the Irish Republic. No matter how invisible the force may be at any particular point, yet there it exists, awaiting the signal to pounce upon the enemy, and avenge the wrongs of ages; each member of it feeling, within his heart of hearts, that those injuries have reached him individually, and that, without the opportunity of wiping them out, even at the expense of the last drop of his heart's blood, the conquest, when achieved, would be almost worthless in his eyes. It is with this element that England, at the present juncture, has to deal at home and abroad; and now that the avalanche, after rolling down the steep of seven successive centuries, has accumulated in magnitude and force most tremendously, and sufficiently to overcome every obstacle that happens to lie in its path, ere long we shall find it leaping in thunder upon the plain, and overwhelming those who so long mocked at its approach, and who now so vainly attempt to stay its resistless course.

* * * * *

RIDGEWAY.

AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE

OF THE

FENIAN INVASION OF CANADA.



CHAPTER I.

On a gloomy evening in the early part of May, 1866, and while astute politicians were struck with the formidable aspect of Fenianism in both hemispheres, a solitary soldier, in the muddy, red jacket of a private in the English army, might be seen hastily wending his way across a bridge which led from one of the most important strongholds in Canada, to a town of considerable pretensions, that lay directly opposite, and to which he was now bending his steps. Although the weather, from the season of the year, might be presumed to be somewhat genial, yet it was raw and gusty; and as the pedestrian was without an overcoat, the uncomfortable and antagonistic shrug of his shoulders, as the chill, fitful blast swept past him, was quite discernible to any eye that happened to catch his figure at the period. Soon, however, he left the bridge and river behind him, and, stepping on terra firma, turned hastily down one of the unpretending streets of the town, and entered a restaurant, out of the drinking saloon of which, several narrow passages led to small convivial apartments, or rather compartments, in which the landlord, or "mine host" professed to work culinary miracles, of every possible shade, in the interest of his patrons. The establishment, although not the most fashionable in the place, was still regarded as respectable, and was, consequently, the frequent resort of many well-to-do tradesmen, and others, who, after the cares of the day had been laid by, generally repaired thither to slake their thirst with a flowing tankard, or indulge in "a stew," a quiet game of billiards or a cigar, as the case might be. From the description of the various pictures which adorned or decorated the bar-room, the nationality of the proprietor was easily discerned. Just over a goodly and shining away of handsome mirrors that, inside the counter, reflected a maze of graceful bottles, cut glass and various ornaments appropriate to the profession, hung a large map of Ireland, very beautifully gotten up: while on either side of it, a neat, gilt frame, enclosing a most excellent likeness of Daniel O'Connell and Robert Emmet, respectively, harmonized in every relation with the map itself. Around the walls of the room, and throughout the whole establishment, kindred prints and paintings were somewhat profusely scattered; presenting unmistakable evidences, that the proprietor hailed from the Emerald Isle, and had no inclination, whatever, to disguise the fact from either his customers or the world.

At the period that the soldier entered the premises, there were some half dozen persons seated in the bar; each discussing his favorite beverage or enjoying his peculiar "weed." Among these there was one individual, however, whose appearance was singularly striking, and who was taking part in the general conversation with an easy flippancy and keenness of observation that showed he was a person of no ordinary information or experience. There was something about him, nevertheless, that, notwithstanding all his efforts to be attractive, was strangely repellent. His small, grey eyes, thin, blue lips and hooked nose, gave an expression to his countenance which was far from prepossessing; while his soft, low, purring chuckle of a laugh, whenever he made a point in his favor through some facile observation that interfered with the deductions of those around him, evoked the idea, that he was some huge, human mouser that was congratulating himself on having disposed of some unfortunate and unsuspecting canary. He was, withal, shapely, and had an air of refinement about him, the most decided, and, quite beyond the ordinary run of saloon habitues. His complexion though somewhat dark and out of keeping with the color of his eyes, was yet pure; while his teeth were remarkably white and brilliant, and apparently as sharp as lancets. In height he was about five feet ten inches; and in age, somewhere in the vicinity of thirty. He was dressed in plain gray clothes; and, from all one might gather from his external appearance, was a person in comfortable circumstances. He was unknown not only to "mine host," but to every one present; having, as he informed them in the ordinary flow of conversation, but just arrived in town, where he had business to transact which might detain him for a few days, or possibly longer. This information had been volunteered before the arrival of the soldier; so that when the latter had taken his seat, he was literally a greater stranger as to the name or intentions of the hook-nosed gentleman than any one present—the former having been communicated to the landlord as Philip Greaves, and the latter, as already intimated, quite freely disclosed during the natural flow of the conversation in which he had taken and still took part.

