This was the Whig
aristocracy of England
had neither office nor title.
Behind him were three million people steeped in utter wretchedness, sore with the oppression of centuries, ignored by statute.
For thirty restless and turbulent years he stood in front of them, and said, “Remember, he that commits a crime helps the enemy.”
And during that long and fearful struggle, I do not remember one of his followers ever being convicted of a political offence, and during this period crimes of violence were very rare.
There is no such record in our history.
Neither in classic nor in modern times can the man be produced who held a million of people in his right hand so passive.
It was due to the consistency and unity of a character that had hardly a flaw.
I do not forget your soldiers, orators, or poets,--any of your leaders.
But when I consider O'Connell
's personal disinterestedness,--his rare, brave fidelity to every cause his principles covered, no matter how unpopular, or how embarrassing to his main purpose,--that clear, far-reaching vision, and true heart, which, on most moral and political questions, set him so much ahead of his times; his eloquence, almost equally effective in the courts, in the senate, and before the masses; that sagacity which set at naught the malignant vigilance of the whole imperial bar, watching thirty years for a misstep; when I remember that he invented his tools, and then measure his limited means with his vast success, bearing in mind its nature; when I see the sobriety and moderation with which he used his measureless power, and the lofty, generous purpose of his whole life,--I am ready to affirm that he was, all things considered, the greatest man the Irish race ever produced.