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duty it was to keep a constant watch on the acts, speeches, and writings of the disaffected. *
Lord Edward Fitzgerald, whose revolutionary ideas were well known, was concealed in Dublin ; Wolfe Tone was in Paris, where he urged the French Directory, with all the impetuosity of his fiery spirit, to despatch what he called a liberating army of French allies to Ireland ; while the other “United Irish” leaders, dispersed over the country, constantly reminded the people of their former sufferings, relating and exaggerating—though in eloquent English, instead of the Erse of former days—the cruelties inflicted by the British, from their first invasion of Ireland, and exhorting Irishmen of all religious persuasions to take arms for the cause of Irish freedom.
These leaders were not, as in former times, native chiefs seeking revenge and claiming
* Lord Camden was succeeded in the Lord Lieutenancy by the Marquis Cornwallis. The latter's interesting memoirs prove both his humanity and intelligence, but he was unable to calm effectually the malignant passions which he found animated the divided Irish population, though he tried earnestly to do so, and seems to have been not altogether unsuccessful.
m effectually and intellignteresting
restitution, but enthusiastic young men, of British descent mostly, gifted with remarkable eloquence and great moral courage, but with little, if any, military knowledge or capacity. The professed Protestantism of most of them clashed strangely and unnaturally with the intense hatred they expressed and really felt against England. *
Meanwhile, the ancient families of O'Brien and O'Neill, of Irish regal descent, though now Protestant, held large estates in Clare and Antrim in steady loyalty to British rule, and vied with the Catholic nobles and prelates in trying to restrain their tenants and followers from joining the republican movement. But the successful American revolt and the establishment of a
* The poet Spenser, writing in the reign of Elizabeth, thus mentions the enmity of the earliest British settlers towards the mother country. After stating that the Veres and Fitzursulas changed their names to McSwyne and McMahon, he says :—“ Proud hearts do oftentimes, like wanton colts, kick at their mothers. So, they say, did these for private despite turn themselves against England.”—View of Ireland.
+ “Few of the existing representatives of the ancient Milesian chieftainries now profess the Catholic faith.”Sullivan's New Ireland, vol. i. ch. vii.
French Republic so encouraged the Irish disaffected that, without promise of American aid, and with a very uncertain reliance on France, they rushed to arms, proclaiming an Irish Republic wherever they dared do so, and thus aroused against them the whole power of Great Britain, which they had so recklessly defied.
The most able and influential of the • United Irish” leaders was certainly Wolfe Tone. He may, perhaps, be called the chief founder of the “United Irish” Society. He and his political friends had naturally viewed with regret and shame the disgraceful, sanguinary quarrels that had long distracted the Irish population and the lawless, ' desperate gangs called Hearts of Oak, Hearts of Steel, Peep o' Day Boys, Defenders, Right Boys, and White Boys, who had so inflamed the Irish peasantryCatholic and Protestant--against each other.
To reconcile and unite a people so long and so bitterly alienated in one firm bond of national feeling and aspiration was indeed a noble ambition, and, perhaps, might have been accomplished had the patriotic task devolved upon men of discretion, cool judgment, and political experi
ence. But in all these qualifications, or rather essentials, Tone was peculiarly deficient. *
Yet he was certainly a man of great and varied abilities, great energy and perseverance, a rare combination of light-hearted gaiety, with extreme daring, and ardent enthusiasm. The national poet, Moore,+ describes him briefly, but accurately, as “a truly Irish mixture of daring in design, with light-heartedness of execution.” I In
* “ The genius of Wolfe Tone was accompanied by its full share of eccentricity. His mind, powerful and impulsive, rushed at its object, without looking to consequences, and, when foiled in one direction, charged with double energy in another. So, too, his feelings, though strong and rapid, were not deep, and his spirits were seldom in the same state for any length of time-now playful and buoyant, the next moment melancholy and depressed."--Life of Lord Plunkett, vol. i. p. 61.
+ Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald.
I Many extracts from Tone's diary prove he yielded shamelessly to that degrading vice which the excellent Father Mathew so energetically opposed throughout Ireland. “A bottle of Burgundy is too much, and I resolve every morning regularly to drink but the half, and every evening regularly I break my resolution. ... I reckon I am the poorest ambassador to-day in Paris ; but that gives mé no great concern. Huzza ! Vive la Republique ! ... When Christmas comes about again, oh! then we shall have money. ... Received my pay, and are all as 1791 Tone wrote an address to the Irish people in words that strikingly display the remarkable force of his character :-" The present state of Ireland is unparelleled in history or fable. Inferior to no other country in Europe in the gifts of Nature, blest with a temperate sky and fruitful soil, intersected by many great rivers, indented round her whole coast with the noblest harbours, abounding with all the necessary materials for unlimited commerce, teeming with inexhaustible! mines of the most useful metals, filled by four millions of an ingenious and gallant people, with bold hearts and ardent spirits, posted right in the track between Europe and America, within fifty miles of England and three hundred of France ; yet, with all these great advantages, unheard of, unknown, without pride, or power, or name, without ambassadors, army, or navy, not of half the consequence in the Empire of which she has the honour to make a part with