Coercion Bill - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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Late in January Parliament assembled. From the Queen's (that is Sir Robert Peel's) speech one thing was clear, that Ireland was to have a new "Coercion Bill." Extermination of tenantry had been of late more extensive than ever, and therefore there had been a few murders of landlords and agents—the most natural and inevitable thing in the world. The Queen says:—


"I have observed with deep regret the very frequent instances in which the crime of deliberate assassination has been of late committed in Ireland.

"It will be your duty to consider whether any measure can be devised calculated to give increased protection to life, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of so dreadful a crime."

Whereupon the Nation commented as follows:—

"The only notice vouchsafed to this country is a hint that more gaols, more transportation, and more gibbets might be useful to us.

"Or, possibly, we wrong the Minister: perhaps when her Majesty says that 'protection must be afforded to life,' she means that the people are not to be allowed to die of hunger during the ensuing summer—or that the lives of tenants are to be protected against the extermination of clearing landlords—and that so 'deliberate assassination' may become less frequent. God knows what she means;—the use of royal language is to conceal ideas."

The idea, however, was clear enough. It meant more police, more police-taxes, police surveillance, and a law that every one should keep at home after dark. The speech goes on to refer to the approaching famine, and declares that her Majesty had "adopted precautions" for its alleviation. This intimation served still further to make our people turn to "government" for counsel and for aid. Who can blame them? "Government" had seized upon all our means and resources. It was confidently believed they intended to let us have the use of some part of our money in this deadly emergency. It was even fondly imagined by some sanguine persons that the government had it in contemplation to stop the export of provisions from Ireland—as the Belgian legislature had from Belgium, and the Portuguese from Portugal, until our own people should first be fed. It was not known, in short, what "government" intended to do, or how far they would go. All was mystery; and this very mystery paralysed such private and local efforts by charitable persons, as might otherwise have been attempted in Ireland.

The two great leading measures proposed in this Parliament ...continue reading »

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