QUOTES ABOUT JOHN MARTIN

A.M. Sullivan: "The name of John Martin ought not to be forgotten." (in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

"[John Martin] was slightly above middle height, (were it not for the effect of asthma on his frame he would have been a tall man), of slender build, with a slight stoop of the hair which betokens thoughtfulness: his hair was dark brown, very abundant, but not curly; his eyes were large, blue-grey in colour, and of an exquisite, tender expression; his nose was aquiline, and like all his features, finely cut; his complexion was clear, and he had a fine intellectual head and placid brow. He had a pleasant gravity of demeanour, and spoke in distinct measured tones, with perhaps, the slightest trace of the Northern accent. He possessed in a marked degree the faculty of personal fascination and added to a keen sense of humour a great love of fun…. He had a pretty wit when he chose to exercise it, but his jokes were always harmless and never caused ill-feeling or left a wound behind…. Add to the description I have given him-a frank, winning smile, and my readers will have a picture of him as he was when he entered public life. He was not in a sense a remarkable looking man, but he looked to be (what he was) a man who would not be guilty of a mean or unworthy action. There was nothing coarse, aggressive or impetuous about him; and the dignity of his manner had nothing austere or affected about it. He was a man to know and love, and whose friendship was worth the having." (in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

"It may be easily imagined that, being brought up amidst such strict Presbyterian surroundings, he would have conceived prejudices against his Catholic fellow-countrymen, and it may at once be said that his juvenile mind did entertain some of the prejudice… against Catholics and Catholic Emancipation; but his uncle [perhaps James Harshaw?] one day rebuking him some unconsidered remark that had fallen from him on the subject, said: 'What! John, would you not give Catholics the same rights that you enjoy yourself?' This set him thinking for the first time on the subject, and the opinions he afterwards formed were more in consonance with the principles of liberty, justice and equality." (in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

"[John Martin] devoted himself to improving the condition of his tenantry, and in helping the poor who thronged to his door-steps for medical and other assistance." (in O'Sullivan, "The Young Irelanders.")

John Mitchel (1844): "If there be a single member who joined [the Repeal Association] for the pure love of justice and of his native land, that one is John Martin." (in O'Sullivan, "The Young Irelanders.")

"John Martin, strangely for an ally of Mitchel, desired, as late as November 1847, no dismemberment of the British Empire." (in Davis, "The Young Ireland Movement")

John Mitchel (1848): "John Martin…always believes men are going to be amiable and reasonable, if they only have matters placed before them in the proper light." (in Gwynn, "Young Ireland and 1848")

Gavin Duffy (1848): "[Martin] felt honest wrath at the misgovernment of the country, but it was a wrath which would never explode in action. …[he believed] that we ought to elevate the whole nation together." (in Touhill, "William Smith O'Brien and His Irish Revolutionary Companions in Penal Exile.")

Editorial, "The Newry Telegraph" (1848) (courtesy of the British Library), upon the sentencing of John Martin to transportation for 10 years to Van Diemen's Land: "Deeply grieved are we that such has been the fate of John Martin. Entirely free from sympathy with the views he had recently entertained and promulgated, holding in abhorrence the doctrines and objects he had brought himself to look upon with favor and to endeavor after the advancement of, we yet unfeignedly and most profoundly compassionate the man. Heavy is the responsibility that rests upon the cabal by whose persuasives the kind-hearted and honest-intentioned John Martin was egged on to court so sad a doom, as that which has been the legitimate consequence of the pursuance of a line of conduct which a judgment perverted by the influence and contagion of evil companionship mistakenly but sincerely regarded as patriotic!"

John Mitchel [1848]: "John Martin, my staunch and worthy friend…my fellow felon. What a mild and benevolent-looking felon! The Convict Jesus was hardly purer, meeker, truer, more benignant than this man is." (in Mitchel, "Jail Journal.")

