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Chapter LX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

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The State prosecutions commenced in January, 1844, in the Court of Queen's Bench, before the Lord Chief Justice Penefather, and Justices Burton, Crampton, and Perrin. Besides the Attorney and Solicitor-General, there were ten counsel employed for the Crown, and there was an equal number on the side of the traversers, including Mr. Sheil, Mr. Hatchel, Mr. Moore, Mr. Whiteside, Mr. Monaghan, now Chief Justice, Mr. O'Hagan, and Mr. Macdonogh. This monster trial was remarkable in many respects. It excited the most intense public interest, which pervaded all classes, from the highest to the lowest. It lasted from the 16th of January to the 12 th of February; the speech of the Attorney-General occupied two days; the jury list was found to be defective, a number of names having been secretly abstracted; newspaper articles were admitted as evidence against men who never saw them; the Lord Chief Justice betrayed his partiality in charging the jury, by speaking of the traversers as " the other side." The principal witnesses were short-hand writers from London, avowedly employed by the Government to report the proceedings of the monster meetings. Mr. Jackson, reporter for the Morning Herald, also placed his notes at the service of the Government. Mr. O'Connell defended himself in a long argument for Repeal, and an attack on the Government. The most brilliant orations delivered on the occasion were those of Sheil and Whiteside. Mr. Fitzgibbon, one of the counsel for the traversers, made a remark offensive to the Attorney-General, Mr. T. C. B. Smith, who immediately handed him a challenge, in the presence of his wife, while the judges had retired for refreshment. The matter was brought before the court, and, after mutual explanations, was allowed to drop.

All the traversers were found guilty. The Attorney- General did not press for judgment against the Rev. Matthew Tierney. Upon the rest Mr. Justice Burton, who was deeply affected, pronounced judgment on the 30th of May, in the following terms: - "With respect to the principal traverser, the Court is of opinion that he must be sentenced to be imprisoned for the space of twelve calendar months; and that he is further to be fined in the sum of £2,000, and bound in his own recognisances in the sum of £5,000, and two sureties in £2,500, to keep the peace for seven years. With respect to the other traversers, we have come to the conclusion that to each shall be allotted similar sentences, namely, that they be imprisoned for the space of nine calendar months, each of them to pay £50 fine, and to enter into their own recognisances of £1,000 each, and two sureties of £500, to keep the peace for seven years."

The prisoners were immediately sent to Richmond Bridewell, on the South Circular Road, where the Governor did all in his power to make them comfortable. Good apartments were assigned to them. They dined together every day, and were permitted to receive, without restriction, the visits of their friends and admirers.

The three editors - Dr. Gray, Mr. Duffy, and Mr. Barrett - occupied themselves in writing for their respective journals. Mr. John O'Connell composed a "Repeal }Dictionary," which was afterwards published. Tom» Steele devoted himself to the study of Kane's " Industrial" Resources of Ireland," whose pages he adorned with large notes of admiration. They established for their amusement a Prison Gazette, a repartee of wit and fun, which came out every Friday after dinner. They had access to two large gardens connected with the prison, in one of which there was a mound, which they called "Tara Hill," and a summer house, which became "Conciliation Hall." In the other they erected a marquee, which they called " Mullaghmast." The Government was the less disposed to interfere with these indulgences, as their object was not so much punishment as prevention, and besides, the traversers had appealed against the sentence. A majority of the twelve English judges affirmed the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, while condemning the counts on which the Irish court relied. An appeal was then made to the House of Lords. The decision was left to the five law lords - Lyndhurst, Brougham, Cottenham, Denman, and Campbell. The first two were for a confirmation of the judgment. Lord Denman, in pronouncing judgment, said, referring to the tampering with the panel, "If such practices as had taken place in the present instance in Ireland should continue, the trial by jury would become a mockery, a delusion, and a snare," a sentence which was hackneyed by repetition for years afterwards. The news of the reversal reached Dublin on the afternoon of the 5th of September. Great crowds had assembled on the pier at Kingstown, and tremendous cheers broke forth from the multitude, when the Holyhead packet approached, and they saw held up a white flag, with the inscription, " Judgment reversed by the House of Lords. O'Connell is free! " The news was everywhere received by the Roman Catholics with wild excitement. Two messengers ran to the prison, and as they rushed forward, out of breath, one cried, " I am first, I am first." The solicitor who brought the news from London, threw his arms about O'Connell's neck, and kissed him, exclaiming - " On the merits, on the merits; no technicalities at all." Mr. O'Connell had that morning, received a desponding letter from him, conveying some unpalatable advice, which put the prisoner in bad humour, and made him think very meanly of the character of the adviser. Now, however, he declared him to be one of the best men in existence. In the course of the evening he said to a friend, in a tone of solemnity, " Fitzpatrick, the hand of man is not in this. It is the response given by Providence to the prayers of the faithful, pious, steadfast people of Ireland.'

