Thomas Francis Meagher

Irish nationalist & American politician (1823-1867)

Thomas Francis Meagher (August 3, 1823July 1, 1867) was an Irish nationalist, a Union Army general during the American Civil War and an American politician.

Thomas Francis Meagher



Legislative "Union" with Greath Britain (1846)


Speech, Conciliation Hall, 16 February 1846. From Dennis Gwynn, Young Ireland and 1848 (Cork University Press, 1949) p. 194

  • We now look into history with the generous pride of the nationalist, not with the cramped prejudice of the partisan. We do homage to Irish valour, whether it conquers on the walls of Derry, or capitulates with honour before the ramparts of Limerick; and, sir, we award the laurel to Irish genius, whether it has lit its flames within the walls of old Trinity, or drawn its inspiration from the sanctuary of Saint Omer’s. Acting in this spirit, we shall repair the errors and reverse the mean condition of the past. If not, we perpetuate the evil that has for so many years consigned this Country to the calamities of war and the infirmities of vassalage, "We must tolerate each other," said Henry Grattan, the inspired preacher of Irish nationality — he whose eloquence, as Moore has described it, was the very music of Freedom — "We must tolerate each other, or we must tolerate the common enemy..."

    But, sir, whilst we must endeavour wisely to conciliate let us not, to the strongest foe, nor in the most tempting emergency, weakly capitulate...

    Let earnest truth, stern fidelity to principle, love for all who bear the name of Irishmen, sustain, ennoble and immortalise this cause. Thus shall we reverse the dark fortunes of the Irish race, and call forth here a new nation from the ruins of the old.

    Thus shall a Parliament moulded from the soil, pregnant with the sympathies and glowing with the genius of the soil, be here raised up. Thus shall an honourable kingdom be enabled to fulfil the great ends that a bounteous Providence hath assigned her—which ends have been signified to her in the resources of her soil and the abilities of her sons.

Ireland and America (1846)


Speech at the banquet for the officers of American relief ships. From Meagher of the Sword: Speeches of Thomas Francis Meagher in Ireland 1846-1848, edited by Arthur Griffith (M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd, Dublin, 1916), p. 38

  • In this assembly, every political school has its teachers — every creed has its adherents — and I may safely say, that this banquet is the tribute of United Ireland to the representative of American benevolence. Being such, I am at once reminded of the dinner which took place after the battle of Saratoga, at which Gates and Burgoyne — the rival soldiers — sat together. Strange scene! Ireland, the beaten and the bankrupt, entertains America, the victorious and the prosperous! Stranger still! The flag of the Victor decorates this hail — decorates our harbour — not, indeed, in triumph, but in sympathy — not to commemorate the defeat, but to predict the resurrection, of a fallen people! One thing is certain — we are sincere upon this occasion. There is truth in this compliment. For the first time in her career, Ireland has reason to be grateful to a foreign power. Foreign power, sir! Why should I designate that country a "foreign power," which has proved itself our sister country? England, they sometimes say, is our sister country. We deny the relationship — we discard it. We claim America as our sister, and claiming her as such, we have assembled here this night. Should a stranger, viewing this brilliant scene inquire of me, why it is that, amid the desolation of this day — whilst famine is in the land — whilst the hearse-plumes darken the summer scenery of the island, whilst death sows his harvest, and the earth teems not with the seeds of life, but with the seeds of corruption — should he inquire of me, why it is, that, amid this desolation, we hold high festival, hang out our banners, and thus carouse — I should reply, "Sir, the citizens of Dublin have met to pay a compliment to a plain citizen of America, which they would not pay — 'no, not for all the gold in Venice' — to the minister of England."

Declining to accept any public entertainment in his honour, after his escape (1852)


Speech, Astor house, New York (10 June, 1852). From Capt. W. F. Lyons, Brigadier-General Thomas Francis Meagher: His Political and Military Career (Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd, London, 1869), p. 15

  • Whilst my country remains in sorrow and subjection, it would be indelicate of me to participate in the festivities you propose. When she lifts her head and nerves her arm for a bolder struggle — when she goes forth like Miriam, with song and trimble, to celebrate her victory — I too shall lift up my head, and join in the hymn of freedom. Till then, the retirement I seek will best accord with the love I bear her, and the sadness which her present fate inspires. Nor do I forget the companions of my exile. The freedom that has been restored to me is embittered by the recollection of their captivity. My heart is with them at this hour, and shares the solitude in which they dwell. Whilst they are in prison a shadow rests upon my spirit, and the thoughts that otherwise might be free throb heavily within me. It is painful for me to speak. I should feel happy in being permitted to be silent for these reasons you will not feel displeased with me for declining the honours you solicit me to accept.
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