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Principles of Freedom by Terence J. MacSwiney

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Late Lord Mayor of Cork


(Late Lord Mayor of Cork)]






It was my intention to publish these articles in book form as soon as
possible. I had them typed for the purpose. I had no time for revision
save to insert in the typed copy words or lines omitted from the
original printed matter. I also made an occasional verbal alteration in
the original. One article, however, that on "Intellectual Freedom,"
though written in the series in the place in which it now stands, was
not printed with them. It is now published for the first time.


I wish to make a note on the article under this heading to avoid a
possible misconception amongst people outside Ireland. In Ireland there
is no religious dissension, but there is religious sincerity. English
politicians, to serve the end of dividing Ireland, have worked on the
religious feelings of the North, suggesting the danger of Catholic
ascendancy. There is not now, and there never was, any such danger, but
our enemies, by raising the cry, sowed discord in the North, with the
aim of destroying Irish unity. It should be borne in mind that when the
Republican Standard was first raised in the field in Ireland, in the
Rising of 1798, Catholics and Protestants in the North were united in
the cause. Belfast was the first home of Republicanism in Ireland. This
is the truth of the matter. The present-day cleavage is an unnatural
thing created by Ireland's enemies to hold her in subjection and will
disappear entirely with political Freedom.

It has had, however, in our day, one unhappy effect, only for a time
fortunately, and this is disappearing. I refer to the rise of
Hibernianism. The English ruling faction having, for their own political
designs, corrupted the Orangemen with power and flattery, enabled them
to establish an ascendancy not only over Ulster, but indirectly by their
vote over the South. This becoming intolerable, some sincere but
misguided Catholics in the North joined the organisation known as THE
ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS. This was, in effect, a sort of Catholic
Freemasonry to counter the Orange Freemasonry, but like Orangeism, it
was a political and not a religious weapon.

Further, as a political weapon, it extended all through Ireland during
the last years of the Irish Parliamentary Movement. In Cork, for
example, it completely controlled the city life for some years, but the
rapid rise of the Republican Movement brought about the equally rapid
fall of Hibernianism. At the present moment it has as little influence
in the public life of Cork as Sir Edward Carson himself. The great bulk
of its one-time members have joined the Republican Movement. This
demonstrates clearly that anything in the nature of a sectarian movement
is essentially repugnant to the Irish people. As I have pointed out, the
Hibernian Order, when created, became at once a political weapon, but
Ireland has discarded that, and other such weapons, for those with which
she is carving out the destinies of the Republic. For a time, however,
Hibernianism created an unnatural atmosphere of sectarian rivalry in
Ireland. That has now happily passed away. At the time, however, of the
writing of the article on Religion it was at its height, and this fact
coloured the writing of the article. On re-reading it and considering
the publication of the present work I was inclined to suppress it, but
decided that it ought to be included because it bears directly on the
evil of materialism in religious bodies, which is a matter of grave
concern to every religious community in the world.

T. MacS.


























Why should we fight for freedom? Is it not strange, that it has become
necessary to ask and answer this question? We have fought our fight for
centuries, and contending parties still continue the struggle, but the
real significance of the struggle and its true motive force are hardly
at all understood, and there is a curious but logical result. Men
technically on the same side are separated by differences wide and deep,
both of ideal and plan of action; while, conversely, men technically
opposed have perhaps more in common than we realise in a sense deeper
than we understand.


This is the question I would discuss. I find in practice everywhere in
Ireland--it is worse out of Ireland--the doctrine, "The end justifies
the means."

One party will denounce another for the use of discreditable tactics,
but it will have no hesitation in using such itself if it can thereby
snatch a discreditable victory. So, clear speaking is needed: a fight
that is not clean-handed will make victory more disgraceful than any
defeat. I make the point here because we stand for separation from the
British Empire, and because I have heard it argued that we ought, if we
could, make a foreign alliance to crush English power here, even if our
foreign allies were engaged in crushing freedom elsewhere. When such a
question can be proposed it should be answered, though the time is not
ripe to test it. If Ireland were to win freedom by helping directly or
indirectly to crush another people she would earn the execration she has
herself poured out on tyranny for ages. I have come to see it is
possible for Ireland to win her independence by base methods. It is
imperative, therefore, that we should declare ourselves and know where
we stand. And I stand by this principle: no physical victory can
compensate for spiritual surrender. Whatever side denies that is not my

What, then, is the true basis to our claim to freedom? There are two
points of view. The first we have when fresh from school, still in our
teens, ready to tilt against everyone and everything, delighting in
saying smart things--and able sometimes to say them--talking much and
boldly of freedom, but satisfied if the thing sounds bravely. There is
the later point of view. We are no longer boys; we have come to review
the situation, and take a definite stand in life. We have had years of
experience, keen struggles, not a little bitterness, and we are
steadied. We feel a heart-beat for deeper things. It is no longer
sufficient that they sound bravely; they must ring true. The schoolboy's
dream is more of a Roman triumph--tramping armies, shouting multitudes,
waving banners--all good enough in their way. But the dream of men is
for something beyond all this show. If it were not, it could hardly
claim a sacrifice.


A spiritual necessity makes the true significance of our claim to
freedom: the material aspect is only a secondary consideration. A man
facing life is gifted with certain powers of soul and body. It is of
vital importance to himself and the community that he be given a full
opportunity to develop his powers, and to fill his place worthily. In a
free state he is in the natural environment for full self-development.
In an enslaved state it is the reverse. When one country holds another
in subjection that other suffers materially and morally. It suffers
materially, being a prey for plunder. It suffers morally because of the
corrupt influences the bigger nation sets at work to maintain its
ascendancy. Because of this moral corruption national subjection should
be resisted, as a state fostering vice; and as in the case of vice, when
we understand it we have no option but to fight. With it we can make no
terms. It is the duty of the rightful power to develop the best in its
subjects: it is the practice of the usurping power to develop the
basest. Our history affords many examples. When our rulers visit Ireland
they bestow favours and titles on the supporters of their regime--but it
is always seen that the greatest favours and highest titles are not for
the honest adherent of their power--but for him who has betrayed the
national cause that he entered public life to support. Observe the men
who might be respected are passed over for him who ought to be despised.
In the corrupt politician there was surely a better nature. A free state
would have encouraged and developed it. The usurping state titled him
for the use of his baser instincts. Such allurement must mean
demoralisation. We are none of us angels, and under the best of
circumstances find it hard to do worthy things; when all the temptation
is to do unworthy things we are demoralised. Most of us, happily, will
not give ourselves over to the evil influence, but we lose faith in the
ideal. We are apathetic. We have powers and let them lie fallow. Our
minds should be restless for noble and beautiful things; they are
hopeless in a land everywhere confined and wasted. In the destruction
of spirit entailed lies the deeper significance of our claim to


It is a spiritual appeal, then, that primarily moves us. We are urged to
action by a beautiful ideal. The motive force must be likewise true and
beautiful. It is love of country that inspires us; not hate of the enemy
and desire for full satisfaction for the past. Pause awhile. We are all
irritated now and then by some mawkish interpretation of our motive
force that makes it seem a weakly thing, invoked to help us in evading
difficulties instead of conquering them. Love in any genuine form is
strong, vital and warm-blooded. Let it not be confused with any flabby
substitute. Take a parallel case. Should we, because of the mawkishness
of a "Princess Novelette," deride the beautiful dream that keeps ages
wondering and joyous, that is occasionally caught up in the words of
genius, as when Shelley sings: "I arise from dreams of thee"? When
foolish people make a sacred thing seem silly, let us at least be sane.
The man who cries out for the sacred thing but voices a universal need.
To exist, the healthy mind must have beautiful things--the rapture of a
song, the music of running water, the glory of the sunset and its
dreams, and the deeper dreams of the dawn. It is nothing but love of
country that rouses us to make our land full-blooded and beautiful where
now she is pallid and wasted. This, too, has its deeper significance.


If we want full revenge for the past the best way to get it is to remain
as we are. As we are, Ireland is a menace to England. We need not debate
this--she herself admits it by her continued efforts to pacify us in her
own stupid way. Would she not ignore us if it were quite safe so to do?
On the other hand, if we succeed in our efforts to separate from her,
the benefit to England will be second only to our own. This might strike
us strangely, but 'tis true, not the less true because the English
people could hardly understand or appreciate it now. The military
defence of Ireland is almost farcical. A free Ireland could make it a
reality--could make it strong against invasion. This would secure
England from attack on our side. No one is, I take it, so foolish as to
suppose, being free, we would enter quarrels not our own. We should
remain neutral. Our common sense would so dictate, our sense of right
would so demand. The freedom of a nation carries with it the
responsibility that it be no menace to the freedom of another nation.
The freedom of all makes for the security of all. If there are tyrannies
on earth one nation cannot set things right, but it is still bound so to
order its own affairs as to be consistent with universal freedom and
friendship. And, again, strange as it may seem, separation from England
will alone make for final friendship with England. For no one is so
foolish as to wish to be for ever at war with England. It is
unthinkable. Now the most beautiful motive for freedom is vindicated.
Our liberty stands to benefit the enemy instead of injuring him. If we
want to injure him, we should remain as we are--a menace to him. The
opportunity will come, but it would hardly make us happy. This but makes
clear a need of the human race. Freedom rightly considered is not a
mere setting-up of a number of independent units. It makes for harmony
among nations and good fellowship on earth.


I have written carefully that no one may escape the conclusion. It is
clear and exacting, but in the issue it is beautiful. We fight for
freedom--not for the vanity of the world, not to have a fine conceit of
ourselves, not to be as bad--or if we prefer to put it so, as big as our
neighbours. The inspiration is drawn from a deeper element of our being.
We stifle for self-development individually and as a nation. If we don't
go forward we must go down. It is a matter of life and death; it is out
soul's salvation. If the whole nation stand for it, we are happy; we
shall be grandly victorious. If only a few are faithful found they must
be the more steadfast for being but a few. They stand for an individual
right that is inalienable. A majority has no right to annul it, and no
power to destroy it. Tyrannies may persecute, slay, or banish those who
defend it; the thing is indestructible. It does not need legions to
protect it nor genius to proclaim it, though the poets have always
glorified it, and the legions will ultimately acknowledge it. One man
alone may vindicate it, and because that one man has never failed it has
never died. Not, indeed, that Ireland has ever been reduced to a single
loyal son. She never will be. We have not survived the centuries to be
conquered now. But the profound significance of the struggle, of its
deep spiritual appeal, of the imperative need for a motive force as
lofty and beautiful, of the consciousness that worthy winning of freedom
is a labour for human brotherhood; the significance of it all is seen in
the obligation it imposes on everyone to be true, the majority
notwithstanding. He is called to a grave charge who is called to resist
the majority. But he will resist, knowing his victory will lead them to
a dearer dream than they had ever known. He will fight for that ideal in
obscurity, little heeded--in the open, misunderstood; in humble places,
still undaunted; in high places, seizing every vantage point, never
crushed, never silent, never despairing, cheering a few comrades with
hope for the morrow. And should these few sink in the struggle the
greatness of the ideal is proven in the last hour; as they fall their
country awakens to their dream, and he who inspired and sustained them
is justified; justified against the whole race, he who once stood alone
against them. In the hour he falls he is the saviour of his race.




