Page:A Compendium of Irish Biography.djvu/393

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O'ER

volution of February 1 848 combined to urge the Confederation to extreme measurea. In the spring of 1848, O'Brien, Meagher, and O'Gorman went to Paris and presented a congratulatory address to Lamartine, Pre- sident of the French Republic, but received a vague reply, which extinguished their hopes of support from France in any pos- sible revolutionary movement. On his re- turn through London he thus expressed himself in what proved to be his last speech in Parliament: "I do not profess disloyal- ty to the Queen of England. But . . it shall be the study of my life to overthrow the dominion of this Parliament over Ire- land. . . I would gladly accept the most ignominious death . . rather than wit- ness the sufferings and the indignities . . inflicted by this Legislature upon my countrymen during the last thirty years." On the 15th May he was tried before the Queen's Bench, Dublin, for speeches " in- ducing the people to rise in rebellion," but the jury disagreed. Matters now rapidly precipitated themselves. Treason-Felony Acts, Arms Acts, Coercion Acts were passed, Mitchel was arrested and con- victed. Duffy, Martin, Doheny, and O'Doherty were aiTested. Duffy's trial was fixed for August, and this was the time selected for taking the field. Although O'Brien and Dillon advocated delay until the crops were reaped, on 21st July a war directory, consisting of Dillon, Reilly, O'Gorman, Meagher, and Father Kenyon was appointed, and on the following morn- ing O'Gorman started for Limerick, Do- heny for Cashel, and O'Brien for Wexford, to prepare the people for an outbreak. At this time Ireland was flooded with troops, and almost every public building in Dublin was turned into a barrack, and on the morning that O'Brien set out on his mission, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act came into operation. Meagher and Dillon joined O'Brien, and it was de- termined to raise the standard of revolt near Kilkenny. Their harangues on the way thither were listened to -with enthu- siasm by the people, who, however, showed no inclination to take the initiative. At Kilkenny not one in eight of the men enrolled under their banner possessed a musket, and even the supply of pikes was miserably small. They left Kilkenny on the 24th, and at Callan and Carrick-on-Suir addressed large gatherings, and at Mulli- nahone they reviewed their first body of adherents, numbering 3,000 or 4,000, about 300 of whom were armed with guns, pistols, swords and pitchforks. We are told that O'Brien wore a plaid scarf across his shoulders, and carried a pistol in his z

O'ER

breast, and he assured the people that Ire- land would have a government of her own before many weeks. On 26th Jvdy his men were left the whole day without food or shelt er . O' Brien gave them all the money h e had, but told them that in future they should provide for themselves as he could allow no one's property to be interfered with. "Hungry and exhausted, the men who listened to him returned at night to their homes ; they were sensible enough to per- ceive that insurrection within the lines laid down by their leaders was impossible ; the news that they were expected to fight on empty stomachs was spread amongst the people, and from that day forward the number of O'Brien's followers dwindled away." 3°^ He was joined at Ballingarry by MacManus and Doheny. On the 27th they returned to Mullinahone, and went thence to Killenaule. A barricade was thrown up in the latter village. Great dis- inclination was shown by the leaders to shed the first blood, and a smaU party of dragoons was permitted to pass through this barricade on the oflacer giving his word of honour that he was not going to arrest O'Brien. The hearts of the most resolute of O'Brien's followers now began to falter. It was clear the case was desperate, and that nothing awaited them but ruin and death. Only about 200 men, wretchedly armed, adhered to him, and the country generally showed no signs of rising. But Smith O'Brien was immovable, and de- clared " he would do his duty by his country, let the country answer for its duty towards him." The collision came at last. On 29th July a party of forty-six police, under Sub-Inspector Trant, marched to Ballingarry to arrest O' Brien. They were opposed by a crowd of insurgents behind a barricade, and thereupon rushed across some fields, and occupied a house. Of the 200 weak and hungry men whom O'Brien now led to the attack of the Con- stabulary, not more than twenty possessed fire-arms, about twice that number were armed with pikes and pitchforks, and the remainder had but their naked hands and the stones they could gather by the way- side. Before the fighting began, the owner of the house implored O'Brien to get her children out of the house ; and at the risk of his life he endeavoured to persuade the police to permit this, but they declined, and a contest commenced which continued for nearly two hours. The insurgents' am- munition was soon exhausted. MacManus attempted to fire the house by wheeling a cart-load of burning hay up to the door ; but O'Brien put a stop to the movement on account of the children. Some Catholic 369