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CHAPTER XXX. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. VIII 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. VIII.
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When Lord Camden resigned the viceroyalty, it was the strong belief of the Government in Ireland that the rebellion was still only in its earlier stages. In Wexford the fire then burnt with undiminished fury, and it was regarded as not only possible, but in a high degree probable, that the prolongation of the struggle in that county, or the appearance of a French expedition on the Irish coast, or a single rebel success, would be sufficient to throw the whole land into flames. The large reinforcements which were at last passing from England to Ireland, and the rapid arming and organisation of the Protestant population, had placed a very formidable force at the disposal of the Government; but the omens all pointed to an extended, desperate, and doubtful civil war, and it was felt that a military governor of great ability and experience was imperatively needed. But in the last days of the Camden administration, the prospect had materially changed. The French had not arrived. It was becoming evident that Ulster was not disposed to rise. The Catholic province of Connaught continued perfectly quiet. In Munster there had been a small rising, in a corner of the county of Cork, but it had not spread, and it was completely put down on June 19, while the means at the disposal of the Government were at last sufficient to give a decisive blow to the rebellion in Wexford. The capture of the rebel camp on Vinegar Hill, and the reconquest of the town of Wexford, took place immediately after the arrival of Lord Cornwallis in Ireland, but the whole merit of them belongs to the previous administration. The rebellion was now broken and almost destroyed, and the task which henceforth lay before the Government was much more that of restoring order and checking crime than of reconquering the country.
The rebels were so discouraged and hopeless, that they would have gladly dispersed if they could have obtained any security for their lives. For some time, indeed, fear or desperation had probably contributed quite as much as any genuine fanaticism to keep them together. ‘Their leaders,’ wrote Alexander, as early as June 10, ‘inflict instant death for disobedience of orders, but notwithstanding numbers wish to desert; but, I think unfortunately, their houses are destroyed, their absence marked, and until it is wise to grant a general amnesty, no individual, irritated as the soldiery are, can with safety leave their main body.’ 1 If Lake had accepted the overtures of Father Roche, the chief body of the rebels would have almost certainly gladly laid down their arms; but when they found that their chief did not return, they felt that they must look to their pikes alone for safety.
We have seen that the anxiety of the rebels to place at their head, men whom they recognised as their superiors in education and social position, had more than once triumphed over the difference of creed, but no Protestant, and no Catholic layman, could touch the chords of confidence and fanaticism like their priests. It would, indeed, be a gross injustice to describe the priests as generally in favour of the rebellion. I have already referred to the loyal attitude of some of their bishops, and to the address of the professors at Maynooth, and many humbler priests acted in the same spirit at a time when intimidation from their own flocks and outrages by Protestants made their position peculiarly difficult. Higgins appears to have been very intimate with priests of this kind, and at a time when the anti-popery fanaticism was at its height, he dwelt strongly upon their services. He assured the Ministers, that they would find no means of obtaining arms so efficacious as a promise of pardon proclaimed from the Catholic altars. He reminded them that, when the rebellion was raging, Father Ryan, the parish priest of Clontarf, having first made terms with Beresford and others to secure his people from molestation, exerted himself with such success, that in five days, through his influence, no less than nine carts full of weapons were surrendered. He mentioned that it was through another priest, who officiated at ‘Adam and Eve Chapel,’ that he was enabled to inform the Government of the plot to begin the rebellion by an attack on the two Dublin gaols and a release of the prisoners, and that it was through the same priest that the intended desertion to the rebels of a corps of yeomen at Rathfarnham became known; and he gave a curious description of the system of intimidation, which alone prevented other priests from denouncing secret oaths.1 In many parts of the country, it is true, great numbers of the lower priests were rebels at heart, but Catholic writers pretend that no parish priest took an open part in the rebellion,2 and that even in the county of Wexford only about fifteen priests actually appeared with the rebels in the battle-field. They had proved the most successful leaders, but they were now a dwindling body. Father Roche had been hanged off Wexford Bridge. Father Michael Murphy had fallen in the attack on Arklow. Father Kearns had been wounded at Enniscorthy, and though he soon appeared again with the rebels, he was now lying concealed in a farmhouse near Wexford. But Father John Murphy of Boulavogue, who began the rebellion in Wexford, was still with the main body of rebels on the Three Rocks Mountain, and he commanded them in their last serious campaign.
Even after the surrender of Wexford, his force is said to have amounted to 15,000 men, but the desertions were then so rapid and so general, that two days later it had dwindled to 5,000 or 6,000.3 He probably felt that he had committed himself beyond retreat, and he had always been opposed to surrender, but he perceived that in Wexford the rebellion was burnt out and exhausted, and when the arrest of Father Roche placed him at its head, he determined to make a desperate effort to carry it into the almost virgin fields of Carlow and Kilkenny. His army left the Three Rocks early on the morning of the 22nd; crossed the battle-field where Father Roche had fought General Moore two days before, and which was still strewn with unburied corpses and broken carts; traversed an opening called Scollogh Gap, in the range of hills which separates the counties of Wexford and Carlow, and scattered a little loyalist force which attempted to defend a village called Killedmond, on the Carlow side of the boundary. This village was burnt to the ground, either by the rebels or by the troops.1 The rebels burned every slated house on their march, ostensibly lest it should furnish shelter to the troops, probably really because such houses usually belonged to Protestants and loyalists.
Their immediate object was to reach Castlecomer, a little town in the county of Kilkenny, which is now so sunk in importance that it is not even connected with a railway, and which will probably scarcely be known by name to the majority of my readers. It lies, however, in the heart of one of the very few extensive coal districts in Ireland, and at the close of the eighteenth century it was an important place, and the centre of a large population of colliers.2 These men had taken part in many disturbances, and Father John believed that they could be readily persuaded to join him.
The expedition had little result, except to bring down ruin and desolation on a peaceful country, and to furnish additional evidence of the hollowness and unreality of the political element in the rebellion. On the 23rd, some Wexford Militia and a troop of dragoon guards attempted to prevent the rebels from crossing the Barrow, but they totally failed, and a considerable body of Wexford Militia were taken prisoners. They were most of them Catholics, and appear to have readily joined the rebels; but seven Protestant prisoners, who were accused of being Orangemen, were put to death in cold blood on the accusation, according to one account, by the hands of their former comrades.1 On the 24th, there was much confused fighting. Castlecomer was plundered. Many houses were burnt. The barracks of Dunain, three miles from Castlecomer, were attacked, but bravely and successfully defended, and then, on the approach of a large force from Kilkenny, under Sir Charles Asgill, the rebels withdrew to the high ground. Not a spark of genuine fanaticism, not a sign of real political feeling, was shown by the population. Many colliers, it is true, joined the rebels, as they would have joined any turbulent or predatory body, and they shared in the plunder of Castlecomer; but almost immediately after, they began to desert, and the more intelligent of the rebels saw plainly that any attempt to advance towards Kilkenny would be madness. ‘Nothing,’ writes Byrne very bitterly, ‘but the certainty that we should be joined by the mass of the population, could have warranted such a proceeding; and to the shame of the people of that country be it said, they preferred to bow in abject slavery, and crouch beneath the tyrant's cruelty, sooner than come boldly to take the field with us.’ 2
The rebels passed the night of the 24th in the Queen's County, but there their reception was equally chilling. ‘Seeing not the least disposition on the part of its inhabitants,’ says Byrne, ‘either toaid or assist us in our present struggle to shake off the cruel English yoke, we began our movement on the 25th to approach as near as we could that day to Scollogh Gap, Mount Leinster, and Blackstairs.’ 3 After a weary march, during which they appear to have met with absolutely no sympathy or encouragement,4 the rebels, exhausted with fatigue, bivouacked late in the evening of the long, sultry day, on Kilcomney5 Hill, near the pass of Scollogh Gap. That night such of the colliers as had not previously deserted, abandoned them, and they stole a great part of the firearms of their sleeping comrades.6
On the 26th, Sir Charles Asgill, at the head of 1,100 men, and supported by a detachment of 500 Queen's County Militia, attacked and defeated the rebels on Kilcomney Hill. General Asgill stated in his official report, though probably with great exaggeration, that the rebels lost more than 1,000 men as well as ten cannon, and that on his own side not more than seven men were killed and wounded. ‘Some soldiers,’ he adds, ‘who were made prisoners the day before, and doomed to suffer death, were fortunately relieved by our troops.’ 1 The rebels were not effectually surrounded or pursued, for the great majority of them escaped or fought their way through Scollogh Gap into the county of Wexford, but they appear there to have been completely broken and demoralised, and they speedily dispersed. They had lost their leader, Father John Murphy of Boulavogue. There is some uncertainty about his fate, one account stating that he fell unnoticed early in the battle, another that he was taken by some yeomen and hanged at Tullow.2 The troops of Sir C. Asgill are accused of having committed horrible excesses at Kilcomney, spreading themselves over the country, plundering and burning numerous houses, and killing in cold blood more than a hundred inoffensive persons who had shown no sympathy with the rebels, many of them being women and children. The account of this massacre is exceedingly circumstantial, and many names are given.3 Unfortunately there is nothing in the conduct of this horrible war to raise any strong presumption against it, though it has probably been told with the usual suppressions and exaggerations. Acts of this kind may be partly explained by the fact that defeated rebels often sought refuge in the neighbouring cottages, and as they wore no uniforms, were undistinguishable from the peasants.1 That atrocious military licence prevailed, and that great numbers of persons who were not only unarmed, but perfectly innocent, were killed during the struggle, is unfortunately beyond all reasonable doubt, and is fully admitted by the more temperate of the loyalist writers. ‘The accounts that you see of the numbers of the enemy destroyed in every action,’ writes Lord Cornwallis at this time, ‘are, I conclude, greatly exaggerated. From my own knowledge of military affairs, I am sure that a very small proportion of them only, could be killed in battle, and I am much afraid that any man in a brown coat who is found within several miles of the field of action is butchered without discrimination.’ 2
The reader will remember that the rebel army, after the surrender of Wexford, had divided into two parts. We have followed the fortunes of the larger one, which was commanded by Father John Murphy. The fortunes of the smaller one may be soon told.
The town of Gorey had passed through several vicissitudes in the course of the rebellion. The refugees who had fled from it to Arklow, returned to their homes on June 20, while the battle on Vinegar Hill was taking place. A large part of the rebel army in that battle had come from the neighbourhood of Gorey, and when the rebels were defeated, and in a great measure dispersed to their homes, a small party of seventeen Gorey yeomanry cavalry ‘had the courage and temerity to scour the country in search of rebels, with the assistance of some others who had joined them, and killed about fifty men, whom they found in their houses or straggling homeward from the rebel army.’ This act was followed by a speedy and terrible retribution. A party of 500 rebels, including some of the kinsmen of those who had been massacred, and under the command of a gentle-man named Perry, heard of the slaughter and of the weakness of the party that perpetrated it, and they at once proceeded to Gorey, determined to avenge it. The refugees who had so lately returned from Arklow endeavoured to escape there again; the yeomanry, numbering, between infantry and cavalry, thirty-one men, tried to cover their flight, and killed seven of the rebels, but they soon found that they were on the point of being surrounded, and they then broke and fled. The sequel of the story may be told by Gordon. ‘The refugees,’ he says, ‘were slaughtered along the road to the number of thirty-seven men, besides a few who were left for dead, but afterwards recovered. No women or children were injured, because the rebels, who professed to act on a plan of retaliation, found on inquiry that no women or children of their party had been hurt.’ The day on which the tragedy took place was long remembered in Wexford as ‘Bloody Friday.’ 1
The party which attacked Gorey was detached from a larger body, who now succeeded in penetrating into Wicklow, and were joined by some rebels who had risen in that county. They were commanded by men of higher social position than we usually find in the rebellion. Anthony Perry, Esmond Kyan, Edward Fitzgerald, and Garret and William Byrne, were all either landed gentry, or belonged to the families of landed gentry, in the counties of Wexford and Wicklow, and some of them enjoyed a high reputation for integrity and benevolence.2 On the morning of June 25 they attacked Hacketstown, which lies within the borders of the county of Carlow, and which had already been unsuccessfully attacked on May 25. A small force of yeomanry and militia, amounting probably to less than 200 men, and commanded by Captain Hardy and Lieutenant Gardiner, defended it and met the rebels outside the town, but they soon found themselves in imminent danger of being surrounded. Captain Hardy and a few men were killed, and the troops retreated and took up a strong position in the barracks. ‘The most obstinate and bloody contest,’ wrote Lieutenant Gardiner, ‘took place that has happened since the commencement of the present rebellion. We fought in the midst of flames (for the town was set on fire), upwards of nine hours.’ The barracks, and the neighbouring house of a clergyman named McGhee, were defended with great heroism. The assailants, who had no artillery, were at last beaten back. On the loyalist side eleven men were killed and twenty wounded. On the rebel side the loss was far greater, but Lieutenant Gardiner said that it was impossible to calculate it with accuracy, as the rebels threw many bodies into the flames, and carried off about thirty carloads of killed and wounded. With the exception of the barracks and two other houses, the whole town was consumed; its inhabitants were reduced to the extremity of destitution, and the garrison fell back upon Tullow.1
The rebels next attempted, on June 30, to take Carnew, but they were foiled by the despatch of a considerable force of cavalry and infantry from Gorey. The infantry were recalled, and about two hundred cavalry, chiefly regulars but partly yeomen, were sent to pursue the rebels, who succeeded, however, in drawing them into an ambuscade, and put them to flight with the loss of fifty or sixty men. It is said that not a single insurgent fell. Among the killed were many of the Ancient Britons.2 On July 2, another bloody affair took place on Ballyraheen Hill, between Carnew and Tinnehely. A hundred and fifty yeomen tried to dislodge a much larger body of rebels from the height, but a charge of pikemen down the hill scattered them with the loss of two officers and many privates. The soldiers then rallied in a house near the foot of the hill, which their assailants during the whole night vainly tried to burn. The conflagration of a neighbouring house by the rebels proved of great use to the beleaguered yeomen, who were enabled in the clear light to fire with deadly effect from the windows, and who are said to have left more than a hundred men dead on the field.1 One portion of the rebels then made their way through the Wicklow mountains, into the county of Kildare, where the rebellion had never wholly ceased, and where among the hills and bogs it still continued for some weeks, in the form of a predatory guerilla war, under the leadership of William Aylmer. It had, however, but little importance, for the rebels soon found that the people were not with them, and were sometimes even actively against them, and very few recruits joined them. A loyal man named Johnston, who had been taken prisoner by them, and who afterwards either escaped or was released, reported to the Government that the Kildare rebels were utterly dispirited, and perfectly ready to disband if they could obtain a pardon.2 Another party of Wexford rebels returned to their own county, where they were soon hunted down, shot, or dispersed. Among the Wicklow hills, however, a large Protestant farmer named Joseph Holt, who was evidently a man of considerable ability and courage, and who had chiefly managed the successful ambuscade on June 30, kept together many rebels, and for a long time made plundering excursions into the surrounding country.
The misery prodnced by these operations is by no means to be measured by the loss of life in the field. Numbers of unarmed peasants were hunted down because they were, or were believed to be, rebel fugitives, or because they had given shelter to rebels. Numbers of peaceful Protestants were murdered as Orangemen, or as oppressors, or as loyalists. The blood passion, which will be satisfied with nothing short of extermination, was roused in multitudes, and it was all the more fierce because it was on both sides largely mixed with fear. Over great districts nearly every house was burnt, the poorer cabins by the troops as the homes of rebels, the slated houses by the rebels as the homes of Protestants or loyalists. Agriculture had ceased. Its implements were destroyed. The sheep and cattle had been plundered and slaughtered. The farmers were homeless, ruined, and often starving. Misgovernment and corruption, political agitation and political conspiracy, had done their work, and a great part of Ireland was as miserable and as desolate as any spot upon the globe.
Lord Cornwallis was much shocked at the state of feeling and society he found around him, and in some respects his judgment of it was not altogether just. Arriving at a time when the rebellion had received its deathblow, he certainly underrated the efficiency of the yeomanry and militia, who, in spite of their great want of discipline, had virtually saved the country, and had shown in these last weeks qualities of courage, vigilance, and energy which Camden and Castlereagh abundantly recognised. It was difficult to exaggerate, though it was easy to explain, the ferocity that prevailed, but a governor who came as a perfect stranger to Ireland and to its passions, hardly made sufficient allowance for the inevitable effect of the long-continued tension and panic, arising from such a succession and alternation of horrors as I have described. He spoke with indignation of the prevalent folly ‘of substituting the word Catholicism, instead of Jacobinism, as the foundation of the present rebellion.’ ‘The violence of our friends,’ he said, ‘and their folly in endeavouring to make it a religious war, added to the ferocity of our troops, who delight in murder, most powerfully counteract all plans of conciliation.’ ‘The minds of people are now in such a state that nothing but blood will satisfy them; and although they will not admit the term, their conversation and conduct point to no other mode of concluding this unhappy business, than that of extirpation.’ ‘The conversation even at my table, where you will suppose I do all I can to prevent it, always turns on hanging, shooting, burning, &c. &c., and if a priest has been put to death, the greatest joy is expressed by the whole company. So much for Ireland and my wretched situation.’ ‘The life of a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland comes up to my idea of perfect misery; but if I can accomplish the great object of consolidating the British Empire, I shall be sufficiently repaid.’ 1
These last lines, which were written as early as July 1, probably point to a design which was already formed of pushing forward a legislative union. It must be remarked, that in dilating upon the sanguinary violence of the principal persons in Ireland, Lord Cornwallis always made one eminent exception. In several passages he speaks of the conspicuous moderation and humanity of Lord Clare, ‘whose character,’ he says, ‘has been much misrepresented in England.’ ‘Almost all the other principal political characters here are absurdly violent.’ ‘The Chancellor, notwithstanding all that is said of him, is by far the most moderate and right-headed man among us.’ 1
It is necessary to take such passages into account if we would form a just judgment of this remarkable man, who played so great a part in Irish history during the last twelve years of the eighteenth century. The persistence with which Lord Clare maintained the system of parliamentary corruption, and his steady opposition to all concession of political power to the Catholics, appear to me to have done very much to produce the rebellion. But, unlike many of those who co-operated with him, his conduct on these subjects was not due to personal corruption or selfishness, but to strong and definite political conviction. He upheld the system of corruption, because he was convinced that Ireland with a separate Parliament could only remain a part of the British Empire so long as that Parliament was maintained in complete and permanent subservience to the Executive in England. He opposed the admission of Catholics to power, because he entirely disbelieved in the possible amalgamation of the Protestant and Catholic nations in Ireland; because he predicted that if the policy of concession were adopted, the overwhelming numerical preponderance of Catholics would ultimately make them omnipotent, and because he saw in that omnipotence the destruction of the Protestant Establishment in Church and State, and ultimately of the Protestant ownership of land. When, contrary to his wishes, the Catholic franchise was conceded in 1793, he was convinced that a legislative union had become the only means of saving the Church, and property, and the connection; and he opposed the completion of Catholic emancipation, and contributed powerfully to the fatal measure of the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam. His own policy on the one side, and the French Revolution, French intrigues, and United Irish conspiracies on the other, soon drew Ireland into the vortex of revolution, and Clare then steadily supported the measures of military repression. He supported, or at least fully acquiesced in, not only laws of great though probably necessary severity, but also acts that were plainly beyond the law: the illegal deportations, the burning of houses, the systematic floggings of suspected persons in order to discover arms or elicit confessions. He declared that it was the rigour of martial law that had saved Ulster, and in after years he did not flinch from defending its excesses, even in the uncongenial atmosphere of the English House of Lords. Wilberforce mentions how he had once been present with Pitt in that House, when speeches were made charging the authorities in Ireland with having employed practices of the nature of torture to discover arms, and Clare at once rose to justify their conduct. ‘I shall never,’ Wilberforce adds, ‘forget Pitt's look. He turned round to me, with that high indignant stare which sometimes marked his countenance, and stalked out of the House.’ 1 But in all this, Clare acted upon the calculations of a definite policy, upon the persuasion that such means were indispensable to the security of the country. He was arrogant and domineering; he delighted in insulting language and in despotic measures, and he had a supreme contempt for the majority of his fellow-countrymen, but he was wholly free from the taint of personal cruelty, and he was too brave and too strong to be blinded or swayed by the passions of the hour.2
Something had been done in the closing days of Lord Camden to mitigate, at least in some parts of Ireland, the severities of martial law,3 and with the full assent of Clare, Cornwallis at last, though somewhat tardily, adopted a more decided policy of clemency. On July 3, a proclamation was inserted in the ‘Dublin Gazette’ authorising the King's generals to give protections to such insurgents as, having been guilty simply of rebellion, surrendered their arms, deserted their leaders, and took the oath of allegiance;1 on the 17th a message from the Lord Lieutenant was delivered to the House of Commons signifying his Majesty's pleasure to that effect, and an Act of amnesty was speedily carried in favour of all rebels, with some specified exceptions, who complied with these conditions.2 It was difficult in a country where complete anarchy had long prevailed, and where violent crime was still appallingly common, to obtain any semblance of respect for law, and it was necessary sometimes to punish severely, loyalists who disregarded the pretections of the generals; but slowly and imperfectly confidence was restored.
