Feb 28, 1812: Shelley Speech

On February 28, 1812, Percy Shelley continuing with his agitation for Catholic Emancipation gives a speech at Fishamble Street Theatre Dublin. Denis Florence MacCarthy in his Shelley's early life from original sources: with curious incidents, letters provides three newspaper reports of the speech
From The Freeman's Journal Dublin Feb 29th 1812
On the fifth [it should have been the sixth] resolution being proposed, Mr Shelley an English gentleman (very young), the son of a Member of Parliament rose to address the meeting. He was received with great kindness, and declared that the greatest misery this country endured was the Union Law, the Penal Code, and the state of the representation. He drew a lively picture of the misery of the country, which he attributed to the unfortunate Act of Legislative Union. 

From The Dublin Evening Post Saturday 29th Feb 1812
Mr Shelley requested a hearing. He was an Englishman, and when he reflected on the crimes committed by his nation on Ireland, he could not but blush for his countrymen, did he not know that arbitrary power never failed to corrupt the heart of man. ( Loud applause for several minutes.)
He had come to Ireland for the sole purpose of interesting himself in her misfortunes. He was deeply impressed with a sense of the evils which Ireland endured, and he considered them to be truly ascribed to the fatal effects of the legislative union with Great Britain.
He walked through the streets and he saw the fane of liberty converted into a temple of Mammon. (Loud applause.) He beheld beggary and famine in the country, and he could lay his hand on his heart and say that the cause of such sights was the union with Great Britain. (Hear, hear.) He was resolved to do his utmost to promote a Repeal of the Union. Catholic Emancipation would do a great deal towards the amelioration of the condition of the people, but he was convinced that the Repeal of the Union was of more importance. He considered that the victims whose members were vibrating on gibbets were driven to the commission of the crimes which they expiated by their lives by the effects of the Union.

The Patriot Dublin 2nd March 1812
Mr. Shelley then addressed the Chair. He hoped he should not be accounted a transgressor on the time of the meeting. He felt inadequate to the task he had undertaken but he hoped the feelings which urged him forward would plead his pardon. He was an Englishman; when he reflected on the outrages that his countrymen had committed here for the last twenty years he confessed that he blushed for them. He had come to Ireland for the sole purpose of interesting himself in the misfortunes of this country; and impressed with a full conviction of the necessity of Catholic Emancipation, and of the baneful effects which the union with Great Britain had entailed upon Ireland. He had walked through the fields of the country and the streets of the city, and he had in both seen the miserable effects of that fatal step. He had seen that edifice which ought to have been the fane of their liberties converted to a temple of Mammon. Many of the crimes which are daily committed he could not avoid attributing to the effect of that measure, which had thrown numbers of people out of the employment they had in manufacture, and induced them to commit acts of the greatest desperation for the support of their existence.
He could not imagine that the religious opinion of a man should exclude him from the rights of society. The original founder of our religion taught no such doctrine. Equality in this respect was general in the American States, and why not here? Did a change of place change the nature of man? He would beg those in power to recollect the French Revolution: the suddenness, the violence with which it burst forth, and the causes which gave rise to it.
Both the measures of Emancipation and a Repeal of the Union should meet his decided support, but he hoped many years would not pass over his head when he would make himself conspicuous at least by his zeal for them. 

No comments:

Post a Comment