The fond tenacity with which the large numbers of the Irish people who have established themselves in foreign states have always clung to their native country; the active sympathy they have personally shown for their relatives at home; the repeated efforts they have made to assist the Irish in Ireland, in all their public undertakings, requires that, as an element in O'Connell's final and successful struggle for Catholic Emancipation, we should take a summary view of the position of "the Irish abroad."
While the emigrants of that country to America naturally pursued the paths of peace, those who, from choice or necessity, found their way to the European Continent, were, with few exceptions, employed mainly in two departments--war and diplomacy. An Irish Abbe, liked the celebrated preacher, McCarthy--or an Irish merchant firm, such as the house of the same name at Bordeaux, might be met with, but most of those who attained any distinction did so by the sword or the pen, in the field or the cabinet.
In France, under the revolutionary governments from '91 to '99, the Irish were, with their old-world notions of God and the Devil, wholly out of place; but under the Consulate and the Empire, they rose to many employments of the second class, and a few of the very first. From the ranks of the expatriated of '98, Buonaparte promoted Arthur O'Conor and William Corbet to the rank of General; Ware, Alien, Byrne, the younger Tone, and Keating, to that of Colonel. As individuals, the Emperor was certainly a benefactor to many Irishmen; but, as a nation, it was one of then: most foolish delusions, to expect in him a deliverer. On the restoration of the Bourbons, the Irish officers who had acquired distinction under Napoleon adhered generally to his fortunes, and tendered their resignations; in their place, a new group of Franco-Irish descendants of the old Brigades-men, began to show themselves in the salons of Paris, and the Bureaus of the Ministers. The last swords drawn for "the legitimate branch" in '91, was by Count Dillon and his friend Count Wall; their last defender, in 1830, was General Wall, of the same family.
Though the Irish in France, especially those resident at Paris, exercised the greatest influence in favour of their original country--an influence which met all travelled Englishmen, wherever the French language was understood--their compatriots in Spain and Austria had also contributed their share to range Continental opinion on the side of Ireland. Three times, during the century, Spain was represented at London by men of Irish birth, or Irish origin. The British merchant who found Alexander O'Reilly Governor of Cadiz, or the diplomatist who met him as Spanish ambassador, at the Court of Louis XVI., could hardly look with uninstructed eyes, upon the lot of his humblest namesake in Cavan. This family, indeed, produced a succession of eminent men, both in Spain and Austria. "It is strange," observed Napoleon to those around him, on his second entry into Vienna, in 1809, "that on each occasion--in November, 1805, as this day --on arriving in the Austrian capital, I find myself in treaty and in intercourse with the respectable Count O'Reilly." Napoleon had other reasons for remembering this officer; it was his dragoon regiment which saved the remnant of the Austrians, at Austerlitz. In the Austrian army list at that period, when she was the ally of England, there were above forty Irish names, from the grading of Colonel up to that of Field-Marshal. In almost every field of the Peninsula, Wellington and Anglesea learned the value of George the Second's imprecation on the Penal Code, which deprived him of such soldiers as conquered at Fontenoy. It cannot be doubted that even the constant repetition of the names of the Blakes, O'Donnells, and Sarsfields, in the bulletins sent home to England, tended to enforce reflections of that description on the statesmen and the nation, and to inspirit and sustain the struggling Catholics. A powerful argument for throwing open the British army and navy to men of all religions, was drawn from these foreign experiences; and, if such men were worthy to hold military commissions, why not also to sit in Parliament, and on the Bench?
The fortunes of the Irish in America, though less brilliant for the few, were more advantageous as to the many. They were, during the war of the revolution, and the war of 1812, a very considerable element in the American republic. It was a violent exaggeration to say, as Lord Mountjoy did in moving for the repeal of the Penal laws, "that England lost America by Ireland;" but it is very certain that Washington placed great weight on the active aid of the gallant Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Southern Irish troops, and the sturdy Scotch-Irish of New Hampshire. Franklin, in his visit to Ireland, before the rupture, and Jefferson in his correspondence, always enumerates the Irish, as one element of reliance, in the contest between the Colonies and the Empire.
In the immediate cause of the war of 1812, this people were peculiarly interested. If the doctrines of "the right of search" and "once a subject always a subject," were to prevail, no Irish emigrant could hope to become --or having become, could hope to enjoy the protection of--an American citizen. It was, therefore, natural that men of that origin should take a deep interest in the war, and it seems something more than a fortuitous circumstance, when we find in the chairman of the Senatorial Committee of 1812, which authorized the President to raise the necessary levies--an Irish emigrant, John Smilie, and in the Secretary-at-war, who acted under the powers thus granted, the son of an Irish emigrant, John Caldwell Calhoun. On the Canadian frontier, during the war which followed, we find in posts of importance, Brady, Mullany, McComb, Croghan and Reilly; on the lakes, Commodore McDonough, and on the ocean, Commodores Shaw and Stewart--all Irish. On the Mississippi, another son of Irish emigrant parents, with his favourite lieutenants, Carroll, Coffee, and Butler, brought the war to a close by their brilliant defence of New Orleans. The moral of that victory was not lost upon England; the life of Andrew Jackson, with a dedication "to the People of Ireland" was published at London and Dublin, by the most generally popular writer of that day--William Cobbett.
In the cause of South American independence, the Irish under O'Higgins and McKenna in Chili, and under Bolivar and San Martin in Colombia and Peru, were largely engaged, and honourably distinguished. Colonel O'Conor, nephew to Arthur, was San Martin's chief of the staff; General Devereux, with his Irish legion, rendered distinguished services to Bolivar and Don Bernardo. O'Higgins was hailed as the Liberator of Chili. During that long ten years' struggle, which ended with the evacuation of Carraccas in 1823, Irish names are conspicuous on almost every field of action. Bolivar's generous heart was warmly attached to persons of that nation. "The doctor who constantly attends him," says the English General, Miller, "is Dr. Moore, an Irishman, who had followed the Liberator from Venezuela to Peru. He is a man of great skill in his profession, and devotedly attached to the person of the Liberator. Bolivar's first aide-de-camp, Colonel O'Leary, is a nephew of the celebrated Father O'Leary. In 1818, he embarked, at the age of seventeen, in the cause of South American independence, in which he has served with high distinction, having been present at almost every general action fought in Colombia, and has received several wounds. He has been often employed on diplomatic missions, and in charges of great responsibility, in which he has always acquitted himself with great ability."
That these achievements of the Irish abroad produced a favourable influence on the situation of the Irish at home, we know from many collateral sources; we know it also from the fact, that when O'Connell succeeded in founding a really national organization, subscriptions and words of encouragement poured in on him, not only from France, Spain, and Austria, but from North and South America, not only from the Irish residents in those countries, but from their native inhabitants--soldiers and statesmen--of the first consideration. The services and virtues of her distinguished children in foreign climes, stood to the mother country instead of treaties and alliances.