When we plead for separation from the British Empire as the only basis
on which our country can have full development, and on which we can have
final peace with England, we find in opponents a variety of attitudes,
but one attitude invariably absent--a readiness to discuss the question
fairly and refute it, if this can be done. One man will take it
superficially and heatedly, assuming it to be, according to his party, a
censure on Mr. Redmond or Mr. O'Brien. Another will take it
superficially, but, as he thinks, philosophically, and will dismiss it
with a smile. With the followers of Mr. Redmond or Mr. O'Brien we can
hardly argue at present, but we should not lose heart on their account,
for these men move _en masse_. One day the consciousness of the country
will be electrified with a great deed or a great sacrifice and the
multitude will break from lethargy or prejudice and march with a shout
for freedom in a true, a brave, and a beautiful sense. We must work and
prepare for that hour. Then there is our philosophical friend. I expect
him to hear my arguments. When I am done, he may not agree with me on
all points; he may not agree with me on any point; but if he come with
me, I promise him one thing: this question can no longer be dismissed
with a smile.


Our friend's attitude is explained in part by our never having attempted
to show that a separatist policy is great and wise. We have held it as a
right, have fought for it, have made sacrifices for it, and vowed to
have it at any cost; but we have not found for it a definite place in a
philosophy of life. Superficial though he be, our friend has indicated a
need: we must take the question philosophically--but in the great and
true sense. It is a truism of philosophy and science that the world is a
harmonious whole, and that with the increase of knowledge, laws can be
discovered to explain the order and the unity of the universe.
Accordingly, if we are to justify our own position as separatists, we
must show that it will harmonise, unify and develop our national life,
that it will restore us to a place among the nations, enable us to
fulfil a national destiny, a destiny which, through all our struggles,
we ever believe is great, and waiting for us. That must be accepted if
we are to get at the truth of the matter. A great doctrine that
dominates our lives, that lays down a rigid course of action, that
involves self-denial, hard struggles, endurance for years, and possibly
death before the goal is reached--any such doctrine must be capable of
having its truth demonstrated by the discovery of principles that govern
and justify it. Otherwise we cannot yield it our allegiance. Let us to
the examination, then; we shall find it soul-stirring and inspiring. We
must be prepared, however, to abandon many deeply-rooted prejudices; if
we are unwilling, we must abandon the truth. But we will find courage
in moving forward, and will triumph in the end, by keeping in mind at
all times that the end of freedom is to realise the salvation and
happiness of all peoples, to make the world, and not any selfish corner
of it, a more beautiful dwelling-place for men.

Treated in this light, the question becomes for all earnest men great
and arresting. Our friend, who may have smiled, will discuss it readily
now. Yet he may not be convinced; he may point his finger over the
wasted land and contrast its weakness with its opponents' strength, and
conclude: "Your philosophy is beautiful, but only a dream." He is at
least impressed; that is a point gained; and we may induce him to come
further and further till he adopts the great principle we defend.


His difficulty now is the common error that a man's work for his country
should be based on the assumption that it should bear full effect in his
own time. This is most certainly false; for a man's life is counted by
years, a nation's by centuries, and as work for the nation should be
directed to bringing her to full maturity in the coming time, a man must
be prepared to labour for an end that may be realised only in another
generation. Consider how he disposes his plans for his individual life.
His boyhood and youth are directed that his manhood and prime may be the
golden age of life, full-blooded and strong-minded, with clear vision
and great purpose and high hope, all justified by some definite
achievement. A man's prime is great as his earlier years have been well
directed and concentrated. In the early years the ground is prepared and
the seed sown for the splendid period of full development. So it is with
the nation: we must prepare the ground and sow the seed for the rich
ripeness of maturity; and bearing in mind that the maturity of the
nation will come, not in one generation but after many generations, we
must be prepared to work in the knowledge that we prepare for a future
that only other generations will enjoy. It does not mean that we shall
work in loneliness, cheered by no vision of the Promised Land; we may
even reach the Promised Land in our time, though we cannot explore all
its great wonders: that will be the delight of ages. But some will never
survive to celebrate the great victory that will establish our
independence; yet they shall not go without reward; for to them will
come a vision of soul of the future triumph, an exaltation of soul in
the consciousness of labouring for that future, an exultation of soul in
the knowledge that once its purpose is grasped, no tyranny can destroy
it, that the destiny of our country is assured, and her dominion will
endure for ever. Let any argument be raised against one such pioneer--he
knows this in his heart, and it makes him indomitable, and it is he who
is proven to be wise in the end. He judges the past clearly, and through
the crust of things he discerns the truth in his own time, and puts his
work in true relation to the great experience of life, and he is
justified; for ultimately his work opens out, matures, and bears fruit a
hundredfold. It may not be in a day, but when his hand falls dead, his
glory becomes quickly manifest. He has lived a beautiful life, and has
left a beautiful field; he has sacrificed the hour to give service for
all time; he has entered the company of the great, and with them he
will be remembered for ever. He is the practical man in the true sense.
But there is the other self-styled practical man, who thinks all this
proceeding foolish, and cries out for the expedient of the hour. Has he
ever realised the promise of his proposals? No, he is the most
inefficient person who has ever walked the earth. But for a saving
consideration let him go contemplate the wasted efforts of the
opportunist in every generation, and the broken projects scattered
through the desert-places of history.


Still one will look out on the grim things of the hour, and hypnotised
by the hour will cry: "See the strength of the British Empire, see our
wasted state; your hope is vain." Let him consider this clear truth:
peoples endure; empires perish. Where are now the empires of antiquity?
And the empires of to-day have the seed of dissolution in them. But the
peoples that saw the old empires rise and hold sway are represented now
in their posterity; the tyrannies they knew are dead and done with. The
peoples endured; the empires perished; and the nations of the earth of
this day will survive in posterity when the empires that now contend for
mastery are gathered into the dust, with all dead, bad things. We shall
endure; and the measure of our faith will be the measure of our
achievement and of the greatness of our future place.


Is it not the dream of earnest men of all parties to have an end to our
long war, a peace final and honourable, wherein the soul of the country
can rest, revive and express itself; wherein poetry, music and art will
pour out in uninterrupted joy, the joy of deliverance, flashing in
splendour and superabundant in volume, evidence of long suppression?
This is the dream of us all. But who can hope for this final peace while
any part of our independence is denied? For, while we are connected in
any shape with the British Empire the connection implies some
dependence; this cannot be gainsaid; and who is so foolish as to expect
that there will be no collision with the British Parliament, while
there is this connection implying dependence on the British Empire? If
such a one exists he goes against all experience and all history. On
either side of the connection will be two interests--the English
interest and the Irish interest, and they will be always at variance.
Consider how parties within a single state are at variance,
Conservatives and Radicals, in any country in Europe. The proposals of
one are always insidious, dangerous or reactionary, as the case may be,
in the eyes of the other; and in no case will the parties agree; they
will at times even charge each other with treachery; there is never
peace. It is the rule of party war. Who, then, can hope for peace where
into the strife is imported a race difference, where the division is not
of party but of people? That is in truth the vain hope. And be it borne
in mind the race difference is not due to our predominating Gaelic
stock, but to the separate countries and to distinct households in the
human race. If we were all of English extraction the difference would
still exist. There is the historic case of the American States; it is
easy to understand. When a man's children come of age, they set up
establishments for themselves, and live independently; they are always
bound by affection to the parent-home; but if the father try to
interfere in the house of a son, and govern it in any detail, there will
be strife. It is hardly necessary to labour the point. If all the people
in this country were of English extraction and England were to claim on
that account that there should be a connection with her, and that it
should dominate the people here, there would be strife; and it could
have but one end--separation. We would, of whatever extraction, have
lived in natural neighbourliness with England, but she chose to trap and
harass us, and it will take long generations of goodwill to wipe out
some memories. Again, and yet again, let there be no confusion of
thought as to this final peace; it will never come while there is any
formal link of dependence. The spirit of our manhood will always flame
up to resent and resist that link. Separation and equality may restore
ties of friendship; nothing else can: for individual development and
general goodwill is the lesson of human life. We can be good neighbours,
but most dangerous enemies, and in the coming time our hereditary foe
cannot afford to have us on her flank. The present is promising; the
future is developing for us: we shall reach the goal. Let us see to it
that we shall be found worthy.


That we be found worthy; let this be borne in mind. For it is true that
here only is our great danger. If with our freedom to win, our country
to open up, our future to develop, we learn no lesson from the mistakes
of nations and live no better life than the great Powers, we shall have
missed a golden opportunity, and shall be one of the failures of
history. So far, on superficial judgment, we have been accounted a
failure; though the simple maintenance of our fight for centuries has
been in itself a splendid triumph. But then only would we have failed in
the great sense, when we had got our field and wasted it, as the nations
around us waste theirs to-day. We led Europe once; let us lead again
with a beautiful realisation of freedom; and let us beware of the
delusion that is abroad, that we seek nothing more than to be free of
restraint, as England, France and Germany are to-day; let us beware of
the delusion that if we can scramble through anyhow to freedom we can
then begin to live worthily, but that in the interval we cannot be too
particular. That is the grim shadow that darkens our path, that falls
between us and a beautiful human life, and may drive us to that
tiger-like existence that makes havoc through the world to-day. Let us
beware. I do not say we must settle now all disputes, such as capital,
labour, and others, but that everyone should realise a duty to be
high-minded and honourable in action; to regard his fellow not as a man
to be circumvented, but as a brother to be sympathised with and
uplifted. Neither kingdom, republic, nor commune can regenerate us; it
is in the beautiful mind and a great ideal we shall find the charter of
our freedom; and this is the philosophy that it is most essential to
preach. We must not ignore it now, for how we work to-day will decide
how we shall live to-morrow; and if we are not scrupulous in our
struggle, we shall not be pure in our future state, I know there are
many who are not indifferent to high-minded action, but who live in
dread of an exacting code of life, fearing it will harass our movements
and make success impossible. Let us correct this mistake with the
reflection that the time is shaping for us. The power of our country is
strengthening; the grip of the enemy is slackening; every extension of
local government is a step nearer to independent government; the people
are not satisfied with an instalment; their capacity for further power
is developed, and they are equipped with weapons to win it. Even in our
time have we made great advance. Let one fact alone make this evident.
Less than twenty years ago the Irish language was despised; to-day the
movement to restore it is strong enough to have it made compulsory in
the National University. Can anyone doubt from this sign of the times
alone that the hour points to freedom, and we are on the road to
victory? That we shall win our freedom I have no doubt; that we shall
use it well I am not so certain, for see how sadly misused it is abroad
through the world to-day. That should be our final consideration, and we
should make this a resolution--our future history shall be more glorious
than that of any contemporary state. We shall look for prosperity, no
doubt, but let our enthusiasm be for beautiful living; we shall build up
our strength, yet not for conquest, but as a pledge of brotherhood and a
defence for the weaker ones of the earth; we shall take pride in our
institutions, not only as guaranteeing the stability of the state, but
as securing the happiness of the citizens, and we shall lead Europe
again as we led it of old. We shall rouse the world from a wicked dream
of material greed, of tyrannical power, of corrupt and callous politics
to the wonder of a regenerated spirit, a new and beautiful dream; and we
shall establish our state in a true freedom that will endure for ever.




