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In Macaulay's essay on Pitt,* one of his latest writings, the historian says:—" He was the first English Minister who formed great designs for the benefit of Ireland. Had he been able to do all that he wished, it is probable that a wise and 'liberal policy would have averted the rebellion of 1798. But the difficulties which he encountered were great, perhaps insurmountable, and the (Irish) Roman Catholics were, rather by his misfortune than by his fault, thrown into the hands of the Jacobins. There was a third great rising of the Irishry against the Englishry—a rising not less formidable than the risings of 1641 and 1689."
Again, in the same essay (p. 352), Macaulay -describes the Irish rebels in '9S as merely "a
* Miscellaneous Writings, vol. ii.
mob of half-naked Irish peasants." These statements appear hardly reconcilable, for such foes could never have been as formidable as the comparatively disciplined troops led by the able and gallant Sarsfield in 1689.
This is the second time that the great historian compares the '98 rebellion with the revolution of 1641 and the civil war of 1689. Yet historical facts, surely, do not warrant his conclusion that it was "not less formidable " than they.
In 1641 by far the greater part of Ireland was in the power of the native Irish. Great Britain was distracted by civil war. The British colonists in Ireland sympathised with the overthrown British monarchy, and reluctantly joined, the Eepublicans under Cromwell as their only chance of escape from banishment or extirpation by the native Irish.* In the civil war of '89' the Irish were, perhaps, in a still stronger position. The capital and the chief towns, except Enniskillen and Deny, were in their hands. They were well armed, and well commanded by
* Eeid's History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Milton's Prose Works; Carte's Life of Ormond.
Irish and foreign generals of experience and ability—Sarsfield, Rosen, St. Ruth, &c. But in '98 the "united" revolutionists never held a single town or fortress of importance, never stood a siege, and were never headed by any leader of military skill. Their few French allies, under General Humbert, who landed at Killalla, were totally opposed in principle to their predecessors, who, under St. Ruth, had ably assisted the Irish in 1689. St. Ruth and his men were devoted Roman Catholics; Humbert and his soldiers were atheists.* The former sympathised with the religious feelings of the Irish, and cordially joined them in actual warfare; the latter openly insulted their religion, and were too few to assist them effectively in the field.f St. Ruth had been extremely severe towards the French Protestants—the Huguenots —in behalf of the Church of Rome. J Humbert and his men boasted that they had recently
* Bishop Stock's diary. See Maxwell's Irish Rebellion.
t Maxwell and Harwood's Histories of the '98 Eebellion.
X Maeaulay's History, vol. iv.
banished the Pope from Italy, and proclaimed all religion an imposture.
Professor Goldwin Smith* writes on this subject with clearness and force :—" The leading Roman Catholics were on the side of the (British) Government. The mass of the Catholic priesthood were well inclined to take the same side. They could have no sympathy with an atheist republic, red with the blood of priests, as well as with the blood of the son of St. Louis [the King of France]. If some of the order were concerned in the movement, it was as demagogues sympathising with their peasant brethren, and not as priests."
This important fact — the loyalty of Roman Catholic noblemen, gentry, and bishops to British rule in the midst of a rebellious Catholic population — has never, perhaps, been enough considered.
While the " United Irish" chiefs, mostly Protestants and Presbyterians, incited the ignorant Catholic peasantry to revolt by eloquent and exaggerated statements of their wrongs, their
* Irish History and Character, p. 159.
natural leaders, lay and clerical, fortunately possessed enough European knowledge to perceive and thoroughly understand that their true remedy lay not in republican revolution, allied with French atheists, and imbued with their views and principles.
Yet the Irish Catholic gentry and chief prelates, from their superior education and knowledge, must, for these reasons, have felt the more keenly the injustice of many legal disabilities imposed on account of religious faith alone. They, indeed, occupied a very trying position, between the national hostility and distrust of British Protestant government, and the deceitful temptations offered by republican revolution. They yet decided wisely by adhering in,word and deed to a Government which, however, seemed hardly to expect their loyalty.
Accordingly, they issued an earnest, pathetic appeal to their more ignorant co-religionists, dated May 6th, 1798, from which the following is an extract*:—"The unfortunately deluded will do well to consider whether the true interests
* Plowden's History of Ireland, vol. ii.