William Smith O'Brien's "Arms Bill" Motion - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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The Disarming Act passed into a law, of course, by large majorities. It was in vain that some Irish members resisted; in vain Mr Smith O'Brien moved that instead of meeting the discontent of Ireland with a new "Arms Bill," the House should resolve itself into a committee "to consider the causes of the discontent with a view to the redress of grievances." O'Brien, who was afterwards to play so conspicuous a part, was not yet a repealer; he had been for twenty years one of the most industrious members of Parliament, and was attached, on most questions, to the Whig party. His speech, however, on this motion, showed that ho regarded it as a last effort to obtain any approach to justice in a British Parliament; and that if they still resolutely adhered to the policy of coercion, and nothing but coercion, he would very shortly be found by O'Connell's side. He pointed out the facts which justified discontent;—that the Union made Ireland poor, and kept her poor;—that it encouraged the absenteeism of landlords, and so caused a great rental to be spent in England; that nearly a million sterling of "surplus revenue," over what was expended in the government of Ireland, was annually remitted from the Irish to the English exchequer; that Irish manufactures had ceased, and the profits on all the manufactured articles consumed in that island came to England;—that the tenantry had no permanent tenure or security that they would derive benefit by any improvements they might make;—that Ireland had but 105 members of Parliament, whereas her population and revenue together entitled her to 175;—that the municipal laws of the two countries were not the same;—that the new "Poor Law" was a failure, and was increasing the wretchedness and hunger of the people;—and the right honourable gentleman (Sir R. Peel) had now declared his ultimatum; he declared that " conciliation had reached its limits; and that the Irish should have an Arms Bill, and nothing but an Arms Bill." (Speech of July 4th, 1843.)

His facts were not disputed. Nobody in Parliament pretended to say that anything in this long catalogue was overstated; but ...continue reading »

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