The Galway Election of 1847 - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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we were obliged to organize a mob to counteract it. Of course there was much skirmishing in the streets. Monahan was run very close, and in the last two days his party spent much money in bribery; a kind of contest into which Mr O'Flaherty did not enter with him. The Attorney-General won his election by four votes, out of a very large constituency; but his escape was narrow. If he had lost, he would have been thrown aside like any broken tool; but, as it chanced, he is now Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. More than this; he had the satisfaction, not many months after, of hunting into exile, or prosecuting (with packed juries) to conviction, every Irish Confederate who went down to hold out Galway against him—with a single exception. Ministers gave him carte blanche in the matter of those prosecutions, and he used it with much energy and legal learning.

The summer of '47 wore through wearily and hopelessly. All endeavours to rouse the landlord class to exertion entirely failed, through their coward fear of an outraged and plundered people: and at last, when out of the vast multitudes of men thrown from public works, houseless and famishing, a few committed murders and robberies, or shot a bailiff or an incoming tenant, the landlords in several counties besought for a new Coercion and Arms Act, so as to make that code more stringent and inevitable. Lord John Russell was but too happy to comply with the demand; but the landlords were to give something in exchange for this security. Addresses of confidence were voted by grand juries and county meetings of landlords. The Irish gentry almost unanimously volunteered addresses denouncing Repeal and Repealers, and pledged themselves to maintain the Union. At the same time ejectment was more active than ever; and it is not to be denied that, amongst the myriads of desperate men who then wandered houseless, there were some who would not die tamely. Before taking their last look at the sun, they could at least lie in wait for the agent who had pulled down their houses and turned their weeping children adrift: him, at least, they could send to perdition before them.

The crisis was come. The people no longer trusted the ameliorative professions of their enemies; and there were some who zealously strove to rouse them now at last, to stand up for their own lives; to keep the harvest of '47 within the four seas of Ireland; and by this one blow to prostrate Irish landlordism and the British empire along with it.

How we felt ourselves justified in urging so desperate a measure, and how practically we meant to carry it out, must be explained in another chapter. ...continue reading »

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