Page images

political Rights of Man.—We fancied we beheld the Standard of Liberty, which philosophy at this day unfurls in every part of Europe, arrested in its progress on the rock of Ireland, to receive the new homage of an enlightened people.

"The truth of your sentiments; the depth of your reflections; the gracefulness of your expressions, recalled to our recollection those celebrated bards, those immortal poets, whom the barbarous Edward, one of the English tyrants, pursued with his most cruel persecutions, to stifle the voice of the country, of honour, and of liberty.

"France has given the signal of a bold insurrection against all prejudices; against all abuses; against all illegitimate authorities.—May it, as you desire, become general among the human race!—That day, Friends and Brethren—will arrive; when the different parts of the civilized world shall raise together their eloquent voice; which, like that of Belfast, shall assert the Rights of the People, and teach them to recover them by the Empire of Reason, and the power of the laws.

"Receive, Friends and Brethren, the congratulations and thanks of a Free People, transmitted to you through us, as their organ—for the example which you yourselves lately gave to the Universe.—We congratulate you on the talents displayed in the exposition of your principles respecting the nature and the end of Government. We congratulate you on the sagacity, the noble freedom, with which you have pointed out the influence of the French Revolution on the happiness of every people. We congratulate you on the courage with which you force tyrants to listen to expressions of that lively interest which you take in our fate; to hear the prayer which you address to God, that he may protect us with his power; to attend, above all, to the ardent vows which you have offered up for our success. In fine, we congratulate you, Brethren and Friends, on the respect which you have shewn to the National Assembly of France, by addressing to it directly your Declaration. Ah! that you could conceive the degree in which that brilliant act of admiration and respect has penetrated our souls with joy and gratitude!—that you could conceive how much all good Frenchmen are touched, honoured, filled with noble pride, when they behold the just tribute of applause, which they themselves unceasingly offer to their regenerative Assembly, passing from mouth to moeth, from clime to clime, to that Council of Sages, who thus enjoy, beforehand, the glory with which posterity will crown it.

"We are, with the most lender affection, Friends and Brothers, The Members of the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, at Bourdeaux. Azema, President, Chapelle, Secretary. At Bourdeaux, 14th of August, 1791, in the third year of our liberty."

"Clermont Department of Puy de Dome, 20th of August, third year of liberty, to the Volunteers of Ireland.

"Brothers and Friends! The first principle of a virtuous Frenchman is that which attaches him to the destinies of his country. Its deserved recompence is the good opinion of those free men with whom humanity has stamped our cause as the cause of equality, the cause of liberty.

"The sentiments manifested by the brave Irish Volunteers, strengthens the opinion we had already formed of the energy of that unsubdued Nation, which for three centuries successfully resisted the usurped dominion of the English Government.

"People of Ireland, rejoice; your sufferings are nearly terminated. The torch of reason is lighted; it beams upon the whole world; one of its first rays has darted upon your island. The Irish Volunteers, glowing with the holy love of liberty, will receive and disperse it to the remotest parts of your nation, and they will preserve it with that courage which the cause requires, and your nation is famed for.

"That veil is torn, which has for ages hid the sacred rights of the people; the chains of Europe are shattered; the last moment of despotism is at hand; let us hasten the fall of the insatiable monster; let us unite as friends, as brothers, in heart and deeds; let us wrest from our tyrants, even to the last of those powers which they have assumed; let us leave with them all that of right belongs to them, the shame, the ignominy of having usurped them; let us leave with their vile abettors those chains rivetted to their base souls by sordid interest.

"For the accomplishment of this most salutary work, let our fortunes, let our lives be sacrificed; let us vow a reciprocal friendship and union, under the revered and indisso. table seal, the good of human kind.

"In the certainty that our sentiments will be approved by the Irish Volunteers, as theirs are cherished by those freemen, who compose the Society of the Friends of the Constitution in Clermont, we present them our thanks, and request their association and correspondence.

"The Members of the Committee of Correspondence, for the Friends of the Constitution in Clermont, Mouestier, President, Francois Biozat, Mabru, Secretaries."