In the course of a few weeks, most of the remaining leaders were either taken, or surrendered. Father Kearns was tried and hanged at Edenderry. He appears to have shown much ferocity during the rebellion, and to have fully deserved his fate, which he met with sullen silence. It is stated that, four years before, at Paris, during the ascendency of Robespierre, he had been seized as a priest and hanged from a lamp post, but his huge weight so bent the iron, that his feet touched the ground and he was rescued, and succeeded in escaping to Ireland. Anthony Perry was executed at the same time and place. I have already related the intolerable brutality that turned him into a rebel, and Gordon has borne an emphatic testimony to his efforts to restrain the excesses of his followers, but it is probable that the part he took in the retaliatory massacre at Gorey on Bloody Friday, placed him beyond the clemency of the Government. Another leader whose fate excited much sympathy was Esmond Kyan, who had commanded the rebel artillery in the battle of Arklow. He is described by an intensely loyalist historian3 as ‘liberal, generous, brave, and merciful,’ and he appears to have acted with uniform humanity, and to have saved many lives. His own would almost certainly have been spared, if there had been any time for an appeal, but his capture, trial, and execution were all compressed into a few hours. He had a cork arm, which was shot off at Arklow, and it is said to have been brought against him as evidence in his trial.1
Kyan was at least a leader of the rebels, but there was one execution which Gordon has indignantly denounced as a gross miscarriage of justice. It was that of Father John Redmond, who was priest in the parish of Clough, of which Gordon was for twenty-three years curate. Of his rebellious conduct, Gordon says he could find no other proof than the sentence which consigned him to death, and he declares that on the one occasion on which Father Redmond was seen with a body of rebels, his sole object was to protect the house of Lord Mountnorris from plunder; that he was so far from sympathising with the rebellion, that he was actually obliged to conceal himself in Protestant houses when the rebels were in possession of the country, and that he was continually denounced by his co-religionists as a traitor to their cause. He appears to have been treated with gross brutality even before his trial, and it is a touching and characteristic fact, that it is the pen of the Protestant clergyman of his parish that has chiefly vindicated his memory.2
In several cases, however, more leniency was shown. Edward Fitzgerald, a gentleman of considerable position in his county, who had been a leader of the rebels from the day when he had been sent with Colclough from Wexford to make terms with them, surrendered on a promise that his life should be spared. After his surrender he had some conversation with Cooke on the course which the rebellion in Wexford had taken, and he told him ‘that at first his men fought well, but latterly would not stand at all; that he and the other leaders had but little command; that the mob were furious, and wanting to massacre every Protestant, and that the only means they had of dissuading them from burning houses, was that they were destroying their own property.’ 3 He underwent a period of imprisonment, and was afterwards banished to the Continent, as well as several other conspicuous rebels, among whom were Garret Byrne, and Aylmer, the leader in Kildare. Fitzgerald, Byrne, and Aylmer agreed, on surrendering, to use their influence with their followers to induce them to give up their arms and return to their allegiance, and the Government rally recognised the good faith with which they executed their promise. Cooke had interviews with most of these men, and he described Aylmer, the Kildare leader, as apparently ‘a silly, ignorant, obstinate lad.’ 1 He had probably higher qualities than Cooke perceived, for he became a distinguished officer in the Austrian service. He commanded the escort which accompanied Marie Louise from Paris to Vienna in 1814, and he is said in the same year to have visited London in the suite of the Emperor of Austria. He afterwards resigned his commission in the Austrian service, became colonel under his countryman and fellow-rebel, General Devereux, in the service of Bolivar, and received a wound which proved fatal, at the battle of Rio de la Hache.2
Two men who surrendered on protection, were nevertheless tried and hanged for murder. One of them was William Byrne, the brother of Garret Byrne,3 and the other was William Devereux, who was condemned for having taken part in the massacre of Scullabogue.4 Edward Eoche, having surrendered on condition of being transported, was tried for complicity in the massacre on Wexford Bridge; but as it was proved that he had taken no part in it, and had done much to terminate it, he was acquitted.
General Hunter, who was sent down to the county of Wexford instead of Lake, appears to have discharged a difficult duty with humanity and skill, and the writers who have most condemned the conduct of the courts-martial in Wexford, have made an exception in favour of those which were presided over by Lord Ancram and by Colonel Fowlis.5 A great improvement was introduced into this department, by the order of Lord Cornwallis that no sentence of court-martial should be carried into effect before the evidence had been transmitted to Dublin for the inspection of the Government.
There were prisoners in Dublin whose guilt was in reality of a far deeper dye than that of most of the Wexford leaders, and a high commission, presided over by Chief Justice Carleton, was appointed to try them. The first trial was that of John and Henry Sheares. They were arraigned on July 4, but the trial was postponed till the 12th. The evidence of Captain Armstrong was clear and conclusive, and there could be no rational doubt of the guilt of the prisoners. It is certain that they were on the Executive Directory of the United Irish conspiracy; that at the time they were arrested, they were busily preparing an immediate insurrection; that they were engaged up to the very last moment in attempting to seduce the soldiers of the King; and that, although the elder brother was a far more insignificant person than the younger one, the two brothers acted together in political matters with the most perfect mutual confidence. The savage proclamation against giving quarter to resisting Irishmen, which was intended to be issued immediately after the insurrection had broken out, was in the handwriting of John Sheares, and appears to have been in the possession of the elder brother; and the two brothers had already enjoyed the clemency of the Government, who had mercifully abstained, at their petition, from prosecuting a seditious Cork paper with which they were concerned.1 The only point in the case on which there was the smallest real doubt, was whether Henry Sheares was acquainted with the proclamation drawn up by his younger brother. It is probable that he was, but, even if the prosecution was on this point mistaken, it could not alter the substantial merits of the case.
The trial, according to the evil fashion which was then common both in England and Ireland,2 was protracted far into the night. The prisoners were defended with great ability by Curran, Ponsonby, Plunket, and McNally. Several technical points were raised and overruled. Great efforts were made to excite religious prejudice against Armstrong, who was reported to have expressed sympathy with the theological views of Paine. Much was said of the danger of the Irish law of treason, which made the evidence of a single witness sufficient, and all the resources of rhetoric, mingled with not a little misrepresentation, were employed to aggravate the baseness of the conduct by which Armstrong obtained his knowledge. I have already described his conduct, the motives that appear to have governed it, the advice under which he acted, the emphatic approval of his brother officers. His memory has ever since been pursued with untiring hatred, by writers who would probably have extolled him as a hero if he had listened to the seduction of the Sheares's, and betrayed the camp into rebel hands—by writers who have not found one word of honest indignation to condemn the conduct of Esmonde at Prosperous, perhaps the basest of the many acts of treachery in the rebellion. There can, however, be no doubt of the truth of the evidence of Armstrong, or of the importance of his services; and the Corporation of Dublin, being of opinion that he had saved the city from a massacre, voted him its freedom.1
The prominent position of the family of the Sheares's, and the eloquence of their defenders, contributed to throw some deceptive halo around these two very commonplace conspirators, who were executed after a fair trial and on clear evidence. The best that can be said of them is, that they took a far smaller part in organising the rebellion than others who were suffered to escape because the evidence that could be produced against them was not equally clear. Though they had long been engaged in treason, they do not appear to have been in the confidence of the old Directory, and it would not be just to ascribe to that body any complicity in the intended proclamation.
Like most conspirators, they were men of broken fortune, and overwhelmed with debt. They had sometimes been obliged to fly from Dublin from their creditors, and it is remarkable that one of the principal and most exacting of these was Dixon, who was prominent among the leaders of the conspiracy.2 Their execution was appointed for the very day after their condemnation, but great efforts were made to save them, and they themselves implored mercy, and offered to make discoveries. Cornwallis, however, refused their petition, and in the face of death, the courage which had supported them through their trial, appears to have wholly broken down.1 Henry Sheares, indeed, was as far as possible from the stuff of which successful rebels are made, and he showed in the last scene of his life an abject and pitiable cowardice. John Sheares was of another stamp, and his enduring affection for his brother, and his extreme desire to save him, form the best feature in his character.
They were hanged on July 14, and buried beneath the church of St. Michan, where, owing to some strange antiseptic property of soil or atmosphere, their bodies were seen long years after, dry and shrivelled, but undecayed. Two letters, which John Sheares wrote to his favourite sister on the night before his execution, have been often printed and admired. They are, indeed, singularly curious and characteristic. Written in all the inflated, rhetorical strain of sentiment, which the ‘Nouvelle Héloïse'had made popular, they show clearly how completely the writer, like so many of the young enthusiasts of his time, had been dominated and moulded by the genius of Rousseau; and they show not less clearly how true is the saying of a great French poet, that affectation is often the thing that clings to us the last, even in the face of death. It may be added, that two brothers of the Sheares's had fallen in the service of the King, and it is a singular fact, that the Act for the regulation of trials in cases of felony and treason, under which they were tried, had been introduced many years before, into the Irish Parliament by their own father.1 He had been one of the most respected men of his time, and Lord Carleton, who tried and sentenced his sons, had been his intimate friend.
The trials of John McCann, Michael Byrne, and Oliver Bond speedily followed. The Government were extremely anxious to bring before the public incontestable evidence of the existence of a treasonable and republican conspiracy connected with France, in order to silence those who still represented the rebellion as aiming at nothing more than Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform, or as merely due to the severities of martial law. Most ample and most conclusive evidence of this kind was in their hands, but it consisted chiefly of documents from France which could not be disclosed, and of the secret information of men who could be induced by no earthly consideration to appear in the witness-box. Thomas Reynolds, however, had by this time discovered that it was impossible for him to remain in a neutral or semi-neutral position, and after the attempt to assassinate him, and after his arrest as a United Irishman, on the information of United Irishmen, he turned savagely at bay, and placed the whole of his knowledge at the full service of the Government. The prisoners had been his colleagues on the Leinster Committee, and in the three trials I have mentioned, the case for the prosecution rested mainly on his evidence, corroborated by the papers found in Bond's house. This evidence, if it was believed, was abundantly conclusive, and it was entirely unshaken by cross-examination. McCann had acted as secretary at the meeting at Bond's house. Byrne had been the delegate from Wicklow, and the most active organiser in that county. Bond's house had been the headquarters of the conspiracy, and he had taken a leading part in it in every stage. The utmost efforts were made to blacken the character of Reynolds and to prove him unworthy of belief, but they had no effect on the minds either of the judges or of the juries. The three prisoners were found guilty and condemned to death, and in no single case were the juries before delivering their verdict absent from the jury box for more than a few minutes.1
McCann was hanged on July 19. Byrne and Bond lay under sentence of death, when a proposal was made by the other prisoners who had been arrested with them, and who were lying in the prisons of Dublin, to make a full disclosure and confession of their conspiracy, and to submit to banishment for life to any country at amity with the King, provided their lives were spared as well as those of Byrne and Bond. The negotiation was begun through the instrumentality of Dobbs—a benevolent and eccentric member of the Irish Parliament, who has more than once appeared in the course of this history—and sixty-four leading United Irishmen concurred in the application.
The Government were much perplexed. The application was made on the night of July 24; the execution of Byrne was appointed for the 25th and that of Bond for the 26th, and Lord Clare, on whom Cornwallis chiefly relied, had gone to his country house in the county of Limerick. Cornwallis was inclined to accept the proposal, and Lord Castlereagh appears to have agreed with him. They considered ‘the establishment of the traitorous conspiracy, by the strong testimony of all the principal actors in it,’ to be a matter of the very first political importance. They believed that there were scarcely any of the prisoners, except Neilson, whose conviction was certain, and they were sincerely anxious to stop the effusion of blood. On the other hand, Cornwallis wrote that he doubted whether it would be possible to find a third man in the administration who would agree with them, and he added, ‘the minds of people are now in such a state, that nothing but blood will satisfy them.’ 1
He assembled hastily his chief legal advisers, and among them there were certainly some who were very free from all taint of inhumanity. ‘Lord Carleton,’ Cornwallis wrote to Portland, ‘who might in any country be considered as a cool and temperate man, gave his opinion in the most decided manner against listening to the proposal, and declared that it would have such an effect on the public mind, that he did not believe, if Byrne and Oliver Bond were not executed, that it would be possible to get a jury to condemn another man for high treason. He said that several of those who signed the papers, and particularly Dr. McNevin, might possibly be convicted, and that others might be liable to pains and penalties, by proceedings against them in Parliament, and in short he gave his opinion against the measure in the strongest and most decided terms, and Lord Kilwarden and the Attorney-General spoke to the same effect.’ 2 In accordance with this opinion, Byrne was executed.
It is impossible to deny, that an extremely sanguinary spirit had at this time been aroused among the Protestants of Dublin and of the counties which had been desolated by the rebellion. It is a spirit which, in all times and races and countries, has followed lowed such scenes of carnage as I have described. In the mild atmosphere of the nineteenth century, and in the recollection of many who are still alive, a very similar spirit was kindled among the English population of India by sepoy cruelties, which were scarcely more horrible, and were certainly less numerous, than those of the Irish rebellion of 1798. I cannot, however, regard the strong feeling which was shown against sparing the lives of the chief authors, organisers, and promoters of that rebellion, as merely an evidence of this sanguinary disposition. No one who has any adequate sense of the enormous mass of suffering which the authors of a rebellion let loose upon their country, will speak lightly of their crime, or of the importance of penalties that may deter others from following in their steps. Misplaced leniency is often the worst of cruelties, especially in a country where the elements of turbulence are very rife; where the path of sedition has an irresistible fascination to a large class of adventurous natures; where a false, sickly sentiment, throws its glamour over the most commonplace and even the most contemptible of rebels.
In the great lottery of civil war the prizes are enormous, and when such prizes may be obtained by a course of action which is profoundly injurious to the State, the deterrent influence of severe penalties is especially necessary. In the immense majority of cases, the broad distinction which it is now the fashion to draw between political and other crimes, is both pernicious and untrue. There is no sphere in which the worst passions of human nature may operate more easily or more dangerously than in the sphere of politics. There is no criminal of a deeper dye than the adventurer who is gambling for power with the lives of men. There are no crimes which produce vaster and more enduring sufferings than those which sap the great pillars of order in the State, and destroy that respect for life, for property, and for law, on which all true progress depends. So far the rebellion had been not only severely, but mercilessly suppressed. Scores of wretched peasants, who were much more deserving of pity than of blame, had been shot down. Over great tracts of country every rebel's cottage had been burnt to cinders. Men had been hanged who, although they had been compelled or induced to take a leading part in the rebellion, had comported themselves in such a manner that they had established the strongest claims to the clemency of the Government. But what inconsistency and injustice, it was asked, could be more flagrant, than at this time to select as special objects of that clemency, the very men who were the authors and the organisers of the rebellion—the very men who, if it had succeeded, would have reaped its greatest rewards?
It is true that these men had not desired such a rebellion as had taken place, and that some of them, like Thomas Emmet, were personally humane, well-meaning, and unselfish. But it was scarcely possible to exaggerate the evil they had produced, and they were immeasurably more guilty than the majority of those who had already perished. They had thrown back, probably for generations, the civilisation of their country. They had been year by year engaged in sowing the seed which had ripened into the harvest of blood. They had done all in their power to bring down upon Ireland the two greatest curses that can afflict a nation—the curse of civil war, and the curse of foreign invasion; and although at the outset of their movement they had hoped to unite Irishmen of all creeds, they had ended by lashing the Catholics into frenzy by deliberate and skilful falsehood. The assertion that the Orangemen had sworn to exterminate the Catholics, was nowhere more prominent than in the newspaper which was the recognised organ of the United Irish leaders. The men who had spread this calumny through an ignorant and excitable Catholic population, were assuredly not less truly murderers than those who had fired the barn of Scullabogue or piked the Protestants on Wexford Bridge.
Such arguments were very serious, and they at first prevailed. After the execution of Byrne, however, a second application was made to the Government. It was signed by no less than seventy-eight prisoners, and it included the names of several leading conspirators, especially Arthur O'Connor, who had refused to take part in the previous overture. Henry Alexander, who was related to Bond, had interviews with him and with Neilson, and he brought back hopes of great revelations.1 In spite of the violent opposition of the Speaker and of Sir John Parnell, and of the general sentiment of Dublin, the offer was accepted. Lord Clare threw his great influence strongly on the side of clemency,1 and immediately after his arrival in Dublin, he, in company with Lord Castlereagh, had an interview with Emmet, McNevin, and O'Connor. The three United Irishmen agreed to give the fullest information of every part of the treason, both foreign and domestic, though they declined to criminate individuals or disclose names. They at once frankly acknowledged their conspiracy with the French, though they declared that they had never been prepared to accept French assistance to such an extent as to enable the French to interfere as conquerors rather than allies. They offered not only to draw up a memorial indicating the part they had acted, but also to appear for examination before the secret committees, and answer on oath such questions as were put to them. The Government, on the other hand, undertook that they should be ultimately released on condition of going into banishment, though they reserved the right of fixing the time. They promised that they should not be transported as felons, or to any place to which felons were sent, and that Bond should obtain the benefit of this agreement, and they gave a general assurance that no more prisoners should be put to death unless they were concerned in murder, though they refused to make this a matter of treaty or stipulation.
Both parties have stated very fully the motives that actuated them. The United Irishmen wished to save the life of Bond, who was already convicted, and the lives of others who might be hereafter condemned. They were convinced that the rebellion was now definitely defeated, and that nothing remained except to make terms. They found that the Government already knew all that they could disclose of their negotiations with France, for even the confidential memorial of McNevin to the French Directory had been produced, in a French translation, before the secret committee; and they believed that a full statement of their own conduct and motives, so far from injuring them, would be in truth their best vindication. In the opinion of Lord Castlereagh, O'Connor and Emmet were very unwilling to enter into this agreement; but Bond, Neilson, and McNevin, whose lives were in special danger, strongly pressed it.
The Government on their side wished to stop the effusion of blood, and to close the rebellion. There had been four capital trials and executions. They feared that many more would only make martyrs. They wished to send out of the country dangerous men, whom they would probably be unable to convict, and they wished above all to establish by undoubted evidence the conspiracy with France. The Chancellor, it is said in a memorial which was drawn up for the Duke of Portland, ‘stated in the strongest manner his opinion of the expediency of obtaining, on any terms consistent with the public safety, the confessions of the State prisoners, particularly of McNevin and O'Connor, as the only effectual means of opening the eyes of both countries without disclosing intelligence which could by no means be made public.’ ‘We get rid of seventy prisoners,’ wrote Cooke, ‘many of the most important of whom we could not try, and who could not be disposed of without doing such a violence to the principles of law and evidence as could not be well justified. Our zealots and yeomen do not relish this compromise, and there has been a fine buzz on the subject, but it being known the Chancellor most highly approves of it, the tone softens.’ 1 It is remarkable, able, however, that Cornwallis himself declared that he would never have consented to this compact if he believed that the lives of the prisoners were in his power, and that there was any reasonable chance of convicting them. With the exception of Bond, and perhaps Neilson, no traitors had really been spared.1
The arguments in favour of the treaty were much strengthened by the state of the country, which was still such that a renewed and ferocious outbreak might at any time be expected. Numerous parties of banditti were at large. Murders were of daily occurrence, and the confidential letters of the Ministers show that great uneasiness prevailed.
‘The country,’ wrote Cooke to Pelham, ‘is by no means settled nor secure should the French land, but I think secure if they do not.’ 2 A magistrate from Enniscorthy told Pelham, that, except for scattered parties of banditti, that district was almost pacified; but if a body of French troops were landed, nearly all who had lately professed to return to their allegiance would certainly join them, and the recent appearance off the Wexford coast of some ships, which were at first supposed to be French, had produced an immediate change in the demeanour of the people.3 Higgins warned the Government that the flame was far from quenched, and that a French invasion was expected; and he transmitted a message from Magan, that the rebellion was likely soon to break out in different parts of the kingdom, where it was least expected.4 The Prince de Bouillon wrote from Jersey, describing the active preparations of the fleet at Brest.5 Judkin Fitzgerald, however, the terrible High Sheriff of Tipperary, was more confident. The danger, he thought, was much exaggerated, and he specially urged the Government to exercise their influence to induce the great proprietors to return to their estates. ‘The yeomen,’ he adds, ‘do their duty everywhere perfectly well, without the least reluctance, and it would be the greatest injustice in me not to acknowledge the readiness with which every order of mine is obeyed, and the hearty co-operation of every lord, gentleman, and person of property in this county. I am satisfied we are all determined to act together, and that there is no danger.’ 1
The memorial drawn up by the United Irishmen was an exceedingly skilful document, but it was more of the nature of a defence than of a confession. I have in a former chapter made much use of its statements. It represented the United Irish Society as originally intended to unite the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland, for the attainment of parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. It described how its members gradually came to perceive that English influence was the chief support of parliamentary corruption in Ireland, that a reform could only be attained by a separation, and that a separation could only be achieved by alliance with France. It dwelt much on the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, the establishment of the Orange system, the partiality of magistrates, and the outrages of martial law, and it emphatically repudiated the charge of assassination which was brought against the society. It at the same time described very accurately its organisation, and the successive steps of the negotiations with France. Castlereagh in a confidential letter acknowledged that, in spite of some declamation, it was a truthful document, that it admitted every material fact contained in the secret intelligence, and that it stated the facts in the order in which the Government knew that they had occurred.2 The memoir, however, was so essentially exculpatory, that the Government thought it advisable to suppress it. The examination before the secret committee was more satisfactory to them, and elicited a public statement of all they desired, though in this case also some portions of the prisoners’ statements were withheld from publication.1
About this time, John Claudius Beresford asked in the House of Commons for leave to bring in a Bill to confiscate the properties of men convicted of high treason before a courtmartial, as if such a conviction had taken place before a court of civil law. Castlereagh, however, opposed the motion, stating that such a measure lay within the province of the Executive.2 Shortly after, the Ministers introduced a Bill of attainder confiscating the property of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Bagenal Harvey, and Cornelius Grogan. Their special object was to affix the stigma of guilt on the memory of Lord Edward, who had been undoubtedly one of the foremost authors of the rebellion, and whose premature death had saved him from all legal penalties. In order, however, to prevent the Bill from appearing altogether personal to the Leinster family, the names of Harvey and Grogan were added.3 These two men had already expiated their alleged treason on the gallows, and the wealth of the last is much more certain than his guilt. The Bill was introduced by the Attorney-General at the end of July, and several witnesses, among whom Reynolds was the most conspicuous, were examined. It appears to have passed its earlier stages without opposition, but Lord Yelverton strongly objected to it, and in its later stages it was much opposed in both Houses. Dobbs took a prominent part against it;4 and although the Bill was ultimately carried, it had not yet received the royal assent, when the startling news arrived in Dublin, that a French expedition had landed at Killala Bay.
Of all the many deceptions that had attended the United Irish conspiracy, none was so bitter and so fatal as the complete apathy shown by the French during the two terrible months that had just passed. In truth, since the death of Hoche, the Irish could reckon on no real friend, and Buonaparte from the first took very little interest in their affairs. During the last two months, however, of 1797, and in the January and February of 1798, an English invasion was greatly in his thoughts, and very serious preparations for it were made. Buonaparte himself, Kleber, Caffarelli, and Dessaix visited the chief ports on the French coast. A new requisition was sent to Holland, and the army for the invasion of England was rapidly organised. Buonaparte at this time had several interviews with Tone and Lewins, asked many questions about Ireland, received from them maps and reports, but himself said little, though one of the Directory greatly elated them by an assurance ‘that France would never grant a peace to England on any terms short of the independence of Ireland.’ 1 If an English invasion had taken place, it might have been combined with a movement against Ireland, and it would at all events, if successful, have prevented England from giving assistance to Irish loyalists.
