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Ireland


Ireland - Viceroyalty of Lord Clarendon - Disturbed state of the Country - Special Commission in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary - Concluding Address of the Lord Chief Justice on the State of the Country - The Irish Rebellion of 1848 - Leaders of the Young Ireland Party - The Nat ion - The Priesthood opposed to the Young Ireland Party - The Irish Confederation - The United Irishman - Alarm of the Government and of the Citizens of Dublin - Preparations of the Government - The City Fortified - Apprehensions of a Red Republic - Lord Clarendon and the World Newspaper - Irish Deputation to the Provisional Government at Paris - De Lamartine's Answer - Smith O'Brien in the House of Commons - Increasing Alarm in Dublin - The Young Ireland Leaders attacked by a Limerick Mob - Arrest of Mitchell - Trial of Smith O'Brien and Meagher - Transportation of Mitchell - New- Powers granted - Commencement of the Insurrection - Parleying with the Police - The Battle of Ballingarry - Arrest of Smith O'Brien- Loyalty of the Constabulary - State Trials at Clonmel - Declarations of the Prisoners on the Passing of Sentence - Commutation of the Sentence of Death to Transportation - Trial of Mr. Gavan Duffy - New Powers granted to the Executive - Smith O'Brien takes the field - Ireland - The Rate in Aid - The Encumbered Estates Act - The Queen's Visit to Ireland - Her Majesty's Reception in Cork - Her arrival at Kingstown, and Reception there - The Royal Procession through Dublin - Visit to the Public Institutions - Levée and Drawing Room in Dublin Castle - Review in the Phoenix Park - Departure of the Queen from Kingstown - Visit to Belfast - Departure for Scotland - Arrival at Balmoral - Return to Osborne.
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It was the lot of the Earl of Clarendon to govern Ireland during the most trying period of her history. It was a trying crisis, affording great opportunity to a statesman of pre-eminent ability to lay broad and solid foundations for a better state of society. But though an anxious, painstaking, and active administrator, he was not a great statesman; he had no originating power to organise a new state of things, nor prescience to forecast the future; but he left no means untried by which he could overcome present difficulties. The population had been thinned with fearful rapidity; large numbers of the gentry had been reduced from affluence to destitution; property was changing hands on all sides; the Government had immense funds placed at its command; a vast machinery and an enormous host of officials operating upon society when it was in the most plastic and unresisting state, and a high order of statesmanship could have made an impress upon it that would have endured for ages. But Lord Clarendon's government, instead of putting forth the power that should have guided those mighty resources to beneficial and permanent results, allowed them to be agencies of deterioration. The truth is, he was frightened by a contemptible organisation, existing openly under his eyes in Dublin, for the avowed purpose of exciting rebellion and effecting revolution. The conspirators might have been promptly dealt with and extinguished in a summary way; but instead of dealing with it in this manner, he watched over its growth, and allowed it to come to maturity, and then brought to bear upon it a great military force and all. the imposing machinery of state trials; the only good result of which was a display of forensic eloquence worthy of the days of Flood and Grattan.

The opening of the year 1848 was signalised by the appointment of a special commission, which was convened to try those accused of agrarian murders in the counties of Tipperary, Limerick, and Clare. The judges were the Chief Justice Blackburne and the Chief Baron Pigot, The commission was pre-eminently successful. The trials commenced at Limerick on the 4th of January. The Chief Justice, in his charge to the jury, drew a melancholy picture of the demoralised state of the country. He praised the patience and enduring fortitude of the people under the visitation of famine, which were generally in the highest degree exemplary, and he made this remarkable statement: - "I do not find in the calendar before me, nor after the experience of the last two circuits have I been able to find, a single case in which destitution or distress, arising from the visitation of God, has in the remotest degree influenced this illegal confederacy, or stimulated any of those outrages." The first person tried was the- notorious William Ryan, nicknamed "Puck," one of the greatest ruffians ever brought to the bar of justice. He was tried for the murder of a neighbour, named John Kelly, into whose house he entered, and shot him dead upon the spot, in the presence of his family. He was found guilty, and hanged on the 8th of February. He was well known to have committed nine murders during the previous year. A man named Frewin, a respectable farmer, was transported for life, being found guilty of harbouring Ryan, and screening him from justice. The next batch of prisoners consisted of six ill-looking young fellows, all of whom appeared to be about twenty years of age, charged with the abduction of the daughter of a respectable farmer, named Maloney, for whom they were in the habit of working, in order that another farmer, named Creagh, might marry her. She was a pretty, lady-like girl, about ûineteen years of age, and her appearance as a witness excited great interest in a crowded court. On Sunday, the 14th of the preceding November, soon after she had retired to bed, about ten o'clock, she heard steps at the door. A window was broken, and she then got up, and throwing some clothes over her shoulders, came out of her room to the top of the stairs; seeing two or three men coming up, she ran into another room, and got into her sister's bed. Three or four of them pulled her out of the bed, one of them taking her by the hair. She caught hold of the bed, and was dragged with it to the door; when forced to let go that, she seized the balustrades of the stairs, and held them till they gave way. They soon forced her down stairs to the door, where a man was standing with an umbrella open, and a gun in his hand. She had nothing on but a frock thrown loosely over her shoulders - no shoes or stockings. In this condition two of the men, putting their hands under her arms, dragged her along a field to a bog. They afterwards took her to the house of Creagh, who, yielding to her entreaties, took her home next morning. The prisoners were all found guilty.

