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.]

arliament 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 £13,000 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 £500 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
£500. 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 £1,000 was offered for his

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]

I shall give the account of these atrocities in the words of a
Protestant historian first. The Rev. Mr. Gordon writes thus, in his
narrative of these fearful times: "The fears of the people became so
great at length, that they forsook their houses in the night, and slept
(if, under such circumstances, they could sleep) in the ditches and the
women were even delivered in that exposed condition, These facts were
notorious at the time
.... Some abandoned their house from fear of being
whipped; and this infliction many persons appeared to fear more than
death itself
. Many unfortunate men were strung up as it were to be
hanged, but were let down now and then, to try if strangulation would
oblige them to become informers." He then goes on to relate at length
how the magistrates tortured smiths and carpenters at once, because it
was supposed from their trade they must have made pikes; and how they,
at last, professed to know a United Irishman by his face, and "never
suffered any person whom they deigned to honour with this distinction,
to pass off without convincing proof of their attention." He also
mentions the case of a hermit named Driscoll, whose name and the same
details of his sufferings are given in Clancy's account of the
insurrection. This man was strangled three times, and flogged four
times, because a Catholic prayer-book was found in his possession, on
which it was supposed that he used to administer oaths of disloyalty.

I shall now give the account of another historian. Plowden writes thus;
"These military savages [the yeomanry corps—it will be remembered what
Lord Moira said of them in Parliament] were permitted, both by
magistrates and officers, in open day, to seize every man they wished or
chose to suspect as a Croppy, and drag him to the guardhouse, where
they constantly kept a supply of coarse linen caps, besmeared inside
with pitch; and when the pitch was well heated, they forced the cap on
his head; and sometimes the melted pitch, running into the eyes of the
unfortunate victim, superadded blindness to his other tortures. They
generally detained him till the pitch had so cooled, that the cap could
not be detached from the head without carrying with it the hair and
blistered skin; they then turned him adrift, disfigured, often blind,
and writhing with pain. They enjoyed with loud bursts of laughter the
fiendlike sport—the agonies of their victim. At other times, they
rubbed moistened gunpowder into the hair, in the form of a cross, and
set fire to it; and not unfrequently sheared off the ears and nose of
the unfortunate Croppy." Plowden then details the atrocities of a
sergeant of the Cork Militia, who was called Tom the Devil. He
concludes: "It would be uncandid to detail only instances of the brutality of the lower orders, whilst evidence is forthcoming of persons
of fortune and education being still more brutalized by its deleterious
spirit." He then mentions an instance, on the authority of both an
eyewitness and the victim, in which Lord Kingsborough, Mr. Beresford,
and an officer whose name he did not know, tortured two respectable
Dublin tradesmen, one named John Fleming, a ferryman, the other Francis
Gough, a coachmaker. The nobleman superintended the flagellation of
Gough, and at every stroke insulted him with taunts and inquiries how he
liked it. The unfortunate man was confined to his bed in consequence,
for six months after the infliction. On Whit-Sunday, 1798, these men
were again tortured with pitchcaps by the gentlemen. Other instances
might be added, but these will suffice to show the feeling which
actuated the rulers who permitted, and the men who perpetrated, these
deeds of blood. "With difficulty," says Mr. Plowden, "does the mind
yield reluctant consent to such debasement of the human species. The
spirit which degrades it to that abandonment is of no ordinary
depravity. The same spirit of Orangeism moved the colonel in Dublin, and
his sergeant at Wexford. The effect of that spirit can only be faintly
illustrated by facts. Those have been verified to the author by the
spectator and the sufferer."[578]

From a letter of Lady Napier's, never intended for publication, and
above all suspicion of any sympathy with the lower order of Irish, it
will be seen how the tenantry of the Duke of Leinster were driven to
revolt. It is dated Castletown, 27th June, 1798, and addressed to the
Duke of Richmond. "The cruel hardships put on his tenants preferably to
all others, has driven them to despair, and they join the insurgents,
saying: 'It is better to die with a pike in my hand, than be shot like a
dog at my work, or to see my children faint for want of food before my

