Letter of William Smith O'Brien - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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alienated from each other, that England trusts for the maintenance of their connection, not to the attachment of the Irish people, but to the bayonets which menace our bosoms, and to the cannon which she has planted on all our strongholds. …

"For myself, I have not been able to witness this course of events without feeling that the conduct of the British Parliament has fully justified the endeavour to obtain the restitution of our national legislature; but a strong sense of the difficulties which obstruct the accomplishment of that measure—a thankless apprehension of inconveniences which it might possibly cause to England—a lingering hope that a nobler or wiser spirit would still exhibit itself in the policy to be adopted towards Ireland—perhaps also personal considerations connected with my own education and individual position, have hitherto restrained me from engaging in pursuit of the remedy proposed by my fellow-countrymen for wrongs which, equally with them, I resent. I resolved, before I should throw myself into your ranks, to leave no effort untried to obtain redress by other means. Of our labours in Parliament, during the last session, you know the result. We condescended to address to the government entreaties and expostulations, humiliating to ourselves and to the country whose interests we represent;—all was in vain. We made a last appeal to the British people; our warning—the friendly remonstrance of men averse to agitation, and for the most part favourable to the Union,—was treated with neglect, ridicule, or defiance. Still a hope remained on my mind that the government, alive to the evils to which Ireland is exposed from the continuance of national discontent, would call Parliament together in the Autumn, and submit some general system of conciliatory measures for its tranquillization. Lest I should be led to form a precipitate decision, I availed myself of the interval which followed the close of the session to examine whether, among the governments of central Europe, there are any so indifferent to the interests of their subjects as England has been to the welfare and happiness of our population. After visiting Belgium, and all the principal capitals of Germany, I returned home impressed with the sad conviction that there is more human misery in one county in Ireland than throughout all the populous cities and districts which I had visited. On landing in England, I learn that the Ministry, instead of applying themselves to remove the causes of complaint, have resolved to deprive us even of the liberty of discontent,—that public meetings are to be suppressed,—and that state prosecutions are to be carried on against Mr O'Connell and others, on some frivolous charges of sedition and conspiracy.

"I should be unworthy to belong to a nation which may claim at least as a characteristic virtue that it exhibits increased fidelity in the hour of danger, if I were to delay any longer to dedicate myself to the cause of my country. Slowly, reluctantly convinced that Ireland has nothing to hope from the sagacity, the justice, or the generosity of the English Parliament, my reliance shall henceforth be placed upon our own native energy and patriotism."

The example of a man so universally esteemed as O'Brien, of ...continue reading »

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