John Mitchel [1848]: "John Martin found guilty of felony (by a well-packed jury of Castle-Protestants)-and sentenced to ten years' transportation! I am very glad of this, because Martin is simply the best, worthiest, and most thoroughly high-minded man I ever knew; and because he has a large circle of acquaintances, who are all aware of his worth. One could not wish British law in Ireland a more damaging, damning sort of 'vindication' than thus to be compelled to send such men, by such methods, to its hulks. …John Martin a convict! John Martin in the hulks! Dragged away from the green shades and fertile pleasant places of Loughorne, and made one of a felon ship's crew…. Who and what is this John Martin! A political adventurer seeking to embroil the state in hopes of somehow rising to the surface of its tossing waves? Or a needy agitator speculating on a general plunder? Or a vain young man courting puffs, paragraphs and notoriety? Or a wild Jacobin, born foe of order, who takes it for his mission to overthrow whatever he finds established, and bring all things sacred into contempt? Great God! Thou knowest that the man on earth most opposite to all these is John Martin, the Irish Felon. By temperament and habit retiring, quiet, contented, one who has lived always for others, never for himself; his pleasures are all rural and domestic; and if there be any one thing under the sun that he heartily scorns, it is puffery and newspaper notoriety. All he possesses (and it is enough for his moderate wants) is landed property in fee-simple, which a social chaos would assuredly whirl away from him. Instead of being a Jacobin, a natural enemy of Law, Property and Order, he venerates Law beyond all other earthly things-cannot bear to live where anarchy reigns; would forever prefer to bear with unjust institutions, corruptly administered, if not wholly intolerable, rather than disquiet himself and others in a struggle to abolish them. BUT, in the exact proportion in which this man reveres Law, he loathes and spurns the fraudulent sham of Law. He respects property-his own and other men's-while it subsists; but he knows that when a large proportion of the people in any land lie down to perish of want, by millions (or were it only by thousands or hundreds), there is no property any longer there-only robbery and murder. … Now, is this John Martin's thought I am setting out, or my own? I believe both. At any rate, John Martin is an Irishman, and can never endure to have 'laws' made over his country by and for a foreign people. To make that outrage impossible he accounts the first duty of all Irishmen. There, at least, we are of one mind." (in Mitchel, "Jail Journal.")

John Mitchel (1848): "I do affirm before God that there are no three men now living in Ireland more reverentially obedient to law, more thoroughly and devoutly loyal, than those three [Martin, O'Brien, Meagher] now on their way to the Antipodes as felons and outlaws. It is because they reverence law, and scorn and loathe the false simulacrum of law-because their souls have yearned for peace, order, justice, under the sacred majesty of law-that they sail in a convict ship today. Analysing, here at a distance, the character of all my acquaintances, I know not three other men so expressly formed…for a life of tranquil enjoyment, and the discharge of all peaceful duties in proud obedience to the laws of the land. But they could not stand by and see diabolical injustice wrought without end, under this foul pretence of law-they would not be parties to the slaughter of their countrymen by millions that this foul pretence of law might flourish for ages to come… Therefore they sail this day in a convict-ship…." (in Mitchel, "Jail Journal.")

Rev. Dr. Hall, of Hobart, Tasmania (Nov 1849): "Mr. Martin bears the character of a strictly honorable man, and was the Father and Feeder of the poor in his neighbourhood. He was brought up to the medical profession, but of late years he had given up practice, through bad health [asthma], and lived upon his fortune. He is still, I believe, possessed of property, and only requires a few kind friends to cheer him through the dreary path he has been led into by an act of charity. His crime was starting the "Felon" newspaper, in order to obtain a subsistence for the wife and family of Mr. Mitchel, the first state prisoner sent away. Some of the articles were too strong for the government." (in Brown, "The Clyde Company Papers", volume 4.)

