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pretext under which many of the Irish state prisoners lost four years of the prime of their lives in close captivity; twenty of them were immured in a remote fortress in a foreign land, where they could not hold intercouse with their friends or their country, unless through the medium of their enemies. They saw the Duke of Portland's order concerning them, which was harsh and rigorous in the extreme; but in passing through the hands of Lieutenant-Governor the Hon. James Stuart, it received what mitigation his duty would permit, and the prisoners were sensible it would have received more, if he had had the option. But they do not complain of rigour,' it has protected character which might have been blighted by the kindness of the court. It vindicates them from the calumnies of the British government and its retainers. It demonstrates that they did not sacrifice their principles to any unworthy compromise, and that they continued to deserve the enmity of the oppressors of their country.
After this view of the stipulated rights, the motives and proceedings of the Irish state prisoners, and of the whole conduct of the Anglo-Irish government, what must any impartial man think of the miserable affection of branding them with a crime by styling them traitors? To submit from fear, where there is just ground for resistance, is pusillanimous: to oppose tyranny with arms, where peaceable redress h,as been refused, is heroic and virtuous. The United Irishmen endeavoured to make it likewise prudent, by allying themselves with a power able to second them, and, if it had judged wisely, deeply interested in their success.
Those who are accustomed to confound names with thing«t will see in the term traitor nothing but reproach: To the United Irishmen, provoked by so many wrongs, it is matter of boast and triumph. If by applying to them that appellation, no more be intended than technically to express that they broke the laws which are calculated to protect the existing government, be it A a 2 what what it may; they adopt the epithet, and proudly avow themselves traitors to the tyrants of their country, and to the acts of power by which it is enslaved. They hazarded their lives in order to overthrow a system of government, and to destroy a connexion, which, after very mature reflection, they considered as the most baneful curses on their native land. But let it be observed, that they never meditated the destruction, even of that system of government, or of that connexion, until they had tried and found vain every other effort for giving liberty and happiness" to Ireland.
If by applying to them the term traitor, it be intended to express that they violated any duty which a citizen owes to the community of his fellow-citizens, they deny the accusation, and repel the charge of treason on the Irish parliament and the Anglo-Irish government. These were the subverters of whatever little liberty Ireland enjoyed. They were the supporters of a connexion which they have practically shewn can never exist with Irish prosperity and freedom. Notwithstanding all the great physical and moral advantages which Ireland possesses, she, is unknown, and almost always has been, as a nation, in consequence of that connexion: she is bent down and prostrated by the incumbent pressure of her tyrant. To maintain the avarice and ambition of England, Irishmen are daily forced to shed their blood without glory or profit to their country. Victory itself rivits their chains the faster. In vain are they placed in the most advantageous position for unlimited commerce, in vain are they blessed with a fruitful soil, with inexhaustible mines, with navigable rivers, with the noblest harbours. All these natural benefits are blasted by an imperious rival, before whose domination their strength is withered, their resources exhausted, their aptir tudes sacrificed, and the spirit of emulation strangled in its birth. Ireland never has enjoyed a free constitution: even before the, ^ Union had annilated her as a nation, her government was proving cial, servile and corrupt; her people were represented no where.
England bought her nominal representatives to betray her, and. paid them with the money levied on herself. OF the three hundred seats of the Irish house of commons, two hundred wepe the property of between thirty -and forty individuals, who received for them a compensation of a million and a half sterling at the passing of the Union, and which sum, by the authority of those very men, wfls levied on the nation. The sanguinary a:;d deluded Orangemen is also the legitimate growth of English policy, which has long fomented, and still perpetuates, the spirit of religious dissension ; because that in the cordial union of Irishmen, England beholJs the downfall of her usurpation, and the establishment of their liberties. Will any patriot, will any honest mar, accuse the United Irishmen of having violated a duty towards tl.eir fello"w-citizens, by labouring to destroy this horrible combination of flagitious fraud and systematic tyranny!
