Emancipation and Repeal

Justin McCarthy
Chapter X | Start of Chapter

In 1806 the Whigs came into power, and they were understood to be supporters of Catholic Emancipation. O'Connell was already a member of an organization formed to demand religious emancipation. He addressed meetings all over Ireland in advocacy of the cause, and in support of any English Ministry which might have the courage to adopt it. He also started a new agitation for the restoration of the Irish Parliament. "Repeal of the Union," the name he gave to this demand, has become historical.

O'Connell was probably the greatest popular orator Ireland has ever brought forth, and one of the greatest popular orators known to the world. He had all the physical qualifications which help towards great oratorical success. He was of commanding stature and proportions, and had a voice combining strength, sweetness, and melody, capable of commanding with ease the largest audiences, and rich in variety of intonation and expression. That voice was able to touch every chord of human emotion. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton paid a splendid tribute to the power of O'Connell's eloquence at an open-air meeting, which, he said, taught him—

"What spells of infinite choice

To rouse or lull has the sweet human voice."