Punch and the Spectator on Irish Rebels - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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against these Irish "traitors and "rebels." The Morning Post suggested that—

"A Bill might be passed, enabling two or more magistrates, upon satisfactory proof of treasonable language having been spoken or written by any person, to commit that person forthwith to prison and hard labour for three months. Or a summary power to flog the persons guilty of the infamy of exciting the people to attack the government."

The British people were thoroughly aroused to their danger. Their organ (Punch) duly represented, for them, the Irish cutthroats, with every infamy of outrage that wood-engraving and types could express; and even the grave Spectator offered some receipts for settling matters with us, of which I shall give one as a sample:—


"Pick out a young one; speakers or editors are very good. Tie the arms behind the back, or close to the sides; but not too tight, or the patriot will be prevented from moving, and the ribs will not be done. Skewer down to the pile. You will want a strong, steady fire. Dry pine makes a very good blaze. When the fire gets low, throw in a little oil or fat. When nearly done, a little gunpowder thrown in will make the patriot skip: some cooks consider this important."

This is evidently a joke, and intended to be amusing; but such things show what was the temper of the British people. They had learned, as they believed, the real character of Irish agitators, through the articles which Lord Clarendon hired Birch to write about us, and were impatient to destroy such a gang. The Treason-Felony Act had been supported eagerly in Parliament by both parties; it instantly passed through the House of Peers; and the Illustrated News had a large engraving, representing the Queen signing her name to it with an air of vixenish spite, stamping her foot as she did it.

In Ireland, Lord Clarendon was getting up, through the Grand Masters of the Orangemen, loyal addresses, and declarations against "rebels" and "traitors." In fact, the Orange farmers and burghers of the North were fast becoming diligent students of the United Irishman; and although they and their Order had been treated with some neglect of late, both by England and by the Irish aristocracy, they were now taken into high favour; and arms were secretly issued to some of their lodges, from Dublin Castle.* ...continue reading »

* This was quite unknown to the public at the time: one case of it only (so far as I know) ever came to light. It was a shipment of 500 stand of arms to the Belfast Orangemen.

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