But the more Buonaparte examined the state of the French navy, and the details of the projected enterprise, the less he was satisfied, and at length, towards the close of February, he wrote to the Directory that it must be abandoned. He then, with one of those prompt decisive turns that were so characteristic of his genius, completely changed his policy, and made the conquest of Egypt, and, as a preparation for that conquest, the occupation of Malta, his supreme object. A few days before the Irish rebellion broke out, he had sailed for Malta.2
Many years after, when reviewing his career at St. Helena, he spoke of this decision as one of his great errors. ‘On what,’ he said, ‘do the destinies of empires hang! … If, instead of the expedition of Egypt, I had made that of Ireland, if slight deranging circumstances had not thrown obstacles in the way of my Boulogne enterprise—what would England have been to-day? and the Continent? and the political world?’ 3
Whether at this time any large expedition could have succeeded in reaching the Irish coast, it is impossible to say; but no one can question that, if it had succeeded at the beginning or in the middle of the rebellion, its effect would have been most serious. If the outbreak in Ireland had taken place a little earlier, or if the Egyptian project had been postponed a little longer, Ireland would probably have become a central object in the military policy of Buonaparte, and the whole course of events might have been changed. Long afterwards, in 1804, Napoleon thought seriously of an Irish expedition, and there is a letter in his correspondence describing the conditions of success;1 but the moment, since the mutiny of the Nore, in which such an enterprise was most likely to have succeeded, found France abundantly occupied in the Mediterranean. Lewins, in the beginning of June, pressed the claims of his countrymen strongly on the Directory. He reminded them of the promise he had been authorised to send to Ireland, that France would never make peace with England except on the condition of the independence of Ireland. He described with some exaggeration, but probably with perfect good faith, the magnitude and extent of the rebellion, and he urged that 5,000 good French troops, with 30,000 guns and some cannon and munitions, would be sufficient to secure its triumph.2
Wolfe Tone was indefatigable in supporting the applications of his friend.3 The Directors were not unwilling to accede to their demand, but they could do nothing more than effect a slight diversion; and after considerable delay, they gave orders that a number of small expeditions should be directed simultaneously to different points on the Irish coast.4 Even such a plan, if it had been promptly and skilfully accomplished, might have had a great effect, but, as usual at this time, nothing in the French navy was in good order, and everything was mismanaged. The expedition of Humbert, which was the first ready, consisted of three frigates and only 1,036 soldiers. It was delayed until the rebellion in Ireland had been crushed, and it started alone, as no other expedition was yet ready.
It set sail from the island of Aix on August 6, four days after the great battle of the Nile, in which Nelson had totally shattered the French fleet of Admiral Bruix, destroyed a third part of the naval force of France, made England irresistible in the Mediterranean, and put an end to all chance of a French conquest of Egypt. In order to escape the English, the French took a long circuitous course. They intended to enter Donegal Bay, but were prevented by hostile winds; they then made for Killala Bay, in the county of Mayo, and anchored near the little town of Killala on August 22. English flags flew from their masts, and the port surveyor, as well as the two sons of the bishop, went without suspicion to the fleet, and were detained as prisoners. The same evening, about six o'clock, the French landed. Some fifty yeomen and fencibles who were in Killala were hastily drawn out by Lieutenant Sills to resist the invaders, but they were speedily overpowered. Two of them were killed, nineteen taken prisoners, and the rest put to flight. A sailor named John Murphy, who commanded a small trading vessel that lay in the bay, volunteered to set sail for France bearing a despatch announcing the successful landing.1
The Protestant bishop, Dr. Stock, with eleven children,2 was living in the great castle of Killala, and as it was visitation time, and there was no decent hotel in the town, he was surrounded by several clergymen. Dr. Stock had been very recently appointed to the see, and the appointment had not been a political one, but was entirely due to his merits. He had been a Fellow of Trinity College. He was a distinguished Hebrew scholar, and had published a translation of the Book of Job; he spoke French fluently, and the singularly interesting and graphic account which he wrote of the events that he now witnessed, shows that he was a keen and discriminating judge of men. His palace was at once occupied; a green flag with the inscription, ‘Erin-go-bragh,’ was hoisted above its gate, and he himself became a prisoner in the hands of the French.3
The French had brought with them three United Irishmen, Matthew Tone, who was a brother of Wolfe Tone; Bartholomew Teeling; and a man named Sullivan, who was nephew to Madgett, the Secretary at the French Foreign Office. They had also an officer named O'Keon, who was an Irishman naturalised in France, and who was very useful, as he had come from the neighbourhood of Ballina, and was thoroughly acquainted with the Irish language.1 Humbert, their commander, was one of the many adventurers to whom the French Revolution had opened out a career. He was so illiterate that he could do little more than write his name, and his manners were those of a rude, violent, uneducated peasant. He was of good height and fine figure, and in the full vigour of life, but his countenance was not attractive, and he had a small, sleepy, cunning, cruel eye, as of a cat when about to spring. He was, however, an excellent soldier, full of courage, resource, decision, and natural tact, and the bishop soon discovered that much of his rough and violent manner was assumed for the purpose of obtaining immediate obedience. He had served at the siege of Mayence, in La Vendée, and at Quiberon, and had taken part in the expedition to Bantry Bay.
Of the troops he brought with him, the bishop has given a striking picture. To a superficial eye they presented nothing that was imposing. ‘Their stature for the most part was low; their complexions pale and sallow, their clothes much the worse for wear,’ but it was soon found that they were characterised to a surprising degree by ‘intelligence, activity, temperance, patience,’ and ‘the exactest obedience to discipline.’ They were men ‘who would be well content to live on bread and potatoes, to drink water, to make the stones of the street their bed, and to sleep in their clothes, with no covering but the canopy of heaven. One half of their number had served in Italy under Buonaparte; the rest were from the Rhine, where they had suffered distresses that well accounted for their persons and wan looks. Several of them declared, with all the marks of sincerity, that at the siege of Mentz, during the preceding winter, they had for a long time slept on the ground in holes made four feet deep under the snow; and an officer, pointing to his leather small clothes, assured the bishop that he had not taken them off for a twelvemonth.’
Their conduct among the people was most admirable. Humbert at once desired the bishop to be under no apprehension; he assured him that no one should be ill treated, and that the French would take only what was absolutely necessary for their support, and this promise was almost perfectly fulfilled. ‘It would be a great injustice,’ writes the bishop, ‘to the excellent discipline constantly maintained by these invaders while they remained in our town, not to remark that, with every temptation to plunder, which the time and the number of valuable articles within their reach, presented to them, … not a single particular of private property was found to have been carried away.’ In his own palace, ‘the attic story, containing a library and three bedchambers, continued sacred to the bishop and his family; and so scrupulous was the delicacy of the French not to disturb the female part of the house, that not one of them was ever seen to go higher than the middle floor, except on the evening of their success at Castlebar, when two officers begged leave to carry to the family the news of the battle.’
There could hardly be a more hopeless enterprise than that in which this handful of brave men were engaged. They expected to find Ireland in a blaze of insurrection, or at least thrilling with sympathy for French ideas. They came when the rebellion was completely crushed, and reduced to a mere guerilla war in the Wicklow mountains, when there were hardly less than 100,000 armed men at the service of the Crown, and to a province which had been perfectly tranquil during the whole struggle, and which was almost untouched by revolutionary propagandism. A proclamation had been prepared, and was distributed among the poor, ignorant Mayo peasantry, congratulating them on the interest they had taken in the progress of the French Revolution, reminding them that they had been enduring ‘punishments, and even death,’ for their friendship to France,1 and adjuring them, by the example of America, and by the memory of many battles, of which they had assuredly never heard, to rise as a man to throw off the English yoke. But Humbert soon found that he was in an atmosphere of thought and feeling wholly different from what he had expected. He was disappointed to find that the bishop, who was the principal person remaining at Killala, would not declare himself on the side of the Revolution, and that the Protestants, who were the most substantial inhabitants, held steadily aloof. Two only, who were notorious drunkards, joined the French, and it was characteristic of the ideas that prevailed, that, on doing so, they thought it necessary to declare their conversion to the Catholic faith.
Many boxes, however, of arms and uniforms had been brought over, and when these were opened, the peasantry speedily streamed in. Though ragged and dirty and half savage, they had strong bodies and quick natural intelligence, and the keen eye of the French general clearly saw, as many English officers had seen before him, that, with the education of good military discipline, they might be turned into soldiers as excellent even as those of Buonaparte. But except a dislike to tithes, which was far more languid in Connaught than in either Munster or Ulster, they had not an idea in common with the French, and no kind of political motive appears to have animated them. They joined the invaders with delight when they learnt that, for the first time in their lives, they were to receive meat every day. They danced with joy like children when they saw the blue uniforms, and the glittering helmets edged with brown paper to imitate leopard's skin, that were provided for them, and they rapturously accepted the guns that were given them, but soon spoiled many of them by their utter inexperience. It was found necessary, indeed, to stop the distribution of ammunition, as the only way of preventing them from using their new toy in shooting crows.
In addition to the desire for meat rations, for uniforms and for guns, the hope of plunder and the love of adventure made many recruits, and there was some faint trace of a religious feeling. Agents were abroad, busily whispering the familiar calumny that the Orangemen were plotting to exterminate the Catholics,1 and circulating old prophecies of a religious war,2 and there was a vague, wide-spread notion, that the French were the special champions of the Catholic faith. The soldiers of the Revolution, whom the panic-stricken priests in other lands had long regarded as the most ferocious and most terrible of the agents of anti-Christ, now found themselves, to their own astonishment and amusement, suddenly transfigured into Crusaders; surrounded by eager peasants, who declared ‘that they were come to take arms for France and the Blessed Virgin.’ ‘God help these simpletons,’ said one of the French officers to Bishop Stock; ‘if they knew how little we care about the Pope or his religion, they would not be so hot in expecting help from us;’ and old soldiers of the Italian army exclaimed with no small disgust, that, having just driven the Pope out of Italy, they had never expected to meet him again in Ireland. The Irish, on their side, were not a little surprised to find that these strange soldiers ‘of the Blessed Virgin’ never appeared at mass, could not be induced to treat a priest with the smallest respect, and always preferred to carry on their communications through the heretical bishop.3
The story is one which would have more of the elements of comedy than of tragedy, if it were not for the dark spectre of a bloody retribution that was behind. The French did what they could to arm and discipline their wild recruits. They restrained them severely from plunder, and they treated them like children, which, indeed, in mind and character they truly were. After reconnoitring Ballina, and scattering a small party of soldiers in its neighbourhood, they pushed on towards Castlebar, leaving 200 French soldiers to keep order at Killala, and a few others at Ballina. There were, however, no signs of a general rising in their favour, or of any real wish for their success, and the kind of recruits they had hastily armed were not likely to be of much use. The number of these recruits has been very differently stated, and is not easy to ascertain. It appears that, in the course of the French expedition, the whole of the 4,000 or 5,000 guns they had brought over were distributed, and that after the distribution recruits streamed in, but the distribution of arms is no measure of the number of Irish the French could bring into the field. Many who had received guns and uniforms, availed themselves of the first opportunity to fly to their mountain cabins with their spoil. Some, disguising their voices and with new stories, came again and again, in order to obtain double or treble provisions of arms, ammunition, and uniforms, and then disappeared and sold them for whisky. Many recruits were left at Killala, and perhaps some others at Ballina, and it is probable that the number of Irish who were with Humbert when he arrived at Castlebar, little, if at all, exceeded 500.1
Major-General Hutchinson at this time commanded in Connaught, and he was at Galway when the news of the invasion arrived. His province had been so quiet during the rebellion, that it contained much fewer troops than the other parts of Ireland, but he could at once assemble near 4,000 men. He lost no time in collecting them, and in moving towards the scene of danger; but Cornwallis, on hearing of the invasion, at once sent General Lake, as a more experienced soldier, to command in Connaught; gave orders for a concentration of many thousands of troops from other provinces, and hastened to go down himself to lead them. Hutchinson arrived at Castlebar on the 25th. Whatever may have been the secret dispositions of the people, he found the whole country through which he passed, and the whole neighbourhood of Castlebar, perfectly quiet, though there were alarming rumours that 1,800 Irish had joined the French at Killala and Ballina. He was obliged, in moving his troops, to leave Leitrim and Roscommon open, and the bridges of the Upper Shannon almost without protection, but not the smallest inconvenience ensued. All Connaught, except in the immediate neighbourhood of Killala, was absolutely peaceful.2 It was harvest time, and the people were busily engaged in the fields; and though they were not actively loyal as an English population might have been, and would no doubt have submitted very readily to a French Government, they were perfectly inoffensive, and desired only to be left alone.
Very few new recruits now came in to the French, and the relations between the French and their allies were already very tense. The French were learning every day more clearly, that they had been utterly deceived about the state of Ireland and the disposition of its people. They saw no signs of a rising. They perceived plainly that their recruits were as far as possible from being either heroes or patriots, fanatics or revolutionists; that the sole object of a great proportion of them was plunder; that they were always ready to desert; and that they were likely to prove perfectly worthless in battle.1 The French frigates had sailed away; English vessels were hovering around the Connaught coast, to prevent either rescue or escape, and unless the aspect of affairs was speedily changed, by a general rising, or by the landing of a new French force, it was absolutely hopeless. The Irish recruits, on their side, had found that service under a French general was a very different thing from a mere plundering raid, and they complained bitterly of hard labour and severe discipline and contemptuous treatment. Two of them were shot, probably for good reasons, by the French. The others were employed in digging entrenchments, and were often, in the absence of horses, harnessed to the cannon or to the waggons.2
General Lake arrived at Castlebar on the night of the 26th, and at once took the command. The forces that were concentrated in that town were very considerable. In addition to those under General Hutchinson, which amounted to nearly 4,000 men, General Taylor had marched from Sligo towards Castlebar, on the 25th, with about 1,200 men, chiefly yeomanry.1 There were two ways from Ballina to Castlebar. The regular road lay through the village of Foxford, eleven miles from Castlebar, and this was believed to be the only road by which an army could march. Near that village it crossed the river Moy, and at that point could easily be guarded. General Taylor, at the head of his detachment, undertook to protect it, and his corps had been strengthened by the Kerry Militia and the Leinster Fencibles which had been detached from Castlebar2 Humbert, however, completely outmanœuvred his opponents. Taking a wild rocky path, which had been left unguarded because it was believed to be completely impracticable for an army, he avoided the troops that were waiting for him, and after a wonderful march of no less than fifteen hours,3 appeared before Castlebar about seven o'clock on the morning of the 27th He had hoped to surprise it, but the news of his approach had been brought shortly before, to Hutchinson and Lake, and they had drawn out their troops, numbering 1,600 or 1,700 men,4 on a height above Castlebar, flanked by a lake and by a marsh, and so strong that it would appear madness for a tired and inferior force to attack it. The troops of Hutchinson were only militia, fencibles, and yeomen, but they greatly outnumbered the enemy. They were fresh from a night's rest, and in addition to their immense advantage of position, they had ten pieces of cannon and one howitzer. There were probably little more than 700 Frenchmen, though they were followed by a considerable body of inefficient Irish recruits. They had only thirty or forty mounted men, and their whole artillery consisted of two small four-pound guns, which had been dragged across the mountains by the peasantry.
The soldiers, however, who had been trained under Kleber and Buonaparte, were of a very different type from the Irish militia. At the sight of the enemy they seemed to forget their fatigue, and at once pressed on rapidly to the attack. In the face of a deadly cannonade, which swept away many of them, and scattered their Irish allies far and wide; in the face of the heavy fire of musketry, the little band of Frenchmen swiftly climbed the steep ascent, and then, with their bayonets fixed, rushed impetuously on the foe. The affair lasted only a few minutes. The artillery, it is admitted, were well served. Lord Roden's cavalry showed real courage, but the rest of the troops of Lake at once broke, and fled in the wildest terror. They were driven, at the point of the bayonet, through the chief street of Castlebar, and for some distance beyond the town. All their cannon, all their flags, all their munitions, were taken. The road was strewn with the muskets which they cast aside in their headlong flight, and though the French soon desisted from the pursuit, the remains of the beaten army never paused till they reached Tuam, which was thirty miles from the scene of action, and then after a short rest they again pressed on towards Athlone. Some of the men who were beaten at Castlebar are said to have reached that town at one o'clock on the 29th, having traversed sixty-three miles in twenty-seven hours.1
This was the flight known in Ireland as ‘the race of Castlebar.’ Never was there a rout more abject or more complete, and those who witnessed it must have asked themselves what would have happened if, at any time within the two preceding years, 12,000 or 15,000 French soldiers like those of Humbert had been landed. ‘Nothing could exceed the misconduct of the troops, with the exception of the artillery … and of Lord Roden's Fencibles,’ was Hutchinson's verdict on his army.2 ‘The panic’ of the troops was described by Lake as ‘beyond description;'3 and Cornwallis feared that the effect on the country would be so serious, that, in spite of the vast forces now in Ireland, he urged upon Portland the necessity of sending as great a reinforcement as possible from Great Britain either to Dublin, Waterford, or Belfast.4 The impression the affair made upon competent judges in England, may be inferred from a letter from Auckland to Cooke. ‘In the course of twenty-four eventful years,’ he wrote, ‘it has happened to me to receive many unpleasant and unexpected accounts of military defeats and disgraces. One of the hardest strokes in that way was the surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga; but I do not think it either affected or surprised me so much as your Castlebar catastrophe…. If the impression of that business should have encouraged and brought forward a general explosion, the consequences may be very serious, and God send us a good deliverance.’ 1
Even this, however, is not a full measure of the misconduct of the militia. ‘Their conduct,’ wrote an officer, speaking of the Longford and Kilkenny regiments, ‘and that of the carbiniers and Frazer's, in action on the retreat from Castlebar and Tuam, and the depredations they committed on the road, exceed, I am told, all description. Indeed, they have, I believe, raised a spirit of discontent and disaffection, which did not before exist in this part of the country. Every endeavour has been made to prevent plunder in our corps, but it really is impossible to stop it in some of the regiments of militia with ‘us, particularly the light battalions.’ The women who accompanied the soldiers were described as the worst plunderers. Cornwallis was obliged to issue a stern order, calling on the officers ‘to assist him in putting a stop to the licentious conduct of the troops, and in saving the wretched inhabitants from being robbed, and in the most shocking manner ill treated, by those to whom they had a right to look for safety and protection.’ He appointed a provost-marshal to follow with a guard in the train of the army, to protect the villagers, and he threatened with instant execution any soldier who was found robbing, or with stolen articles in his possession.2
The soldiers of Humbert had well earned a period of rest, and they remained at Castlebar from August 27 to September 4. Humbert, however, was not inactive. He saw that, unless a new French expedition arrived, his only chance was to win a general support from the country, and he hoped to attain this end by issuing a proclamation establishing a provisional government in Connaught, and making arrangements for a general arming of the people.3 One of his first measures was to recall the 200 French soldiers he had left at Killala, and who had hitherto succeeded most admirably in preserving order. Three French officers only were left there, to guard the town with the assistance of Irish recruits.
The terror of the bishop and of the few Protestant inhabitants at the removal of their protectors was very great, and they feared that the tragedies of the Wexford rebellion would now be reproduced in Connaught. They lived, in truth, for three weeks in constant danger and alarm; and threats and rumours of the most terrible description were abundantly circulated. But in Mayo the people had not been driven to madness by flogging and house-burning. They had been well treated by their great landlords, and appear to have had no dislike to them, and although agitators had begun to ply their venomous trade, fanning religious passions, and telling the people that, if they followed the French, they would never again have to pay either tithes or rent,1 Connaught had not yet been drawn into their net. There was some plunder in Killala, and much more in the open country around it, where many gentlemen's houses had been deserted by their owners, but there was little fanaticism and no real ferocity, and probably not more violence and outrage than would have taken place in any country in which the people were poor, ignorant, and lawless, and in which all the restraining influences that protect property had been suddenly withdrawn. Musgrave, with his usual malevolent partiality, has endeavoured to blacken the character of these poor peasants, by collecting instances not only of their misdeeds, but even of their evil intentions. An impartial judge, who considers their circumstances, and remembers how savagely in other parts of Ireland the civil war had been provoked, and waged, and repressed, and punished, will, I think, pronounce their conduct to have been on the whole remarkably good. The testimony of Bishop Stock on this subject is beyond suspicion. ‘It is a circumstance worthy of particular notice,’ he writes, ‘that during the whole time of this civil commotion, not a drop of blood was shed by the Connaught rebels, except in the field of war. It is true, the example and influence of the French went a great way to prevent sanguinary excesses, But it will not be deemed fair to ascribe to this cause alone the forbearance of which we were witnesses, when it is considered what a range of country lay at the mercy of the rebels for several days after the French power was known to be at an end.’ 1
This fact is especially remarkable, when we remember the large number of refugees, driven by lawless violence from the North, who had taken refuge in Mayo. It is, however, certain that here, as in other parts of Catholic Ireland, what little fanaticism existed was almost entirely religious. There was no question of nationality or parliamentary reform. The feeling of the people was not primarily directed against England, or against monarchy, or against landlords. The natural spontaneous division was between Catholics and Protestants; and a disarming of the Protestants, the confiscation of their property, and their expulsion from power and from Ireland, were frequently threatened. Except at Castlebar, where much indiscriminate plunder seems to have followed the capture of the town, nearly all who were robbed, or whose houses were injured, were Protestants. The few persons of some weight and education who joined the French, appear to have been all Catholics. Several priests assisted, or at least connived, at the rebellion, though Bishop Stock attributes their conduct much less to fanaticism or seditious dispositions, than to their utterly dependent position, which made it necessary for them to adopt the political creed of their people. This dependence, the bishop truly said, was one of the chief dangers of Ireland, and he believed that it would continue till the priests were paid by the State. Several Protestant places of worship were injured, and it is a remarkable illustration of the great distance that separated the Connaught rebellion from the ideas of the United Irishmen, that the one Presbyterian meeting-house in the neighbourhood was the special object of hostility, and was soon reduced to a wreck.
