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WILLIAM JAMES MAC NEVEN, Before The Secret Committee Of The House Of Commons, August 8, 1798.
Lord Castlereagh. DR. MAC NEVEN, the Lords have sent us the minutes of your examination before them, and we only wish, to trouble you with some questions relative to the interior state of the country. ,
Speaker. Pray, sir, what do you think occasioned the insurrection?
Mac Neven. The insurrection was occasioned by the houseburnings, the whippings to extort confessions, the torture of various kinds, the free quarters, and the murders committed upon the people by the magistrates and the army.
Speaker. This only took place since the insurrection.
Mac Neven. It is more than twelve months (looking at Mr. Corry) since these horrors were perpetrated by the Antient Britons about Newry; and long before the insurrection they were quite common through the counties of Kildare and
Carlo w, Carlow, and began to be practised with very great activity in the counties of Wicklow and Wexford.
Carry and Latoucht. Yes, a few houses were burned.
Mac Neven. Gentlemen, there were a great deal more than few houses burned.
Speaker. Would not the organization have gone on, and the Union become much stronger, but that the insurrection was brought forward too soon?
Mac Neven. The organization would have proceeded, and the Union have acquired that strength which arises from order; organization would at the same time have given a controul over the people, capable of restraining their excesses; and you see scarcely any have been committed in those Counties where it was well established. v
Lord Casthreagh. You acknowledge the Union would have become stronger, but for the means taken to make it explode.
Mac Ne-ven. It would every day have become more perfect, but I do not see any thing in what has happened to deter the people from persevering in the Union and its object; on the contrary, if I am rightly informed, the trial of force must tend to give the people confidence in their own power—as I understand it is now admitted, that if the insurrection was general, and well conducted, it would have been successful.
Sir J. Parnel. Do you know the population of Wexford county?
Mat Neven. Not exactly; but people agree, that if the in. surrection of a few counties in Leingter, unskilfully as it was
directed, directed, was so near overthrowing the government, a general rising would have freed Ireland.
Lord Castlereagh. Were not the different . measures of the government, which are complained of, subsequent to various proceedings of the United Irishmen?
Mac Neven. Prior, my Lord, to most of them; if your lordship desires it, I will prove, by comparison of dates, that government throughout has been the aggressor.—(His lordship iuas not curious.)
Speaker, (looking at the minutes from the Lords.) You say that you wished to keep back the insurrection; how do you reconcile that with the general plan of arming?
Mac Neven. From the time we had given up reform as hopeless, and determined to receive the French, we adopted a military organization, and prepared to be in a condition to cooperate wth them; but it was always our wish to wait, if possible, their arrival. We wished to see liberty established in our country with the least possible expence of private happiness, and in such a way that no honest man of either party should have cause to regret it. We had before our eyes the revolution of 1688, in which a popular general, with only a small army, gave the friends of liberty an opportunity of declaring themselves; accordingly, upon that celebrated occasion, the junction of the people of England with King William was so extensive, that war and its concomitant evils were entirely precluded. I know the case would be the same here if there was^a French landing.
Mr. Alexander. Although talents and education are to be found in the Union, .yet there is no comparison in point of property between those who invited the French, and those who brought in King William.
Mac Neven. Pardon me, sir, I know very many who possess propab^ly much larger properties than did Lord Danby, who signed the invitation to the Prince of Orange, or than did Lord Somers, who was the great champion of the revolution. The property in the Union is immense; but persons in a situation to be more easily watched, were not required to render themselves particularly conspicuous.
Speaker. But in case of a revolution, would not many persons be banished or destroyed, and their properties forfeited— for instance, the gentlemen here?
Mac Neven. We never had a doubt, but in such an event, many of those who profess to be the warmest friends of the British connexion, would very quickly join us; and the readiness with which we have seen them support different other administrations, led us to suppose they might possibly do us the Honour of supporting our own. I am confident, sir, that in case of a revolution, the United Irishmen would behave better to their enemies, than their enemies do to them.
Speaker. Was not the Olive Branch, and the arms she had on board, destined for this country?
Mac Neven. I never heard they were; arms have been frequently offered, but we always refused to accept them, without troops; for we knew that insurrection would be the immediate consequence of a landing of arms, and we constantly declared to the French government, that we never meant to make our country a La Vendee, or the seat oi Chouanerie.
Speaker. Do you think catholic emancipation or parliamentary reforai are objects of any importance with the common people?
F f Mac
Mac Nevch. Catholic emancipation, as it is called, the people do not care about; I am sure/they ought not now ; they know, I believe, very generally, that it would be attended with no other effect than to admit into the house of peers a few individuals who profess the catholic religion, and enable some others to speculate in seats in the house of commons. No man is so ignorant as to think this would be a national benefit. When Lord Fitzwilliam was here, I considered the measure a good one, as it would have removed the pretexts of those feuds and animosities which have desolated Ireland for two centuries, and have been lately so unhappily exacerbated; but now that those evils have occurred, which the stay of that nobleman would have prevented, they are not little measures which can remedy the grievances of this country.
[Speaker, looking over at somebody. See that.]
Speaker. But are you not satisfied, that reform would go as little way to content the people, as catholic' emancipation i
Mac Neven. Sir, I can best answer that question by declaring what the sentiments of the United Irishmen were at different periods. When Mr. Ponsonby brought in his first bill of reform, I remember having conversed vilh some of the most confidential men in the north on that subject—and they declared to me, they would think the country happy, and likely to think itself so, by getting that bill. When he brought in his last bill, I am sure the country at large would have been satisfied with the same. ,
• Lord Caithreagh. They would have been satisfied to effect a revolution through a reform?
Mac Neven. If a change of system be one way or other inevitable, of which I have no doubt, and which you yourselves