The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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CHAPTER XV.

DEATH OF O'CONNELL—HIS CHARACTER—ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE NEXT YEAR'S FAMINE—EMIGRATION—REPORT OF A "SELECT COMMITTEE"—A NEW COERCION ACT—THE CRISIS APPROACHES.

IN February, 1847, and amidst the deepest gloom and horror of the famine, O'Connell, old, sick, and heavy-laden, left Ireland, and left it for ever. Physicians in London recommended a journey to the South of Europe; and O'Connell himself desired to see the Pope before he died, and to breathe out his soul at Rome in the choicest odour of sanctity. By slow and painful stages he proceeded only as far as Genoa, and there died on the 15th of May.

For those who were not close witnesses of Irish politics in that day—who did not see how vast this giant figure loomed in Ireland and in England for a generation and a half—it is not easy to understand the strong emotion caused by his death, both in friends and enemies. Yet, for a whole year before, he had sunk low, indeed. His power had departed from him; and in presence of the terrible apparition of his perishing country, he had seemed to shrink and wither. Nothing can be conceived more helpless than his speeches in Conciliation Hall, and his appeals to the British Parliament during that time: yet, as I said before, he never begged alms for Ireland: he never fell so low as that; and I find that the last sentences of the very last letter he ever penned to the Association still proclaim the true doctrine:—

"It will not be until after the deaths of hundreds of thousands, that the regret will arise that more was not done to save a sinking nation.

"How different would the scene be if we had our own Parliament—taking care of our own people—of our own resources. But, alas! alas! it is scarcely permitted to think of these, the only sure preventatives of misery, and the only sure instruments of Irish prosperity."

Let me do O'Connell justice; bitter and virulent as may have been the hatred he bore to me in his last days of public life. To no Irishman can that wonderful life fail to be impressive,—from the day when, a fiery and thoughtful boy, he sought the cloisters of St Omers for the education which penal laws denied him in his own land, on through the manifold struggles and victories of his earlier career, as he broke and flung of, with a kind of haughty impatience, link after link of ...continue reading »

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Page 135

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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