Sir Ralph Abercrombie was appointed to command the army in Ireland, in
1797; but he threw up his charge, disgusted with atrocities which he
could not control, and which he was too humane even to appear to
sanction.[579] He declared the army to be in a state of licentiousness,
which made it formidable to every one but the enemy. General Lake, a
fitting instrument for any cruelty, was appointed to take his place; and
Lord Castlereagh informs us that "measures were taken by Government to
cause a premature explosion." It would have been more Christian in the
first place, and more politic in the second place, if Government had
taken measures to prevent any explosion at all.[580]

On the 12th of March, 1798, the Leinster delegates, who had been long
since betrayed, were seized by Major Swan, in Dublin. Fifteen persons
were present, the greater number of whom were Protestants. Emmet,
MacNevin, Jackson, and Sweetman, were seized the same day. Arthur
O'Connor had already been arrested on his way to France, with Father
Coigley. The latter was convicted on May 22, at Maidstone, and hanged on
evidence so inconclusive, that Lord Chancellor Thurlow said: "If ever a
poor man was murdered, it was Coigley!" The arrest of Lord Edward
FitzGerald occurred soon after. The room in which he was arrested and
the bed on which he lay is still shown, for the brave young noble had
won for himself the heart's love of every true Irishman. The story of
his life would occupy more space than can be given to it. To abridge it
would be to destroy more than half of its real interest. A severe wound
which he received in the struggle with his captors, combined with the
effects of excitement and a cruel imprisonment, caused his death. He was
a chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. Even his enemies, and the
enemies of his country, could find no word to say against him. With him
died the best hopes of the United Irishmen, and with his expiring breath
they lost their best prospect of success.[581]

Lord Edward died on the 4th of June. The 23rd of May had been fixed for
the rising; but informations were in the hands of the Government.
Captain Armstrong had betrayed the Sheares, two brothers who had devoted
themselves to the cause of their country with more affection than
prudence. The base traitor had wound himself into their confidence, had
dined with them, and was on the most intimate social relations with
their family. On the 12th of July he swore their lives away; and two
days after they were executed, holding each other's hands as they passed
into eternity.

The rising did take place, but it was only partial. The leaders were
gone, dead, or imprisoned; and nothing but the wild desperation, which
suggested that it was better to die fighting than to die inch by inch,
under inhuman torture, could have induced the people to rise at all. The
ferocity with which the insurrection was put down, may be estimated by
the cruelties enacted before it commenced. Lord Cornwallis, in his
Government report to the Duke of Portland, declared that "murder was the
favourite pastime" of the militia. He declared that the principal
persons in the country and the members of Parliament were averse to all
conciliation, and "too much heated to see the effects which their
violence must produce." To General Ross he writes: "The violence of our
friends, and their folly in endeavouring to make it a religious war,
added to the ferocity of our troops, who delight in murder, must
powerfully counteract all plans of conciliation; and the conversation,
even at my table, where you will suppose I do all I can to prevent it,
always turns on hanging, shooting, burning, &c.; and if a priest has
been put to death, the greatest joy is expressed by the whole company."

On the 23rd of May, Dublin was placed under martial law; the citizens
were armed, the guard was trebled, the barristers pleaded with
regimentals and swords, and several of the lamplighters were hung from
their own lamp-posts for neglecting to light the lamps. The country
people were prepared to march on the city, but Lord Roden and his
Foxhunters soon put down their attempt. The next morning the dead were
exhibited in the Castle-yard, and the prisoners were hanged at
Carlisle-bridge. Sir Watkins Wynn and his Ancient Britons distinguished
themselves by their cruelties. The Homsperg Dragoons and the Orange
Yeomanry equalled them in deeds of blood. The fighting commenced in
Kildare, on the 24th, by an attack on Naas, which was repelled by Lord
Gosport. Two of his officers and thirty men were killed, and the people
were shot down and hanged indiscriminately. "Such was the brutal
ferocity of some of the King's troops," says Plowden, "that they half
roasted and eat the flesh of one man, named Walsh, who had not been in
arms." At Prosperous the insurgents attacked and burned the barracks,
and piked any of the soldiers who attempted to escape from the flames.
This regiment, the North Cork Militia, had been specially cruel in their
treatment of the people, who were only too willing to retaliate. A troop
of dragoons, commanded by Captain Erskine, was almost annihilated at Old
Kilcullen. But reverses soon followed. At Carlow the insurgents met with
a severe defeat; and the defenceless and innocent inhabitants, who fled
into their houses for shelter from the fire, were cruelly and ruthlessly
burned to death in their own habitations by the military.

