Trial of William Smith O'Brien - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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plorable accounts of wide-spread starvation and extermination of tenantry; and Dublin, as well as all the other sea-ports, saw pale and haggard crowds of emigrants trooping to the quays, to take shipping for America. Be generous to these ill-fated refugees! Oh, ye happy Americans, despise them not! Driven like noxious vermin, from their hearths and the graves of their forefathers, let the great heart of your country open to embrace them,—to warm them to vitality, and illumine their darkened souls with hope.

Our trials approached. They were to be before special juries, struck by the process I have before described. O'Brien and Meagher were first tried; and as their "sedition" had been so open and avowed,—and as the Whig government was extremely reluctant to pack juries if they could help it,—the Crown officers left on each of the two juries one Repealer. It was enough. A true Repealer knew that no Irishman could commit any offence against a foreign Queen; and in each case the one Repealer stood out, refused to convict, though he should be starved to death; and the traversers, amidst cheering multitudes, were escorted triumphantly from the Four Courts to the Confederate Committee Rooms, where they addressed the people, and promised to repeat and improve upon all their seditions. The excitement of the country was intense. The defeat of the "Government" was celebrated all over the country by bonfires and illuminations, and the clubs became more diligent in arming themselves; but Mr Monahan, the Attorney-General, foamed and raged. Not only the British Empire and the cause of general civilization, but (what was more important) the great cause of Monahan against the world was in danger.

My two trials were still to take place. It was plain to the enemy that there must be no failure here. The United Irishman was, by this time, by far the most widely circulated paper in Ireland. It was read in all military and police-barracks,—was clubbed for in all parishes,—and duly read on Sundays to eager crowds in all chapel yards. It was in vain our enemy attempted to frighten the agents who sold it. One of them, in Enniskillen, had written that the police of that town had come into his shop and threatened him. I had published his letter, and taunted the "Government" with trying to intimidate mere tradesmen, while they suffered the principal offender to go unpunished. They caused club-men to be arrested and marched through the streets to gaol, on charges of practising with rifles, or giving or receiving military instruction;—and I demanded to know why those humble men had been treated as common felons, ...continue reading »

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