The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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of the gangs which were under his care, in a sheaf, and stood ready to put forward each in his turn. If the voter dared to say, O'Flaherty, the agent scowled on him, and in that scowl he read his fate;—but he was sure to be greeted with a roaring cheer that shook the Court-house, and was repeated by the multitudes outside. Magistrates and police inspectors, pale with ferocious excitement, stood ready, eagerly watching for some excuse to precipitate the troops upon the people] and when the multitudes swayed and surged, as they bore upon their shoulders some poor farmer who had given the right vote, the ranks of infantry clashed the butts of their muskets on the pavement with a menacing clang, and the dragoons gathered up their bridles, and made hoofs clatter, and spurs and scabbards jingle, as if preparing for a charge.

I took charge of one of the polling booths as O'Flaherty's agent. A gang of peasants came up, led or driven by the bailiffs. One man, when the oath was administered to him, that he had not been bribed, showed pitiable agitation. He spoke only Gaelic, and the oath was repeated, sentence by sentence, by an interpreter. He affected to be deaf, to be stupid, and made continual mistakes. Ten times at least the interpreter began the oath, and as often failed to have it correctly repeated after him. The unfortunate creature looked round wildly as if he meditated breaking away; but the thought, perhaps, of famishing little ones at home still restrained him. Large drops broke out on his forehead; and it was not stupidity that was in his eye, but mortal horror. Mr Monahan himself happened to be in that booth at the time, and he stood close by his solicitor, still urging him to attempt once more to get the oath out of the voter. Murmurs began to arise, and at last I said to Mr Monahan: "You cannot, and you dare not, take that man's vote. You know, or your solicitor knows, that the man was bribed. I warn you to give up this vote and turn the man out." In reply, he shrugged his shoulders, and went out himself. The vote was rejected; and, with a savage whisper, the bailiff who had marshalled him to the poll turned the poor fellow away. I have no doubt that man is long since dead, he and all his children.

The election lasted four or five days, and was a very close contest. The decent burghers of the town stood by us, and our friends were enabled to rescue some bands of voters out of the custody of the agents and bailiffs, whose practice it was to collect those of the several estates in largo houses, set a guard over them, and help them to stifle thought and conscience with drink. Monahan had a mob hired,—the Claddagh fishermen,—so that ...continue reading »

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Page 149

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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