Perhaps there were no two beings on earth so dissimilar in every relation, as were he and the red coat who now ensconsed himself in one of the chairs, and accepted the invitation to take a friendly glass with the stranger. He, humble as the rank he bore in the service, was a young man of most prepossessing appearance and excellent address. His figure, although slight, was beautifully symmetrical and finely knit. In stature he was about five feet eleven inches, and was apparently as agile as a leopard. The whole volume of his heart was laid open in his broad, manly brow and clear dark eyes; and his laughter rang out now and then, at the brilliant wit or searching sarcasm of his neighbor, in such pure and joyous tones, as to be infectious even amongst those who were paying but little attention to what had provoked it. He could not have numbered more than twenty-five or twenty-six summers; and it was almost painful, in the presence of such manly beauty and so light a heart, to dwell on the fact, that the possessor of both, was in absolute slavery, how carelessly soever he wore his shackles. While both these individuals differed the one from the other to the extent already mentioned, the proprietor of the saloon, in turn, presented an appearance as dissimilar to that of either of his customers as did that of the one to the other. He was a man of herculean proportions, and blessed with as commonplace features as you could find in a day's walk. Every fibre of his frame bespoke the most gigantic strength, while his full, round face glowed with the most refreshing health, and presented at the same time as stolid an expression as could well be imagined in connection with his vocation. Still, there was something in his keen, gray eye and about his mouth, that bid you beware of taking the book by the cover; while an odd word of the conversation that now and then reached his ear, called up a strange expression of intelligence which swept across his features with the speed of light, and then left them as quiescent and apparently unintellectual as before. This individual whom we shall name Thomas O'Brien, or Big Tom, as his friends were wont to call him, although never regarded as being over brilliant, there were those who averred that he not only possessed a fund of good, common sense, but who stated further, that he was a man of great influence not only among the soldiers in the fort, but among many of his countrymen both in town and out of it. Tom spoke very slowly and always in an oracular manner; nor were his movements behind his bar of a very demonstrative character; as no press of custom, whatever, seemed to possess the power of accelerating his motions or inducing him to exceed the steady formula that he appeared to have adopted in relation to serving his customers; still he possessed the jewel of honesty and urbanity as an offset to all this; and, like most large men, was, on the whole, of a kind and excellent temper. When seen standing by the river or in any elevated position, he conveyed the idea of a sort of human lighthouse, or a chimney on fire, so fiercely red was the tremendous shock of hair that covered his towering head. He was still a young man, and, like the soldier, unmarried; although the heart of the latter had gone forth and was in the safe keeping of a charming young cousin of "mine host," who had emigrated to America some time previously, and who now resided with her friends in the city of Buffalo. Tom had preceded his relatives by some years, and had sojourned, up to the period of their landing, in the United States also; but taking a sudden notion, as it would seem, he pulled up his stakes, and, like other adventurers, settled down, apparently haphazard, in the town in which he now lived; and where he had already been upwards of two years; having bought out the "Sign of the Harp," as we shall call it, with all its appointments, from another Son of the Sod, who had made up his mind to go West.

Before the soldier, whom we shall name Nicholas, or Nick Barry, had finished his glass, Greaves entered into conversation with him in relation to the strength of the fort, and the nationality of the regiment that garrisoned it; observing, at the same time, that, of course, as usual, a fair sprinkling from the Emerald Isle was to be found among them.

"Yes," said Barry, "go where you may throughout the empire, and whenever you meet a red coat you will be right in four cases out of six in putting it down as belonging to an Irishman; that is, provided its precise color and texture are like mine; but you would not be so safe in applying the same rule wherever you chanced to encounter the clear, bright flash of the genuine scarlet."

