The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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country should remain liable to the annual charge upon heir own debt. But England, as I said, kept the books; and, seventeen years after, she found a pretext for charging herself with our debt, and charging us with hers. It was called the "Consolidation Act." They made a fair exchange with us, as O'Connell said; they gave us half of their debt and took half of ours. Ever since, the annual charge upon the Irish Exchequer for interest upon that consolidated debt, is nearly five millions.

Yet, with all this, Ireland remitted a surplus revenue to England over and above all that they could have the face to charge to her account, of about one million. Needless to say, it was all expended in public works in England. When the famine broke out, also, O'Connell pointed out the fact that the Quit and Crown Rents drawn from Ireland, under the head of "Woods and Forests," amounted to about 60,000, mostly expended in beautifying Trafalgar Square in London and the Castle of Windsor.

Considering all these things, it was believed not unreasonable that the common exchequer of the "three kingdoms" (so liberal when it was a question of turning negroes wild), ought to devote at least as great a sum to the mitigation of so dreadful a calamity. Accordingly, our people demanded such an appropriation, not as alms, but as a right. The Committee of the Repeal Association, for example, said:

"Your committee beg distinctly to disclaim any participation in appeals to the bounty of England or of Englishmen. They demand as right that a portion of the revenue which Ireland contributes to the State, may be rendered available for the mitigation of a great public calamity."

Up to the meeting of Parliament, the enemy concealed their intentions in mystery; they consulted nobody in Ireland about this Irish emergency, but prepared their plans in silence.

In the meantime, the abundant and magnificent crops of grain and herds of cattle were going over to England both earlier in the season, and in greater quantities, than ever before; for speculators were anxious to realize, and the landlords were pressing for their rents; and agents and bailiffs were down upon the farmers' crops before they could even get them stacked. So the farmers sold them at a disadvantage, in a glutted market, or they were sold for them, by auction, and with costs. The great point was to put the English Channel between the people and the food which Providence had sent them, at the earliest possible moment.

By New Year's Day, it was almost all swept off. Up to that ...continue reading »

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Page 104

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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