Formation of the Irish Brigade—Violation of the Treaty of
Limerick—Enactment of the Penal Laws—Restrictions on Trade—The
Embargo Laws—The Sacramental Test introduced—The Palatines—The Irish
forbidden to enlist in the Army—Dean Swift and the Drapier's
Letters—Attempts to form a Catholic Association—Irish Emigrants defeat
the English in France, Spain, and America—The Whiteboys—An Account of
the Cause of these Outrages, by an English Tourist—Mr. Young's Remedy
for Irish Disaffection—The Peculiar Position and Difficulties of Irish
Priests—The Judicial Murder of Father Nicholas Sheehy—Grattan's Demand
for Irish Independence—The Volunteers—A Glimpse of Freedom.

[A.D. 1691-1783.]

t. John's Gate and the Irish outworks were surrendered to the English;
the English town was left for the Irish troops to occupy until their
departure for France. The men were to have their choice whether they
would serve under William III. or under the French. A few days after
they were mustered on the Clare side of the Shannon, to declare which
alternative they preferred. An Ulster battalion, and a few men in each
regiment, in all about 1,000, entered the service of Government; 2,000
received passes to return home; 11,000, with all the cavalry,
volunteered for France, and embarked for that country in different
detachments, under their respective officers. They were warmly received
in the land of their adoption; and all Irish Catholics to France were
granted the privileges of French citizens, without the formality of
naturalization. And thus was formed the famous "Irish Brigade," which
has become a household word for bravery and the glory of the Irish

The Treaty, as I have said, was signed on the 3rd of October, 1691. The
preamble states that the contracting parties were Sir Charles Porter and
Thomas Coningsby, Lords Justices, with the Baron de Ginkell as
Commander-in-Chief, on the part of William and Mary; Sarsfield, Earl of
Lucan, Viscount Galmoy, Colonel Purcell, Colonel Cusack, Sir J. Butler,
Colonel Dillon, and Colonel Brown, on the part of the Irish nation. The
articles were fifty-two in number. They guaranteed to the Catholics (1)
the free exercise of their religion; (2) the privilege of sitting in
Parliament; (3) freedom of trade; (4) the safety of the estates of those
who had taken up arms for King James; (5) a general amnesty; (6) all the
honours of war to the troops, and a free choice for their future
destination. The articles run to considerable length, and cannot,
therefore, be inserted here; but they may be seen in extenso in
MacGeoghegan's History of Ireland, and several other works. So little
doubt had the Irish that this Treaty would be solemnly observed, that
when the accidental omission of two lines was discovered in the clean
copy, they refused to carry out the arrangements until those lines had
been inserted. The Treaty was confirmed by William and Mary, who pledged
"the honour of England" that it should be kept inviolably, saying: "We
do, for us, our heirs and successors, as far as in us lies, ratify and
confirm the same, and every clause, matter, and thing therein
contained." Two days after the signing of the Treaty, a French fleet
arrived in the Shannon, with 3,000 soldiers, 200 officers, and 10,000
stand of arms. Sarsfield was strongly urged to break faith with the
English; but he nobly rejected the temptation. How little did he foresee
how cruelly that nation would break faith with him!

Two months had scarcely elapsed after the departure of the Irish troops,
when an English historian was obliged to write thus of the open
violation of the articles: "The justices of the peace, sheriffs, and
other magistrates, presuming on their power in the country, dispossessed
several of their Majesties' Catholic subjects, not only of their goods
and chattels, but also of their lands and tenements, to the great
reproach of their Majesties' Government."[547] These complaints were so
general, that the Lords Justices were at last obliged to issue a
proclamation on the subject (November 19, 1691), in which they state
that they had "received complaints from all parts of Ireland of the
ill-treatment of the Irish who had submitted; and that they [the Irish] were so extremely terrified with apprehensions of the continuance of
that usage, that some of those who had quitted the Irish army and went
home, with the resolution not to go to France, were then come back
again, and pressed earnestly to go thither, rather than stay in Ireland,
where, contrary to the public faith, as well as law and justice, they
were robbed in their persons and abused in their substance." Let it be
remembered that this was an official document, and that it emanated from
the last persons who were likely to listen to such complaints, or
relieve them if they could possibly have been denied.