"And why?" returned Greaves, with an inquiring air which seemed to be quite at sea upon the subject; although up to that moment, his conversation was such as to lead one to infer that he could scarcely be in the dark upon a subject so generally understood.

"Because," said Nick, "the Irish are only fit to do the fighting; and that's always done, you know, by the rank and file."

This reply, although not over satisfactory to the interrogator, seemed to afford infinite amusement to Big Tom, who, with a perfect sledge hammer of a laugh, exclaimed when Barry had finished:

"Well done Nick, and the divil a betther could it be said if I said it myself."

This unusual and lively demonstration on the part of O'Brien, seemed to attract the notice of Greaves, who, with the utmost good humor, observed, while glancing in the direction of the bar:

"From Ireland, too, I'll bet my head!"

"Seven miles out of it," returned Tom with a slight twinkle of his eye, "and, of coorse, a gintleman so larned as you will be able to tell where that is."

"Well, for the life of me," observed Greaves, "I cannot divine what you are at, with your 'seven miles out,' but as I'm an Englishman, I suppose that accounts for it."

"He means by what he has said," interrupted Barry, "that he is from Connaught, which, for some reason or other, is regarded as seven miles out of Ireland."

"For some raison or other did you say," returned Tom. "Faith and its raison enough there is for that same; for it was to Connaught that Cromwell and the rest of the blaggards banished or confined the Irish hayros that gave the Sassenach such throuble in oulden times, and that's the raison, you know, that the sayin, 'to h—l or Connaught,' first got a futtin in the world, and that Connaught is regarded as bein seven miles out, by the people who know the ins and outs of it."

This was delivered in a quiet, oracular manner from which there was no appeal; so the conversation continued to flow in a kindred channel—Barry observing that the regiments then stationed in Canada were largely adulterated, as he humorously termed it, with the Irish element, which, during such times of commotion, was considered by England safer abroad than at home.

"How is that?" said Greaves, casting a searching glance towards the speaker. "I should fancy that the British soldier was safe, and true to the crown whether at home or abroad; although I am free to confess, that the Irish, as a nation, have much to complain of."

"And how can you separate the man from the nation; and if a people are oppressed and wronged as a whole, are they not oppressed and wronged individually?" replied O'Brien.

"The inference is reasonable," returned the other; "but as England seems sensible that something ought to be done for the amelioration of the condition of Ireland no doubt the two nations will soon settle down in the bonds of amity and love, and, in a better state of things, forget all their bickerings and heartburnings."

"There was a payriod," retorted Tom, "when England could have done somethin to appase Ireland, but that payriod is past and gone forever! Durin the airly days of O'Connell, the repale of the Union and the abolition of the Church Establishment would have worked merricles. These measures would have done away with absenteeism, an unjust and gallin taxation, and would have given Ireland the conthrol, in some degree at laste, of her own local affairs. If the Act of 1782 previntin England from intherfarin in any degree in those affairs was revived, it would have given the Irish a chance to build up their manufactures and recruit their ruined thrade and commerce. It would have recalled the landlord to his estates, from forrin parts, and re-inthroduced a native parliament that understood the wants and wishes of the people, and that was intherested in carryin them out, and givin the masses an opportunity of developin their resources and turnin their soil to account, that is acre for acre more fertile than that of England, to-day. It would have gathered home from the four winds of the earth the scatthered wealth that has followed the absentee to distant lands and made Dublin and Cork and every city in the counthry alive with min and wimmin, that were able to pathronise Irish manufactures, aye, and pay for them too. All this it would have done and a thousand times more; but as I have already said, the chance has been thrown away by England, never to be recovered by her durin secula seculorum; for now the light of American freedom has fallen upon Ireland, and, pointed out what ought to be her thrue standin, and the insufficiency of what she once would have been satisfied with. In the broad effulgence of its glory, the people of Ireland now persave that so if long as they attached any importance to the mere accident of birth, or bent the knee to hereditary monarchy, they were but walking in the valley and shadow of death. The great moral spectacle of American freedom built upon the broad and imperishable basis of the voluntary and intelligent consint of a whole people, has so upset their household gods and desthroyed the prestige of kingcraft in their eyes, that they now look forward to the total overthrow of monarchical institutions in their midst, and the establishment, on their shores, of a Republic in every particular the counterpart of that which now commands the admiration of the world, across the lines there, and which is gradually sappin the foundation of British rule on this side of the lakes, as well as litherally swallowin us up unknownst to ourselves. This is how the case stands now; so that we can aisily persave, that England has lost the power and opportunity of conciliatin the Irish race; bekase they have no longer a feelin or sintiment in common with her."

