Lord Clarendon, Viceroy - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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IN the summer of this year (1847) Lord Clarendon was sent over, as Lord-Lieutenant, to finish the Conquest of Ireland—just as Lord Mountjoy had been sent to bring to an end the wars of Queen Elizabeth's reign; and by the same means substantially—that is, by corruption of the rich and starvation of the poor. The form of procedure, indeed, was somewhat different; for English statesmen of the sixteenth century had not learned to use the weapons of "amelioration" and "political economy;" neither had they then established the policy of keeping Ireland as a store-farm to raise wealth for England. Lord Mountjoy's system, then, had somewhat of a rude character; and he could think of nothing better than sending large bodies of troops to cut down the green corn and burn the houses. In one expedition into Leinster, his biographer, Moryson, estimates that he destroyed "£10,000 worth of corn"—that is, wheat; an amount which might now be stated at £200,000 worth. In O'Cahan's country, in Ulster, as the same Moryson tells us, after a razzia of Mountjoy—"We have none left to give us opposition, nor of late have seen any but dead carcases, merely starved for want of meat." So that Mountjoy could boast he had given Ireland to Elizabeth, "nothing but carcases and ashes."

Lord Clarendon's method was more in the spirit of the nineteenth century, though his slaughters were more terrible in the end than Mountjoy's. Again there was growing upon Irish soil a noble harvest; but it had been found more economical to carry it over to England by help of free trade, than to burn it on the ground. The problem then was, as it had been the last year and the year before, how to ensure its speedy and peaceful transmission. Accordingly, Lord Clarendon came over with conciliatory speeches, and large professions of the desire of "government," now at last to stay the famine. Sullen murmurs had been heard, and even open threats and urgent recommendations, that the Irish harvest must not be suffered to go another year; and there were rumours of risings to break up the roads, to pull down the bridges, in every way to stop the tracks of this fatal "commerce;" rumours, in short, of an insurrection. ...continue reading »

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