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An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800
by Mary Frances Cusack
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George I. died at Osnaburg, in Germany, on the 10th of June, 1727. On the accession of his successor, the Catholics offered an address expressing their loyalty, but the Lords Justices took care that it should never reach England. The next events of importance were the efforts made by Dr. Boulter, the Protestant Primate, to establish Charter Schools, where Catholic children might be educated; and his equally zealous efforts to prevent Catholics, who had conformed exteriorly to the State religion, from being admitted to practise at the Bar. It may be observed in passing, that these men could scarcely have been as degraded in habits and intellect as some historians have been pleased to represent them, when they could at once become fit for forensic honours, and evinced such ability as to excite the fears of the Protestant party. It should be remarked that their "conversion" was manifestly insincere, otherwise there would have been no cause for apprehension.

The country was suffering at this period from the most fearful distress. There were many causes for this state of destitution, which were quite obvious to all but those who were interested in maintaining it. The poorer classes, being almost exclusively Catholics, had been deprived of every means of support. Trade was crushed, so that they could not become traders; agriculture was not permitted, so that they could not become agriculturists. There was, in fact, no resource for the majority but to emigrate, to steal, or to starve. To a people whose religion always had a preponderating influence on their moral conduct, the last alternative only was available, as there was not the same facilities for emigration then as now. The cultivation of the potato had already become general; it was, indeed, the only way of obtaining food left to these unfortunates. They were easily planted, easily reared; and to men liable at any moment to be driven from their miserable holdings, if they attempted to effect "improvements," or to plant such crops as might attract the rapacity of their landlords, they were an invaluable resource. The man might live who eat nothing but potatoes all the year round, but he could scarcely be envied or ejected for his wealth. In 1739 a severe frost destroyed the entire crop, and a frightful famine ensued, in which it was estimated that 400,000 persons perished of starvation.

In 1747 George Stone succeeded Dr. Hoadley as Primate of Ireland. His appointment was made evidently more in view of temporals than spirituals, and he acted accordingly. Another undignified squabble took place in 1751 and 1753, between the English and Irish Parliaments, on the question of privilege. For a time the "patriot" or Irish party prevailed; but eventually they yielded to the temptation of bribery and place. Henry Boyle, the Speaker, was silenced by being made Earl of Shannon; Anthony Malone was made Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the opposition party was quietly broken up.

An attempt was now made to form a Catholic Association, and to obtain by combination and quiet pressure what had been so long denied to resistance and military force. Dr. Curry, a physician practising in Dublin, and the author of the well-known Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars of Ireland; Charles O'Connor, of Belanagar, the Irish antiquary, and Mr. Wyse, of Waterford, were the projectors and promoters of this scheme. The clergy stood aloof from it, fearing to lose any liberty they still possessed if they demanded more; the aristocracy held back, fearing to forfeit what little property yet remained to them, if they gave the least excuse for fresh "settlements" or plunderings. A few Catholic merchants, however, joined the three friends; and in conjunction they prepared an address to the Duke of Bedford, who was appointed Lord Lieutenant in 1757. The address was favourably received, and an answer returned after some time. The Government already had apprehensions of the French invasion, and it was deemed politic to give the Catholics some encouragement, however faint. It is at least certain that the reply declared, "the zeal and attachment which they [the Catholics] professed, would never be more seasonably manifested than at the present juncture."

Charles Lucas now began his career of patriotism; for at last Irish Protestants were beginning to see, that if Irish Catholics suffered, Irish interests would suffer also; and if Irish interests suffered, they should have their share in the trial. A union between England and Ireland, such as has since been carried out, was now proposed, and violent excitement followed. A mob, principally composed of Protestants, broke into the House of Lords; but the affair soon passed over, and the matter was dropped.

George II. died suddenly at Kensington, and was succeeded by his grandson, George III. But I shall request the attention of the reader to some remarks of considerable importance with regard to foreign events, before continuing the regular course of history. The predilections of the late King for his German connexions, had led him into war both with France and Spain; the imprudence of ministers, if not the unwise and unjust policy of colonial government, involved the country soon after in a conflict with the American dependencies. In each of these cases expatriated Irishmen turned the scale against the country from which they had been so rashly and cruelly ejected. In France, the battle of Fontenoy was won mainly by the Irish Brigade, who were commanded by Colonel Dillon; and the defeat of England by the Irish drew from George II. the well-known exclamation: "Cursed be the laws that deprive me of such subjects!" In Spain, where the Irish officers and soldiers had emigrated by thousands, there was scarcely an engagement in which they did not take a prominent and decisive part. In Canada, the agitation against British exactions was commenced by Charles Thompson, an Irish emigrant, and subsequently the Secretary of Congress; Montgomery, another Irishman, captured Montreal and Quebec; O'Brien and Barry, whose names sufficiently indicate their nationality, were the first to command in the naval engagements; and startled England began to recover slowly and sadly from her long infatuation, to discover what had, indeed, been discovered by the sharp-sighted Schomberg[553] and his master long before, that Irishmen, from their habits of endurance and undaunted courage, were the best soldiers she could find, and that, Celts and Papists as they were, her very existence as a nation might depend upon their co-operation.

The agrarian outrages, the perpetrators of which were known at first by the name of Levellers, and eventually by the appellation of Whiteboys, commenced immediately after the accession of George III. An English traveller, who carefully studied the subject and who certainly could have been in no way interested in misrepresentation, has thus described the cause and the motive of the atrocities they practised. The first cause was the rapacity of the landlords, who, having let their lands far above their value, on condition of allowing the tenants the use of certain commons, now enclosed the commons, but did not lessen the rent. The bricks were to be made, but the straw was not provided; and the people were told that they were idle. The second cause was the exactions of the tithemongers, who were described by this English writer as "harpies who squeezed out the very vitals of the people, and by process, citation, and sequestration, dragged from them the little which the landlord had left them." It was hard for those who had been once owners of the soil, to be obliged to support the intruders into their property in affluence; while they, with even the most strenuous efforts, could barely obtain what would keep them from starvation. It was still harder that men, who had sacrificed their position in society, and their worldly prospects, for the sake of their religion, should be obliged to support clergymen and their families, some of whom never resided in the parishes from which they obtained tithes, and many of whom could not count above half-a-dozen persons as regular members of their congregation.

Mr. Young thus suggests a remedy for these crimes, which, he says, were punished with a "severity which seemed calculated for the meridian of Barbary, while others remain yet the law of the land, which would, if executed, tend more to raise than to quell an insurrection. From all which it is manifest, that the gentlemen of Ireland never thought of a radical cure, from overlooking the real cause of disease, which, in fact, lay in themselves, and not in the wretches they doomed to the gallows. Let them change their own conduct entirely, and the poor will not long riot. Treat them like men, who ought to be as free as yourselves; put an end to that system of religious persecution, which, for seventy years, has divided the kingdom against itself—in these two circumstances lies the cure of insurrection; perform them completely, and you will have an affectionate poor, instead of oppressed and discontented vassals."[554]

How purely these outrages were the deeds of desperate men, who had been made desperate by cruel oppression, and insensible to cruelty by cruel wrongs, is evident from the dying declaration of five Whiteboys, who were executed, in 1762, at Waterford and who publicly declared, and took God to witness, "that in all these tumults it never did enter into their thoughts to do anything against the King or Government."[555]

It could not be expected that the Irish priest would see the people exposed to all this misery—and what to them was far more painful to all this temptation to commit deadly sin—without making some effort in their behalf. There may have been some few priests, who, in their zeal for their country, have sacrificed the sacredness of their office to their indignation at the injury done to their people—who have mixed themselves up with feats of arms, or interfered with more ardour than discretion in the arena of politics; but such instances have been rare, and circumstances have generally made them in some degree excusable. The position of the Irish priest in regard to his flock is so anomalous, that some explanation of it seems necessary in order to understand the accusations made against Father Nicholas Sheehy, and the animosity with which he was hunted to death by his persecutors. While the priest was driven from cave to mountain and from mountain to cave, he was the consoler of his equally persecuted people. The deep reverence which Catholics feel for the office of the priesthood, can scarcely be understood by those who have abolished that office, as far as the law of the land could do so; but a man of ordinary intellectual attainments ought to be able to form some idea of the feelings of others, though he may not have experienced them personally; and a man of ordinary humanity should be able to respect those feelings, however unwise they may seem to him. When education was forbidden to the Irish, the priest obtained education in continental colleges; and there is sufficient evidence to show that many Irish priests of that and of preceding centuries were men of more than ordinary abilities. The Irish, always fond of learning, are ever ready to pay that deference to its possessors which is the best indication of a superior mind, however uncultivated. Thus, the priesthood were respected both for their office and for their erudition. The landlord, the Protestant clergyman, the nearest magistrate, and, perhaps, the tithe-proctor, were the only educated persons in the neighbourhood; but they were leagued against the poor peasant; they demanded rent and tithes, which he had no means of paying; they refused justice, which he had no means of obtaining. The priest, then, was the only friend the peasant had. His friendship was disinterested—he gained nothing by his ministration but poor fare and poor lodging; his friendship was self-sacrificing, for he risked his liberty and his life for his flock. He it was—

"Who, in the winter's night, When the cold blast did bite, Came to my cabin door, And, on the earthen floor, Knelt by me, sick and poor;"

and he, too, when the poor man was made still poorer by his sickness,

"Gave, while his eyes did brim, What I should give to him."[556]

But a time came when the priest was able to do more. Men had seen, in some measure, the absurdity, if not the wickedness, of persecuting the religion of a nation; and at this time priests were tolerated in Ireland. Still, though they risked their lives by it, they could not see their people treated unjustly without a protest. The priest was independent of the landlord; for, if he suffered from his vengeance, he suffered alone, and his own sufferings weighed lightly in the balance compared with the general good. The priest was a gentleman by education, and often by birth; and this gave him a social status which his uneducated people could not possess.[557] Such, was the position of Father Nicholas Sheehy, the parish priest of Clogheen. He had interfered in the vain hope of protecting his unfortunate parishioners from injustice; and, in return, he was himself made the victim of injustice. He was accused of encouraging a French invasion—a fear which was always present to the minds of the rulers, as they could not but know that the Irish had every reason to seek for foreign aid to free them from domestic wrongs. He was accused of encouraging the Whiteboys, because, while he denounced their crimes, he accused those who had driven them to these crimes as the real culprits. He was accused of treason, and a reward of L300 was offered for his apprehension. Conscious of his innocence, he gave himself up at once to justice, though he might easily have fled the country. He was tried in Dublin and acquitted. But his persecutors were not satisfied. A charge of murder was got up against him; and although the body of the man could never be found, although it was sworn that he had left the country, although an alibi was proved for the priest, he was condemned and executed. A gentleman of property and position came forward at the trial to prove that Father Sheehy had slept in his house the very night on which he was accused of having committed the murder; but the moment he appeared in court, a clergyman who sat on the bench had him taken into custody, on pretence of having killed a corporal and a sergeant in a riot. The pretence answered the purpose. After Father Sheehy's execution Mr. Keating was tried; and, as there was not even a shadow of proof, he was acquitted. But it was too late to save the victim.

At the place of execution, Father Sheehy most solemnly declared, on the word of a dying man, that he was not guilty either of murder or of treason; that he never had any intercourse, either directly or indirectly, with the French; and that he had never known of any such intercourse being practised by others. Notwithstanding this solemn declaration of a dying man, a recent writer of Irish history says, "there can be no doubt" that he was deeply implicated in treasonable practices, and "he seems to have been" a principal in the plot to murder Lord Carrick. The "no doubt" and "seems to have been" of an individual are not proofs, but they tend to perpetuate false impressions, and do grievous injustice to the memory of the dead. The writer has also omitted all the facts which tended to prove Father Sheehy's innocence.

In 1771 a grace was granted to the Catholics, by which they were allowed to take a lease of fifty acres of bog, and half an acre of arable land for a house; but this holding should not be within a mile of any town. In 1773 an attempt was made to tax absentees; but as they were the principal landowners, they easily defeated the measure. A pamphlet was published in 1769, containing a list of the absentees, which is in itself sufficient to account for any amount of misery and disaffection in Ireland. There can be no doubt of the correctness of the statement, because the names of the individuals and the amount of their property are given in full. Property to the amount of L73,375 belonged to persons who never visited Ireland. Pensions to the amount of L371,900 were paid to persons who lived out of Ireland. Property to the amount of L117,800 was possessed by persons who visited Ireland occasionally, but lived abroad. Incomes to the amount of L72,200 were possessed by officials and bishops, who generally lived out of Ireland. The state of trade is also treated in the same work, in which the injustice the country has suffered is fully and clearly explained.

The American war commenced in 1775, and the English Parliament at once resolved to relieve Ireland of some of her commercial disabilities. Some trifling concessions were granted, just enough to show the Irish that they need not expect justice except under the compulsion of fear, and not enough to benefit the country. Irish soldiers were now asked for and granted; but exportation of Irish commodities to America was forbidden, and in consequence the country was reduced to a state of fearful distress. The Irish debt rose to L994,890, but the pension list was still continued and paid to absentees. When the independence of the American States was acknowledged by France, a Bill for the partial relief of the Catholics passed unanimously through the English Parliament. Catholics were now allowed a few of the rights of citizens. They were permitted to take and dispose of leases, and priests and schoolmasters were no longer liable to prosecution.

Grattan had entered Parliament in the year 1775. In 1779 he addressed the House on the subject of a free trade[558] for Ireland; and on the 19th of April, 1780, he made his famous demand for Irish independence. His address, his subject, and his eloquence were irresistible. "I wish for nothing," he exclaimed, "but to breathe in this our land, in common with my fellow-subjects, the air of liberty. I have no ambition, unless it be the ambition to break your chain and to contemplate your glory. I never will be satisfied as long as the meanest cottager in Ireland has a link of the British chain clinging to his rags; he may be naked, but he shall not be in irons. And I do see the time is at hand, the spirit is gone forth, the declaration is planted; and though great men should apostatize, yet the cause will live; and though the public speaker should die, yet the immortal fire shall outlast the organ which conveyed it; and the breath of liberty, like the word of the holy man, will not die with the prophet, but survive him."

The country was agitated to the very core. A few links of the chain had been broken. A mighty reaction set in after long bondage. The newly-freed members of the body politic were enjoying all the delicious sensations of a return from a state of disease to a state o partial health. The Celt was not one to be stupefied or numbed by long confinement; and if the restraint were loosened a little more, he was ready to bound into the race of life, joyous and free, too happy to mistrust, and too generous not to forgive his captors. But, alas! the freedom was not yet granted, and the joy was more in prospect of what might be, than in thankfulness of what was.



The Volunteer Corps, which had been formed in Belfast in 1779, when the coast was threatened by privateers, had now risen to be a body of national importance. They were reviewed in public, and complimented by Parliament. But they were patriots. On the 28th of December, 1781, a few of the leading members of the Ulster regiments met at Charlemont, and convened a meeting of delegates from all the Volunteer Associations, at Dungannon, on the 15th of February, 1782. The delegates assembled on the appointed day, and Government dared not prevent or interrupt their proceedings. Colonel William Irvine presided, and twenty-one resolutions were adopted, demanding civil rights, and the removal of commercial restraints. One resolution expresses their pleasure, as Irishmen, as Christians, and as Protestants, at the relaxation of the penal laws. This resolution was suggested by Grattan to Mr. Dobbs, as he was leaving Dublin to join the assembly. It was passed with only two dissentient votes.

The effect of this combined, powerful, yet determined agitation, was decisive. On the 27th of May, 1782, when the Irish Houses met, after an adjournment of three weeks, the Duke of Portland announced the unconditional concessions which had been made to Ireland by the English Parliament. Mr. Grattan interpreted the concession in the fullest sense, and moved an address, "breathing the generous sentiments of his noble and confiding nature." Mr. Flood and a few other members took a different and more cautious view of the case. They wished for something more than a simple repeal of the Act of 6 George I., and they demanded an express declaration that England would not interfere with Irish affairs. But his address was carried by a division of 211 to 2; and the House, to show its gratitude, voted that 20,000 Irish seamen should be raised for the British navy, at a cost of L100,000, and that L50,000 should be given to purchase an estate and build a house for Mr. Grattan, whose eloquence had contributed so powerfully to obtain what they hoped would prove justice to Ireland.



FOOTNOTES:

[547] Government.—Harris' Life of William III. p. 357.

[548] Insignificant.—A petition was sent in to Parliament by the Protestant porters of Dublin, complaining of Darby Ryan for employing Catholic porters. The petition was respectfully received, and referred to a "Committee of Grievances."—Com. Jour. vol. ii. f. 699. Such an instance, and it is only one of many, is the best indication of the motive for enacting the penal laws, and the cruelty of them.

[549] Property.—It will be remembered that at this time Catholics were in a majority of at least five to one over Protestants. Hence intermarriages took place, and circumstances occurred, in which Protestants found it their interest to hold property for Catholics, to prevent it from being seized by others. A gentleman of considerable property in the county Kerry, has informed me that his property was held in this way for several generations.

[550] Earn.—One of the articles of the "violated Treaty" expressly provided that the poor Catholics should be allowed to exercise their trade. An Act to prevent the further growth of Popery was passed afterwards, which made it forfeiture of goods and imprisonment for any Catholic to exercise a trade in Limerick or Galway, except seamen, fishermen, and day labourers, and they were to be licensed by the Governor, and not to exceed twenty.—Com. Jour. vol. iii. f. 133.

[551] Palatable.—In his fourth letter he says: "Our ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of England, in return for which we have been rewarded with a worse climate, the privilege of being governed by laws to which we do not consent, a ruined trade, a house of peers without jurisdiction, almost an incapacity for all employments, and the dread of Wood's halfpence."

[552] Scheme.—The very bills of some of the companies were so absurd, that it is marvellous how any rational person could have been deceived by them. One was "for an undertaking which shall be in due time revealed." The undertaker was as good as his word. He got L2,000 paid in on shares one morning, and in the afternoon the "undertaking" was revealed, for he had decamped with the money. Some wag advertised a company "for the invention of melting down sawdust and chips, and casting them into clean deal boards, without cracks or knots."

[553] Schomberg.—He wrote to William of Orange, from before Dundalk, that the English nation made the worst soldiers he had ever seen, because they could not bear hardships; "yet," he adds, "the Parliament and people have a prejudice, that an English new-raised soldier can beat above six of his enemies."—Dalrymple's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 178. According to the records of the War Office in France, 450,000 Irishmen died in the service of that country from 1691 to 1745, and, in round numbers, as many more from 1745 to the Revolution.

[554] Vassals.—Young's Tour, vol. ii. pp. 41, 42. It should be remembered that Mr. Young was an Englishman and a Protestant, and that he had no property in Ireland to blind him to the truth.

[555] Government,—Curry's Historical Review, vol. ii. p. 274, edition of 1786. This work affords a very valuable and accurate account of the times, written from personal knowledge.

[556] Him.—The ballad of Soggarth Aroon (priest, dear) was written by John Banim, in 1831. It is a most true and vivid expression of the feelings of the Irish towards their priests.

[557] Possess.—While these pages were passing through the press, a circumstance has occurred which so clearly illustrates the position of the Irish priest, that I cannot avoid mentioning it. A gentleman has purchased some property, and his first act is to give his three tenants notice to quit. The unfortunate men have no resource but to obey the cruel mandate, and to turn out upon the world homeless and penniless. They cannot go to law, for the law would be against them. They are not in a position to appeal to public opinion, for they are only farmers. The parish priest is their only resource and their only friend. He appeals to the feelings of their new landlord in a most courteous letter, in which he represents the cruel sufferings these three families must endure. The landlord replies that he has bought the land as a "commercial speculation," and of course he has a right to do whatever he considers most for his advantage; but offers to allow the tenants to remain if they consent to pay double their former rent—a rent which would be double the real value of the land. Such cases are constantly occurring, and are constantly exposed by priests; and we have known more than one instance in which fear of such exposure has obtained justice. A few of them are mentioned from time to time in the Irish local papers. The majority of cases are entirely unknown, except to the persons concerned; but they are remembered by the poor sufferers and their friends. I believe, if the people of England were aware of one-half of these ejectments, and the sufferings they cause, they would rise up as a body and demand justice for Ireland and the Irish; they would marvel at the patience with which what to them would be so intolerable has been borne so long.

[558] Free trade,—A very important work was published in 1779, called The Commercial Restraints of Ireland Considered. It is a calm and temperate statement of facts and figures. The writer shows that the agrarian outrages of the Whiteboys were caused by distress, and quotes a speech Lord Northumberland to the same effect.—Com. Res., p. 59.



CHAPTER XXXV.

Celebrated Irishmen of the Eighteenth Century—BURKE—- His School and College Life—Early Hatred of Oppression—Johnson's Estimate of Burke—Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful—Commencement of his Political Career—Opinions on the American Question-English Infatuation and Injustice—Irishmen Prominent Actors in the American Revolution—Its Causes and Effects—Burke on Religious Toleration—Catholic Emancipation—His Indian Policy—MOORE—His Poetry and Patriotism—CURRAN—SWIFT—LUCAS—FLOOD—GRATTAN—EARL OF CHARLEMONT—Irish Artists, Authors, and Actors—SHERIDAN—Scene in the House of Lords during the Impeachment of Warren Hastings—GOLDSMITH.

[A.D. 1700-1800.]

Each century of Irish history would require a volume of its own, if the lives of its eminent men were recorded as they should be; but the eighteenth century may boast of a host of noble Irishmen, whose fame is known even to those who are most indifferent to the history of that country. It was in this century that Burke, coming forth from the Quaker school of Ballitore, his mind strengthened by its calm discipline, his intellect cultivated by its gifted master, preached political wisdom to the Saxons, who were politically wise as far as they followed his teaching, and politically unfortunate when they failed to do so. His public career demands the most careful consideration from every statesman who may have any higher object in view than the mere fact of having a seat in the cabinet; nor should it be of less interest or value to those whose intellectual capacities are such as to enable them to grasp any higher subject than the plot of a sensational novel. It was in this century also that Moore began to write his world-famed songs, to amaze the learned by his descriptions of a country which he had never seen, and to fling out those poetical hand grenades, those pasquinades and squibs, whose rich humour and keenly-pointed satire had so much influence on the politics of the day. It was in this century that Sheridan, who was the first to introduce Moore to London society, distinguished himself at once as dramatist, orator, and statesman, and left in his life and death a terrible lesson to his nation of the miseries and degradations consequent on indulgence in their besetting sin. It was in this century that Steele, the bosom friend of Addison, and his literary equal, contributed largely to the success and popularity of the Spectator, the Guardian, and the Tatler, though, as usual, English literature takes the credit to itself of what has been accomplished for it by Irish writers.[559]

Burke is, however, unquestionably both the prominent man of his age and of his nation in that age; and happily we have abundant material for forming a correct estimate of his character and his works. Burke was born in Dublin, on the 1st of January, 1730. His father was an attorney in good business, and of course a Protestant, as at that period none, except those who professed the religion of a small minority, were permitted to govern the vast majority, or to avail themselves of any kind of temporal advancement. The mother of the future statesman was a Miss Nagle, of Mallow, a descendant of whose family became afterwards very famous as the foundress of a religious order.[560] The family estate was at Castletown-Roche, in the vicinity of Doneraile; this property descended to Garrett, Edmund's elder brother. A famous school had been founded by a member of the Society of Friends at Ballitore, and thither young Burke and his brother were sent for their education The boys arrived there on the 26th May, 1741. A warm friendship soon sprang up between Edmund and Richard Shackleton, the son of his master, a friendship which only terminated with death. We have happily the most ample details of Burke's school-days in the Annals of Ballitore, a work of more than ordinary interest written by Mrs. Leadbeater, the daughter of Burke's special friend. His native talent was soon developed under the care of his excellent master, and there can be little doubt that the tolerant ideas of his after life were learned, or at least cultivated, at the Quaker school.

One instance of the early development of his talent for humour, and another of his keen sense of injustice, must find record here. The entrance of the judges to the county town of Athy was a spectacle which had naturally special attraction for the boys. All were permitted to go, but on condition that each of the senior pupils should write a description of what he had seen in Latin verse. Burke's task was soon accomplished—not so that of another hapless youth, whose ideas and Latinity were probably on a par. When he had implored the help of his more gifted companion, Edmund determined at least that he should contribute an idea for his theme, but for all reply as to what he had noticed in particular on the festal occasion, he only answered, "A fat piper in a brown coat." However Burke's ideas of "the sublime" may have predominated, his idea of the ludicrous was at this time uppermost; and in a few moments a poem was composed, the first line of which only has been preserved—

"Piper erat fattus, qui brownum tegmen habebat."

"He loved humour," writes Mrs. Leadbeater,[561] "and my father was very witty. The two friends sharpened their intellect and sported their wit till peals of laughter in the schoolroom often caused the reverend and grave master to implore them, with suppressed smiles, to desist, or he should have to turn them out, as their example might be followed, where folly and uproar would take the place of humour and wisdom."

His hatred of oppression and injustice was also manifested about this time. A poor man was compelled to pull down his cabin, because the surveyor of roads considered that it stood too near the highway. The boy watched him performing his melancholy task, and declared that, if he were in authority, such scenes should never be enacted. How well he kept his word, and how true he was in manhood to the good and holy impulses of his youth, his future career amply manifests.

Burke entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1744; Goldsmith entered college the following year, and Flood was a fellow-commoner; but these distinguished men knew little of each other in early life, and none of them were in any way remarkable during their academic career. In 1753 Burke arrived in London, and occupied himself in legal studies and the pursuit of literature. His colloquial gifts and his attractive manner won all hearts, while his mental superiority commanded the respect of the learned. Even Johnson, who was too proud to praise others, much as he loved flattery himself, was fain to give his most earnest word of commendation to the young Irishman, and even admitted that he envied Burke for being "continually the same," though he could not refrain from having a fling at him for not being a "good listener"—a deadly sin in the estimation of one who seldom wished to hear any other voice but his own. Burke, sir, he exclaimed to the obsequious Boswell—Burke is such a man, that if you met him for the first time in the street, and conversed with him for not five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say that is an extraordinary man.[562]

Some essays in imitation of Dr. Charles Lucas, and a translation of part of the second Georgic of Virgil, which, in finish of style, is, at least, not inferior to Dryden, were among the earliest efforts of his gifted pen; and, no doubt, these and other literary occupations gave him a faculty of expressing thought in cultivated language, which was still further developed by constant intercourse with Johnson, ever ready for argument, and his club, who were all equally desirous to listen when either spoke. His Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, unfortunately better known in the present day by its title than by its contents, at once attracted immense attention, and brought considerable pecuniary help to the author. But the constant pressure of intellectual labour soon began to tell upon a constitution always delicate. His health gave way entirely, and he appeared likely to sink into a state of physical debility, entirely incompatible with any mental exertion. He applied for advice to Dr. Nugent; the skilful physician saw at once that something more was required than medicine or advice. It was one of those cases of suffering to which the most refined and cultivated minds are especially subjected—one of those instances which prove, perhaps, more than any others, that poor humanity has fallen low indeed. The master-mind was there, the brilliant gems of thought, the acute power of reasoning, that exquisitely delicate sense of feeling, which has never yet been accurately defined, and which probably never can be—which waits for some unseen mystic sympathy to touch it, and decide whether the chord shall be in minor or major key—which produces a tone of thought, now sublime, and now brimming over with coruscations of wit from almost the same incidents; and yet all those faculties of the soul, though not destroyed, are held in abeyance, because the body casts the dull shadow of its own inability and degradation over the spirit—because the spirit is still allied to the flesh, and must suffer with it.

There was something more than perfect rest required in such a case. Rest would, indeed, recruit the body, worn out by the mind's overaction, but the mind also needed some healing process. Some gentle hand should soothe the overstrained chords of thought, and touch them just sufficiently to stimulate their action with gentlest suasion, while it carefully avoided all that might irritate or weary. And such help and healing was found for Burke, or, haply, from bodily debility, mental weakness might have developed itself into mental malady; and the irritability of weakness, to which cultivated minds are often most subjected, might have ended, even for a time, if not wisely treated, in the violence of lunacy. It was natural that the doctor's daughter should assist in the doctor's work; and, perhaps, not less natural that the patient should be fascinated by her. In a short time the cure was perfected, and Burke obtained the greatest earthly blessing for which any man can crave—a devoted wife, a loving companion, a wise adviser, and, above all, a sympathizing friend, to whom all which interested her husband, either in public or private, was her interest as much as, and, if possible, even more than his. Burke's public career certainly opened with happy auspices. He was introduced by the Earl of Charlemont to Mr. Hamilton in 1759, and in 1761 he returned to Ireland in the capacity of private secretary to that gentleman. Mr. Hamilton has acquired, as is well known, the appellation of "single speech," and it is thought he employed Burke to compose his oration; it is probable that he required his assistance in more important ways. But the connexion was soon dissolved, not without some angry words on both sides. Hamilton taunted Burke with having taken him out of a garret, which was not true, for Burke's social position was scarcely inferior to his own; Burke replied with ready wit that he regretted having descended to know him.

In the year 1765, when Lord Grenville was driven from office by the "American Question," the Marquis of Rockingham succeeded him, appointed Burke his private secretary, and had him returned for the English borough of Wendover. His political career commenced at this period. Then, as now, Reform, Ireland, and America were the subjects of the day; and when one considers and compares the politics of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, the progress of parliamentary intellectual development is not very encouraging. The speeches of honorable members, with some few very honorable exceptions, seem to run in the same groove, with the same utter incapacity of realizing a new idea, or a broad and cosmopolitan policy. There were men then, as there are men now, who talked of toleration in one breath, and proclaimed their wooden determination to enforce class ascendency of creed and of station in the next. There were men who would tax fresh air, and give unfortunate wretches poisonous drinks on the cheapest terms. There were men whose foreign policy consisted in wringing all that could be wrung out of dependencies, and then, when the danger was pointed out, when it was shown that those dependencies were not only likely to resist, but were in a position to resist—to a position in which neither shooting nor flogging could silence, if it did not convince—they hid their heads, with ostrich-like fatuity, in the blinding sands of their own ignorance, and declared there could be no danger, for they could not discern it.

I have said that there were three great political questions which occupied the attention of statesmen at that day. I shall briefly glance at each, as they form a most important standpoint in our national history, and are subjects of the first interest to Irishmen and to Irish history; and as Burke's maiden speech in the House of Commons was made in favour of conciliating America, I shall treat that question first. The facts are brief and significant but by no means as thoroughly known or as well considered as they should be, when we remember their all-important results—results which as yet are by no means fully developed.[563] The actual contest between the English nation and her American colonies commenced soon after the accession of George III.; but, as early as the middle of the eighteenth century, Thomas Pownal, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Massachusetts, South Carolina, and New Jersey came to England, and published a work on the administration of the colonies. He seems even then to have had a clear view of the whole case. There is an old proverb about the last grain of rice breaking the back of the camel, but we must remember that the load was made up of many preceding grains. The Stamp Act and Tea Duty were unquestionably the last links of an attempted chain of slavery with which England ventured to fetter the noblest of her colonies, but there were many preceding links. Pownal's work affords evidence of the existence of many. The crown, he said, in theory considered the lands and plantations of the colonists its own, and attempted a far greater control over the personal liberty of the subject than it dared to claim in England. The people, on the other hand, felt that they had by no means forfeited the rights of Englishmen because they had left England; and that, if they submitted to its laws, they should at least have some share in making them. A series of petty collisions, which kept up a state of constant irritation, prepared the way for the final declaration, which, flung aside the bonds of allegiance, and freed the people from the galling chains by which that allegiance was sought to be maintained. A wise policy at home might have averted the fatal disruption for a time, but it is doubtful that it could have been averted for many years, even if the utter incapacity of an obstinate sovereign, and the childish vindictiveness of a minister, had not precipitated the conclusion.

The master intellect of Burke at once grasped the whole question, and his innate sense of justice suggested the remedy. Unfortunately for England, but happily for America, Burke was beyond his age in breadth of policy and in height of honour. Englishmen of the nineteenth century have very freely abused Englishmen of the eighteenth century for their conduct on this occasion; and more than one writer has set down the whole question as one in which "right" was on the side of England, but he argues that there are circumstances under which right should be sacrificed to policy. I cannot agree with this very able writer.[564] The question was not one of right, but of justice; and the English nation, in the reign of George III., failed to see that to do justice was both morally and politically the wisest course. The question of right too often develops itself into the question of might. A man easily persuades himself that he has a right to do what he has the power and the inclination to do; and when his inclination and his opportunities are on the same side, his moral consciousness becomes too frequently blinded, and the question of justice is altogether overlooked.

It was in vain that Burke thundered forth denunciations of the childish policy of the Treasury benches, and asked men to look to first principles, who could hardly be made comprehend what first principles were. He altogether abandoned the question of right, in which men had so puzzled themselves as almost to lose sight of the question of policy. The King would tax the colony, because his nature was obstinate, and what he had determined to do he would do. To such natures reasoning is much like hammering on iron—it only hardens the metal. The minister would tax the colony because the King wished it; and he had neither the strength of mind nor the conscientiousness to resist his sovereign. The Lords stood on their dignity, and would impose the tax if only to show their power. The people considered the whole affair one of pounds shillings, and pence, and could not at all see why they should not wring out the last farthing from a distant colony—could not be taught to discern that the sacrifice of a few pounds at the present moment, might result in the acquisition of a few millions at a future day.

Burke addressed himself directly to the point on all these questions. He laid aside the much-abused question of right; he did not even attempt to show that right and justice should not be separated, and that men who had no share in the government of a country, could not be expected in common justice to assist in the support of that country. He had to address those who could only understand reasons which appealed to their self-interest, and he lowered himself to his audience. The question he said was, "not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice, tell me I ought to do."

The common idea about the separation of the States from England, is simply that they resisted a stamp duty and a tax on tea; the fact is, as I have before hinted, that this was simply the last drop in the cup. Previous to this period, the American colonies were simply considered as objects of English aggrandizement. They were treated as states who only existed for the purpose of benefiting England. The case was in fact parallel to the case of Ireland, and the results would probably have been similar, had Ireland been a little nearer to America, or a little further from England. For many years the trade of America had been kept under the most vexatious restrictions. The iron found there must be sent to England to be manufactured; the ships fitted out there must be at least partly built in England; no saw-mills could be erected, no colony could trade directly with another colony, nor with any nation except England. This selfish, miserable policy met with a well-deserved fate. Even Pitt exclaimed indignantly, in the House of Commons: "We are told that America is obstinate—that America is almost in open rebellion. I rejoice that she has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all sentiments of liberty as voluntarily to become slaves, would have been fit instruments to enslave their fellow-subjects."

In 1765 an agitation was commenced in Philadelphia, by Mr. Charles Thompson, an Irishman, who, after ten years devoted to the cause of his adopted country, was appointed the Secretary of Congress. It has been well remarked, that the Irish, and especially the Irish Catholics, were, of the three nationalities, the most devoted to forwarding the Revolution; and we cannot wonder that it was so, since the Government which had driven them from their native land, ceased not to persecute them in the land of their exile.[565] The first naval engagement was fought under the command of Jeremiah O'Brien, an Irishman.[566] John Barry, also an Irishman, took the command of one of the first American-built ships of war. The first Continental Regiment was composed almost exclusively of Irish-born officers and men, and was the first Rifle Regiment ever organized in the world. Thompson, its first, and Hand, its second colonel, were natives of Ireland. At the siege of Boston the regiment was particularly dreaded by the British.

In 1764 Franklin came to England[567] for the second time, and was examined before the House of Commons on the subject of the Stamp Act. He was treated with a contemptuous indifference, which he never forgot; but he kept his court suit, not without an object; and in 1783, when he signed the treaty of peace, which compelled England to grant humbly what she had refused haughtily, he wore the self-same attire. Well might the immortal Washington say to Governor Trumbull: "There was a day, sir, when this step from our then acknowledged parent state, would have been accepted with gratitude; but that day is irrevocably past."

In 1774, Burke was called upon by the citizens of Bristol to represent them in Parliament, and he presented a petition from them to the House in favour of American independence; but, with the singular inconsistency of their nation, they refused to re-elect him in 1780, because he advocated Catholic Emancipation.

The same principle of justice which made Burke take the side of America against England, or rather made him see that it would be the real advantage of England to conciliate America, made him also take the side of liberty on the Catholic question. The short-sighted and narrow-minded politicians who resisted the reasonable demands of a colony until it was too late to yield, were enabled, unfortunately, to resist more effectually the just demands of several millions of their own people.

It is unquestionably one of the strangest of mental phenomena, that persons who make liberty of conscience their boast and their watchword, should be the first to violate their own principles, and should be utterly unable to see the conclusion of their own favourite premises. If liberty of conscience mean anything, it must surely mean perfect freedom of religious belief for all; and such freedom is certainly incompatible with the slightest restraint, with the most trifling penalty for difference of opinion on such subjects. Again, Burke had recourse to the argumentum ad hominum, the only argument which those with whom he had to deal seemed capable of comprehending.

"After the suppression of the great rebellion of Tyrconnel by William of Orange," writes Mr. Morley,[568] "ascendency began in all its vileness and completeness. The Revolution brought about in Ireland just the reverse of what it effected in England. Here it delivered the body of the nation from the attempted supremacy of a small sect; there it made a small sect supreme over the body of the nation." This is in fact an epitome of Irish history since the so-called Reformation in England, and this was the state of affairs which Burke was called to combat. On all grounds the more powerful party was entirely against him. The merchants of Manchester and Bristol, for whose supposed benefit Irish trade had been ruined, wished to keep up the ascendency, conceiving it to be the surest way of replenishing their coffers. The majority of Irish landlords, who looked always to their own immediate interest, and had none of the far-sighted policy which would enable them to see that the prosperity of the tenant would, in the end, most effectively secure the prosperity of the landlord, were also in favour of ascendency, which promised to satisfy their land hunger, and their miserable greed of gain. The Protestant Church was in favour of ascendency: why should it not be, since its ministers could only derive support from a people who hated them alike for their creed and their oppressions, at the point of the sword and by the "brotherly agency of the tithe-procter," who, if he did not assist in spreading the Gospel, at least took care that its so-called ministers should lack no luxury which could be wrung from a starving and indignant people?[569]

There were but two acts of common justice required on the part of England to make Ireland prosperous and free. It is glorious to say, that Burke was the first to see this, and inaugurate the reign of concession; it is pitiful, it is utterly contemptible, to be obliged to add, that what was then inaugurated is not yet fully accomplished. Burke demanded for Ireland political and religious freedom. Slowly some small concessions of both have been made when England has feared to refuse them. Had the grant been made once for all with manly generosity, some painful chapters of Irish history might have been omitted from this volume—some moments, let us hope, of honest shame might have been spared to those true-hearted Englishmen who deplore the fatuity and the folly of their countrymen. In 1782 the Irish Volunteers obtained from the fears of England what had been vainly asked from her justice. Burke's one idea of good government may be summed up in the words, "Be just, and fear not." In his famous Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, written in 1792, upon the question of admitting the Catholics to the elective franchise, he asks: "Is your government likely to be more secure by continuing causes of grounded discontent to two-thirds of its subjects? Will the constitution be made more solid by depriving this large part of the people of all concern or share in the representation?"

His Indian policy was equally just. "Our dealings with India," says an English writer, "originally and until Burke's time, so far from being marked with virtue and wisdom, were stained with every vice which can lower and deprave human character. How long will it take only to extirpate these traditions from the recollections of the natives? The more effectually their understandings are awakened by English efforts, the more vividly will they recognize, and the more bitterly resent, the iniquities of our first connexion with them." The Indian policy of England and her Irish policy might be written with advantage in parallel columns. It would, at least, have the advantage of showing Irishmen that they had been by no means worse governed than other dependencies of that professedly law and justice loving nation.

I have treated, briefly indeed, and by no means as I should wish, of two of the questions of the day, and of Burke's policy thereon; of the third question a few words only can be said. Burke's idea of Reform consisted in amending the administration of the constitution, rather than in amending the constitution itself. Unquestionably a bad constitution well administered, may be incomparably more beneficial to the subject than a good constitution administered corruptly. Burke's great leading principle was: Be just—and can a man have a nobler end? To suppress an insurrection cruelly, to tax a people unjustly, or to extort money from a nation on false pretences, was to him deeply abhorrent. His first object was to secure the incorruptibility of ministers and of members of parliament. When the post of royal scullion could be confided to a member of parliament, and a favourable vote secured by appointing a representative of the people to the lucrative post of turnspit in the king's kitchen, administration was hopelessly corrupt. There were useless treasurers for useless offices. Burke gave the example of what he taught; and having fixed the Paymaster's salary at four thousand pounds a year, was himself the first person to accept the diminished income.

He has been accused of forsaking his liberal principles in his latter days, simply and solely from his denunciations of the terrible excesses of the French Revolution. Such reprobation was rather a proof that he understood the difference between liberty and licentiousness, and that his accusers had neither the intellect nor the true nobility to discriminate between the frantic deeds of men, whose bad passions, long indulged, had led them on to commit the crimes of demons, and those noble but long-suffering patriots, who endured until endurance became a fault, and only resisted for the benefit of mankind as well as for their own.

So much space has been given to Burke, that it only remains to add a few brief words of the other brilliant stars, who fled across the Channel in the vain pursuit of English patronage—in the vain hope of finding in a free country the liberty to ascend higher than the rulers of that free country permitted in their own.

Moore was born in the year 1780, in the city of Dublin. His father was in trade, a fact which he had the manliness to acknowledge whenever such acknowledgment was necessary. He was educated for the bar, which was just then opened for the first time to the majority of the nation, so long governed, or misgoverned, by laws which they were neither permitted to make or to administer. His poetical talents were early manifested, and his first attempts were in the service of those who are termed patriots or rebels, as the speaker's opinion varies. That he loved liberty and admired liberators can scarcely be doubted, since even later in life he used to boast of his introduction to Thomas Jefferson, while in America, exclaiming: "I had the honour of shaking hands with the man who drew up the Declaration of American Independence." His countryman, Sheridan introduced him to the Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness inquired courteously if he was the son of a certain baronet of the same name. "No, your Royal Highness," replied Moore; "I am the son of a Dublin grocer." He commenced writing his immortal Melodies in 1807, soon after his marriage. But he by no means confined himself to such subjects. With that keen sense of humour almost inseparable from, and generally proportionate to, the most exquisite sensibility of feeling, he caught the salient points of controversy in his day, and no doubt contributed not a little to the obtaining of Catholic Emancipation by the telling satires which he poured forth on its opposers. His reflections, addresed to the Quarterly Review, who recommended an increase of the Church Establishment as the grand panacea of Irish ills, might not be an inappropriate subject of consideration at the present moment. It commences thus:

"I'm quite of your mind: though these Pats cry aloud, That they've got too much Church, tis all nonsense and stuff; For Church is like love, of which Figaro vowed, That even too much of it's not quite enough."

Nor was his letter to the Duke of Newcastle, who was an obstinate opposer of Catholic Emancipation, less witty, or less in point at the present time, for the Lords would not emancipate, whatever the Commons might do:

"While intellect, 'mongst high and low, Is hastening on, they say, Give me the dukes and lords, who go, Like crabs, the other way."

Curran had been called to the bar a few years earlier. He was the son of a poor farmer in the county of Cork, and won his way to fame solely by the exercise of his extraordinary talent. Curran was a Protestant; but he did not think it necessary, because he belonged to a religion which professed liberty of conscience, to deny its exercise to every one but those of his own sect. He first distinguished himself at a contested election. Of his magnificent powers of oratory I shall say nothing, partly because their fame is European, and partly because it would be impossible to do justice to the subject in our limited space. His terrible denunciations of the horrible crimes and cruelties of the soldiers, who were sent to govern Ireland by force, for those who were not wise enough or humane enough to govern it by justice—his scathing denunciations of crown witnesses and informers, should be read at length to be appreciated fully.[570]

Swift's career is also scarcely less known. He, too, was born in Dublin of poor parents, in 1667. Although he became a minister of the Protestant Church, and held considerable emoluments therein, he had the honesty to see, and the courage to acknowledge, its many corruptions. The great lesson which he preached to Irishmen was the lesson of nationality; and, perhaps, they have yet to learn it in the sense in which he intended to teach it. No doubt, Swift, in some way, prepared the path of Burke; for, different as were their respective careers and their respective talents, they had each the same end in view. The "Drapier" was long the idol of his countrymen, and there can be little doubt that the spirit of his writings did much to animate the patriots who followed him—Lucas, Flood, and Grattan. Lucas was undoubtedly one of the purest patriots of his time. His parents were poor farmers in the county Clare, who settled in Dublin, where Lucas was born, in 1713; and in truth patriotism seldom develops itself out of purple and fine linen. Flood, however, may be taken in exception to this inference; his father was a Chief Justice of the Irish King's Bench. When elected a member of the Irish House, his first public effort was for the freedom of his country from the atrocious imposition of Poyning's Law. Unfortunately, he and Grattan quarrelled, and their country was deprived of the immense benefits which might have accrued to it from the cordial political union of two such men.

But a list of the great men of the eighteenth century, however brief, would be certainly most imperfect if I omitted the name of the Earl of Charlemont, who, had his courage been equal to his honesty of purpose, might have been enrolled not merely as an ardent, but even as a successful patriot. He was one of the Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores,—one of those who came to plunder, and who learned to respect their victims, and to repent their oppressions. It is probable that the nine years which the young Earl spent in travelling on the Continent, contributed not a little to his mental enlargement. On his return from countries where freedom exists with boasting, to a country where boasting exists without a corresponding amount of freedom, he was amazed and shocked at the first exhibition of its detestable tyranny of class. A grand procession of peers and peeresses was appointed to receive the unfortunate Princess Caroline; but, before the Princess landed, the Duchess of Bedford was commanded to inform the Irish peeresses that they were not to walk, or to take any part in the ceremonial. The young Earl could not restrain his indignation at this utterly uncalled-for insult. He obtained a royal audience, and exerted himself with so much energy, that the obnoxious order was rescinded. The Earl's rank, as well as his patriotism, naturally placed him at the head of his party; and he resolutely opposed those laws which Burke had designated as a "disgrace to the statute-books of any nation, and so odious in their principles, that one might think they were passed in hell, and that demons were the legislators." In 1766, his Lordship brought a bill into the House of Lords to enable a poor Catholic peasant to take a lease of a cabin and a potato-garden; but, at the third reading, the Lords rushed in tumultuously, voted Lord Charlemont out of the chair, and taunted him with being little better than a Papist. The failure and the taunt bewildered an intellect never very clear; and, perhaps, hopelessness quenched the spirit of patriotism, which had once, at least, burned brightly. In fear of being taunted as a Papist, like many a wiser man, he rushed into the extreme of Protestant loyalty, and joined in the contemptible outcry for Protestant ascendency.

The eighteenth century was also rife in Irishmen whose intellects were devoted to literature. It claims its painters in Barrett, who was actually the founder of the Royal Academy in England, and in Barry, the most eminent historical painter of his age; its poets in Parnell, Goldsmith, Wade, O'Keeffe, Moore, and many others; its musician in Kelly, a full list of whose operatic music would fill several pages; its authors in Steele, Swift, Young, O'Leary, Malone, Congreve, Sheridan, and Goldsmith; and its actors in Macklin, Milliken, Barry, Willis, and Woffington.

Sheridan was born in Dublin, in the year 1757. He commenced his career as author by writing for the stage; but his acquaintance with Fox, who soon discerned his amazing abilities, led him in another direction. In 1786 he was employed with Burke in the impeachment of Warren Hastings. The galleries of the House of Lords were filled to overflowing; peers and peeresses secured seats early in the day; actresses came to learn declamation, authors to learn style. Mrs. Siddons, accustomed as she was to the simulation of passion in herself and others, shrieked and swooned while he denounced the atrocities of which Hastings had been guilty. Fox, Pitt, and Byron, were unanimous in their praise. And on the very same night, and at the very same time, when the gifted Celt was thundering justice to India into the ears of Englishmen, his School for Scandal, one of the best comedies on the British stage, was being acted in one theatre, and his Duenna, one of its best operas, was being performed in another.

Sheridan died in 1816, a victim to intemperance, for which he had not even the excuse of misfortune. Had not his besetting sin degraded and incapacitated him, it is probable he would have been prime-minister on the death of Fox. At the early age of forty he was a confirmed drunkard. The master mind which had led a senate, was clouded over by the fumes of an accursed spirit; the brilliant eyes that had captivated a million hearts, were dimmed and bloodshot; the once noble brain, which had used its hundred gifts with equal success and ability, was deprived of all power of acting; the tongue, whose potent spell had entranced thousands, was scarcely able to articulate. Alas, and a thousand times alas! that man can thus mar his Maker's work, and stamp ruin and wretchedness where a wealth of mental power had been given to reign supreme.

Goldsmith's father was a Protestant clergyman. The poet was born at Pallas, in the county Longford. After a series of adventures, not always to his credit, and sundry wanderings on the Continent in the most extreme poverty, he settled in London. Here he met with considerable success as an author, and enjoyed the society of the first literary men of the day. After the first and inevitable struggles of a poor author, had he possessed even half as much talent for business as capacity for intellectual effort, he might soon have obtained a competency by his pen; but, unfortunately, though he was not seriously addicted to intemperance, his convivial habits, and his attraction for the gaming table, soon scattered his hard-won earnings. His "knack of hoping," however, helped him through life. He died on the 4th April, 1774. His last words were sad indeed, in whatever sense they may be taken. He was suffering from fever, but his devoted medical attendant, Doctor Norton, perceiving his pulse to be unusually high even under such circumstances, asked, "Is your mind at ease?" "No, it is not," was Goldsmith's sad reply; and these were the last words he uttered.



FOOTNOTES:

[559] Writers.—As a general rule, when Irishmen succeed either in literature, politics, or war, the credit of their performances is usually debited to the English; when they fail, we hear terrible clamours of Irish incapacity. Thackeray commences his "English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century" with Swift, and ends them with Goldsmith! I do not suppose he had any intention of defrauding the Celtic race; he simply followed the usual course. Irishmen are, perhaps, themselves most to blame, for much of this is caused by their suicidal deference to a dominant race.

[560] Order.—The Presentation Order was founded by Miss Nano Nagle, of Cork.

[561] Leadbeater.—Annals of Ballitore, vol. i. p. 50, second edition, 1862. I shall refer to this interesting work again.

[562] Man.—The exact words are: "If a man were to go by chance at the same time with Burke, under a shed to shun a shower, he would say: 'This is an extraordinary man.'"—Boswell's Johnson, vol. iv. p. 245. Foster's version is as above.

[563] Developed.—Since this sentence was penned, I find, with great satisfaction, that a similar view has been taken by a recent writer. See Secularia; or, Surveys on the Main Stream of History, by S. Lucas, p. 250. He opens a chapter on the revolt of the American States thus: "The relations of Great Britain to its colonies, past and present, are an important part of the history of the world; and the form which these relations may hereafter take, will be no small element in the political future. Even our Professors of History ... abstain from noticing their system of government, or the predisposing motives to their subsequent revolt.." The italics are our own. Neglect of the study of Irish history is, I believe, also, one of the causes why Irish grievances are not remedied by the English Government. But grievances may get settled in a way not always satisfactory to the neglecters of them, while they are waiting their leisure to investigate their cause.

[564] Writer.—Morley. Edmund Burke, an Historical Study: Macmillan and Co., 1867. A masterly work, and one which every statesman, and every thinker would do well to peruse carefully. He says: "The question to be asked by every statesman, and by every citizen, with reference to a measure that is recommended to him as the enforcement of a public right, is whether the right is one which it is to the public advantage to enforce."—p. 146.

[565] Exile.—Maguire's Irish in America, p. 355: "It would seem as if they instinctively arrayed themselves in hostility to the British power; a fact to be explained alike by their love of liberty, and their vivid remembrance of recent or past misgovernment." The italics are our own. The penal laws were enacted with the utmost rigour against Catholics in the colonies, and the only place of refuge was Maryland, founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore. Here there was liberty of conscience for all, but here only. The sects who had fled to America to obtain "freedom to worship God," soon manifested their determination that no one should have liberty of conscience except themselves, and gave the lie to their own principles, by persecuting each other for the most trifling differences of opinion on religious questions, in the cruelest manner. Cutting off ears, whipping, and maiming were in constant practice. See Maguire's Irish in America, p. 349; Lucas' Secularia, pp. 220-246.

[566] Irishman.—See Cooper's Naval History.

[567] England.—He wrote to Thompson, from London, saying that he could effect nothing: "The sun of liberty is set; we must now light up the candles of industry." The Secretary replied, with Celtic vehemence: "Be assured we shall light up torches of a very different kind." When the Catholics of the United States sent up their celebrated Address to Washington, in 1790, he alludes in one part of his reply to the immense assistance obtained from them in effecting the Revolution: "I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution and the establishment of their government, or the important assistance they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic religion is professed."

[568] Morley.—Edmund Burke, an Historical Study, p. 181.

[569] People.—Chesterfield said, in 1764, that the poor people in Ireland were used "worse than negroes." "Aristocracy," said Adam Smith, "was not founded in the natural and respectable distinctions of birth and fortune, but in the most odious of all distinctions, those of religious and political prejudices—distinctions which, more than any other, animate both the insolence of the oppressors, and the hatred and indignation of the oppressed."—Morley's Edmund Burke, p. 183.

