Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gansevoort Melville at Washington Hall

Speaking of tall democratic spouters, who is that lanky fellow at the podium in this 1844 engraving of a raucous demonstration for Daniel O'Connell at Washington Hall, New York City?


Is that Gansevoort Melville?  Might be our boy, at least he's up there somewhere on the stage according to the accompanying text from the Illustrated London News (July 20, 1844):

A vast meeting was held in Washington Hall, on the 25th ult., for the purpose of raising a sum for the payment of the fine of £2000 which Mr. O'Connell is sentenced to pay at the expiration of his imprisonment. The scene is described in the New York Herald to have “ exceeded anything ever seen in this city since the memorable eve of October 29, 1841, when Bishop Hughes organised the thousands then assembled into a body pledged to carry his ticket. From all quarters of the city, and from the adjoining villages, the Irish, chiefly of the lower classes, poured in by hundreds and thousands to the place of meeting. Long before the time of meeting the large hall was densely crowded, and the scene was diversified, animated, and picturesque in the extreme." Mr. Hilliard, the celebrated artist, has sketched this great demonstration for the annexed engraving.

There could not have been less than twelve thousand Irishmen present in the course of the evening, for the stream going out and entering the hall was kept up without intermission for nearly three hours. Every man seemed prepared tn contribute; and the shouts, the tossing of hats in the air, the whirling about of coats and jackets, the waving of shillelahs, the almost frenzied excitement which universally prevailed, were certainly well fitted to astonish all who witnessed, for the first time, a lively Irish meeting.  Crowds of passers-by in Broadway stopped in amazement to listen to the shouts of the multitude which thronged and issued from the hall.   
The Secretary, Bartholomew O’Connor, Esq., amid deafening applause, introduced Mr. Gansevoort Melville as Chairman, who briefly addressed the meeting amidst tumultuous applause, and bespoke their “substantial sympathy for the great—the illustrious—the indomitable patriot—O’Connell—the man whose energies have been devoted to human liberty all over the world; and who is now consigned to the gloom of the dungeon for Ireland.” (Immense cheering which lasted for considerable time.)
(Illustrated London News)
The New York Spectator ("Sympathy for O'Connell," June 29, 1844) gave a good account of the decor:

Hung from the orchestra was a black and white flag, bearing the following inscription:—

But the
PEOPLE will be TRUE,
‘Repeal’ for ever, and no Surrender.”

At each corner was a very little flag bearing the dates 1776 and 1798.  Behind the platform was a richly gilded flag, bearing in its centre an American eagle stooping to play upon an Irish harp, prepared doubtless for the charter election, and now handed over to the association as useless.  It bore the words, “The United Irish Association.  Justice to Ireland.”
About Gansevoort Melville's part in these 1844 proceedings, the Spectator allowed only that he "made a speech, of which brevity was the chief beauty."  For the flavor of Gansevoort's lengthier Repeal speeches in 1843, see previous posts here and here and here.

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