The Repeal Association - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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So many of the middle classes had been dragged down almost to insolvency by the ruin of the country, that they began to be eager for the smaller places as clerks and inspectors. For those 10,000 offices, then, it was estimated there were 100,000 applicants and canvassers;—so much clear gain from "Repeal."

The Repeal Association continued its regular meetings, and never ceased to represent that the true remedies for Irish famine were Tenant-Right—the stoppage of export—and Repeal of the Union;—and as those were really the true and only remedies, it was clear they were the only expedients which an English Parliament would not try. The Repeal Members gained a kind of Parliamentary victory, however, this Spring:—they caused the defeat of the Coercion Bill, with the aid of the Whigs. Sir Robert Peel had very cunningly, as he thought, made this Bill precede the Corn Law Repeal Bill; and as the English Public was all now most eager for the cheapening of bread, he believed that all parties would make haste to pass his favourite measure first. The Irish Members went to London, and knowing they could not influence legislation otherwise, organized a sort of mere mechanical resistance against the Coercion Bill: that is, they opposed first reading, second reading, third reading, opposed its being referred to Committee, moved endless amendments, made endless speeches, and insisted upon dividing the House on every clause. In vain it was represented to them that this was only delaying the Corn Law Repeal, which would "cheapen bread." O'Brien replied that it would only cheapen bread to Englishmen, and enable them to devour more and more of the Irish bread and give less for it. In vain Ministers told them they were stopping public business: they answered that English business was no business of theirs. In vain their courtesy was invoked. They could not afford to be courteous in such a case; and their sole errand in London was to resist an atrocious and torturing tyranny threatened against their poor countrymen.

Just before this famous debate there had been very extensive clearing of tenantry in Connaught; and, in particular, one case in which a Mrs Gerrard had, with the aid of the troops and police, destroyed a whole village, and thrown out two hundred and seventy persons on the high road. The Nation thus improved the circumstance with reference to the "Coercion Bill":—

"Some Irish Members, for instance, may point to the two hundred and seventy persons thrown out of house and home the other day in Galway, and in due form of law (for it was all perfectly legal), turned adrift in their desperation upon the wide world—and may ask the ...continue reading »

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