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Title: The Causes of the Rebellion in Ireland Disclosed - In an Address to the People of England, in Which It Is Proved by Incontrovertible Facts, That the System for Some Years Pursued in That Country, Has Driven It into Its Present Dreadful Situation
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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IN AN _Address to the People of England_.


THAT THE _System for some Years pursued in that Country_,



Insita mortalibus natura violentiæ resistere. TACITUS.


Printed for J. S. JORDAN, No. 166, Fleet Street.



&c. &c.


It is always a bold undertaking in a private individual to become the
advocate of a suffering people. It is peculiarly difficult at the
present moment to be the advocate of the people of Ireland, because
there are among them men who have taken the power of redress into their
own hands, and committed acts of outrage and rebellion which no
sufferings could justify, and which can only tend to aggravate ten-fold
the other calamities of their country. Deeply impressed, however, as I
am with a conviction that these difficulties stand in my way, I shall
yet venture to state to Englishmen the case of Ireland. In doing so, I
rest not on a vain confidence in my own strength, but on the nature of
the cause I plead; for I am convinced, that when the train of measures
which have led that miserable country into its present situation shall
be fully disclosed, it will be but little difficult to rouze the people
of England not merely to commiserate a distressed country, but excite
them to exert their constitutional endeavours, as head of the British
empire, to avert the destruction of its principal member.

There is another circumstance which gives me hope. The people of England
at this hour feel themselves much more interested in what concerns
Irishmen, than they have ever done at any former period. Whatever
mischiefs may have resulted to human society from that kind of
philosophic illumination by which modern times are distinguished, one
acquainted--the bond of a common nature has been strengthened--and each
country begins to feel an interest in the concerns of every other. It is
not to a more extensive personal intercourse, or to the creation of any
new principles of political union, that this is to be attributed. It is
owing solely to an increased communication of sentiment and feeling--to
a knowledge which has diffused itself through the world that the human
mind is every where made of the same materials, and that on all the
great questions which concern man's interest in society, the men of
every country think alike. Hence has arisen an increased sympathy
between nations--if not between those who govern them, at least between
those by whom they are constituted; and hence too has it followed, that
those national antipathies which had so long debased and afflicted
mankind, are now become less strong and rancorous; and, it may be
reasonable to hope, will one day be known no more.

It is not, however, on the influence of this nascent principle of
philanthropy among nations that I ground my principal hope, when I call
on Englishmen to hear with an ear of kindness and concern the complaint
of a sister-country. I resort to a still more powerful principle--I
shall call on them as a people famed even in barbarous times for those
feelings of generosity and compassion, which are inseparable from
valour--I shall call on them as a FREE people, to watch with caution the
progress of despotism toward their own shores, stalking in all its
horrors of murder, pillage, and flames, through the territory of a
neighbour--I shall call even on their INTEREST, to save from utter ruin,
political, commercial, and constitutional, the most valuable member of
the British empire! If Englishmen look with horror on the enormities of
France, I will call on them to let crimes of as black a dye perpetrated
in Ireland meet their share of detestation. If they who subvert the good
order of society--who overleap the bounds fixed by the law of Nature
itself to guard the liberty, life, and property of individuals against
the spoiler, be fit objects of reprobation, I shall turn the eyes of all
the good and wise in England toward that faction by whose counsels and
whose deeds the fairest island in the British empire has been made a
theatre on which lawless outrage has played its deadly freaks!

When I speak in terms thus strong of that system under which the people
of Ireland have suffered for some years, and by which they have been
goaded into acts of folly and madness which no good man is either able
or inclined to defend, let me not too early be charged with declamation.
There are some cases in which no language can be declamatory because no
words can aggravate them. If I shall not shew before I conclude this
address that the case of Ireland is one of them, let me _then_ be
branded with the epithet of empty talker!

It will not be necessary for me, in stating to the people of England
the calamities under which Ireland smarts, and the causes which produced
them, to go farther back than that period at which she became, nominally
at least, an independent country. What remains of her history before
that period the honour of both countries calls on us to forget--a
mistaken but overbearing principle of domination and monopoly on one
hand, fed and strengthened by a servile and base acquiescence on the
other, constitute the outline of the sketch--an idle and beggared
populace, a jobbing legislature, proscriptions, penal laws, &c. &c. are
the disgusting materials with which it must be filled. That Time should
quickly draw his veil over such a scene, and cover it with oblivion
would be the natural wish of every British and Irish heart, were it not
that scenes still more disgraceful to both countries and more calamitous
to one of them have succeeded--scenes which force the mind to revert
with regret to those days of poverty and peace, when, as there existed
little wealth to excite avarice, and little spirit to aggravate the
ambition of party, that little remained inviolate, and the miserable
cabin, though filled with objects of disgusting wretchedness, was yet
the secure covering and castle of its humble owner.--How different his
present situation! when in laying down his head at night he fears lest
before morning he shall be rouzed by the cries of his family in flames,
or dragged from his bed by military ruffians, to be hanged at his own

Forgetting then the many causes of discontent with the people of England
which existed in Ireland prior to the year 1782, I shall call the
attention of this country to only those transactions which have taken
place since that time--and indeed to many of those transactions it would
not be necessary to advert at all, were it not for that minute and
elaborate detail which has been made of them by a well known public
character in a late publication,[1] for the purpose of proving that
Ireland deserved what she suffered--that she has been always sottishly
discontented and basely ungrateful. But I call on Englishmen to judge
impartially for themselves--nor let the confident assertion or bold
recrimination of an accused man pre-occupy their decision on the merits
and the sufferings of an unhappy people.

It will scarcely be denied at this day, that the people of Ireland did
right in calling for the independence of their legislature in the year
1782, and in pressing that claim on the British minister, until he
yielded to its force.--It is admitted that Ireland, on that occasion,
while she armed herself to repel the foes of Britain, while her
population poured to her shores to resist the insulting fleet of the
enemy, and preserve her connexion with the empire, acted with the proper
and true spirit of a brave and loyal people in calling on the British
Parliament for a renunciation of that claim to rule her which was
originally founded only on her weakness, and was supported by no other
argument than power. While this then is admitted, let it be remembered,
that they who opposed this just claim of Ireland to be free, must have
been the advocates of a slavish system--and that the people of Ireland
might fairly entertain doubts of the sincere attachment of such men to
her cause.--Let it be remembered, that the men who said to a country
struggling for the legitimate power of governing for itself, "You have
no right to make your own laws--you are materials fit only to be
governed by strangers," were not men in whom that country, when she
succeeded in the struggle, could place much confidence. In fact, she
did not confide in them. It was thought necessary to watch attentively
the measures of men who had reluctantly assented to the manumission of
their country, and who were believed to have such a deeply rooted
attachment to the principles of the old court, that they would lose no
opportunity of re-inducing upon the nation those bonds which she had
broken only by a combination of fortunate circumstances, concurring with
her own efforts.

In this consciousness of the danger with which they were surrounded from
false friends, originated that doubt which is now charged on the people
of Ireland as a first proof of wanton discontent--I mean a doubt about
the validity of the simple repeal of the 6th Geo. III. as an act of
renunciation. Discontent on this subject arose and became general in
Ireland almost immediately on the repeal of that obnoxious statute; and
from the zeal and warmth with which it was attempted to _beat it down_,
did for a time put the kingdom in a ferment. The men who have since that
time scourged Ireland with a rod of iron, charge this as the
commencement of the crimes of the country--the first overt act of her
intemperance and violent propensity to discontent. Whether it deserves
that epithet Englishmen will judge, when they learn that this doubt was
first suggested by some of the best lawyers--the warmest friends and the
most enlightened and able men whom Ireland ever knew--by Walter Hussey
Burgh--by Henry Flood, and by the brilliant phalanx of constitutional
lawyers who at that time graced the popular cause--men "to whom
compared" the most proud and petulant of her present persecutors "are
but the insects of a summer's day." These gentlemen had been the
long-tried friends of the country--they had been found pure in
principle, and in intellect superior to their contemporaries. Where,
therefore, was the wonder, that the people should adopt an opinion
sanctioned and inculcated by such venerable names? What was there
strange or criminal in believing, that a country which only retracted in
silence a claim for more than half a century enforced and acted on, did
but suspend for the present a right which she believed to exist, and
which she would not fail to urge again in more favourable circumstances?
The partisans of the Irish Chancellor act with as much confidence on
_his_ opinions in cases where common understandings have less to guide
them: why then should the people of Ireland be branded as seditious and
disaffected, for following, in a matter of law, the counsels of men
whose integrity she had tried, and whose talents were acknowledged?