The formation of political societies, on the principles of the preceding prospectus, now proceeded rapidly. One was formed in Belfast, in October; another in Dublin, in November; and shortly after many others throughout the North, all under the denomination of United Irishmen. According to their constitution, the members were admitted by ballot; each member, previous to his election, was to take and subscribe the test at the close of their Declaration, page 315. A president, treasurer and secretary, committees of constitution, finance, correspondence, and of accommodation were appointed quarterly, for conducting the business of the society; and, to defray its expenses, and establish a fund, one guinea on admission, and one guinea annually, was to be paid by each member. On the 9th of December, 1792, this Society published the following Declaration.

"In the present great a;ra of reform, when unjust governments are falling in every quarter of Europe, when religious persecution is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience, when the rights of men are ascertained in theory, and that theory substantiated by practice, when antiquity can no longer defend absurd and oppressive forms against the common sense and common interests of mankind, when all government is acknowledged to originate from the people, vOL. Iv. 2 K

and to be so far only obligatory as it protects their rights and promotes their welfare; we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its effectual remedy. "We have no National Government."We are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, whose strength is the weakness of Ireland, and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the country as means to seduce and subdue the honesty and the spirit of her representatives in the legislature. Such an extrinsic power, acting with uniform force in a direction too frequently opposite to the true line of our obvious interests, can be resisted with effect solely by unanimity, decision and spirit in the people, qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally and efficaciously, by that great measure essential to the prosperity and freedom of Ireland— An equal Representation of all the People in Parliament.

"We do not here mention as grievances, the rejection of a place bill, of a pension bill, of a responsibility bill, the s.ile of peerages in one house, the corruption publicly avowed in the other, nor the notorious infamy of borough traffic between both; not that we are insensible of their enormity, but that we consider them as but symptoms of that mortal disease which corrodes the vitals of our constitution, and leaves to the people in their own government the shadow of a name.

"Impressed with these sentiments, we have agreed to form an association, to be called The Society of United Irishmen; and we do pledge ourselves to our country, and mutually to each other, that we will steadily support and endeavour by all due means to carry into effect the following resolutions:

"1. Resolved, that the weight of English influence in the Government of this country is so great as to require a cordial union among All the People of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce.

"2. That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in parliament.

"3. That no reform is practicable, efficacious or just, which shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion.

"Satisfied as we are that the intestine divisions among Irishmen have too often given encouragement and impunity to audacious and corrupt administrations in measures which but for these divisions they durst not have attempted, we submit our resolutions to the nation as the basis of our political faith.

"We have gone to what we conceive to be the root of the evil; we have stated what we conceive to be the remedy: with a parliament thus reformed everything is easy; without it nothing can be done; and we do call on and most earnestly exhort our countrymen in general to follow our example, and form similar societies in every quarter of the kingdom for the promotion of constitutional knowledge, the abolition of bi. gotry in religion and politics, and the equal distribution of the Rights of Man throughout all sects and denominations of Irishmen.

"The people, when thus collected, will feel their own weight, and secure that power which theory has already ad. mitted as their portion, and to which, if they be not aroused by their present provocations to vindicate it, they deserve to forfeit their pretensions for ever.

"James Napper Tandy, Secretary.

"TEST.—I, A. B. in the presence of God, do pledge my. self to my country that I will use all my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adequate representation of the Irish nation in parliament; and as a means of absolute and immediate necessity in the establishment of this chief good of Ireland, I will endeavour as much as lies in my abi. lity to forward a brotherhood of affection, an identity of in. terests, a communion of rights and an union of power among Irishmen of all religious persuasions, without which every reform in parliament must be partial, not national, inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes, and insufficient for the freedom and happiness of this country."

At this period a division took place between the catholics. Their nobles and several of their gentry, endeavoured to induce the committee to adopt the resolution of seeking no removal of the existing tyrannic penal laws, but iu the mauncr

« PreviousContinue »