Landlord and Tenant Commission - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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Arms Bill. We represented that our factories had stopped work, and our citizens were starving: without delay the Government powder-mill near Cork was set to work. While Irishmen were talking and passing resolutions, the Parliament and Government were steadily confirming, extending, strengthening their grip upon all things Irish. We all lived, at all times, in the full sight and full power of the enemy, and lay down to rest under the shadow of his wings. If it was desirable to know the movements of any suspected person, detectives dogged his footsteps in ever-changing disguises; if he was supposed to be in communication with others, the letters of both correspondents were carefully opened and copied in the Post-office. Much care had been used during the past year in strengthening police-stations, to resist any sudden attack of peasantry; in fortifying barracks, and disposing garrisons still more and more cunningly, so as to be in full military occupation of every strategic point and road in the island. The Arms Act, too, was administered with much care at Petty Sessions; and it was made certain that any Repealer who had a gun in his house should be at least well known to the police.

I recapitulate all this, that readers may bear in mind, throughout the remainder of the story, what a powerful and cunning tyranny it was which pressed upon that people at every point, and by means of which British Ministers believed they might safely pledge themselves to maintain the Union at all hazards, "under the blessing of Divine Providence." It was the British Government, not we, who held the position of "Torres Vedras."

In 1843, the Government sent forth one of their endless "Commissions"—the famous "Landlord and Tenant Commission"—to travel through Ireland, collect evidence, and report on the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. In '44 it travelled and investigated; and the next year its report came out in four great volumes. The true function and object of this Commission was to devise the best means of getting rid of what Englishmen called "the surplus population" of Ireland. Ever since the year 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation, British policy had been directing itself to this end. We shall see how it worked.

As a condition of Catholic Emancipation, the "forty shilling franchise" had been abolished, so that the privilege of voting for members of Parliament should be taken away from the great mass of the Catholic peasantry. This low franchise had theretofore induced landlords (for the sake of securing political ...continue reading »

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