Debate in Parliament on the State of Ireland - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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of that prosecution. Forty-three public meetings were held, and every one of them was admitted to be legal; not one was impeached as being against the law, and every one of them making on the calendar of crime a cypher; but by multiplying cyphers, you come, by a species of legal witchcraft, to make a number that shall be fatal. One meeting is legal, another meeting is legal, a third is the same; and three legal meetings, you say, make one illegal meeting. The people of Ireland understand that you may oppress them, but not laugh at them. That, sir, is my first objection. The second is the striking out all the Catholics from the jury panel. There is no doubt of the fact. Eleven Catholics were upon the jury panel, and every one of them was struck out."

All the world knew it. Nobody pretended to deny it, or publicly to excuse it: but what availed all this? The ultimatum of England was, that the Union must be maintained at any cost and by all means. And O'Connell was to return to Dublin by a certain day for judgment and sentence. It may have been some satisfaction to him—or it may not—to expose and turn inside out the whole procedure of that trial before English audiences; the loud laughter of all Liverpool may have pleased him, when he described, with exuberant merriment, the nature of the cumulative crime, contained in his monster meetings—one meeting legal, another meeting legal, but forty-three illegal. Said he, in Liverpool:—

"What would a merchant of this city say if a fellow, just escaped from some Lunatic Asylum, were to come into his office and request him to tot up forty-three noughts? Would he not turn the mad fellow out of his office? This is what I want done to the present Ministry;—I want them turned out of office."

This was extremely gratifying and amusing to Liverpool Whigs, who looked only at the chances of their friends coming into power. But no man in all England ever, for one moment, suffered the idea to enter his head that Ireland was to be in any case permitted to govern herself.

In truth, it was apparent both to Englishmen and Irishmen, that the real struggle between the two islands did not lie in the Court of Queen's Bench, but in the country—and that it would be decided, not by the learned Judges with their packed jury, but by the Repeal Wardens on the one side, and the troops and police on the other. And British Whigs could well afford to let O'Connell have a legal triumph, to the damage of British Tories, so long as the real and substantial policy of England in Ireland was pursued without interruption. As to this point, there must be no mistake: no British Whig or British Tory ...continue reading »

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