Lord Stanley's Bill - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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the Colleges Bill; and this held the Protestants aloof, and produced bitter altercation throughout the country. By the discussion on slavery, American alliance and co-operation were checked; a great gain to the Premier; for the Americans, and the Irish in America, all looked forward to something stronger than "moral force."

The Minister thought he might proceed, under cover of this tumult of senseless debate, to take the first step in his plan for the depopulation of Ireland in pursuance of the "Devon Commission" Report. Accordingly, his third measure for the "amelioration" of Ireland was a bill ostensibly providing for "Compensation of Tenants in Ireland," but really calculated for the destruction of the last relics of Tenant-Right. In introducing this bill, Lord Stanley said:—

"Now, my Lords, I apprehend there is no man who knows aright of the state of Ireland who will not concur in this statement of the report—that between the population and the means of employing the population there is a great and alarming disproportion, (hear, hear); and that that disproportion can be met and conquered only by one of two modes; either by reducing the population to the limits of the means of giving employment, or by increasing the employment in proportion to the population."

I need not go through the details of the proposed measure, it is enough to observe that Lord Stanley admitted that he contemplated the "removal of a vast mass of labour" from its present field. "In justice to the colonies," he would not recommend, as the Devon Commissioners did, merely that the whole of this vast mass should be shot out naked and destitute upon their shores; and his bill proposed the employment of a part of it on the waste lands of Ireland,—of which waste lands there were four millions of acres capable of improvement. A portion of the "vast mass of labour" removed from other places was to be set to work under certain conditions to reclaim these lands for the landlords.

The bill, though framed entirely for the landlords, did yet propose to interfere, in some degree, with their absolute rights of property. They did not choose that tenants should be presumed to have any right to "compensation," even nominally; or any other right whatever; and as for the waste lands, they wanted them for snipe-shooting. Accordingly they resisted the bill with all their power; and English landlords, on principle, supported them in that resistance. On the other hand, the Irish Tenants, with one consent, exclaimed against the bill as a bill for open robbery and slaughter. A meeting ...continue reading »

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