It is true, indeed, there was on the other side of this question a name
to which Ireland owed much, and to whose subsequent exertions in her
cause, though fruitless, she owes perhaps still more--Mr. Grattan. _He_
thought the simple repeal of itself a valid and full renunciation. But
it may be said for the people of Ireland, that Mr. Grattan, when this
question was agitated, stood in circumstances which deducted much from
his high authority. He had but just come from the Treasury, after
receiving 50,000l. for his past services--and it was too generally known
in Ireland, that there was some quality in Treasury gold, however
acquired, which attracted the possessor powerfully towards the Castle.
The private judgement of Mr. Grattan might also be reasonably supposed
to have a bias on the question, from the circumstance of being himself
the adviser of the simple repeal--the idea of an explicit renunciation
not having been started when Mr. Grattan's principal exertions, seconded
by the voice of the people, triumphed over the old system. There was
another reason--Mr. Grattan's influence was weakened, if not lost, by
the fallen character of those with whom he then acted. The people of
Ireland were naturally jealous of those men who had uniformly supported
the dominating principles of the British party in Ireland, and who had
as violently opposed (though by more legitimate means) the exertions of
the popular party to obtain an independent legislature, as they now do
to prevent the reform of the legislative body. And finally, the opinion
and authority of Mr. Grattan, however respectable were not thought an
adequate counterpoize to the weight of those very numerous and most
respectable opinions which were on this question in opposition to his.
Under these circumstances, the charge of sottish discontent, which has
been so confidently made against the Irish nation, will appear to be one
of those foul calumnies by which a desperate and enraged faction strive
to cover their own enormities. Englishmen, and the world, will see, that
had Ireland at that critical moment adopted the advice of those who had
always acted as enemies to her best interests, and rejected the counsels
and opinions of those to whom she owed the most important obligations,
she would _then_ indeed have been incorrigibly sottish.

The next _crime_ with which the Irish nation stands charged, is their
early and zealous efforts for parliamentary reform.--It has been
enumerated as one of the causes which have produced the present horrible
system of administration in Ireland, that shortly after the
establishment of their legislative independence, a convention met in
Dublin, consisting of representatives from the different Volunteer
Associations, by whom the country had been saved from the common enemy,
and who were supposed to have contributed much to the establishment of
her independence. This convention had been constituted on the same
principle (but with more circumspection and order) as that which was so
well known by the name of the Dungannon meeting--an assembly, which
though perfectly military, so far as its being constituted by armed
citizens could make it so, did more towards asserting the independence
of Ireland and procuring for her the most important advantages of
constitution and commerce than any other which ever sat in Ireland. To
the Dungannon meeting, however, no exceptions were taken--they were
suffered to meet--to resolve--and to point out in the most decisive tone
the grievances under which they supposed the country laboured. Their
remonstrances were carried even to the foot of the throne, and the
father of his people, uninfluenced by that romantic sense of dignity,
which has since produced such lamentable effects in Irish
Parliaments--graciously received, and wisely attended to their
remonstrances.--The jesuitical or Machiavelian distinction between
citizens in red clothes and in coloured ones, had not yet been thought
of--it was considered sufficient to entitle an address or petition to a
respectful hearing, if it was substantially the sense of a great body of
the property and population of the state, no matter whether they spoke
in the character of volunteers associated to defend the constitution, or
as freeholders assembled only to exercise its privileges.

It is not for me now to defend the convention of that day from the
imputation of false policy and imprudence, in preferring the character
of soldiers to that of citizens in their deliberative capacity, but I
cannot help observing--First, that the Irish administration have never
manifested any dislike of military bodies--real, mercenary, foreign
soldiers,--expressing publicly _their_ sentiments on great public
questions, when those sentiments coincided with the politics of the
Castle--witness the manifestoes with which the Irish newspapers have
for the last year or two been crouded, from Scotch and English mercenary
troops, in which these zealous advocates for religion and liberty
declare themselves friends to this or that measure, publish their
determination to support them--and sometimes conclude by letting the
Irish public know--_they had not come thither to be trifled
with_.--Secondly, I must remark, that tho' the great objection to the
volunteer convention was its being armed, and consisting of the
representatives of an armed body, yet opposition equally violent has
been since made to other representative bodies _not_ military--instance
the calumny with which the servants of the Irish administration have
blackened the Catholic committee--and, above all, instance the Athlone
convention, the meeting of which administration were so solicitous to
prevent, that they ventured on a law to prevent for ever the meeting of
any representative body--the House of Commons excepted.

By these circumstances it seems sufficiently clear, that the
inconceivable aversion entertained against this body, and the memory of
it, was founded not in its being military, but in its being
representative and popular--not in its constitution, but in its
object.--With respect to its being a representative body, I profess, for
my own part, I cannot conceive why for that reason the Irish government
and the Irish Chancellor have held it so much in abomination. You,
Englishmen, who understand that constitution of which you are properly
so proud, will be surprized to hear that representative bodies are
unconstitutional.--If you heard this asserted with much confidence by a
lawyer, you would say he had studied special pleading rather than the
British constitution.--If you heard this doctrine swallowed implicitly
by an assembly of legislators, you would say they were still unfit to
govern themselves. What is it, you would ask, that forms the general and
pervading principle of the British constitution, if not the
representative one? Every petty corporation, you would observe, elects
representatives to act for them in their Common Council--the council
elect Aldermen, and these again their Mayor--all on the same
principle--that of having the sense of the multitude concentrated, and
their business dispatched at once with ease and order. Nay, every
Freeman is himself but a representative, not indeed of other men--but of
his own property.

But it is impossible that this should have been the real ground of
objection to the Convention, however it might have been urged as the
ostensible one--for it is obvious, that if the principle of
representation be a fair and useful principle to adopt in collecting the
sense of the people with respect to laws or taxes, it must also be a
useful and fair principle to resort to, in every other instance, where
great bodies of men are permitted to express their common sense as they
are _unquestionably_ in petitioning for redress of grievances, &c. No,
Englishmen! it was not because the Convention was unconstitutional as
being representative, but because it was chosen to recommend, as the
sense of the Irish people (for the Volunteers of that day were people of
Ireland,)--a parliamentary reform, and to consider of a specific plan.
It was this that the corrupt part of the Irish Government dreaded. They
had been stunned by the unexpected blow struck by the people in
asserting the independence of the legislature: for whatever credit the
Parliament of that day may assume for the part which they acted in that
business, it requires no argument to prove to a discerning man, that
they were passive instruments in the people's hand--they only re-echoed
the voice of an armed nation which they conceived too loud to be
smothered, and were hurried on irresistibly by that enthusiastic
sentiment for national independence, which the ability of _one_ great
mind, aided by a fortunate concurrence of existing circumstances, had
excited. But at the period I now speak of, the party of the British
Minister had recovered from the astonishment into which the successful
and prompt energy of the nation had thrown him. He now began to reflect
on the extensive consequence which must follow from the restoration to
Ireland of the right of legislating for herself. It was soon felt, that
there now remained in the hands of the court faction in Ireland, only
one instrument by which the effect of the recent revolution could be
checked or frustrated; and that was, the borough system. It was seen,
that whatever nominal independence the Irish legislature might have
attained, yet while a majority of the Commons' House was constituted of
members returned immediately by the crown influence, the will of the
crown or the will of the British Cabinet must still be the law which
would bind Ireland. To preserve the borough system then, at all hazards,
became from that moment the great object of the dominating faction. The
Convention was an engine which seemed to threaten its immediate and
complete overthrow; it was therefore resolved, by all means, to effect
its ruins. The staunch hounds which had fattened for years on the vitals
of the country, but had been for some time kept at bay by the universal
energy of the public mind, were again hallooed into action. In addition
to these were introduced new forces from every quarter, but principally
from the old aristocratic families, who had monopolized for a century
the power and wealth of the country. On the memorable night when Mr.
Flood presented to the House the petition of the Convention, was made
the grand effort which was to decide whether the will of the nation or
that of the old faction should govern. The latter was victorious. The
people, with the characteristic levity of their nation, repulsed in this
great effort, for the present, at least, shrunk back from the contest.
The victorious party, possessing means of the most extensive and
corrupting influence, strained them to the utmost; and gaining ground
from that moment on the sense of the nation on that main point, have
continued triumphantly and insolently to prostrate the people of
Ireland. Every thinking and steady Irishman, however, retained his
opinion as to the necessity of reform, and continued by the few means in
his power, to promote it. At this point, then, commenced the separation
between the Irish administration with their partisans in Parliament and
the Irish people, and from that time they have gone in directly opposite

Such, Englishmen, is another of the crimes with which we are charged,
and for which the highest law authority in our country has declared we
merit to be deprived of all the benefits of the British constitution!
For this we have been called a sottish, an insatiable, and tumultuous
people--and to punish us for this offence the world has been told we
deserve all those horrible calamities which, year after year, since that
time have been inflicted on us!