These cases may serve as illustrations of the state of the country at that time. On the 10th of January, between twenty and thirty of the convicts were brought up together for sentence, and it seemed difficult to believe that so ill-looking and desperate a set of villains could be brought together in one place. They had all, with one exception, been found guilty, without any recommendation to mercy from the jury. After an impressive address from the judge, the sentences were pronounced, varying in the amount of punishment assigned. But they heard their doom with the greatest indifference. The commission next adjourned to Ennis, the assize town of the county of Clare, where the results were equally satisfactory. The judges arrived at Clonmel, the chief town of Tipperary, on the 24th of January. There they found upwards of four hundred prisoners in gaol, charged with crimes marked by various degrees of atrocity. The trial that excited most attention here was that of John Sonergan, for the murder of Mr; "William Roe, a landed proprietor and a magistrate of the county, who was shot in the open day, upon the road near one of his own plantations. The scene which was presented in this court on the 31st of January, was described in the report of the trials as scarcely ever paralleled. Five human beings, four of whom were convicted of murder, and one of an attempt to murder, stood in a row at the front of the dock, to receive the dreadful sentence of the law, which consigned them to an ignominious death. When asked what they had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon them, one said, "A long day, my lord;" another declared his innocence, and the rest were silent. The Lord Chief Justice, in passing sentence, said, "The whole course of your crimes has been marked with unrelenting cruelty - with that cowardice which is always attendant upon a cruel and vindictive spirit. You armed yourselves with deadly weapons, you attacked your victims when they were not prepared, when they were defenceless and incapable of resistance, when they expected no danger; and you sent them, with all their sins upon their heads, into the presence of Almighty God. You stand there convicted, not of murder caused by sudden resentment or excitement, or by the Infirmities of our nature; but of that worst species of crime, the crime of assassination - the most horrible and hateful shape that the crime of murder can assume. In the prime of manhood, you all stand there branded with the character of assassins, a disgrace to yourselves, to your country, and to your nature. Oh, that the spectacle which now presents itself may work out the great ends of reformation, and the prevention of crime; that those who are pursuing the same course as has led to your destruction may see, in the fate which shortly awaits you, that if they will not be turned and deterred by other motives from their career of guilt, the course of the law, though slow, is sure; and that, sooner or later, the murderer will be tracked, detected, and brought to condign punishment! But there are other classes who ought to take a lesson of warning from your fate: there are those who have taught you to avenge your wrongs, who have justified, palliated, and excused your crimes; and they must be responsible for the consequences - those consequences which are exhibited in your dreadful cases, Such doctrine and such teaching has been productive of such cases as yours. But there is another class upon whom I wonder that all that has occurred has made no impression. Some of you have wives, some of you have parents, some of you have children, all of you have friends and relatives. Have they done their duty, and warned you against the crimes that have brought you to destruction? Have they, who knew your designs, warned you against their perpetration? Have they endeavoured to prevent them, and used their influence to save you? Sorry am I to say that, from what I have witnessed, the friends and relatives who ought to have been true to you, who ought to have been your protectors, have been the first to assist in bringing you to justice; for if they did not prevent, they have, in some degree, caused those crimes which have brought you here. Let your fate be a warning to them; and whatever may be the calamity and affliction which your death may produce to your friends and relatives, let it be a warning to save from destruction others who are traversing the same course."

