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Principles of Freedom by Terence J. MacSwiney

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when, as just now, so much nonsense, and dangerous nonsense, is being
poured abroad about the Empire, we need to pause, carefully consider all
these things, and be on our guard.

V

In conclusion, we may add our own word to the talk of the hour--the
politicians on Home Rule. It should raise a smile to hear so often the
prophecy that Ireland will be loyal to the Empire when she gets Home
Rule. We are surprised that any Irishman could be so foolish, though, no
doubt, many Englishmen are so simple as to believe it. History and
experience alike deny it. Possibly the Home Rule chiefs realise their
active service is now limited to a decade or two, and assume Home Rule
may be the limit for that time, and speak only for that time; but at the
end of that time our generation will be vigorous and combative, and if
we cannot come into our own before then, we shall be ready then. We need
say for the moment no more than this--the limit of the old generation
is not the limit of ours. If anyone doubt the further step to take let
him consider our history, recent and remote. The old effort to subdue or
exterminate us having failed, the new effort to conciliate us began.
Minor concessions led to the bigger question of the land. One Land Act
led to another till the people came by their own. Home Rule, first to be
killed by resolute government, was next to be killed by kindness, and
Local Government came. Local Government made Home Rule inevitable; and
now Home Rule is at hand and we come to the last step. Anyone who reads
the history of Ireland, who understands anything of progress, who can
draw any lesson from experience, must realise that the advent of Home
Rule marks the beginning of the end.

CHAPTER XVI

RESISTANCE IN ARMS--FOREWORD

I

The discussion of freedom leads inevitably to the discussion of an
appeal to arms. If proving the truth and justice of a people's claim
were sufficient there would be little tyranny in the world, but a
tyrannical power is deaf to the appeal of truth--it cannot be moved by
argument, and must be met by force. The discussion of the ethics of
revolt is, then, inevitable.

II

The ubiquitous pseudo-practical man, petulant and critical, will at once
arise: "What is the use of discussing arms in Ireland? If anyone wanted
to fight it would be impossible, and no one wants to fight. What
prevents ye going out to begin?" Such peevish criticism is anything but
practical, and one may ignore it; but it suggests the many who would
earnestly wish to settle our long war with a swift, conclusive fight,
yet who feel it no longer practical. Keeping to the practical issue, we
must bear in mind a few things. Though Ireland has often fought at odds,
and could do so again, it is not just now a question of Ireland poorly
equipped standing up to England invincible. England will never again
have such an easy battle. The point now to emphasise is this--by
remaining passive and letting ourselves drift we drift into the conflict
that involves England. We must fight for her or get clear of her. There
can be no neutrality while bound to her; so a military policy is an
eminently practical question. Moreover, it is an urgent one: to stand in
with England in any danger that threatens her will be at least as
dangerous as a bold bid to break away from her. One thing above all,
conditions have changed in a startling manner; England is threatened
within as without; there are labour complications of all kinds of which
no one can foresee the end, while as a result of another complication
we find the Prime Minister of England going about as carefully protected
as the Czar of Russia.[Footnote: The militant suffragette agitation.]
The unrest of the times is apt to be even bewildering. England is not
alone in her troubles--all the great Powers are likewise; and it is at
least as likely for any one of them to be paralysed by an internal war
as to be prepared to wage an external one. This stands put clearly--we
cannot go away from the turmoil and sit down undisturbed; we must stand
in and fight for our own hand or the hand of someone else. Let us
prepare and stand for our own. However it be, no one can deny that in
all the present upheavals it is at least practical to discuss the ethics
of revolt.