This hostility was largely due to an attempt which had been made to spread Protestantism in Mayo. The motives which inspired such attempts in the eighteenth century are so different from those of modern missionary societies, that they have often been misunderstood. In the period immediately following the Revolution, they had been especially political. At a later period they were mainly social and industrial. The Irish gentry at this time were singularly free from theological fanaticisms and speculations, but they were convinced that in Ireland at least, Protestantism incontestably represented the higher level of order, industry, intelligence, and civilisation, and they believed that all these things would follow in its wake. Even the Charter Schools, which were distinctly proselytising, and which led to some of the worst abuses in Irish life, were probably originally due much less to an anxiety about the condition of Catholic children in another world, than to a desire to bring them under a more healthy and civilising influence in this. In the same way, it was a widespread belief among philanthropic Irishmen in the eighteenth century, that the most effectual method of reclaiming the more barbarous portions of the island, was to plant in them small colonies of industrious and intelligent Protestant manufacturers, which might act as centres of civilisation, and gradually raise the level around them. This was the policy that led to the plantation of German palatines and of French refugees, and it was sometimes pursued by private individuals. We have had a conspicuous example of it in the colony established by Jackson at Forkhill; and some years before the period with which our narrative is at present concerned, an Earl of Arran had planted a colony of industrious Presbyterian weavers from the North at a little village called Mullifaragh, near Killala. It speedily took root and flourished, and when the rebellion broke out, it numbered not less than 1,000 souls. These men were now denounced as Orangemen; they were plundered of their property; their houses were wrecked, their looms destroyed, and a great number of them were carried as prisoners to Ballina.1
Charost, who was the principal of the three French officers left at Killala, steadily opposed these acts of violence. He did all in his power to prevent the destruction of the Presbyterian colony, and he made a special journey to Ballina to release the prisoners. Having, like the other French officers, expected to find in Ireland a population prepared to struggle earnestly against English rule, he was utterly disgusted with what he saw about him, and he more than once expressed his contempt for his allies.1 It was, in truth, not surprising that these poor western peasants should have been unwilling to encounter hardships and dangers for political causes about which they knew nothing and cared nothing.
The three officers showed an admirable zeal and courage in preserving order and repressing outrage. A strong patrol was appointed to parade through the town and its environs to the distance of three miles every night, but as robberies and midnight outrages were very frequent, Charost issued a proclamation inviting all inhabitants, without distinction of religion or party, to come to him and receive arms from the French stores, for the sole purpose of securing property and order, and on no other condition than a promise of restoring them to him when he called for them. Many Protestants, who had no sympathy with the invaders, gladly accepted this condition, obtained arms from the French commander, and would have entered upon their duties if it had not been for the violent and almost mutinous protest of the recruits. They protested against arming Protestants, or any persons who would not join in the rebellion, and they intimidated the Protestants into resigning their arms. The confusion of the three languages in which all orders were given, greatly added to the difficulty of the situation, and Bishop Stock appears to have been much employed in the negotiations. Streams of peasants were pouring in from the country; robberies were of daily and nightly occurrence, and for two or three days the danger was great. At length a compromise was arrived at. A regular provisional government was established in Killala and the neighbourhood, for the sole purpose of maintaining order, and although it was purely Catholic, it was directed by respectable Catholic inhabitants, who had taken no part in the rebellion, and who now came forward with the full approbation and sanction of the Protestant bishop. Under this system, and under the energetic direction of the French officers, a very tolerable degree of order and security prevailed in the town and in its immediate neighbourhood.1
At Castlebar, Humbert soon found that his hope of a general rising was vain. A considerable number of the militia, who had served under Lake, had deserted to him, and as they were all Catholics, and as rumours of disaffection among the Catholic militia had previously been very rife, their conduct has been often ascribed to deliberate treachery, but it is at least equally probable that they acted merely under the influence of panic, as many of them seem to have subsequently deserted from the French.2 Some hundreds of recruits, chiefly from the mountains in the western part of Mayo, also came in, but they were nearly all poor, ignorant men, of the lowest class, attracted by the hope of plunder, and scarcely anyone of real weight was among them. Humbert found his new recruits useful in throwing up entrenchments. He tried to give them some notions of military discipline, and he armed them with the muskets which were thrown away by the troops in their flight, but he found that there was no real or genuine national movement in his favour. In the meantime, Cornwallis was hurrying to the scene of action at the head of irresistible forces, and he was a man of far greater military talent than Lake or Hutchinson. On August 28, he had reached Athlone; on the 30th, he was at Ballinamore; and on September 4, he arrived at Hollymount, within about thirteen miles of Castlebar. On that morning, Humbert, finding that further delay would be fatal, left Castlebar, and directed his course by long, swift, forced marches to Sligo. He probably desired to reach the coast, where reinforcements were principally expected; to kindle insurrection in new fields, and to select the line of march where he was least likely to meet a crushing British army; and he appears to have had a somewhat wild project of ultimately making his way to Dublin, and raising the country about it.1
His position, however, was hopeless, for the forces now concentrated in Connaught were overwhelming. General Knox, who had borne so great a part in Ulster politics, had at this time been under orders for the West Indies, and had actually embarked at Portsmouth, when he was suddenly recalled, and with a large detachment of English troops, he landed at Galway in the beginning of September.2 The defeated army of Lake had been in some degree reorganised, and having been strengthened by a junction with the troops of General Taylor, it was ordered to follow on the steps of the French without hazarding a general engagement,3 while Cornwallis proceeded along the line from Hollymount to Carrick-on-Shannon, with an army which is said to have numbered not less than 20,000 men. Sligo, which was the object of the march of the French, was garrisoned by militia, and as the invaders approached the town, Colonel Vereker, who believed that only a detachment of the French were approaching, issued forth at the head of about 300 Limerick Militia, thirty light dragoons, and two curricle guns, and attacked the vanguard at a place called Colooney, about five miles from Sligo. These militiamen, unlike those at Castlebar, fought most gallantly for about an hour against a greatly superior force of excellent French troops; and although they were ultimately beaten with the loss of their two cannon, the French lost both men and time they could ill spare. Humbert supposed the troops of Vereker to be the advanced guard of an army, and he accordingly suddenly changed his plan. In doing so, he appears to have committed a great error. If he had continued, Sligo must have been taken, as it was abandoned by Vereker, and the French might then have possibly evaded the army of Cornwallis, and prolonged the struggle for some time in the mountains of the North. It is probable, however, that Humbert knew little or nothing of the real position of the English troops, and that he was influenced by news which had just arrived, that an insurrection had broken out about Grranard, and that large bodies of men were in arms in the counties of Longford and Westmeath. If the French could make their way through the armies that beleaguered them, to the country which was in insurrection, all might still be well.
The fight of Colooney had taken place on the morning of the 5th, and Humbert next marched rapidly to Drummahair, and then, turning inland towards Lough Allen and the Shannon, endeavoured to make his way to Granard, hotly pursued by the troops of Lake. The march was so rapid, that he was obliged to leave three of his guns dismounted on the road, and to throw five other pieces of artillery into the water. He crossed the Shannon at Ballintra, but had not time to destroy the bridge; reached Cloone on the evening of the 7th, and there gave his wearied men a few hours’ rest. It was very necessary, for it was computed that since the French had left Castlebar, they had marched 110 miles.1 Many of the Irish, seeing that the struggle was hopeless, and knowing that they had no quarter to expect, had escaped after the affair at Colooney;2 but at Cloone, Humbert received a deputation from the insurgents at Granard. His adjutant-general described their chief as half a madman, but a madman whose courage and fanaticism might well raise a flame in the country, and he says that, ‘he spoke only of fighting for the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose champion he declared himself to be.’ 3
It was impossible, however, for the French to reach Granard. Every mile of their march from Drummahair brought them nearer to Cornwallis, who now completely intercepted them by reaching Carrick on the 7th, and then marching late at night to Mochill, which was three miles from Cloone, and the delay at Cloone enabled Lake to come up with the enemy. On the 8th, the little body of French found themselves surrounded, at a place called Ballinamuck, by the combined armies of Lake and Cornwallis, and after a short resistance, the position being absolutely hopeless, these brave men at last surrendered. Only 844 men remained of the little band which for eighteen days had so seriously imperilled the British dominion in Connaught. The Irish who still remained with the French, were excluded from quarter, and cut down without mercy. No accurate or official statistics on this subject are preserved, but it is stated that 500 were killed, but that many others succeeded in escaping across the bogs. Many of these made their way to Killala, and took part in its final defence.1 The loyalists’ loss in killed, wounded, and missing was only nineteen men.2 Matthew Tone and Teeling, though captured with the French, were sent to Dublin, tried by court-martial, condemned, and hanged.3
The short rebellion in Connaught was now nearly over. On the 9th, Cornwallis, just before his return to Dublin, issued a general order congratulating his troops warmly on their conduct, and he added: ‘The corps of yeomanry, in the whole country through which the army has passed, have rendered the greatest services, and are peculiarly entitled to the acknowledgment of the Lord Lieutenant, from their not having tarnished their courage and loyalty … by any acts of wanton cruelty towards their deluded fellow-subjects.’ 4 The insurrection about Granard, which at one time seemed likely to assume formidable proportions, was speedily suppressed by Irish yeomen, with the assistance of a small force of Argyle Fencibles.5 In the part of Mayo which the French had endeavoured to raise, the disturbances lasted a few days longer. On September 12, at three in the morning, a great mob of rebels or bandits attacked the garison which, had been placed in Castlebar, but they were met with great courage and easily defeated. Thirty or forty prisoners were brought in; they included one Frenchman, and several men who wore French uniforms.1
Almost the whole country was now reduced to order, and Killala was the only place where there was any serious resistance. Even after the surrender of the French, many peasants assembled to defend the town. As the French guns had been all distributed, great numbers of pikes were hastily manufactured, and there were all the signs of a sanguinary contest. ‘750 recruits,’ Bishop Stock writes, ‘were counted before the castle gate on the 11th, who came to offer their services for retaking the neighbouring towns, that had returned to their allegiance…. The talk of vengeance on the Protestants was louder and more frequent, the rebels were drilled regularly, ammunition was demanded, and every preparation made for an obstinate defence.’ 2 Many of the rebels desired to imprison the whole Protestant population, and to preserve them as hostages in case the troops adopted, as there was too good reason to believe they would, the policy of extending no mercy to rebels; but on receiving news from Castlebar that General Trench, who commanded the loyalists, had treated, and meant to treat, his prisoners with humanity, they abandoned their intention. Except for the plunder of some houses, and the destruction of much property, the Protestants remained unharmed till the end.3
A force of about 1,200 militiamen with five cannon now marched upon Killala, and they reached it on September 23. It should be noticed, that among the soldiers who distinguished themselves in the capture of Killala, a foremost place has been given to the Kerry Militia, who, with the exception of their officers, were probably all Catholics. Of the other troops, a large proportion were Scotch, but some were Downshire and Queen's County Militia.
The last scene presented the same savage and revolting features which disgraced the repression in Wexford. A long line of blazing cabins marked the course of the advancing troops, and the slaughter in the town was terrible. The rebel force scarcely exceeded 800 or 900 men, and in the absence of their allies, they showed more courage than they had yet displayed in Connaught. The bishop, who was an eye-witness of the scene, describes them as ‘running upon death with as little appearance of reflection or concern as if they were hastening to a show.’ 1 But those who had guns, showed themselves ludicrously incapable of using them. After twenty minutes’ resistance, they broke and fled, and were fiercely pursued by the troops. Numbers were cut down in the streets. Many others, who had fled to the seashore, were swept away by the fire of a cannon which was placed at the opposite side of the bay. Some took refuge in the houses, and in these cases the innocent in-habitants often perished with the rebels. After the battle was over, and even during the whole of the succeeding day, unresisting peasants were hunted down and slaughtered in the town, and it was not till the evening of that day, that the sounds of the muskets, that were discharged with little intermission at flying and powerless rebels, ceased. The town itself was by this time like a place taken by storm, and although the general and officers are said to have tried to restrain their soldiers, they utterly failed.2
Bishop Stock estimates that about 400 rebels were killed in the battle and immediately after it. He mentions that of fifty-three deserters of the Longford Militia, who had come into Killala after the defeat of Castlebar, not one returned alive to his home;3 and that so many corpses lay unburied, that ravens, attracted by the prey, multiplied that year to an unexampled extent through the fields of Mayo.4 He adds a bitter complaint of ‘the predatory habits of the soldiery.’ The ‘militia seemed to think they had a right to take the property they had been the means of preserving, and to use it as their own whenever they stood in need of it. Their rapacity differed in no respect from that of the rebels, except that they seized upon things with somewhat less of ceremony or excuse, and that his Majesty's soldiers were incomparably superior to the Irish traitors, in dexterity at stealing.’ 1 A long succession of courts-martial followed, and several more or less prominent persons, who had joined the French, were hanged. Some poor mountain districts, where the wretched fugitives had found a shelter, next occupied the attention of the commander. The weather had broken up, and the fierce storms of rain and wind which, as winter draws on, seldom fail to sweep that bleak Atlantic coast, had begun. ‘General Trench, therefore made haste to clear the wild districts of the Laggan and Erris, by pushing detachments into each, who were able to do little more than to burn a number of cabins; for the people had too many hiding places to be easily overtaken.’ 2
Such was the manner in which the rebellion was suppressed in a province where it would never have arisen but for foreign instigation; where it was accompanied by no grave crimes, and where the rebels had invariably spared the lives of such Protestants as lived quietly among them. Can any impartial reader wonder at the deep, savage, enduring animosities that were produced? Can he wonder that the districts, where so many poor peasants had been burnt out of their cabins when the winter storms were approaching, should have soon after been infested by robbers and cattle houghers?
Humbert and the French soldiers who were taken at Ballina-muck were sent to England, but soon after exchanged. The three French officers who had so admirably maintained order at Killala were, upon the urgent representation of Bishop Stock, placed in a different category. An order was given that they should be set at liberty, and sent home without exchange; but the Directory refused to accept the offer, stating that the officers had only done their duty, ‘and no more than any Frenchman would have done in the same situation.’ Of the three United Irishmen who came over with Humbert, two, as we have seen, were hanged, but the third succeeded in concealing his nationality. O'Keon was tried by court-martial; but having succeeded in satisfying the court that he was a naturalised Frenchman, he was treated as a prisoner of war.
The French project for a series of expeditions to the Irish coast was not wholly abandoned, and two others took place, one of which was completely insignificant, while the other might have been very serious. Napper Tandy had been for some time one of the most prominent of a little band of Irish refugees, who were plotting against England and quarrelling among themselves at Paris. Though still under sixty, his constitution appears to have been much worn out, and he was always spoken of as an old man. For about thirty-five years he had been living a life of incessant political agitation or conspiracy, and, like most men of this stamp, it had become essential to his happiness. He was now very vain, very quarrelsome, and very drunken, and he had joined with the priest O'Coigly, and with Thomas Muir, the Scotch Jacobin, who had escaped from Botany Bay, in bitter opposition to Tone and to Lewins. Tone had once looked on him with some respect and even admiration; and as late as the October of 1797, he had described him to Talleyrand in complimentary terms,1 but in his private journal he makes no secret of his boastfulness and mendacity. He accuses him of having told the French authorities that he was an experienced military man; that he was a man of great property in Ireland; that he had such influence, that if he only appeared there, 30,000 men would rise to arms.2 Napper Tandy, however, was quite ready to risk his life in an almost desperate enterprise, and the French were quite ready to try an experiment which would cost them little. They gave him the title of General, sent him over to Dunkirk, and placed a swift corvette, named the ‘Anacreon,’ at his disposal, with a small party of soldiers and marines, and a considerable supply of arms and ammunition for distribution, and he sailed from Dunkirk for the north coast of Ireland on September 3 or 4.
Several United Irishmen were on board the ‘Anacreon,’ and among them there were two who had long been heartily sick of the conspiracy, and were eagerly looking for an opportunity of escaping from it. One of them was a man, from the county of Armagh, named Murphy, who had been a private tutor in London, and had there fallen into a circle of United Irishmen, of whom O'Coigly, Lawless, Binns and Turner were the most conspicuous. O'Coigly had persuaded him that, with his knowledge of languages, he would become ‘a great man,’ if he went to France, and he accordingly left England, and was employed in some missions by the conspirators. Accompanied by another United Irishman, named George Orr,1 he went to Hamburg in April 1798, and was in communication with Bourdon, the French minister there: the two Irishmen then proceeded to the Hague, where a man named Aherne was acting as representative of Irish interests; in August they arrived at Paris, and they were soon sent to Dunkirk to join Tandy's expedition. Murphy became general secretary to Tandy, and he conducted much of his correspondence with the Directory.2
His friend, George Orr, was also on board the ‘Anacreon.’ Like Murphy, he was very tired of a life of conspiracy. There is reason to believe that he was one of the persons who had for some time been sending information to the English Government, and there appears to me no doubt that he was the author of the very curious account of Tandy's expedition which is printed in the ‘Castlereagh Correspondence.’ 3 Of the other members of the expedition, the most remarkable appear to have been a certain General Rey, who had seen service in America, and Colonel Thomas Blackwell, who was adjutant-general to Tandy.
This last personage was an Irishman by birth, but he had left the country when he was only nine years old; and although he had been in the Bantry Bay expedition, he seems to have had no real interest in Irish affairs. He had been educated by the Jesuits, but had become a fierce republican, an intimate friend of Danton, a bold and reckless soldier of fortune. At a later period the British Government succeeded in accomplishing his arrest, and on the road from Sheerness to London, he talked very freely about the expedition to the officer who was in charge of him, expressing his unbounded contempt for Napper Tandy, and his disgust that an enterprise for which he cared nothing, should have prevented him from serving with the French army on the Continent.1
The ‘Anacreon’ arrived, without any serious adventure, on September 16, at the Isle of Arran, in the county of Donegal, and Napper Tandy landed at the little town of Rutland. There were no English troops nearer than Letterkenny, which was twenty-five miles distant; but the population, so far from showing the slightest disposition to welcome their liberators, generally fled from them to the mountains.2 The French remained on shore about eight hours. Tandy distributed some absurdly inflated proclamations; hoisted an Irish flag; took formal possession of the town, and examined the newspapers and letters in the post office. He learnt from them that Humbert and all his soldiers had been captured, and that Connaught, which he expected to find in rebellion, was perfectly quiet, and he clearly saw that his only course was to return. He became so drunk while on shore, that it was found necessary to carry him to the ship, and he appears to have been in that state during most of the expedition.1
Through fear of the English fleet, the ‘Anacreon’ did not attempt to regain France. It sailed northwards by the Orkney Islands, took two small English merchant vessels—one of them after a sharp conflict—and at last arrived safely at Bergen in Norway. Murphy and Orr, who, according to their own accounts, had tried to escape when in Ireland, now succeeded in making their way to the English consul, who sent them in an American ship to England, where they disclosed everything they knew.2 Napper Tandy and a few companions made their way to Hamburg.
Their arrival proved a great perplexity and a great calamity to that town. The English Government insisted peremptorily on their surrender, as British subjects who were in rebellion against their sovereign; while the French minister claimed them as French citizens, and threatened the most serious consequences if they were given up. The dangers of either course were very great, but Hamburg is a seaport, and England was more formidable than France upon the sea. The Emperor of Russia, who was now in alliance with England, imposed an embargo on Hamburg ships, and at last, after a long and painful hesitation, the Senate, in October 1799, surrendered Napper Tandy, and three other Irishmen, to the English. The French Directory retaliated by a letter declaring war against Hamburg, they imposed an embargo on its shipping, and they threatened still more severe measures. The Senate sent a most abject apology to Buonaparte, describing their utter helplessness, and the ruin that must have befallen their town if they had resisted, but their deputies were received with the bitterest reproaches. They had committed, they were told, a violation of the laws of hospitality, which ‘would not have taken place among the barbarian hordes of the desert,’ an act which would be their ‘eternal reproach.’ 1
The three Irishmen who were surrendered with Napper Tandy were Blackwell, Morres, and Corbett. Blackwell and Corbett had both been on the ‘Anacreon,’ while Morres had been in a rebellious movement in the county of Tipperary.2
They were all imprisoned for a long period, but none of them lost their lives. Blackwell and Morres were ultimately released without trial. Corbett succeeded in escaping, and he afterwards saw much service in the French army, and became a general of brigade.3 The Government was for some time perplexed about what to do with Napper Tandy, and his ultimate release has been ascribed to threats of reprisals by the French in the event of his execution. It appears, however, that Lord Grenville had always doubted the propriety of his arrest, and that Cornwallis strongly advocated his liberation. He described him as ‘a fellow of so very contemptible a character, that no person in this country seems to care in the smallest degree about him,’ and he considered it a mistake to have embroiled Hamburg with France on account of him.4
Tandy lay in prison till the April of 1801, when he was put on his trial. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to death, but was reprieved at once, and some months later was allowed to go to France, where he soon after died.5 Perhaps the most remarkable fact in his career, is the wide and serious influence it for a short time exercised on the affairs of Europe.
We must now return to the other French expedition, which was despatched to Ireland in the autumn of 1798. It consisted of a ship of the line of eighty-four guns, called the ‘Hoche,’ and of eight small frigates and a schooner, and it carried a military force of little less than 3,000 men. Admiral Bompard commanded the ships, and General Hardy the soldiers, and Wolfe Tone, who was now an adjutant-general in the French service, accompanied Bompard in the ‘Hoche.’ From the first he clearly saw that so small an expedition after the suppression of the rebellion was almost hopeless, but he declared that if the French sent even a corporal's guard to Ireland, he would accompany it, and if the expedition attained any result, a larger one, under General Kilmaine, was expected to follow it. The fleet started from Brest on September 14, and after a long, circuitous passage of twenty-three days, it reached the neighbourhood of Lough Swilly. The English, however, were not unprepared. They had much secret information, and even if this had been wanting, there was so little secrecy in the councils of the French Government, that an account of the armament had appeared in a Paris paper before its departure. On October 12, a powerful English squadron, under Sir John Warren, bore down upon the French. Though it consisted at first of only seven vessels, to which an eighth was joined in the course of the action, it had in reality a decided superiority, for four of its vessels were ships of the line. Before the battle began, Bompard, perceiving that the odds were greatly against him, strongly urged Wolfe Tone to leave the ‘Hoche’ for the small, fast-sailing schooner, called ‘La Biche,’ which had the best chance of escaping, representing to him that, in the probable event of a capture, the French would become prisoners of war, while he might be reserved for a darker fate; but Tone refused the offer. The ‘Hoche’ was surrounded, defended with heroic courage for at least four hours, and till it was almost sinking, and then at last it surrendered. The frigates tried to escape, but were hotly pursued, and three of them that afternoon were captured, after a very brave and obstinate defence.1
Owing to strong adverse winds and to its own shattered condition, more than a fortnight passed before the ‘Hoche’ was brought safely into Lough Swilly. When the prisoners were landed Wolfe Tone was immediately recognised,1 placed in irons in Derry gaol, and then conveyed to Dublin, where he was tried by court-martial on November 10. His speech—for it can hardly be termed a defence—was frank and manly. He fully avowed the part he had taken, and disdained to shelter himself under any pretence of having aspired to mere constitutional reforms. ‘From my earliest youth,’ he said, ‘I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced that, while it lasted, this country could never be free nor happy. My mind has been confirmed in this opinion by the experience of every succeeding year…. I designed by fair and open war to procure the separation of the two countries. For open war I was prepared; but if, instead of that, a system of private assassinations has taken place, I repeat, while I deplore it, that it is not chargeable on me…. In a cause like this, success is everything. Success in the eyes of the vulgar fixes its merits. Washington succeeded, and Kosciusko failed.’