These observations, which were made with a degree of ease and eloquence regarded as totally foreign to Tom, actually electrified his hearers, and drew a compliment from Greaves; while Barry, who knew a good deal of him, was so astonished at his sudden and earnest volubility, he could not resist the temptation of assuring him that he was an honor to his country, if not to humanity at large. The other three or four individuals present joined in the sentiment, so that, for the time being, O'Brien was no ordinary personage in their minds, while a quiet wink from one to the other seemed to place it beyond a shadow of doubt, that, in their estimation, Big Tom knew more than he ever got credit for.

When the conversation again began to flow freely, the gentleman, with the hooked nose, turned it imperceptibly upon Fenianism, and the rumored intention of the Organization, in the United States, to make a descent upon Canada at no distant day. At this point, O'Brien put in a word or two, to the effect, that he was not so sure of the propriety of the Brotherhood invading the Province, as its inhabitants were not in any way answerable for the wrongs which had been inflicted by England upon Ireland. Here Barry observed, that although he was not competent to speak on the matter, and had no desire to endorse or countenance such an invasion, he regarded a Fenian attack upon Canada fully as justifiable as an assault of the same character upon England, or any other portion of her majesty's dominions. The empire, he contended, was a unit and no part of it could be assailed, that did not possess, in relation to Ireland, just as inoffensive people as the Canadians were. Fenianism, he presumed, did not pretend to make war upon individuals, but upon a government, in any or all of its ramifications, that was alleged to be oppressive and an enemy to civil and religious freedom; and so long as any people chose to endorse the acts of such a government by defending them, and adhering to the flag under which they were said to have been committed, so long were they amenable to the party who assumed to be aggrieved in the premises, as aiders and abettors of the offence.

This position was so reasonable and so logical that there was but little room for dispute upon the subject. And hence the absurdity of certain squeamish gentlemen who, before and since the invasion of 1866, have denounced a descent upon Canada as not so justifiable as an attack upon the more central parts of the empire, from the assumed fact, that the Canadians are in no way chargeable with the wrongs inflicted by the British Government upon Ireland. Such an argument to a military man, or astute politician, would be the very height of absurdity. The outworks are always stormed and taken before the citadel falls; nor are those who occupy or defend them regarded with any personal ill feeling by the assailing party, and are only enemies in so far as they choose to espouse the cause and defend, at the point of the sword, the acts and existence of a government held to be corrupt and oppressive. From the difference in population and other circumstances, there are a greater number of inoffensive persons in England, in relation to Irish grievances, than there are in Canada; so that, adopting the very style of argument used by those gingerly or subsidized cavillers, there are more causes for justifying a descent, at any time, upon the latter than upon the former country. The truth is, the masses or people of any country are, for the most part, inoffensive on the whole, and are merely wielded by governments with a view to maintaining a power for good or evil, having in many cases themselves no very clear idea of the grounds upon which the field may have been taken; and laying down their arms at a moment's notice, without being concerned as to the expediency or justice of a cessation of hostilities. In truth, even amid armies thundering down upon each other at the word of command, there are necessarily thousands of unoffending persons who entertain not a single feeling of animosity against their opponents individually, and who are but simply the exponents of an idea that their rulers deem necessary to maintain at the point of the bayonet; although they themselves may not sympathize with it to any extent whatever. So that it is apparent, that the invasion of Canada was never undertaken with a view to despoiling or injuring the people per se of that country; but for the simple purpose of making a descent upon a point of the British empire most accessible to the arms of the Republic of Ireland on this continent, in the hope of establishing a basis that would enable Irish Nationalists to operate successfully against a government that had for seven hundred years subjected their country, name and race, to every injustice and persecution known to the history of crime. Such are the contingencies of war, that the innocent are dragged into the vortex by the guilty, and that those who choose to adopt a flag and are found armed in its defence, are constructively the enemies of the invaders, and according to the usages of all nations amenable in the field for the conduct of their rulers. Whatever may be said to the contrary, then, by English sympathizers or weak-kneed patriots, so long as Canada is a portion of the British empire, so long is she a legitimate point of attack for the enemies of that empire, and no description of special pleading can make it otherwise. And here we would advise the people of the New Dominion to look into this matter and weigh the consequences of being influenced by any seeming or real hostile attitude to the government of the United States, or the mighty hosts which are now gathering in battle array in the cause of Irish freedom. England is fallen! Her power and prestige are gone forever! The star of Irish liberty has already emerged from the clouds that have so long lain piled up along the horizon of the land of the enslaved Celt, and no power on earth can obscure its growing Lustre, until it blazes forth in the full meridian, splendor of Irish nationality and independence! Let our neighbors, therefore, we say, not be betrayed into raising a puny arm against the tremendous force that cannot fail to be exerted ere long in this connection, or their redemption from the British yoke and their consequent absorption by the great American Commonwealth may be reddened with more blood than the circumstances of the case really require.

