The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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Corporation of Dublin was to be exposed and baffled; if, in any prosecution of a Catholic newspaper, the Orange Judges were to be bearded on the Bench, and the Orange Jurors shamed in their jury-box, O'Connell was the champion to whom the labour and the honour fell. It would be long to tell the series of legal battles he fought in the Four Courts and at County assizes. His tone and manner were always defiant and contemptuous. If he knew the Judges were predetermined, and the jury well and truly packed, he condescended to argue no points of law; but launched out into denunciation of the whole system of law and government in Ireland; informed the jurors that they knew they were packed; charged the Judges with having advised and urged on the prosecution which they pretended to try; in short, set his client and his client's case at one side as a minor and collateral affair; took all Ireland for his client; and often made Judges, Sheriffs, and juries feel that they were the real criminals on trial.

It is easy to understand that this conduct, if it did not save his clients, inspirited his people. All Ireland was proud of him, and felt that he had been sent as their deliverer. At length he renounced the general practice of law (which brought him in £8,000 per annum) and became a professional agitator. He established the Catholic Association, expressly to promote the emancipation of the Catholics from all remaining penal laws; and finding that his agitation produced small impression in England, he at length suddenly left Dublin on the eve of an election for Clare county; travelled day and night to Ennis; announced himself, though a proscribed Catholic, as a candidate against Mr Vesey Fitzgerald; and easily carried the election. He then went to London, proceeded to the House of Commons, and demanded to take his seat without the oaths which excluded Catholics. Of course he was refused; and a new writ was issued for a new election in Clare He returned to Ireland, resolved to be returned again for the same county; but, before the new election, Parliament was dissolved; and Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington announced their Bill for emancipation of the Catholics—expressly, as the Duke avowed, to avert civil war.

Undoubtedly this was a daring achievement and a noble triumph: and O'Connell thought the same system of agitation might at any time coerce the British Government to yield all the rest. Catholic Emancipation, however, it must be remembered, was a measure for the consolidation of the "British Empire;" it opened high official position to the wealthier ...continue reading »

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Page 15

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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