I have already said, that the people and the parliamentary supporters of
administration separated from the moment when the Irish House of Commons
extinguished the public hope on the important measure of parliamentary
reform. The grand argument urged by the House of Commons against a
reform at that time was, that it would be a surrender of the dignity and
independence of the legislature to adopt a measure proposed to it on the
point of a bayonet. The Convention proved the malice of the argument by
the manner in which they bore the insulting rejection of their petition:
having discharged the duty which they were created to perform, they
dissolved, not only without a threat but without a murmur. The people,
with a patience and moderation of which perhaps few more laudable
instances are to be found in the history of any country, acquiesced, or
submitted in silence to the decision of the legislation on this their
most esteemed and favourite application. No doubt they hoped that a
Parliament who refused to receive the petition of the people when
presented as soldiers, would listen with a more patient ear to their
claims when presented in another character. But this hope having been
tried for five years without effect, was at last relinquished. The
pertinacity with which all applications on the subject of reform were
rejected, put it beyond doubt that reform was an object which by
ordinary means could never be obtained. It was, however, a measure too
big, when it had once gotten possession of the public mind, to be let go
without a struggle. Accordingly, whatever of intelligence, of zeal, or
of public spirit the country possessed, continued to be directed toward
the acquisition of this great object. Among other modes which had been
devised for giving greater efficacy to the public will on this subject,
was that of forming societies which should have for their sole object to
animate, to direct, to concentrate, the exertions of the people in the
pursuit of this favourite and vital measure. Of these societies the
first was formed in Dublin, of a few men whose talents, principles, and
character, moral and political, gave such weight and popularity to their
union, as soon swelled its numbers to a great magnitude, which, while it
gave hope to the friends of the popular cause, excited in the
administration very lively alarm. But it was yet more the principles of
this body than its numbers which alarmed administration. The original
members of the society, men of minds not only firmly attached to the
political interests of this country, but superior to the influence of
bigotry, which had been the most powerful instrument in the hands of the
Court faction for dividing and weakening the people, made it a radical
principle of their union to promote an abolition of all religious
distinction, and to procure for _all_ the freemen of the state, whatever
might be their religious sentiments, a participation in _all_ the
privileges of the British constitution. A reform in Parliament,
accompanied by such a principle as this, became a measure in which every
man in the country was interested; and the catholics, who constitute
the great majority of the people, more interested than others. The
consequence was, that men of every description of religion, men of every
rank in life, not immediately under the controul or influence of the
Castle, adopted the principles of the society, or solicited admission
into the ranks. The fear and the hatred of administration was soon
manifested. Every art was used to blacken the principles of the
society--its principal members were pointed out as the agitators of
sedition--the enemies of social order--and men who aimed at nothing less
than a subversion of the constitution and separation from Great Britain,
under the pretext of reform and emancipation. The prints which were in
the pay of the Castle vomited out daily the most gross, the most
malignant, and irritating calumnies; and even the senate itself, now
really forgetting its dignity, condescended to become the scurrilous
aggressor not merely of the society at large, but of particular, and, in
many instances, inconsiderable members of it.

It was this despicable conduct in the prevailing faction in Ireland that
laid the ground work of all the mischiefs which have since affected our
unhappy country. The Irish Minister who paid the money of the people to
cover their name with infamy and their principles with dishonour, him I
charge with having first implanted in the minds of the multitude that
invincible detestation of the system by which they were governed, that
has since ended in assassination and treason. His subordinate agents,
who in the folly and venom of their hearts at one time charged the great
body of the Catholics with disaffection, at another held up to ridicule
and odium the names of individuals of the most respectable and unsullied
characters--at one time sneering at the merchant, at another insulting
the tradesman, them I charge with having irritated the people of Ireland
wantonly and wickedly, by calling forth the personal feelings, the
pride, and sensibility of individuals, into a personal and revengeful
opposition to the British name and British connection. What would
Englishmen have felt, how would Englishmen have acted, had two or three
individuals, strangers to their country, despicable in point of birth or
talents, and considerable only from fortuitous elevation to offices
which they were unfit to fill, ventured to insult their national
character--to accuse of treason every man who dared to complain of his
sufferings or his privations, or assumed the courage to exercise the
humble privilege of petitioning for redress? If the saucy hirelings of a
foreign Cabinet should publicly avow contempt for the men who uphold the
strength and consequence of the state by useful industry, and tell the
merchant and manufacturer that it was not for such fellows to deal in
politics, to seek for rights, or talk of constitution--would not the
spirit of the nation rise against their insolence, and make them feel
how much more valuable _he_ is who promotes the comfort and welfare of
society by commerce or by labour, than _he_ who lives upon the spoil of
the community in something _worse_ than idleness?

It was this arrogance in the Castle servants, the result of their
conscious strength in corruption, that scouted with contempt and insult,
out of the Irish House of Commons in 1795, the petition of three
millions of Catholics, fully and impartially represented. Was not this
an aggression of administration against the people? And yet the
partisans of that administration--nay, the first mover in it, has had
the confidence to assert, that the discontents and tumults of the people
_preceded_ the measures of which they complain. Englishmen will
determine, whether the Irish nation, consisting principally of
Catholics, had or had not reason to be disgusted with the administration
of the government under which they lived, when by the influence of that
administration not only their wishes were not consulted, not only their
general sense disregarded, but even their supplications spurned without
a hearing from that body which professed to be, and which ought to be,
their representatives.

If it be granted that such conduct in the popular representation of a
nation was calculated to excite discontent and destroy confidence, what
followed that transaction must have had a much more powerful tendency to
alienate the affection of the people, and produce those direful
consequences which are now boldly said to have arisen unprovoked. When
the Irish Catholics perceived, from the manner in which their petition
for the elective franchise was treated, that in the Irish House of
Commons they were not to look for friends, they resorted to the Throne.
The supplications which had met only with contumely when addressed to
the Irish Commons, was received with favour by a British King, acting
with the advice of a British Cabinet. In the next session, the speech
from the throne recommended to the Irish Parliament to take into their
consideration the situation of the King's Catholic subjects. No sooner
was this hint received from the British Cabinet, than those very men,
who but last year pledged their lives and fortunes to perpetuate the
exclusion of the Irish Catholics from the privileges of freemen, because
to admit them to share those privileges would be a subversion of the
constitution and establishment, surrendered that opinion with as much
promptness and facility as they had shewn violence and rancour in taking
it up. Without any petition from the Catholics, without any change of
circumstances, except the declaration of the will of the British
Cabinet, that privilege which was last year refused with so much
harshness and disdain, was this year spontaneously conceded!

Will any man who knows any thing of men and of the feelings and motives
which actuate them, assert that there was any thing in this concession
which should attach more firmly the Irish Catholics to the Irish House
of Commons? Will he say that this was one of those gracious measures
which an enlightened legislature would adopt to soften the exasperation
of national discontent? Probably he will rather say, it was fitted to
evince more strongly than ever the necessity of reforming the
constitution of that assembly, which, from the inconsistency of its
measures, appeared evidently the instrument of a foreign will, not the
authentic organ of the national sense.

Let him, or them whose hot folly, whose rank bigotry, or whose petulant
and stolid zeal led the Irish Commons into this disgraceful and
contemptible situation, feel the blush of shame and confusion burn their
cheek, when they reflect on these scenes. Let them, while it is yet in
their power, atone to their offended country for the fatal consequences
of their advice, before those records which are to inform future ages
impress on their names for ever the indelible character of--PUBLIC

In speaking of these transactions I have not attended to chronological
accuracy. There were other measures to which the administration of
Ireland had resorted to prop up their power, and form a substitute for
that legitimate strength which is to be found only in the chearful
support of a contented people--there were other measures which they
adopted to beat down the public voice, and overbear the general sense of
the nation. Among these were wanton prosecutions of innocent and
respectable men, sometimes for libels, which all publications were
construed to be that dared to talk of reform as a good measure, or of
constitutional rights as things to be desired; others for crimes of a
deeper die--for sedition and for treason. The evidence adduced in
support of these charges were often the vilest of the rabble, whose
testimony on the trials was discredited even by themselves, and the
prisoners discharged, to the honour of themselves and the detestation of
their accusers. Such was the case of the Drogheda merchants, on whose
trial came out proofs of subornation and perjury which would shock
credibility. These, however, were but venial errors, compared with those
more mortal sins against the constitution and against common right, with
which the Irish administration stands charged--sins, which including a
violation of general and vital principles, may be fairly reckoned among
those great and leading causes which have reduced Ireland to the
dreadful state of discontent and disorder in which she now stands.

