The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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Ireland—and partly owing also to the Scottish people having generally become Protestants on the change of religion—there was but little change in the ruling families; and the Scottish clansmen, now become "tenantry," paid their duties to the heads of their own kindred, as before. So it has happened, that to this day there is no alienation of feeling, or distinction of race, to exasperate the lot of the poor cultivators of the soil.

In Ireland, wherever the chiefs turned Protestant, and chose to accept "grants" of their tribe-lands at the hands of British kings (as the De Burghs and O'Briens), much the same state of things took place for a while. But Ireland never submitted to English dominion, as Scotland has done; and there were continual "rebellions" (so the English termed our national resistance), followed by extensive confiscations. Many hundreds of great estates in Ireland have thus been confiscated twice and three times; and the new proprietors were Englishmen, and, in in a portion of Ulster, Scotchmen. These, of course, had no common interest or sympathy with the people, whom they considered, and called, "the Irish enemy." Still, while Ireland had her own Parliament, and the landlords resided at home, the state of affairs was tolerable; but when the Act of "Union," in 1800, concentrated the pride and splendour of the empire at London, and made England the great field of ambition and distinction, most of our grandees resided out of Ireland, kept agents and bailiffs there, wrung the uttermost farthing out of the defenceless people, and spent it elsewhere.

Now, it never would have entered the mind of any rational just man, at this late date, to call in question the title to long-ago confiscated estates; nor, supposing those titles proved bad, would it have been possible to find the right owners. But when the system was found to work so fatally—when hundreds of thousands of people were lying down and perishing in the midst of abundance and superabundance which their own hands had created—I maintain that society itself stood dissolved. That form of society was not only a failure, but an intolerable oppression; and cried aloud to be cut up by the roots and swept away.

Those who thought thus, had reconciled their minds to the needful means, that is, a revolution as fundamental as the French Revolution, and to the wars and horrors incident to that. The horrors of war, they knew, were by no means so terrible as the horrors of peace which their own eyes had seen; they were ashamed to see their kinsmen patiently submitting to be starved ...continue reading »

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Page 153

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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