Rescue Plans for John Mitchel - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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filled with police, and carried by a circuitous route to the river, escorted by a force of cavalry and mounted police.

For two days before, the leaders of the Confederation had been earnestly engaged in restraining the natural impulse of our Clubs to attempt a rescue. Meagher and Reilly had been at first eager for this desperate enterprise "I have but one life to give," exclaimed Reilly to his Club, "and I give it: let others swear the same." Meagher had declared that before the enemy should embark me in a convict-ship, Kingstown harbour would be one pool of blood. But O'Brien was absent from Dublin; some others of our Confederates sincerely believed it would be criminal to expose the citizens, not half-armed and not disciplined at all, to the hazard of so horrible a carnage: others still have been charged with opposing all movement out of personal hostility to me, or out of mere cowardice. I have no care to scrutinize motives: and it is enough to know that the most trusted men in the Confederation finally determined to restrain the Clubs, and suffer the last act of this elaborate national insult and outrage to be transacted in quiet. They came to me, the day before the trial, in my prison, entreating me to issue an Address to the Clubs under my own hand, that they should suffer me to be carried away peacefully: I refused utterly; and perhaps too bitterly.

Reilly fumed in silent rage. Meagher, being reluctantly coerced by the majority of his comrades to check the fierce impulse of his passion, laboured like the rest to calm the indignation of the Clubs; and it is just to give his own account of his own conduct. In a speech to the Confederation, a few days after my removal, he said:—

"In those feelings of depression and shame I deeply share; and from the mistrust with which some of you, at least, may regard the members of the late Council, I shall not hold myself exempt. If they are to blame, so am I. Between the hearts of the people and the bayonets of the government, I took my stand, with the members of the Council, and warned back the precipitate devotion which scoffed at prudence as a crime. I am here to answer for that act. If you believe it to have been the act of a dastard, treat me with no delicacy,—treat me with no respect. Vindicate your courage in the impeachment of the coward. The necessities and perils of the cause forbid the interchange of courtesies. Civilities are out of place in the whirl and tumult of the tempest. "The address of the Council to the people of Ireland—the address signed by William Smith O'Brien—bears witness to your determination. It states that thousands of Confederates had pleged themselves that John Mitchel should not leave these shores but through their blood. We were bound to make this statement—bound in justice to you—bound in honour to the country. Whatever odium may flow from that scene of victorious defiance, in which the government played its part without ...continue reading »

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