Of these, one was the Convention Bill--a measure proposed by
administration, and adopted by the Parliament of that day, for the
avowed purpose of preventing the Catholics from collecting the sense of
their body on a petition to Parliament, or to the Throne, for the
elective franchise. This bill, if it did not annihilate a popular right,
certainly narrowed it to a degree which, in a great measure, under the
then existing circumstances, destroyed its efficacy. It had been one of
the special pleading tricks of the Irish Court, when the people
expressed their sense on particular measures, if there happened to be
any variations of mode or sentiment in the application of different
bodies, to take occasion, from these variations, to reject the whole as
inconsistent. This scheme had been practised with much plausibility on
the question of reform. No reform, they contended, was practicable,
which would content the nation; because of the many petitions which had
been presented from the different counties, cities, and towns in the
country, and of the many plans which had been proposed, no two were
found perfectly to correspond--as if when the general sense of the
people was fully expressed, no attention should be paid to it, because
there was not to be found in the various expressions of that sense that
perfect coincidence which on a general question of morals or politics it
is absolutely impossible to attain. It had also been boldly and
shamelessly asserted by administration, in opposition to the most
general and public declaration of the Catholic body, that the claim of
the elective franchise was only the suggestion of a few turbulent
agitators, and that the great bulk of the Catholics had neither
solicitude nor desire about the matter. To give the lie to this hardy
and absurd assertion, the Catholics resolved upon a measure which would
put the matter beyond doubt, and by collecting into a focus the sense of
their body, and expressing that sense in a simple and explicit manner,
would take from their enemies the two great arguments by which they had
defeated the popular applications for reform. Administration, however,
were too vigilant to suffer the Catholics to get hold of this powerful
weapon. The Convention Bill, by which all representative assemblies were
made illegal, and punishable with the severest penalties, proposed in
haste, and passed with precipitation, deprived them of the only means of
giving to the legislature that simple and indubitable declaration of
the general sense, which, however, the legislature insisted on as a
necessary preliminary to hearing their complaints.

Here certainly was another of those measures which without any crime in
the people of Ireland was levelled at one of their most valuable
privileges. Let the people of England judge, whether under the
circumstances I have mentioned, it was not likely to wound deeply the
feelings of three-fourths of his Majesty's Irish subjects--and, combined
as it was with the insulting rejection of the Catholic petition, and the
subsequent concession, at the instance of the British Cabinet, of that
favour which was refused to Irish supplication--let Englishmen say,
whether it may not fairly be reckoned among the wanton and unprovoked
causes of the present discontents.

The Convention Bill, however mischievous it may have been by aggravating
the discontent which had already spread through the mass of the people,
was yet more mischievous by stopping up that channel through which
popular discontent discharges itself with most safety--that of petition
and remonstrance. So little effect had been found to result from the
petitions of individuals in the legislature on any of the great
questions which in any degree interfered with the system adopted by
administration, and in which they seemed resolved to persevere, that it
was thought futile and absurd to resort to that mode of stating
complaint or soliciting redress. If a corporation petitioned, they were
answered only by an observation on the manner in which the petition was
obtained, by contrasting it with other petitions procured by Castle
influence, or by some sarcastic remark on their profession or character.
If a body of citizens petitioned, they were porter-house politicians or
bankrupt traders. There remained, therefore, no way in which the people
could lay their complaints before the legislature, with any hope of
relief, but in that general way of a representative body, which, while
it gave weight and consistency to their application, obviated those
pitiful arts by which the Castle continued to elude and frustrate the
wishes of the people. The Convention Bill, by rendering that mode
impracticable, compressed the public discontents, and while it encreased
the irritation, left no vent to its violence but in assassination and

That such would be the consequence of this measure, administration were
solemnly warned. It was urged on them, but without effect, that in every
country where the freedom of remonstrance and complaint was denied,
secret conspiracy or open insurrection took the place of angry but
harmless petition. Italy was mentioned; and it was said, rather with the
spirit of a prophet than a politician, that if this bill passed, Ireland
would become more infamous for private assassination than Italy itself.
The Society of United Irishmen was not yet become a clandestine or an
illegal body--but it was foretold, that this bill would create
clandestine and seditious meetings: for it was easy to see, that when
discontented people were prevented from uttering their complaints, they
would substitute other modes of redress for angry publication. But with
the administration of Ireland, or the Irish House of Commons of that
day, advice and remonstrance were vain. They boldly ventured on a
measure of which these consequences were foreseen, yet now profess to
wonder why such consequences have happened. On the folly of their
counsels, then, the people of Ireland are justified in charging the
assassinations--the sedition--the conspiracy, which have disgraced their
country: they are not the native growth of her soil! They have been
begotten only by insolence and injury upon the stifled indignation of a
volatile and feeling people!

But the Convention act was not the only measure to which the party
abusing the powers of government in Ireland resorted, to tame or to
irritate the Irish people. The Gunpowder Bill, prior in order and time,
which deprived the Irish subject in a great measure of the
constitutional power of self-defence, prepared the minds of the people
for receiving the full impression of the Convention act, which narrowed
another of his rights. The attempt to annihilate the independence of the
country, by insisting on the right of Britain to choose a regent for
Ireland, and the subsequent attempt of the same kind in 1785 to
substitute a commercial boon for the right of self-government, had
already gone far toward producing a tendency to irritation in the
people, which these more vital attacks completed.

Nor did even these measures, insidious, violent, and unconstitutional as
they were, produce so much discontent as the tone and the spirit in
which they were tarried into execution. The most insulting imputations
on the loyalty, and even on the intellect of the nation, were daily
made by the needy adventurers, whom chance, or perhaps infamous
services, had raised to a place in the administration. The public prints
were polluted by the foulest calumny against every man who had the
virtue and the courage to oppose a system which he foresaw must
eventually terminate in the ruin of the country. Some of the basest of
mankind, distinguished, however, by more than usual talents for
perversion and invective, were appointed to conduct those publications
which were paid by the public money for abusing the national character.
The Whig Club, consisting of noblemen and gentlemen who, by possessing
large property and extensive connections in the country, felt themselves
bound to oppose the mad measures of men who, as they were mostly
foreigners, had no interest but to turn the present moment to most
advantage, were held up to the public, both in and out of Parliament, as
enemies to the tranquillity of the state, and anxious only, at all
events, to raise themselves to power.

The conduct of administration to the Whig Club, indeed, deserves
peculiar confederation, as it evinces, in the fullest manner, that it
was not the irregular or unconstitutional proceedings of this or that
body of men--of the Volunteer Convention, or of the United Irish
Society--but the measures which these bodies recommended, against which
the influence and force of government was turned. The Whig Club had
formed themselves on the most constitutional and moderate principles.
Their object was to obtain for the people of Ireland, by a concentration
of their parliamentary influence and exertions, those laws by which the
British constitution was guarded, against the encroachments of the
executive power; and by the want of which in Ireland, her constitution
seemed to have but a precarious existence at the pleasure of the Court.
Such were a Pension Bill, for limiting the influence resulting to the
Crown by an indefinite power of granting pensions--a Place Bill, to
secure the independence of the House of Commons, by making the
acceptance of office by a member a vacation of his seat--a
Responsibility Bill, by which the men intrusted with the management of
the public treasure, or enjoying high official situations in the
government of the country, should be responsible to Parliament for their
conduct and advice. These were the measures which the Club undertook at
their formation to press upon minister. They subsequently adopted
others on which the sense of the people became too generally known to be
at all doubtful. The question of reform and Catholic emancipation they
did not take up, until the nation called for them in a manner which
proved the concession of them to be essential to the peace of the

Of the constitutionality of those measures which the Whig Club
originally espoused, no man could entertain a doubt. They were the law
of England. The manner in which these measures were urged by the Whig
Club was equally constitutional. They brought them before Parliament by
bill and by motion, supported by arguments which were answered only by
majorities consisting of those placemen and pensioners, those borough
members and irresponsible officers, against whose parliamentary
existence they were levelled. This constitutional pursuit of
constitutional measures--how did the Irish administration treat it? By
imputing the worst motives to those by whom they were proposed--by
impeaching their loyalty to their Sovereign--by the most open and bold
avowal of the existence, and the necessity of corruption in the
government--by the most contumelious indifference for the public voice,
and, finally, by affixing the most disgraceful and irritating marks of
suspicion on every nobleman and man of property in either house of
Parliament, who dared to support those pretensions of the people to the
benefits of the British constitution. The removal of that good and
estimable character, the Earl of Charlemont, from the office of Governor
of the County of Armagh--an office which might be considered as
hereditary in his family, and to which his estate in that county gave
him a kind of indefeasible right, is one instance of a number. It will
ever be remembered as a damning proof of the foolish and wicked
malignity of the Irish administration against the friends of the Irish

