The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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we arrive at what the British call the "Famine." This treatment of the peasantry, though continued ever since O'Neill and O'Donnell fell, early in the 17th century, seemed yet new and strange to the Irish peasant, and to him more intolerable than to any other in Europe, except the Highland Scots;—for the reason that, in the social polity of the Gael, no such thing as a "tenant" was known: every man being as free as his Chief, and, by virtue of the clanship, owning as clear a title in the tribe-lands. Upon this ancient social system the new feudal tenures were forced in by English power; and the struggle between them lasts to this day. O'Connell, then, was sure of a sympathetic audience, when he thus addressed a vast meeting in Connaught:—

"When struggling for Catholic emancipation, they were only looking for the rights of a class, but they were at present struggling to bring back nine millions a year to their country, which would give comfort and riches to Protestant, Presbyterian, and Catholic (hear, hear). They were struggling to give Fixity of Tenure to the landholder, and safety to the landlord: and, oh! he would call upon the landlords of Ireland to unite with him in the attainment of a measure that would ultimately be of the greatest benefit to themselves, whilst it would put a stop to the horrible clearance system, with ail its frightful crimes and evils upon one side, and the dreadful assassinations, on the other, which were prompted by deep despair and vengeance (hear, hear, hear). He often heard the poor woman say, when about to be turned out of the cabin, that it was there she lighted the first fire in her own house,—it was there her children were born and brought up about her,—there her husband reposed after the hard toil of the day,—there were all her affections centred, because they called to her mind all the pleasing reminiscences of early life; but her tears were disregarded, her feelings scoffed at; and the tyrant mandate was heard to issue—'Pull down the house!' (Very great sensation). Yes, wholesale murders were committed, on the one side, by a slow but not less certain process;—sudden individual assassinations were committed on the other;—both bringing down upon the perpetrators the wrath of the Divine Being! With the blessing of heaven they would put an end to these crimes, and he called upon the good and virtuous to unite with him in the attainment of so holy a purpose."

So, when he would suddenly ask: "Did you ever hear of the tithes?" he knew what long and bitter memories of blood and horror the question would call up.

"Did you ever hear of the Tithes? They call them Rent-charge now; do you like them any better since they have been newly christened?"

And when the murmur of execration had subsided:

"Well; repeal the Union, and you get rid of that curse: no widow ...continue reading »

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Page 31

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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