He was too brave a man to fear death, and he made no attempt to avoid it, but he earnestly implored that, in consideration of his rank in the French army, he might be saved from the ignominy of the gallows, and might, like the French émigrés, who had been taken in arms by their countrymen, be shot by a platoon of grenadiers. The request was a reasonable and a moderate one, but it was refused, and he was sentenced to be hanged before the gaol on November 12. The night before the day appointed for his execution, he cut his throat with a penknife which he had concealed.
The wound was at first not thought to be fatal, and it was believed in Dublin that the sentence would be carried out in spite of it. His old friend Curran, however, convinced that the trial was illegal, determined to make an effort to set it aside, and hoped that, by postponing the day of execution, some mitigation might be obtained. Immediately after the sentence of the courtmartial had been delivered, he tried to obtain assistance from Tone's former friends, and especially from those Catholic leaders whom he had formerly served, but he wholly failed. Men who were already suspected, feared to compromise themselves or their cause, by showing any interest in the convicted rebel, and among men who were not suspected and loyal, there was a savage, vindictive spirit, which is painful to contemplate.1 Peter Burrowes, however, an able and honest, though somewhat eccentric, Protestant lawyer, supported him in a manner which was doubly admirable, as it was certain to injure his professional prospects, and as his own brother—the clergyman near Oulart—had been one of the first persons murdered by the Wexford rebels. When the Court of King's Bench met on the morning of the 12th, Curran appeared before it, and, while fully admitting that Tone was guilty of high treason, he represented that a court-martial had no right to try or sentence him. Ireland was not now in a state of civil war. The courts were sitting; the King's Bench was the great criminal court of the land, and as Tone had never held a commission in the army of the Crown, a military court had no cognisance of his offence. He represented that every moment was precious, as the execution was ordered for that very day, and he applied for an immediate writ of Habeas Corpus.
The objection ought to have been made before, but it was unquestionably valid, and the Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, had long deplored the eclipse of law which existed in Ireland with the full sanction of the Government. He at once ordered the writ to be prepared, and in the meantime sent the sheriff to the barracks to inform the provost-martial that a writ was preparing, and that the execution must not proceed. The sheriff returned with a reply that the provost-martial must obey the presiding major, and that the major must do as Lord Cornwallis ordered him. The Chief Justice, with visible emotion, ordered the sheriff to return to the barracks with the writ, to take the body of Tone into custody, to take the provost-marshal and Major Sandys into custody, and to show the writ to the general in command.
There was an anxious and agitated pause, and strong fears were entertained that military law would triumph, and that the prisoner would be executed in defiance of the writ. At last, however, the sheriff returned, and stated that he had been refused admittance into the barracks, but had learnt that on the preceding night the prisoner had wounded himself dangerously, if not mortally, and that instant death would be the result of any attempt to move him. The surgeon who attended him, soon after appeared, and confirmed the report, and the Chief Justice issued an order, suspending the execution.1 Several days of miserable, abject suffering, still lay before Wolfe Tone. He at last died of his wound, on November 19.
It would be a manifest exaggeration to call him a great man, but he had many of the qualities of mind and character by which, under favourable conditions, greatness has been achieved, and he rises far above the dreary level of commonplace which Irish conspiracy in general presents. The tawdry and exaggerated rhetoric; the petty vanities and jealousies; the weak sentimentalism; the utter incapacity for proportioning means to ends, and for grasping the stern realities of things, which so commonly disfigure the lives and conduct even of the more honest members of his class, were wholly alien to his nature. His judgment of men and things was keen, lucid, and masculine, and he was alike prompt in decision and brave in action. Coming to France without any advantage of birth, property, position or antecedents, and without even a knowledge of the language, he gained a real influence over French councils, and he displayed qualities that won the confidence and respect of such men as Carnot and Hoche, Clarke and Grouchy, Daendels and De Winter. His journals clearly show how time, and experience, and larger scenes of action, had matured and strengthened both his intellect and character. The old levity had passed away. The constant fits of drunkenness that disfigured his early life no longer occur. The spirit of a mere adventurer had become much less apparent. A strong and serious devotion to an unselfish cause, had unquestionably grown up within him, and if he had become very unscrupulous about the means of attaining his end, he at least was prepared to sacrifice to it, not only his life, but also all personal vanity, pretensions, and ambition. If his dream of an independent Ireland, now seems a very mad one, it is but justice to him to remember how different was then the position of Ireland, both in relation to England and in relation to the Continent. Ireland now contains scarcely more than an eighth part of the population of the United Kingdom, and it is hopelessly divided within itself. At the time of the rebellion of 1798, the whole population of the two islands was little more than fifteen millions, and probably fully four and a half millions of these were Irish.1 It was a much larger population than Holland possessed when she confronted the power of Lewis XIV., or the United States when they won their independence, or Prussia when Frederick the Great made her one of the foremost nations in Europe. It was idle to suppose that such a people, if they had been really united and in earnest, could not under favourable circumstances have achieved and maintained their independence; and what circumstance could seem more favourable than a great revolutionary war, which especially appealed to all oppressed nationalities, threatened the British Empire with destruction, and seemed about to lead to a complete dissolution and rearrangement of the political system of Europe?
Wiser men had warned him from the first, that he misread both the characters and the sentiments of his people, but it is not difficult to understand the causes of his error. When he saw the rapidity with which the revolutionary doctrines had spread through the energetic, Protestant, industrial population of the North; when he remarked the part which the independent gentry had very recently taken in the volunteer movement; when he observed the many signs, both in Ireland and on the Continent, of the dissolution of old beliefs and the evanescence of sectarian passions, he easily persuaded himself that a united national movement for independence had become possible, and that the fierce spirit of democratic revolution, which was rising with the force of a new religion over Europe, must sweep away the corrupt and narrow Government of Ireland. Of the Irish Catholics, Tone knew little, but he believed that their religious prejudices had disappeared, that they would follow the lead of the intelligent Presbyterians of the North, and that they were burning to throw off the government of England. He lived to see all his illusions dispelled, and when he started on his last journey, it was with a despondency which was not far removed from hopelessness. It is not uninteresting to notice that the ‘Hoche,’ in which he was captured, was afterwards called the ‘Donegal,’ and was the ship which, under the British flag, bore a far more illustrious Irishman, Arthur Wellesley, to the scenes of his triumphs in the Spanish Peninsula.
The defeat of the fleet of Bompard closes the history of French expeditions to Ireland; but one more, alarming episode occurred. On October 27, Savary, who had commanded the French squadron which landed Humbert, reappeared in Killala Bay with four ships of war, and 2,000 soldiers. As it was not at first known that the ships were French, two officers were sent to them, and they were detained on board, and ultimately carried to France. It was believed in Killala that these ships formed part of the squadron which had been defeated by Warren, but they are now known to have formed a separate expedition, sent to ascertain whether the rebellion was in progress. On hearing that all was over, the French admiral hastily weighed anchor, and though hotly pursued by some English vessels, he succeeded in reaching France in safety.1
The rebellion was now virtually ended, though Joseph Holt succeeded, for more than three months after the rest of Leinster had been quieted, in keeping together some hundreds of rebels among the Wicklow hills, and in evading or defying all the forces of the Crown. He has himself, in his most curious autobiography, related his adventures and hairbreadth escapes. Of the men who accompanied him, some were mere robbers; many were peasants whose houses had been burnt by the yeomen, and many others were deserters from militia regiments. At one time he says he had deserters from thirteen regiments among his men;1 and many who did not venture to desert, readily supplied him with cartridges. He had also a considerable number of the Shilmalier wild-fowl shooters, with their long guns and their deadly aim; but on the whole, like Miles Byrne, he considered the Irish rebel most terrible when he had a pike in his hand, and he gave his men such a measure of discipline, and he managed his attacks with such skill, that he made them very formidable.
Several women hung about his party, and one of them, whom he called his ‘Moving Magazine,’ appears to have been by far the most valuable of his followers. She was a girl named Susy Toole, the daughter of a blacksmith at Annamoe. Being accustomed to wield the sledge-hammer, she had a more than masculine strength, and she had also great natural tact, a most ready and plausible tongue, an extraordinary power of disguising her face and appearance, indomitable courage, and inflexible fidelity. Carrying a basket of gingerbread and fruit, she ranged over many miles of country, collecting the most minute and accurate knowledge about the position, movements, and intentions of every body of troops in the neighbourhood; finding out what men were wavering in their allegiance, and obtaining from them large supplies of cartridges. She seldom returned to Holt without two or three hundred cartridges concealed under her clothes, and it was chiefly owing to her information that Holt was so long able to defy his enemies, though a large reward was placed upon his head. He kept the whole county of Wicklow in constant alarm, and often made incursions into the adjoining eounties. His men burnt numerous country houses, and the farmhouses of men who were obnoxious to them, drove herds of cattle into the mountains, levied contributions, attacked and often defeated small bodies of yeomanry or militia. Many men were also murdered as Orangemen or yeomen. The little town of Blessington, in the county of Wicklow, was captured and plundered, and Captain Hume, one of the members for the county, was killed in an unsuccessful skirmish with the rebels.
The Protestantism of Holt, as he himself states, always exposed him to suspicion among his followers, and although they recognised in him their most skilful and daring leader, his danger was by no means exclusively from the loyalists. A large body of his men, under a leader named Hacket, broke away from him because he would not permit them to carry on indiscriminate plunder. A suspicion having got abroad that he was in negotiation with General Moore, he was very nearly murdered, and at last, as the winter nights drew on, his followers, availing themselves of the amnesty which had been proclaimed, gradually dropped away.
Holt was a brave and skilful rebel leader—perhaps the most skilful who appeared in Ireland during the rebellion—but he cannot by any possibility be regarded as an Irish patriot. He has himself most candidly declared, that he was absolutely indifferent to the political questions that were supposed to be at issue in the rebellion, and that he would in fact have preferred to have been on the other side.1 Like great numbers of his followers, he was a rebel because, having fallen under suspicion, his house had been burnt, and the mountains seemed his only refuge. The picture he gives of the barbarities on both sides, is probably drawn with no unfaithful touch. ‘The scenes of cruelty I witnessed,’ he says, ‘at this period are beyond human belief and comprehension…. Many of the cruelties of the rebels were in retaliation of the previous enormities committed upon them by the yeomanry, who in their turn revenged themselves with increased acrimony, and thus all the kindlier and best feelings of humanity were eradicated…. Human victims were everywhere sacrificed to the demon of revenge, and their mutilated carcases exhibited with savage ferocity…. Many of the corps of yeomanry were a disgrace to humanity and the colour of their cloth. The rebels were not less atrocious or refined in their cruelties, but they were excited by the heads and hands above them, and considered their acts meritorious; few of them were really sensible of the true character of what they did. They were wild, uncultivated, ignorant creatures, whom it was difficult to control and impossible to keep in discipline when excited.’ Many ‘became rebels unwillingly, feeling acutely the wrongs and oppression they had suffered. They grew more like enraged tigers than men, and woe to the unhappy yeoman who fell into their power; he was instantly put to death, often by a cruel and attenuated torture. The soldiers of the regular army, in a great degree from acting with the yeomanry, caught their feelings, and indulged in cruelties with an avenging spirit, but, generally speaking, the animosity existed in the breast of the Irish peasant in its most exaggerated character against the yeomanry. The murder in cold blood of an Orangeman or yeoman, was considered by the rebels a meritorious act of justice, and that of a rebel by the loyal party as no crime…. Each party accused the other of cruelty and barbarous inhumanity, and the accusation on both sides was just. Each were guilty, atrociously guilty, but each justified himself with the idea that his abominable acts were but the just retaliation of previous wrongs.’ 1
Holt himself seems to have done all that was in his power to restrain his men from murder, and some conspicuous acts of clemency and generosity, as well as his great daring and skill, gave him much reputation. The Latouche family and Lord Powerscourt exerted themselves to save his life, and at last, on November 10, he surrendered himself to Lord Powerscourt, and he appears to have given some useful information to the Government.2 He was transported to Botany Bay, but a few years later was suffered to return to Ireland.
The exultation of the triumphant party was now very great, and it took many forms. The best was an earnest desire to assist those who had suffered on the loyalist side during the rebellion. There was a vast assemblage of all that was most brilliant in Dublin society to hear Kirwan preach at St. Thomas's Church, in behalf of the widows and children of the soldiers who had fallen in fighting against the rebels. The Lord Lieutenant was present, and the principal ladies in Dublin, with Lady Clare and Lady Castlereagh at their head, acted as collectors. The eloquence of the great preacher never soared to a loftier height, and his vivid picture of the state of Ireland on the eve of the rebellion, and of the passions the catastrophe had produced, is even now well worthy of perusal. 1,122l. was collected: ‘the largest collection,’ writes Bishop Percy, ‘I suppose ever made at a single sermon.’ 1 Parliament acted on the same lines, and a sum of 100,000l. was voted for those loyalists who had suffered during the rebellion.
Its thanks were also voted unanimously to the yeomanry, militia, and other troops. Castlereagh, in introducing the motion, gave the first place to the yeomen. ‘Their services,’ he said, ‘had effected the salvation of the country.’ Although they had only been intended for local service in their respective districts, they had everywhere outstripped the limits assigned to them. There was not a single corps which had not volunteered to march out of its district for the public service, and but for them the country would not have been saved. After the Irish yeomanry he placed the English militia, who, though not obliged by law to serve out of their own country, had volunteered to do so. Then came the Irish militia and fencible troops. There had been some defections among them, but the overwhelming majority had displayed great loyalty.2
There was a sudden rebound of confidence, and at the beginning of August the Irish funds stood higher than before the rebellion.3 The news of the destruction of a great French fleet by Nelson at the battle of the Nile, which arrived in Ireland in the beginning of October, greatly increased the sense of security. Dublin was brilliantly illuminated, and no discordant note appears to have jarred on the general delight. At the same time, all those sectarian anniversaries which had of late years been falling gradually into desuetude, were galvanised into a new vitality, and the now hated colour of Orange was everywhere paraded as the distinctive badge of loyalty. On the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, it was stated that upwards of 12,000 orange cockades were worn in the streets of4 Dublin, and the great majority of the houses were decorated with orange lilies.1 The religious service of October 23, commemorating the outbreak of the great rebellion of 1641, had of late years been little used; but in 1798, it was resolved to observe it with great solemnity in the churches, and there were even proposals, which were happily not persisted in, that another prayer should be inserted in the Liturgy, to thank the Almighty for having delivered the loyal people of Ireland from another sanguinary conspiracy.2 The usual official ceremonies on the birthday of William III., were accompanied in 1798 by an enthusiasm which had certainly not been equalled for a century. The yeomanry, decorated with orange colours, assembled round the statue of King William, and fired their feu de joie. The Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Mayor and the sheriffs, with a vast train accompanying them, paraded round Stephen's Green and College Green, while the cannon thundered, and the church bells rang a triumphant peal. The pedestal and railing of the statue of William had been painted afresh. A cincture of orange and green ribbons encircled the head of the great king. His shoulders were ornamented with a rich orange sash with shining tassels. His horse had orange reins; orange and blue ribbons hung from its saddle, and beneath its feet lay a green silk scarf tied with pale yellow ribbons, the emblem of the revolutionary union, which had now been trampled in the dust.3 The loyalist song, with its refrain, ‘Down, down, croppies, lie down/was now the favourite tune, and it kindled in many a rebel breast a savage, though silent rage. Bishop Percy mentions a poor blind woman, who tried to make a livelihood by singing it through the streets of Dublin. She was soon found lying murdered in a dark alley.4
The savage spirit on both sides was indeed little, if at all, diminished. At the end of July, Cornwallis spoke of ‘the numberless murders that are hourly committed by our people, without any process or examination whatever,’ 5 and even after the stringent measures of Cornwallis and of some of the general officers to maintain discipline, there were several scandalous instances of yeomen or militiamen having deliberately shot amnestied rebels who had received protections from the Government. In one infamous case, a soldier who had clearly acted in this way was acquitted of malicious intent, by a court-martial presided over by Lord Enniskillen. Cornwallis indignantly expressed his dissent from the verdict, dissolved the court-martial with a strong rebuke to its president, and directed that a new courtmartial should be summoned, on which no officer who had been on the preceding one should sit. This case was but one of many, illustrating the utter want of discipline and the total disregard for human life that prevailed,1 and it is a shameful and astonishing fact, that the conduct of Lord Cornwallis produced the most violent indignation in the ultra-loyal party, and was strongly disapproved of by no less a person than Lord Camden.2 Crime produced crime. Murders of loyal men, or nightly outrages on their property, were regularly followed by explosions of military licentiousness, in which houses and chapels were burnt, and innocent men not infrequently killed. I have mentioned, that at least forty chapels were burnt in the province of Leinster, and it is a horrible illustration of the state of the country, that by far the greater number of these were burnt some time after the capture of Wexford and of Vinegar Hill, and when serious organised resistance had almost wholly ceased.1 As late as the January of 1799, a gentleman from Gorey sent to Colonel Blaquiere a terrible account of the outrages that had been perpetrated in that country. In the preceding November, he says, a party of Ballaghkeen cavalry and of Hunter Gowan's yeomen had, without visible provocation, burnt more than nine houses in a single night. Six weeks later some cavalry were searching for robbers, when shots were fired from a house, a sergeant was killed, and another soldier wounded. The house was at once burnt down, and soon after the yeomen, at the burial of their comrade, agreed to take signal vengeance. That night they burnt two chapels, they burnt and plundered a priest's house and nine other houses spread over an area of six miles, and killed a man and woman. ‘The people will not go to Gorey to prosecute,’ adds the writer. ‘I request my name to be kept secret, as a gentleman of this neighbourhood has been, and is yet, in continual fear of his life for forwarding a prosecution against a yeoman for night murder.’ 2
How far these statements would have stood the test of a judicial examination, I am not able to say; but whatever elements of doubt or exaggeration may cling to particular instances, the broad features of the story are but too evident. A reign of terror prevailed over the counties which had been desolated by the rebellion, for months after armed resistance had ceased, and in spite of some serious efforts to repress it, military licence was almost supreme. ‘This country,’ wrote Cornwallis at the very end of September, ‘is daily becoming more disturbed. Religious animosities increase, and, I am sorry to say, are encouraged by the foolish violence of all the principal persons who have been in the habit of governing this island; and the Irish militia, from their repeated misbehaviour in the field, and their extreme licentiousness, are fallen into such universal contempt and abhorrence, that when applications are made for the protection of troops, it is often requested that Irish militia may not be sent.’ 3
This condition is not surprising. Men who had been hastily embodied in a time of great public danger, and who had never been subject to real military discipline, had been for a long period exposed to influences that would have demoralised the best troops. Free quarters, martial law, and the system of arbitrary house-burning and flogging, sanctioned by the Government and covered by parliamentary Acts of indemnity, had very naturally destroyed all their respect for law and property, while the many horrors of the rebellion, and the sectarian passions which it had inflamed, had as naturally given their licentiousness a deep tinge of fierceness. The officers appear to have been worse than the men. Like most things in Ireland, militia appointments had been constantly made electioneering jobs, intended to promote the political interests of leading politicians,1 and a power which was, in the existing state of Ireland, tremendously great, was largely entrusted to the class of dissipated squireens, to the idle, drunken, insolent, uneducated middlemen, who were one of the worst elements in Irish life. I have already described the manner in which the enormous and sudden increase of farming profits, through the high price of corn, had been followed by a vast growth of land jobbing and sub-letting, which raised many suddenly to comparative wealth, enabled numbers who had formerly been working farmers to live an idle life, and thus largely increased a class which had for some years been diminishing. In counties where the great proprietors were absentees, and where there were few resident gentry, such men were often made justices of peace, and they were especially conspicuous among the yeomanry and militia officers.2 With all their faults, they were abundantly provided with courage,1 and their sporting tastes and unsettled habits gave them a natural inclination to military life. During the struggle of the rebellion they rendered real service; but in the hideous military licence that followed, all their worst qualities appeared.
Drunkenness, as in all such periods, had greatly increased, and the contagion of military licence speedily infected the best troops. Letter after letter came to the Government, representing the extreme danger of the demoralisation of the very choicest English regiments if they remained longer in Ireland. One distinguished officer of the Guards, who was quartered at Waterford, wrote that in that town every second house was a whisky shop, and that he doubted whether the efficiency of his own regiment could be maintained six months longer in such a moral atmosphere. As for the Irish militia, he said: ‘Friends or foes are all the same to them, and they will plunder indiscriminately, advancing or retreating, and from what I have heard, no effort is made to restrain them. The dread the inhabitants have of the presence of a regiment of militia, is not to be told. They shut up their shops, hide whatever they have, and, in short, all confidence is lost wherever they make their appearance.’ 2
Castlereagh at this time thought that there was little to be feared in Ireland from disaffection, but much from insubordination and religious animosities, and from the disposition to plunder which free quarters had engendered.3 Cornwallis hated everything about him, and expressed his disgust and his despair in the strongest and most violent terms. Nine-tenths of the people of Ireland, he believed, were thoroughly disaffected. The militia would be perfectly useless in the event of a serious invasion, and the small party who had long governed the country through the support of the British Government, were at bitter enmity with both the papists and the Presbyterians.1
An immediate question of great difficulty was, what to do with the crowd of prisoners who had lain untried in the gaols, many of them for several months, some of them for as much as two years. A large number were well known to the Government to be deeply implicated in the conspiracy, though there was no evidence which could be produced in court. The Amnesty Act, which was passed in 1798, in favour of rebels who surrendered their arms and returned to their allegiance, excluded not only murderers and deserters, but also all persons who had been in custody for treason since the beginning of 1795, or who had conspired with the King's enemy to bring about an invasion, or who had been members of the governing committees of the United Irish conspiracy, or who had been attainted in the present session by Parliament, or convicted by court-martial since May 24; and it also excluded by name about thirty persons who were, for the most part, on the Continent.2 All these could only obtain pardon by particular acts of royal favour. The compact of the Government with the imprisoned leaders gave rise to much difficulty, and to long, bitter, and most wearisome recriminations. Before the secret examinations had been published by the Government, extracts from them appeared in the newspapers, and a report is said to have gone abroad, that the prisoners had revealed the names of their fellow-conspirators. The State prisoners, after the agreement had been made, though not released, were allowed great latitude, and O'Connor, Emmet, and McNevin now availed themselves of their liberty to have the following advertisement inserted in the newspapers: ‘Having read in the different newspapers, publications pretending to be abstracts of the report of the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, and of our depositions before the Committees of the Lords and Commons, we feel ourselves called upon to assure the public that they are gross, and to us astonishing, misrepresentations, not only not supported by, but in many instances directly contradictory to, the facts we really stated on those occasions. We further assure our friends, that in no instance did the name of any individual escape us; on the contrary, we always refused answering such questions as might tend to implicate any person whatever, conformably to the agreement entered into by the State prisoners and the Government.’