These arts of the Castle, however, were unable to counteract or repress
the persevering effects of the Whig Club. It is not necessary in this
place to enter into a defence of the motives of that body in thus
contending for the interests of the public. It is sufficient that the
measures which they patronized were in a high degree beneficial to the
Irish nation; and whether they urged them from a wish to raise
themselves to office, or from a principle of pure patriotism, was to
the public immaterial. That they supported them zealously and
faithfully, from whatever motive, was indubitable. _So_ zealously and
faithfully indeed did they exert themselves, that the very same men who
had for years made a constant and violent opposition to those measures,
exhausting every epithet of reprobation which the English language
afforded, both against them and their supporters, yet at last found
themselves obliged to concede them to the unrelaxing vigour of these
gentlemen, supported by the general sense of the country. It is the
concession of these measures that the friends of the Irish junto call
"CONCILIATION!" These are the favours which they say Ireland has
received, and which they contend ought for ever to have silenced popular
complaint, and put a period to the demands of the country! Had they been
yielded at an earlier time, before the long, long irritation which the
obstinate refusal of them for several successive years had produced,
they would have been received with gratitude by the nation, and the
effect would have been general tranquillity and content. But the Irish
administration knew neither how to concede nor withhold--their
resistance was without strength, and their concessions without kindness.
Like the Roman King and the Sybils, they withheld the price of public
content, until the people, aggravated by refusal, insisted on still
higher terms; and, indeed, rose in their demands, beyond what an
administration, bankrupt in character and confidence, were able to grant
them. What a Minister of comprehensive mind and enlarged views would
have granted to the people with magnanimity at once, and what if thus
granted, would have taken the tongue from discontent, and left
disaffection no handle to use against the peace of the country, the
Irish administration conceded piece-meal--one little measure after
another--reluctantly and with hesitation; thus teaching the people that
what was granted could not be withheld, and that the same means which
had extorted one concession from the weakness of government would be
equally successful in extorting others. Nay, at the very moment when
they were yielding those measures to the perseverance of opposition,
supported by the public sense, they continued to load those very men by
whole exertions they had been obtained with scurrilous and foul
invective; and while with one hand they affected to conciliate the
people, with the other they scattered the seeds of disaffection widely
through the land by the most inflammatory and ill-judged libels upon the
country and its claims. Thus, in the hands of those men, the benignity
of the Sovereign was perverted into an instrument of discontent, and
those rich concessions which, if judiciously administered, would have
bound Ireland to Britain by indissoluble ties, were made means of
exciting in numbers of the inhabitants of that country a deep hatred of
the British name and connection.

When Englishmen contemplate for a moment this picture of the
"conciliation" which the Irish nation has received with so much
ingratitude, it is possible they may conclude that nothing has happened
which might not have reasonably been expected. Possibly they will think
it not unnatural that the people should have received, with little sense
of obligation, measures which were never conceded until they came to
form only a small part of what was demanded as rights--and that they
should rather feel indignant at the insult and abuse heaped on them by a
few contemptible and obscure adventurers, than acknowledge gratitude for
benefits long kept back, and, at length, reluctantly yielded.

I have dwelt thus long on the early conduct of the Irish administration
for two reasons--the one to vindicate the people of Ireland from the
insolent charge made against them by their enemies--"That conciliation
had been tried in vain with that sottish and discontented people--that
they had not intellect to understand, nor gratitude to acknowledge
benefits--and that, therefore, the present system of unconstitutional
coercion and deprivation was resorted to of necessity:"--the other was
to shew, that whatever discontent has been recently shewn in Ireland,
whatever crimes have been committed for political purposes, had their
remote origin in that system by which the powers of government had been
abused in Ireland for several years back. Whether I have succeeded in
this attempt, I leave to Englishmen, who know and value freedom and
constitution, to determine. For myself I shall only say, that my mind is
incapable of feeling a greater degree of moral certainty, than that the
people of Ireland are innocent of causeless discontent and of
ingratitude; and that all the evils which now lacerate that unhappy
country, (for the mere suppression of present discontents will not end
the danger,) and threaten the mutilation of the empire, are the
necessary and inevitable effects of the wicked system adopted by the
weak, hot-headed, and petulant men to whom the administration of Ireland
was entrusted, operating upon a generous and loyal but irritable and
warm people.

But had the Irish junto rested at the point to which we have now come in
describing their system, Ireland would not now have to appeal for pity
or for aid to the British nation. It is the subsequent measures to which
they resorted, and for which no precedent is to be found in the history
of this or any other country pretending to laws, or rights, or
constitution, that we complain of. It is by these that Ireland has been
lashed into madness, and driven to crimes and to follies which her sober
reason would have looked at with detestation. It shall be now my
business to advert to those measures--to shew that they have generally
preceded those crimes of the people which are alledged to have produced
them--that they have been severe and desperate beyond what the necessity
of the case called for--that their probable result will be a military
despotism--that they cannot tranquillize the country but by the
destruction of every degree of constitutional liberty--that, therefore,
the people of Great Britain are interested in preventing the progress of
that system in Ireland--and, finally, that if the two great objects of
the public in Ireland were honestly and fully conceded, and if the
people were re-instated in the blessings of the constitution by the
establishment of a mild and just administration, peace and content would
be restored to the country, disaffection would vanish, and the
connection of the two islands become closer and more permanent than

I have already mentioned the Convention and Gunpowder Acts, and the
discontent which these laws had excited. Administration felt, that on
these questions there was but one opinion amongst the people of Ireland.
They perceived, that though these acts were of the strongest kind, their
operation would not be adequate to the suppression of the existing and
encreasing discontent; and they therefore resorted to a device, which,
having been but too often and too successfully tried in Ireland on
former occasions, would, it was hoped, be equally successful at present.
A religious feud was excited, and suffered to rage without check or
intermission, until it nearly desolated a whole county. Some petty
quarrels had, a considerable time back, taken place in the county of
Armagh, between a few Catholics and Presbyterians, which, however,
produced no serious mischief, and were almost instantly terminated
either by the interposition of the magistrates, or by the mutual
compromise of the parties. Subsequent to this, the county of Armagh
enjoyed the most profound tranquillity, until about this period a party
started up on the sudden, without visible motive, without provocation,
and, to the surprize of the people in Ireland, commenced a most
outrageous and unaccountable persecution of the Catholic inhabitants. It
would shock the ears of an Englishman, and, perhaps, exceed his belief,
were I to give a minute detail of the ferocious barbarities which were
committed by this party. It may suffice to say, that under the name of
Orange-men, and under colour of attachment to the constitution and
affection for the Protestant establishment, they not only burned the
houses and destroyed the persons of numbers of the unfortunate Catholics
in the heat of blood and fervour of outrage, but with a cool and settled
system proceeded to banish the whole of them. Entire districts were
proscribed in a night. Labels were affixed on all the Catholic houses in
a village, with the words "To Connaught or to Hell!" Nor was the threat
vain;--for in numberless instances where the unfortunate inhabitants
refused to obey the mandate, their habitations were pulled down or
burned by these bravadoes of the constitution, happy if they thus
escaped personal destruction. In many cases these outrages were
accompanied by plunder; but plunder did not seem to constitute any part
of the system under which the Orange-men acted, unless perhaps the
plunder of arms, to deprive the Catholics of which was one of their
proposed objects.

With what reason the Irish administration were charged with having
clandestinely excited, or culpably connived at the excesses of these
men, the people of England may determine when they hear that the
magistracy of that country remained for many months inactive spectators
of these scenes; nay, indeed, in some cases, are said to have given
countenance and support to the offenders, by executing the laws with the
most inflexible rigour against the Catholics when they happened to fall
into any casual error in repelling the attacks of their persecutors,
while these latter were left in the enjoyment of perfect impunity.

But this is not the only circumstance which may assist an Englishman to
judge how far the Irish administration participated in the guilt of
these disturbances--there is another which seems pretty decisive on
this point; and that is, that notwithstanding this palpable and
notorious misconduct of the Armagh magistracy, not one man was turned
out of the commission for his negligence and connivance on those
occasions! What apology did the Irish Chancellor offer for not removing
those magistrates?--"That better men could not be found in the country!"

