Speech by John E. Redmond at the Irish National Convention in Chicago (August 18, 1886)

From Irish Oratory and Orators

This speech has been quoted by Lord Russell of Killowen at the Parnell Commission as a proof that the Parliamentary Party were not connected with the physical force movement.

Selfishness and worldly interests all point to another course as the best; but it is the undying glory of Ireland that her exiled sons, in the midst of prosperity, and in the light of liberty, have yet found time to absent themselves from felicity awhile to tell her story, and have made it a part of their daily life and nightly dream to help in working out her redemption.

The Irish soldier, whose sword was consecrated to the service of America, dreamed, as he went into battle, of the day when his arm, skilled in the service of his adopted country, might strike a blow for Irish liberty. The Irish business man, who found in one of your gigantic cities scope for his enterprise and for his industry, looked forward to the day when from his store help might go across the Atlantic to sustain Ireland's champions on the old sod. The Irish labourer, whose brawny arms have built your railroads and reared your stately palaces, in the midst of his labours laid aside his daily or weekly mite to help those who were fighting, time after time, with one weapon or another, in the old cause against the old enemies of Ireland. Rich or poor, high or low, alike, the Irish in America have never forgotten the land whence they sprang, and our people at home, in their joys and their sorrows, in their hopes and in their fears, turn ever for help and encouragement and confidence to this great republic, upon whose fortunes and whose future rest to-day the blessings of the Irish race. To assist at this great convention of the Irish nation in America, especially to stand here as we do, as the ambassadors sent here to represent the Irish nation at home, is indeed a supreme honour which we can never over-estimate and can never forget.

The principle embodied in the Irish movement of today is just the same principle which was the soul of every Irish movement for the last seven centuries--the principle of rebellion against the rule of strangers; the principle which Owen Roe O'Neill vindicated at Benburb; which animated Tone and Fitzgerald, and to which Emmet sacrificed a stainless life. Let no man desecrate that principle by giving it the ignoble name of hatred of England. Race hatred is at best an unreasoning passion. I, for one, believe in the brotherhood of nations, and bitter as the memory is of past wrongs and present injustice inflicted upon our people by our alien rulers, I assert the principle underlying our movement is not the principle of revenge for the past, but of justice for the future. When a question of that principle arises there can be no such thing as compromise. The Irish leader who would propose to compromise the national claims of Ireland, who would even incline for one second to accept as a settlement of our demand any concession short of the unquestioned recognition of that nationality which has come down to us sanctified by the blood and tears of centuries, would be false to Ireland's history and would forfeit all claims upon your confidence or support. Such a contingency can never arise, for the man who would be traitor enough to propose such a course would find himself no longer a leader. No man can barter away the honour of a nation. The one great principle of any settlement of the Irish question must be the recognition of the divine right of Irishmen, and Irishmen alone, to rule Ireland. This is the principle in support of which you are assembled today; this is the principle which guides our movement in Ireland. But, consistently with that principle, we believe it is possible to bring about a settlement honourable to England and Ireland alike, whereby the wrongs and miseries of the past may be forgotten; whereby the chapter of English wrongs and of Irish resistance may be closed; and whereby a future of freedom and of amity between the two nations may be inaugurated.