III

We can count on a minority who will see wisdom in such a discussion; it
must be our aim to make the discussion effective. We must be patient as
well as resolute. We are apt to get impatient and by hasty denunciation
drive off many who are wavering and may be won. These are held back,
perhaps, by some scruple or nervousness, and by a fine breath of the
truth and a natural discipline may yet be made our truest soldiers.
Emerson, in his address at the dedication of the Soldiers' Monument,
Concord, made touching reference in some such in the American Civil War.
He told of one youth he knew who feared he was a coward, and yet
accustomed himself to danger, by forcing himself to go and meet it. "He
enlisted in New York," says Emerson, "went out to the field, and died
early." And his comment for us should be eloquent. "It is from this
temperament of sensibility that great heroes have been formed." The
pains we are at to make men physically fit we must take likewise to make
them mentally fit. We are minutely careful in physical training, drill
regulations and the rest, which is right, for thus we turn a mob into an
army and helplessness into strength. Let us be minutely careful, too,
with the untried minds--timid, anxious, sensitive in matters of
conscience; like him Emerson spoke of, they may be found yet in the
foremost fighting line, but we must have patience in pleading with them.
Here above all must we keep our balance, must we come down with sympathy
to every particular. It is surely evident that it is essential to give
the care we lavish on the body with equal fulness to the mind.

IV

At the heart of the question we will be met by the religious objection
to revolt. Here all scruples, timidity, wavering, will concentrate; and
here is our chief difficulty to face. The right to war is invariably
allowed to independent states. The right to rebel, even with just cause,
is not by any means invariably allowed to subject nations. It has been
and is denied to us in Ireland. We must answer objectors line by line,
leading them, where it serves, step by step to our conclusions; but this
is not to make freedom a mere matter of logic--it is something more.
When it comes to war we shall frequently give, not our promises, but our
conclusions. This much must be allowed, however, that, as far as logic
will carry, our position must be perfectly sound; yet, be it borne in
mind, our cause reaches above mere reasoning--mere logic does not
enshrine the mysterious touch of fire that is our life. So, when we
argue with opponents we undertake to give them as good as or better than
they can give, but we stake our cause on the something that is more. On
this ground I argue not in general on the right of war, but in
particular on the right of revolt; not how it may touch other people
elsewhere ignoring how it touches us here in Ireland. A large treatise
could be written on the general question, but to avoid seeming academic
I will confine myself as far as possible to the side that is our
concern. For obvious reasons I propose to speak as to how it affects
Catholics, and let them and others know what some Catholic writers of
authority have said on the matter. One thing has to be carefully made
clear. It is seen in the following quotation from an eminent Catholic
authority writing in Ireland in the middle of the last century, Dr.
Murray, of Maynooth: "The Church has issued no definition whatever on
the question--has left it open. Many theologians have written on it; the
great majority, however (so far as I have been able to examine them),
pass it over in silence." (_Essays chiefly Theological_, vol. 4). This
has to be kept in mind. Theologians have written, some on one side and
some on the other, but the Church has left it open. I need not labour
the point why it is useful to quote Catholic authorities in particular,
since in Ireland an army representative of the people would be largely
Catholic, and much former difficulty arose from Catholics in Ireland
meeting with opposition from some Catholic authorities. It may be seen
the position is delicate as well as difficult, and in writing a
preliminary note one point should be emphasised. We must not evade a
difficulty because it is delicate and dangerous, and we must not
temporise. In a physical contest on the field of battle it is allowable
to use tactics and strategy, to retreat as well as advance, to have
recourse to a ruse as well as open attack; but _in matters of principle
there can be no tactics, there is one straightforward course to follow,
and that course must be found and followed without swerving to the end_.

