"Repeal Year" 1843 - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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The "Repeal Year," then, had only advanced as far as the month of April. O'Connel was collecting the suffrages of an unarmed people by millions for the restoration of Irish nationhood; England had already announced, through the mouth of her Premier and her commander-in-chief, that though all Ireland should demand Repeal, England's will was to keep her as a province.

We are to see what were the resources and relative strength of the two islands for the struggle which seemed impending. On the Irish side was O'Connell, with his miraculous power over the vast Catholic population of Ireland, which he wielded absolutely at his will. No country had ever seen so potent a popular leader. When he began his career; the Catholics of Ireland were a degraded race. After the defeat of the Stuarts, the capitulation of Limerick, and the breach of the Treaty concluded at that city, by imposing a code of penal laws upon Catholics, they had sunk into a state of abject submission and impotence under the operation of those laws, from which it seemed impossible ever to arise. Denied the privilege of bearing arms—forbidden education—prohibited to exercise trade or commerce in any corporate town—excluded from all professions,—disqualified from holding a lease of land for a longer term than thirty-one years—and forbidden to own a horse of more than five pounds value, it was no wonder they had become impoverished in spirit as well as in means.

The immense increase in their numbers towards the end of the last century; the success of the American Revolution, and the disasters of the British arms in the Netherlands, had made it necessary to conciliate them by a relaxation of that infamous code; and when O'Connell first undertook their cause, they had been relieved from most of those restrictions; but were still excluded from Parliament, the Corporations, and the Judicial Bench. At first he had devoted himself to their service in his own profession of the law. He was the great Catholic barrister. If any tyrannical scheme of the Orange ...continue reading »

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