John Mitchel's Address to the Judges - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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Irish people met in so plain an issue. Never before was it made so manifest that the enemy's government maintains its supremacy over Ireland by systematically breaking the "law,"—even its own law; by turning its judicial trials into solemn farces, its ermined judges into bad actors, and its fountain of justice into an obscene "mother of dead dogs."

Of course, both Mr Holmes, and the prisoner on trial, took good care to manifest their sense of all this. Holmes informed the jury that they knew themselves to be well and truly packed; and when I was asked if I had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon me, I remarked that I had not been tried. Baron Lefroy chose to interpret this as an impeachment of the jury for perjury: but I took care to contradict the judge. I could not, in that last moment of my life, afford to suffer any misrepresentation of the true issue: so I interrupted him to declare that I did not charge the jurors with perjury; but charged the sheriff (that is, another name for the Queen), with empanelling only those who were well known to be my mortal enemies. When the sentence was passed, and every human being in court, friends and enemies, stood aghast at its murderous severity, I addressed the judges in a few sentences, wherein I concentrated all the disdain and defiance that had been gathering in my heart for two days:—

"'The law has now done its part, and the Queen of England, her crown and government in Ireland, are now secure, pursuant to Act of Parliament. I have done my part also. Three months ago I promised Lord Clarendon and his government, who hold this country for the English, that I would provoke him into his courts of justice, as places of this kind are called, and that I would force him, publicly and notoriously, to pack a jury against me to convict me, or else that I would walk a free man out of this court, and provoke him to a contest in another field. My lords, I knew I was setting my life on that cast; but I knew that, in either event, victory should be with me; and it is with me. Neither the jury, nor the judges, nor any other man in this court presumes to imagine that it is a criminal who stands in this dock. (Murmurs of applause, which the police endeavoured to repress). I have shown what the law is made of in Ireland. I have shown that her Majesty's government sustains itself in Ireland by packed juries—by partizan judges—by perjured sheriffs------'

"After an interruption from Baron Lefroy—who 'could not sit there,' to suffer the prisoner at that bar to utter very nearly a repetition of the offence for which he had been sentenced—Mitchel proceeded—

"'What I have now to add is simply this: I have acted all through this business, from the first, under a strong sense of duty. I do not repent anything I have done; and I believe that the course which I have opened is only commenced. The Roman, who saw his hand burn- ...continue reading »

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