Nonfiction > William Jennings Bryan, ed. > The World’s Famous Orations > Vol. VI. Ireland
See also: Henry Grattan Biography
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  The World’s Famous Orations.
Ireland (1775–1902).  1906.
 
II. Invective Against Corry
 
Henry Grattan (1746–1820)
 
(1800)
 
Born in 1746, died in 1820; was admitted to the Irish Bar in 1772; entered the Irish Parliament in 1775; secured the restoration of independence to the Irish Parliament in 1782; retired from the Irish Parliament in 1797; returned to the Irish Parliament in 1800, in order to oppose the Union; elected to the Imperial Parliament in 1806, remaining a member until his death.
 
 
HAS 1 the gentleman done? Has he completely done? He was unparliamentary from the beginning to the end of his speech. There was scarce a word he uttered that was not a violation of the privileges of the House; but I did not call him to order—why? because the limited talents of some men render it impossible for them to be severe without being unparliamentary. But before I sit down I shall show him how to be severe and parliamentary at the same time. On any other occasion I should think myself justifiable in treating with silent contempt anything which might fall from that honorable member; but there are times when the insignificance of the accuser is lost in the magnitude of the accusation. I know the difficulty the honorable gentleman labored under when he attacked me, conscious that, on a comparative view of our characters, public and private, there is nothing he could say which would injure me. The public would not believe the charge. I despise the falsehood. If such a charge were made by an honest man, I would answer it in the manner I shall do before I sit down. But I shall first reply to it when not made by an honest man.  1
  The right honorable gentleman has called me “an unimpeached traitor.” I ask, why not “traitor,” unqualified by any epithet? I will tell him: it was because he dare not. It was the act of a coward, who raises his arm to strike, but has not courage to give the blow. I will not call him villain, because it would be unparliamentary, and he is a privy counselor. I will not call him fool, because he happens to be chancellor of the exchequer. But I say he is one who has abused the privilege of Parliament and freedom of debate to the uttering language, which, if spoken out of the House, I should answer only with a blow. I care not how high his situation, how low his character, how contemptible his speech; whether a privy counselor or a parasite, my answer would be a blow. He has charged me with being connected with the rebels: the charge is utterly, totally, and meanly false. Does the honorable gentleman rely on the report of the House of Lords for the foundation of his assertion? If he does, I can prove to the committee there was a physical impossibility of that report being true. But I scorn to answer any man for my conduct, whether he be a political coxcomb, or whether he brought himself into power by a false glare of courage or not. I scorn to answer any wizard of the Castle throwing himself into fantastical airs. But if an honorable and independent man were to make a charge against me, I would say: “You charge me with having an intercourse with the rebels, and you found your charge upon what is said to have appeared before a committee of the lords. Sir, the report of that committee is totally and egregiously irregular.” I will read a letter from Mr. Nelson, who had been examined before that committee; it states that what the report represents him as having spoken is not what he said.  2
  From the situation that I held, and from the connections I had in the City of Dublin, it was necessary for me to hold intercourse with various descriptions of persons. The right honorable member might as well have been charged with a participation in the guilt of those traitors; for he had communicated with some of those very persons on the subject of parliamentary reform. The Irish government, too, were in communication with some of them.  3
  The right honorable member has told me I deserted a profession where wealth and station were the reward of industry and talent. If I mistake not, that gentleman endeavored to obtain those rewards by the same means; but he soon deserted the occupation of a barrister for those of a parasite and pander. He fled from the labor of study to flatter at the table of the great. He found the lords’ parlor a better sphere for his exertions than the hall of the Four Courts; the house of a great man a more convenient way to power and place; and that it was easier for a statesman of middling talents to sell his friends, than for a lawyer of no talents to sell his clients.  4
  For myself, whatever corporate or other bodies have said or done to me, I from the bottom of my heart forgive them. I feel I have done too much for my country to be vexed at them. I would rather that they should not feel or acknowledge what I have done for them, and call me traitor, than have reason to say I sold them. I will always defend myself against the assassin; but with large bodies it is different. To the people I will bow: they may be my enemy—I never shall be theirs.  5
  At the emancipation of Ireland, in 1782, I took a leading part in the foundation of that Constitution which is now endeavored to be destroyed. Of that Constitution I was the author; in that Constitution I glory; and for it the honorable gentleman should bestow praise, not invent calumny. Notwithstanding my weak state of body, I come to give my last testimony against this union, so fatal to the liberties and interests of my country. I come to make common cause with these honorable and virtuous gentlemen around me; to try to save the Constitution; or if not to save the Constitution, at least to save, our characters, and remove from our graves the foul disgrace of standing apart while a deadly blow is aimed at the independence of our country.  6
  The right honorable gentleman says I fled from the country after exciting rebellion, and that I have returned to raise another. No such thing. The charge is false. The civil war had not commenced when I left the kingdom; and I could not have returned without taking a part. On one side there was the camp of the rebel; on the other, the camp of the minister, a greater traitor than that rebel. The stronghold of the Constitution was nowhere to be found. I agree that the rebel who rose against the government should have suffered; but I missed on the scaffold the right honorable gentleman. Two desperate parties were in arms against the Constitution. The right honorable gentleman belonged to one of those parties and deserved death. I could not join the rebel; I could not join the government; I could not join torture; I could not join half-hanging; I could not join free quarter; I could take part with neither. I was therefore absent from a scene where I could not be active without self-reproach, nor indifferent with safety.  7
  Many honorable gentlemen thought differently from me; I respect their opinions, but I keep my own; and I think now, as I thought then, that the treason of the minister against the liberties of the people was infinitely worse than the rebellion of the people against the minister.  8
  I have returned, not as the right honorable member has said, to raise another storm; I have returned to discharge an honorable debt of gratitude to my country, that conferred a great reward for past services, which, I am proud to say, was not greater than my desert. I have returned to protect that Constitution, of which I was the parent and founder, from the assassination of such men as the honorable gentleman and his unworthy associates. They are corrupt; they are seditious; and they, at this very moment, are in a conspiracy against their country. I have returned to refute a libel as false as it is malicious, given to the public under the appellation of a report of a committee of the lords. Here I stand ready for impeachment or trial; I dare accusation. I defy the honorable gentleman; I defy the government; I defy their whole phalanx; let them come forth. I tell the ministers I will neither give them quarter nor take it. I am here to lay the shattered remains of my Constitution on the floor of this House in defense of the liberties of my country.  9
 
Note 1. From a speech delivered in the Irish Parliament, February 14, 1800. [back]
 

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