CHAPTER XVII

RESISTANCE IN ARMS--THE TRUE MEANING OF LAW

I

When we stand up to question false authority we should first make our
footing firm by showing we understand true authority and uphold it. Let
us be clear then as to the meaning of the word law. It may be defined;
an ordinance of reason, the aim of which is the public good and
promulgated by the ruling power. Let us cite a few authorities. "A human
law bears the character of law so far as it is in conformity with right
reason; and in that point of view it is manifestly derived from the
Eternal Law." (_Aquinas Ethicus,_ Vol. 1, p. 276.) Writing of laws that
are unjust either in respect to end, author or form, St. Thomas says:
"Such proceedings are rather acts of violence than laws; because St.
Augustine says: 'A law that is not just goes for no law at all.'"
(_Aquinas Ethicus_, Vol. 1, p. 292.) "The fundamental idea of all law,"
writes Balmez, "is that it be in accordance with reason, that it be an
emanation from reason, an application of reason to society" (_European
Civilisation_, Chap. 53). In the same chapter Balmez quotes St. Thomas
with approval: "The kingdom is not made for the king, but the king for
the kingdom"; and he goes on to the natural inference: "That all
governments have been established for the good of society, and that this
alone should be the compass to guide those who are in command, whatever
be the form of government." It is likewise the view of Mill, in
_Representative Government_, that the well-being of the governed is the
sole object of government. It was the view of Plato before the Christian
era: his ideal city should be established, "that the whole City might be
in the happiest condition." (_The Republic_, Book 4.) Calderwood writes:
"Political Government can be legitimately constructed only on condition
of the acknowledgment of natural obligations and rights as inviolable."
(_Handbook of Modern Philosophy, Applied Ethics_, Sec. 4.) Here all
schools and all times are in agreement. Till these conditions are
fulfilled for us we are at war. When an independent and genuine Irish
Government is established we shall yield it a full and hearty
allegiance: the law shall then be in repute. We do not stand now to deny
the idea of authority, but to say that the wrong people are in
authority, the wrong flag is over us.

II

"We must overthrow the arguments that might be employed against us by
the advocates of blind submission to any power that happens to be
established," writes Balmez, on resistance to _De Facto_ Governments.
(_European Civilisation_, Chap. 55.) We could not be more explicit than
the famous Spanish theologian. To such arguments let the following stand
out from his long and emphatic reply:--"Illegitimate authority is no
authority at all; the idea of power involves the idea of right, without
which it is mere physical power, that is force." He writes further: "The
conqueror, who, by mere force of arms, has subdued a nation, does not
thereby acquire a right to its possession; the government, which by
gross iniquities has despoiled entire classes of citizens, exacted undue
contributions, abolished legitimate rights, cannot justify its acts by
the simple fact of its having sufficient strength to execute these
iniquities." There is much that is equally clear and definite. What
extravagant things can be said on the other side by people in high
places we know too well. Balmez in the same book and chapter gives an
excellent example and an excellent reply: "Don Felix Amat, Archbishop of
Palmyra, in the posthumous work entitled _Idea of the Church Militant_,
makes use of these words: 'Jesus Christ, by His plain and expressive
answer, _Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's_, has sufficiently
established that the mere fact of a government's existence is sufficient
for enforcing the obedience of subjects to it....' His work was
forbidden at Rome," is Balmez' expressive comment, and he continues,
"and whatever may have been the motives for such a prohibition, we may
rest assured that, in the case of a book advocating such doctrines,
every man who is jealous of his rights might acquiesce in the decree of
the Sacred Congregation." So much for _De Facto_ Government. It is
usurpation; by being consummated it does not become legitimate. When its
decrees are not resisted, it does not mean we accept them in
principle--nor can we even pretend to accept them--but that the hour to
resist has not yet come. It is the strategy of war.

III

We stand on the ground that the English Government in Ireland is founded
in usurpation and as such deny its authority. But if it be argued,
assuming it as Ireland's case, that a usurped authority, gradually
acquiesced in by the people, ultimately becomes the same as legitimate,
the reply is still clear. For ourselves we meet the assumption with a
simple denial, appealing to Irish History for evidence that we never
acquiesced in the English Usurpation. But to those who are not satisfied
with this simple denial, we can point out that even an authority,
originally founded legitimately, may be resisted when abusing its power
to the ruin of the Commonwealth. We still stand on the ground that the
English government is founded in usurpation, but we can dispose of all
objections by proving the extremer case. This is the case Dr. Murray,
already quoted, discusses. "The question," he writes, "is about
resistance to an established and legitimate government which abuses its
power." (_Essays, Chiefly Theological_, Vol. 4.) He continues: "The
common opinion of a large number of our theologians, then, is that it is
lawful to resist by force, and if necessary to depose, the sovereign
ruler or rulers, in the extreme--the very extreme--case wherein the
following conditions are found united:

"1. The tyranny must be excessive--intolerable.