John Mitchel (Feb. 1858, while in the US, and publicly favoring slavery): "I wish you could only see some of his solemn remonstrances to me-but he might as well whistle jigs to a milestone. Poor John is a lonely man now-even in Loughorne he feels himself a foreigner, & betakes himself to Paris for distraction & confusion of ideas. I believe he would feel himself more at home here with us in Tennessee than anywhere else, and the business of expostulating with me would interest him and keep him alive. We often wish to see his long nose poking in at our door." (Letter to Mrs. Williams in Brown, "The Clyde Company Letters", volume 6.)

"Uncompromisingly honest, [John Martin] gave no quarter and took none-not even when the unasked for 'pardon' reached him in Van Diemen's Land would he seek to have it made unconditional that he might visit home and kindred in Ireland, because, in his opinion, that would be a tacit admission of the right of England to govern Ireland,--a right which he denied to the last. … He took part in [political life] simply for the benefit of his fellow-countrymen…." (in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

William Smith O'Brien (January 1861): No man in Ireland is better entitled than you to be heard on such subject. You have given unquestionable proofs of the sincerity of your devotion to Ireland. Though you appear in this controversy as my adversary, I am bound to say that, in my intercourse with the world, I have never met in private life so unselfish a man as you; and I am inclined to believe that in the public affairs of nations, there never appeared on earth a patriot more single-minded and disinterested. I feel assured also, that when we differ you will state frankly your reasons for disagreement without bitterness or ill-will. In this respect you are unlike ordinary controversialists, who cannot discuss even abstract questions without resorting to personal vituperation, and often to the vilest calumny." (in "Correspondence Between John Martin and William Smith O'Brien.")

Horace Greeley, American Journalist, (1869): "I feel that I may rightly claim for our friend, around whom we rally tonight, that his [John Martin's] character and his career have passed beyond the reach of obloquy, beyond the reach of defamation. …Men may say, some of them, 'Well, he was mistaken;' others may say, 'Well, he was mistaken;' others may say, 'Well, he has not succeeded;' but no one will ever say he was dishonest." (in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

Joseph Cowen, Member of Parliament for Newcastle, (1875): "[John Martin] was most assiduous in the discharge of the multifarious duties that appertained to the office of a representative. He shrunk from the performance of no honourable task, however irksome or trifling, that his constituents imposed upon him. He would not ask a favour from a Minister, or put himself under obligation to an official. He insisted on what was his right, but neither sought nor took anything more. He was a laborious and scrupulous correspondent, answering every letter that he received with the punctuality of a man of business and the precision of a lawyer. I often urged him to abandon some of the drudgery the letter writing involved, but he would not do so, saying that his countrymen were entitled to such services, and that when he could not render them he would retire. There was a primitive simplicity and a self-denial in his manners that were very attractive. He instinctively shunned everything coarse, vulgar, obtrusive, or ostentatious. He not merely avoided all imposing appearances, all artifice and assumption, but he held them in abhorrence. He never courted popularity, and refused to pay homage to the idols of the hour." (in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

A political opponent in the House of Commons upon learning of his death in 1875, wrote of him: "He was simple, earnest, and single-minded, and simplicity, earnestness, and single-mindedness are qualities so rare in the House of Commons, that we can ill spare John Martin." (H.W. Lucy, "Diary of Two Parliaments" as quoted in Sillard, "The Life and Letters of John Martin.")

Rev. J. Davison Cowan (1914): "John Martin…was a man of undoubted ability-with a strong sense of duty. With his political views we are wholly in disagreement, but recognise, nevertheless, that he was honest (though mistaken) in his convictions, as all who knew him acknowledged, and hence he was called 'Honest John Martin.' …In politics he was an ardent Home Ruler-advocating the legislative independence of Ireland and repeal of the Union with Great Britain, and hence he became known as 'John Martin-the Repealer.'" (in Cowan, "An Ancient Parish Past and Present being the Parish of Donaghmore, County Down.")

Compiled by Suzanne Ballard, April 2000.


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