There are few facts detailed in the following pages that need explanation here. If my motive in writing them were personal gratification, or simply a desire to preserve a memorial of scenes in which I took an anxious part, I might labour to make the narration more interesting to my readers, without any care for future consequences.
But through every disaster I preserved unbroken faith in the purpose and courage of my country. I believed, and still believe that her true heart is faithful to liberty and hopeful for the future; and this conviction involved me in a struggle with the apparently opposite tendency of the facts I was bound to narrate. Had I to write for a new generation, upon whom these facts could have made no false impressions, my task would be easy. I am persuaded that a simple statement of all that occurred would satisfy any candid mind that no disgrace attached to Ireland in her recent discomfiture. But I must needs confess that it is a task of extreme difficulty to reconcile her fall with the pre-conceived notions or present prejudices of those who read her story through the false medium of the press; nor do I hope for more than partial success from the details I have been able to give of the circumstances of which she was the victim and the dupe.
It is impossible fully to appreciate the pernicious effect of Mr. O’Connell’s teaching, without reviewing in minute detail the leading circumstances of his wonderful career and the matchless and countless resources with which he upheld his fatal system. In dealing with this part of my subject my difficulties have been multiplied and enhanced by a strong desire to do him no injustice, and to leave untouched by doubt or suspicion a character so intertwined with my country’s love. But it became necessary to refer to those acts which chiefly tended to increase the obstacles which beset our endeavours. In doing this, whether here or elsewhere in my narrative, if I use phrases which would seem to imply harshness to his memory, I wish them to be understood as applied in reference to the attempt to effect the deliverance of Ireland by force of arms, and establishing her entire and perfect independence. I have avoided this question, assuming that I wrote only for those who agreed with me in the belief that such is her true destiny, and the end for which her children ought to strive.
In this view of her recent struggle, there can be no doubt of the tendency of Mr. O’Connell’s policy to demoralise, disgrace, enfeeble and corrupt the Irish people, and it is in that sense, and that only, I have always spoken of him.
Another subject, of perhaps greater delicacy and difficulty, was the part taken by the Catholic clergy. On my arrival in America, I found a fierce contest agitating, dividing and enfeebling the Irish-American population. It was asserted on one side that the entire failure was attributable to the Catholic priests, and that in opposing the liberation of Ireland they acted in accordance with some recognised radical principle of the Church.