This feud, so malignant in its origin, and so destructive in its
progress, was possibly expected to have weakened the efficacy of the
popular sentiment against the Irish Ministers, by throwing the different
religious descriptions to a consideration of their respective and
peculiar interests. It produced a very contrary effect. The persecution
commenced against the Catholics in Armagh, alarmed the Catholics in
every quarter of the country; and when they saw such enormities
committed against them with impunity, if not with the approbation of the
Castle, they naturally apprehended that a general persecution was
designed. They knew, however, that the great body of the Protestants in
Ireland were too enlightened to assist in such a scheme--for they had
already experienced that the rigour of old prejudices was abated, and
that men now began to consider each other rather as men than as
religionists.--But they also knew the character of the administration;
and the recent transactions in Armagh and elsewhere, taught them, that
though they had no reason to fear persecution from the great body of
their Protestant fellow-subjects, they were yet not exempt from danger.
These fears suggested the necessity of drawing still more closely the
bond of union between them and their countrymen of other persuasions.
The Protestants met them half way in their advances toward a conjunction
of interests--for they perceived, that though the present blow was
struck against the Catholics, yet the warfare of administration was not
against them only, but against the constitution, against the people,
their privileges, and their interests.

Had these been the only consequences that followed this dreadful
experiment, the partial evil would have been compensated by the union
which it produced. But this was not the case. The alarm which the Armagh
persecution produced on the minds of the enlightened Catholics, and on
the lower orders of that description were very different. In the former
it produced a desire to unite more closely with his Protestant brethren,
in order to form by their conjunction the stronger barrier against the
apprehended assault of the Irish Cabinet upon both. In the latter, it
excited a fear of extermination, which resolved itself into the most
violent and unjustifiable measures, of what they considered personal
defence--The Orange-men had deprived the Catholics of their arms--the
lower order of Catholics co-operating in many instances with their
Protestant neighbours of the same rank, who detested the conduct of
Orange-men, betook themselves to retaliate on those whom they considered
suspected characters. The robbery of arms became a general measure of
safety, and those who exerted themselves in this way obtained the name
of Defenders--a body of men, whom that administration which suffered the
Orange-men to violate the laws with impunity, followed with the utmost
severity of legal punishment.

No man who values the interests of society, or knows the value of peace
and good order in a community, can be supposed for a moment to justify
the intemperate and incautious conduct of those deluded men. If such
licence as they usurped were permitted, human society must be dissolved,
and man be thrown back to a state of savage nature. But on the other
hand, no man who has any regard for truth, or who enjoys a capacity of
distinguishing between different ideas, can deny, that the crimes of the
Defenders were provoked by the preceding crimes of the Orange-men, and
that those powers which, contrary to justice, were suffered to lie
dormant against the one class, whose guilt was original and unprovoked,
were exercised without mercy against the latter; whose errors were the
ebullition of untaught nature repelling in an untaught way, the most
wanton and unparalleled aggression.

There were some collateral circumstances which contributed to give full
effect to the impression which the enormities of the Orange society were
calculated to make on the minds of the lower orders. The severity with
which administration had followed the United Irishmen by dispersing
their meetings, seizing their papers, and prosecuting as libels every
publication which emanated from them, had driven them to the necessity
of meeting secretly, and admitting members into their society in a
private and mysterious manner. Between secret meetings and conspiracy
the interval is small--between meeting secretly for constitutional
purposes and meeting to alter or overthrow the constitution, the
interval is perhaps still less. Whether the objects or the United Irish
societies were at this period unconstitutional or not, it is certain the
meetings were clandestine, and that of the lower class of people numbers
flocked to them who were admitted only on condition of taking an oath to
be true to the body--_i. e._ to keep its secrets, and to devote
themselves to the pursuit of the two great popular objects--Catholic
Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform. The impression which the minds of
the lower order of the people would be apt to receive at the discussion
of these meetings cannot be considered as very likely to mitigate their
zeal in opposition to the persecutors of the Catholics, or to form their
minds to receive with patient forbearance the severities which were now
every where exercised indiscriminately against the United Irishmen and
Defenders--terms which, in the indiscriminating language of the senate
and the Castle, were considered as synonymous.

In considering the effect which the extensive and secret meetings of the
United Irishmen produced on the dispositions of the lower people it is
not necessary to ascertain whether the designs of that body were or were
not treasonable. It is sufficient that were they precisely limited to
their professed objects, emancipation and reform, the effect of them on
the mass of the public by whom they were constituted must be adverse to
the system which administration had adopted, and which they now began to
force on the nation by means the most unjustifiable.

If this statement of facts, which I have now submitted to the English
nation, as demonstrative that the Irish administration were themselves
the authors of those enormities which they have since made a pretext for
introducing fire and sword through the country--if this statement, I
say, be true, and I defy any part of it to be disproved, their guilt and
the emptiness of the pretences by which they have endeavoured to screen
it, are incontrovertible:

What was the next measure of administration? The Insurrection Act. The
outrages which commenced in Armagh, and had been but too successfully,
though faintly, imitated in several parts of the country, administration
now affected to consider as incurable by any of the ordinary powers with
which the law invested the executive authority. A law was therefore
propounded and adopted, by which any district which the magistrates of
it might think proper to declare in a state of disturbance, or in
immediate danger of becoming so, (phrases so vague that it required but
little artifice to make them applicable at that time to any county in
the kingdom,) was put into such a state of regimen, that any individual
magistrate might on his own authority, without trial or proof, seize the
person of any inhabitant and send him to serve on board his Majesty's
fleet--_i. e._ transport him for life.

In such districts the privileges of the constitution with respect to
liberty, and I may add, life, were completely suspended; for whether
under pretended authority derived from this act, or from the
superabundant zeal of the military protectors of the public peace, who
were employed to assist in the execution of it, numbers fell, either by
being shot at their own doors, or by the newly-invented process of
strangulation, adopted to procure confession of crimes which perhaps had
never been committed, or the accusation of others, whose innocence might
have made it impossible to convict them by other evidence.

Without entering into a more minute detail of the disgusting enormities
or the sufferings to which this measure gave birth, I may safely refer
it to the judgement of men accustomed to enjoy the uninterrupted
blessings of British law and liberty, whether the infliction of this
measure on the people of Ireland was not of itself enough to aggravate
feelings already irritated into discontent the most alarming. I do not
mean surely to justify assassination or treason, but I appeal to men who
have the feelings of freemen, whether to see a father, a brother, or a
son, fall, perhaps innocently, under the bayonet of a military
executioner, or transported for life from his helpless family and
nearest connections--it may be without guilt, because the punishment was
inflicted without trial--may not in some degree account for, though it
cannot justify, the shocking crimes which have, since the introduction
of that measure, been committed by individuals in Ireland? A magistrate
who exerts himself in carrying this law into effect, and who, in
obedience to the will of the legislature, sends numbers of his
countrymen from the soil in which they drew breath, and the connections
which make life dear to them, merely because he suspects their loyalty,
does that which, being legal, ought not to induce on him either odium or
punishment; but while human nature shall continue to be composed of its
present materials, there will be found men among the people over whom he
exerts such authority, whose vindictive passions will be apt to mark him
as their victim. In many deplorable instances has this been verified in
Ireland. The Insurrection Act was adopted to prevent such enormities;
unhappily it but encreased, greatly encreased, the black catalogue.

I ask unprejudiced men, whether these measures, carried into execution
against a people who from the recent acquisition of independence felt
much of the pride and sensibility of freedom, were not most likely to be
attended with the consequences which have followed? What then, I ask,
must have been the effect of that measure, at which freedom and justice
feels still more abhorrence--a legal indemnity for all crimes committed
against the people, under colour of preserving the peace? Good heavens!
was it not enough that a law was passed which left the subjects' liberty
and person at the mercy of the magistrates--but must the military or
civil tyrant be protected _by_ law _against_ law, in the perpetration
of acts which even by the spirit of that act would be illegal and
oppressive? The first Bill of Indemnity Was designed to protect my Lord
Carhampton, who had played the part of a self-created Dictator in
Ireland. What the particular measures pursued by his Lordship were, I
shall not enumerate. They are known, and I believe will be remembered by
both countries. He is indemnified for his zeal; and his measures,
instead of quieting, have been unfortunately found to have produced a
contrary effect. From that time to the present, Bills of Indemnity have
become an established part of the system of government in Ireland; so
that he who can contrive means to cover the most malicious and
oppressive crimes by the easy pretext of securing the public peace, may
rest as firmly on an act to indemnify him in the succeeding session, as
the public creditor may depend on the passing of the money bills.