"2. The tyranny must be manifest, manifest to men of good sense and
right feeling.

"3. The evils inflicted by the tyrant must be greater than those which
would ensue from resisting and deposing him.

"4. There must be no other available way of getting rid of the tyranny
except by recurring to the extreme course.

"5. There must be a moral certainty of success.

"6. The revolution must be one conducted or approved by the community
at large ... the refusal of a small party in the State to join with
the overwhelming mass of their countrymen would not render the
resistance of the latter unlawful." (_Essays, Chiefly Theological_;
see also Rickaby, _Moral Philosophy_, Chap. 8, Sec. 7.)

Some of these conditions are drawn out at much length by Dr. Murray. I
give what is outstanding. How easily they could fit Irish conditions
must strike anyone. I think it might fairly be said that our leaders
generally would, if asked to lay down conditions for a rising, have
framed some more stringent than these. It might be said, in truth, of
some of them that they seem to wait for more than a moral certainty of
success, an absolute certainty, that can never be looked for in war.

IV

When a government through its own iniquity ceases to exist, we must, to
establish a new government on a true and just basis, go back to the
origin of Civil Authority. No one argues now for the Divine Right of
Kings, but in studying the old controversy we get light on the subject
of government that is of all time. To the conception that kings held
their power immediately from God, "Suarez boldly opposed the thesis of
the initial sovereignty of the people; from whose consent, therefore,
all civil authority immediately sprang. So also, in opposition to
Melanchthon's theory of governmental omnipotence, Suarez _a fortiori_
admitted the right of the people to depose those princes who would have
shown themselves unworthy of the trust reposed in them." (De Wulf,
_History of Medieval Philosophy,_ Third Edition, p. 495.) Suarez'
refutation of the Anglican theory, described by Hallam as clear, brief,
and dispassionate, has won general admiration. Hallam quotes him to the
discredit of the English divines: "For this power, by its very nature,
belongs to no one man but to a multitude of men. This is a certain
conclusion, being common to all our authorities, as we find by St.
Thomas, by the Civil laws, and by the great canonists and casuists; all
of whom agree that the prince has that power of law-giving which the
people have given him. And the reason is evident, since all men are
born equal, and consequently no one has a political jurisdiction over
another, nor any dominion; nor can we give any reason from the nature of
the thing why one man should govern another rather than the contrary."
(Hallam--_Literature of Europe_, Vol. 3, Chap. 4.) Dr. Murray, in the
essay already quoted, speaks of Sir James Mackintosh as the ablest
Protestant writer who refuted the Anglican theory, which Mackintosh
speaks of as "The extravagance of thus representing obedience as the
only duty without an exception." Dr. Murray concludes his own essay on
_Resistance to the Supreme Civil Power_ by a long passage from
Mackintosh, the weight and wisdom of which he praises. The greater part
of the passage is devoted to the difficulties even of success and
emphasising the terrible evils of failure. In what has already been
written here I have been at pains rather to lay bare all possible evils
than to hide them. But when revolt has become necessary and inevitable,
then the conclusion of the passage Dr. Murray quotes should be endorsed
by all: "An insurrection rendered necessary by oppression, and warranted
by a reasonable probability of a happy termination, is an act of public
virtue, always environed with so much peril as to merit admiration."
Yes, and given the happy termination, the right and responsibility of
establishing a new government rest with the body of the people.