A body of 2,000 men, under a leader named Perkins, encamped on the Hill
of Allan, and agreed with General Douglas to lay down their arms. The
General was honorable and humane, but his subordinates were not so.
Major-General Duff, to whom the arms were to have been delivered up,
ordered his troops to fire on the people, when they had assembled for
that purpose. Lord Roden's cavalry cut them down, and an immense number
were slaughtered in cold blood. Another attack took place at Tara, where
the Irish were again defeated. The insurrection now broke out in
Wexford. The people in this part of the country had not joined the
movement in any way, until the arrival of the North Cork Militia,
commanded by Lord Kingsborough. The men paraded in orange ribbons, fired
at the peaceful country people, and employed pitchcaps and torture,
until their victims were driven to desperation. The county was
proclaimed on the 27th of April, by the magistrates; and before any riot
had taken place, Mr. Hunter Gowan paraded through Gorey at the head of
his yeomanry, with a human finger on the point of his sword, which was
subsequently used to stir their punch in the evening.

On Whit-Sunday, the 27th of May, the yeomen burned the Catholic Chapel
of Boulavogue. Father John Murphy, the parish priest, who had hitherto
tried to suppress the insurrection, placed himself at the head of the
insurgents. The men now rose in numbers, and marched to Enniscorthy,
which they took after some fighting. Vinegar Hill, a lofty eminence
overlooking the town, was chosen for their camp. Some of the leading
Protestant gentlemen of the county had either favoured or joined the
movement; and several of them had been arrested on suspicion, and were
imprisoned at Wexford. The garrison of this place, however, fled in a
panic, caused by some successes of the Irish troops, and probably from a
very clear idea of the kind of retaliation they might expect for their
cruelties. Mr. Harvey, one of the prisoners mentioned above, was now
released, and headed the insurgents; but a powerful body of troops,
under General Loftus, was sent into the district, and eventually
obtained possession of New Ross, which the Irish had taken with great
bravery, but which they had not been able to hold for want of proper
military discipline and command. They owed their defeat to
insubordination and drunkenness. A number of prisoners had been left at
Scullabogue House, near Carrickburne Hill. Some fugitives from the Irish
camp came up in the afternoon, and pretended that Mr. Harvey had given
orders for their execution, alleging, as a reason, what, indeed, was
true, that the royalists massacred indiscriminately. The guard resisted,
but were overpowered by the mob, who were impatient to revenge without
justice the cruelties which had been inflicted on them without justice.
A hundred were burned in a barn, and thirty-seven were shot or piked.
This massacre has been held up as a horrible example of Irish treachery
and cruelty. It was horrible, no doubt, and cannot be defended or
palliated; but, amid these contending horrors of cruel war, the question
still recurs: Upon whom is the original guilt of causing them to be

Father Murphy[582] was killed in an attack on Carlow, and his death
threw the balance strongly in favour of the Government troops, who
eventually proved victorious. After the battle of Ross, the Wexford men
chose the Rev. Philip Roche as their leader, in place of Mr. Bagenal
Harvey, who had resigned the command. The insurgents were now guilty of
following the example of their persecutors, if not with equal cruelty,
at least with a barbarity which their leaders in vain reprobated. The
prisoners whom they had taken were confined in the jail, and every
effort was made to save them from the infuriated people. But one savage,
named Dixon, would not be content without their blood; and while the
army and their leaders were encamped on Vinegar Hill, he and some other
villains as wicked as himself found their way into the jail, and marched
the prisoners to the bridge, held a mock trial, and then piked
thirty-five of their victims, and flung them into the water. At this
moment a priest, who had heard of the bloody deed, hastened to the spot;
and after in vain commanding them to desist, succeeded at last in making
them kneel down, when he dictated a prayer that God might show them the
same mercy which they would show to the surviving prisoners. This had
its effect; and the men who waited in terror to receive the doom they
had so often and so mercilessly inflicted on others, were marched back
to prison.