In enumerating these successive steps which have been taken in Ireland,
professedly to tranquillize the country, but which have operated only to
render it outrageous, I might have mentioned the appointment and the
recall of my Lord Fitzwilliam. But in speaking to the people of England
it were superfluous to dwell on that event; for with the circumstances
of _that_, _they_, as well as the people of Ireland, are acquainted. I
shall therefore content myself with saying, that of the many irritating
measures which have goaded Ireland, the recall of my Lord Fitzwilliam
was the most mischievously efficacious. With that nobleman, Hope fled
from the country. What has since followed has been the counsel of
Despair. By that event it was placed beyond doubt, that the Cabinets of
the two countries formed a junction against reform--against the
restoration of the constitution to Ireland--and against a mitigation of
the coercive system. If treason have spread widely through the
country--if the friends of the French system have become numerous, it
must be since that insulting act of the British Cabinet told the people,
that if they felt the pressure of present evils, or looked for a further
extension of constitutional rights, their hope must be turned to another
quarter than to the influence of the British connection.

By the operation of the measures which I have now described, the Irish
people and the Irish administration were put at issue. The system to
which the Castle had resorted to silence murmur, had produced
outrage--the measures which they took to punish outrage had created
conspiracy, assassination, and, in many instances, treason. Throughout
the whole process of discontent, I have shewed that administration were
aggressors, and that the irregularities which have followed were but the
reaction of an high and irritable spirit in the people, compressed by
coercion, which left no vent to its feelings but in acts of private or
public violence.

At this point the administration found it necessary to pause. The
measures which they had already tried to smother the discontents of the
people, and to repress those violent and illegal consequences of it, had
not only proved ineffectual, but had aggravated, to a most alarming
height, the mischiefs which they were sottishly expected to remedy. In
almost every part of the country the most extreme disorder prevailed. It
was not now a Volunteer Convention, consisting of men of known loyalty
and great stake in the country, meeting to petition for reform--it was
not now a Catholic Convention sitting in Dublin, pursuing open and
constitutional measures to obtain elective franchise, or a full
admission to the privileges of the constitution--it was not, I say,
such bodies as these that administration had to cope with. They had put
down those. Other more numerous and more dangerous difficulties were now
to be encountered. The populace of the country was now organized, and an
_imperium in imperio_ formed, which, from its privacy and the numbers of
which it consisted, was truly alarming. The professed objects of this
society, the most singular which perhaps had ever been formed in any
country, still continued what they originally were--Reform and
Emancipation. But papers were found which were supposed to prove, that
their designs were more dangerous and more extensive; and a letter from
a Mr. Tone, which clearly expressed a treasonable opinion respecting a
separation of the two countries was taken as full evidence that this was
the sentiment of the society at large, consisting, as was believed, of
not less than 600,000 men. Whatever might be _their_ real designs, it
was certain, that the conduct of the Orange-men of Armagh had been
successfully imitated by the peasantry in many parts of Ireland. The
plunder of arms was carried on systematically; the quantity taken was
known to be considerable; and in the proclaimed districts several
magistrates who had been active in transporting suspected persons, &c.
&c. had been assassinated.

In this critical moment, the best and wisest men in Ireland, gentlemen
possessed of the most extensive property in the country, and at the same
time of character above the slightest imputation of disaffection or
loyalty, urged on administration the necessity of changing that system
which had been found to produce such horrible effects. They urged, that
the great body of the nation was loyal--that even of the United Irishmen
the greater part wished only for the admission of the Catholics and
reform--and that to concede these would throw such a weight into the
scale of government as would effectually tranquillize the country.
Administration, however, took up the contrary opinion, and decided on a
continuation of coercive measures. They pretended, that the people of
Ireland were rebels, and that with rebels conciliation should not be
tried. They assumed, in the first place, that all the United Irishmen
were traitors--in the second, that that society comprehended the great
body of the people, or that those who were not of that body approved
heartily of all the measures which had been carried on for some years
back by the Irish Cabinet. No account was made of that great and
respectable class of men who, while they looked with detestation on
those acts of insubordination, of assassination, and treason, which had
followed the adoption of the present system, contemplated with the most
unqualified reprobation that system itself. Determined, therefore, to
scourge the nation out of that ill temper into which the scourge had
driven it, what step did administration fix on? They send a military
force under General Lake to the province of Ulster, and enjoin him to
act at his discretion for disarming the freemen of the North, and
enforcing content and tranquillity at the point of the bayonet!

It is not necessary to waste much reasoning on this measure. The
constitution prescribes the interposition of the sword only in cases of
open insurrection or rebellion. If the province of Ulster was in that
state, what indignation must not the two countries feel at the wicked
pertinacity of the Irish Cabinet in a system which led to that issue? If
it were not in rebellion, what punishment could be too great for those
who resorted without necessity to that last and dreadful remedy--a
military force vested with discretionary powers, for disorders properly
within the cognizance of the civil magistrate? But the administration
justify themselves by the plea, that the proceedings of these United
Irishmen were too subtle and cautious to be met by the ordinary
exertions of the civil power, though they were not yet in open
rebellion. They must take the praise, therefore, of having created a new
species of opposition to established government, hitherto unknown, by
directing, without intermission, the force of the state not against open
violence, but against political principle; by warring, not with men
whose aim was anarchy and plunder, but men skilled in, and zealous for,
the perfection of the representative system.

But I deny that Ulster was in such a state as to justify the measure
that was then taken--for it was not in open and avowed rebellion, nor
was the system of the disorderly people in that province either too
subtle or too strong for an active magistracy, constitutionally aided by
the military. The disturbances amounted to nothing more than the
assemblage now and then of parties of people on the original principle
of the Orange-men (who to the disgrace of legislature, have, in a
certain place, more than once, been called the friends of the
constitution,) breaking houses and plundering arms; and I contend, that
with a proper force left always at the disposal and under the direction
of active magistrates, those individual acts of outrage might have been
prevented. The pretext, that the magistrates were terrified from acting
by frequent assassination, is empty--courage is not exclusively the
boast of the military in Ireland; and every country in which the
Insurrection Act has been carried into operation has produced numbers of
magistrates who dared to meet all the odium and all the danger which the
execution of that unpopular act imposed on them.

Under this Proclamation, Gen. Lake deprived of arms not only the
traiterous and the disaffected, but the loyal and most zealous friends
of the constitution. Where arms were expected and not found, a very new
mode of trial was instituted. The suspected or accused person was
suspended by the neck until the process of strangulation was nearly
completed. He was then let down, and if he was still pertinacious, the
touchstone was again tried, until he either confessed or accused others.
In other cases, it was ascertained what quantity of arms should be
brought in by a certain village or district--if the full quantity could
not be produced by the inhabitants, their habitations were reduced to
ashes to detect the concealment. These seem to have been ordinary modes
of proceeding under the military system; there were others more
irregular and eccentric which the zeal of the soldiers frequently
prompted them to indulge in.

Of the system thus steadily pursued by the Irish administration, the
Irish legislature expressed their most hearty and zealous
approbation.--Throughout the whole train of violent measures to which
the Irish administration resorted, the Irish Parliament went with them
_pari passu_. Without stopping to enquire whether this co-operation of
the legislature tended rather to reconcile the people to the system than
to encrease the discontents which it was naturally calculated to
produce, it is certain that some very celebrated characters, whose
opinions in this case deserve to be respected, had declared the most
decided disapprobation of at least that part of it which related to the
military. The conduct of my Lord Moira, in the Parliament of both
countries, himself a soldier, an Irish nobleman, and one possessed of
such a stake in the country as must make him anxious for its welfare
and its peace, has already perhaps inclined the British public to doubt
whether the enormities practised under that system were tolerable in any
country. The manly and candid opinion of the brave old Abercrombie,
"That the conduct of the army in Ireland was calculated to make them
formidable only to their friends," must have also had its weight in
ascertaining the merits of that system. That the feelings and the honour
of that venerable officer did not suffer him longer to remain in the
command of the Irish army, Ireland will long have reason to lament. The
influence of even _one_ such mind on Irish politics would have produced
the most important benefits.

