When, a century and a half ago, the American Colonies dared to assert the ancient principle that the subject should not be taxed without the consent of his representatives, England strove to crush them. To-day England threatens to crush the people of Ireland if they do not accept a tax, not in money but in blood, against the protest of their representatives.
During the American Revolution the champions of your liberties appealed to the Irish Parliament against British aggression, and asked for a sympathetic judgment on their action. What the verdict was, history records.
To-day it is our turn to appeal to the people of America. We seek no more fitting prelude to that appeal than the terms in which your forefathers greeted ours:
“We are desirous of possessing the good opinion of the virtuous and humane. We are peculiarly desirous of furnishing you with the true state of our motives and objects, the better to enable you to judge of our conduct with accuracy, and determine the merits of the controversy with impartiality and precision.”
If the Irish race had been conscriptable by England in the war against the United Colonies is it certain that your Republic would to-day flourish in the enjoyment of its noble Constitution?
Since then the Irish Parliament has been destroyed, by methods described by the greatest of British statesmen as those of “black-guardism and baseness.” Ireland, deprived of its protection and overborne by more than six to one in the British Lower House, and by more than a hundred to one in the Upper House, is summoned by England to submit to a hitherto-unheard-of decree against her liberties.
In the fourth year of a war ostensibly begun for the defence of small nations, a law conscribing the manhood of Ireland has been passed, in defiance of the wishes of our people. The British Parliament, which enacted it, had long outrun its course, being in the eighth year of an existence constitutionally limited to five. To warrant the coercive statute, no recourse was had to the electorate of Britain, much less to that of Ireland. Yet the measure was forced through within a week, despite the votes of Irish representatives, and under a system of closure never applied to the debates which established conscription for Great Britain on a milder basis.
To repel the calumnies invented to becloud our action, we venture to address the successors of the belligerents who once appealed to Ireland. The feelings which inspire America deeply concern our race; so, in the forefront of our remonstrance, we feel bound to set forth that this Conscription Act involves for Irishmen questions far larger than any affecting mere internal politics. They raise a sovereign principle between a nation that has never abandoned her independent rights, and an adjacent nation that has persistently sought to strangle them.
Were Ireland to surrender that principle, she must submit to a usurped power, condone the fraudulent prostration of her Parliament in 1800, and abandon all claim to distinct nationality. Deep-seated and far-reaching are the problems remorselessly aroused by the unthinking and violent courses taken at Westminster.