Orders soon came from the Government for the liberation of the prisoners. After some consultation with their friends, it was resolved that there should be a public procession from the prison in the morning. Mr. O'Connell, however, left that evening, and proceeded on foot to his house in Merrion Square. Before he had reached the square, the tidings spread abroad that he was out, and crowds rapidly assembled from all directions. The people leaped and danced about him, while their acclamations rent the air. When he placed his foot upon the step to ascend to his own door, the exulting shouts of some 10,000 or 15,000 people were almost deafening. Appearing on the balcony of his house, where he had often stood before, to address his followers, they could scarcely be got to keep silence while he spoke. He said, "Why, it seems as if you were glad to see me home again. This house is my own honest home, but I have come home from a prison. In other countries they send the rogues to prison, and leave the honest men at home. Many a paltry rogue was left at home, while I was confined within the walls of a gaol. But God is stronger than our enemies; and thanks be to that God, I am here to-night in my own home. The foul attempt to destroy the sacred right to petition, to violate the jury box, and trample the constitution in my person - that foul and felonious attempt has signally failed. The people of Ireland have gained a mighty victory, and well have they deserved that victory - the moral, the temperate, and the religious people of Ireland. In their 100,000 strength, they were mild as the playful lamb, and such mildness will they show in their might at present. In the meetings of 1843, the glorious meetings of 1843 - they called them monster meetings, because such assemblages could not be peacefully collected in any country on earth except our own - not a blow was struck, not a glass of whisky drunk, not even an accident occurred. Oh, it could happen nowhere but amongst the courteous people of Ireland; and now, blessed be God, we are here to-night, rejoicing. We shall have no tumult tomorrow: a little shout we shall have, and some cheering; the happy bird must chirp. Go to your rest, having first offered up your thanksgiving to the Almighty that he has vouchsafed to look in mercy upon his people of Ireland; and I promise you we will have Repeal."

The procession next day was, in point of magnitude, quite in keeping with the other "monster" proceedings. Twelve o'clock was the time appointed to start from the prison, and at that hour the first part of the procession arrived. Its length may be inferred from the fact, that it was not until two o'clock that the triumphal car reached the prison gate. During those two hours thousands upon thousands defiled before it in one unbroken line of men; perfect order being kept, without the aid of a single policeman, and the marching mass being broken into sections only by the bands of music, preceding the flags or carriages of the different trades, which numbered about thirty. The bands were all dressed in fancy uniforms, bearing bright colours - blue, pink, and green - with banners of the most gorgeous description. There was such a demand for carriages and vehicles of all sorts, that Dublin alone could not meet it, and carriages were obtained from Bray, and various other places around the metropolis. The procession was composed of Repeal wardens, members of the Repeal Association, the Lord Mayor, aldermen, and town council - personal friends and political admirers of O'Connell. " The great climax to the magnificence of the procession," wrote the correspondent of one of the London journals, "was the moment in which Mr. O'Connell, accompanied by his son John, and the Rev. Dr. Miley, Mr. Duffy, Mr. Steele, Mr. Bay, Dr. Gray, and Mr. Barrett, emerged from the prison gates, to take part in it. When they were seen ascending the triumphal car, a shout came forth, so loud, so long, so vehement, and so enthusiastic, that even a man of the firmest nerve must for the moment have felt himself shaken by it. Wherever the eye could reach, the space beneath was occupied by human beings. The shout of those in front of the prison was caught up along the whole line of procession, and for at least five minutes the air seemed to be rent with a thunder-burst of joyful peals, that came reverberating back upon the utterers, making every heart beat quicker. There could not have been less than 500,000 persons gathered together for this national festival."

The triumphal car had been constructed for the chairing of Mr. O'Connell some years before. It was a kind of platform, on which were three stages, rising one above the other like steps, profusely decorated with purple velvet, gold fringe, gilt nails, and painting. Six splendid dappled greys slowly drew the cumbrous vehicle. On the topmost stage, elevated some dozen feet above the crowd, the hero of the day stood erect, wearing the green, gold, and velvet Repeal cap, and bowing incessantly to the cheering multitude. On the other two stages were Dr. Miley and the members of Mr. O'Connell's family, including two grandsons in green velvet tunics, with caps and white feathers, a harper in the ancient minstrel dress, inaudibly playing on his instrument. In the second carriage followed Dr. Gray, Mrs. Gray, and their children; and in the third the other "Repeal martyrs" - some with their ladies and private friends; and finally, the solicitors carrying the "monster indictment." The procession traversed the greater part of Dublin, and did not reach Merrion Square till half-past five o'clock.

Having entered his house, Mr. O'Connell immediately appeared on the balcony, and addressed the people, amidst tremendous cheering, thus: - "This is a great day for Ireland, a day of justice. All that we ever desired was justice; and we have got an instalment of it, at any rate. The plans of the wicked, and the conspiracy of the oppressor - the foul mismanagement of the jury panel - the base conspiracy against the lives, the liberties, and the constitutional rights of the public, have all, blessed be God, been defeated. He had often boasted that those who followed his advice had never been brought into jeopardy, but those who taunted him with that now turned round and said, ' Doctor, cure thyself! ' They said he was guilty of a conspiracy. His answer was, they lied. It was not he alone who said that; it was Lord Chief Justice Denman, of the House of Peers, who said it. If he had wished his vanity to be indulged, and to prove his skill as a lawyer, he could not have devised a plan better calculated to effect his object than the events which had occurred." Having threatened to impeach the judges, the Attorney- General, and others concerned in the prosecution, his harangue was cut short by torrents of rain.

