The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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tion was worth one drop of human blood." They did not believe the formula, and in assenting to it, often winked with their eyes; yet steadily and trustfully, this one good time, they sought to liberate their country peacefully, legally, under the advice of counsel. They loyally obeyed that man, and would obey no other. And when he walked in triumph out of his prison, at one word from his mouth they would have marched upon Dublin from all the five ends of Ireland, and made short work with police and military barracks.

But what shall I say of him? He knew that millions of his countrymen were hanging upon his lips, and secretly praying that he would bring this long agony to the arbitrament of manhood; and his soul sank within him. For years he had been promising them freedom, or his head upon the block: he had taken the starving peasant's mite, and " the priceless trust of youth;" and, now, let me not say he betrayed, but he disappointed that trust. Let there be such excuses for him as the nature of the case admits. He was old; the disease of which he died (softening of the brain) had already begun to work upon his energies: the thought of bloodshed was horrible to him; for he was haunted by the ghost of D'Esterre, whom he had slain in the pride of life. Yet, after all, what a poor comfort, what a poor excuse is all this!

Almost the first thing he proposed after his release, in a secret conclave of the Repeal Association, was the dissolution of the Association, in order to construct another body on a little more legal and safe basis. He knew that the Association now contained thousands who eagerly demanded some decisive step in advance; and though he constantly flattered Smith O'Brien in public, yet he already feared that man's well-known inflexibility of character, and knew that he had not thrown himself into the cause without stern purpose. The proposal to disband was combated, and was given up. He occupied his weekly speeches with collateral issues upon parliamentary questions which were often arising—the "Bequests Act," the "Colleges Bill," the Papal Rescript negotiation, and the like—all matters which would have been of moment in any self-governing nation, but were of next to no account in the circumstances; or he poured forth his fiery floods of eloquence in denunciation, not of the British Government, but of American Slavery, with which he had nothing on earth to do.

Very shortly after his release, he went so far as to declare in a published letter (2d October,) that he preferred Federalism to Repeal—that is a local Parliament for local purposes; but here ...continue reading »

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Page 61

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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