Mr Roebuck and the Irish Famine - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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ruption of the middle class, by holding out the prize of ten thousand new government situations; then the Vagrancy Act, to make criminals of all houseless wanderers; then the "voluntary" emigration schemes; then the omnipresent police, hanging like a cloud over the houses of all "suspected persons," that is, all persons who still kept a house over their heads; then the quarantine regulations and increased fare for deck passengers to England, thus debarring the doomed race from all escape at that side, and leaving them the sole alternative, America or the grave;—this, I believe, gives something like a map or plan of the field, as laid out and surveyed for the Last Conquest.

What had become of the Repeal and our Parliament in College Green? Alas! alas! the proud national aspirations that had stirred our people three years before had sunk into a dismal and despairing cry for food, or an impotent litany of execration upon our enemies. Yet the Repeal of the Union,—a Parliament in College Green,—this was still as ever the sole and single remedy for all our evils; and so it was still proclaimed by the Irish Confederation and by Smith O'Brien to the very last. For this the Repeal members were taunted viciously in Parliament, with complaining of everything, but having nothing to propose:—"nothing but what they knew the House would not adopt," said Mr Roebuck. Indeed, they had nothing to propose but Repeal.

This same Roebuck, making a speech in Parliament during this year, in presence of Mr O'Brien, reproached the Irish members (falsely) with only asking alms, but suggesting no practical measures of manful self-help. "I pledge my faith," said the orator, "for the people of England, that they will give their immediate assent to any proposition which has a fair and honourable regard to the real interests of Ireland." There was one loud cry of "hear!" "Ah!" continued the speaker, "the honourable member opposite, the honourable member for Limerick, says hear;—and I know exactly what he means: he is going to propose Repeal: I see it in his eye." Whereupon there was "laughter" and "renewed laughter." *

The Irish landlords were in dire perplexity. Many of them were good and just men; but the vast majority were fully identified in interest with the British Government, and desired nothing so much as to destroy the population. They would not consent to Tenant-Right; they dared not trust themselves in Ireland without a British army. They may have felt, indeed, that they were themselves both injured and insulted by the whole system of English legislation; but ...continue reading »

* Debate of March 8th.

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