Daniel O’Connell’s speech given on 29 November 1837 – Source Analysis, III/2023

In 1837, an 80-page publication was produced on the anniversary of the Polish Revolution (November Uprising; 1830-1831) by the Parisian printing house Maulde and Renou. It is entitled 29 listopada w roku 1837. W Londynie, w Paryżu, w Edymburgu [29 November 1837. In London, in Paris, in Edinburgh] and consists almost entirely of speeches given that year by politicians, Polish emigrants and soldiers on the occasion of the anniversary celebrations in London, Paris and Edinburgh. The volume opens with the speech by D. Okonnell (Daniel O’Connell), chairman of the meeting, at the London Crown and Anchor Tavern (see Copy of Antoni Ostrowski’s letter to Daniel O’Connell (November 1837) – Source Analysis, Part II, II/2022). To follow are the speeches given Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart (1803-1854), Charles Buller (1806-1848), Thomas Attwood (1783-1856), Edmond Beales (1803-1881), Dr James Browne (1793-1841), Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (1770-1861), Karol Hoffman (1798-1875), Jan Szaniecki (1783-1840), and Ludwik Mierosławski (1814-1878) – all translated into Polish. This small book also contains a commentary on the anniversary celebrations of the November Uprising in London, which had initially appeared in the pages of the London Evening Standard on 30 November 1837, as well as recollections of Piotr Wysocki (1797-1875), one of the main figures of the Polish Revolution. Wysocki was the creator of the Wysocki Conspiracy (Sprzysiężenie Wysockiego), an underground organisation whose aim was to provoke an uprising in 1830.

The  book in question is a one of numerous and diverse publications, magazines and periodicals of Polish emigrants – an element of the enduring work of the so-called Great Emigration. In this respect, as emphasised by Sławomir Kalembka, “in addition to its artistic and cultural achievements, the vivid work [of the Great Emigration – ed. A.K.] that inspired Polish independence movements and organisations for many decades after the post-November emigrants died out, was among the preserved collection of printed material relating to its ideological and political thought.”[1] At the time, almost all the most prominent Polish writers, politicians and ideologists were leaving the country. This thought, therefore, developed in the pages of publications issued in the countries at which Polish emigrants had arrived, primarily France, Britain and Belgium. In 1837, which is of interest to us, there were about 7,000 Polish exiles. The vast majority were in France – 5,500 in 1839.[2]

It may be of interest that this book was published by one of the first Parisian printing houses that had acquired Polish fonts for printing. Even before the influx of Polish emigrants, these fonts had been purchased by the Parisian printing house Pinard from the entrepreneur Barbezat, who had published two volumes of poetry by Adam Mickiewicz. Around 1836, Pinard’s printing house was purchased by the company Maulde and Renou, which then issued publications in Polish (including newspapers) until the 1870s.[3]

While analysing the present translation of O’Connell’s speech, it is easy to find significant inaccuracies. They resulted, among other things, from the fact that at that time the greatest freedom of the printed word – and its dissemination – was in Britain. In France, during the reign of Louis Philippe, the pro-republican press was restricted, and most of the periodicals of Polish emigration were included in such a category. This was done by means of a bail or a press stamp. In practice, however, the indifference or “quiet favour” of officials allowed for relative freedom of publication. This was even more assured if the publication did not directly attack the system of government in France.[4] A particularly visible example of this is the omission of an entire fragment of O’Connell’s speech, when he talked about the revolution in France (July 1830; the “Three Glorious Days”) and King Charles X himself, who, according to the Irish leader, had “attempted to establish a despotism as complete as that of Russia”. O’Connell also denied that he was a supporter of his successor (Louis Philippe) but treated the revolution itself as “a glorious event”.[5]

Finally, it is worth mentioning a strong reaction of British conservatives to the chairmanship during the commemoration of the Polish Revolution in London. The London Evening Standard wrote about it on 30 November 1837. Even though the Polish Question was one of the few topics on which both Irish and English politicians agreed, the newspaper criticised the lack of initiative on the part of the conservatives and directly attacked O’Connell.[6] It was stated that the conservatives allowed their political opponents to place them in a wrong and “false position” in relation to the Polish Question. To some extent, this was due to an inaccurate perception of the Polish Revolution. According to the author, “the late Polish insurrection … was a movement as essentially Conservative as our own revolution of 1688.”[7] Furthermore, England – as emphasised – was bound by the Treaty of Vienna and obliged to defend the independence of Poland. However, this did not happen. And although the Poles – as it was stressed – were not Jacobins, the conservatives of Britain left the cause of Poland, its restoration, “in the hands of the worst Jacobins of Europe”, above all O’Connell. For the latter and others like him – according to the author – it was supposed to be “natural” that they should “snatch at every shred of foreign honour and right, wherewith to disguise and adorn the deformity of their native sedition.”[8]

Adam A. Kucharski and Robert T. Tomczak

[1] Sławomir Kalembka, Prasa demokratyczna Wielkiej Emigracji. Dzieje i główne koncepcje polityczne (1832-1863) (Toruń 1977), p. 1.

[2] Ibid., pp. 14-15.

[3] Ibid., p. 23.

[4] Ibid., pp. 24-23.

[5] Freeman’s Journal, 2 December 1837.

[6] For an account of how the Polish Question united the Irish and British political elites see Adam A. Kucharski, Placing Poland at the Heart of Irishness. Irish Political Elites in Relation to Poland and the Poles in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Berlin 2020). 

[7] London Evening Standard, 30 November 1837. The revolution of 1688-1689, known in British historiography as the Glorious Revolution, involved the “abdication” of the Catholic James II (detested by many for his Catholicism) and the succession of Protestant William III (William of Orange, stadholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands; 1672-1702) and Mary II (1689-1694). The Bill of Rights of 1689 interpreted James II’s flight from the country as his abdication and declared William III and Mary II as joint sovereigns.   

[8] London Evening Standard, 30 November 1837.

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