One of the great difficulties in discussing any question of importance
in Ireland is that words have been twisted from their original and true
significance, and if we are to have any effective discussion, we must
first make clear the meaning of our terms. Love of country is quoted to
tolerate every insidious error of weakness, but if it has any meaning it
should make men strong-souled and resolute in every crisis. Men working
for the extension of Local Government toast "Ireland a Nation," and
extol Home Rule as independence; but while there is any restraint on us
by a neighbouring Power, acknowledged superior, there is dependence to
that extent. Straightway, those who fight for independence shift their
ground and plead for absolute independence, but there is no such thing
as qualified independence; and when we abandon the simple name to men of
half-measures, we prejudice our cause and confuse the issue. Then there
is the irreconcilable--how is he regarded in the common cry? Always an
impossible, wild, foolish person, and we frequently resent the name and
try to explain his reasonableness instead of exulting in his strength,
for the true irreconcilable is the simple lover of the truth. Among men
fighting for freedom some start up in their plea for liberty, pointing
to the prosperity of England, France, and Germany, and when we debate
the means by which they won their power, we find our friends draw no
distinction between true freedom and licentious living; but it would be
better to be crushed under the wheels of great Powers than to prosper by
their example. And so, through every discussion we must make clear the
meaning of our terms. There is one I would treat particularly now. Of
all the terms glibly flung about in every debate not one has been so
confused as Moral Force.


Since the time of O'Connell the cry Moral Force has been used
persistently to cover up the weakness of every politician who was afraid
or unwilling to fight for the whole rights of his country, and confusion
has been the consequence. I am not going here to raise old debates over
O'Connell's memory, who, when all is said, was a great man and a
patriot. Let those of us who read with burning eyes of the shameless
fiasco of Clontarf recall for full judgment the O'Connell of earlier
years, when his unwearied heart was fighting the uphill fight of the
pioneer. But a great need now is to challenge his later influence, which
is overshadowing us to our undoing. For we find men of this time who
lack moral courage fighting in the name of moral force, while those who
are pre-eminent as men of moral fibre are dismissed with a
smile--physical-force men. To make clear the confusion we need only to
distinguish moral force from moral weakness. There is the distinction.
Call it what we will, moral courage, moral strength, moral force; we all
recognise that great virtue of mind and heart that keeps a man
unconquerable above every power of brute strength. I call it moral
force, which is a good name, and I make the definition: a man of moral
force is he who, seeing a thing to be right and essential and claiming
his allegiance, stands for it as for the truth, unheeding any
consequence. It is not that he is a wild person, utterly reckless of all
mad possibilities, filled with a madder hope, and indifferent to any
havoc that may ensue. No, but it is a first principle of his, that a
true thing is a good thing, and from a good thing rightly pursued can
follow no bad consequence. And he faces every possible development with
conscience at rest--it may be with trepidation for his own courage in
some great ordeal, but for the nobility of the cause and the beauty of
the result that must ensue, always with serene faith. And soon the
trepidation for himself passes, for a great cause always makes great
men, and many who set out in hesitation die heroes. This it is that
explains the strange and wonderful buoyancy of men, standing for great
ideals, so little understood of others of weaker mould. The soldier of
freedom knows he is forward in the battle of Truth, he knows his
victory will make for a world beautiful, that if he must inflict or
endure pain, it is for the regeneration of those who suffer, the
emancipation of those in chains, the exaltation of those who die, and
the security and happiness of generations yet unborn. For the strength
that will support a man through every phase of this struggle a strong
and courageous mind is the primary need--in a word, Moral Force. A man
who will be brave only if tramping with a legion will fail in courage if
called to stand in the breach alone. And it must be clear to all that
till Ireland can again summon her banded armies there will be abundant
need for men who will stand the single test. 'Tis the bravest test, the
noblest test, and 'tis the test that offers the surest and greatest
victory. For one armed man cannot resist a multitude, nor one army
conquer countless legions; but not all the armies of all the Empires of
earth can crush the spirit of one true man. And that one man will


But so much have we felt the need of resisting every slavish tendency
that found refuge under the name of Moral Force, that those of us who
would vindicate our manhood cried wildly out again for the physical
test; and we cried it long and repeatedly the more we smarted under the
meanness of retrograde times. But the time is again inspiring, and the
air must now be cleared. We have set up for the final test of the man of
unconquerable spirit that test which is the first and last argument of
tyranny--recourse to brute strength. We have surrounded with fictitious
glory the carnage of the battlefields; we have shouted of wading through
our enemies' blood, as if bloody fields were beautiful; we have been
contemptuous of peace, as if every war were exhilarating; but, "War is
hell," said a famous general in the field. This, of course, is
exaggeration, but there is a grim element of truth in the warning that
must be kept in mind at all times. If one among us still would resent
being asked to forego what he thinks a rightful need of vengeance, let
him look into himself. Let him consider his feelings on the death of
some notorious traitor or criminal; not satisfaction, but awe, is the
uppermost feeling in his heart. Death sobers us all. But away from death
this may be unconvincing; and one may still shout of the glory of
floating the ship of freedom in the blood of the enemy. I give him
pause. He may still correct his philosophy in view of the horror of a
street accident or the brutality of a prize-fight.


But war must be faced and blood must be shed, not gleefully, but as a
terrible necessity, because there are moral horrors worse than any
physical horror, because freedom is indispensable for a soul erect, and
freedom must be had at any cost of suffering; the soul is greater than
the body. This is the justification of war. If hesitating to undertake
it means the overthrow of liberty possessed, or the lying passive in
slavery already accomplished, then it is the duty of every man to fight
if he is standing, or revolt if he is down. And he must make no peace
till freedom is assured, for the moral plague that eats up a people
whose independence is lost is more calamitous than any physical rending
of limb from limb. The body is a passing phase; the spirit is immortal;
and the degradation of that immortal part of man is the great tragedy of
life. Consider all the mean things and debasing tendencies that wither
up a people in a state of slavery. There are the bribes of those in
power to maintain their ascendancy, the barter of every principle by
time-servers; the corruption of public life and the apathy of private
life; the hard struggle of those of high ideals, the conflict with all
ignoble practices, the wearing down of patience, and in the end the
quiet abandoning of the flag once bravely flourished; then the increased
numbers of the apathetic and the general gloom, depression, and
despair--everywhere a land decaying. Viciousness, meanness, cowardice,
intolerance, every bad thing arises like a weed in the night and blights
the land where freedom is dead; and the aspect of that land and the soul
of that people become spectacles of disgust, revolting and terrible,
terrible for the high things degraded and the great destinies
imperilled. It would be less terrible if an earthquake split the land in
two, and sank it into the ocean. To avert the moral plague of slavery
men fly to arms, notwithstanding the physical consequence, and those who
set more count by the physical consequences cannot by that avert them,
for the moral disease is followed by physical wreck--if delayed still
inevitable. So, physical force is justified, not _per se_, but as an
expression of moral force; where it is unsupported by the higher
principle it is evil incarnate. The true antithesis is not between moral
force and physical force, but between moral force and moral weakness.
That is the fundamental distinction being ignored on all sides. When the
time demands and the occasion offers, it is imperative to have recourse
to arms, but in that terrible crisis we must preserve our balance. If we
leap forward for our enemies' blood, glorifying brute force, we set up
the standard of the tyrant and heap up infamy for ourselves; on the
other hand, if we hesitate to take the stern action demanded, we fail in
strength of soul, and let slip the dogs of war to every extreme of
weakness and wildness, to create depravity and horror that will
ultimately destroy us. A true soldier of freedom will not hesitate to
strike vigorously and strike home, knowing that on his resolution will
depend the restoration and defence of liberty. But he will always
remember that restraint is the great attribute that separates man from
beast, that retaliation is the vicious resource of the tyrant and the
slave; that magnanimity is the splendour of manhood; and he will
remember that he strikes not at his enemy's life, but at his misdeed,
that in destroying the misdeed, he makes not only for his own freedom,
but even for his enemy's regeneration. This may be for most of us
perhaps too great a dream. But for him who reads into the heart of the
question and for the true shaping of his course it will stand; he will
never forget, even in the thickest fight, that the enemy of to-day and
yesterday may be the genuine comrade of to-morrow.


If it is imperative that we should fix unalterably our guiding
principles before we are plunged unprepared into the fight, it is even
more urgent we should clear the mind to the truth now, for we have
fallen into the dangerous habit of deferring important questions on the
plea that the time is not ripe. In a word, we lack moral strength; and
so, that virtue that is to safeguard us in time of war is the great
virtue that will redeem us in time of servility. It need not be further
laboured that in a state enslaved every mean thing flourishes. The
admission of it makes clear that in such a state it is more important
that every evil be resisted. In a normal condition of liberty many
temporary evils may arise; yet they are not dangerous--in the glow of a
people's freedom they waste and die as disease dies in the sunlight. But
where independence is suppressed and a people degenerate, a little evil
is in an atmosphere to grow, and it grows and expands; and evils
multiply and destroy. That is why men of high spirit working to
regenerate a fallen people must be more insistent to watch every little
defect and weak tendency that in a braver time would leave the soul
unruffled. That is why every difficulty, once it becomes evident, is
ripe for settlement. To evade the issue is to invite disaster.
Resolution alone will save us in our many dangers. But a plea for policy
will be raised to evade a particular and urgent question: "People won't
unite on it"; that's one cry. "Ignorant people will be led astray";
that's another cry. There is always some excuse ready for evasion. The
difficulty is, that every party likes some part of the truth; no party
likes it all; but we must have it all, every line of it. We want no
popular editions and no philosophic selections--the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth. This must be the rule for everything
concerning which a man has a public duty and ought to have a public
opinion. There is a dangerous tendency gaining ground of slurring over
vital things because the settlement of them involves great difficulty,
and may involve great danger; but whatever the issue is we must face it.
It is a step forward to bring men together on points of agreement, but
men come thus together not without a certain amount of suspicion. In a
fight for freedom that latent suspicion would become a mastering fear to
seize and destroy us. We must allay it now. We must lead men to discuss
points of difference with respect, forbearance, and courage, to find a
consistent way of life for all that will inspire confidence in all. At
present we inspire confidence in no one; it would be fatal to hide the
fact. This is a necessary step to bringing matters to a head. We cannot
hope to succeed all at once, but we must keep the great aim in view.
There will be objections on all sides; from the _blase_ man of the
world, concerned only for his comfort, the mean man of business
concerned only for his profits, the man of policy always looking for a
middle way, a certain type of religious pessimist who always spies
danger in every proposal, and many others. We need not consider the
comfort of the first nor the selfishness of the second; but the third
and fourth require a word. The man of policy offers me his judgment
instead of a clear consideration of the truth. 'Tis he who says: "You
and I can discuss certain things privately. We are educated; we
understand. Ignorant people can't understand, and you only make mischief
in supposing it. It's not wise." To him I reply: "You are afraid to
speak the whole truth; I am afraid to hide it. You are filled with the
danger to ignorant people of having out everything; I am filled with the
danger to _you_ of suppressing anything. I do not propose to you that
you can with the whole truth make ignorant people profound, but I say
you must have the whole truth out for your own salvation." Here is the
danger: we see life within certain limitations, and cannot see the
possibly infinite significance of something we would put by. It is of
grave importance that we see it rightly, and in the difficulties of the
case our only safe course is to take the evidence life offers without
prejudice and without fear, and write it down. When the matter is grave,
let it be taken with all the mature deliberation and care its gravity
demands, but once the evidence is clearly seen, let us for our salvation
write it down. For any man to set his petty judgment above the need for
setting down the truth is madness; and I refuse to do it. There is our
religious pessimist to consider. To him I say I take religion more
seriously. I take it not to evade the problems of life, but to solve
them. When I tell him to have no fear, this is not my indifference to
the issue, but a tribute to the faith that is in me. Let us be careful
to do the right thing; then fear is inconsistent with faith. Nor can I
understand the other attitude. Two thousand years after the preaching of
the Sermon on the Mount we are to go about whispering to one another
what is wise.


