Quote About Irish Rebels And Hemp

“If the government want to extirpate disaffection in Ireland by the gallows, they must sow the whole island with hemp.” – Robert Southey  (September 28th 1803)

Occasionally I come across a nugget of hemp history in the Irish context worthy of sharing. You may recall my hemp history articles relating to George Sigerson and Napoleon Bonaparte

The following is a quote I came across during some recent research. Perhaps it can be considered both fascinating and morbid.

These words were written on the 28th September in 1803 by the British poet Robert Southey.

His words are in reaction to the execution of the Irish rebellion leader Robert Emmet who had been killed eight days previously.

Robert Emmet came from a wealthy Protestant family, who were sympathetic to the plight of Irish Catholics. He would be part of two failed rebellions in 1798 and 1803, and was executed for his role in the latter.

In September 1803 the poet Robert Southey wrote the following:

“Had they said to him ‘Promise to plot no more and you shall be free.’ such a man would have been as safe under such promise as in the grave. If the government want to extirpate disaffection in Ireland by the gallows, they must sow the whole island with hemp.”

The latter part of the quote refers to the hangman’s rope used to hang rebels which was made from hemp. In the aftermath of the 1798 and 1803 uprisings many rebels were executed in this manner.

While today we think of hemp for its thousands of potential and peaceful applications, its worth bearing in mind its use historically has not always been a peaceful one.

Ironically for the  hemp plant while once a major part of wars it has itself in recent years been the victim of a war, the War on Drugs.

Luckily for us all the globe seems to be reawakening to the many beneficial aspects that hemp has to offer.

The current government could perhaps being to sow hemp to calm a dissatisfaction of another kind. While not a cure all, a vibrant and thriving hemp industry in Ireland could provide much needed jobs, resources and income for the state.

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