« PreviousContinue »
torture and massacre, by fire and sword, Fitz. gerald, a sherisl, inflicted the most cruel torments, in order to extort confession; some were half strangled, others were whipped till they were ready to expire-but my pen drops from my hand, as I trace these atrocities! Sir Richard Mulgrave, in his “ Memoirs of the Rebel. lion,” palliates them in the most“ holiday and lady terms”-and lavishes the highest strains of panegyric on the execrable Fitzgerald, who was afterwards knighted for his barbarous conduct!
After the dreadful explosion of '98, the country relapsed into a deceitful calm; the Union passed, Ireland was annihilated as a nation, and was sinking into the torpid degradation of a contented province, when the ill-concerted insurrection headed by Robert Emmett, broke out in Dublin. The murder of Lord Kilwarden paralyzed the rebels, and their enthusiastic leader expiated on the scaffold his daring attempt to emancipate his oppressed country.
Mr. Curran was not in the House of Commons when the Union passed; but his senti. ments on that ill.omened measure were well known. In 1796, he anticipated, with a prophetic spirit, its disgraceful consequences: “ If any one desires to know, (said he) what an union with Great Britain would be, I will tell him. It would be the emigration of every man of consequence from Ireland; it would be the participation of British taxes without British
trade; it would be the extinction of the Irish name as a people; we should become a wretched colony, perhaps leased out to a company of Jews, as was formerly in contemplation, and governed by a few tax-gatherers and excisemen, unless possibly you may add 15 or 20 couple of Irish members, who might be found every session sleeping in their collars under the mangers
of the British minister." The Catholic party corresponded with France; and had emissaries and ambassadors there; but the ill-concerted descent of a small body of French troops under general Humbert in '99, served only to swell the fatal list of proscriptions, and its necessary consequence, the gallows or the hulks. The people were exposed to all the horrors of military executions, and were dragged into loathsome dungeons, and soon before their inexorable judges, who were at least merciful enough to shorten the period of their miserable existence.-A reign of terror followed the awful tempest of civil war, and government succeeded in rendering “ Erin's green Isle,"
"A land of carcasses and slaves,
The same penalties were continued, which, like the warm water and phlebotomy of the renowned Sangrado, were considered as an infallible specific against the disorders of the body politic.
There are four Catholics to one Protestant
in Ireland, and yet the former are treated like the Helots were formerly by the Spartans. What makes their situation peculiarly galling is, that they are not only obliged to support their priests, whom they look up to with veneration, but the heretic ministers of a religion, which they regard with abhorrence. In England, most of the inhabitants are, or pretend to be Protestants, and the lands of the rich and poor are equally taxed for the support of the church: In Ireland, the provision for a Protestant establishment is chiefly drawn from the Catholics, and while the potatoe garden of the wretched labourer is tithed to the utmost extent, the flocks of rich graziers are exempted! The peasant, the mechanic, the manufacturer, works from morning till night-not for him. self, his wife and children-but for the tithegatherers, who do their unamiable duty with unrelenting cruelty. Mr. Wakefield (who, in his excellent “ Account of Ireland,” has touched on every subject which could throw light on the state of the country) observes—“ I have seen the cow, the favourite cow, driven away accompanied by the sighs, the tears, and the imprecations of a whole family, who were paddling after, through dirt and wet, to take their last farewell of this their only friend and benefactor, at the pound gate. I have heard with emotions which I can scarcely describe, deep curses repeated from village to village as the cavalcade proceeded. I have witnessed the group pass the domain walls of the opulent
grazier, whose numerous herds were cropping the most luxuriant pastures, whilst he was secure from any demand for the tithe of their produce, looking on with the most unfeeling indifference." "Quis talia legendo temperet a lacrymis?”
The Protestant rectors sometimes reside in parts of the country, where few of their persuasion exist; thus they have a church without a congregation, a pulpit without a soul to preach to, and revenues without a single duty to perform.* In the country, the peasant, in cities the artisan, is obliged to contribute by the sweat of his brow, to the luxuries of the task-master, “ who belongs to a sect that eats the fine flour, and leaves the bran to others." Whilst imagination exhausts itself in the most elevated flights, whilst the spirit of sagacity adds the last touch to luxurious refinement, whilst the hands and feet of the labourer are blistered with exertion,-it is melancholy to reflect, that all the productions of human ingenuity and industry, are invented and perfected for Indolence to enjoy them, with contumelious disdain! What every thing is then created for the eye of Effeminacy, for the pleasures of the loathsome voluptuary! Is it then to arouse him from his misery and his ennui, that the hands of millions are employed in
* If the Pope were to come in person, and seize upon every tenth potatoe, the poor Irish peasant would scarcely endure it: with what patience, then, can he see it tossed into the cart of the heretic rector: Edinburgh Review, Nov. 1820.
thankless, wearying and health-consuming labour! Oh Providence! is it thus that thou go. vernest the world? The picture of nature presents, on all sides, harmony and proportion, that of mankind exhibits confusion and disorder! Union and concert reign among the elements, and men are in chaos!
The remaining disabilities are hideous scars left by painful and disgraceful wounds. Were the British government to open their eyes to the precipice which yawns before them, the laws of nature would still defer the enjoyment of its greatest blessings. One stroke of the legislator's pen cannot obliterate the sorrow and anger of ages! Much depends on the manner and circumstances of the change. But if the emancipation were unanimously and zealously voted, if the boon were conferred with the alacrity of men eager to begin the reparation of long injustice, the ultimate benefits to the country would be inestimable; men would gradually be moulded into harmonious union, and would look back with wonder on the gulf of folly and misfortune through which they have waded. Such an act of justice would in the end facilitate and accelerate the extinction of the deep-seated animosity of the Irish, and kindle the fondest attachment in the breasts of the people. The admission of the Catholics into Parliament would afford a security against rebellion, worth all the terrors of despotism, the forced oaths of allegiance and ecclesiastical arrangements.