When Barry had finished his few observations on this topic, Greaves, in further pursuance of the subject, and with the apparent view of gathering the tone of Canadian opinion upon it, observed, that if all the Irish population of the Provinces were as true to the sentiment of the independence of their country, as O'Brien and his military friend, there might be some reason for apprehending that the intended invasion of the Canadas by the Fenian organization of the United States, would tend to more alarming results to England than were anticipated by the friends of that country; remarking, in addition, that the Irish element must be very large in her majesty's Canadian possessions, if one might judge from the recent St. Patrick's Day demonstration throughout them, and the various St. Patrick's Societies to be found scattered from one end of the colony to the other; all of which were, no doubt, more or less tinged with opinions and aspirations similar to those held by the two individuals who had just spoken.

"Oh, yes," rejoined Big Tom, "there are St. Patrick Societies in abundance, but let me inform you, that instead of bein national associations, as they purport to be, they are the very sthrongholds of England in this country, and, with scarce an exception, the deadliest opponents to the very indepindence that we have benn jist spakin about. For the most part, they are filled chock full of a pack of miserable toadies to the governmint, which manages to gather into them a pack of rottin, ladin Irishmin who can make speeches, dhrink 'the day and all who honor it,' sing 'God save the Queen,' and talk English blatherskite about the glory of the impire, the army and navy, and everythin else in the world save and except the wrongs of poor, ould Ireland, and the way to redhress them. Why, sir, barrin a word dhropped here and there, you'd think it was in an Orange Lodge you were, if you happened to step in on one of those societies while engaged in celebrating, as they call it, the anniversary of their pathron Saint; for it's nothin you'd hear but 'Rule Britannia,' 'The Red, White and Blue,' and kindhered sintiments, and if a chap did happen to give 'The harp that wanst,' why, its the sweet, soft air they'd be admirin, and the poethry of Tom Moore, rather than the low wail for vingeance that was smothered in the heart of the song itself. What could you expect from sich a St Patrick's Society as that of Toronto, with a gintleman at its head with the freedom of an English city in his breeches pocket, and a desire to emulate English statesmen and English institutions in his heart! Look, also, at the able and larned Irishman who stands at the head of the University of that same methropolis of the West, and whose eloquence so mystifies his faithlessness to Ireland as to confuse you, and almost lade you captive, until, on cooler deliberation, you find that his response to 'the toast of the evenin,' is naither more nor less than a superb burst of oratory, robed in green and goold, but with a heart as purely English as that which throbbed within the breast of the renegade Wellington or the late wily Lord Palmerston. Oh, no! the St. Patrick Societies of America, and of every other portion of the globe, are simply whited sepulchres, or false beacons erected or fosthered by the English governmint to mislade the unsuspectin portions of our race from the allagiance due to their own counthry, by studiously inculcatin sintimints and ideas favorable to English supremacy, which can be paraded before the world as the thrue expression of the Irish people, in relation to the red that governs them, and their willinness to remain as they are, part and parcel of the impire. Sich min as the two I have jist mintioned do more to perpetuate the thraldom of our country than the most unfrindly and subtle statesman that exists on the other side of the Atlantic to-day; bekase they are powerful inemies, by their example in our own camp, and bekase there are those amongst us who are aisily led, and who consequintly fall a victim to their influence and example."