The camp on Vinegar Hill was now beset on all sides by the royal troops.
An attack was planned by General Lake, with 20,000 men and a large train
of artillery. General Needham did not arrive in time to occupy the
position appointed for him; and after an hour and a-half of hard
fighting, the Irish gave way, principally from want of gunpowder. The
soldiers now indulged in the most wanton deeds of cruelty. The hospital
at Enniscorthy was set on fire, and the wounded men shot in their beds.
At Wexford, General Moore prevented his troops from committing such
outrages; but when the rest of the army arrived, they acted as they had
done at Enniscorthy. Courts-martial were held, in which the officers
were not even sworn, and victims were consigned to execution with
reckless atrocity. The bridge of Wexford, where a Catholic priest had saved so many Protestant lives, was now chosen for the scene of
slaughter; and all this in spite of a promise of amnesty. Father Roche
and Mr. Keogh were the first victims of the higher classes; Messrs.
Grogan, Harvey, and Colclough were hanged the following day. A mixed
commission was now formed of the magistrates, who were principally
Orangemen, and the military, whose virulence was equally great. The Rev.
Mr. Gordon, the Protestant clergyman whose account I have principally
followed, as above all suspicion, declares that "whoever could be proved
to have saved an Orangeman or royalist from assassination, his house
from burning, or his property from plunder, was considered as having
influence amongst the revolters, and consequently as a rebel commander."
The reward for their charity now was instant execution. The Rev. John
Redmond, the Catholic priest of Newtownbarry, had saved Lord Mountmorris
and other gentlemen from the fury of the exasperated people, and had
preserved his house and property from plunder. He was now sent for by
this nobleman; and, conscious of his innocence, and the benefits he had
rendered him, he at once obeyed the summons. On his arrival, he was
seized, brought before the court, and executed on the pretence of having
been a commander in the rebel army. He had, indeed, commanded, but the
only commands he ever uttered were commands of mercy. Well might Mr.
Gordon sorrowfully declare, that he had "heard of hundreds of United
Irishmen, during the insurrection, who have, at the risk of their lives,
saved Orangemen; but I have not heard of a single Orangeman who
encountered any danger to save the life of a United Irishman." With
equal sorrow he remarks the difference in the treatment of females by
each party. The Irish were never once accused of having offered the
slightest insult to a woman; the military, besides shooting them
indiscriminately with the men, treated them in a way which cannot be
described, and under circumstances which added a more than savage
inhumanity to their crime.

The next act of the fatal drama was the execution of the State
prisoners. The rising in Ulster had been rendered ineffective, happily
for the people, by the withdrawal of some of the leaders at the last
moment. The command in Antrim was taken by Henry McCracken, who was at
last captured by the royalists, and executed at Belfast, on the 17th of
June. At Saintfield, in Down, they were commanded by Henry Monroe, who
had been a Volunteer, and had some knowledge of military tactics. In an
engagement at Ballinahinch, he showed considerable ability in the
disposal of his forces, but they were eventually defeated, and he also
paid the forfeit of his life. A remnant of the Wexford insurrection was
all that remained to be crushed. On the 21st of June, Lord Cornwallis
was sent to Ireland, with the command both of the military forces and
the civil power. On the 17th of July an amnesty was proclaimed; and the
majority of the State prisoners were permitted eventually to leave the
country, having purchased their pardon by an account of the plans of the
United Irishmen, which were so entirely broken up that their honour was
in no way compromised by the disclosure.

