The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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the social and political chain that six hundred years of steady British policy had woven around every limb and muscle of his country,—down to that supreme moment of the blackness of darkness for himself and for Ireland, when he laid down his burden and closed his eyes among the palaces of the superb city, throned on her blue bay. Beyond a doubt, his death was hastened by the misery of seeing his proud hopes dashed to the earth, and his well-beloved people perishing; for there dwelt in that brawny frame tenderness and pity soft as woman's To the last he laboured on the "Relief Committees" of Dublin, and thought every hour lost unless employed in rescuing some of the doomed. The last time I saw him, he was in the Relief Committee Rooms, in Dame Street, sitting, closely muffled, in a chair, as I entered and found myself opposite to him and close by. Many months had gone by since we had spoken; and he had never mentioned me or any of my friends in that time without bitter reproaches. To my lowly inclination, I received in reply a chilling, stately bow, but no word.

Readers already know my estimate of his public character and labours. He had used all his art and eloquence to emasculate a bold and chivalrous nation; and the very gratitude, love, and admiration which his early services had won, enabled him so to pervert the ideas of right and wrong in Ireland, that they believed him when he told them that Constitutional "Agitation" was Moral Force—that bloodshed was immoral—that to set at naught and defy the London "laws" was a crime—that, to cheer and parade, and pay Repeal subscriptions, is to do one's duty—and that a people patient and quiet under wrong and insult is a virtuous and noble people, and the finest peasantry in the universe. He had helped the disarming policy of the English by his continual denunciations of arms, and had thereby degraded the manhood of his nation to such a point that to rouse them to resistance in their own cause was impossible, although still eager to fight for a shilling a day. To him and to his teaching, then, without scruple, I ascribe our utter failure to make, I do not say a revolution, but so much as an insurrection, two years after, when all the nations were in revolt, from Sicily to Prussia, and when a successful uprising in Ireland would have certainly destroyed the British Empire, and every monarchy in Europe along with it. O'Connell was, therefore, next to the British Government, the worst enemy that Ireland ever had,—or rather the most fatal friend. For the rest, no character of which I have heard or read was ever of so wide a compass; so capable at once of the highest virtues and the ...continue reading »

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Page 136

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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