Sunday, August 21, 2011

rousing speech for Irish Repeal by Gansevoort Melville, September 1843

From the New York Evening Post, Friday Evening, September 29, 1843.
SUBSTANCE OF MR. MELVILLE [‘S] SPEECH, at the last repeal meeting in this city. Gansevoort Melville, Esq., rose and spoke nearly as follows:
On the 25th day of July—scarce two months since—a paper published in this city, called The Journal of Commerce, announced that this association had dissolved. (Laughter, and cries of oh! oh!) At various other times it and its kindred prints have proclaimed that the cause of repeal in this country is declining. All this is news with a vengeance! The wish is father to the thought. Those journals do not know—to use the expressive language of an honest Irishman, which he applied to De Witt Clinton, but which is strictly applicable to the case in hand—that repeal is like old brass, the harder it’s rubbed the brighter it shines. (Loud cheers.) I wonder if the editor of the veracious Journal of Commerce was present at the reception we gave in this very hall to Robert Tyler—(cheers)—and if he was present, what he thought of it? — and whether that savored of dissolution? (Renewed cheers.) I wish he had been here then. The deafening shouts, the tempestuous applause, would have assured him of that which as a philanthropist must have afforded him gratification, and that is, that our lungs are sound and our constitutions unimpaired. (Laughter and cheers.) I would that he were here now. The animation every where visible, the sincerity speaking from every countenance, must force the conviction upon the most incredulous that we are in earnest—devoted, enthusiastic in supporting and advocating a cause that is our glory and our pride—a cause that is right, honest, and true—(vehement applause)—which, while it commands the assent of judgment, irresistibly enlists the noblest and holiest sympathies of our nature—that is worthy of the best exertions of the greatest and purest men—a cause which, resting on the basis of truth, bids its rancorous foes defiance to their teeth—(most emphatic cheering)—a cause that is
“Vital in every part,
And cannot but by annihilating die.”
(Tremendous cheers.) The great question of repeal, its why and its wherefore, and our right and duty as freemen to sustain and befriend it, have been so often thoroughly discussed by word of mouth and in the public press, that I will not now weary you with repetitions of arguments with which you are familiar—which have been repeatedly advanced—that have never been fairly met, and cannot be overthrown. So, with your permission, we will leave our enemies to gnaw on the file at their leisure, while we glance at the progress of repeal on this side of the Atlantic. (Cheers.) In every city where the cause has taken root, it flourishes and has a strong hold on the affections of the people. It is so in Boston, Providence, Albany, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, St Louis, New Orleans, and others too numerous to mention. Nor is it confined to the cities alone—towns, villages and hamlets have caught the flame. In Savannah, our spirited brethren have lately collected nearly $700 in two meetings. (Cheers) They have erected our flag-staff over the grave of Pulaski, whence the banner of Repeal floats fair and free, proclaiming to every breeze that blows that the same spirit which animated the patriot here when alive, still breathes above his tomb (Enthusiastic cheering.)—The tide of Repeal has carried away the barrier that was erected against it, and now sweeps strong for Ireland.
Pulaski Monument, Savannah GA
The whole Southern country which, at one time misled by falsehood and prejudice, wavered in its support and threatened to desert the cause, has again come forward to join the ranks of the great army which is marshaled under the standard of “Justice to Ireland.” (Great cheering) In fact, they are hardly content to abide there, and seem determined to lead the advance guard. But that they will find it difficult to do for we—The Repealers of New York—are the body who occupy that post of honor, and we mean to keep it.—(Vehement and prolonged applause.)
In the Far West, in the fertile valley of the Mississippi—a valley destined to be the granary of the world—Repeal flourishes as such a cause should on such a soil. There, the brave Col. Richard M. Johnson, (cheers) the hero of the Thames, and late Vice-President of the United States, has over and over again uplifted his influential voice in our behalf. (Renewed cheering.) On the borders of Wisconsin, in the little town of Galena, a first meeting was recently held at which $158 were collected and more promised. And beyond the Mississippi, at Dubuque, in Iowa Territory, among the stalwart backwoodsmen who level our forests and herald civilization, even there the flame of Repeal spread fast and far. (Tremendous cheers) Even the Orangemen of Upper Canada are aroused, and contributing money to aid the cause. The liberal press—the only portion of the press worth having—are with us. Thanks to them for their valuable co-operation. The letters of Thurlow Weed—(deafening shouts)—the letters of Thurlow Weed (renewed cheering) are effecting incalculable good. I recognize in him a staunch and true Repealer. I am diametrically opposed to him in politics—but on this occasion I say Honor and Gratitude to him. (It is difficult to describe the deep and strong feeling here manifested by the entire auditory, and the universal and prolonged cheering which ensued, the ladies waving their handkerchiefs, and hardly had it subsided when a voice cried out, “Three cheers for Thurlow Weed,” and again and again the Hall re-echoed to the shouts) Without poetical exaggeration, continued Mr. Melville, we can proudly proclaim that—
“The war that for a space did fail,
Now trebly thundering swells the gale,
And Ireland is the cry.” 
(Great cheers.)
Thurlow Weed
It is difficult to over-estimate the beneficial effect which the Repeal movement in this country has had across the water. It has strengthened the hands of our friends. It has dismayed our foes. It has spoken to the hearts of the Irish people. They know that if the shadowed day and the evil hour come, they can fall back on us—and so they can—and we’ll sustain them to the last. (This sentiment was received with shouts of the most vehement, almost fierce, enthusiasm.) But not alone here does Ireland reckon her friends by scores and hundreds of thousands. Turn to France—the land of the olive and the vine—glorious, enthusiastic, liberty loving France—the home of the most martial people in Europe—and remember that in every Frenchman, Ireland has a friend. (Deafening applause)