V

We come, then, to this conclusion, that government is just only when
rightfully established and for the public good; that usurpation not only
may but ought to be resisted; that an authority originally legitimate
once it becomes habitually tyrannical may be resisted and deposed; and
that when from abuse or tyranny a particular government ceases to exist,
we have to re-establish a true one. It is sometimes carelessly said,
"Liberty comes from anarchy," but this is a very dangerous doctrine. It
would be nearer truth to say from anarchy inevitably comes tyranny. Men
receive a despot to quell a mob. But when a people, determined and
disciplined, resolve to have neither despotism nor anarchy but freedom,
then they act in the light of the Natural Law. It is well put in the
doctrine of St. Thomas, as given by Turner in his _History of
Philosophy_ (Chap. 38): "The redress to which the subjects of a tyrant
have a just right must be sought, not by an individual, but by an
authority temporarily constituted by the people and acting according to
law." Yes, and when wild and foolish people talk hysterically of our
defiance of all authority, let us calmly show we best understand the
basis of Authority--which is Truth, and most highly reverence its
presiding spirit--which is Liberty.

CHAPTER XVIII

RESISTANCE IN ARMS--OBJECTIONS

I

Having stated the case for resistance, it will serve us to consider some
objections. Many inquiring minds may be made happy by a clear view of
the doctrine, till some clever opponent holds them up with remarks on
prudence, possibly sensible, or remarks on revolutionists, most probably
wild, with, perhaps, the authority of a great name, or unfailing refuge
in the concrete. It is curious that while often noticed how men, trying
to evade a concrete issue, take refuge in the abstract, it is not
noticed that men, trying to avoid acknowledging the truth of some
principle, take refuge in the concrete. A living and pressing
difficulty, though transient, looms larger than any historical fact or
coming danger. Seeing this, we may restore confidence to a baffled mind,
by helping it to distinguish the contingent from the permanent. Thus, by
disposing of objections, we make our ground secure.

II

To the name of prudence the most imprudent people frequently appeal.
Those whose one effort is to evade difficulties, who to cover their
weakness plead patience, would be well advised to consider how men
passionately in earnest, enraged by these evasions, pour their scorn on
patience as a thing to shun. The plea does not succeed; it only for the
moment damages the prestige of a great name. Patience is not a virtue of
the weak but of the strong. An objector says: "Of course, all this is
right in the abstract, but consider the frightful abuses in practice,"
and some apt replies spring to mind. Dr. Murray, writing on "Mental
Reservation," in his _Essays, chiefly Theological_, speaks thus: "But it
is no objection to any principle of morals to say that unscrupulous men
will abuse it, or that, if publicly preached to such and such an
audience or in such and such circumstances, it will lead to mischief."
This is admirable, to which the objector can only give some helpless
repetitions. With Balmez, we reply: "But in recommending prudence to the
people let us not disguise it under false doctrines--let us beware of
calming the exasperation of misfortune by circulating errors subversive
of all governments, of all society." (_European Civilisation_, Chap.
55.) Of men who shrink from investigating such questions, Balmez wrote:
"I may be permitted to observe that their prudence is quite thrown away,
that their foresight and precaution are of no avail. Whether they
investigate these questions or not, they _are_ investigated, agitated
and decided, in a manner that we must deplore." (Ibid. Chap. 54.) Take
with this Turner on France under the old _regime_ and the many and
serious grievances of the people: "The Church, whose duty it was to
inculcate justice and forbearance, was identified, in the minds of the
people, with the Monarchy which they feared and detested." (_History of
Philosophy_, Chap. 59.) The moral is that when injustice and evil are
rampant, let us have no palliation, no weakness disguising itself as a
virtue. What we cannot at once resist, we can always repudiate. To
ignore these things is the worst form of imprudence--an imprudence which
we, for our part at least, take the occasion here heartily to disclaim.

III

There is so much ill-considered use of the word revolutionist, we should
bear in mind it is a strictly relative term. If the freedom of a people
is overthrown by treachery and violence, and oppression practised on
their once thriving land, that is a revolution, and a bad revolution.
If, with tyranny enthroned and a land wasting under oppression, the
people rise and by their native courage, resource and patience
re-establish in their original independence a just government, that is a
revolution, and a good revolution. The revolutionist is to be judged by
his motives, methods and ends; and, when found true, his insurrection,
in the words of Mackintosh, is "an act of public virtue." It is the
restoration of, Truth to its place of honour among men.