For some time the administration boasted that they had at length found
the way to quiet the country. In fact, the operations of the military in
Ulster did reduce that province to a state of peace, and no disturbance
existed but what the army itself created. Less violent and
unconstitutional measures would have prevented acts of outrage--but
neither this, nor any measure of coercion, could have eradicated
discontent. As the infliction of the military system produced a gloomy
quiet in one part of the island, the disturbances broke out with much
encreased enormity in other parts of the country.--The South, hitherto
tranquil, and which at the moment of danger, when the enemy appeared on
the coast a few months before, exhibited the most enthusiastic spirit of
zeal and loyalty, now became convulsed by partial risings to an alarming
degree. The interior of the country, the King's and Queen's County, the
County of Kildare, and even the vicinity of the metropolis, the Counties
of Wicklow and of Dublin, were now in as bad a state as the pacified
North had ever been. Every reasonable man, who believes that nothing can
be produced without a producing cause, must attribute this change of
temper in the South and other parts of the country to some circumstance
which did not exist at the time of the invasion; and that circumstance
could only be the introduction of the military system--of the efficacy
of which administration had so much vaunted. But powerful as they
supposed that system to be, they were not inclined to depend on its
efficacy, such as they had tried it. They therefore now resorted to a
measure which has hitherto been used only by irritated victors over
perfidious and vanquish'd enemies--they sent them troops, not to disarm
the inhabitants of a district, or to act with discretionary powers for,
what was now a general pretext for violence of every species, the
preservation of the public peace; but permanently to live at free
quarters on all the inhabitants of those counties which were in what was
called a disturbed state. Under this measure, excesses were committed
which Ireland, much as she had suffered, had not yet witnessed. It was
not the burning of a peasant's house, or the strangulation of one or two
individuals in a village, which struck the eye of a spectator--but the
houses of the most respectable farmers in the country, nay, houses of
gentlemen of large fortune, and, in many instances, of the most approved
loyalty, converted into barracks by the soldiery--the females of the
family flying from the insults of these new guests, who rioted on the
provision, emptied the cellars of their unwilling hosts, and when they
had exhausted the house which they occupied sent their mandate to the
neighbourhood to bring in a fresh stock!

At this point I stop--for here the fate of Ireland comes to its crisis.
This measure was in operation not three weeks, when the rebels, the
traitors, or the people of Ireland, to the sorrow of every friend to
peace, to the Irish name, and to the British connection, stood forth in
opposition to the King's troops. The scene of blood is now opened.
Ireland is wasting her vital strength in convulsion; and whether victory
or defeat await them, humanity, loyalty, and patriotism must weep over
the event!

When I solicit the people of England attentively to consider that long
train of harsh and hideous measures which I have now enumerated, and
which have brought Ireland into this lamentable condition--when I call
on them to examine with anxious care the motives in which they
originated, and the end to which they lead--I call on them to attend to
that in which they are deeply interested. In my mind they have been
adopted but for one purpose--to raise on the broad basis of CORRUPT
INFLUENCE a system of government, which, under the form of the British
constitution, should stand independent of, and in opposition to, the
sense of the nation. I rest this opinion on two grounds--The one is,
because each successive measure taken up by administration to counteract
the wishes of the people, carried in it features of despotism, which in
a free country the necessity of the case could not call for. Every bill
of pains and penalties to which they resorted involved and asserted a
general and permanent principle, or gave the Executive a general and
extraordinary power, inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution,
though the occasions which gave rise to those measures were but partial
or transient. I refer for instances to the Convention Act, the
Insurrection Act, the Gunpowder Act, and the Press Bill, a measure
which, in my enumeration of the violent steps taken by the Irish
government, escaped me, though perhaps it is, of all the dreadful
groupe, the most prominent and most fatal to liberty and the
constitution.--The other reason on which my opinion rests is, because
administration have persevered in that system without making any one
effort to allay discontent or satisfy the moderate and loyal part of the
community by the concession of any of those measures on which the heart
of the nation was fixed--because they have gone on in opposition to the
sense of the best men in the empire to force the people of Ireland, or
the discontented part of it, into open and avowed rebellion, rather than
try any means to prevent that catastrophe by conciliating
measures--because this intention was avowed and gloried in[2]--and,
finally, because from the outset of their career they have resorted to
military coercion in every case where they could find, or create, the
slightest pretence for the use of that dreadful engine.

The flame which by these means has been kindled in Ireland can be
extinguished but in one of two ways--either the rebels aided by the
power of France will succeed in wresting Ireland from the British
connection, or the military force with which the Irish government is
entrusted will stifle in blood the discontents of the country. Of the
first there is happily no danger. The numbers of the insurgents is much
too small to endanger the connection, and that moderate and loyal party,
which administration have hitherto treated with contempt, is too strong
and too much attached to the present form of government, notwithstanding
what they had suffered, either to be overcome by the force, or seduced
by the artifice of disaffection, to forego their allegiance. There
remains then only the other alternative--and of that what will be the
effect? Rebellion will be quelled by power, but the existing causes of
discontent--those causes which through a long series of petty conflicts
have at length terminated in the present dreadful issue, will remain
rankling in the bosom of the country. Conscious of its force,
administration will, with an high hand, bear still more hard on the
constitutional rights of the people--at least against those rights which
are calculated to guard them against the tyranny of an ambitious
faction. Knowing the hatred which the Irish nation bear to the set who
have heaped on her head those calamities under which she now groans, and
of which centuries will not remove the effects, will the Irish
administration, think you, resign that extraordinary unconstitutional
force which in course of the struggle they have acquired? Impossible! If
we can reason at all on the event, it is most reasonable to believe,
that the military system which shall have subdued the discontents of
Ireland, will continue to govern it. Will it be for the safety, or for
the honour of England that her sister country should be a military

In one event only, then, does there appear to be a gleam of hope that
Ireland may yet become a free, happy, and contented member of the
British empire--and that is, in a suppression of the present
insurrection--in a change of the men by whom the affairs of Ireland have
been for some years so abominably administered--and in a change of that
system which has hitherto been pursued by them. If Englishmen value
their own liberty, which the contiguity of despotism must always hazard,
or feel sympathy for the sufferings of an unfortunate people, whose
attachment to Britain has been proved during the course of an anxious
and changeful century, to these objects will they direct their efforts.

Already thousands of the people of Ireland have fallen in the
contest--and yet the standard of rebellion is erect. More of the blood
of Ireland must be shed, before Ireland, under the present system, is
restored to peace. A military chief governor has been sent over, not to
appease but to subdue. He _may_ subdue--but is it the pride of a British
King to rule a depopulated, a desolated, and a discontented country?
Will fire and sword restore content and confidence to the land? Will the
slaughter of a hundred thousand of the people of Ireland reconcile the
survivors to that system of mal-government which they have risen to
oppose? Will the faction which has provoked this scene of slaughter,
become more popular by the carnage they have occasioned?

Englishmen!--your fellow subjects of Ireland now call on you to
consider the case of a distracted country, as that of brethren united by
the tie of a common nature, and by the still closer tie of a common
Sovereign; both entitled to the advantages of the same constitution,
each depending, in some measure, on the others strength. For one hundred
years you have found in the people of Ireland a faithful and firm
friend--though for much of that period we laboured under the most
distressing disadvantages, destitute of the means of wealth, and aliens
from the most important benefits of the British constitution, we have
yet borne our sufferings with patient and uncomplaining attachment to a
British Sovereign, and to the British cause. In our poverty we still
contributed to the exigencies of the empire. When an extension of our
means enabled us to give more largely towards the common stock, we
poured forth our blood and treasure in the cause of Britain with more
than the zeal of brothers. In our fallen state, with an island reeking
with blood, and the sword at our throat, directed by an administration
in the best and in the worst of times hostile to Ireland, we call upon
you to assist in rescuing our country from utter and irretrievable
ruin--we implore you to interfere for us with our common Sovereign--to
solicit at his paternal hand the removal of those wicked men, who by
abusing the confidence of their Sovereign, and sacrificing their duty to
his people, to the gratification of ambitious views or native
malevolence, have belied the Irish nation; and by their obstinate and
relentless cruelty have driven it to madness. We conjure you to think of
us as of men enamoured of liberty and animated by that zealous
attachment to monarchy, limited by law, which has given immortality to
the name of Englishmen--though at the same time, as of men, among whom
many have been hurried into unpardonable indiscretions while the great
body remain a loyal, though a suffering people.--In a word, we solicit
your sympathy as brethren, and your influence as fellow subjects, with
the common Father of both kingdoms, to save four millions of people from
the insulting tyranny of Ministers who have abused their powers, and,
instead of the mild genius of the British constitution, have governed by
the galling despotism of a military mob!



[1] Vide Irish Chancellor's speech on Lord Moira's motion.

[2] See Mr. J. Claud Beresford's Speeches in the House of Commons during
the session of 1797.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Causes of the Rebellion in Ireland Disclosed - In an Address to the People of England, in Which It Is Proved by Incontrovertible Facts, That the System for Some Years Pursued in That Country, Has Driven It into Its Present Dreadful Situation" ***

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