"Sure, we all know, that the Scotch thricksther at the head of the govermint here, could do but little if it was not for such people as Ogle R., George. L., Darcy and 'the docther,' as he is called in Toronto; and thus it is, that although the three Toronto gintlemen that I now name, are, I honestly believe, deservedly respected and esteemed in every other relation of life, they belong body and sowl to the English sintimint of the counthry; and if the most favorable opportunity was offered them to-morrow, would never raise a helpin hand to place the green above the red. But, as this is dhry work, and as I have not had sich a bout at it since I opened here, come, one and all, and let us wet our whistles, for I see you have jist made spy-glasses of your tumblers."



CHAPTER II.

Although delivered in a style somewhat uncouth, there was a great deal of truth and native eloquence about these observations of O'Brien. There is no doubt but the St. Patrick Societies of this continent, and perhaps of the world, are characterized, in no ordinary degree, by the spirit and design to which he alluded. In so far as those belonging to the British empire are concerned, he was right, almost without an exception; for it must be admitted, that these societies are, for the most part, filled with pseudo patriots, who discard all revolutionary theories, and are of the opinion, that the independence of their country, if they ever cast a glance in that direction, ought to be achieved in the most lady-like manner, and with "white kids." Look, for instance, at some of the members of these associations and kindred bodies in New York and in various other parts of the Union, and analyze the spirit which finds expression in their observance of the anniversary of Ireland's tutelar Saint. From the moment that the cloth is removed, until the last of the company gyrates out of the room to his carriage, we have nothing but a war of eloquence between rival politicians who are candidates for municipal or other lucrative honors, or a subtle bid for Irish support through some adroit manoeuvre, by which an adversary is, for the time being, thrown into the shade. To be sure, Mr. Richard This or Mr. John That, may occasionally give us a taste of his research and learning, in a re-hash from the "Annals of the Four Masters," or from some of the leading periodicals of the day; and we may, in addition, be treated to an original poem touching Ireland from some of the various up-hill-workers of the Muses, with whom the great mercantile centre abounds; but as to anything practical relative to the amelioration of the wretched condition of the country in whose name they assemble upon such occasions, that is simply out of the question; all parties, as a general thing, satisfying themselves with a hacknied and stereotyped enumeration of her wrongs, and the usual bland denunciations of her oppressors.

And here we give an illustration of St. Patrick Societies under their most patriotic aspect; for the power of speech which characterizes, this great Commonwealth, and our total immunity from English persecution, enable the spirit which actuates these societies, beneath the skull and cross bones of St. George, to be a little more patriotic here, in its language at least, than it dares to be in any portion of the dominions of England. Still, its positive antagonism to Irish independence, under the British flag, is scarcely more reprehensible than its negative influence in the same direction under the Stars and Stripes; so that Ireland, suffering at their hands alike, might with every degree of justice place them in the same category.

After all, it is the masses that free a nation, and thank God for it. A leader may in vain look for a host to follow him, but a host never in vain for a leader, and hence the defection of a few prominent men from the great, Irish national idea which now so moves this continent, and commands the attention of the world, amounts to but little save sorrow at the stigma it casts upon our race. The rank and file of our people are true to the spirit that fired the O'Neill's and the Geraldines of old; and this being the case, the freedom of Ireland is secured beyond any possible contingency—England is brought to bay at home and abroad. The mighty embodiments of Irish power and patriotism, yclept Fenianism, stalks forth through the empire with an uplifted glaive in its hand, and no one can say how soon or where the swift stroke of destruction shall fall. Its presence fills with gloomy alarm every nook and corner of the land, and paralyzes all the energies of the oppressor. Through its overwhelming influence, the most cherished institutions of the usurper are being overthrown, and the crown and mace all but converted into baubles. It has destroyed the power and prestige of a hereditary aristocracy, and thrown, in a measure, the whole government of the land into the hands of Commoners. The privileged classes, no longer oracular, recede before it, and a great democratic idea occupies the ground upon which they stood—in short, illuminated and impelled by the glorious spirit and impulses which moved the immortal founders of this grand Republic of the West, it has gone forth to avenge and to conquer, and to build up upon the shores of the Old World such a grateful monument to the genius of American freedom, as shall, from its lofty summit, pour its radiance over the darkest valleys of Central Europe, until the frozen grasp of despotism yields to its magic touch and the chains shall fall from the bleeding limbs of millions, who on emerging from the valley and shadow of death into the pure sunlight of liberty, shall sing paeans in honor of the great American people who first taught humanity to the nations of the earth.

