The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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CHAPTER VI.

THE TRIAL—SYSTEM OF "SELECTING" A JURY IN IRELAND—VERDICT AGAINST O'CONNELL—DEBATE IN PARLIAMENT ON THE STATE OF IRELAND—OPERATION OF THE ARMS ACT—SENTENCE AND IMPRISONMENT OF O'CONNELL.

On the 2d of November, 1843, in the Court of Queen's Bench, Dublin, began one of the most remarkable comedies of modern times—the trial of the Repeal " Conspirators.'' To spectators from other lands it was, doubtless, highly entertaining; and, indeed, Irishmen themselves, being naturally prone to merriment, could not but laugh. Yet, to thoughtful minds in that country, there was somewhat tragic in the comedy—seeing that it was enacted in the high courts of law, with aged and venerable Judges for actors; and many deemed it an irreverent and demoralizing species of play.

To begin with the "Jury"—(a word which I enclose by inverted commas purposely)—the Sheriff of Dublin was of course a nominee of the Crown, instead of being elected, as in England, like other municipal officers. The inhabitants of Dublin qualified to serve on juries were in the proportion of three Catholics to one Protestant. And it was the business of the Sheriff to take care that not one of these Catholics should be on this jury, or any other jury, to try what is" called a "political offence." But, further, there were large numbers of the Protestant residents of Dublin favourable to the Repeal of the Union; as, in fact, over and above the general interest of the whole country in that measure, Dublin had a special interest, as the metropolis. The Sheriff's function, then, was to make it sure that none of those Protestant residents should be on the jury. This limited his range of selection to a small number—Orangemen, Englishmen, and tradesmen, "by special appointment," to the Lord-Lieutenant: in short, to men whose vote (which was, however, to be called a " verdict") might be counted upon with the utmost certainty. It was to be a part of the performance that these men, being so well and truly packed, should make oath on the Holy Bible, to give a true verdict according to the evidence—so help them God!

A revisal of the special jury-list took place before Mr Shaw, Recorder of Dublin, with a special view to these trials. The names, when passed by the Recorder from day to day, were ...continue reading »

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Page 46

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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