TREASON/FELONY AND OTHER CRIMES IN IRELAND

The Young Irelanders were convicted under a Treason/Felony Act that was pushed through the London Parliament in 1848 specifically to deal with the leaders of the movement. John Mitchel was the first convicted under this Act by a packed jury for writing articles in his newspaper "The United Irishman" proclaiming that the Irish should begin a rebellion (similar to the American Revolution) and gain their freedom from Britain. He was convicted to 14 years transportation—first to Bermuda and later to Tasmania.

"Honest" John Martin was the second Young Irelander sentenced under this Act, also by a packed jury. Martin had 10 charges against him for articles in his newspaper, "The Irish Felon." The most felonious articles were actually written by other people. Many were written after he was arrested and while he was in Newgate Prison awaiting trial. In the last issue of his newspaper, he wrote an article asking the people to "stand by their arms" (to keep their weapons if they lived in "proclaimed districts", where British law demanded people surrender their arms.) He wrote that article while in Prison and was convicted because of that one article. He never advocated violent overthrow of the British monarch, but instead demanded that Irish internal policies should be decided by the Irish and not the British Parliament in London. For that he was convicted to 10 years transportation and was sent to Tasmania. His conditional pardon in 1854 lists his crime as "Membership in Young Ireland Movement."

Other Young Irelanders were convicted of Treason/Felony for beginning an armed rebellion in Co. Tipperary. They were sentenced to death which was then commuted to transportation for life.

Crime and punishment in Ireland under British dominion and law in the 1830s and 1840s consisted of transportation to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) or Australia or Bermuda for a variety of offenses, as the following list illustrates:

Crime Description: Sentence:
* Robbery of a bag & cloak
* Being a deserter
* Larceny
* Whiteboy offences (usually threatening a landlord)
* Murder
* Forged a will
* Violent assault
* Cattle stealing
* Burglary
Transportation for life
Transportation for 4 years
Transportation for 7 years
Transportation for 7 years
Death--commuted to transportation for life
Transportation for 7 years
7 years transportation commuted to 2 years imprisonment
10 years transportation
Transporation for 7 years

People were also sentenced to transportation for vagrancy, habitual drunkenness in the army, issuing threatening notices (Ribbonmen and Whiteboy offences), manslaughter, theft of cash or property with or without force, being a pickpocket, etc. One was even transported for "sacrilege!"

Sources:
National Archives of Ireland, on-line transporation search.
"The Great Shame", by Thomas Keneally.

Written by Suzanne Ballard, 4/3/00.


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