When all present had done justice to O'Brien's proffered "treat," and when Greaves seemed to be moved to a friendly view of Irish nationality, in a gap in some desultory conversation that happened to occur casually, this latter worthy asked whether he could be accommodated with a room at "The Harp," while he remained in town, as he was a stranger in a great measure, and having accidentally, as he said, made the acquaintance of one he believed to be an agreeable landlord. Tom replied in the affirmative; for, in connection with the saloon business, he kept a few boarders and had, besides, ample accommodation for more than one occasional guest. Soon then, Greaves, who was to send the following morning to the railroad station for his luggage, picked up a small traveling bag by his side, asked to be shown to his room, as he professed to be somewhat tired, and bidding the company "good night," while shaking hands with Barry, disappeared with Tom down the long passage which led to his sleeping apartment on the floor above.

When O'Brien returned to the bar, half a dozen more of his usual customers had dropped in to exchange a kindly word with him, and taste his newest "on tap." Before reaching the counter, however, and just as he was passing Barry, he whispered something in the ear of the latter, which seemed to arrest his attention, and to which he appeared to answer with a significant nod and peculiar expression of countenance. Barry being off duty, and having received permission to remain in town all night, paid no regard to the nine o'clock drums and fifes audible from the garrison; and although quite an abstemious young fellow, he made himself sufficiently social with the new comers, most of whom were acquaintances. The remainder of the evening was passed in the usual bar-room style; although the conversation for the most part, turned upon the wrongs of Ireland and the mode of redressing them. Now that Greaves had retired, there appeared to be less restraint upon the few who had been a witness of the observations he had made upon the subject, for they one and all seemed to flow into the common channel of sympathy, so largely occupied by O'Brien in this connection. In addition, one of them ventured to remark, that although Greaves pretended to be an Englishman, he was evidently no such thing; for on more than one occasion, he gave utterance to expressions that were not only purely Irish, but tinged with a genuine Irish accent and native peculiarity, that no mere accident could account for, and which was, without doubt, the genuine thing itself peeping out at the elbows of a foreign dress. This idea seemed to find favor with O'Brien, although Barry was not impressed with its correctness, from the fact, no doubt, of his constant intercommunication with the English and Irish element that was so jumbled up in his company.

As it became later, the party began to drop off, until about twelve o'clock, up went the shutters and round went the heavy key in the bar-room door—all having disappeared at the latter period, save Barry and one of his most intimate friends who seemed loath to leave, and inclined to take another glass. No sooner then, were the doors and windows securely fastened, and the gas extinguished, than both these parties accompanied by Tom with a bed-room lamp in his hand, proceeded to a small and comfortable apartment which was sacred to the foot of every individual who was not a tried friend of O'Brien. Here all three seated themselves beside a comfortable coal fire that burned brightly in the grate: when Tom, on extinguishing the lamp, after having lit the jet of gas that hung in the centre of the room, exclaimed:—

"Nick, my name's not Tom O'Brien, or we have got the divil up-stairs!—but what he's up to it's hard to say: although I thought it was jist as well to let him take up his quarthers here, seem that I'll be able to keep an eye on him—now that the times are becomin sarious."

"Certainly," replied Barry, "his appearance is far from prepossessing, but you know, Tom, it's not always safe to judge a man by this criterion."

"That's thrue," returned the other, "but didn't you hear the fella how he wanted to sift you about the Irish sintiment of the garrison, as well as lade us out upon the feelins of the Irish in gineral throughout the Province?"

