« PreviousContinue »
at every hazard, to maintain the independence and rights, to defend the honour and happiness of our country : to resist the attacks of despotism, whether in the shape of corruption or violence. No, it is by those creatures in whom the principle of action does not rise above the level of individual interest; by those corrupt minds that never expand to a love of country, a love of liberty, a sense of public prosperity. But the United Irishmen were taught by their principles, that the people alone are the fountain of all just power, and that to their freely chosen delegates belongs the right of exercising authority over the nation. If what their detractors see in Ireland be not a free people in the exercise of those just rights, but a population of slaves, oppressed at Once by a foreign tyranny and a native faction, which that tyranny constitutes the subordinate agent of its worst inflictions, which performs the drudgery of its vengeance, and receives for this loathsome office a compensation wrung from the vitals of the people, or raised on the ruins of their violated majesty; if this be what our detractors must behold in Ireland, let them forget their prejudices but for a moment, place themselves a few years later in existence, suppose themselves already standing at the impartial distance of posterity, and then, communing with their consciences, let them say what were the demerits of the United Irishmen 2
Had this association succeeded in the noblest enterprize that ever was concerted for the relief of Ireland, by breaking that chain of slavery which has held her in wretchedness for six hundred years, she would cease to be rent by the savage policy of a jealous rival, impoverished by the extravagant expenditures of a bankrupt associate, sacrificed for the only nation on earth of which she has reason to complain, or exhausted at every vein for the avaricious and liberticide wars of England. . Her resources would be employed for her own interest and glory; her inborn energy would be turned to her own happiness ; the wants and ignorance of her peasantry would be removed; the unnatural union of church and state, which degrades religion into an engine of profane policy, would be dissolved ; tythes, the bane of agriculture, would be abolished; the memory of religious dissensions would be lost. She would be a nation, not a province ; her people would be citizens, not slaves; her flag would be seen on the ocean; her commerce would extend over the globe; her name would be exalted among the people of the earth.She would assume that station for which nature intended her, and for her protection she need only look to God and to her courage.
But as the deliverer of the Israelites was not permitted to accomplish what he had begun, so others, more fortunate, but not more zealous than the United Irishmen of 1798, will perhaps lead the bondmen of their race to the promised land of independence. And in that day when the cause of Ireland shall again be arbitrated by the hand of power, we beseech thee, God of the oppressed to give liberty to our enslaved, and concord to our distracted country; to add skill to the valour, perseverance to the enthusiasm, and union to the efforts of her sons: and when the patriot shall be triumphant and liberty secure, teach him to discern and to compassionate, in the persons of his enemies, and deluded instruments of a foreign policy, whom prejudice had misled, whom reason may reclaim, and kindness turn into friends. Above all, drive for ever from thy chastened land, the impious persecution of thy creatures under pretext of thy service, and erect an imperishable edifice of Irish freedom on the firm foundation of civil harmony, equal rights, and National Inde
By Messrs. EMMET, O'Connor, AND Mac Nevex,
* * ,
THE disunion that had long existed between the catholics and protestants of Ireland, particularly those of the presbyterian religion, was found by experience to be so great an obstable to the obtaining a reform in parliament, on anything of just and popular principles, that some persons, equally friendly to that measure and to religious toleration, conceived the idea of uniting both sects in pursuance of the same object—a repeal of the penal laws, and a reform, including in itself an extension of the right
of suffrage to the catholic.
From this originated the societies of the United Irishmen in the end of the year 1791; even then it was clearly perceived that the chief support of the borough interest in Ireland was the weight of English influence; but as yet that obvious remark had not led the minds of the reformers towards a separation from England. Some individuals, perhaps, had convinced themselves that benefit would result to this country from such a measure; - but
but during the whole existence of the socity of United Irishmen of Dublin, we may safely aver, to the best of our knowledge and *recollections, that no such object was ever agitated by its members, either in public debate or private conversation, nor until the society had lasted a considerable time, were any traces of republicanism to be met with there: its views were purely, and in good faith, what the test of the sqciety avows. Those, however, were sufficient to excite the most lively uneasiness in the friends of protestant ascendancy and unequal representation; insomuch that the difficulty of their attainment, notwithstanding the beginning union of sects, became manifest. But with the difficulty, the necessity of the measure was still more obvious ; and the disposition of the people, to run greater risques, for what they conceived both difficult and necessary to be had, was encreased. This will sufficiently account for the violent expressions and extraordinary proposals that are attributed to that society.—One of the latter was, that of endeavouring, at some future, but undetermined time, to procure the meeting of a convention, which should take into consideration the best mode of effecting a reform in parliament, as had been done in the year 1784. It was thought the weight and power of such a body, backed as it was hoped-it would be, with the support of catholic and protestant, and the encreased
spirit towards liberty which arose from the French revolution,
would procure a more favourable issue to the efforts of that convention, than had attended those of the former; but the object, as yet, went no farther than a reform in parliament, only on more
broad and liberal principles.
The discussion, however, of political questions, both foreign
and domestic, and the enacting of several unpopular laws, had advanced the minds of many people, even before they were aware of it, towards republicanism and revolution; they began to reason on the subject, and to think a republican form of govern. tanent Was preferable to our own; but they still considered it as E b 2 - - in possible
impossible to be obtained, in consequence of the English power and connexion. This, together with its being constantly perceived that the weight of English was thrown into the scale of borough interest, gradually rendered the connexion itself an object of discussion; and its advantages somewhat problematical. While the minds of men were taking this turn, the society of United Irishmen in Dublin was in the year 1794 forcibly dissolved, but the principles by which it was actuated were as strong as ever; as hypocrisy was not of the vices of that society, it brought its destruction on itself by the openness of its discussion and publicity of its proceeding. Its fate was a warning to that of Belfast, and suggested the idea of forming societies, with the same object, but whose secrecy should be their protection.—The first of these societies was, as we best recollect, in the year 1795. In order to secure co-operation and uniformity of action, they organized a system of committees, baronial, county, and provincial, and even national; but it was long before the skeleton of this organization was filled up. While the formation of these societies was in agitation, the friends of liberty were gradually, but with a timid step, advancing towards republicanism; they began to be convinced, that it would be as easy to obtain a revolution as a reform, so obsti. nately was the latter resisted, and as the conviction impressed itself on their minds, they were inclined not to give up the struggle, but to extend their views; it was for this reason that in their test the words are “an equal representalion of all the people of Ireland,” without inserting the word parliament. The test embraced both the republican and the reformer, and left to future circumstances to decide to which the common strength should be directed; but still the whole body, we are convinced, would stop short at reform. Another consideration, however, led the minds of the reflecting United Irishmen to look towards a repubfic and separation from England—this was the war with France; they clearly perceived that their strength was not likely to become speedily equal to wresting from the English and the