The appearance of this advertisement extremely exasperated the Government. One of their main motives in making a treaty with men who were immeasurably more guilty than nine-tenths of those who had been shot or hanged, was to obtain from them such an acknowledgment of their conspiracy with France, as would exercise a decisive influence on opinion; and although the extracts that had been published in the newspapers consisted of only a selection of some incriminating parts of their admissions, it has never been shown that they were inaccurate. The advertisement, it was said, was obviously drawn up for the purpose of destroying the moral effect of these admissions, casting discredit and doubt upon the whole report, and encouraging the conspirators who were still at large; and it was published immediately after the news had arrived of the landing of a French expedition in Connaught, and when there was, in consequence, grave danger of the rebellion being rekindled. In the House of Commons the sentiments of the Government were fully echoed, and by no one more powerfully than by Plunket, who represented the small party still adhering to the views of Grattan. He described the advertisement as ‘a species of proclamation or manifesto, couched in the most libellous and insolent language, and proceeding from three men who were signal instances of the royal mercy, … urging to rebellion and to the aid of a French invasion, calling upon their friends to cast from them all fear of having been detected in their treasons, and to prosecute anew their machinations.’ 1 Some men even maintained that the compact had been broken, and that the prisoners should be tried by martial law. The Government, however, acted more moderately. The State prisoners, to their great indignation, were now subjected to strict confinement, and by the direction of Pitt himself, those who had signed the advertisement were reexamined before the Committee, and obliged to acknowledge the truth of their former evidence. It is but justice to them to say, that they did this without difficulty.2
They had more reason to complain of the terms of an Act which was subsequently passed, depriving them of the right of returning, when banished, to the King's dominions, or going to any country at war with the King. The preamble described them as men ‘who, being conscious of their flagrant and enormous guilt, have expressed their contrition for the same, and have most humbly implored his Majesty's mercy … to grant his royal pardon to them on condition of their being transported, banished, or exiled.’ 3 It would be impossible to describe less felicitously or less truly their attitude, and Neilson wrote a letter indignantly denying that they had either acknowledged their guilt, retracted their opinions, or implored pardon. It is stated that he was only restrained from publishing his protest by the threat, that in that case the Government would consider the whole treaty as cancelled, and send all the prisoners to trial.4
Another difficulty speedily followed. The first intention had been to send the State prisoners to America, but Portland considered that, by the law of nations, powers at amity have not a right to transport to each other, without permission, such of their subjects as had committed crimes, and it was soon found that the American Government had not the smallest intention of giving this permission. Rufus King, the American minister in London, officially announced that the President, under the powers given him by a recent Act, would not suffer any of the traitors from Ireland to land in America, and that if they set foot on shore, he would instantly have them sent back to Europe.1
In a reply that King subsequently wrote to the remonstrances of an Irishman, there is a passage justifying this decision, which is so curious, as showing the part which Irish immigrants had already begun to play in American politics, that it is deserving of a full quotation. ‘In common with others,’ he wrote, ‘we have felt the influence of the changes that have successively taken place in France, and unfortunately a portion of our inhabitants have erroneously supposed that our civil and political institutions, as well as our national policy, might be improved by a close imitation of France. This opinion, the propagation of which was made the duty, and became the chief employment, of the French agents residing among us, created a more considerable division among our people, and required a greater watchfulness and activity from the Government, than could beforehand have been apprehended. I am sorry to make the remark … that a large proportion of the emigrants from Ireland, and especially in the Middle States, have, upon this occasion, arranged themselves on the side of the malcontents. I ought to except from this remark, most of the enlightened and well-educated Irishmen who reside among us, and, with a few exceptions, I might confine it to the indigent and illiterate, who, entertaining an attachment to freedom, are unable to appreciate those salutary restraints, without which it degenerates into anarchy. It would be injustice to say, that the Irish emigrants are more national than those of other countries, yet, being a numerous though very minor portion of our population, they are capable, from causes it is needless now to explain, of being generally brought to act in concert, and under artful leaders may be, as they have been, enlisted in mischievous combinations against our Government.’ 1
The result of the attitude of the American Government was, that the leading members of the conspiracy still remained in confinement for considerably more than three years. A proposal which they made to go to Germany was not accepted,2 and the Duke of Portland peremptorily directed that they should be kept in strict custody. In the beginning of December, the determination of the Government was formally announced by a written message, which stated that fifteen of their number could not be liberated at present, though the other State prisoners named in the Banishment Bill would be permitted to retire to any neutral country on the Continent, on giving security not to pass into an enemy's country. The Lord Lieutenant expressed his regret ‘that a change of circumstances’ had rendered this precaution necessary, and his determination to extend a similar indulgence to the prisoners now excepted, as soon as it was consistent with the public safety.
It is not, I think, necessary to enter in detail into the long and angry controversy that ensued. O'Connor and his fellowprisoners contended, that their continued detention after they had fulfilled their part of the compact, was a breach of faith to men who were untried and unconvicted, and that the Government were bound in honour to permit them at once to emigrate to the Continent. Castlereagh, on the other hand, had from the beginning stated that the Government had reserved a full discretion of retaining the prisoners in custody, as long as the war should last, provided their liberation was deemed inconsistent with the public safety.3 The excepted prisoners in Dublin, as well as a few from Belfast, were soon after removed to Fort St. George, in Inverness-shire in Scotland, where some of them remained till the middle of 1802. It is worthy of special notice, that of the twenty prisoners who were selected for confinement in this fortress on account of the prominent part they had taken in organising the conspiracy, ten were nominal members of the Established Church, six were Presbyterians, and only four were Catholics.1
Few men can have had a loftier opinion of their own merits than O'Connor, Emmet, and McNevin, and they have written with burning indignation the account of their wrongs. At the same time, the fate of these leading conspirators, who endured a long, but by no means severe, imprisonment, and were afterwards exiled to the Continent or to America, was a very different one from that of multitudes of humbler men, who were probably far less guilty. A stream of Irish political prisoners was poured into the penal settlement of Botany Bay, and they played some part in the early history of the Australian colonies, and especially of Australian Catholicism. In November 1796, Governor Hunter wrote home complaining of the turbulent and seditious disposition of a large number of Irish Defenders who had been sent out in the two preceding years; but he acknowledged that they had one very real grievance, for neither the date of their conviction nor the length of their sentence was known in Australia. In September 1800, Governor King announced that the seditious spirit among the Irish political convicts had risen to ‘a very great height,’ and had been much fostered by a priest who was among them. He adds, that the number of rebels who had been sent from Ireland since the late disturbances in that country, was 235, exclusive of the Defenders sent out in 1794; that there were now about 450 Irish convicts in the colony, but that some of them were ordinary felons. In the spring of 1801, attempts at insurrection were made; pikes were discovered, and the governor complained that 135 new convicts had just arrived from Cork, ‘of the most desperate and diabolical characters that could be selected throughout that kingdom, together with a Catholic priest of most notorious seditious and rebellious principles.’ There were now, he said, not less than 600 avowed and unrepentant United Irishmen among the convicts. A year later he repeated his complaint, urging that if seditious republicans continued to be sent, the colony would soon be composed of few other characters; and, in May 1803, he writes that ‘the list of fourteen men condemned lately to die was caused by one of those unhappy events that happen more or less on the importation of each cargo of Irish convicts.’ In 1804, his warnings were justified by a serious Irish rebellion in New South Wales, which was not suppressed without some bloodshed. It is curious to notice how beneath the Southern Cross, as in every disturbance at home, the familiar figure of the Irish informer at once appeared. An old Irish rebel, who declared that he had suffered so much by rebellion that he would never again be implicated in it, gave the first information of the designs of the conspirators.1
The political prisoners in New South Wales were usually men who had been convicted under the Insurrection Act or by courts-martial, and many of them were men who had been condemned to death, but whose sentences had been commuted. Other prisoners were permitted to serve in the army and navy. It was intended that these forced recruits should serve only in the dangerous climates of the West Indies, but they gradually percolated all branches of the service, and their possible influence was a cause of some anxiety, both to the civil and military authorities.2 It appears that, at the end of October 1798, about 300 political prisoners were in confinement in the different gaols of Ireland, in addition to the eighty who were banished by Act of Parliament.3 The Government was soon afterwards relieved of the embarrassment, in a somewhat unexpected way. A message came in January 1799 from the King of Prussia, offering to take able-bodied Irish rebels who were fit and willing to serve as privates in the Prussian army. The offer was gladly accepted. A Prussian officer, named Schonler, came over to Ireland to select the recruits, and on September 8 of that year a transport sailed from Waterford for Emden, bearing 318 Irishmen to the Continent.1
When Cornwallis first came to Ireland, Bishop Percy described him as very civil and pleasant, but added, ‘he will not be a favourite here, for he is very sober himself, and does not push the bottle. They also think him too merciful to the rebels.’ 2 The prediction was fully verified, and the outcries against ‘the ruinous system of lenity’ of the Lord Lieutenant, were long and loud among the supporters of the Government. Clare, who had at first taken a different course, very soon subscribed to the condemnation. He maintained that Cornwallis had ‘much mistaken the nature of the people, in supposing that they were to be brought back to submission by a system nearly of indiscriminate impunity for the most enormous offences,’ that he had exasperated the loyal, and encouraged the rebels, and that nothing but a severe and terrible lesson would ever put a stop to rebellion and outrage in Ireland. He quoted with some felicity a passage from General Tarleton's History of the American campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in which Cornwallis was represented as having pursued a similar policy in South Carolina, in hopes of giving offence to neither party, and having by his mistaken lenity greatly encouraged and strengthened, without in any degree conciliating, the disloyal, while he at once discouraged and exasperated those who had been ruined by their attachment to the Crown.3
It is true that the system of government under Lord Cornwallis was less sanguinary than under Lord Camden; but an extract from a private letter of Castlereagh to Wickham, in the March of 1799, will probably be, to most persons, quite sufficient to acquit it of any excess in lenity. Nearly 400 persons, Castlereagh says, had been already tried under Lord Cornwallis. Of these, 131 were condemned to death, and 81 were executed. ‘This forms but a proportion of the number of victims to public justice, for acts of treason and rebellion in the disturbed districts. Numbers were tried and executed by order of the general officers, whose cases never came before the Lord Lieutenant, and it appears by the inclosed return from the Clerk of the Crown, that 418 persons were banished or transported by sentences of courts-martial…. Since Lord Cornwallis's arrival, exclusive of the infliction of punishment by military tribunals, great numbers were convicted at the autumn assizes.’ 1
Of the total loss of life during the rebellion, it is impossible to speak with any kind of certainty. The estimates on the subject are widely different, and almost wholly conjectural. Madden, the most learned of the apologists of the United Irishmen, pretends that not less than 70,000 persons must have perished in Ireland, during the two months’ struggle;2 but Newenham, who was a contemporary writer, singularly free from party passion and prejudice, and much accustomed to careful statistical investigations, formed a far more moderate estimate. He calculated that the direct loss during the rebellion was about 15,000. About 1,600, he says, of the King's troops, and about 11,000 of the rebels, fell in the field. About 400 loyal persons were massacred or assassinated, and 2,000 rebels were exiled or hanged.3 The most horrible feature was the great number of helpless, unarmed men, who were either deliberately murdered by the rebels, or shot down by the troops. ‘For several months,’ writes Mary Leadbeater, ‘there was no sale for bacon cured in Ireland, from the well-founded dread of the hogs having fed upon the flesh of men.’ 1
Of the loss of property, it is equally difficult to speak with accuracy. The claims sent in by the suffering loyalists amounted to 823,517l.; ‘but who,’ writes Gordon, ‘will pretend to compute the damages of the croppies, whose houses were burned, and effects pillaged and destroyed, and who, barred from compensation, sent in no estimate to the commissioners?’ And, in addition to this, we must remember the enormously increased military expenditure, which was imposed upon the country, and the terrible shock that was given, both to industry and to credit.2
The double burden, indeed, of foreign war, and of internal convulsion, was fast weighing down the finances of Ireland, which had, a few years before, been so sound and prosperous; and although the increase of debt seemed small compared with that of England, and was much exceeded in Ireland in the years that followed the Union, it was sufficiently rapid to justify very grave apprehensions. When the war broke out, the Irish national debt was 2,344,314l.3 At the end of 1797, the funded debt had risen to 9,485,756l., of which 6,196,316l. was owed to England, and it was computed that the expenditure of the country exceeded its income by about 2,700,000l.4 The terrible months that followed, greatly aggravated the situation. Between December 1797 and August 1798, Ireland borrowed no less than 4,966,666l., nearly all of it at more than 6 per cent., and a large proportion at more than 7 per cent.5
This was a grievous evil, but, at the same time, the great spring of national prosperity was not yet seriously impaired. A country which is essentially agricultural, will flourish when agriculture is prosperous, even in spite of very serious and sanguinary convulsions. In the height of the struggle, Beresford wrote that it was ‘most strange and extraordinary,’ that the revenue every week was rising in a degree that had been hitherto unknown.1 The moral scars left by the rebellion were deep and indelible, and it changed the whole character of Irish life, but the material devastation rapidly disappeared. There were large districts, it is true, where, owing to the destruction of houses, and the neglect or ruin of agriculture, extreme misery prevailed, but the harvest of 1798 was a very good one, and this fact did more than any measures of politicians to appease the country. In August, Clare noticed the rich corn crops that were ripening over the rebel districts through which he passed, and he observed that the common people were everywhere returning to their ordinary occupations.2
There was one ignoble task, in which the Government and many of those who blamed the Government for its lenity, were fully agreed. It was in doing all that lay in their power to blacken the character of the man who, since the death of Burke, was by far the greatest of living Irishmen. The savage assaults that, in the last half of 1798, were directed against the character of Grattan, form one of the most shameful incidents of this shameful time. In some respects, indeed, they had the motive of self-defence. The Fitzwilliam episode had so visibly and so largely contributed to the calamities of the last few years, that it was very necessary for those who had brought about the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam and the reversal of his policy, if they desired to exculpate themselves from a terrible weight of responsibility, to represent his appointment and policy as the main source of the evil. Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform had been the first avowed objects of the United Irishmen, and long before the United Irish conspiracy had arisen, Grattan had been their most powerful advocate. He had opposed some parts of the coercive legislation of the Government; he had constantly denounced the acts of military and Orange violence which had been so largely practised with their approval or connivance, and he had committed the still more deadly offence of predicting only too faithfully the consequences that would follow from them. It is true, that he had exerted all his eloquence and influence in opposition to French democracy; that he had never failed to urge that democracy of any kind would be ruinous to Ireland; that he had shown in every possible way, and on every occasion, the depth of his conviction that Great Britain and Ireland must stand or fall together; that he had uniformly taught the people, that no reform was likely to do them good which was not constitutionally effected with the support of their gentry and through the medium of their Parliament; that the United Irish movement was essentially a revolt against his teaching and authority, and that it had brought about the almost total destruction of his influence. All this was incontestably true, but in the fierce reaction against Liberal ideas, it is perhaps not wonderful that the tide should have run furiously against the man who had been for many years their greatest representative in Ireland.
A long and extremely scurrilous attack upon Grattan, and his whole life and policy, had been written by Dr. Duigenan in 1797, in reply to the address which Grattan had published when he seceded from Parliament. It had been sent over to London, and refused by a publisher, but it appeared in Dublin immediately after the suppression of the rebellion. In general the writings and speeches of Duigenan, though they contained a good deal of curious learning, neither received, nor deserved, much attention, but this work so exactly fell in with the dominant spirit of the moment, that it speedily ran through at least five editions. A reader who is exempt from the passions of that time, would find it difficult to conceive a grosser or more impudent travesty of history. The calamities that had befallen Ireland, in the opinion of Duigenan, were mainly due to two men, Burke and Grattan. Burke was essentially a Romanist, and passionately devoted to the interests of popery, and the main object of all his later policy had been to overturn the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, and to substitute popery in its room. ‘Whether Mr. Burke had, at the time he formed his project of establishing popery in Ireland, entertained it only as a step towards the separation of Ireland from the British Empire, is not quite clear, though his strong attachment to republican principles during the American war gives good ground for suspecting him of such a design.’ In the earlier part of his career, Burke had contributed as much as any man in England to the separation of America from the mother country, and it was very probably the success of the American rebellion that encouraged him to undertake his Irish enterprise. It is true that he afterwards ‘changed, or affected to change, all his former opinions in favour of republicanism,’ but the explanation was very evident. It was because the French Revolution had proved hostile to popery.
But if there was some ambiguity about the motives of Burke, those of Grattan were abundantly clear. According to this veracious chronicler, the steady object which inspired all his acts and all his speeches ever since the American War, was the separation of Ireland from the British Empire. Ambition and avarice were his guiding motives; coalitions between republican infidels and popish bigots were his chosen means. All this was developed in a strain of the coarsest invective. A passage from the Psalms was selected as the motto, and it was the keynote of the whole book. ‘Thy tongue imagineth wickedness, and with lies thou cuttest like a sharp razor. Thou hast loved unrighteousness more than goodness, and to talk of lies more than righteousness. Thou hast loved to speak all words that may do hurt, oh thou false tongue!'
Such was the book which suddenly rose to popularity in Ireland, which was spoken of with delight in ministerial circles, and was eulogised in unqualified terms by Canning in the English House of Commons.1 The cry against Grattan was very violent, and members in the close confidence of the Government were extremely anxious, if possible, to connect him with the United Irish conspiracy. It was perfectly true that some of its members had at one time been his followers, and it was true also that in his capacity of leader in Parliament of the party which took charge of the questions of Catholic emancipation and reform, Grattan had come in contact with, and had occasionally seen at Tinnehinch, conspicuous reformers or advocates of Catholic emancipation from Ulster, who were in fact United Irishmen. It appears, indeed, to have been a common thing for active politicians to go down unsolicited to the county of Wicklow for the purpose of asking his advice, or of bringing him information or complaints. We have already had an example of such a conference, and we have seen the earnestness with which Grattan availed himself of the occasion, to impress upon his guests how great a calamity to Ireland, a French invasion must inevitably prove.1 It is also true that, at the trial of Arthur O'Connor, Grattan, like the leading members of the English Opposition, had been called as a witness for the defence; but the published account of the trial clearly shows that, unlike the English witnesses, he confined his evidence to a bare statement of the good private character of O'Connor, and to denying that he had ever heard him express an opinion favourable to invasion.
In truth, the attitude of Grattan towards the French Revolution had, from the beginning, profoundly separated him from its admirers. There was on both sides much coldness and distrust, and Grattan appears to have had only a slight and superficial acquaintance even with Arthur O'Connor and Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who sat with him in Parliament, and who belonged to the same sphere of social life. We have seen how he had warned the Catholic Committee against Tone, and how contemptuously he had spoken of the abilities of Emmet. He can hardly, however, have failed to suspect that some of those with whom he came into occasional contact were steeped in treason, and at the time when there was a strong desire on the part of the Government to implicate Grattan, a Government informer called Hughes came forward, and told on oath before the Secret Commission of Parliament the following story, which was all the more dangerous because some parts of it were undoubtedly true.
He said that about April 28, 1798, he had accompanied Neilson to breakfast with Sweetman, one of the most prominent of the Catholic United Irishmen, who was then in confinement, and that he afterwards, with Neilson, proceeded in Sweetman's carriage to Tinnehinch. He was present, he said, when Grattan asked Neilson many questions about the state of Ulster. He inquired how many families had been driven out, how many houses had been burned by the Government or by the Orangemen, and what was the probable strength of the United Irishmen and of the Orangemen in Ulster. Hughes added that in the course of the conversation Grattan said he supposed Neilson was a United Irishman, and that Neilson answered that he was; that Neilson and Grattan were for some time alone together; that on their return to Dublin, Neilson told him that his object in going to Tinnehinch had been ‘to ask Grattan whether he would come forward, and that he had sworn him.’ Hughes added also, that he saw a printed constitution of the United Irishmen in Grattan's library; that he heard Grattan tell Neilson that he would be in town about the following Tuesday; and that he understood from Neilson that Grattan had visited him in prison.1
The great improbability of this story must be obvious to anyone who considers the uniform attitude of Grattan towards the United Irishmen, and the horror which he had always both in public and private expressed of a French invasion, which it was the main object of the United Irishmen to effect. At the time when he was represented as having at the request of a man immensely his inferior, and with whom he was but slightly acquainted, reversed by one decisive step the whole of his past life, he was in fact withdrawn from all active politics, and living chiefly in England in order that he should be in no way mixed with them. The Government, too, which possessed from so many sources such minute and confidential information about the plans, proceedings, and negotiations of the conspirators, both in Ireland and on the Continent, must have been perfectly aware, that if a person of Grattan's importance had joined the conspiracy, this fact could not possibly have escaped their notice. Neilson was examined before the committee, and he at once declared upon oath that he had never sworn in Grattan; that he had never said he had done so; that Grattan was never a United Irishman, and had no concern in their transactions. He acknowledged, however, that he had been more than once at Tinnehinch, and that he had on one occasion unsuccessfully urged Grattan to ‘come forward.’ 2
Grattan, whose word appears to me of much more weight than the oath of either Hughes or Neilson, has given two accounts of the matter, one in a letter to Erskine, asking for his legal advice, and another in a paper which at a later period he drew up for his son. In the former paper he says: ‘The three persons, Bond, Neilson, and Sweetman, in the spring of 1798, rode to the country to breakfast with me once, and once only, without invitation or appointment, and at that visit of personal acquaintance which is most improperly called an interview, made no proposal to me, held no conversation with me, and never discoursed on their own subject. A considerable time after, Mr. Neilson, with a man named Hughes, whom I did not know, without appointment called on me to breakfast, which visit has been very improperly called an interview, when he held no consultation with me whatever, but only entered on a general conversation; with what specific view or application I cannot affirm; but I can say it was not attended with any effect; and further that he showed me the United Irishmen's published and printed constitution, and explained it, but did not show me or explain their plans. I must observe that the said constitution was only the organisation of their committees, such as appeared in the published report of the House of Commons a year and a half ago…. As far as Mr. Hughes’ testimony relates to me, save only as above, it is without foundation. It is not true that Mr. Neilson ever swore me. It is not true that I ever went to see him in Newgate, and it is impossible Mr. Neilson ever said it.’ 1
In the paper which Grattan afterwards drew up for his son, there is a fuller account of the interview on which the charge was based. ‘The conversation and interview with Neilson was nothing—it was quite accidental. I was in my study, and Neilson was shown up along with a Mr. Hughes whom I did not know. They complained very much of the excesses in the North of Ireland, and of the murders of the Catholics; and I remember Hughes saying that the phrase used by the anti-Catholics was, ‘To Connaught or to hell with you.’ They stated their numbers to be very great, and I then asked, ‘How does it come, then, that they are always beaten?’ I did not ask the question with a view to learn their force, as the examination would lead one to believe, but in consequence of these two individuals boasting of the numbers of these men who could not protect themselves. Hughes then went downstairs, and Neilson asked me to become a United Irishman. I declined. He produced the constitution, and left it in the room. This was nothing new. I had seen it long before, and it was generally printed and published. Hughes then returned, and they both went away. This is the entire of the transaction to which so much importance was attached.’ 1
This statement is, I have no doubt, the literal, unexaggerated truth. The Government, however, had found in the evidence of Hughes a formidable weapon for discrediting an opponent whom they greatly feared, and for gratifying a large section of their supporters. It is remarkable that in the report of the House of Commons, all notice of this matter was suppressed. The Speaker Foster is said to have urged that the statement of Hughes relating to Grattan was utterly untrustworthy, and that no notice ought to be taken of it. The House of Lords, probably under the influence of Lord Clare, published to the world the statement of Hughes, but accompanied it by a somewhat abbreviated version of the evidence of Neilson.
It does not appear that the Government ever really believed that Grattan had been a United Irishman; but Portland at once wrote to Cornwallis, urging that a criminal prosecution should be directed against him, on the much more plausible ground of ‘misprision,’ or concealment of treason. Cornwallis would have been perfectly willing to take this step, if there had been any chance of succeeding. ‘I have consulted the best law opinions in the country,’ he writes, ‘on the expediency of a prosecution against Mr. Grattan for misprision of treason, according to your Grace's recommendation in your letter dated the 15th inst., and have found that all of them think that there would be no prospect of our succeeding in such an attempt, and that no jury would convict him on the evidence of Hughes, contradicted as he already has been in parts of his evidence by Neilson, and as he certainly would be by Sweetman.’ He considered, however, that a great object had been attained by the publication of the evidence. ‘Enough has already appeared to convince every unprejudiced person of Mr. Grattan's guilt, and so far to tarnish his character as to prevent his becoming again a man of consequence, and Mr. Pollock, who is busily employed in the North, has been directed to use his best endeavours to discover evidence that would establish a criminal charge against him; but if these means should fail, we must be satisfied with dismissing him from the Privy Council.1
They did most signally fail. Pollock, with his utmost endeavours, was unable to discover any of the evidence he sought for.2 The story of Grattan's visit to Neilson in prison, which must have been established if true, was never substantiated; and Sweetman, as the Lord Lieutenant anticipated, was prepared to give strong evidence against the charge. In a letter written to Curran, he stated that in the one visit which he had paid to Grattan, in company with Neilson and-Bond, not only had nothing passed relating to the United Irishmen, but the three United Irishmen had specially agreed not even to touch on the subject, in order that nothing like implication in treason could be imputed to Grattan; and having a very intimate knowledge of the inner working of the conspiracy, he avowed most solemnly that Mr. Grattan was totally unconnected with the United system.3
No attempt was made to bring the case before a law court; but the publication of the evidence of Hughes, and the admitted fact that some leading members of the conspiracy had visited Grattan in his house, were sufficient, in the excited state of public opinion, to make many of Grattan's countrymen treat the charge as if it were both formally advanced and legally proved. The ministerial papers were full of denunciations of the ‘companion of conspirators.’ The King struck the name of Grattan from the list of privy councillors, as sixteen years before he had struck off the name of Grattan's great rival, Flood. The authorities of Trinity College, who in the golden days of 1782 had hung his portrait in their examination hall, now removed it to a lumber room, and replaced it by that of Lord Clare. The Corporation of Dublin, while conferring the freedom of the city on several persons who had taken a conspicuous part in suppressing the rebellion, unanimously disfranchised their most illustrious representative. The Corporation of Londonderry took the same course, though some names that were conspicuous in granting the freedom, are not to be found in the resolution withdrawing it. The Guild of Dublin merchants, who had specially honoured Grattan as the man who had done most to emancipate Irish trade, now struck off his name from their roll. The Corporation of Cork changed the name of Grattan Street, calling it Duncan Street, after the victor of Camperdown.
It was not the first, nor was it the last, time that Grattan experienced the ingratitude and the inconstancy of his countrymen. His health was at this time very bad, and he was suffering from a nervous disorder which preyed greatly on his spirits. After the publication of the book of Duigenan he appeared for a short time in Dublin, and, according to the bad custom of the time, published an advertisement in the papers which was equivalent to a challenge, but it remained unnoticed by his assailant. Grattan found that he could scarcely appear without insult in the streets, and soon returned to England, where he remained for many months. In a letter published in the ‘Courier’ newspaper he challenged investigation of the charge that had been made against him, and at the same time, in strong and vehement language, attributed to the corruption and tyranny of the governing faction in Ireland the chief blame of the crimes and the calamities that had occurred.
A great question, however, was rapidly coming to maturity, which was destined to call him from his retirement, and to make him once more a central figure in Irish political life. The English Ministers had now determined that the time had come when the governing system in Ireland must at all hazards be changed; and the last wave of the rebellion of 1798 had not yet subsided, when the project of a legislative Union was announced.
Alexander to Pelham, June 10, 1798.
F. H., Aug. 22, 1798; March 18, 1801. In the former of these letters, Higgins describes an after-dinner conversation with several respectable priests. They deplored that the lower orders were not giving up their arms. Higgins asked why they did not follow Father Ryan's example. They said they had no orders, and they added, that they had at first strongly opposed unlawful oaths, ‘but some well-known leaders (which they allowed to be Keogh, McCormick, Byrne, Dease, and Hamill) went round to the several chapels, and informed the priests, if they should in any manner whatever presume to interfere, or to advise, or to admonish the people on political subjects, or against the means of their obtaining their rights, the different committees who collected for the support of their chapels, and for the maintenance of the priests, had so settled that they should not get as much as a single six-pence to support them, and let those who cannot be silent, go to the Government for support. Their having no revenue but the casual collections and charitable donations to exist on, [they] alleged that the threat forced compliance.’ (I.S.P.O.)
Dr. Caulfield's Reply to Sir R. Musgrace, p. 5.
Byrne's Memoirs, i. 204, 206. Byrne was one of the commanders of this expedition, and describes it at length.
Gordon says, by the rebels (p. 165); Byrne says, the troops set fire to the houses; but Father Murphy, to the barracks.
In the Hibernian Gazetteer (1789) it is stated, that Lord Castlecomer was said to clear 10,000l. a year from the coal-fields on his estate. See, too, Griffith's Geological and Mining Report of the Leinster Coal District (1814); and also Parl. Hist. xxxiv. 883.
Compare Byrne, i. 212; Gordon, p. 166; Cloney's Personal Narrative p. 82; Musgrave, pp. 532, 533. Musgrave, says nine prisoners were then put to death, and two others shortly after.
Byrne, ii. 223.
Ibid. p. 224.
Ibid. p. 225; Cloney's Personal Narrative, p. 83.
Byrne, i. 226; Cloney, p. 83.
See Sir Charles Asgill's report to Lord Castlereagh. June 27; Saunders's Newsletter, June 28; Madden, iv. 417. Miles Byrne, who took a prominent part in the battle, gives a totally different account of it, describing it as an unsuccessful attempt of Sir C. Asgill to cut off the retreat of the rebels; and declaring that in the fight the soldiers suffered most, though the English general ‘preferred a more safe and easy victory; running with his army through the districts adjoining Kilcomney, and, instead of pursuing and fighting with us in the field, murdering in cold blood the unarmed, inoffensive inhabitants, who never left their homes.’ He says: ‘The hired press of the English ascendency of that day, would have it that we abandoned ten pieces of artillery and quantities of baggage, and had thousands killed and wounded. We had no artillery to abandon, never having had any since we left Wexford on June 21; and, as to losses sustained, ours was far less than the enemy's’ (Pp. 228, 229.) I cannot understand where the rebels got their cannon from, and Byrne can hardly have been ignorant of whether there were or were not cannon in his army. On the other hand, Asgill, in his official despatch, expressly says that he took ten cannon, and he cannot have been mistaken. Compare also the account of this battle in Gordon, pp. 168, 169.
Compare Byrne, i. 229,230; Gordon, p. 185. Cloney, p. 86; Musgrave, p. 544. Musgrave gives an interesting description of the execution of Murphy at Tullow, but says that another priest of the same name fell in the battle.
See the very detailed account in Cloney, pp. 83-86; and compare Byrne, i. 229, and Gordon, p. 168.
See, on the indiscriminate slaughter often due to this cause, the Narrative of what passed at Killala, pp. 125, 126.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 355.
Gordon, pp. 156-158; Appendix, p. 90. Musgrave prints an affidavit truly describing this as a massacre of unarmed Protestants; but, as Gordon justly says,‘we are not informed in this affidavit that a considerable number of Romanists had that day been put to death in and about Gorey, some of whom were kinsmen of those who were most active afterwards in this massacre of the Protestants.’
The reader may find several interesting particulars about these men drawn from different sources, in Crofton Croker's notes to Holt's Memoir i. 54-61. Perry, according to Gordor had had his hair cut away and it roots burned by ‘Tom the devil'—th well-known sergeant of the Nortl Cork Militia—and his property wa destroyed by the yeomen. He then threw himself into the arms of the rebels. He was a Protestant; the others were Catholics.
See Lieutenant Gardiner's despatch, June 26 (I.S.P.O.), and the accounts in Gordon, Hay, and Musgrave.
The different accounts of this affair (which was called the battle of Ballyellis), have been brought together by Crofton Croker in his notes to Holt's Memoirs, the only really well-edited book relating to the rebellion (i. 78-86). Holt greatly magnifies the number of the soldiers, and pretends that 370 of them were slain.
Gordon, pp. 174, 175; Hay, pp. 261, 262. The number of killed and wounded is very variously stated.
Cooke to Wickham, July 17, 1798 (Record Office).
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 356-357, 369, 372.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 362, 371.
Life of Wilberforce, ii. 327.
In aprivately printed book, called Essays by an Octogenarian (1851), by a gentleman named Roche, there are some interesting remarks about Lord Clare, based on personal knowledge. The writer says: ‘I could state many redeeming instances of persons, whose legal guilt could not be gainsaid, saved by him from the lash and halter, and not a few, I have the happiness to know, through the intercession of my own family…. In private life, moreover, I can affirm that he was a generous and indulgent landlord, a kind master, and an attached friend’ (ii. 114, 115). He mentions (p. 351) that, like Lord Thurlow, he was extremely addicted to profane swearing.
Lady Louisa Conolly wrote from the county of Kildare, just before the return of Camden to England: ‘The free quarters, whipping the people, and burning the houses, have just been stopped, which rejoices me, for although in some places, where these terrible sentences were executed with great caution by humane and deserving officers, the object did answer for discovering the pikes and arms, yet, upon the whole, it was a dangerous measure, in regard to the licentiousness it produced among the soldiers, the fury and madness it drove the insurgents to, and the luke-warmness that it threw upon the well-disposed persons, who found themselves equally aggrieved by the free quarters as the rebels are. So that it is a blessing we have it all stopped.’ (Lady L. Conolly to the Duke of Richmond, June 18, 1798. Bunbury MSS.)
Plowden, ii. 773.
Ibid. 782-784; 38 Geo. III. c. 55
Faullmer's Journal, Aug. 11, 1798. See, too, various facts relating to these rebels, collected by Crofton Croker in Holt's Memoirs, i. 57-61; in Byrne's Memoirs, i. 300, 301; and in Madden's United Irishmen.
Gordon, pp. 185, 186.
Cornvallis Correspondence, ii. 370.
Cooke to Wickham, July 21, 1798 (E.O.).
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 366; Madden, iv. 562.
See the loyalist version of the proceedings of William Byrne in Musgrave, pp. 516, 524; Taylor, p. 159; and the rebel version in Byrne's Memoirs, i. 156-158; 323, 324.
Hay very emphatically asserts the innocence of Devereux (pp. 285, 286).
Hay, pp. 270, 275, 281.
Madden, iv. 231. In the I.S.P.O. there is a letter from Henry Sheares, from Cork, dated Sept. 12, 1797, proposing to the Government that Mr. O'Driscoll should put an end to the publication of the Cork Gazette, on condition that an impending prosecution was abandoned, and it is noted that the Government accepted the proposal.
See Stephen's History of Criminal Law, i. 422.
Faulkner's Journal, July 24, 1798.
McNally wrote immediately after the arrest: ‘Very few, I find, had a knowledge, or even an idea, that the Sheares were implicated as reported. The purport of the manifesto or proclamation said to be found on them, has astonished many who would have gone great lengths on the known principles of emancipation and reform, as well as independency, bat who shudder at the thought of execution I doubt very much if they had any confidential communication with Bond, Jackson, and Dixon. This I know, the two latter always spoke of them with great bitterness, owing to some money transactions; and Dixon had an execution against them, and sued them on it with great rigour.’ (J. W., May 23, 1798) In a letter written Dec. 25, 1796, J. W. mentions that the Sheares's had been driven out of Dublin by debt, and adds: ‘They have touched citizens B. B. Harvey and Dixon for a few hundreds.’
Beresford writes: ‘They conducted themselves with great decency on the trial, and with firmness, particularly the younger; … but this day, when they found no chance, their courage failed them, and I hear they sent offers of discoveries to Lord Cornwallis…. At the gallows, they both lost their spirits, and the younger, I hear, fell into fits.’ (Beresford Correspondence, ii. 157, 158.) Alexander Knox says: ‘When the Sheares sent to entreat for mercy, it was I who conveyed the message from the Ordinary of Fewgate, and I was present at the consequent conversation between Lord Castlereagh and the Attorney-General.’ (Knox's Remains, iv. 32.) Alexander, writing to Pelham, says: ‘The Sheares died like poltroons; McCann and Byrne, the first with a firm and manly courage, the other. with a constitutional indifference.’ (Alexander to Pelham, July 26, 1798 Pelham MSS.) Barrington has printed a piteous letter from Henry Sheares, imploring him to entreat the Chancellor in his favour, and Lord Clare seems to have, for a time, wished to respite him. Madden pretends that John Sheares showed courage to the end. See the accounts he has brought together (iv. 312, 313, 323-25). See, too, a curious anecdote in Mr. Fitzpatrick's Sham Sqwire, pp. 190-192, and also the contemporary account from a Cork newspaper in Reynolds's Life, ii. 210.
Commons Journals, Jan. 31, 1766. See, too, Faulkner's Journal, July 31, 1798. Some, at least, of the prisoners tried by the special commission, might never have been convicted, if Ireland had not obtained her legislative independence. In consequence of that independence, the English Act of William III., making two witnesses necessary in cases of treason, was not in operation in Ireland, and it had never been adopted by the Irish Parliament.
Howell's State Trials, vol. xxvii. Castlereagh afterwards recommended Reynolds to the English Government as a man ‘of respectable family and good character’ (Castlereagh to Wickham, Nov. 16, 1798, R O); and many years later he wrote to Reynolds: ‘The situation I held in Ireland during the rebellion best enabled me to judge of the motives which influenced your conduct; and I shall always feel it an act of mere justice to you to state, that your protecting assistance was afforded to the State long before you were known to any member of the Government; that it was afforded in the most useful manner, when the prevention of calamity could be your only motive for making the important communications received from you; that they were made without a suggestion of personal advantage to yourself; and…. had it not been for accidental circumstances, … his Majesty's Government in that country might have remamed to this day in ignorance of everything relating to you, but of the truly important services you were enabled to render to your country.’ (Reynolds's Life, i. 447.) Lord Carleton wrote to Reynolds: ‘From the opportunities which were afforded to me in 1798, for forming a judgment of your character and conduct, in assisting his Majesty's Government towards putting down the dangerous rebellion which took place at that period, I formed a judgment that in the whole of your conduct, and in the communications which were carried on on your part with the Government, and in the evidence which you gave upon the prosecutions of the rebels, you had behaved with consistency, integrity, honour, ability, and disinterestedness.’ (Ibid. ii. 100.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 370-372, 374.
Ibid. p. 372.
He describes Bond as having shown admirable courage ‘He desired me to state, that he would not move out of the ranks to save his own life (this was within a few hours of his execution), but that he would act with those men now State prisoners; … and he added, that they could give the only information capable of saving this country from an aggravated civil war.’ The respite was only announced to Bond twenty minutes before the time appointed for his execution. ‘Your friend Neilson,’ writes Alexander, ‘stretching out his arm with his hand clenched, said, “I hold in my hand every muscle, sinew, nay, fibre of the internal organisation—nay. every ramification of the United Irishmen, and” (gradually opening his hand) “I will make it as plain as the palm of my hand, if our terms are complied with.“… The vivacity and earnestness of his manner struck me, not with an opinion of his sincerity, but of the impressive habit he must have acquired. I thought I read in his looks great fear of death, but shading itself under a pretended anxiety to save Bond, who appeared next to indifferent about his fate.’ See two long and interesting letters to Pelham, July 26, Aug. 4, 1798. (Pelham MSS)
‘The Speaker was frantic against it [the respite of Bond], the popular cry of Dublin loud against it. The yeomen were to lay down their arms; all the loyalists felt themselves detested. Luckily, as soon as the Chancellor arrived, he expressed himself most warmly in favour of the measure, first in private, then in Parliament, and said that the Government would have been inexcusable if they had not entertained it. Public confidence revived.’ (Cooke to Pelham, Aug. 9, 1798. Pelham MSS.) Alexander notices, that Parnell was ‘stronger for non-conciliation’ even than the Speaker. Jonah Barrington made a bitter speech in Parliament, in which he said that ‘another class of men than loyalists seemed Government's first care.’ (Alexander to Pelham, July 26, Aug. 4, 1798.)
Corncallis Correspondence, ii. 376; Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 248, 347-353. Compare, with these accounts, that drawn up in a strain of extreme bitterness by McNevin, Pieces of Irish History, pp. 142-161. See, too, the accounts by Emmet and by Sweetman, in Madden's United Irishmen, iii. 58-59, and that of O'Connor in his Letter to Lord Castlereagh, published in 1799.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 423.
Cooke to Pelham, Aug. 9, 1798.
C. Colclough, Aug. 12, 1798. (Pelham MSS.) About this time, a woman came to some yeomanry at Enniscorthy, promising to point out where some of the plate, plundered in the rebellion, was concealed. Five of them agreed to accompany her to a wood in the neighbourhood. They never returned; and their bodies were soon after found unburied, pierced and mangled with pikes. (Faulkner's Journal, Aug. 7, 1798.)
F. H., Aug. 22, 1798. (I.S.P.O.)
D'Auvergne, Prince de Bouillon, to Dundas, July 1798.
J. Judkin Fitzgerald (Clonmel), July 30.
Castlereagh to Wickham, Aug. 4. See, too, Cooke to Wickham, Aug. 7. What a curious memoir,’ he says, ‘does Lord Castlereagh transmit! It unfolds the true spirit of our Jacobins.’ Cornwallis, on the other hand, in returning it to the authors, described it as containing ‘many gross misstatements of facts.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 381.)
See Emmet's statement (Madden, iii. 56). The memoir of the three United Irishmen will be found in the Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 353-372. Cornwallis was quite satisfied with the results of the examination. (Correspondence, ii. 384.)
Saunders's Newsletter, June 28, 1798
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 379, 380.
Faulkner's Journal, Aug. 2, 1798; Auckland Correspondence, iv. 53.
Tone's Memoirs, ii. 454-458, 462, 473, 474, 476, 479.
See Guillon, La France et l'Irlands pendant la Révolution, pp. 331-334.
Las Cases, Mémoires de Sainte-Hélène, ii. 335 (ed. 1823).
7 vendém. an xiii (Sept. 29, 1804).
This letter is in the French Archives de la Marine, and has been printed by Guillon, La France st l'Irlande pendant la Récolution, pp. 359-361.
Tone's Memoirs, ii. 505-509.
Guillon, pp. 368, 369. The orders of the Directory appear only to have been issued on July 30 (12 thermidor, an vi).
Byrne's Memoirs, iii. 54-57.
The bishop is careful to remark, that Mrs. Stock had four other sons.
See his Narrative of what passed at Killala during the French Invasion, by an eye-witness. Bishop Stock also wrote a private journal, which has been printed by Maxwell in his History of the Rebellion of 1798; and two long letters on the same subject, which will be found in the Auckland Correspondence. In addition to his writings and to the Government despatches, the chief original documents relating to Humbert's expedition are: an Impartial Relation of the Military Operations in consequence of the Landing of the French Troops, by an officer who served under Lord Cornwallis (1799)—a pamphlet which contains, among other things, an excellent military map; Notice Historique sur la Descente des Français, par L. O. Fontaine (adjutant-general of Humbert); and The Last Speech and Dying Words of Martin McLoughlin. A book called Aventures de Guerre au Temps de la République, by Moreau de Jonnès, purports to give the account of an eye-witness, but it is full of errors. This expedition, as well as that of Bantry Bay, has recently been investigated by M. Guillon, with a research that leaves little or nothing to be added.
Stock's Narrative, p 60. Miles Byrne gives several particulars about the later life of O'Keon, or, as he calls him, O'Kean. (Memoirs, iii. 64-66.)
N'avez-vous pas enduré constamment les supplices et la mort, parce qu'on vous regardait comme nos amis!’ (Guillon, p. 375.)
A Narrative of what passed at Killala, p. 24. See, too, on the assiduity and success with which this rumour was spread through Mayo, Musgrave, p. 566.
See Musgrave, pp. 560, 561.
Narrative of what passed at Killala, pp. 59, 80, 81; Maxwell, p. 259.
This is the estimate of General Hutchinson (Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 410); Cooke states that Lake's secretary, who was in the battle, said ‘he saw no peasantry;’ and Cornwallis reported to Portland on Sept. 1, that he had good reason to believe that the French ‘have as yet been joined by a very inconsiderable portion of the inhabitants, and those (with very few exceptions) of the lowest order, No material disaffection has shown itself in other parts of the kingdom.’ (Ibid. p. 397.) See, too, p. 402, and Stock's Narrative, pp. 21, 22.
Impartial Relation of the Military Operations in Ireland, in consequence of the Landing of French Troops under General Humbert, by an officer under the command of Lord Cornwallis (1799), pp 5, 6-12.
Miss Edgeworth, who lived not very far from the scene of the rebellion, and who had good means of information, has described forcibly the character of the recruits, and the disgust expressed by the French. (Life of R. L. Edgeworth, ii. 214, 215.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 402. See a curious pamphlet, published at Cork, called The Last Speech and Dying Words of Martin McLouahlin. It is evidently the work of some one who was intimately acquainted with the campaign; but it is equally evident, that it was not the composition of an uneducated peasant. It gives a vivid picture of the alleged ill treatment of the Irish. Fontaine notices that they were employed to draw a waggon with ammunition, as there were no horses. (Notice de la Descente des Français, p. 58.)
Impartial Narrative, pp. 12, 13.
Ibid. p. 14.
See Humbert's despatch, Guillon, p. 384.
Fontaine asserts that there was, in addition, a reserve force in Castlebar itself. (P. 16.) Compare General Hutchinson's statement, Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 410.
Gordon, p. 237.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 410.
Ibid. p. 391.
Ibid. p. 392.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 394, 395.
Guillon, pp. 387, 388.
See Martin McLoughlin, pp. 6, 7.
Narrative, pp. 24, 25.
Stock's Narrative, pp. 81-88, 98. It appears from Bishop Stock, that there were some Orangemen in Connaught. The bishop had much opposed the extension of the society to this province.
Stock's Narrative, p. 86. In his private journal, the bishop mentions that he overheard another French officer say to his commander: ‘Do you know what I would do with these Irish devils, if I had a body to form out of them? I would pick out onethird of them, and, by the Lord, I would shoot the rest.’ (Maxwell, p. 259.)
See the full account in Bishop Stock's Narrative. The bishop says: ‘Whatever could be effected by vigilance, resolution, and conduct, for the safety of a place confided to them, was, to a surprising degree, effected for the district of Killala by these three French officers, without the support of a single soldier of their own country, and that for the long space of twenty-three days, from the first of September to the day of the battle.’ (P. 52.)
Cooke reports that Humbert afterwards ‘said, 200 of the Longford and Kilkenny [Militia] at one time joined them, but they all deserted from them, except about 60.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 402.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 402. See, too, Musgrave, p. 603.
Faulkner's Journal, Sept. 6, 1798.
Compare the Impartial Relation, pp. 20, 27; Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 401.
Guillon, p. 395.
Martin McLoughlin (p. 18). Musgrave states that many Irish deserted from the French to Lake in the course of the pursuit, and that Lake recommended them to mercy—a fact sufficiently unusual to be commemorated. (Musgrave, p. 609.)
Guillon, p. 396.
Stock's Narrative, p. 97.
Compare the accounts in the Impartial Relation, in Guiillon, and in Gordon. The letters in the Cornwallis and Castlereagh Correspondences throw very little light on the details. Fontaine says, the Irish escaped with the exception of 300, who defended themselves to the last, and were all cut to pieces; and he adds, that two brothers named Macdonald performed prodigies of valour. (Fontaine, p 41.) Musgrave pretends that the French, on surrendering, loaded their Irish allies with reproaches Maxwell quotes the following passage from the manuscript ‘Journal of a Field Officer:’ ‘After the action, the regiment was marched to Carrick-on-Shannon, where, in the court house, there were collected a couple of hundred rebel prisoners, taken in arms. An order arrived from Lord Cornwallis, directing a certain number of them to be hanged without further ceremony, and bits of paper were rolled up, the word “death” being written on the number ordered, and, with these in his hat. the adjutant, Captain Kay (on whom devolved the management of this wretched lottery), entered the court house, and the drawing began. As fast as a wretch drew the fatal ticket, he was handed out, and hanged at the door. I am not sure of the exact number thus dealt with, but seventeen were actually banged. It was a dreadful duty to devolve upon any regiment; but somehow or other, men's minds had grown as hard as the nether millstone.’ (Maxwell, pp 243, 244.)
Madden gives, from an old magazine, a report of Matthew Tone's defence, from which he appears to have pretended that he had only come to Ireland because he was a French soldier, and had no sympathy with Irish treason. His brother's journals sufficiently prove the falsehood of the plea (See Madden's United Irishmen, ii. 112-116.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 401, 402.
Gordon, pp. 244-247.
Gordon p. 248. Bee, too, a letter of Captain Urquhart, who seems to have commanded at Castlebar. (Sept. 12, I.S.P.O.) He says, the conduct of the troops was most exemplary.
Stock's Narrative, pp. 70-72, 88, 89, 97, 98.
Ibid. pp. 100-114.
Stock's Narrative, p. 123.
Ibid. pp. 123-127.
Ibid. pp. 39, 123.
Ibid. p. 27.
Stock's Narrative, p. 136.
Ibid. pp. 138, 139 In the Irish State Paper Office, there is a letter from the Rev. Robert Andrews, of Castlebar, describing the capture of Killala, and based on information received from Dean Thompson, who was a prisoner in that town. It fully corroborates the account of Bishop Stock. He speaks of the ‘immense carnage’ among the rebels, and the release of the prisoner, and says: ‘I have the pleasure to add, that not one of the prisoners suffered, owing to the gallantry of the French officers there, who remained faithful to the few devoted Protestants. Their lives were repeatedly threatened. No prisoners except the chiefs were taken.’ (Sent. 23, 1798.)
This was in a letter to Talleyrand, 24 vendémiaire, an vi (Oct. 15, 1797), giving the names of the Irish he knew personally at Paris. He calls Tandy, a ‘respectable vieillard, connu par son patriotisme depuis 30 ans.’ (French Foreign Office.)
Tone's Memoirs, ii. 460, 461, 467. Compare Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 406.
The same names reproduce themselves with a most perplexing frequency in the Irish rebellion. George Orr must not be confused with Samuel Orr (the brother of William Orr, who was hanged), who took part in the rebellion, or with Joseph Orr, of Derry, who is mentioned in Tone's biography. His name is given in full in Murphy's statement in the I.S.P.O.
Deposition of John Powell Murphy before R. Ford, Nov. 2, 1798, I.S.P.O. Aherne's name is spelt Akerne or Akeone in this deposition; but there is a full biography of him in the I.S.P.O. in which his name is spelt as in the text.
Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 405-411. Wickham, in sending this account to Castlereagh (Oct. 25, 1798) says, that it comes from ‘a person of the name of O., respecting whom I have often written to your lordship. He was on board the “Anacreon,” on her late expedition to Ireland.’ (See also a paper of Secret Information, pp. 397-399.) In the I.S.P.O. there are letters about the Tandy expedition, endorsed ‘G.O.,’ especially one dated Liverpool, Oct 21, 1799, giving a detailed account of it.
Exammation of Peter Perry, Bow Street officer, Nov. 5, 1799 (I.S.P.O.). There are several particulars about Blackwell in a note to the Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 284. He had saved, during the Reign of terror, the lives of a Somersetshire gentleman (a colonel in the army) and of his daughter, who were then in France; and he married the daughter. Orr says, that Blackwell, during the voyage, ‘compelled Tandy to give him first the rank of adjutant-general, and next that of general of brigade,’ and that he ‘had Tandy like a child in leading strings.’ (Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 406.)
See the reports of the postmaster, in Musgrave, Appendix, No xxi.
The very graphic description of his state in the Castlereagh Correspondence (i. 407), is fully confirmed by the account which Blackwell gave the Bow Street officer, of the landing at Rutland. ‘Tandy was so drunk on that occasion, that he [Blackwell] was obliged to have him brought on board on men's shoulders.’ ‘Tandy was always drunk, and incapable of acting.’ (Examination of Peter Perry.)
Murphy says ‘When they landed in Ireland, Examinant and George Orr (who had long determined to leave the party as soon as they could) endeavoured to escape, for which Blackwell would have killed Examinant, if Tandy had not prevent him.’ They arrived in England, Oct. 21, 1798. (Deposition of John Ponell Murphy, Nov. 2, 1798.)
Annual Reqister, 1798, pp. 101, 102; 1799, p 274; 1800, pp. 74, 75. Adolphus, vii 236, 237, 242.
See, on these men, Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 284. Morres was a relation of Lord Frankfort, and had been in the Austrian service. Corbett was one of the undergraduates of Trinity College, who had been expelled for treason at the visitation of Lord Clare in February 1798.
An interesting account of William Corbett's very brilliant career in the French service will be found in Byrne's Memoirs, iii. 38-47.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 142, 143. In another letter, Cornwallis says. ‘Considering the incapacity of this old man to do further mischief, the mode by which he came into our hands, his long subsequent confinement, and, lastly, the streams of blood which have flowed in this island for these last three years, I am induced to request that your Grace will submit the above proposition [for his release and banishment] to his Majesty's favourable consideration.’ (Ibid. p. 338. See, too, pp. 352, 353.)
Ibid. p. 355; Annual Register, 1802, p. 369.
The despatches of Sir John Warren describing the action, will be found in the Annual Register, 1798, pp. 144-146. M. Guillon has examined the documents on the French side (La France et l'Irlande, pp. 408, 409). See, too, the account in Wolfe Tone's Memoirs, by Tone's son. The ‘Hoche’ is described in the French accounts as having 74, in Sir J. Warren's despatch as having 84, guns, and there are some other small discrepancies.
It is stated in Tone's Memoirs that be was recognised by Sir George Hill, at a breakfast party at Lord Cavan's (ii. 524, 525), but the story is differently told by Sir George Hill. He wrote to Cooke: ‘Until this moment, such has been the stormy weather, that for two days no boat has been on shore form the “Hoche.”’ This morning, some hundreds of the prisoners are just landed. The first man who stepped out of the boat, habited as an officer, was T. W. Tone. He recognised and addressed me instantly, with as much sang-froid as you might expect from his character. We have not yet ascertained any other Hibernian to be of this party…. Tone is sent off to Derry under a strong escort. He called himself General Smith.’ (Nov. 3, I.S.P.O.) See, too, Faulkner's Journal, Nov. 10, 1798.
There are two singularly heartless letters on the subject in the Irish State Paper Office, one from Lord Cavan to Cooke (Nov. 7), and the other from Sir G. Hill to Cooke (Nov. 15, 1798).
The report of the court-martial, and of the proceedings before the King's Bench, will be found in the State Trials, xxvii. 614-626. See, too, the account by Wolfe Tone's son in Tone's Memoirs. Mr. Dicey has made some striking remarks on this conflict between ordinary and martial law. (Lectures on the Constitution p. 303.)
In the census of 1801, the population of Great Britain was estimated at 10,942,646. The population of Ireland is more doubtful, for the first census (which was a very imperfect one) was only taken in 1813, when it was estimated at 5,937,852. In 1821 it was found to be 6,801,827. Earlier estimates are somewhat conjectural, being based chiefly on the returns of honses; but allowing for the abnormally rapid increase of population in the last decade of the century, they do not greatly disagree. Parker Bush calculated the population in 1788, at about 4,000,000. A calculation based on a return of houses, made to the Irish Parliament early in 1792, placed it at 4,206,612. Whitley Stokes, in an able pamphlet published in 1799, thought it then somewhat exceeded 4,500,000. Gordon, after a careful examination, concluded that in 1798 it was ‘much nearer to five than to four millions.’ Newenham, in his work on Irish population, which was published in 1805, believed it to have risen at that date to 5,395,436.
Compare Guillon, p. 413: and Stock's Narrative, pp. 144-148.
Holt's Memoirs, i. 144.
Holt's Memoirs, i. 219.
Holt's Memoirs, i. 198, 210, 220, 221.
Croker's preface to Holt's Memoirs, p. xx. Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 186.
Bishop Percy's letter to his wife, July 9, 1798. Faulkner's Journal, July 10, 1798. Kirwan's sermon is in the volume of his sermons, printed in 1814.
Faulkner's Journal, Oct. 6, 1798.
Ibid. Aug. 9, 1798.
Ibid. Oct. 6, 1798.
Saunders's Newsletter, July 4, 1798.
See Faulkner's Journal, Aug. 11, Oct 18, 1798.
See the graphic description in Faulkner's Journal, Nov. 6, 1798.
Bishop Percy to his wife, Aug. 7, 1798. Mr. Fitzpatrick notices the riots that took place about this time at Astley's Circus, on account of this tune. (Ireland before the Union, p. 83.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 369.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 419-422. See, too, a debate in the House of Commons about a man named Fenton, who had most deliberately shot a protected rebel. (Faulkner's Journal, Aug. 16, 1798.)
He wrote to Castlereagh. ‘The ends of justice would have been completely answered by a disapprobation of the sentence, was the case perfectly clear; and the warmest advocate for discipline must have been satisfied with the farther step of dissolving the court-martial; but to add, that no member who had sat on that court-martial should be chosen for the future ones, is very severe…. How long is it, my dear Lord C., since we ordered an exclusive armament of supplementary yeomen in the North, and of Mr. Beresford's corps in Dublin? How many months have elapsed since we could not decidedly trust any bodies of men, but those who are now so highly disapproved of? That the violence of some of the partisans of the Protestant interest should be repressed, I believe you know, I sincerely think; but that a condemnation of them should take place will infinitely hurt the English interest in Ireland…. The great question of union will be hurt by this measure, as, however unjustly, it will indispose, I fear, a very important party to whatever seems to be a favourite measure of Government.’ (Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 425, 426.) Lord Enniskillen seems to have shown more moderation under Cornwallis's censure, than his advisers. See Auckland Correspondence, iv. 67; Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 193.
See the dates of these acts, in Madden, i. 349, 350.
A. Brownrigg (Gorey) to Colonel Blaquiere, Jan. 17, 1799, I.S.P.O.; compare Plowden, ii. 785, 786.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 414, 415.
R. Griffith to Pelham, Sept. 6, 1798. (Pelham MSS.)
‘Only a proportion of the captains, and none of the subalterns, of Irish militia, are gentlemen, and everyone knows what a brute the uneducated son of an Irish farmer or middleman is…. The captains cheat the men; both they and the subalterns make themselves hated and despised by them…. In short, if you except the field officers, and a certain small number of officers of lower rank, you may say of the Irish militia, that there is neither honour amongst the officers, nor subordination and discipline in the regiments…. But, notwithstanding all this, I should be very happy to command, on any occasion, a regiment composed of Irish militia soldiers, put into a good old skeleton regiment of the line. I know the Irish nation, and well know the Irish army, and I am convinced, that with good officers and discipline, and a little experience, it would be as fine an army and as loyal as any the King or his ancestors ever had,’ (Colonel Crawford to Wickham, Nov. 19, 1798, R.O.)
Miss Edgeworth has given a vivid description of these ‘middlemen who re-let the lands, and live upon the produce, not only in idleness, but in insolent idleness. This kind of half-gentry, or mock-gentry, seemed to consider it as the most indisputable privilege of a gentleman not to pay his debts. They were ever ready to meet civil law with military brag-of-war. Whenever a swaggering debtor of this species was pressed for payment, he … ended by offering to give, instead of the value of his bond or promise, “the satisfaction of a gentleman, at any hour or place.”’ Thus they put their promptitude to hazard their worthless lives, in place of all merit…. It certainly was not easy to do business with those whose best resource was to settle accounts by wager of battle.’ (Life of R. L. Edgeworth, ii. 120, 121. See, too, a striking passage on the power acquired by this class, pp. 184, 185.)
Castlereagh Correspondence, i 341-343.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 406.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 413-415, 418. Compare the sentiments of one of the most promment members of that ‘small party.’ ‘Be assured,’ Beresford wrote to Auckland, ‘that the whole body of the lower order of Roman Catholics of this country are totally inimical to the English Government; that they are under the influence of the lowest and worst class of their priesthood; that all the extravagant and horrid tenets of that rehgion are as deeply engraven in their hearts as they were a century ago, or three centuries ago, and that they are as barbarous, ignorant, and ferocious as they were then; and if ministers imagine they can treat with such men, just as they would with the people of Yorkshire if they rebelled, they will find themselves mistaken. Again, the Dissenters are another set of enemies to British Government. They are greatly under the influence of their clergy also, and are taught from their cradles to be republicans; but their religion—which is as fierce as their politics—forbids them to unite with the Catholics; and to that, in a great measure, is owing that we were not all destroyed in this rebellion; for I believe, that if the Wexford people had not broken out so early into horrid acts of massacre, as they did, the North would have risen, and who knows what the event might have been? … The Church of England men are all loyal subjects to the King, and true to the British connection, but their minds at present are inflamed to a great degree of animosity against the papists; and this is one reason why the latter so reluctantly submit to any acts of lenity held out by the Government.’ (Beresford Correspondence, ii. 169, 170.)
38 Geo. III. c. 55.
There is only a newspaper report of Plunket's speech (reproduced by Madden, iii. 75); but it is sufficient to show the falsehood of McNevin's statement, that Plunket advocated the summary execution of the signers of the advertisement. (Pieces of Irish History, p. 162.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 390, 391, 399, 403; Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 329, 330, 336, 337; Madden's United Irishmen, iii. 56, 57, 74-76; McNevin's Pieces of Irish History, pp. 160-163; Plowden, ii. 805, 806.
38 Geo. III. c. 78.
See O'Connor's Letter to Lord Castlereagh.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 425, 430; Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 394-396.
McNevin's Pieces of Irish History, p. 236. This letter was written to Henry Jackson, Aug. 23, 1799.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 426.
Compare the Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 350, with the accounts of the three leading United Irishmen, which are given in McNevin's Pieces of Irish History, and in Madden. The paper signed by the seventy-three State prisoners says nothing about the time of their release, but simply states their readiness ‘to emigrate to such country as shall be agreed on between them and the Government.’ See Arthur O'Connor's Letter to Lord Castlereagh, p. 10.
Dickson's Narrative, pp. 112, 116.
I have taken these facts from Mr. James Bonwick's very interesting little work, called First Twenty Years of Australia, pp. 53-66. Mr. Bonwick states, that three Catholic priests were among the Irish convicts, and that a Protestant clergyman, named Henry Fulton, who was transported on account of his participation in the rebellion of 1798, became one of the most prominent and useful clergymen in New South Wales, and a warm friend of the governor. Thomas Muir, the Scotch Jacobite, unlike most of his party, was a sincere Christian, and employed himself much in distributing Scripture extracts among the convicts.
Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 343. Some time before the insurrection had broken out, Portland begged that Irish seditious prisoners might not be brought to the English ports, ‘because we are wholly unprepared for their reception, and the army is in general full as little inclined as the navy, to admit persons of that description into any of their corps…. As to their being sent to the corps in Botany Bay, this mode of disposing of them, appears to me certainly not less exceptionable, than that of placing them in the 60th Regiment.’ (Portland to Camden, July 3, 1797, I.S.P.O.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 424-426.
A number of letters about this transaction will be found in the I.S.P.O. Miles Byrne declares that the deported Irish were compelled to work for years in the Prussian mines. (See Byrne's Memoirs, iii. 163, 164.)
Bishop Percy to his wife, July 30, 1798.
Auckland Correspondence, iv. 70, 71. The following curious extract from a private letter gives a vivid picture of the state of feeling. ‘His Excellency is held in very little respect. The length of time he took to beat Humbert, his subsequent alleged disregard to the rebels in Connaught, his thirty-days’ permission to them to cut the Protestants’ throats, his orders to the army to retire to the interior on the approach of an invading enemy; his putting the yeomanry off permanent duty in the county of Wicklow; his alleged neglect of the late outrages in Wexford and Kildare; his system of mercy to the rebels, contrasted with his severe sentence of censure on Wollaghan's courtmartial—are universally brought in charge against him in all companies, as indicating a determination on his part to render the kingdom, upon system, uncomfortable to the Protestants, and thereby to force them to become the solicitors for an union. The devil of this language is, that it is chiefly held by the most approved friends of Government.’ (Sir G. Hill to Cooke, November 15, 1798.)
Castlereagh to Wickham (private), March 6, 1799. (Record Office.)
Madden's United Irishmen, i. 353. He says, 20,000 of the King's troops and 50,000 of the people perished.
Newenham, On Irish Population, p. 131. Alexander Marsden, who held a very confidential post under the Irish Government, wrote: ‘There have not less than 20,000 persons fallen in this conflict, which for the time was carried on with great inveteracy. It was a desperate remedy, but the country will now be in a much more secure state than before,’ (A. Marsden to Messrs. Goldsmid, Aug. 4, 1798, I.S.P.O.)
Leadbeater Papers, i. 247.
Compare Gordon's History of the Rebellion, pp. 202, 203; Musgrave, p. 636; Newenham's State of Ireland, pp. 274, 275.
Vol. vi. p. 434.
See a letter of Beresford to Auckland. (Beresford Correspondence, ii. 161.)
Ibid. pp. 167, 168.
Auckland Correspondence, iii. 442.
Ibid. iv. 37.
See his speech in January 1799 (Parl. Hist. xxxiv. 229, 230). See, too, several allusions to it in the Auckland Correspondence
Vol. vii. p. 145.
Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, Appendix I.
Compare Neilson's evidence in the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, Appendix V., and his own version of it which he sent to Grattan. (Grattan's Life, iv. 410, 411.) Neilson's evidence was exceedingly inaccurate. He is stated in the Report to have said: ‘I was twice with Mr. Grattan at Tinnehinch in April 1798. I either showed Mr. Grattan the last constitution of the Society of United Irishmen, or explained it to him, and pressed him to come forward. I was accompanied at these interviews by John Sweetman and Oliver Bond. But I do not believe Mr. Grattan was ever a United Irishman.’ In his examination he did not mention his interview in company with Hughes; but immediately after his examination, he wrote to the Chancellor to correct his evidence, by stating that he had had another interview with Grattan, in company with Hughes.
Grattan's Life, iv. 413, 414.
Grattan's Life, iv. 373, 374.
Cornwallis to Portland, Sept. 24, 1798.
There is a curious account in Dickson's Narrative (pp. 67, 68) of the eagerness with which Pollock sought evidence against Grattan, and his disappointment at finding that Dickson's correspondence had been with Curran (who was his lawyer), and not with Grattan.
Madden, iv. 40, 41. Sweetman's account of the perfectly innocent character of the visit at which he was present, is powerfully confirmed by the fact that Bond, who was present on the occasion, and who was examined by the Chancellor a few days after Neilson, was asked no question whatever about Grattan. (See his examination, in the Report of the Secret Committee.)