The men who had hoped for confiscations that they might share the
plunder, now began to clamour loudly. It was necessary to get up a
popular cry against Papists, as the surest means of attaining their end.
Individuals who had as little personal hatred to the Pope as they had to
the Grand Turk, and as little real knowledge of the Catholic Faith as of
Mahometanism, uttered wild cries of "No Popery!" and "No Surrender!"

William, whose morals, if not his professions, proclaimed that he was
not troubled with any strong religious convictions, was obliged to yield
to the faction who had set him on the throne. Probably, he yielded
willingly; and was thus able, in some measure, to make a pretence of
doing under pressure what he really wished to do of his own will.

On the 28th of October, 1692, the Parliament in Dublin rejected a Bill
which had been sent from England, containing restrictions on certain
duties, solely to proclaim their independence. A few days after they
were taught a lesson of obedience. Lord Sidney came down to the House
unexpectedly, and prorogued Parliament, with a severe rebuke, ordering
the Clerk to enter his protest against the proceedings of the Commons on
the journals of the House of Lords. The hopes of the English were
raised, and the Parliament brought forward the subject of the Limerick
articles, with torrents of complaints against the Irish in general, and
the Irish Catholics in particular. William received their remonstrance
coolly, and the matter was allowed to rest for a time. In 1695 Lord
Capel was appointed Viceroy. He at once summoned a Parliament, which sat
for several sessions, and in which some of the penal laws against
Catholics were enacted. As I believe the generality even of educated
persons, both in England and Ireland, are entirely ignorant of what
these laws really were, I shall give a brief account of their
enactments, premising first, that seven lay peers and seven Protestant
bishops had the honorable humanity to sign a protest against them.

(1) The Catholic peers were deprived of their right to sit in
Parliament. (2) Catholic gentlemen were forbidden to be elected as
members of Parliament. (3) It denied all Catholics the liberty of
voting, and it excluded them from all offices of trust, and indeed from all remunerative employment, however insignificant.[548] (4) They were
fined £60 a-month for absence from the Protestant form of worship. (5)
They were forbidden to travel five miles from their houses, to keep
arms, to maintain suits at law, or to be guardians or executors. (6) Any
four justices of the peace could, without further trial, banish any man
for life if he refused to attend the Protestant service. (7) Any two
justices of the peace could call any man over sixteen before them, and
if he refused to abjure the Catholic religion, they could bestow his
property on the next of kin. (8) No Catholic could employ a Catholic
schoolmaster to educate his children; and if he sent his child abroad
for education, he was subject to a fine of £100, and the child could not
inherit any property either in England or Ireland. (9) Any Catholic
priest who came to the country should be hanged. (10) Any Protestant
suspecting any other Protestant of holding property[549] in trust for
any Catholic, might file a bill against the suspected trustee, and take
the estate or property from him. (11) Any Protestant seeing a Catholic
tenant-at-will on a farm, which, in his opinion, yielded one-third more
than the yearly rent, might enter on that farm, and, by simply swearing
to the fact, take possession. (12) Any Protestant might take away the
horse of a Catholic, no matter how valuable, by simply paying him £5.
(13) Horses and wagons belonging to Catholics, were in all cases to be
seized for the use of the militia. (14) Any Catholic gentleman's child
who became a Protestant, could at once take possession of his father's

I have only enumerated some of the enactments of this code, and I
believe there are few persons who will not be shocked at their atrocity.
Even if the rights of Catholics had not been secured to them by the
Treaty of Limerick, they had the rights of men; and whatever excuse, on
the ground of hatred of Popery as a religion, may be offered for
depriving men of liberty of conscience, and of a share in the government
of their country, there can be no excuse for the gross injustice of
defrauding them of their property, and placing life and estate at the
mercy of every ruffian who had an interest in depriving them of either
or of both. Although the seventeenth century has not yet been included
in the dark ages, it is possible that posterity, reading these
enactments, may reverse present opinion on this subject.

