Habeus Corpus Act Suspended - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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may occur as a curious reflection, that, whereas the British Constitution, that wonder and envy of surrounding nations, is said to hold out as its bulwark and paladium, those two immortal rights of Britons,—Trial by Jury, and the Habeas Corpus Act,—the same Constitution has never been able to maintain itself in Ireland, save by subverting Trial by Jury, and suspending the Habeas Corpus Act.

Instantly numerous warrants were placed in the hands of the omnipresent police; and in every town and village in Ireland sudden arrests were made. The enemy had taken care to inform themselves who were the leading and active Confederates all over the island,—the Presidents and Secretaries of Clubs, and zealous organizers of drilling and pike-exercise. These were seized from day to day, sometimes with circumstances of brutality, (which was useful to the enemy in "striking terror,") and thrust into dungeons, or paraded before their fellow-citizens in chains. Martin and the other editors were in Newgate prison, awaiting transportation as felons. Warrants were out against O'Brien and Meagher.

Well, the time had come at last. If Ireland had one blow to strike, now was her day. Queen Victoria would not wait till the autumn should place in the people's hands the ample commissariat of their war; and decreed that if they would fight, they should, at least, fight fasting. O'Brien was at the house of a friend in Wexford county, when he heard of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, and that a warrant had issued for his own arrest. He was quickly joined by Dillon and Meagher. Doheny and MacManus, with some others, betook themselves to the Tipperary hills, and "put themselves upon the country." O'Gorman hurried to Limerick and Clare, to see what preparation existed there for the struggle, and to give it a direction. Reilly and Smith ranged over Kilkenny and Tipperary, eagerly seeking for insurrectionary fuel ready to be kindled; sometimes in communication with O'Brien and his party, at other times alone. To O'Brien, on account of his character, his services, and his value to the cause, the leadership seemed to be assigned by common consent.

It comes very easy to men who sat at home in those days, and did and attempted to do nothing, to criticise the proceedings of O'Brien and those brave men who sought in his company for an honourable chance of throwing their lives away. But it must be obvious, from the narrative of the three years' previous famine, what a hopeless sort of material for spirited national resistance was then to be found in the rural districts of Ireland. Bands of exterminated peasants, trooping to the already too full poor-houses; straggling columns of hunted wretches, with their old people, ...continue reading »

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