Page images

defender, left town truly disconsolate nt not being able to effect something towards the liberation of his kinsman. This chain of circumstantial .evidence was strengthened by the assertion, that Mr. Sweetman's correspondent had employed, at a considerable expence, an agent and counsel to act for several persons accused as defenders. The report seeming to presume, that the money used for that purpose was supplied by the catholic committee, and part of the voluntary subscription it had collected, has the candour to state, that nothing appeared before the secret committee which could lead it to believe that the body of the catholics were concerned in promoting these disturbances, or privy to this application of their money. The secret committee then couples (but only by the insinuation which results from juxtaposition in their report) the defenders with the volunteers, the reformers and republicans in' the North and in Dublin.

This attack on the organ and adherents of the catholics hav. ing been generally conceived as aimed in hostility against the bill then depending for their relief, no time was lost in counteracting its effects. A reply to it appeared almost directly from the sub-committee, and another from the secretary. The defence by the former stated, that while the religious quarrels were going on between the peep-o'-day-bays and the defenders, in consequence of personal application from several protestant gentlemen, three of the committee had an interview in July, 1792, at Rathfryland, in the county of Down, with above twenty respectable protestant gentlemen of that neighbourhood, who admitted, that in no one instance had the catholics been the aggressors; but on the contrary had been repeatedly attacked, even in the solemn offices of their religion and burial of their dead. At this interview it was further stated to have been agreed, that the committee should use all its influence with the' lower orders of catholics, to induce them to desist "from their meetings, and that the volunteers should adopt resolutions expressing their determination to protect every man equally, without out distinction of party or religion. In order to effectuate this agreement, the general committee framed a circular address to that district, stating the agreement and the determination of the volunteers: " Entreating the lower orders of catholics to ab"stain from parade and meetings, and all other measures, that «' might tend to alarm their protestant brethren; pointing out "the embarrassment that would necessarily be thrown in the "way of the great catholic objects, by any thing of riot, tumult "or disorder; promising to those who should observe the peace"able demeanour recommended by that address, all possible pro"tection, as well by applications to government, as by support"ing at the common expence, the cause of those who, if attacked "in their ho uses,'property or persons, should dutifully appeal to "the law of the land for redress, where circumstances might "not enable them to seek for that protection themselves; but "that the general committee would in no case undertake the de"fence of any man who should assist in any riotous or disorder"ly meeting, or should not behave himself soberly,r peaceably, "and honestly." The defence further stated, that this address and the resolutions of the volunteers, restored peace and harmony to that part of the country, which had been harra$sed for many years before. It likewise mentioned, that the person alluded to in Mr. Sweetman's letter was recommended by that gentleman's commercial correspondent, as coming within the description of those whom the committee had promised to support; which, on examining his brother, there was found cause to doubt, and on that account all advice and assistance were refused. The subcommittee then solemnly asserted, that this was the only instance of their ever having had any kind of communication with the defenders. As to the levying of money, it specified the different expences which had been incurred in pursuing the catholic claims, and the necessity of voluntary contributions for their discharge. It also denied, that any part of them was ever applied to any other purpose. Mr. Sweetman's refutation dwelt on the same topics, and entered into a minute detail of his communications

K with i

with his commercial correspondent, the gentleman alluded to in the report of the secret committee. Notwithstanding the alarms that had been excited previous to the publication of the report, no attempt was made to proceed against any of the subcommittee or its secretary.

But, about this time, a tumult of another nature occurred, which never became an object of parliamentary cognizance; which was stated but imperfectly, even in the Northern Star, from motives of not very unreasonable apprehension; and which perhaps from a similar cause was scarcely noticed in the Dublin prints. It deserves however to be rescued from oblivion, and


assigned its proper place in history. For some days previous to the 15th of March, various movements of the military were made towards Belfast, which were supposed, to indicate some extraordinary measure. A train of artillery, consisting of two mortars and two field pieces, was brought to Lisburn, within seven miles of that town; and the inhabitants were also warned from different quarters of some impending mischief. On the 15th, at about two o'clock, four troops of the 17th dragoons having arrived in the vicinity by different routes, galloped into the centre of the town from its two opposite extremities with their sabres drawn, as if in full charge. After this singular manner of entering into a place where profound tranquility prevailed, where cavalry had never been quartered before, and where none was at that time expected, they were billeted on the principal taverns.

The inhabitants had not in general risen from their dinners, when a most alarming tumult began to take place. The dragoons had issued out from their respective quarters with their sabres drawn, generally in parties of from ten to twenty under the orders of a sergeant or corporal. They proceeded to attack 'every person, of every age and sex, who happened to be in the streets, and wounded many very severely. They had provided

themselves themselves with two or three ladders, upon which they mounted to demolish obnoxious signs, among which was that of Dr. Franklin. This having been made of copper cost them much useless labour with their swords; and the delay it occasioned gave some little opportunity to the inhabitants to recover from their astonishment, and think on their situation. The soldiers proceeded -with a -written list, to attack the houses of several individuals who had been long known for their popular principles. They also broke such windows of milliners or haberdashers as contained in them any thing gree;i.

This scene had lasted until quite dark, when the inhabitants having begun to assemble in groupes, and consult together, were preparing to fly to arms. The magistrates and the officers then interfered, and shortly put an end to the military outrage. It is worth notice, that during the whole of this transaction, the 55th regiment, at that time in garrison in Belfast, was drawn up under arms within the barracks; but did not interfere until the dragoons had retired, when they were ordered out to line the streets, and prevent any assemblage of the town's people. So ended the evening of the 15th,

The night was spent in anxious alarm, few of the inhabitants ■went to bed, lest the attack should be renewed. From what occurred next day, however, it is evident that the volunteers were not remiss during that time in making preparations for defence.

On the morning of the 16th, the streets were almost deserted. The sovereign, Mr. Bristow, (who appears in this awful dilemma not to have forgotten the duty he owed to the community) called a meeting of the inhabitants by public notice at the different places of worship. This meeting was so numerously attended, that it was held in the open air. The sovereign informed the inhabitants of his having waited upori General White, who comrr-"ded in the district, but who had been out of

K 2 , towu town the night before,i and that the general expressed some regret at what had occurred, and was willing to concert measures for the future peace of the place. The meeting appointed a committee of twenty-one, including all the magistrates, to confer with him on this subject.

Meanwhile'the dragoons were manifesting every determination to re-commence their proceedings, as soon as it should be dark: they were even observed marking the houses of the most obnoxious persons, that had escaped them the night before from their ignorance of the town, to which they were all utter strangers. It was evening before the committee could meet the general: even' his sincerity was doubted, for one of the warnings of danger to the town which had been given, and was believed, consisted of an assurance, that he had some time before writ-, ten to Government, expressing his apprehensions, that when he should be committed with Belfast, he should not be able to prevent his soldiers from plundering the town, as the inhabitants were rich, and had a great deal ol plate in their houses. But if the general was sincere, the discipline of the troops was very questionable: no time was therefore to be lost; night was coming on. The volunteers to the number of about seven hundred, being, all who had arms, repaired as privately as possible to two places of parade, both near the centre of the town. They had also placed a guard in every houso where an attack was expected. Several of the neighbouring country corps had sent them assurances that they would march to the supptrt of the inhabitants, on the first intimation of its being necessary. Thus prepared, and certain of reinforcements^ they calmly waited the result qf the conference hetween the committee and the general.

This was for some time prevented from taking place, by a demand on the part of General White to be admitted as a member of the committee, he having been shortly before appointed

a magistrate

« PreviousContinue »