To conclude: Now, and in every phase of the coming struggle, the strong
mind is a greater need than the strong hand. We must be passionate, but
the mind must guide and govern our passion. In the aberrations of the
weak mind decrying resistance, let us not lose our balance and defy
brute strength. At a later stage we must consider the ethics of
resistance to the Civil Power; the significance of what is written now
will be more apparent then. Let the cultivation of a brave, high spirit
be our great task; it will make of each man's soul an unassailable
fortress. Armies may fail, but it resists for ever. The body it informs
may be crushed; the spirit in passing breathes on other souls, and other
hearts are fired to action, and the fight goes on to victory. To the man
whose mind is true and resolute ultimate victory is assured. No
sophistry can sap his resistance; no weakness can tempt him to savage
reprisals. He will neither abandon his heritage nor poison his nature.
And in every crisis he is steadfast, in every issue justified. Rejoice,
then good comrades; our souls are still our own. Through the coldness
and depression of the time there has lightened a flash of the old fire;
the old enthusiasm, warm and passionate, is again stirring us; we are
forward to uphold our country's right, to fight for her liberty, and to
justify our own generation. We shall conquer. Let the enemy count his
dreadnoughts and number off his legions--where are now the legions of
Rome and Carthage? And the Spirit of Freedom they challenged is alive
and animating the young nations to-day. Hold we our heads high, then,
and we shall bear our flag bravely through every fight. Persistent,
consistent, straightforward and fearless, so shall we discipline the
soul to great deeds, and make it indomitable. In the indomitable soul
lies the assurance of our ultimate victory.




Our enemies are brothers from whom we are estranged. Here is the
fundamental truth that explains and justifies our hope of
re-establishing a real patriotism among all parties in Ireland, and a
final peace with our ancient enemy of England. It is the view of
prejudice that makes of the various sections of our people hopelessly
hostile divisions, and raises up a barrier of hate between Ireland and
England that can never be surmounted. If Ireland is to be regenerated,
we must have internal unity; if the world is to be regenerated, we must
have world-wide unity--not of government, but of brotherhood. To this
great end every individual, every nation has a duty; and that the end
may not be missed we must continually turn for the correction of our
philosophy to reflecting on the common origin of the human race, on the
beauty of the world that is the heritage of all, our common hopes and
fears, and in the greatest sense the mutual interests of the peoples of
the earth. If, unheeding this, any people make their part of the earth
ugly with acts of tyranny and baseness, they threaten the security of
all; if unconscious of it, a people always high-spirited are plunged
into war with a neighbour, now a foe, and yet fight, as their nature
compels them, bravely and magnanimously, they but drive their enemy back
to the field of a purer life, and, perhaps, to the realisation of a more
beautiful existence, a dream to which his stagnant soul steeped in
ugliness could never rise.


On the road to freedom every alliance will be sternly tried. Internal
friendship will not be made in a day, nor external friendship for many a
day, and there will be how many temptations to hold it all a delusion
and scatter the few still standing loyally to the flag. We must
understand, then, the bond that holds us together on the line of march,
and in the teeth of every opposition. Nothing but a genuine bond of
brotherhood can so unite men, but we hardly seem to realise its truth.
When a deep and ardent patriotism requires men of different creeds to
come together frankly and in a spirit of comradeship, and when the most
earnest of all the creeds do so, others who are colder and less earnest
regard this union as a somewhat suspicious alliance; and, if they join
in, do so reluctantly. Others come not at all; these think our friends
labour in a delusion, that it needs but an occasion to start an old fear
and drive them apart, to attack one another with ancient bitterness
fired with fresh venom. We must combat that idea. Let us consider the
attitude to one another of three units of the band, who represent the
best of the company and should be typical of the whole; one who is a
Catholic, one who is a Protestant, and one who may happen to be neither.
The complete philosophy of any one of the three may not be accepted by
the other two; the horizon of his hopes may be more or less distant, but
that complete philosophy stretches beyond the limit of the sphere,
within which they are drawn together to mutual understanding and
comradeship, moved by a common hope, a brave purpose and a beautiful
dream. The significance of their work may be deeper for one than for
another, the origin of the dream and its ultimate aim may be points not
held in common; but the beautiful tangible thing that they all now fight
for, the purer public and private life, the more honourable dealings
between men, the higher ideals for the community and the nation, the
grander forbearance, courage and freedom, in all these they are at one.
The instinctive recognition of an attack on the ideal is alive and
vigilant in all three. The sympathy that binds them is ardent, deep and
enduring. Observe them come together. Note the warm hand grasp, the
drawn face of one, a hard-worker; of another, the eye anxious for a
brother hard pressed; of the third, the eye glistening for the ideal
triumphant; of all the intimate confidence, the mutual encouragement and
self-sacrifice, never a note of despair, but always the exultation of
the Great Fight, and the promise of a great victory. This is a finer
company than a mere casual alliance; yet it makes the uninspired pause,
wondering and questioning. These men are earnest men of different
creeds; still they are as intimately bound to one another as if they
knelt at the one altar. In the narrow view the creeds should be at one
another's throats; here they are marching shoulder to shoulder. How is
this? And the one whose creed is the most exacting could, perhaps, give
the best reply. He would reply that within the sphere in which they work
together the true thing that unites them can be done only the one right
way; that instinctively seizing this right way they come together; that
this is the line of advance to wider and deeper things that are his
inspiration and his life; that if a comrade is roused to action by the
nearer task, and labours bravely and rightly for it, he is on the road
to widening vistas in his dream that now he may not see. That is what he
would say whose vision of life is the widest. All objectors he may not
satisfy. That what is life to him may leave his comrade cold is a
difficulty; but against the difficulty stand the depth and reality of
their comradeship, proven by mutual sacrifice, endurance, and faith, and
he never doubts that their bond union will sometime prove to have a
wise and beautiful meaning in the Annals of God.


But the men of different creeds who stand firmly and loyally together
are a minority. We are faced with the great difficulty of uniting as a
whole North and South; and we are faced with the grim fact that many
whom we desire to unite are angrily repudiating a like desire, that many
are sarcastically noting this, that many are coldly refusing to believe;
while through it all the most bitter are emphasising enmity and
glorifying it. All these unbelievers keep insisting North and South are
natural enemies and must so remain. The situation is further embittered
by acts of enmity being practised by both sides to the extreme
provocation of the faithful few. Their forbearance will be sorely tried,
and this is the final test of men. By those who cling to prejudice and
abandon self-restraint, extol enmity, and always proceed to the further
step--the plea to wipe the enemy out: the counter plea for forbearance
is always scorned as the enervating gospel of weakness and despair.
Though we like to call ourselves Christian, we have no desire for--nay
even make a jest of--that outstanding Christian virtue; yet men not held
by Christian dogma have joyously surrendered to the sublimity of that
divine idea. Hear Shelley speak: "What nation has the example of the
desolation of Attica by Mardonius and Xerxes, or the extinction of the
Persian Empire by Alexander of Macedon restrained from outrage? Was not
the pretext for this latter system of spoliation derived immediately
from the former? Had revenge in this instance any other effect than to
increase, instead of diminishing, the mass of malice and evil already
existing in the world? The emptiness and folly of retaliation are
apparent from every example which can be brought forward." Shelley
writes much further on retaliation, which he denounces as "futile
superstition." Simple violence repels every high and generous thinker.
Hear one other, Mazzini: "What we have to do is not to establish a new
order of things by violence. An order of things so established is always
tyrannical even when it is better than the old." Let us bear this in
mind when there is an act of aggression on either side of the Boyne.
There will not be wanting on the other side a cry for retaliation and
"a lesson." We shall receive every provocation to give up and
acknowledge ancient bitterness, but then is the time to stand firm, then
we shall need to practise the divine forbearance that is the secret of


But with only a minority standing to the flag we cry out for some hope
of final success. Men will not fight without result for ever; they ask
for some sign of progress, some gleam of the light of victory. Happily,
searching the skies, our eyes can have their reward. We shall, no doubt,
see, outstanding, dark evidence of old animosity; we shall hear fierce
war-cries and see raging crowds, but the crowds are less numerous, and
the wrath has lost its sting. Men who raged twenty years ago rage now,
but their fury is less real; and young men growing up around them, quite
indifferent to the ideal, are also indifferent to the counter cries:
they are passive, unimpressed by either side. Rightly approached, they
may understand and feel the glow of a fine enthusiasm; they are numbered
by prejudice, they will become warm, active and daring under an
inspiring appeal. Remember, and have done with despair. Think how you
and I found our path step by step of the way: political life was full of
conventions that suited our fathers' time, but have faded in the light
of our day. We found these conventions unreal and put them by. This was
no reflection on our fathers; what they fought for truly is our
heritage, and we pay them a tribute in offering it in turn our loyalty
inspired by their devotion. But their errors we must rectify; what they
left undone we must take up and fulfil. That is the task of every
generation, to take up the uncompleted work of the former one, and hand
on to their successors an achievement and a heritage. Youth recognises
this instinctively, and every generation will take a step in advance of
its predecessor, putting by its prejudices and developing its truth.
Every individual may know this from his own experience, and from it he
knows that those who are now voicing old bitter cries are ageing, and
will soon pass and leave no successors. Not that prejudice will die for
ever. Each new day will have its own, but that which is now dividing and
hampering us will pass. Let the memory of its bitterness be an
incentive to checking new animosities and keeping the future safe; but
in the present let us grasp and keep in our mind that the barrier that
sundered our nation must crumble, if only we have faith and persist,
undeterred by old bitter cries, for they are dying cries, undepressed by
millions apathetic, for it is the great recurring sign of the ideal,
that one hour its light will flash through quivering multitudes, and
millions will have vision and rouse to regenerate the land.