IV

Balmez mentions Bossuet as apparently one who denies the right here
maintained; and we may with profit read some things Bossuet has said in
another context, yet which touches closely what is our concern. Writing
of _Les Empires_, thus Bossuet: "Les revolutions des empires sont
reglees par la providence, et servent a humilier les princes." This is
hardly calculated to deter us from a bid for freedom; and if we go on to
read what he has written further under this heading, we get testimony to
the hardihood and love of freedom and country that distinguished early
Greece and Rome in language of eloquence that might inflame any people
to liberty. Of undegenerate Greece, free and invincible: "Mais ce que la
Grece avait de plus grand etait une politique ferme et prevoyante, qui
savait abandonner, hasarder et defendre, ce qu'il fallait; et, ce qui
est plus grand encore, un courage que l'amour de la liberte et celui de
la patrie rendaient invincible." Of undegenerate Rome, her liberty: "La
liberte leur etait donc un tresor qu'ils preferoient a toutes les
richesses de l'univers." Again: "La maxime fondamentale de la
republique etait de regarder la liberte comme une chose inseparable du
nom Roman." And her constancy: "Voila de fruit glorieux de la patience
Romaine. Des peuples qui s'enhardissaient et se fortifiaient par leurs
malheurs avaient bien raison de croire qu'on sauvait tout pourvu qu'on
ne perdit pas l'esperance." And again: "Parmi eux, dans les etats les
plus tristes, jamais les faibles conseils n'ont ete seulement ecoutes."
The reading of such a fine tribute to the glory of ancient liberties is
not likely to diminish our desire for freedom; rather, to add to the
natural stimulus found in our own splendid traditions, the further
stimulus of this thought that must whisper to us: "Persevere and
conquer, and to-morrow our finest opponent will be our finest panegyrist
when the battle has been fought and won."

V

In conclusion, in the concrete this simple fact will suffice: we have
established immutable principles; the concrete circumstances are
contingent and vary. It is admirably put in the following passage: "The
historical and sociological sciences, so carefully cultivated in modern
times, have proved to evidence that social conditions _vary_ with the
epoch and the country, that they are the resultant of quite a number of
fluctuating influences, and that, accordingly, the science of Natural
Right should not merely establish _immutable_ principles bearing on the
moral end of man, but should likewise deal with the _contingent_
circumstances accompanying the application of those principles." (De
Wulf, _Scholasticism, Old and New_, Part 2, Chap. 2, Sec. 33.) Yes, and
if we apply principles to-morrow, it is not with the conditions of
to-day we must deal, but "with the contingent circumstances accompanying
the application of those principles." Let that be emphasised. The
conditions of twenty years ago are vastly changed to-day; and how
altered the conditions of to-morrow can be, how astonishing can be the
change in the short span of twenty years, let this fact prove. Ireland
in '48 was prostrate after a successful starvation and an unsuccessful
rising--to all appearances this time hopelessly crushed; yet within
twenty years another rising was planned that shook English government in
Ireland to its foundations. Let us bear in mind this further from De
Wulf: "Sociology, understood in the wider and larger sense, is
transforming the methods of the science of Natural Right." In view of
that transformation he is wise who looks to to-morrow. What De Wulf
concludes we may well endorse, when he asks us to take facts as they are
brought to light and study "each question on its merits, in the light of
these facts and not merely in its present setting but as presented in
the pages of history." It can be fairly said of those who have always
stood for the separation of Ireland from the British Empire, that they
alone have always appealed to historical evidence, have always regarded
the conditions of the moment as transient, have always discussed
possible future contingencies. The men who temporised were always
hypnotised by the conditions of the hour. But in the life-story of a
nation stretching over thousands of years, the British occupation is a
contingent circumstance, and the immutable principle is the Liberty of
the Irish People.

