Lord Clarendon and the Press during the Irish Famine - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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That was all. Lord Clarendon had not sent Mr Goode down to lecture on Tenant-Right;—what business had they to obtrude their Jacobin principles on a Government lecturer? What had he to do with all that? They might as well have prated to him about the Repeal of the Union!

Another measure of my Lord Clarendon was to buy support at the Press with secret-service money. To the honour of the Dublin Press, this was a somewhat difficult matter. The government had at that time only one leading journal in the metropolis on which it could surely rely;—the Evening Post. Lord Clarendon wanted another organ, and of a lower species; for he had work to do which the comparatively respectable Post might shrink from. He sought out a creature named Birch, editor of the World, a paper which was never named nor alluded to by any reputable journal in the city. This Birch lived by hush-money, or black-mail of the most infamous kind;—that is, extorting money from private persons, men and women, by threats of inventing and publishing scandalous stories of their domestic circles. He had been tried more than once and convicted of this species of swindling. "I then offered him £100, if I remember rightly," says my Lord Clarendon,* "for it did not make any great impression on me at the time. He said that would not be sufficient for his purpose, and I think it was then extended to about £350." On further examination his lordship confessed that he had paid Birch "further sums "—in short, kept him regularly in pay; and finally, on Birch bringing suit against him for the balance due for "work and labour," had paid him in one sum £2,000, at the same time taking up all the papers and letters, (as he thought), which might bring the transaction to light. One can guess the nature of Birch's work and labour, and quantum meruit. His duty was to make weekly attacks, of a private and revolting nature, upon Smith O'Brien, upon Mr Meagher, upon myself, and every one else who was prominent in resisting and exposing the Government measures. Further, the public money was employed in the gratuitous distribution of the World, for otherwise decent persons would never have seen it. At the time, I was myself unaware of the man's attacks upon me, and did not even know him at all. It was during my exile in Van Diemen's Land that I learned, through the newspapers, how all this subterranean agency had come to light on the trial of one of the suits which Birch was forced to institute for recovery of his wages. ...continue reading »

* See evidence on the trial of Birch against Sir T. Redington.

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