[570] Fully.—See Curran's Letters and Speeches: Dublin, 1865.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

The Volunteers deserted by their Leaders—Agrarian Outrages and their Cause—Foundation of the United Irishmen—Cruelties of the Orangemen—Government Spies and Informers—Lord Moira exposes the Cruelty of the Yeomanry in Parliament—Mr. Orr's Trial and Death—Details of the Atrocities enacted by the Military from a Protestant History—Tom the Devil—Cruelties practised by Men of Rank—Licentiousness of the Army—Death of Lord Edward FitzGerald—The Rising—Martial Law in Dublin—The Insurrection in Wexford—Massacres at Scullabogue House and Wexford-bridge by the Insurgents—How the Priests were rewarded for saving Lives and Property—The Insurrection in Ulster—The State Prisoners—The Union.

[A.D. 1783-1800.]

Parliament was dissolved on the 15th of July, 1783, and summoned to meet in October. The Volunteers now began to agitate on the important question of parliamentary reform, which, indeed, was necessary, for there were few members who really represented the nation. The close boroughs were bought and sold openly and shamelessly, and many members who were returned for counties were not proof against place or bribes. But the Volunteers had committed the fatal mistake of not obtaining the exercise of the elective franchise for their Catholic fellow-subjects: hence the Irish Parliament obtained only a nominal freedom, as its acts were entirely in the hands of the Government through the venality of the members. On the 10th of November, one hundred and sixty delegates assembled at the Royal Exchange, Dublin. They were headed by Lord Charlemont, and marched in procession to the Rotundo. The Earl of Bristol, an eccentric, but kind and warm-hearted character, who was also the Protestant Bishop of Derry, took a leading part in the deliberations. Sir Boyle Roche, an equally eccentric gentleman, brought a message from Lord Kenmare to the meeting, assuring them that the Catholics were satisfied with what had been granted to them. He had acted under a misapprehension; and the Bishop of Derry, who was in fact the only really liberal member of the corps, informed the delegates that the Catholics had held a meeting, with Sir Patrick Bellew in the chair, in which they repudiated this assertion. Several plans of reform were now proposed; and a Bill was introduced into the House by Mr. Flood, on the 29th of November, and warmly opposed by Mr. Yelverton, who was now Attorney-General, and had formerly been a Volunteer. A stormy scene ensued, but bribery and corruption prevailed. The fate of the Volunteers was sealed. Through motives of prudence or of policy, Lord Charlemont adjourned the convention sine die; and the flame, which had shot up with sudden brilliancy, died out even more rapidly than it had been kindled. The Volunteers were now deserted by their leaders, and assumed the infinitely dangerous form of a democratic movement. Such a movement can rarely succeed, and seldom ends without inflicting worse injuries on the nation than those which it has sought to avert.

The delegates were again convened in Dublin, by Flood and Napper Tandy. They met in October, 1784, and their discussions were carried on in secret. Everywhere the men began to arm themselves, and to train others to military exercises. But the Government had gained a victory over them in the withdrawal of their leaders, and the Attorney-General attempted to intimidate them still further by a prosecution. In 1785 a Bill was introduced for removing some of the commercial restraints of the Irish nation; it passed the Irish House, but, to satisfy popular clamours in England, it was returned with such additions as effectually marred its usefulness. Grattan now saw how grievously he had been mistaken in his estimate of the results of all that was promised in 1782, and he denounced the measure with more than ordinary eloquence. It was rejected by a small majority, after a debate which lasted till eight o'clock in the morning; and the nationality of the small majority purchased the undying hatred of the English minister, William Pitt. The people were still suffering from the cruel exactions of landlords and tithe-proctors. Their poverty and misery were treated with contempt and indifference, and they were driven to open acts of violence, which could not be repressed either by the fear of the consequences, or the earnest exhortations of the Catholic bishops and clergy.[571]

In the north some disturbances had originated as early as 1775, amongst the Protestant weavers, who suffered severely from the general depression of trade, and the avariciousness of commercial speculators. Their association was called "Hearts of Steel." The author of the United Irishman mentions one instance as a sample of many others, in which the ruling elder of a Presbyterian congregation had raised the rents on a number of small farms, and excited in consequence severe acts of retaliation from them.[572] In 1784 two parties commenced agrarian outrages in Ulster, called respectively Peep-o'-Day Boys and Defenders. As the Catholics sided with one party, and the Protestants with another, it merged eventually into a religious feud. The former faction assumed the appellation of Protestant Boys, and at last became the Orange Society, whose atrocities, and the rancorous party-spirit which they so carefully fomented, was one of the principal causes of the rebellion of 1798. The Catholics had assumed the name of Defenders, from being obliged to band in self-defence; but when once a number of uneducated persons are leagued together, personal feeling and strong passions will lead to acts of violence, which the original associates would have shrunk from committing.

Pitt was again thwarted by the Irish Parliament on the Regency question, when the insanity of George III. required the appointment of his heir as governor of England. The Marquis of Buckingham, who was then Lord Lieutenant, refused to forward their address; but the members sent a deputation of their own. This nobleman was open and shameless in his acts of bribery, and added L13,000 a-year to the pension list, already so fatally oppressive to the country. In 1790 he was succeeded by the Earl of Westmoreland, and various clubs were formed; but the Catholics were still excluded from them all. Still the Catholics were an immense majority nationally; the French Revolution had manifested what the people could do; and the rulers of the land, with such terrible examples before their eyes, could not for their own sakes afford to ignore Catholic interests altogether. But the very cause which gave hope was itself the means of taking hope away. The action of the Irish Catholics was paralyzed through fear of the demonlike cruelties which even a successful revolution might induce; and the general fear which the aristocratic party had of giving freedom to the uneducated classes, influenced them to a fatal silence. Again the middle classes were left without leaders, who might have tempered a praiseworthy nationality with a not less praiseworthy prudence, and which might have saved both the nation and some of its best and bravest sons from fearful suffering. A Catholic meeting was held in Dublin, on the 11th of February, 1791, and a resolution was passed to apply to Parliament for relief from their disabilities. This was in truth the origin of the United Irishmen. For the first time Catholics and Protestants agreed cordially and worked together harmoniously. The leading men on the Catholic committee were Keogh, M'Cormic, Sweetman, Byrne, and Branghall; the Protestant leaders were Theobald Wolfe Tone and the Hon. Simon Butler. Tone visited Belfast in October, 1791, and formed the first club of the Society of United Irishmen. He was joined there by Neilson, Simms, Russell, and many others. A club was then formed in Dublin, of which Napper Tandy became a leading member. The fundamental resolutions of the Society were admirable. They stated: "1. That the weight of English influence in the government of this country is so great, as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce. 2. That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed, is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament. 3. That no reform is just which does not include every Irishman of every religious persuasion."

Tone had already obtained considerable influence by his political pamphlets, which had an immense circulation. There can be no doubt that he was tinctured with republican sentiments; but it was impossible for an Irish Protestant, who had any real sympathy with his country, to feel otherwise: it had endured nothing but misery from the monarchical form of government. The Catholics, probably, were only prevented from adopting similar opinions by their inherent belief in the divine right of kings. In 1791 the fears of those who thought the movement had a democratic tendency, were confirmed by the celebration of the anniversary of the French Revolution in Belfast, July, 1791; and in consequence of this, sixty-four Catholics of the upper classes presented a loyal address to the throne. The Catholic delegates met in Dublin in December, 1792, and prepared a petition to the King representing their grievances. It was signed by Dr. Troy, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and Dr. Moylan, on behalf of the clergy. Amongst the laity present were Lords Kenmare, Fingall, Trimbleston, Gormanstown, and French. Five delegates were appointed to present the petition, and they were provided with a very large sum of money, which induced those in power to obtain them an audience. They were introduced to George III. by Edmund Burke. His Majesty sent a message to the Irish Parliament, requesting them to remove some of the disabilities; but the Parliament treated the message with contempt, and Lord Chancellor FitzGibbon brought in a Bill to prevent any bodies from meeting by delegation for the future.

In 1793 a Relief Bill was passed, in consequence of the war with France; a Militia Bill, and the Gunpowder and Convention Bills, were also passed, the latter being an attempt to suppress the Volunteers and the United Irishmen. A meeting of the latter was held in February, 1793, and the chairman and secretary were brought before the House of Lords, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and a fine of L500 each. The following year, January, 1794, Mr. Rowan was prosecuted for an address to the Volunteers, made two years before. Even Curran's eloquence, and the fact that the principal witness was perjured, failed to obtain his acquittal. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine of L500. His conviction only served to increase the popular excitement, as he was considered a martyr to his patriotism. An address was presented to him in Newgate by the United Irishmen, but he escaped on the 1st of May, and got safely to America, though L1,000 was offered for his apprehension.

The English minister now appears to have tried the old game of driving the people into a rebellion, which could be crushed at once by the sword, and would spare the necessity of making concessions; or of entangling the leaders in some act of overt treason, and quashing the movement by depriving it of its heads. An opportunity for the latter manoeuvre now presented itself. A Protestant clergyman, who had resided many years in France, came to the country for the purpose of opening communications between the French Government and the United Irishmen. This gentleman, the Rev. William Jackson, confided his secret to his solicitor, a man named Cockayne. The solicitor informed Mr. Pitt, and by his desire continued to watch his victim, and trade on his open-hearted candour, until he had led him to his doom. The end of the unfortunate clergyman was very miserable. He took poison when brought up for judgment, and died in the dock. His object in committing this crime was to save his property for his wife and children, as it would have been confiscated had his sentence been pronounced.

