Coercion Bill in Ireland - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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of the English Minister to obtain the agricultural produce which the people of this country send to England, at the lowest possible price—that is to say, to give as little as possible of English manufactures and of foreign commodities in return for the agricultural produce of Ireland."

If this was the Minister's design, one can appreciate the spirit in which he addressed himself to the "relief measures" for Ireland. The measures were to commence by depreciating all our produce, say to the amount of two millions sterling per annum. And observe, that this did not give the slightest chance of the Irish people themselves being able to purchase and consume one grain of corn or one ounce of meat the more—because, except by the sale of those articles, Ireland had no money. So accurately the British legislation of half a century had arranged our affairs and fitted them to the hand of England.

Stupid and ignorant peers and landed men in England cried out bitterly against the Premier's desertion of their party, and declared that the "agricultural interest of England was betrayed." Blockheads! Their Minister was caring for them better than they could ask or think.

The other measure was the Coercion Bill. It authorized the Viceroy to proclaim any district in Ireland he might think proper, commanding the people to remain within doors (whether they had houses or not) from sunset to sunrise; authorised him to quarter on such district any additional police force he might think needful—to pay rewards to informers and detectives—to pay compensation to the relatives of murdered or injured persons—and to levy the amount of all by distress upon the goods of the occupiers, as under the Poor Law; with this difference, that whereas, under the Poor Law, the occupier could deduct a portion of the rate from his rent, under the new law he could not; and with this further difference, that whereas, under the Poor Law, householders whose cabins were valued under £4 per annum were exempt from the rate, under this law they were not exempt. Thus every man who had a house, no matter how wretched, was to pay the new tax; and every man was bound to have a house; for if found out of doors after sunset, and convicted of that offence, he was to be transported for fifteen years, or imprisoned for three—the Court to have the discretion of adding hard labour or solitary confinement.

Now, the first of these two laws, which abolished the preference of Irish grain in the English markets, would, as the Premier well knew, give a great additional stimulus to the consolidation of farms—that is, the ejectment of tenantry; because "High Farming"—farming on a large scale, with the aid of ...continue reading »

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