Doneraile Conspiracy (2)

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXXVII. ...continued

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The Solicitor-General was actually addressing the jury, when the shouts of the excited crowd announced the arrival of one who, by this act of his life alone, deserves, par excellence, the proud and glorious title of the Liberator. He entered the courthouse, apologized for his unprofessional attire; and as he had no refreshment, and there was no time to lose, he requested permission of the judges to have a bowl of milk and some sandwiches sent to him.

The Solicitor-General resumed his address, but had not proceeded far before the stentorian voice of O'Connell was heard exclaiming: "That's not law." The bench decided in his favour. He was rapidly swallowing as much food as was necessary to sustain nature, and once more, with his mouth full, he exclaims: "That's no longer law; the Act is repealed." Again the mortified counsel proceeded with his case, and once more O'Connell's knowledge of law served him in good stead. "The learned Solicitor," he exclaimed, "has no right to make such a statement; the crown cannot give such matters in evidence." For the third time the ruling was in favour of the Liberator.

Then came the all-important cross-examination of the approvers; and the men who had lied so well and so boldly on Saturday, prevaricated, cursed, and howled under the searching questions of their new examiner; Nowlan, the vilest of the lot, exclaiming at last: "It's little I thought I'd have to meet you, Counsellor O'Connell." Alas! thrice-wretched man, who thought still less of another Court and another Judgment. O'Connell won the day. He threatened the very Solicitor-General with impeachment before the House of Commons, for the way he conducted the case. He taunted him, bewildered him, scolded him, laughed at him, as he only could do; and when at last the unfortunate man came out with some observation about "false facts," O'Connell threw the whole court into a roar of laughter by directing attention to the bull, and by his inimitable imitation of his English accent.

The jury could not agree, and the men were acquitted. Another trial came on next day, and it was then discovered that one of the approvers differed in most important matters from his statements on oath before the magistrates of Doneraile, and in what he now stated. This was enough; and the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty, though, on the very same evidence, a verdict of guilty had been given on Saturday. As an act, however, of great clemency, the men who had been sentenced to be hanged in six days, were now only transported.

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