The Viceroyalty of Earl FitzWilliam once more gave the Irish nation some hope that England would grant them justice. But he was soon recalled; Lord Camden was sent in his stead; and the country was given up to the Beresford faction, who were quite willing to co-operate in Mr. Pitt's plan of setting Protestants and Catholics against each other, of exciting open rebellion, and of profiting by the miseries of the nation to forge new chains for it, by its parliamentary union with England. Everything was done now that could be done to excite the Catholics to rebellion. The Orangemen, if their own statement on oath[573] is to be trusted, were actually bribed to persecute the Catholics; sermons[574] were preached by Protestant ministers to excite their feelings; and when the Catholics resisted, or offered reprisals, they were punished with the utmost severity, while their persecutors always escaped. Lord Carhampton, grandson of the worthless Henry Luttrell, who had betrayed the Irish at the siege of Limerick, commanded the army, and his cruelty is beyond description. An Insurrection Act was passed in 1796; magistrates were allowed to proclaim counties; suspected persons were to be banished the country or pressed into the fleet, without the shadow of trial; and Acts of Indemnity[575] were passed, to shield the magistrates and the military from the consequences of any unlawful cruelties which fanaticism or barbarity might induce them to commit.

Grattan appealed boldly and loudly against these atrocities. "These insurgents," he said, "call themselves Protestant Boys—that is, a banditti of murderers, committing massacre in the name of God, and exercising despotic power in the name of liberty." The published declaration of Lord Gosford and of thirty magistrates, who attempted to obtain some justice for the unfortunate subjects of these wrongs, is scarcely less emphatic. It is dated December 28, 1795: "It is no secret that a persecution, accompanied with all the circumstances of ferocious cruelty which have in all ages distinguished this calamity, is now raging in this country; neither age, nor sex, nor even acknowledged innocence, is sufficient to excite mercy or afford protection. The only crime which the unfortunate objects of this persecution are charged with, is a crime of easy proof indeed; it is simply a profession of the Roman Catholic faith. A lawless banditti have constituted themselves judges of this species of delinquency, and the sentence they pronounce is equally concise and terrible; it is nothing less than a confiscation of all property and immediate banishment—a prescription that has been carried into effect, and exceeds, in the number of those it consigns to ruin and misery, every example that ancient or modern history can supply. These horrors are now acting with impunity. The spirit of justice has disappeared from the country; and the supineness of the magistracy of Armagh has become a common topic of conversation in every corner of the kingdom."

One should have supposed that an official declaration from such an authority, signed by the Governor of Armagh and thirty magistrates, would have produced some effect on the Government of the day; but the sequel proved that such honorable exposure was as ineffective as the rejected petition of millions of Catholics. The formation of the yeomanry corps filled up the cup of bitterness. The United Irishmen, seeing no hope of constitutional redress, formed themselves into a military organization. But, though the utmost precautions were used to conceal the names of members and the plans of the association, their movements were well known to Government from an early period. Tone, in the meantime, came to France from America, and induced Carnot to send an expedition to Ireland, under the command of General Hoche. It ended disastrously. A few vessels cruised for a week in the harbour of Bantry Bay; but, as the remainder of the fleet, which was separated by a fog, did not arrive, Grouchy, the second in command, returned to France.

Meanwhile, the Society of United Irishmen spread rapidly, and especially in those places where the Orangemen exercised their cruelties. Lord Edward FitzGerald now joined the movement; and even those who cannot commend the cause, are obliged to admire the perfection of his devoted self-sacrifice to what he believed to be the interests of his country. His leadership seemed all that was needed to secure success. His gay and frank manner made him popular; his military bearing demanded respect; his superior attainments gave him power to command; his generous disinterestedness was patent to all. But already a paid system of espionage had been established by Government. A set of miscreants were found who could lure their victims to their doom—who could eat and drink, and talk and live with them as their bosom friends, and then sign their death-warrant with the kiss of Judas. There was a regular gang of informers of a low class, like the infamous Jemmy O'Brien, who were under the control of the Town-Majors, Sirr and Swan. But there were gentlemen informers also, who, in many cases, were never so much as suspected by their dupes. MacNally, the advocate of the United Irishmen, and Mr. Graham, their solicitor, were both of that class. Thomas Reynolds, of Killeen Castle, entered their body on purpose to betray them. Captain Armstrong did the same. John Hughes, a Belfast bookseller, had himself arrested several times, to allay their suspicions. John Edward Nevill was equally base and treacherous. However necessary it may be for the ends of government to employ spies and informers, there is no necessity for men to commit crimes of the basest treachery. Such men and such crimes will ever be handed down to posterity with the reprobation they deserve.

Attempts were now made to get assistance from France. Mr. O'Connor and Lord Edward FitzGerald proceeded thither for that purpose; but their mission was not productive of any great result. The people were goaded to madness by the cruelties which were committed on them every day; and it was in vain that persons above all suspicion of countenancing either rebels or Papists, protested against these enormities in the name of common humanity. In 1797 a part of Ulster was proclaimed by General Lalor, and Lord Moira described thus, in the English House of Lords, the sufferings of the unhappy people: "When a man was taken up on suspicion, he was put to the torture; nay, if he were merely accused of concealing the guilt of another, the punishment of picketing, which had for some years been abolished as too inhuman even in the dragoon service, was practised. I have known a man, in order to extort confession of a supposed crime, or of that of some of his neighbours, picketed until he actually fainted; picketed a second time, until he fainted again; picketed a third time, until he once more fainted; and all upon mere suspicion. Nor was this the only species of torture; many had been taken and hung up until they were half dead, and then threatened with a repetition of this cruel treatment unless they made confession of the imputed guilt. These," continued his Lordship, "were not particular acts of cruelty, exercised by men abusing the power committed to them, but they formed part of a system. They were notorious; and no person could say who would be the next victim of this oppression and cruelty." As redress was hopeless, and Parliament equally indifferent to cruelties and to remonstrances, Mr. Grattan and his colleagues left the Irish House to its inhumanity and its fate.

In the autumn of this year, 1797, Mr. Orr, of Antrim, was tried and executed, on a charge of administering the oath of the United Irishmen to a soldier. This gentleman was a person of high character and respectability. He solemnly protested his innocence; the soldier, stung with remorse, swore before a magistrate that the testimony he gave at the trial was false. Petitions were at once sent in, praying for the release of the prisoner, but in vain; he was executed on the 14th of October, though no one doubted his innocence; and "Orr's fate" became a watchword of and an incitement to rebellion. Several of the jury made a solemn oath after the trial that, when locked up for the night to "consider" their verdict, they were supplied abundantly with intoxicating drinks, and informed one and all, that, if they did not give the required verdict of guilty, they should themselves be prosecuted as United Irishmen. Mr. Orr was offered his life and liberty again and again if he would admit his guilt; his wife and four young children added their tears and entreaties to the persuasions of his friends; but he preferred truth and honour to life and freedom. His end was worthy of his resolution. On the scaffold he turned to his faithful attendant, and asked him to remove his watch, as he should need it no more. Mr. Orr was a sincere Protestant; his servant was a Catholic. His last words are happily still on record. He showed the world how a Protestant patriot could die; and that the more sincere and deep his piety, the less likely he would be to indulge in fanatical hatred of those who differed from him. "You, my friend," he said to his weeping and devoted servant—"you, my friend, and I must now part. Our stations here on earth have been a little different, and our mode of worshipping the Almighty Being that we both adore. Before His presence we shall stand equal. Farewell! Remember Orr!"[576]

Alas! there was more to remember than the fate of this noble victim to legal injustice. I have before alluded to that strange phenomenon of human nature, by which men, who, at least, appear to be educated and refined, can, under certain circumstances, become bloodthirsty and cruel. The demon enters into the man, and make him tenfold more demoniacal than himself. But fearful as the deeds of officers and men have been in India, where the unhappy natives were shattered to atoms from the cannons' mouths: or, in more recent times, when men, and even women, have all but expired under the lash; no deeds of savage vengeance have ever exceeded those which were perpetrated daily and hourly in Ireland, before the rebellion of 1798. For the sake of our common humanity I would that they could be passed over unrecorded; for the sake of our common humanity I shall record them in detail, for it may be that the terror of what men can become when they give way to unrestrained passions, may deter some of my fellow-creatures from allowing themselves to participate in or to enact such deeds of blood. Historical justice, too, demands that they should be related. Englishmen have heard much of the cruelties of Irish rebels at Wexford, which I shall neither palliate nor excuse. Englishmen have heard but little of the inhuman atrocities which excited that insurrection, and prompted these reprisals. And let it be remembered, that there are men still living who saw these cruelties enacted in their childhood, and men whose fathers and nearest relations were themselves subjected to these tortures. To the Celt, so warm of heart and so tenacious of memory, what food this is for the tempter, who bids him recall, and bids him revenge, even now, these wrongs! What wonder if passion should take the place of reason, and if religion, which commands him to suffer patiently the memory of injuries inflicted on others, often harder to bear than one's own pain, should sometimes fail to assert its sway![577]

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