Juries in Ireland - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

« previous page | book contents | start of this chapter | next page »



IN this chapter I shall gladly take leave of myself; for the moment has arrived when I drop out of the history of Ireland, and disappear.

In provoking this legal contest with the enemy, my calculation was that I should obtain over them an easy, signal, and most perilous victory—provided they did not pack the jury. But, if they should pack the jury, and snatch what they call a conviction by the usual methods of British Government in Ireland, then I hoped the people were now too thoroughly roused to submit peaceably to such an outrage.

The matter of juries had always been a knotty one in Ireland, since the days of Edmund Spenser. The poet of the "Faery Queene," being himself an English "undertaker," and the grantee of forfeited estates, and being, therefore, the natural enemy of all Irishmen, in his famous "View of the State of Ireland," observes, through the mouth of Irenaeus:

"Yet is the law of itself goode; and the first institution thereof being given to all Englishmen very rightfully; but now that the Irish have stepped into the very roomes of our English, wee are now to become heedful and provident in iuryes." *

In fact, the difficulty was, that with Irishmen on juries, the English Sovereign never could obtain a verdict, either on inquisition into forfeited estates, or on criminal trials. Spenser, of course, attributes this to a natural turn for perjury among the Irish:—"they make no conscience to perjure themselves in their verdicts, and damne their soules." Yet Sir John Davies, Attorney-General of King James the First in Ireland, another very hostile authority, bears testimony to the loyalty and love of law and justice which prevailed in that island: "there being no nation under the sun that did love equal and indifferent justice better than the Irish, or that would rest better satisfied with the execution thereof, although it were against themselves, so as they might have the protection and benefit of the law, when upon a just cause they did desire it."

These discrepancies are only to be explained by recollecting that ...continue reading »

* Spenser's View, p. 34.

Sir John Davies His. Rel.

« previous page | book contents | start of this chapter | next page »

Page 182