Several men, however, were executed, in whose fate the country had, for
many reasons, more than ordinary interest. To have pardoned them would
have been more humane and better policy. These were the two Sheares,
M'Cann, and Mr. William Byrne. Their history will be found in the Lives
of the United Irishmen
, by Dr. Madden, a work of many volumes, whose
contents could not possibly be compressed into the brief space which the
limits of this work demands.

Some painfully interesting details of this fearful period may be found
in the Annals of Ballitore, a work already referred to in this volume.
The writer being a member of the Society of Friends, must be beyond all
suspicion of partiality for rebels or Papists; yet, happily, like many
members of that Society, was distinguished for humanity and toleration
for the opinions of others. Her account of '98, being the annals of a
family and a village, is, perhaps, almost better calculated to give an
exact idea of the state of the times than a work comprising a more
extended range of observation; and yet what was suffered in Ballitore
was comparatively trifling when compared with the sufferings of other
villages and towns. The first trial was the quartering of the yeomen,
"from whose bosom," writes this gentle lady, "pity seemed banished." The
Suffolk Fencibles and the Ancient Britons were next quartered on the
unfortunate inhabitants. Then commenced the cruel torturing, for which
the yeomen and militia obtained an eternal reprobation; the public
floggings, of which she writes thus—"the torture was excessive, and the
victims were long in recovering, and in almost every case it was applied
fruitlessly;" yet these demons in human form never relaxed their
cruelty. "The village, once so peaceful, exhibited a scene of tumult and
dismay; and the air rang with the shrieks of the sufferers, and the
lamentations of those who beheld them suffer."[583] Then follow fearful
details, which cannot be given here, but which prove how completely the
people were driven into rebellion, and how cruelly they were punished.
Reprisals, of course, were made by the unfortunate victims; and on one
occasion, Mrs. Leadbeater relates how Priest Cullen begged the life of a
young man on his knees, and, as a reward of his humanity, was
apprehended soon after, and condemned to death. The most cruel scene of
all was the murder of the village doctor, a man who had devoted himself
unweariedly to healing the wounds of both parties; but because he
attended the "rebels," and showed them any acts of common humanity, he
was taken before a court-martial, and "hacked to death" by the yeomen
with their swords. "He was alone and unarmed when seized," writes Mrs.
Leadbeater, "and I believe had never raised his hand to injure any one."

The French allies of Irish insurgents appear to have a fatality for
arriving precisely when their services are worse than useless. On the
22nd of August, 1798, Humbert landed at Killala with a small French
force, who, after a number of engagements, were eventually obliged to
surrender at discretion.

Ireland having been reduced to the lowest state of misery and servitude,
the scheme for which much of this suffering had been enacted was now
proposed and carried out. The first parliamentary intimation was given
in a speech from the throne, on the 22nd of January, 1799; a pamphlet
was published on the subject by Mr. Cooke, the Under-Secretary; but it
required more cogent arguments than either speeches from the throne or
pamphlets to effect the object of Government. Mr. Pitt had set his heart
upon the Union, and Mr. Pitt had determined that the Union should be
carried out at any expense of honour. The majority of the Irish lawyers
protested against it. The Irish people, as far as they dared do so,
opposed it. At a meeting of the Irish bar, on the 9th of December, there
were 166 votes against the Union and only thirty-two in favour of it.
The published correspondence of Lord Cornwallis and Lord Castlereagh has
revealed an amount of nefarious corruption and treachery at which
posterity stands aghast. "These noblemen," writes Sir Jonah Barrington,
"seemed to have been created for such a crisis, and for each other. An
unremitting perseverance, an absence of all political compunctions, an
unqualified contempt of public opinion, and a disregard of every
constitutional principle, were common to both." But Lord Cornwallis had
some compunctions; for he wrote to General Ross, describing his office
as "the most cursed of all situations," and expressing, in language more
forcible than gentlemanly, his ardent desire to "kick those whom his
public duty obliged him to court."