CHAPTER XIX

THE BEARNA BAOGHAIL--CONCLUSION

I

But when principles have been proved and objections answered, there are
still some last words to say for some who stand apart--the men who held
the breach. For, they do stand apart, not in error but in constancy; not
in doubt of the truth but its incarnation; not average men of the
multitude for whom human laws are made, who must have moral certainty of
success, who must have the immediate allegiance of the people. For it is
the distinguishing glory of our prophets and our soldiers of the forlorn
hope, that the defeats of common men were for them but incentives to
further battle; and when they held out against the prejudices of their
time, they were not standing in some new conceit, but most often by
prophetic insight fighting for a forgotten truth of yesterday, catching
in their souls to light them forward, the hidden glory of to-morrow.
They knew to be theirs by anticipation the general allegiance without
which lesser men cannot proceed. They knew they stood for the Truth,
against which nothing can prevail, and if they had to endure struggle,
suffering and pain, they had the finer knowledge born of these things, a
knowledge to which the best of men ever win--that if it is a good thing
to live, it is a good thing also to die. Not that they despised life or
lightly threw it away; for none better than they knew its grandeur, none
more than they gloried in its beauty, none were so happily full as they
of its music; but they knew, too, the value of this deep truth, with the
final loss of which Earth must perish: the man who is afraid to die is
not fit to live. And the knowledge for them stamped out Earth's oldest
fear, winning for life its highest ecstasy. Yes, and when one or more of
them had to stand in the darkest generation and endure all penalties to
the extreme penalty, they knew for all that they had had the best of
life and did not count it a terrible thing if called by a little to
anticipate death. They had still the finest appreciation of the finer
attributes of comradeship and love; but it is part of the mystery of
their happiness and success, that they were ready to go on to the end,
not looking for the suffrage of the living nor the monuments of the
dead. Yes, and when finally the re-awakened people by their better
instincts, their discipline, patriotism and fervour, will have massed
into armies, and marched to freedom, they will know in the greatest hour
of triumph that the success of their conquering arms was made possible
by those who held the breach.

II

When, happily, we can fall back on the eloquence of the world's greatest
orator, we turn with gratitude to the greatest tribute ever spoken to
the memory of those men to whom the world owes most. Demosthenes, in the
finest height of his finest oration, vindicates the men of every age and
nation who fight the forlorn hope. He was arraigned by his rival,
AEschines, for having counselled the Athenians to pursue a course that
ended in defeat, and he replies thus: "If, then, the results had been
foreknown to all--not even then should the Commonwealth have abandoned
her design, if she had any regard for glory, or ancestry, or futurity.
As it is, she appears to have failed in her enterprise, a thing to which
all mankind are liable, if the Deity so wills it." And he asks the
Athenians: "Why, had we resigned without a struggle that which our
ancestors encountered every danger to win, who would not have spit upon
you?" And he asks them further to consider strangers, visiting their
City, sunk in such degradation, "especially when in former times our
country had never preferred an ignominious security to the battle for
honour." And he rises from the thought to this proud boast: "None could
at any period of time persuade the Commonwealth to attach herself in
secure subjection to the powerful and unjust; through every age has she
persevered in a perilous struggle for precedency and honour and glory."
And he tells them, appealing to the memory of Themistocles, how they
honoured most their ancestors who acted in such a spirit: "Yes; the
Athenians of that day looked not for an orator or a general, who might
help them to a pleasant servitude: they scorned to live if it could not
be with freedom." And he pays them, his listeners, a tribute: "What I
declare is, that such principles are your own; I show that before my
time such was the spirit of the Commonwealth." From one eloquent height
to another he proceeds, till, challenging AEschines for arraigning him,
thus counselling the people, he rises to this great level: "But, never,
never can you have done wrong, O Athenians, in undertaking the battle
for the freedom and safety of all: I swear it by your forefathers--those
that met the peril at Marathon, those that took the field at Plataea,
those in the sea-fight at Salamis, and those at Artimesium, and many
other brave men who repose in the public monuments, all of whom alike,
as being worthy of the same honour, the country buried, AEschines, not
only the successful and victorious." We did not need this fine eloquence
to assure us of the greatness of our O'Neills and our Tones, our
O'Donnells and our Mitchels, but it so quickens the spirit and warms the
blood to read it, it so touches--by the admiration won from ancient and
modern times--an enduring principle of the human heart--the capacity to
appreciate a great deed and rise over every physical defeat--that we
know in the persistence of the spirit we shall come to a veritable
triumph. Yes; and in such light we turn to read what Ruskin called the
greatest inscription ever written, that which Herodotus tells us was
raised over the Spartans, who fell at Thermopylae, and which Mitchel's
biographer quotes as most fitting to epitomise Mitchel's life:
"Stranger, tell thou the Lacedemonians that we are lying here, having
obeyed their words." And the biographer of Mitchel is right in holding
that he who reads into the significance of these brave lines, reads a
message not of defeat but of victory.