Look at the map of Europe. Place Ireland side by side with England: her climate is as auspicious, her soil as fertile, her people as intelligent, her situation more favourable. Why, then, has Ireland been sunk in poverty and wretchedness, while in East, West, and South, in Asia, Africa and America, the name of Britain is not more known and dreaded, even for the enormity of her crimes, than for the greatness of her dominion? Because from the first landing of Henry the Second, Ireland was a dependant province, and England an independent nation.
As to the charge of overturning the constitution, when it is preferred, let the question be also asked, what was meant by this anamolous thing, which the government have since overturned by the Union, without substituting a better? Was it the sale of representation, an oligarchical monopoly of power, an exclusive enjoyment, by a few, of the universal lights of nature, the political tyranny of one thov.sar.dth part, and the political slavery of the residue of the community? And by whom are the United Irishmen accused? By those who, to, palliate the corruption they must admit, alledge, as Lord Cas
tlereagh tlereagh did to Mr. Emmet,* that a free house of commons would be incompatible with, and destructive of, the other two estates. The Irish never had, nor indeed have even the English themselves ever had, what political philosophers, in their speculations, call the English constitution; an English minister says they never could by possibility have it—and then, under the insidious use of an equivocal expression, he accuses the United Irishmen of endeavouring to subvert a thing that did not, and, as he alledges, cannot exist.
But those persons whom their enemies style leaders of the United Irishmen, were actuated, it is said, by ambitious and uiw worthy motives. What are the proofs, and who are the accusers? The proofs are absolutely none; and let it bfr again obi served, the accusers are men who, to apologize for their own vice, deny the reality of virtue. Those who have studied human nature only in the meanness of their hearts, and the depravity of Irish politics, may be expected, and perhaps permitted, to dispute the existence of disinterested patriotism; but the upright and moral man will not credit such foul calumnies without proof. With impartial minds, the purity of the object will be considered the best evidence of the purity of the motive.
Guarding the secret of those leading United Irishmen who have escaped persecution and suspicion, and particularising only some of those whose names have acquired publicity; these imputations may be repelled by observing, that if Lord Edw. Fitzgerald had been actuated in his political life by dishonourable ambition, h? had only to cling to his great family connexions and parliamentary influence. They unquestionably would have advanced his fortunes and gratified his desires. The voluntary sacrifices he made, and the magnanimous manner in which he devoted himself far the independence of Ireland, are incontestible proofs of the generosity and purity of his, soul. Mr. Henry Jackson, now
* Vide the examination of Mr. Emmet Urfure the secret committee of thr house of common'.
happily in America, and Mr. John Sweetman, an emigrant in France, embarked very large fortunes, and the advantages of the highest commercial credit, in the same service; and, finally, they relinquished their country to redeem the blood of her children. Hamden Evans, than whom Ireland did not possess a more respected name, in the first line of connexion, affluent in fortune and temperate in every personal wish, what could induce him to set those advantages all at hazard, but the commanding tense of duty, the irresistible impulse of patriotic virtue?
The reputation which Mr. Emmet inherited on his entrance into his profession, and the character he had acquired in it, were sufficient to flatter the most sanguine expectation. Had he chosen to yield to the solicitations of ambition, without regard to the means of elevation; had he entered the parliamentary career in the service of government; had he adopted that line of conduct, by which very inferior abilities, provided there was still less integrity, were raised to eminence; he might, without much delay or any personal hazard, have arrived at the guilty honours of the Anglo-Irish court.—It was only necessary to desert Irish interests for British domination, to support religious intolerance, to grasp at personal emolument, while the strength of Ireland was frittered, isolated and paralized; only requisite to resist that parliamentary reform which alone could correct abuses, and afford the nation a guarantee for its rights; simply to prefer the advantage of England in every competition; in fine, to signalize obedience and confirm loyalty, by selling the existence of an Irish parliament, and making war on the principles of liberty itself.
Integrity, indeed, forbade this course; but ambition has universally trodden it, in the way to fortune and to power.
When the United Irishmen are censured, it is not by those who think there is a moral obligation of doing all we can, and