Happily, it is nothing new to plead for brotherhood among Irishmen now;
unhappily, it is not so generally admitted, nor even recognised, that
the same reason that exists for restoring friendly relations among
Irishmen, exists for the re-establishing of friendship with any
outsider--England or another--with whom now or in the future we may be
at war. Friendliness between neighbours is one of the natural things of
life. In the case of individuals how beautifully it shows between two
dwellers in the same street or townland. They rejoice together in
prosperity; give mutual aid in adversity; in the ordinary daily round
work together in a spirit of comradeship; at all times they find a bond
of unity in their mutual interests. Consider, then, the sundering of
their friendship by some act of evil on either side. The old friendship
is turned to hate. Now the proximity that gave intimate pleasure to
their comradeship gives as keen an edge to their enmity; they meet one
another, cross one another, harass one another at every point. The
bitterness that is such a poison to life must be revolting to their best
instincts; deep in their hearts must be a yearning for the casting out
of hate and the return of old comradeship. Still the estranged brothers
are at daggers drawn. Sometimes the evil done is so great and the
bitterness so keen that the old spirit can apparently never be restored;
but while there is any hope whatever the true heart will keep it alive
deep down, for it must be cherished and kept in mind if the whole beauty
of life is to be renewed and preserved for ever. It is so with nations
as with individuals. Once this is recognised we must be on guard against
a new error, which is an old error in new form, the taking of means for
end. The end of general peace is to give all nations freedom in
essentials, to realise the deeper purpose, possibilities, fulness and
beauty of life; it is not to have a peace at any price, peace with a
certain surrender, the meaner peace that is akin to slavery. No, its
message is to guard one nation from excess that has plunged another into
evil, to leave the way open to a final peace, not base but honourable;
it is to preserve the divine balance of the soul. It may be further
urged that we are engaged in a great fight; that to try to rouse in men
the more generous instincts will but weaken their hands by removing a
certain driving bitterness that gives strength to their fight. Whatever
it removes it will not be their strength. In a war admittedly between
brothers, a civil war, where different conceptions of duty force men
asunder, father is up against son, and brother against brother; yet they
are not weakened in their contest by ties of blood and the deeper-lying
harmony of things that in happier times prevail to the exclusion of
bitterness and hate. When, therefore, you teach a man his enemy is in a
deep sense his brother, you do not draw him from the fight, but you give
him a new conception of the goal to win and with a great dream inspire
him to persevere and reach the goal.


If, then, beyond individual and national freedom there is this great
dream still to be striven for, let us not decry it as something too
sublime for earth. It must be our guiding star to lead us rightly as far
as we may go. We can travel rightly that part of the road we now tread
on only by shaping it true to the great end that ought to inspire us
all. We shall have many temptations to swerve aside, but the power of
mind that keeps our position clear and firm will react against every
destroying influence. In the first stage of the fight for internal
unity, when blind bigotry is furiously insisting that we but plan an
insidious scheme for the oppression of a minority, our firmness will
save us till our conception of the end grow on that minority and
convince all of our earnestness. Then the dream will inspire them, the
flag will claim them, and the first stage in the fight will be won. When
internal unity is accomplished, we are within reach of freedom. Yes, but
cries an objector, "Why plead for friendship with England, who will have
peace only on condition of her supremacy?" And an answer is needed. If
it takes two to make a fight, it also most certainly takes two to make a
peace, unless one accepts the position of serf and surrenders. But this
we do not fear; we can compel our freedom and we are confident of
victory. There is still the step to friendship. Many will be baffled by
the difficulty, that while we must keep alive our generous instincts, we
must be stern and resolute in the fight; while we desire peace we must
prosecute war; while we long for comradeship we must be breaking up
dangerous alliances: literary, political, trades and social unions
formed with England while she is asserting her supremacy must be broken
up till they can be reformed on a basis of independence, equality and
universal freedom. While we are prosecuting these vigorous measures it
may not seem the way to final friendship; but we must persist;
independence is first indispensable. Here again, however, while
insisting among our own ranks on our conception of the end, it will grow
on the mind of the enemy. They may put it by at first as a delusion or a
snare, but one intimate moment will come when it will light up for them,
and a new era is begun. In such a moment is evil abandoned, hate buried
and friendship reborn. There is one honest fear that our independence
would threaten their security: it will yet be replaced by the conviction
that there is a surer safeguard in our freedom than in our suppression;
the light will break through the clouds of suspicion and a star of stars
will glorify the earth. For this end our enemy must have an ideal as
high as our own; if thus an objector, he is right. But if in the gross
materialism and greed of empire that is now the ruling passion with the
enemy there is apparently little hope of a transformation that will make
them spiritual, high-minded and generous, we must not abandon our ideal:
while the meanness and tyranny of contemporary England stand forward
against our argument and leave our reasoning cold, we can find a more
subtle appeal in spirit, such an appeal as comes to us in a play of
Shakespeare's, a song of Shelley's, or a picture of Turner's. From the
heart of the enemy Genius cries, bearing witness to our common humanity,
and the yearning for such high comradeship is alive, and the dream
survives to light us on the forward path. We must travel that path
rightly. We can so travel whatever the enemy's mind. More difficult it
will be, but it can be done. That is the great significance and
justification of Nationalism: it is the unanswerable argument to
cosmopolitanism. If the greatness and beauty of life that ought to be
the dream of all nations is denied by all but one, that one may keep
alive the dream within her own frontier till its fascination will arrest
and inspire the world. If this ultimate dream is still floating far off,
in its pursuit there is for us achievement on achievement, and each
brave thing done is in itself a beauty and a joy for ever. For the good
fighter there is always fine recompense; a clear mind, warm blood, quick
imagination, grasp of life and joy in action, and at the end of day
always an eminence won. Yes, and from the height of that eminence will
come ringing down to the last doubter a last word: we may reach the
mountaintops in aspiring to the stars.




To win our freedom we must be strong. But what is the secret of
strength? It is fundamental to the whole question to understand this
rightly, and, once grasped, make it the mainstay of individual
existence, which is the foundation of national life. So much has the
bodily power of over-riding minorities been made the criterion of
absolute power, that to make clear the truth requires patience, insight,
and a little mental study. But the end is a great end. It is to
reconnoitre the most important battlefield, to discover the dispositions
of the enemy, to measure our own resources and forge our strength link
by link till we put on the armour of invincibility.


We have to grasp a distinction, knowledge of which is essential to
discerning true strength. It can be clearly seen in the contrast between
two certain fighting forces; first, a well-organised army, capably led,
marching forward full of hope and buoyancy; second, a remnant of that
army after disaster, a mere handful, not swept like their comrades in
panic, but with souls set to fight a forlorn hope. Let us study the two:
in the contrast we shall learn the secret. The courage of the
well-organised army is not of so fine a quality as that nerving the few
to fight to the last gasp. Consider first the army. What is its value as
a force? Its discipline, its consolidation, the absolute obedience of
its units to its officers, with the resulting unity of the whole; added
to this is the sense of security in numbers, buoyancy of marching in a
compact body, confidence in capable chiefs--all these factors go to the
making of the courage and strength of the army. It is because their
combination makes for the reliability of the force that discipline is
so much valued and enforced, even to the point of death. Let us keep
this in our mind, that their strength lies in their numbers,
concentration, unity, reliance on one another and on their chiefs. A
sudden disaster overtakes that army--the death of a great general, the
miscarriage of some plan, a surprise attack, any of the chances of war,
and the strength of the army is pierced, the discipline shaken, the
sense of security gone. There is an instinctive movement to retreat; the
habit of discipline keeps it orderly at first; the fear grows; all
precaution and restraint are thrown aside--the retreat is a rout, the
army a rabble, the end debacle. External discipline in giving them its
strength left them without individual resource; internal discipline was
ignored. When their combined strength was gone there was individual
helplessness and panic. Consider, now, a remnant of that army, the
members of which have the courage of the finer quality, individually
resolute and set on resistance, clearly seeing at once all the possible
consequences of their action, yet with that higher quality of soul
accepting them without hesitation, pledging all human hopes for one
last great hope of snatching victory from defeat, or, if not to save a
lost battle, to check an advancing host, rally flying forces, and redeem
a campaign. This is the heroic quality. In a crisis, the mind possessed
of it does not wait for instructions or to reason a conclusion. It sees
definite things, and swift as thought decides. There are flying legions,
a flag down, a conquering army, and flight or death--to all eyes these
are apparent; but to a brave company between that flight and death there
is a gleam of hope, of victory, and for that forlorn hope flight is put
by with the acceptance of death in the alternative if they fail. That is
the quality to redeem us. Because it is witnessed so often in our
history we are going to win; not for our prowess in more fortunate war
on an even field or with the flowing tide, not for many victories in
many lands, but for the sacred places in this our brave land that are
memorable for fights that registered the land unconquerable. Why a last
stand and a sacrifice are more inspiring than a great victory is one of
the hidden things; but the truth stands: for thinking of them our
spirits re-kindle, our courage re-awakens, and we stiffen our backs for
another battle.


