William Smith O'Brien in the English Parliament - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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On their return, O'Brien walked into the British Parliament, and found that august body engaged in discussing a new Bill "for the further security of her Majesty's crown." Ministers, in fact, had determined to meet the difficulty by a new "law," the Treason-felony law, by which the writing and printing, or open and advised speaking, of incitements to insurrection in Ireland should be deemed "felony," punishable by transportation. The Bill was introduced by the Whigs, and was warmly supported by the Tories; Sir Robert Peel declaring that, what Ireland needed, was to make her national aspirations not only a crime, but an ignominious crime; so as to put this species of offence on a footing with arson, or forgery, or waylaying with intent to murder. O'Brien rose to address the House, and never, since first Parliament met in Westminster, was heard such a chorus of frantic and obscene outcries. Honourable members crowed like cocks, lowed like cows, and brayed like jackasses, according to the custom of the Honourable House; but O'Brien, quite unmoved, persisted until he obtained a hearing; and I wish that my limits permitted me to present the whole of that manly and noble speech, in which he took care to reiterate all his "treasons," and "seditions." Take two or three extracts, with the interruptions, as recorded in the London papers of the time:—

"Charges have been brought against me as an individual, and against the party with whom I act ('oh!' and ironical cheers). I am here to answer those charges, both for myself and for the party with which I act; and I will say this with regard to my companions in the noble struggle in which we are engaged—(loud laughter)—that, though I have had an opportunity of seeing the most distinguished men of all parties in this House, I never met a number of men, acting for a great political object, who appeared to me, at least, to be animated by such pure and disinterested motives—(loud laughter)—as those with whom it is my pride to act. Now, sir, with regard to myself. I have been called a traitor (a tremendous burst of cheers followed this sentence, twice renewed before silence was restored). I do not profess disloyalty to the Queen of England—(ironical applause). But if it be treason to profess disloyalty to this House, and to the government of Ireland ...continue reading »

(note continued from previous page)...two following sentences, poetic fictions: “Les Irlandais, unix aux Chartistes Anglais, se précipitaient sur le continent et cherchaient des complicités insurrectionnelles en France, a la fois parmi les demagogues au nom de la liberté, et parmi les chefs du parti Catholique au nom du Catholicisme.” And again, “L'Angleterre n'attendait pas avec moins de solicitude la reception que ferait Lamartine aux insurgés Irlandais, partis, de Dublin pour venir demander des encouragements et des armes à la République Française.” If the poor feeble Lamartine had confined himself all his life to poetry,—I mean that species of composition in metre which holds itself out for poetry, and is intended to be called poetry,—himself and his France might have been spared the absurdities of that Provisional Government. Let no nation make a confirmed and inveterate poet its chief magistrate.

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