The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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inherited, without new registry. And every conversation respecting these arms in which a man should not tell truly whatever he might be asked by any policeman, subjected the delinquent to penalties. To have a pike or spear, "or instrument serving for a pike or spear," was an offence punishable by transportation for seven years. Domiciliary visits by the police might be ordered by any magistrate "on suspicion;" whereupon any man's house might be broken into by day or night, and his very bed searched for concealed arms. Blacksmiths were required to take out licenses, similar to those for keeping arms, and under the same penalties; in order that the workers in so dangerous a metal as iron might be known and approved persons. And to crown the code, if any weapon should be found in any house, or out-house, or stack-yard, the occupier was to be convicted, unless he could prove that it was there without his knowledge.

Such had been "substantially the law of Ireland for half a century." The idea of arms had come to be associated in the people's minds with handcuffs, jails, petty sessions, and transportation; a good device for killing the manly spirit of a nation.

There is, however, one precedent for the Arms Bill in history. The Israelites were forty years under the dominion of the Philistines; and we read in 1st Samuel, c. 13: "Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords and spears."

Review, now, those eleven arms of British power; and say whether it was an easy enterprise to tear Ireland out of their iron grip. ...continue reading »

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Page 21

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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