And now, when we turn to Ireland itself, what eye is there that does not sparkle? What bosom that does not heave as we call to mind the million of Repealers on the hill of Tara? (Great cheering.) “Tara of the Kings”; Tara hallowed by a thousand recollections; the seat of Ireland’s early royalty; before the hoof of the Saxon profaned the sod; when Ireland was a nation—(profound silence and a marked sensation in the meeting, while after a pause, the speaker resumed)—she is not one now. But her time is coming. She is going to her place. To avail ourselves of the vivid imagination of John Bunyan—Ireland has just toiled from out the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The sunshine is around her and upon her. She is standing upon the top of the Delectable Mountains, and the shining city is in full view. That shining city is Repeal—the total repeal of the miscalled, tyrannical, and accursed Union between Great Britain and Ireland. Aye, her time is coming. She is going to her place—and with the blessings of Providence we’ll yet live to see her “throned in the senate hall of nations.” (Enthusiastic and continued cheers.) Oh! there is an antique and breathing sublimity about that gathering on Tara Hill, which stamps it as an era, not only in the history of Ireland, but of the world. It is wholly unprecedented. It stands alone. The records of the past cannot produce its parallel. (Loud cheers.) There is no time to linger on it. I would there were. We cannot now speak of its vast physical strength, its moral restraint, and above all, its religious sanction. I cannot, however, pass over in silence the devotion manifested by the peasants to the memory of the hundred brave men who were slaughtered there by British steel in ’98, and whose bodies, thrown together in a trench, were buried on the sacred hill of Tara. The people knelt upon the rude grave of their butchered, martyred countrymen—who
“Vainly brave,
Died for a land they could not save.”
Prayers were offered up for the repose of their souls. Silent, sad and stern there they knelt—and when they rose—the tear drop in the eye—they rose “prayer strengthened for the trial.” (Universal sensation.) At the call of their country, the men who knelt upon that grave would willingly re-fill it. The true patriots—who give their money to the cause of Ireland—would, if need be, still more freely and gladly give her the last drop of their blood. (Wild and terrific cheering.) Well may we exclaim—    
Who fears to speak of ’98,
Who blushes at the name?
Where cowards mock the patriot’s fate,
Who hangs his head for shame?
He’s all a knave, or half a slave
That slights his country thus—
Be a true man, like you, man,
And go Repeal with us.”
(Enthusiastic and continued cheers.) Mr. Melville here said that, having consumed much time, he would no longer trespass on the attention of the audience, but was met with cries of “Go on,” “Go on,” from a thousand throats—one ardent repealer shouted “Speak on—speak forever.” Mr. Melville according resumed—and continued speaking with unabated energy and eloquence for some fifteen minutes longer—until the stirring strains of music announced the coming of the Hibernian Burial Benevolent Society—when proposing three cheers for that charitable and patriotic institution, he took his seat amid the most tumultuous acclamations.

In the course of the evening, Mr. Melville was again called out, and on responding to the call, again met with the same warm reception. His second speech occupied about half an hour. It was fully equal in interest and ability to his previous effort of the same evening, a portion of which we have given above, and elicited throughout, the same marked and enthusiastic commendation.

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