But though the Parliament which sat in Dublin, and was misnamed Irish,
was quite willing to put down Popery and to take the property of
Catholics, it was not so willing to submit to English rule in other
matters. In 1698 Mr. Molyneux, one of the members for the University of
Dublin, published a work, entitled The Case of Irelands being bound by
Acts of Parliament in England, stated
. But Mr. Molyneux's book was
condemned by the English Parliament; and after a faint show of
resistance, the Irish members succumbed. The next attention which the
English Houses paid to this country, was to suppress the woollen trade.
In 1698 they passed a law for the prevention of the exportation of wool
and of manufactures from Ireland, "under the forfeiture of goods and
ship, and a penalty of £500 for every such offence." The penal laws had
made it "an offence" for a man to practise his religion, or to educate
his children either in Ireland or abroad; the trade laws made it "an
offence" for a man to earn[550] his bread in an honest calling. The
lower class of Protestants were the principal sufferers by the
destruction of the woollen trade; it had been carried on by them almost
exclusively; and it is said that 40,000 persons were reduced to utter
destitution by this one enactment. In addition to this, navigation laws
were passed, which prohibited Irish merchants from trading beyond seas
in any ships except those which were built in England. The embargo laws
followed, of which twenty-two were passed at different periods during
forty years. They forbade Irish merchants, whether Protestant or
Catholic, to trade with any foreign nation, or with any British colony,
direct-to export or import any article, except to or from British
merchants resident in England. Ireland, however, was allowed one
consolation, and this was the permission to import rum duty free. I am
certain that none of the honorable members who voted such laws had the
deliberate intention of making the Irish a nation of beggars and
drunkards; but if the Irish did not become such, it certainly was not
the fault of those who legislated for their own benefit, and, as far as
they had the power to do so, for her ruin, politically and socially.

William had exercised his royal prerogative by disposing, according to
his own inclination, of the estates forfeited by those who had fought
for the royal cause. His favourite, Mrs. Villiers, obtained property
worth £25,000 per annum. In 1799 the English Parliament began to inquire
into this matter, and the Commons voted that "the advising and passing
of the said grants was highly reflecting upon the King's honour."
William had already began to see on what shifting sands the poor fabric
of his popularity was erected. He probably thought of another case in
which his honour had been really pledged, and in which he had been
obliged to sacrifice it to the clamours of these very men. He had failed
in the attempt to keep his Dutch Guards; his last days were embittered;
and had not his death occurred soon after, it is just possible that even
posterity might have read his life in a different fashion.

Anne succeeded to the throne in 1702; and the following year the Duke of
Ormonde was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant. The House of Commons
waited on him with a Bill "to prevent the further growth of Popery." A
few members, who had protested against this Act, resigned their seats,
but others were easily found to take their places, whose opinions
coincided with those of the majority. The Queen's Tory advisers objected
to these strong measures, and attempted to nullify them, by introducing
the clause known as the "Sacramental Test," which excludes from public
offices all who refused to receive the sacrament according to the forms
of the Established Church. As dissenters from that Church had great
influence in the Irish Parliament, and as it was well known that their
abhorrence of the Church which had been established by law was little
short of their hatred of the Church which had been suppressed by law, it
was hoped that they would reject the bill; but they were assured that
they would not be required to take the test, and with this assurance
they passed the Act. It seems to those who look back on such
proceedings, almost a marvel, how men, whose conscience forbade them to
receive the sacrament according to certain rites, and who, in many
cases, certainly would have resigned property, if not life, sooner than
act contrary to their religious convictions, should have been so blindly
infatuated as to compel other men, as far as they had power to do so, to
violate their conscientious convictions. The whole history of the
persecutions which Catholics have endured at the hands of Protestants of
all and every denomination, is certainly one of the most curious phases
of human perversity which the philosopher can find to study.

Two of the gentlemen, Sir Toby Butler and Colonel Cusack, who had signed
the Treaty of Limerick, petitioned to be heard by counsel against the
Bill. But appeals to honour and to justice were alike in vain, when
addressed to men who were destitute of both. The petitioners were
dismissed with the insulting remark, that if they suffered from the Act
it was their own fault, since, if they complied with its requirements,
honours and wealth were at their command. But these were men who would
not violate the dictates of conscience for all that the world could
bestow on them, and of this one should think they had already given
sufficient proof. The Bill was passed without a dissentient voice; and
men who would themselves have rebelled openly and violently if the
Sacramental Test had been imposed on them, and who would have talked
loudly of liberty of conscience, and the blasphemy of interfering with
any one's religious convictions, now, without a shadow of hesitation,
imposed this burden upon their fellow-men, and were guilty of the very
crime of persecution, with which they so frequently charged their
Catholic fellow-subjects.

