Fellow-Countrymen,—The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that it is the intention of government to renew the Coercion Bill, and place all Ireland beyond the pale of the constitution. As one of your representatives, I therefore appeal to you, and inquire whether, In your opinion, this, is necessary, and whether the county of Meath requires it? If so, declare it; and let me have your sentiments. I am of opinion that it is not; and with that conviction I address you. I appeal to your sober senses. I appeal also to your love of freedom,—to your pride as a nation, and to the feelings which belong to man.
I ask, will you in silence permit this invasion of your rights, at once wanton, mischievous, uncalled for, and unnecessary? Will you patiently tolerate the annihilation of all freedom,—the appointment of a supreme dictator, who may, at his will, suspend all your rights, liberties, and privileges? Will you, without a murmur of dissent, submit to a tyranny which nearly equals that of the Russian autocrat, and is second to that of Bonaparte?
If you are willing thus to bend, and bow your necks beneath this yoke, select in my place another member; for I am not fit or willing to be the representative of slaves. Feeling “thus,” I give my opinion and my advice. I am attached; and ever will be attached, to England, ‘so long as’ she upholds the liberties of Ireland; but I am, and ever will, and ever ought to be, the enemy of England, if she attempts to keep Ireland in slavery!
Therefore it is that I advise you to meet. Assemble in your parishes, villages, and hamlets. Resolve,—petition,— address: bad as the British House of Commons is, let it not be said that you have neglected to put to the test either its virtue or compliance. Petition against the demolition of your constitution; your lives, your properties, those of your wives and children, all may be at stake. Recollect that liberty consists not only in its actual enjoyment, but in the impossibility of another depriving you of it against your consent.
In this question consider the interest of England is involved, as well as your independence. These habitual departures from freedom familiarize men with arbitrary power; and what others permit to be inflicted upon us, they may, at no distant day, tolerate themselves. All is doubt, distrust, and disgrace; and in this instance, rely on it, that the certain and fatal result will be to make Ireland hate the connection, contemn the councils of England, and despise her power.
Tell this to the king; state to him your apprehension and these dangers; call on his gracious majesty to redeem the pledge he gave to Ireland in his speech from the throne, at the close of the last session. Petition the House of Commons. Call for an inquiry into the real or supposed crimes of Ireland, for which she is to be visited with this horrid calamity! Challenge ministers to the proof, and put yourselves on God and your country. If guilty, let us calmly abide the results, and peaceably submit to our sentence; but if we are traduced,1 and really be innocent, tell ministers the truth,—tell them they are tyrants; and strain every effort to avert their oppression. Do not descend to your graves with the damning censure, that you suffered the liberties of your country to be taken away, and that you were mutes as well as cowards. Come forward, like men,—not in Meath alone, but in Ireland, everywhere. Protest against this atrocious attempt,—look in the face the enemies of your country;— and if our liberties are to be cloven down, if Ireland is again enthralled, let us at least stand firm and erect, ‘while the assassins strike the blow;’ and if we fall, let it be like men who deserve to be free.See also: SCORN TO BE SLAVES by Dr. Joseph Warren 1741-1775