Daniel O’Connell, the future Liberator, wrote the following on Tuesday 29 December 1796, some days after Wolfe Tone stood on the deck of the Indomitable in Bantry Bay. The intended invasion never materialised because of the storm on Christmas Eve, and the French fleet under Hoche returned to France. But the thought of what might have been was enough to scare O’Connell, whose education was in one of the Catholic continental colleges and whose uncle, also Daniel, moved to England from the old French military service. The extract comes from O’Connell’s little-known journal.
I love, from my heart I love, Liberty. I do not express myself properly. But I know that the victories of the French would be attended with bad consequences. The Irish people are not yet sufficiently enlightened to be able to bear the sun of freedom. Freedom would soon dwindle into licentiousness. They would rob; they would murder. The altar of Liberty totters when it is cemented only with blood, when it is supported only with carcasses. The Liberty which I look for is that which would increase the happiness of mankind. In the service of Liberty I have devoted my life and whatever portion of talents I may have or acquire.