During the latter years of the Great Famine, in 1848, the London Times reported, under the heading ‘State of the Provinces,' on a meeting of the Protestants Inhabitants of Drogheda and on a local Dundalk newspaper article that called for the Repeal of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain.
The idea for Repeal, however, was falling on ‘deaf ears’. At the end of the same report was an Address from the Apprentice Boys of Derry and the reply given by the Lord Lieutenant.
Part of that London Times report is as follows:-
“STATE OF THE PROVINCES.
A preliminary meeting composed of about 150 of the most respectable Protestant inhabitants of Drogheda was held on Thursday evening at the Mayoralty-room, in pursuance of the following circular:-
" You are requested to attend a meeting of the Protestant inhabitants of this town, to be holden in the Mayoralty-room, on Thursday evening, at half-past 7 o'clock, to consider the subjects which are at present agitating the public mind, and to consider the propriety of declaring our sentiments at the present crisis; whether or otherwise a repeal of the legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland be conducive to the advancement of our trade, commerce, and agricultural prosperity; and to take such a course, as a Protestant body, as may be deemed necessary.”
At the early part of the proceedings several Roman Catholics were present, but at the request of the chairman they withdrew, on the understanding that it was the wish of the meeting that Government should know that it was an exclusively Protestant demonstration in favour of repeal.
After some discussion the subjoined resolution was submitted, but, although approved of, it was postponed for ultimate adoption until a public meeting should be held, of which timely notice was to be given:—
" Resolved --that we, loyal subjects to Her Most Gracious Majesty our beloved Queen, not having hitherto expressed opinions publicly on the questions which at present agitate the public mind, and viewing with deep regret the deplorable condition of our country, the destitution of its inhabitants, our trade annihilated, our artisans idle, the over-whelming taxation upon our shopkeepers and agriculturists, and the abject destitution of our countrymen who are become paupers upon other favoured nations, --are convinced of the necessity of a domestic Legislature. And we now respectfully, legitimately, and fervently seek from the British Parliament a repeal of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland.”
Another sample of the style of writing indulged in by the "gagged" press, will be found in the following extract from an article in the Dundalk Patriot, a thoroughpaced organ of the moral force (bless the mark!) policy preached by Mr. John O'Connell and Co. It is very appropriately headed
"The English Government is sustained only by corruption and tyranny here; while the people of Ireland have not only truth and justice on their side, but an overwhelming physical force also. Now, to oppose that physical-force, in its present state, to the armed despotism of England, we would look upon as an act of sanguinary madness --destructive not only to the people themselves, but to their cause for a century at least. But to the legislative independence of Ireland we are irrevocably pledged, and we see that England scoffs at our claims, and treats us with insult --because she has the power to put us down by arms whenever we assert our rights. She is now preparing - to crush us by military force. What, then, is our duty? It is clearly to arm as soon as we can, and as well as we can --to become possessed of such weapons as will serve, not only for self-defence, but unable [enable?] us, should every peaceable and legal means be tried in vain, to assert our rights as freemen with arms in our hands against the tyranny of England. To such of the people as are not yet armed --and we fervently hope they are not many --we say, get a gun or a pike before you go to bed to-night. But get your arms honestly. Do not stain your holy cause by plundering any man of his arms. If you have not money to buy a gun, get a pike or a pistol."
As a set-off to the treason and disaffection preached and practised in the press and on the platform, the subjoined address from the “’Prentice Boys of Derry,” together with his Excellency’s reply, will be read with satisfaction:—
“TO HIS EXCELLENCY GEORGE WILLIAM FREDERICK EARL OF CLARENDON, LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND.
“We, the apprentice boys of Derry, feel called upon to address your Excellency at the present momentous crisis, and to offer the assurance of our respect for your personal character, and our dutiful submission to that high office which our gracious Sovereign has selected you to fill.
“Occupying, as our body does, a peculiar and civic position, and abstaining from interference in questions of political conflict, we cannot remain unconcerned at a time like the present, when sedition and disaffection, under the pretext of freedom, are industriously promulgated among the unthinking and discontented --when the constitution of the empire is openly assailed from a preference for republican institutions, and the rights and dominion of our Sovereign over this country are proposed to be permanently annihilated by popular violence and an appeal to arms.
“Believing that such proceedings are fraught with mischief to the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and that the incentives to outrage and insurrection which are so perseveringly urged, upon the minds of the unreflecting and misguided of our population, should be met by the stern assurance of the loyal and well-affected subjects of Her Majesty to support her throne and to maintain her laws, we desire to offer to your Excellency the expression of our firm determination to continue in that zealous allegiance to the Crown for which our predecessors have in past times been famed, and to support the constituted authorities of this country in the maintenance of peace and order.
“We assure your Excellency that we have observed with sincere concern the insults and calumnies to which you have been subjected from mischievous and designing men in your mild and benevolent exercise of the government of Ireland, and we beg to tender the expression of our thanks for the firmness with which you have acted under trying and difficult circumstances, and of our readiness to afford whatever aid may be in our power in supporting the Crown and the dignity of our gracious Sovereign and her authority over this part of her dominions.
“In testimony whereof the official seal is hereto affixed.
“JAMES W. GREGG, President,
“EDWARD G. DOUGHERTY, Secretary.”
"Gentlemen,---I am commanded by his Excellency the Lord-Lieutenant to tender you his sincere thanks for the loyal and gratifying address you have transmitted to him. Sedition and disaffection are not peculiar to any age or Country; in all times and in all places men may be found more desirous of profiting by the passions or prejudices of their fellows, than of pursuing that course of honourable exertion which is sure to be rewarded by the possession of comfort and independence under a free constitution. The privation and suffering through which this country has recently passed, have rendered the popular mind peculiarly susceptible of dangerous impulses, and every friend of law and order must be deeply grieved at witnessing the perverse efforts made to stimulate the masses to deeds of violence, which would inevitably protract the period of their privation and aggravate the intensity of their suffering.
"Lamentable as are the efforts made by the evil-disposed to excite sedition and disaffection, it is still gratifying to find that they have called forth a general and spontaneous protest against such abominable doctrines from men of every rank, profession, and religious denomination in Ireland. The wild incentives of those who seek the disorganization of society have been answered by a firm assertion of loyalty to the Sovereign, attachment to the institutions of the country, and determination to maintain at once the rights of citizens and the duties of subjects.
"His Excellency is willing to hope that these demonstrations made by the friends of law and order will convince the seditious of the impotency of their means if not of the wickedness of their schemes; but he thanks you for your offers of aid, and begs to assure you that, in the event of its being necessary, he shall, with confidence rely upon the loyal subjects of Her Majesty, of all classes and denominations, in defence of the throne, and of those institutions under which our country has attained unrivalled greatness and prosperity.
"His Excellency feels grateful for your expressions of personal regard, and confidence. The situation he fills is, at this moment, one of no ordinary difficulty; he cannot expect to escape obloquy and misrepresentation. But his Excellency derives support from the proofs recently given him by men of all classes, sects, and parties, that justice is done to his motives, that it is known to be the first object of his exertions, as it is the first desire of his heart, to advance in every way the welfare of Ireland, which, with you, he believes to be essential to the prosperity, the permanence, and the integrity of the united empire.
"I have the honour to be, gentlemen, your most obedient servant,
"Mr. J. W. Gregg; Mr. E. G. Dougherty."
(Source: The Times, London, dated 12 April 1848, page 8, Fingal County Library.)
Link to Home page Link to County Louth page