We have, then, to develop individual patience, courage, and resolution.
Once this is borne in mind our work begins. In places there is a
dangerous idea that sometime in the future we may be called on to strike
a blow for freedom, but in the meantime there is little to do but watch
and wait. This is a fatal error; we have to forge our strength in the
interval. There is a further mistake that our national work is something
apart, that social, business, religious and other concerns have no
relation to it, and consequently we set apart a few hours of our leisure
for national work, and go about our day as if no nation existed. But the
middle of the day has a natural connection with the beginning of the day
and the end of the day, and in whatever sphere a man finds himself, his
acts must be in relation to and consistent with every other sphere. He
will be the best patriot and the best soldier who is the best friend and
the best citizen. One cannot be an honest man in one sphere and a
rascal in another; and since a citizen to fulfil his duty to his country
must be honourable and zealous, he must develop the underlying virtues
in private life. He must strengthen the individual character, and to do
this he must deal with many things seemingly remote and inconsequential
from a national point of view. Everything that crosses a man's path in
his day's round of little or great moment requires of him an attitude
towards it, and the conscious or unconscious shaping of his attitude is
determining how he will proceed in other spheres not now in view.
Suppose the case of a man in business or social life. He has to work
with others in a day's routine or fill up with them hours of leisure
they enjoy together. Consider to what accompaniment the work is often
done and with what manner of conversation the leisure is often filled.
In a day's routine, where men work together, harmonious relations are
necessary; yet what bickerings, contentions, animosities fill many a day
over points never worth a thought. You will see two men squabble like
cats for the veriest trifle, and then go through days like children,
without a word. You will see something similar in social life among men
and women equally--petty jealousies, personalities, slanderings, mean
little stories of no great consequence in themselves, except in the
converse sense of showing how small and contemptible everything and
everyone concerned is. A keen eye notes with some depression the absence
from both spheres of a fine manliness, a generous conception of things,
a large outlook, that prevents a squabble with a smile, and because of a
consciousness of the need for determination in a great fight for a
principle, holds in true contempt the trivialities of an hour. For in
all the mean little bickerings of life there is involved not a
principle, but a petty pride. One has to note these things and decide a
line of action. In the abstract the right course seems quite natural and
easy, but in fact it is not so. A man finds another act towards him with
unconscious impudence or arrogance, and at once flies into a rage; there
is a fierce wrangle, and at the end he finds no purpose served, for
nothing was at stake. He has lost his temper for nothing. In his heat he
may tell you "he wouldn't let so-and-so do so-and-so," but on the same
principle he should hold a street-argument with every fish-wife who
might call him a name. He may tell you "he will make so-and-so respect
him," but he offends his own self-respect if he cannot consider some
things beneath him. One must have a sense of proportion and not elevate
every little act of impudence into a challenge of life to be fought over
as for life and death. It may be corrected with a little humour or a
little disdain, but always with sympathy for the narrow mind whose view
of life cannot reach beyond these petty things. Yet, to repeat, it is
not easy. An irritable temper will be on fire before reason can check
it; the process of correction will prove uncomfortable--the reasons will
be there, but the feelings in revolt. Still, little by little, it is
brought under, and in the end the nasty little irritability is killed
just like a troublesome nerve; and, by and by, what once provoked a
fierce rage becomes a subject for humorous reflection. Let no one fear
we kill the nerve for the great Battle of Life; this we but strengthen
and make constant. Every act of personal discipline is contributing to a
subconscious reservoir whence our nobler energies are supplied for
ever. And so, little things lead to great; and in an office wrangle or a
social squabble there is need for developing those very qualities of
judgment, courage, and patience which equip a man for the trials of the
battlefield or the ruling of the state.


We have considered the individual in business and social life. Let us
now follow him into a political assembly. We find the same conditions
prevail. Again, men fight bitterly but most frequently for nothing worth
a fight; and again those rightly judging the situation must resolve not
to be tempted into a wrangle even if their restraint be called by
another name. What in a political assembly is often the first thing to
note? We begin by the assumption, "this is a practical body of men," the
words invariably used to cover the putting by of some great principle
that we ought all endorse and uphold. But, first, by one of the many
specious reasons now approved, we put the principle by, and before long
we are at one another's throats about things involving no principle. It
is not necessary to particularise. Note any meeting for the same general
conditions: a chairman, indecisive, explaining rules of order which he
lacks the grit to apply; members ignoring the chair and talking at one
another; others calling to order or talking out of time or away from the
point; one unconsciously showing the futility of the whole business by
asking occasionally what is before the chair, or what the purpose of the
meeting. This picture is familiar to us all, and curiously we seem to
take it always as the particular freak of a particular time or locality;
but it is nothing of the kind. It is the natural and logical result of
putting by principle and trying to live away from it. Yet, that is what
we are doing every day. It means we lack collectively the courage to
pursue a thing to its logical conclusion and fight for the truth
realised. If we are to be otherwise as a body, it will only be by
personal discipline training for the wider and greater field. We must
get a proper conception of the great cause we stand for, its magnitude
and majesty, and that to be worthy of its service we must have a
standard above reproach, have an end of petty proposals and underhand
doings, be of brave front, resolute heart, and honourable intent. We
must all understand this each in his own mind and shape his actions,
each to be found faithful in the test. In fine, if in private life there
is need for developing the great virtues requisite for public service,
even more is it necessary in public life to develop the courage,
patience and wisdom of the soldier and the statesman.


A concrete case will give a clearer grasp of the issue than any abstract
reasoning. Our history, recent and remote, affords many examples of the
abandoning by our public men of a principle, to defend which they
entered public life; and our action on such an occasion is invariably
the same--to regard the delinquent as simply a traitor, to load him with
invective and scorn and brand him for ever. We never see it is not
innate wickedness in the man, but a weakness against which he has been
untrained and undisciplined, and which leaves him helpless in the first
crisis. Ireland has recently been incensed by the action of some of her
mayors and lord mayors in connection with the English Coronation
festival; the feeling has been acute in the metropolis. Certain things
are obvious, but how many see what is below the surface? Let me suggest
a case and a series of circumstances; the more pointed the case, the
more interesting. I will suppose a particular mayor is an old Fenian:
let us see how for him a web is finely woven, and in the end how
securely he is netted. First a mayor is a magistrate, and must take the
judicial oath, but the old Fenian has taken an oath of allegiance to
Ireland--clash number one. It is not simply a question of yes or no;
there are attendant circumstances. Around a public man in place
circulates a swarm of interested people, needy friends, meddling
politicians, "supporters" generally. The chief magistrate will have
influence on the bench which they all wish to invoke now and then, and
they all wish to see him there. They don't approve of any principle that
stands in the way. They group themselves together as his "supporters,"
and claiming to have put him into public life, they act as if they had
acquired a lease of his soul. Not what he knows to be right, but what
they believe to be useful, must be done; and before the first day is
done the first fight must be made. However, the old Fenian has enough of
the spirit of old times to come safe through the first round. But the
second is close on his heels: Dublin Castle has been attentive. The
mayor, as chief magistrate, has privileges on which the Castle now
silently closes. There are private and veiled remonstrances by secret
officials: "The mayor is acting illegally; he must not do so-and-so;
such is the function of a magistrate; he has not taken the oath," etc.
All this renewing the fight of the first day, for the Castle, too, wants
the mayor on the bench to brand him as its own and alienate him from the
old flag. It puts on the pressure by suppressing his privileges,
weakening his influence, and disappointing his "supporters." All this is
silently done. Still, the mayor holds fast, but he has not counted on
this, and is beginning to be baffled and worried. Meanwhile a sort of
guerilla attack is being maintained: invitations arrive to garden
parties at Windsor, lesser functions nearer home, free passages to all
the gay festivals, free admissions everywhere, the route indicated, and
a gracious request for the presence of the mayor and mayoress. Genuine
business engagements now save the situation, and the invitations are put
by, but our chief citizen is now bewildered. These social missiles are
flying in all directions, always gracious and flattering, never
challenging and rude--who can withstand them? Still he is bewildered,
but not yet caught. A new assault is made: the great Health Crusade
Battery is called up. Here we must all unite, God's English and the wild
Irish, the Fenian and the Castleman, the labourer and the lord. Surely,
we are all against the microbes. There is a great demonstration, their
Excellencies attend--and the mayor presides. Under the banner of the
microbe he is caught. It is a great occasion, which their Excellencies
grace and improve. His Excellency is affable with the mayor; her
Excellency is confidential and gracious with the mayoress--we might have
been schoolchildren in the same townland we are so cordial. Everything
proceeds amid plaudits, and winds up in acclamation. Their Excellencies
depart. Great is the no-politics era--you can so quietly spike the guns
of many an old politician--and keep him safe. The social amenities do
this. Their Excellencies have gone, but they do not forget. There is a
warm word of thanks for recent hospitality. Perhaps the mayor has a
daughter about to be married, or a son has died; it is remembered, and
the cordial congratulation or gracious sympathy comes duly under the
great seal. What surly man would resent sympathy? And so, the strength
of the old warrior is sapped; the web is woven finely; in its secret net
the Castle has its man. You who have exercised yourselves in Dublin
recently over mayoral doings, note all this--not to the making light of
any man's surrender, but to the true judging of the event, its deeper
significance and danger. Whoever fails must be called to account. When a
man takes a position of trust, influence, and honour, and, whatever the
difficulty, abandons a principle he should hold sacred, he must be held
responsible. A battle is an ordeal, and we must be stern with friend and
foe. But there is something more sinister than the weakness of the man:
remember the net.


The concrete case makes clear the principle in question. The man whom we
have seen go down would have been safe if he had to fight no battle but
one he could face with all his true friends, and in the open light of
day. Having to fight a secret battle was never even considered: threats
direct or vague or subtle, blandishments, cajolery, graciousness,
patronage, flattery, plausible generalities, attacks indirect and
insidious--all coming without pause, secret, silent, tireless. He who is
to be proof against this, and above threat or flattery, must have been
disciplined with the discipline of a life that trains him for every
emergency. You cannot take up such a character like a garment to suit
the occasion: it must be developed in private and public by all those
daily acts that declare a man's attitude, register his convictions, and
form his mind. It gives its own reward at once, even in the day where
nothing is apparently at stake; where men scramble furiously over the
petty things of life; for he who sees these things at their proper value
is unruffled. His composure in all the fury has its own value. But the
mind that held him so, by the very act of dismissing something petty,
gets a clearer conception of the great things of life; by intuition is
at once awake to a hovering and fatal menace to individual or national
existence, unseen of the common eye; and in that hour proves, to the
confusion of the enemy, clear, vigorous and swift. Let us, then, for
this great end note what is the secret of strength. Not alone to be
ready to stand in with a host and march bravely to battle--the
discipline that provides for this is great and valuable and must be
always observed and practised. This gives, however, only the common
courage of the crowd, and can only be trusted on an even field where the
chances of war are equal. But when there is a struggle to restore
freedom, where from the nature of the case the chances are uneven and
the soldiers of liberty are at every disadvantage, then must we seek to
adjust the balance by a finer courage and a more enduring strength. The
mustering of legions will not suffice. The general reviewing this fine
array who would rightly estimate the power he may command, must silently
examine the units, to judge of this brave host how large a company can
be formed to fight a forlorn hope. If this spirit is in reserve, he is
armed against every emergency. If the chances are equal, he will have a
splendid victory; if by any of the turns of war his legions are shaken
and disaster threatened, there is always a certain rallying-ground where
the host can re-form and the field be re-won, and the flag that has seen
so many vicissitudes be set at last high and proudly in the light of




Our philosophy is valueless unless we bring it into life. With
sufficient ingenuity we might frame theory after theory, and if they
could not be put to the test of a work-a-day existence we but add
another to the many dead theories that litter the History of Philosophy.
Our principles are not to argue about, or write about, or hold meetings
about, but primarily to give us a rule of life. To ignore this is to
waste time and energy. To observe and follow it is to take from the
clouds something that appeals to us, work it into life, by it interpret
the problems to hand, make our choice between opposing standards, and
maintain our fidelity to the true one against every opposition and
through every fitful though terrible depression; so shall we startle
people with its reality, and make for it a disciple or an opponent, but
always at once convince the generation that there is a serious work in


If our philosophy is to be worked into life the first thing naturally is
to review the situation. If we are to judge rightly, we must understand
the present, draw from the past its lesson, and shape our plans for the
future true to the principles that govern and inform every generation.
Let us survey the past, taking a sufficiently wide view between two
points--say '98 and our own time--and we see certain definite
conditions. Great luminous years--'98, '03, '48, '67, rise up, witness
to a great principle, readiness for sacrifice, unshaken belief in truth,
valour and freedom, and a flag that will ultimately prevail. In these
years the people had vision, the blood quickened, a living flame swept
the land, scorching up hypocrisy, deceit, meanness, and lighting all
brave hearts to high hope and achievement--for, the whimperers
notwithstanding, it was always achievement to challenge the enemy and
stagger his power, though yet his expulsion is delayed. Between the
glorious years of the living flame there intervened pallid times of
depression, where every disease of soul and body crept into the open.
True hearts lived, scattered here and there, believing still but
disorganised and bewildered--the leaders were stricken down and in their
place, obscuring the beauty of life, the grandeur of the past, and our
future destiny, came time-servers, flatterers, hypocrites, open
traffickers in honour and public decency, fastening their mean authority
on the land. These are the two great resting-places in our historic
survey: the generation of the living flame and the generation of
despair; and it is for us to decide--for the decision rests with
us--whether we shall in our time merely mark time or write another
luminous chapter in the splendid history of our race.


