The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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years, I deliberately think so still. The English Government had procured an "Act of Parliament" avowedly to make it felony to say what nine-tenths of our people thought and felt; and was now about to shut out those nine-tenths of our people from the exercise of the common civic office of jurors, to crush one man (no matter what man) under a notoriously false pretence. When I say false pretence, it is not that I deny the matter charged to me, but that I deny having ever been tried at all. The false pretence was the "trial."

The Attorney-General resolved that the trial should take place at the regular Commission Court, or City Assizes; and that the jury should not be a special, but a common one. On the striking of special juries, he had discovered that I was fully able to expose, at least, if not defeat, the secret machinations of the Crown Officer; so I was to be arraigned before a common jury of Dublin citizens, selected by the Sheriff to serve on the pending Commission.

The Juror's Book, containing a list of all the qualified householders of Dublin, whose property entitled them to serve as jurors, had 4,570 names, of whom 3,000 were Catholics. Before my arrest, the Sheriff had designated one hundred and fifty of these jurors, and summoned them to attend on the Commission: but after my arrest, the Sheriff, knowing that important business was to be done—and being, as I have before explained, a creature of the Crown,—altered that panel of one hundred and fifty names, removed from it most of the Catholic names, and filled their places not only with Protestants (that would not suffice), but with Orangemen, Englishmen, tradesmen to the Lord Lieutenant, in short, with people who were well known to be ready "to do the Queen's business," as that sort of transaction is called in Ireland. But it was not enough to pack the panel,—the jury was next to be carefully packed out of that panel; a thing which was easy enough; because the "Crown" in Ireland exercises the power of unlimited challenge, in making up common juries.

Matters being thus prepared, on the 25th of May, I was brought up from Newgate prison, by an underground passage, into the Court House, on Green Street. Outside, the streets were occupied by troops; and but few of my friends could gain admittance as spectators.

The imagination of every reader must help me out here. Let any high-spirited Irishman try to conceive himself in my place on that day: confronting that coarse mimicry of law and justice; on the brink of a fate worse than a thousand deaths; stationed in a dock between two thieves, for having dared to aspire to the privilege of freedom and manhood for myself and for my children; with all ...continue reading »

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Page 184

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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