The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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Catholics and educated Catholic gentlemen; and thus separated their interest from that of the peasantry. But it was of the peasantry mainly that the government had any apprehension; and British Ministers felt that Catholic Emancipation would place this peasantry more completely in their power than ever.

Besides, Emancipation had a strong party in its favour both amongst Irish Protestants and in England: and in yielding to it England made no sacrifice, except of her ancient grudge. To her it was positive gain. O'Connell did not bethink him that, when his agitation should be directly aimed at the "integrity of the empire," and the supremacy of the British in Ireland, it would be a different matter.

Such, however, had been his achievements. The door of Parliament once opened, he made brilliant use of his privilege. At the next election he looked round the island to see where he could strike the most telling blow at the "Ascendancy." He pitched on Waterford. That county had been hitherto under the complete control of the great Orange family of Beresford, to which belongs the Marquis of Waterford. They were of the wealthiest and haughtiest of the British landlord garrison of Ireland, and predominated over the people like Pachas. O'Connell at once entered the lists against the nominee of the Beresfords, to the astonishment both of friends and foes. To the Catholic electors of Waterford themselves it seemed an act of almost godlike audacity; the long nightmare of oppression still lay upon their breasts; but his voice rung amongst them, and the proud defiance of an Irish Catholic flung down to the mighty house of Waterford, awoke them from their dreaming. By an overwhelming majority he trampled on the pride of Beresford; and old men embraced him with tears of joy, and women would have spread their hair beneath his feet.

This Emancipation was carried in 1829. Thence till the "Repeal Year," the people had greatly multiplied in numbers, and improved in education and spirit.

Hitherto I have spoken of all movements in Ireland as created, moved, and appropriated by this giant O'Connell. It was so; there was no man equal to him, and none second to him. His most effective aid during the Emancipation struggle was Richard Lalor Shiel, another Catholic barrister, and a man of great genius and accomplishments: but Shiel desisted from agitation after that was won. Up to the time of the Ministerial declaration against repeal in April, very few members of Parliament were actual members of the Association; but among them was Henry Grattan, member for Meath, who brought to its ranks ...continue reading »

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Page 16

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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