One Act followed another, each adding some new restriction to the last,
or some fresh incentive for persecution. In 1709 an attempt was made to
plant some Protestant families from Germany in various parts of the
country. These settlements obtained the name of Palatines. But it was
labour lost. Sir John Chichester once observed, that it was useless to
endeavour to root Popery out of Ireland, for it was impregnated in the
very air. A few of the Palatines, like other settlers, still kept to
their own religion; but the majority, as well as the majority of other
settlers, learned to understand and then to believe the Catholic
faith—learned to admire, and then to love, and eventually to amalgamate
with the long-suffering and noble race amongst whom they had been

It would appear that Queen Anne wished her brother to succeed her on the
throne; but he had been educated a Catholic, and he resolutely rejected
all temptations to renounce his faith. Her short and troubled reign
ended on the 1st of August, 1714. Before her death the Parliament had
chosen her successor. Her brother was proscribed, and a reward of
£50,000 offered for his apprehension. The rebellion in favour of James
III., as he was called on the Continent, or the Pretender, as he was
called by those who had no resource but to deny his legitimacy, was
confined entirely to Scotland; but the Irish obtained no additional
grace by their loyalty to the reigning monarch. A new proclamation was
issued, which not only forbid them to enlist in the army, but offered
rewards for the discovery of any Papist who had presumed to enlist, in
order that "he might be turned out, and punished with the utmost
severity of the law." In the next reign we shall see how the suicidal
effect of this policy was visited on the heads of its promoters.

The Irish Parliament now came into collision with the English on a case
of appellate jurisdiction, but they were soon taught their true
position, and with becoming submission deferred to their fate. The Irish
Parliament had long been such merely in name; and the only power they
were allowed to exercise freely, was that of making oppressive and
unjust enactments against their Catholic fellow-subjects. It is a poor
consolation, but one which is not unfrequently indulged, when those who
are oppressed by others become themselves in turn the oppressors of
those who are unfortunate enough to be in their power.

A new phase in Irish history was inaugurated by the versatile talents,
and strong will in their exercise, which characterized the famous Dr.
Jonathan Swift. The quarrels between Whigs and Tories were at their
height. Swift is said to have been a Whig in politics and a Tory in
religion. He now began to write as a patriot; and in his famous
"Drapier's Letters" told the Government of the day some truths which
were more plain than palatable.[551] An Englishman named Wood had
obtained a patent under the Broad Seal, in 1723, for the coinage of
copper halfpence. Even the servile Parliament was indignant, and
protested against a scheme[552] which promised to flood Ireland with bad
coin, and thus to add still more to its already impoverished condition.
There was reason for anxiety. The South Sea Bubble had lately ruined
thousands in England, and France was still suffering from the
Mississippi Scheme. Speculations of all kinds were afloat, and a
temporary mania seemed to have deprived the soberest people of their
ordinary judgment. Dr. Hugh Boulter, an Englishman, was made Archbishop
of Armagh, and sent over mainly to attend to the English interests in
Ireland. But he was unable to control popular feeling; and Swift's
letters accomplished what the Irish Parliament was powerless to effect.
Although it was well known that he was the author of these letters, and
though a reward of £300 was offered for the discovery of the secret, he
escaped unpunished. In 1725 the patent was withdrawn, and Wood received
£3,000 a year for twelve years as an indemnification—an evidence that
he must have given a very large bribe for the original permission, and
that he expected to make more by it than could have been made honestly.
One of the subjects on which Swift wrote most pointedly and effectively,
was that of absentees. He employed both facts and ridicule; but each
were equally in vain. He describes the wretched state of the country;
but his eloquence was unheeded. He gave ludicrous illustrations of the
extreme ignorance of those who governed in regard to those whom they
governed. Unfortunately the state of things which he described and
denounced has continued, with few modifications, to the present day; but
on this subject I have said sufficient elsewhere.

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

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

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

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 £300 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 £73,375 belonged to persons
who never visited Ireland. Pensions to the amount of £371,900 were
paid to persons who lived out of Ireland. Property to the amount of
£117,800 was possessed by persons who visited Ireland occasionally, but
lived abroad. Incomes to the amount of £72,200 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 £994,890, 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.

Grattan demanding Irish Independence.

Grattan demanding Irish Independence.

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

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 £100,000, and that £50,000
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.