Let us consider these two generations apart, to understand their
distinctive features more clearly for our own guidance. Take first the
years of vision and the general effort to replant the old flag on our
walls. With the first enthusiasts breathing the living flame abroad,
the kindling hope, the widening fires, the deepening dream, there grows
a consciousness of the greatness of the goal, of the general duty, of
the individual responsibility for higher character, steadier work, and
purer motive; and gradually meanness, trickeries, and treacheries are
weeded out of the individual and national consciousness: there is a
realisation of a time come to restore the nation's independence, and
with passion and enthusiasm are fused a fine resolve and nerve. All the
excited doings of the feverish or pallid years are put by as unworthy or
futile. The great idea inspires a great fight; and that fight is made,
and, notwithstanding any reverse, must be recorded great. Whatever
concourse of circumstances mar the dream and delay the victory, those
brave years are as a torch in witness to the ideal, in justification of
its soldiers and in promise of final success.


Let us examine now the deadening years that intervene between the great
fights for freedom. We have known something of these times ourselves,
have touched on them already, and need not further draw out the
demoralising things that corrupt and dishearten us. But what we urgently
require to study is the kind of effort--more often the absence of
effort--made in such years by those who keep their belief in freedom and
feel at times impelled in some way or other to action. They have
followed a lost battle, and in the aftermath of defeat they are numbed
into despair. They refuse to surrender to the forces of the hour, but
they lack the fine faith and enthusiasm of the braver years that
challenged these forces at every point and stood or fell by the issue.
They lie apathetic till, moved by some particular meanness or treachery,
they are roused to spasmodic anger, rush to act in some spasmodic
way--generally futile, and then relapse into helplessness again. They
lack the vision that inspires every moment, discerns a sure way, and
heightens the spirit to battle without ceasing, which is characteristic
of the great years. They tacitly accept that theirs is a useless
generation, that the enemy is in the ascendant, that they cannot unseat
him, and their action, where any is made, is but to show their attitude,
never to convince opponents that the battle is again beginning, that
this is a bid for freedom, that history will be called on to record
their fight and pay tribute to their times. Their action has never this
great significance. When stung to fitful madness by the boastful
votaries of power, their occasional frantic efforts are more as relief
to their feelings than destructive to the tyranny in being. Let us
realise this to the full; and seeing the futility in other years of
every pathetic makeshift to annoy or circumvent the enemy, put by
futilities and do a great work to justify our time.


We have, then, to consider and decide our immediate attitude to life,
where we stand. There are errors to remove. The first is the assumption
that we are only required to acknowledge the flag in places, offer it
allegiance at certain meetings at certain times that form but a small
part of our existence; while we allow ourselves to be dispensed from
fidelity to our principles when in other places, where other standards
are either explicitly or tacitly recognised. That we must carry our flag
everywhere; that there must be no dispensation: these are the cardinal
points of our philosophy. Life is a great battlefield, and any hour in
the day a man's flag may be challenged and he must stand and justify it.
An idea you hold as true is not to be professed only where it is
proclaimed; it will whisper and you must be its prophet in strange
places; it is insistent of all things--you must glory in it or deny it;
there is no escaping it, and there is no middle way; wherever your path
lies it will cross you and you must choose.

Beware lest on any plea you put it by. You cannot elect to do nothing;
the concourse of circumstances would take you to some side; to do
nothing is still to take a side. Priest, poet, professor, public man,
professional man, business man, tradesman--everyone will be called to
answer; in every walk of life the true idea will find the false in
conflict and the battle must be fought out there--the battle is lost
when we satisfy ourselves with an academic debate in our spare moments.
This is a debating club age, and a plea for an ideal is often wasted,
taken as a mere point in an argument; but to walk among men fighting
passionately for it as a thing believed in, is to make it real, to
influence men never reached in other ways; it is to arrest attention,
arouse interest and quicken the masses to advance. And wherever the
appeal for the flag is calling us the snare of the enemy is in wait. Our
history so bristles with instances that a particular concrete case need
not be cited. We know that priests will get more patronage if they
discourage the national idea; that professors will get more emoluments
and honours if they can ban it; that public men will receive places and
titles if they betray it; that the professional man will be promised
more aggrandisement, the business man more commerce, and the tradesman
more traffic of his kind--if only he put by the flag. Most treacherous
and insidious the temptation will come to the man, young and able,
everywhere. It will say, "You have ability; come into the light--only
put that by; it keeps you obscure. And what purpose does it serve now?
Be practical; come." And you may weaken and yield and enter the light
for the general applause, but the old idea will rankle deep down till
smothered out, and you will stand in the splendour--a failure,
miserable, hopeless, not apparent, indeed, but for all that, final. You
may stand your ground, refuse the bribe, uphold the flag, and be rated
a fool and a failure, but they who rate you so will not understand that
you have won a battle greater than all the triumphs of empires; you will
keep alive in your soul true light and enduring beauty; you will hear
the music eternally in the heart of the high enthusiast and have vision
of ultimate victory that has sustained all the world over the efforts of
centuries, that uplifts the individual, consolidates the nation, and
leads a wandering race from the desert into the Promised Land.


If we are to justify ourselves in our time we must have done with
dispensations. Many honest men are astray on this point and think
attitudes justifiable that are at the root of all our failures. What is
the weakness? It is so simple to explain and so easy to understand that
one must wonder how we have been ignoring it quietly and generally so
long. A man, as we have seen, acknowledges his flag in certain places;
in other places it is challenged and he pulls it down. He is dispensed.
He believes in his heart, may even write an anonymous letter to the
paper, will salute the flag again elsewhere, but he will not carry his
flag through every fight and through every day. When a particular crisis
arises, which involves our public boards, public men, and business men
in action, that requires a decision for or against the nation, he will
find it in his place in life not wise to be prominent on his own side,
and he is silently absent from his meetings--he gives a subscription but
excuses himself from attendance. He satisfies himself with private
professions of faith and whispered encouragement to those who fill the
gap--words that won't be heard at a distance--and, worst of all, he
thinks, because some stake in life may be jeopardised by bolder action,
he is justified. The answer is, simply he is not justified. Nor should
anyone who is prepared to take the risk himself take it on himself to
absolve others--nor, least of all, openly preach a milder doctrine to
lead others who are timid to the farther goal, believed in at heart.
Encourage them by all means to practise their principles as far as they
go; never restrict yours, or you will find yourself saying things you
can't altogether approve; and if you tell a man to do things you can't
altogether approve, and keep on telling him, it wears into you, and a
thing you once held in abhorrence you come to think of with
indifference. You change insensibly. Old friends rage at you, and
because of it you rage at them--not knowing how you have changed. You
dare not let what you believe lie in abeyance or say things inconsistent
with it, else to-morrow you'll be puzzled to say what you believe. You
will hardly say two things to fit each other. Let us have no half
policies. Our policy must be full, clear, consistent, to satisfy the
restless, inquiring minds; when we win all such over, the merely passive
people will follow. It should be clear that no man can dispense himself
or his fellow from a grave duty; but for all that we have been liberal
with our dispensations, and it has left us in confusion and failure. On
the understanding that we will be heroes to-morrow, we evade being men
to-day. We think of some hazy hour in the future when we may get a call
to great things; we realise not that the call is now, that the fight is
afoot, that we must take the flag from its hidden resting-place and
carry it boldly into life. So near a struggle may touch us with dread;
but to dread provoking a fight is to endure without resistance all the
consequences of a lost battle--a battle that might have been won. And
if we are to be fit for the heroic to-morrow we must arise and be men


At times we find ourselves on neutral ground. The exigencies of the
struggle involve this; and unfortunately we have in our midst sincere
men who do not believe in restoring Ireland to her original
independence. Perhaps, from a tendency to lose our balance at times, it
is well to have near by these men whose obvious sincerity may serve as a
correcting influence. We have to make them one with us; in the meantime
we meet them on neutral ground for some common purpose. Yet, we must
take our flag everywhere? Yes, that is fundamental. What then of the
places where men of diverging views meet; do we abjure the flag? By no
means. The understanding here is not to force our views on others, but
we must keep our principles clear in mind that no hostile view be forced
on us. We must see to it that neutrality be observed. One of the
pitfalls to be aware of is, that something which on our principles we
should not recognise, is assumed as recognised by others because to
attack it would be to violate neutrality. But if it may not be resisted,
it may not be recognised; this is neutrality; it is to stand on equal
terms. And since grave matters divide us--not directly concerned in our
national struggle for freedom--let the dangerous idea be banished, that
in entering on common ground we decry all opposing beliefs. For men who
hold beliefs as vital it would not be creditable to either side to put
them easily by. No, we do not ask them to forget themselves, but to
respect one another--an entirely greater and more honourable principle.
On neutral ground a man is not called on to abjure his flag; rather he
and his flag are in sanctuary.