III

Yes; and in paying a fitting tribute to those great men who are our
exemplars, it would be fitting also, in conclusion, to remember
ourselves as the inheritors of a great tradition; and it would well
become us not only to show the splendour of the banner that is handed on
to us, but to show that this banner _we_, too, are worthy to bear. For,
how often it shall be victorious and how high it shall be planted, will
depend on the conception we have of its supreme greatness, the
knowledge that it can be fought for in all times and places, the
conviction that we may, when least we expect, be challenged to deny it;
and that by our bearing we may bring it new credit and glory or drag it
low in repute. We do well, I say, to remember these things. For in our
time it has grown the fashion to praise the men of former times but to
deny their ideal of Independence; and we who live in that ideal, and in
it breathe the old spirit, and preach it and fight for it and prophesy
for it an ultimate and complete victory--we are young men, foolish and
unpractical. And what should be our reply? A reply in keeping with the
flag, its history and its destiny. Let them, who deride or pity us, see
we despise or pity their standards, and let them know by our works--lest
by our election they misunderstand--that we are not without ability in a
freer time to contest with them the highest places--avoiding the boast,
not for an affected sense of modesty but for a saving sense of humour.
For in all the vanities of this time that make Life and Literature choke
with absurdities, pretensions and humbug, let us have no new folly. Let
us with the old high confidence blend the old high courtesy of the
Gaedheal. Let us grow big with our cause. Shall we honour the flag we
bear by a mean, apologetic front? No! Wherever it is down, lift it;
wherever it is challenged, wave it; wherever it is high, salute it;
wherever it is victorious, glorify and exult in it. At all times and
forever be for it proud, passionate, persistent, jubilant, defiant;
stirring hidden memories, kindling old fires, wakening the finer
instincts of men, till all are one in the old spirit, the spirit that
will not admit defeat, that has been voiced by thousands, that is
noblest in Emmet's one line, setting the time for his epitaph: "_When_
my country"--not _if_--but "_when_ my country takes her place among the
nations of the earth." It is no hypothesis; it is a certainty. There
have been in every generation, and are in our own, men dull of
apprehension and cold of heart, who could not believe this, but we
believe it, we live in it: _we know it_. Yes, we know it, as Emmet knew
it, and as it shall be seen to-morrow; and when the historian of
to-morrow, seeing it accomplished, will write its history, he will not
note the end with surprise. Rather will he marvel at the soul in
constancy, rivalling the best traditions of undegenerate Greece and
Rome, holding through disasters, persecutions, suffering, and not less
through the seductions of milder but meaner times, seeing through all
shining clearly the goal: he will record it all, and, still marvelling,
come to the issue that dauntless spirit has reached, proud and happy;
but he will write of that issue--_Liberty; Inevitable_: in two words to
epitomise the history of a people that is without a parallel in the
Annals of the World.

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