The immediate arrangements made for carrying out the Union were
extremely simple. A scale of "compensation" was arranged—a word which
could, by a slight perversion of the ordinary meaning of the English
language, be used as a new form of expressing what was formerly called
bribery. Every one was promised everything that he wished for, if he
would only consent to the measure. The Catholics were to have
emancipation, the Protestants ascendency, the bar promotion, the people
higher wages, the boroughmongers magnificent compensation. FitzGibbon,
who had been made Lord Clare, and was then Chancellor, bribed,
threatened, and cajoled the Upper House; Mr. Secretary Cooke employed
himself with equal ability in the Lower House. Grattan had left Ireland;
Flood was in retirement; the members of the bar who had voted against
the Union were dismissed from office, and the Prime Serjeant, Mr.
FitzGerald, was the first victim. The thirty-two who formed the minority
were at once removed. I have not space for the details of the various
attempts which were made to pass the unpopular measure. Barrington has
given a list of the members for the Union, and the rewards they
received. His description of the last night of the Irish Parliament is
too graphic to be omitted:—


"The Commons' House of Parliament, on the last evening, afforded
the most melancholy example of a fine, independent people,
betrayed, divided, sold, and, as a State, annihilated. British
clerks and officers were smuggled into her Parliament, to vote away
the constitution of a country to which they were strangers, and in
which they had neither interest nor connexion. They were employed
to cancel the royal charter of the Irish nation, guaranteed by the
British Government, sanctioned by the British Legislature, and
unequivocally confirmed by the words, the signature, and the Great
Seal of their monarch.

"The situation of the Speaker on that night was of the most distressing nature. A sincere and ardent enemy of the measure, he
headed its opponents; he resisted with all the power of his mind,
the resources of his experience, his influence, and his eloquence.
It was, however, through his voice that it was to be proclaimed and
consummated. His only alternative (resignation) would have been
unavailing, and could have added nothing to his character. His
expressive countenance bespoke the inquietude of his feeling;
solicitude was perceptible in every glance, and his embarrassment
was obvious in every word he uttered.

"The galleries were full, but the change was lamentable; they were
no longer crowded with those who had been accustomed to witness the
eloquence and to animate the debates of that devoted assembly. A
monotonous and melancholy murmur ran through benches, scarcely a
word was exchanged amongst the members, nobody seemed at ease, no
cheerfulness was apparent, and the ordinary business, for a short
time, proceeded in the usual manner.

"At length the expected moment arrived. The order of the day for
the third reading of the Bill for a 'Legislative Union between
Great Britain and Ireland,' was moved by Lord Castlereagh.
Unvaried, tame, coldblooded, the words seemed frozen as they issued
from his lips; and, as a simple citizen of the world, he seemed to
have no sensation on the subject.

"At that moment he had no country, no God but his ambition: he made
his motion, and resumed his seat with the utmost composure and

"Confused murmurs again ran through the House; it was visibly
affected. Every character in a moment seemed involuntary rushing to
its index—some pale, some flushed, some agitated; there were few
countenances to which the heart did not despatch some messenger.
Several members withdrew before the question could be repeated, and
an awful momentary silence succeeded their departure. The Speaker
rose slowly from that chair which had been the proud source of his
honours and of his high character; for a moment he resumed his
seat, but the strength of his mind sustained him in his duty,
though his struggle was apparent. With that dignity which never
failed to signalize his official actions, he held up the Bill for a
moment in silence; he looked steadily around him on the last agony
of the expiring Parliament. He at length repeated, in an emphatic
tone, 'As many as are of opinion that this Bill do pass, say
aye.' The affirmative was languid but indisputable; another
momentary pause ensued; again his lips seemed to decline their
office; at length, with an eye averted from the object which he
hated, he proclaimed, with a subdued voice, 'The Ayes have it.' The
fatal sentence was now pronounced; for an instant he stood
statue-like; then indignantly, and with disgust, flung the Bill
upon the table, and sunk into his chair with an exhausted spirit.

"An independent country was thus degraded into a province—Ireland,
as a nation, was extinguished."