The British Government and Repeal - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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BRITISH GOVERNMENT, then, closed with Repeal; and one or the other, it was plain, must go down.

The British Empire, as it stands, looks vast and strong; but none know so well as the statesmen of that country how intrinsically feeble it is: and how entirely it depends for its existence upon prestige, that is, upon a superstitious belief in its power. England, in short, could by no means afford to part with her "sister-island:" both in money and in credit the cost would be too much. In this same Repeal year, for example, there was an export of provisions from Ireland to England of the value of seventy-five million dollars.* And between surplus revenue remitted to England, and absentee rents spent in England, Mr O'Connell's frequent statement that £9,000,000 of Irish money was annually spent in England, is not over the truth. These were substantial advantages, not to be yielded up lightly.

In point of national prestige, England could still less afford to Repeal the Union, because all the world would know the concession had been wrung from her against her will. Both parties in England, Whigs and Tories, were of one mind upon this; and nothing can be more bitter than the language of all sections of the English Press, after it was once determined to crush the agitation by force. The Times said:—

"Repeal is not a matter to be argued on; it is a blow which despoils the Queen's domestic territory—splinters her crown—undermines, and then crushes her throne—exposes her to insults and outrage from all quarters of the earth and ocean; a Repeal of the Union leaves England stripped of her vitality. Whatever might be the inconvenience or disadvantage, therefore, or even unwholesome restraint upon Ireland—although the Union secures the reverse of all these—but even were it gall to Ireland, England must guard her own life's blood, and sternly tell the disaffected Irish; 'you shall have me for a sister or a subjugatrix; that is my ultimatum.'" ...continue reading »

* Official Reports of the amount of this Export ceased to he kept after 1826. Up to that date, the food export from Ireland had been rapidly increasing; and the Act which was then passed, placing it on the footing of a coasting-trade, prevented accounts from being kept of it, and thus concealed its amount. The estimate given above is perhaps too low; certainly not too high.

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