Operation of the Arms Act - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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regarded the Irish question in any other point of view than as a question on which might occur a change of Ministry.

An army of fifty thousand men, including police, was all this while in full military occupation of the island; the Arms Bill had become law; and in the registration of arms before magistrates, under that Act, those who were in favour of their country's independence were usually refused the privilege of keeping so much as an old musket in their houses for the purposes of self-defence. This same registration made manifest the fact that the Protestant "gentry" of the country were providing themselves with a sufficient armament. For example, Mrs Charlotte Stawell, of Kilbritton Castle, registered "six guns and six pistols;" and Richard Quinn, of Skivanish, "nine guns, one pair pistols, two dirks, two bayonets, and one sword." No objection was offered against these persons keeping as many fire-arms as they chose! So worked the Disarming Act.

The police-barracks were strengthened; the detectives were multiplied; the regular troops were kept almost constantly under arms, and marched to and fro with a view of striking terror; improved codes of signals were furnished to the police, for use by day and by night—to give warning of everything they might conceive suspicious; and, above all, the Post-office was used systematically as a bureau of espionage. During the progress of the trials, Mr Gartlan, one of the attorneys for the traversers, and Mr O'Mahony were surprised to see their private letters printed in the government newspapers of Dublin. Sir Edward Sugden and the Secretary of State for Ireland had issued warrants under which the correspondence of any suspected person was to be carried to the Castle, opened by a government clerk, copied, resealed, and forwarded as if nothing had happened. The extent to which this system operated was hardly appreciated, until the discovery, during this same year, 1844, of Sir James Graham's behaviour with respect to the correspondence of Mazzini, the Italian. By diligent inspection of the letters to and from Mazzini, the British Minister was enabled (in the interest of good order, tranquillity, and civilization,) to give notice to the King of Naples of all the movements and designs of the brothers Bandiera; and thereby had the satisfaction of putting it in that monarch's power to entrap, capture, and kill those rash young men.

It has been the custom, ever since the "Union," for either the Lord-Lieutenant, or Secretary, or any of the Lords Justices or Privy Councillors, to order the detention in the post-office of letters to and from any person whomsoever they might think ...continue reading »

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