When we find the national idea touches life at every point, we begin to
realise how frequent the call is to defend it without warning. It is not
that men directly raise the idea purposely to reject it, but that their
habit of life, to which they expect all to conform, is unconsciously
assuming that our ruling principle can have no place now or in the
future. Their assumption that the _status quo_ cannot be changed will
be the cause of most collision at first; and we must be quietly ready
with the counter-assumption, stand for the old idea and justify it. We
must realise, too, that the number of people who have definite, strong,
well-developed views against ours are comparatively small. This small
number embraces the English Government that commands forces, obeying it
without reason, and influencing the general mass of people whose general
attitude is indecision--adrift with the ruling force. It is this general
mass of men we must permeate with the true idea, and give them more
decision, more courage, more pride of race, and bring them to prove
worthy of the race. They will begin to have confidence in the Cause when
they begin to see it vindicated amongst them day by day; and that
vindication must be our duty. That duty will not be to seek; it will
offer itself and we shall have our test. How? Consider when men come
together for any purpose where different views prevail and general
things of no great moment form the subject of debate--suddenly,
unconsciously or tentatively, one will raise some idea that may divide
the company--say, acknowledging the English Crown in Ireland, putting
by the claim for freedom, in the foolish hope of some material gain.
There is much nonsense talked and confusion abroad on this head, and it
is quite possible a man, believing in Ireland's full claim, will find
himself in a large company who ought to stand for Ireland, yet who have
lost a clear conception of her rights. But he will find that they have
no clear conception the other way, either; they are confused and
generally pliable; and so, when the challenging idea is introduced, if
he is quick and clear with the vital points, he can tear the surface off
the many nostrums of the hour and prove them mean, worthless, and
degrading; and, doing so, he will be forming the minds about him. He
must be ready; that is the great need. Understand how a conversation is
often turned by a chance word, and how governed by one man who has
passionate, well-defined views, while others are cold and undecided. Be
that one man. You do not know where the circumstances of life will take
you; your flag may be directly challenged to your face, and you must
reveal yourself. These are things to avoid. Be firm, rather than
aggressive; but be always quietly prepared for the aggressive man; that
is to inspire confidence in the timid. Avoid vituperation as a disease,
but have your facts clear and ready for friend or foe. Whenever, and
wherever least expected, a false idea comes wandering forth, put in at
once a luminous word or two to clear the air, hearten friends and keep
them steady. If you find yourself alone in the midst of opponents, who
assume you are with them and expect your co-operation, you put them
right with a word. This will arrest them; they will understand where you
stand, and that you are ready; and they will generally yield you
respect. But whether it involve a fight or not, thus do you declare your
attitude. We may conveniently call it--putting up the flag.


It is well to consider something of the opposition that confronts a man
who tries to fill his life with a brave purpose. He will be told it is
an illusion; he is a dreamer, a crank, or a fool. And it may serve a
purpose to see if our critics are blinded by no illusion, to contrast
our folly with their wisdom. Here is one pushing by who will not be a
fool, as he thinks--he's for the emigrant-ship. Ask yourself if the
people who go out from the remote places of Ireland, quiet-spoken and
ruddy-faced, and return after a few years loud-voiced and pallid, have
found things exactly as their hope. They protest, yes; but their voice
and colour belie them. Take the other man who does not emigrate but who
has his fling at home, who "knocks around" and tells you to do likewise
and be no fool--mark him for your guidance. You will find his leisure is
boisterous, but never gay. Catch him between whiles off his guard and
you will find the deadening lassitude of his life. This votary of
pleasure has a burden to carry in whatever walk of life, high or low. On
the higher plane he may have a more fastidious club or two, a more
epicurean sense of enjoyment, more leisure and more luxury; but the type
wherever found is the same. Life is an utter burden to him; in his soul
is no interest, no inspiration, no energy, and no hope. Let him be no
object of envy. Here a friend pats you on the shoulder: "Quite right; be
neither an emigrant nor a waster; but be practical; have no illusions;
deal with possibilities--who can say what is in the future? We must
face these facts." Our confident friend lacks a sense of humour. He
would put your plan by for its bearing on the future, but he proposes
one himself that the future must justify. He tells you circumstances
will not be in your favour: he assumes them in his own. But we only
claim that our principles will rule the future as they have ruled the
past; for the circumstances no man can speak. He calls you a dreamer for
your principles, but he can't show, now nor in history, that his
exemplars were ever justified. We are all dreamers, then; but some have
ugly dreams, while the dreams of others are beautiful worlds,
star-lighted and full of music.


Let the newborn enthusiast, just come eagerly to the flag, be warned of
hours of depression that seize even the most earnest, the boldest and
the strongest. Our work is the work of men, subject to such vicissitudes
as hover around all human enterprise; and every man enrolled must face
hard struggles and dark hours. Then the depression rushes down like a
horrible, cold, dark mist that obscures every beautiful thing and every
ray of hope. It may come from many causes: perhaps, a body not too
robust, worn down by a tireless mind; perhaps, the memory of long years
of effort, seemingly swallowed in oblivion and futility; perhaps contact
with men on your own side whose presence there is a puzzle, who have no
character and no conception of the grandeur of the Cause, and whose
mean, petty, underhand jealousies numb you--you who think anyone
claiming so fine a flag as ours should be naturally brave,
straightforward and generous; perhaps the seemingly overwhelming
strength of the enemy, and the listlessness of thousands who would hail
freedom with rapture, but who now stand aloof in despair--and along with
all this and intensifying it, the voice of our self-complacent practical
friend, who has but sarcasm for a high impulse, and for an immutable
principle the latest expedient of the hour. Through such an experience
must the soldier of freedom live. But as surely as such an hour comes,
there comes also a star to break the darkened sky; let those who feel
the battle-weariness at times remember. When in places there may be but
one or two to fight, it may seem of no avail; still let them be true
and their numbers will be multiplied: love of truth is infectious. When
progress is arrested, don't brood on what is, but on what was once
achieved, what has since survived, and what we may yet achieve. If some
have grown lax and temporise a little, with more firmness on your part
mingle a little sympathy for them. It is harder to live a consistent
life than die a brave death. Most men of generous instincts would rouse
all their courage to a supreme moment and die for the Cause; but to rise
to that supreme moment frequently and without warning is the burden of
life for the Cause; and it is because of its exhausting strain and
exacting demands that so many men have failed. We must get men to
realise that to live is as daring as to die. But confusion has been made
in our time by the glib phrase: "You are not asked now to die for
Ireland, but to live for her," without insisting that the life shall aim
at the ideal, the brave and the true. To slip apologetically through
existence is not life. If such a mean philosophy went abroad, we would
soon find the land a place of shivering creatures, without the capacity
to live or the courage to die--calamity, surely. All these circumstances
make for the hour of depression; and it may well be in such an hour,
amid apathy and treachery, cold friends and active enemies, with
worn-down frame and baffled mind, you, pleading for the Old Cause, may
feel your voice is indeed a voice crying in the wilderness; and it may
serve till the blood warms again and the imagination recover its glow,
to think how a Voice, that cried in the wilderness thousands of years
ago, is potent and inspiring now, where the voice of the "practical" man
sends no whisper across the waste of years.


What, then, to conclude, must be our decision? To take our philosophy
into life. When we do that generally, in a deep and significant sense
our War of Independence will have begun. Let there be no deferring a
duty to a more convenient future. It is as possible that an opening for
freedom may be thrust on us, as that we shall be required to organise a
formal war with the usual movements of armies; in our assumptions for
the second, let us not be guilty of the fatal error of overlooking the
first. As in other spheres, so in politics we have our conventions; and
how little they may be proven has been lately seen, when England went
through a war of debate,[Footnote: Debate over House of Lords.] largely
unreal, over her constitution and her liberties, even while foreign wars
and complications were still being debated; and in the middle of it all,
suddenly, from a local labour dispute, putting by all thought of the
constitution, feeling as comparatively insignificant the fear of
invasion, all England stood shuddering on the verge of frantic civil
war;[Footnote: The Railway strike.] and all Ireland, when the moment of
possible freedom was given, when England might have been hardly able to
save herself, much less to hold us--Ireland, thinking and working in old
grooves, lay helpless. Let us draw the moral. We cannot tell what
unsuspected development may spring on us from the future, but we can
always be prepared by understanding that the vital hour is the hour at
hand. Let the brave choice now be made, and let the life around be
governed by it; let every man stand to his colours and strike his flag
to none; then shall we recover ground in all directions, and our time
shall be recorded, not with the deadening but with the luminous years.
In all the vicissitudes of the fight, let us not be distracted by the
meanness of the mere time-server nor the treachery of the enemy, but be
collected and cool; and remembering the many who are not with us from
honest motives or unsuspected fears, live to show our belief beautiful
and true and, in the eternal sense, practical. Then shall those who are
worth convincing be held, and our difference may reduce itself to what
is possible; then will they come to realise that he who maintains a
great faith unshaken will make more things possible than the opportunist
of the hour; then will they understand how much more is possible than
they had ever dared to dream: they will have a vision of the goal; and
with that vision will be born a steady enthusiasm, a clear purpose, and
a resolute soul. The regeneration of the land will be no longer a
distant dream but a shaping reality; the living flame will sweep through
all hearts again; and Ireland will enter her last battle for freedom to
emerge and reassume her place among the nations of the earth.




To be loyal to his cause is the finest tribute that can be paid to any
man. And since loyalty to the Irish cause has been the great virtue of
Irishmen through all history, it is time to have some clear thinking as
to who are the Irish rebels and who the true men. When a stupid
Government, grasping our reverence for fidelity, tried to ban our heroes
by calling them felons, it was natural we should rejoin by writing "The
Felons of our Land" and heap ridicule on their purpose. But once this
end was achieved we should have reverted to the normal attitude and
written up as the true Irish Loyalists, Brian the Great, and Shane the
Proud, the valiant Owen Roe and the peerless Tone, Mitchel and
Davis--irreconcilables all. When men revolt against an established evil
it is their loyalty to the outraged truth we honour. We do not extol a
rebel who rebels for rebellion's sake. Let us be clear on this point, or
when we shall have re-established our freedom after centuries of effort
it shall be open to every knave and traitor to challenge our
independence and plot to readmit the enemy. Loyalty is the fine
attribute of the fine nature; the word has been misused and maligned in
Ireland: let us restore it to its rightful honour by remembering it to
be the virtue of our heroes of all time. In considering it from this
view-point we shall find occasion to touch on delicate positions that
have often baffled and worried us--the asserting of our rights while
using the machinery of the Government that denies them, the burning
question of consistency, our attitude towards the political adventurer
on one hand, and towards the honest man of half-measures on the other.
Loyalty involves all this. And it shows that the man who revolts to win
freedom is the same as he who dies to defend it. He does not change his
face and nature with the changing times. He is loyal always and most
wonderfully lovable, because in the darkest times, when banned as wild,
wicked and rebelly, he is loyal still as from the beginning, and will be
to the end. Yes, Tone is the true Irish Loyalist, and every aider and
abettor of the enemy a rebel to Ireland and the Irish race.


When you insist on examining the question in the light of first
principles your opportunist opponent at once feels the weakness of his
position and always turns the point on your consistency. It is well,
then, in advance to understand the relative value and importance of
argument as argument in the statement of any case. A body of principles
is primarily of value, not as affording a case that can be argued with
ingenuity, but as enshrining one great principle that shines through and
informs the rest, that illumines the mind of the individual, that warms,
clarifies and invigorates--that, so to speak, puts the mind in focus,
gets the facts of existence into perspective, and gives the individual
everything in its right place and true proportion. It brings a man to
the point where he does not dispute but believes. He has been wandering
about cold and irresolute, tasting all philosophies, or none, and
drinking deep despair. He does not understand the want in his soul while
he has been looking for some panacea for its cure till the great light
streams on him, and instead of receiving something he finds himself.
That is it. There is a power of vision latent in us, clouded by error;
the true philosophy dissipates the cloud and leaves the vision clear,
wonderful and inspiring. He who acquired that vision is impervious to
argument--it is not that he despises argument; on the contrary, he
always uses it to its full strength. But he has had awakened within him

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