Agrarian outrage had thus been effectually put down by the special commission; but a much more formidable difficulty was now to be encountered by the Government, which was called upon to suppress a rebellion. In order that its origin may be understood, it will be necessary to sketch briefly the rise and progress of the Young Ireland party. It had its origin in the establishment of the Nation newspaper in 1842, by Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy, and John Mitchell. Davis was a native of the county of Cork, a member of the Church of England, and a barrister who had devoted himself to literature. He was a man of genius and enthusiastic temperament, combined with habits of study and a love of system. As a member of the Repeal Association, and as a writer in the Nation, he constantly advocated national independence. He was a vigorous writer, and also a poet. He was much respected personally by all classes, and would have exerted a powerful influence, but he was cut off by fever in the midst of his career. His memory received the honour of a public funeral, which was one of the largest and most respectable that had for some time taken place in Dublin. Mr. Duffy, the proprietor and editor of the Nation, a Roman Catholic and a native of Monaghan, had been connected with the press in Dublin. Mr. Mitchell, also a northern, was the son of a Unitarian Minister in Newry, a solicitor by profession. These men were all animated by the same burning love of Ireland, and unmitigated hatred of English domination. The Nation soon attained a vast circulation; its leading articles were distinguished by an earnestness, a fire, a power, an originality and boldness, till then unknown in the Irish press. Its columns were filled with the most brilliant productions in literature and poetry, all designed to glorify Ireland at the expense of England, and all breathing the spirit of war and defiance against the Government. In addition to the Nation, they prepared a number of small books, which they issued in a cheap form as an Irish library, devoted chiefly to the history of their country, and its struggles for independence. By their exertions, reading-rooms were established throughout the country, and a native literature was extensively cultivated. The orator of the party was Thomas Meagher, at a later period general in the American army, son of a Waterford merchant, who was afterwards member of Parliament. He was a brilliant, fluent, ardent, daring speaker; his appearance and manners were those of a gay, reckless, dashing cavalier; and his warlike harangues had won for him the designation, " Meagher of the Sword." His speeches fired his audience with wild enthusiasm. Since 1844, as we have seen, Mr. William Smith O'Brien had become the leader of this party, which differed in spirit and purpose from the Old Ireland party, of which O'Connell had been so long the leader. O'Connell's agitation even for Repeal was essentially religious. Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church were indissolubly associated in his mind. His habits as a nisi prius barrister made him an advocate more than a statesman; and having pleaded the cause of his Church for forty years, having been rewarded and retained for so doing by an annual "tribute," collected in the chapels of the kingdom, and having won his unparalleled popularity, and almost kingly power, by his services in this cause, he could not help regarding himself as the special champion of the Irish priests and their people. For them he courted Whig alliances, for them he abused the Tories, for them he sought Repeal, and for their sakes he deprecated war. He knew that the Protestants of Ireland would never sufficiently trust him or his ecclesiastical clients, to join them in a war against English supremacy, which they disliked far less than Roman Catholic ascendancy. He knew that a war for Repeal must be a civil and religious war; and he too well remembered the horrors of '98, and was too well aware of the power of England, to seriously encourage anything of the kind. He talked indeed about fighting at the "Monster Meetings," but he did so merely to intimidate the Government, confident of his power to hold the masses in check, and to prevent breaches of the peace. The State prosecutions and the proceedings of the Young Ireland party worked in him the painful and almost heart-breaking conviction that he had gone too far. Another essential difference existed between the two parties regarding religion. The Young Irelanders wanted to ignore religion in the national struggle. Their object was to unite all Irishmen in the great cause, to exorcise the spirit of bigotry, and to Cultivate the spirit of religious toleration. But neither the Protestants nor the Catholics were prepared for this. The peasantry of the South especially would not enter into a contest in which their priests refused to lead and bless them; and these would neither lead nor bless except in the interest of their Church. This truth was discovered too late by Mr. Smith O'Brien and Mr. Meagher. The latter gentleman is said to have remarked in his prison, "We made a fatal mistake in not? conciliating the Catholic priesthood. The agitation mw&-be baptised in the old Holy Well" If so, the war must be a religious war; and a religious war must be a war of extermination against Protestants. It would not be so understood by such men as Mr. Meagher; but the peasantry could understand nothing else; and when once inflamed by the sight of blood, it would be impossible to restrain them.

When the two parties separated in 1846, the Young Irelanders established the Irish " Confederation," which held its meetings in the Music Hall, Abbey Street, and whose platform was occupied by a number of young men, who subsequently figured in the State trials - Mr. Dillon, a barrister, who had been a moderator in Trinity College, Mr. Doheny, solicitor, Mr. O'Gorman, and Mr. Martin, a Protestant gentleman of property in the County Down. The object of the confederacy was to prepare the country for national independence, "by the force of opinion, by the combination of all classes of Irishmen, and the exercise of all the political, social, and moral influence within their reach." They disclaimed any intention of involving the country in civil war, or invading the just rights of any of its people; and they were especially anxious that Protestants and Roman Catholics should be united in the movement. Resolutions to this effect were adopted at a great meeting in the Rotunda, a revolutionary amendment by Mr. Mitchell having been rejected, after a stormy debate, which lasted three days, and did not terminate on the last day till one o'clock at night. This led to Mitchell's secession from the Nation, and the establishment of the United Irishman, in which he openly and violently advocated rebellion and revolution. He continually insisted on the adoption of the most diabolical and repulsive measures, with the utmost sang froid. Every Saturday his journal contained a letter "To the Earl of Clarendon, Her Majesty's Executioner-General and Butcher- General of Ireland." Plans of insurrection were freely propounded; the nature and efficiency of street fighting were copiously discussed; ladies were invited to throw vitriol from their windows on the Queen's troops, and to fling empty bottles before the cavalry, that they might stumble and fall. Precise instructions were given, week after week, for the erection of barricades, the perforation of walls, and other means of attack and defence in the war against the Queen.

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Pictures for Ireland

Mr. Meagher
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Sackville street, rebellion
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William Smith OBrien
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