The news of his liberation was carried that night by the mail coaches over all parts of the country, and produced extraordinary excitement throughout the south and west, particularly in Cork, which Mr. O'Connell then represented. There the whole population seems to have turned out, some of the streets being so packed, that it was impossible to get along. Processions were soon formed, with bands of music, and green boughs. Even the little children were furnished with the emblems of victory. Along the country roads, too, as well as in the towns and villages, every little cabin had its green boughs stuck up, and its group of inhabitants shouting for "the Liberator." At night, in the towns, every house was illuminated, while bonfires blazed on the mountains, and the horizon seemed on fire in every direction. On the following Sunday the liberation of the prisoners was celebrated in the Metropolitan Church, Dublin. Archbishop Murray sat with his mitre on, and in his grandest robes, on an elevated throne, with crimson canopy. On the opposite side, beneath the pulpit, were chairs of state, on which sat O'Connell and the rest of the " Repeal martyrs." A Te Deum was sung for the deliverance of the liberator of his country; a sermon was preached by O'Connell's devoted friend and chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Miley, who ascribed the liberation, not to the law lords, but to the Virgin Mary.

Notwithstanding these rejoicings, however, there is no doubt that the imprisonment completely broke the spirit of O'Connell. During 1843 he had been urged forward by the impetuosity and warlike spirit of the Young Ireland party, and the excitement of the monster meetings seems to have filled his mind with the notion that he could really wield the physical power of the country in an actual contest with the Queen's forces. His prison reflections dissipated all such illusions. The enforced inactivity, at his time of life, of one accustomed to so much labour and to such constant speaking, no doubt affected his health. Probably the softening of the brain, of which he died, commenced about this time. At all events he was thenceforward an altered man, excessively cautious and timid, with a morbid horror of war and blood, and a rooted dislike of the Young Ireland leaders, which the Old Ireland party did all they could to strengthen. Mr. Smith O'Brien had been the Conservative member for the county of Limerick, and had been opposed to the Repeal agitation; but the moment O'Connell was arrested, he joined the association, taking the vacant position of leader, and adopting the policy of the Young Ireland party, which avowedly tended to war and revolution. Boasting of a lineal descent from the conqueror of the Danes at Clontarf, and hailed by some of his admirers as one who had a right to wear his crown, the new convert to Repeal seemed determined to go all lengths for the liberation of his country from the Saxon yoke. O'Connell at first seemed to rejoice in the accession of strength to the cause, but signs of jealousy and dislike were soon manifested. In private there was a marked coolness between the two leaders, and when, at the meetings of the association, any of the Young Ireland orators gave utterance to martial sentiments, they were promptly called to order by O'Connell; but they revenged themselves by frequently outvoting him in committee, which was a grievous mortification to one so long accustomed to almost absolute rule among his followers. He attended Parliament during the session of 1845-46, diligently performing his duties as a representative, sitting in committees, and taking part in the debates of the House. During his absence the Young Ireland party gained a complete ascendancy in the Repeal Association. Mr. Smith O'Brien, who refused to sit on any committee in the House of Commons not connected with Irish business, and was imprisoned in the cellar for his contumacy, made himself an idol with the revolutionary party at home by his refractory spirit and the perversity of his conduct. The other leaders of that party who exerted the greatest influence were Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy, D'Arcy M'Gee, and Thomas Meagher - all men of superior ability, whose organ, the Nation, exerted great influence throughout the country. Ultimately, a series of "peace resolutions," which were proposed in the Repeal Association, pledging its members to abjure the sword as an instrument for redressing the grievances of Ireland, caused an open rupture between the two parties. The Young Irelanders seceded in a body from Conciliation Hall, and established an organisation of their own - " The Irish Confederation." From this time the Repeal rent rapidly fell off, and when O'Connell again returned to Dublin, he found that the spell of his enchantment, once so potent, was broken; and the famine came soon after, to consummate his affliction and break his heart. Before the sad close of his public career had arrived, and pending the issue of the State trial, O'Connell had a proof of the magnanimity of the English people, of those Saxons whose national character he had so often assailed and maligned. When he appeared at one of the Anti- Corn-Law meetings in Covent Garden Theatre, his reception by the assembled multitude is described as one of the most magnificent displays of popular enthusiasm ever witnessed. They remembered only that his jury was packed and his judges prejudiced, and that he had been for thirty years the able and consistent opponent of the corn laws. He declared himself that he was not prepared for such a demonstration, even by the experience of the monster meetings. This great triumph on English ground seemed to infuse new life into the veteran agitator, for his speech on that occasion was one of the finest and most effective he ever delivered.

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