Gladstone and the Irish Nation

By J. L. Hammond | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
AFTER THE PHOENIX PARK MURDERS, 1882

In January, 1858, Orsini, the Italian conspirator, threw a bomb at the Emperor Napoleon in Paris, killing eight people and wounding 150,1 but missing altogether both Napoleon and the Empress. Orsini died for his crime, but by a strange irony his attempt succeeded in its purpose. Either some sudden impulse or some deeper calculation prompted Napoleon, whom Orsini had wrongly imagined to be the obstacle to French intervention against Austria, to choose this occasion for deciding to befriend Italy; to give form and substance to his Carbonari memories. A letter from Orsini appealing to the Emperor to give liberty to twenty-five millions of people was read at his trial; it was printed in all the French newspapers, and by Napoleon's own request in the Piedmontese Official Gazette. Napoleon's strange erratic mind, of which nobody could say at any moment whether it would look up or down, whether its mood would be generous or cunning, turned to a romantic adventure. In July he met Cavour at Plombières and planned with him the war of liberation.

On May 6, 1882, four men armed with long knives threw themselves on Burke, the chief official of Dublin Castle, walking with the new Chief Secretary, Cavendish, in Phoenix Park. Cavendish tried to defend Burke and both men lost their lives. This terrible murder, if the English Parliament had had more imagination or foresight, might have helped to make peace between England and Ireland. One Englishwoman at any rate would have made her private calamity into a public blessing. Lady Frederick Cavendish sent a

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1
Trevelyan, Garibaldi and the Thousand, p. 73seq., 156 men wounded, of whom eight dead. The figures differ in different accounts.

-283-

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