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revenues of the Church for educational purposes.
In 1838 the Poor Law, established in England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was introduced into Ireland. Bu the measure was not in accordance with Irish views and Irish wishes. The government had, in the first instance, appointed a Commission, composed chiefly of Irishmen, to inquire into the subject.
This Commission had reported against the application of the Workhouse System to Ireland ; recommending instead that the deserving poor should be relieved by the aid of voluntary associations helped by the state. The government, however, disregarded the report of the Irish Commission, and accepted the report of a Scotch gentleman, who, at the request of Lord John Russell, had paid a flying visit of six weeks to the country. When the Bill, founded on this gentleman's report, was brought forward, all the amendments introduced by Irish members were rejected; and when it became law, he was practically entrusted with the administration of it. Thus a Poor Law, based on the Workhouse System and antagonistic to Irish feeling and opinion, and worked by English officials, was established.
In 1840, an Act was passed for the reform of the Irish municipal corporations. At that time there were sixty-eight municipal corporations in Ireland, every one of which was practically in the hands of the Protestant Ascendency. The government resolved to
change this condition of things, and accordingly in 1835 introduced a Bill giving the Catholics a fairer representation in all the municipalities. But the Tories and the House of Lords strongly opposed the measure; and the upshot of the struggle (which lasted for five years), was that fifty-eight out of the sixty-eight corporations were abolished, and a restricted franchise (which, however, gave more power to the Catholics) was conferred on the remaining ten. An Irish orator once said that he was prepared to destroy the whole of the constitution to preserve the remainder.' The British parliament destroyed almost the whole of the Irish municipalities to preserve the remainder.
THE REPEAL MOVEMENT
HEN the Melbourne ministry
had come into power, O'Connell said that he would give them a fair trial in order to see if it were possible for the English parliament to do complete justice to Ireland; and he kept his
word. But when the Melbourne ministry fell in 1841 without carrying out a complete policy of reform, and when a Tory ministry came into power, bent on governing Ireland in opposition to the wishes of the people, he demanded the Repeal of the Union, and threw himself heart and soul into this his last agitation. "Grattan,' he said, 'sat by the cradle of his country, and followed her hearse ; it was left to me to sound the resur
rection trumpet, and to show that she was not dead but sleeping. O'Connell's case for repeal rested on two main propositions.
1. Ireland was fit for legislative independence in position, population and natural advantages. Five independent kingdoms in Europe possessed less territory or people; and her station in the Atlantic, between the Old World and the New, designed her to be the entrepôt of both, if the watchful jealousy of England had not rendered her natural advantages nugatory.
2. “Ireland was entitled to legislative independence, her parliament was as ancient as the parliament of England, and had not derived its existence from any charter of the [English] crown, but sprung out of the natural rights of freemen. Its independence, long claimed, was
. finally recognised and confirmed by solemn compact between the two nations in 1782. That compact had since been shamefully violated, but no statute of limitations ran against the rights of a nation.'1
The Repeal movement was practically laid upon the same lines as the movement for Catholic Emancipation. There were three classes of subscribers to the organisationvolunteers who subscribed or collected £10 a year; members who subscribed £r; and associates who subscribed
There were Repeal wardens, who presided over each district; Repeal marshals, who organised great meetings; Repeal police, who kept order;
1 Sir Gavan Duffy, Young Ireland.
Repeal libraries, which educated the people; Repeal courts, which for a time superseded the ordinary legal tribunals; and a Repeal rent which filled the exchequer of the organisation.
Monster meetings were held throughout the country, at which O'Connell addressed vast multitudes, stimulating exertion, inspiring enthusiasm, kindling hope.
In 1843 he withdrew altogether from parliament, and devoted himself absolutely to the work of rousing the nation. The greatest of the Repeal meetings were then held. 30,000 persons assembled at Trim; 130,000 at Mullingar; 250,000 on the Hill of Tara. Within the space of three months, O'Connell attended thirty-one of these huge gatherings, and travelled over 5000 miles 1
No such sight of its kind has, perhaps, ever been witnessed as O'Connell's appearance at one of these monster meetings, always, of course, held in the open air, and generally on some well-known spot hallowed by fond historical memories. There was no turmoil, no disorder. The mighty multitude hung upon the agitator's lips, and were swayed by the words which fell from them. Sometimes the fiercest passions were aroused; sometimes the tenderest emotions of the human heart were touched; and often a
wave of humour and pleasantry would break over the audience, drowning the magic voice of the orator amid roars of delight and merriment
1 Shaw LefevrePeel and O'Connell.