"I did, of course," answered Nick, "but really thought that the gentleman, being a stranger, was simply asking for information's sake only, and had no ulterior object in view."

"I agree with you, O'Brien," interrupted the third party, who was named Burk, and who had been in the saloon during the period Greaves was present, "there can be nothing good in so cunning a face; but what is the real news to-night, and have you heard from New York or Buffalo?"

"I have harde from both places," returned Tom, "and everythin looks well; but how are things here, and are you all prepared to assist the invading army when they cross the lines; and what number of men can we fairly count upon?"

"It has, I believe, been ascertained beyond a shadow of doubt," replied Burk, "that there are upwards of one hundred thousand men throughout the Provinces who would at once rush to arms if they found the flag of the Irish Republic firmly planted at any one point within our borders; while it is known or believed, that more than twice that number would follow in their wake, if Toronto was once in the hands of the invaders. In fact, Toronto and Montreal once taken, the day is ours, for we should have the French almost to a man, no matter what Monsieur George Etienne or Master John Alexander may say to the contrary. Canada is evidently tired of British rule, and is only kept from kicking over the traces by a pack of government officials who hold the purse strings, and a subsidized press that destroys the homogeneity of the people, by making them doubt each other, and impressing every man disaffected to the Crown, with the idea that every other individual Colonist, or nearly so, is opposed to him. In this way, the sentiment of independence which underlies the nine tenths of our population is obstructed and embarrassed, and one man prompted to look with distrust upon another, although both may entertain precisely the same sentiments in relation to the desirability of throwing off the British yoke. As to how the army stands, Nick here can tell you more about that than I can."

"The army," said Barry, "is just as you might expect it to be. The Irish who compose it in part, are, as you know, not British soldiers from choice, but from necessity. They had no resource between starvation and a red coat; so that their oath of allegiance to the English Crown may be said to have been exacted from them under pain of death. For ages, their country had been devastated and plundered by the power that now holds them in special thrall, and the means of existence wrested from them through the inhuman exactions of a tyrannical government. Their name and race had been banned, their humble homesteads razed to the ground, and their families scattered, naked and hungry, throughout the length and breadth of the land, or exiled to foreign shores. The stranger had stolen in on their hearthstone, robbed them of their lands, goods and chattles, usurped their powers of local legislation, and then closed every door to preferment against them, leaving them without a hope or a crust for the future, on their own shores. Under this horrible pressure, thousands of them necessarily gave way and fell victims to those gaunt recruiting sergeants of the government—Hunger and Rags. Unable to earn wherewithal to keep body and soul together at their own doors, or within their own borders, and perceiving that the commerce, the manufactures and all the native resource of their country were crushed to the earth, beneath the relentless heel of the oppressor, they fell into the pit-fall dug for them by an accursed perjurer and traitor, and, in obedience to the first law of nature, assumed her livery, and swore allegiance to her flag. But think you that either God or man attaches the slightest importance to an oath exacted under such circumstances? Here am I, Nick Barry, now in the service of the usurper, and driven into it with tears in my eyes and rebellion in my heart, and do you suppose that I regard my oath as other than an additional incentive to plot the downfall of the infamous tyrant and robber who hounded me into swallowing it, and who, to-day, keeps the girl I love out of her mother's property, that, on a mere technicality, was laid hold of, and thrown into chancery, by a villainous and traitorous relative, long in the secret service of the government at home, when he found the poor, young thing an orphan, and without a wealthy friend in the world to back her, and that too, upon a claim that hadn't a leg to stand upon, as everybody knew? My soldier-life, and his continued absence in England, prevented my meeting the villain before he died; but as he has left the suit to his son, who, I learn, is no better than he was himself, and is also a great hanger on about the Castle of Dublin, I am in hopes of one day or other meeting this same gentleman, who purports to represent the old villain in this case, when, no matter how the chancery suit may go, I shall hold him to a severe reckoning for the injustice and hardships to which she has been so long subjected through their joint instrumentality. But why should she complain any more than Tom there, whose father's side of the house, once powerful and wealthy, in the west of Ireland, have been all but beggared through the same infamous government, and their accursed agents, who had plundered them of every acre they possessed, and exiled the bravest and best of them to these distant shores?"

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse