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chief if not the only bond of union between them.
The Irish Catholic insurgents, amid the excitement of revolution, preserved throughout a sincere and often enthusiastic attachment to their clergy.* The French republican principles of Tone and the Emmets utterly repudiated obedience to the Catholic clergy or to religious authority of any kind.
The French General Kilmaine's address to the Irish people, calling the Pope an impostor, and religion itself "an intolerable burden to free minds," proves the utter contrast of both French allies and "United Irish" leaders to the majority of the Irish whom they aspired to lead and represent. Yet Tone and the Emmets resided much in France, and the former was intimate with Kilmaine.
The conduct of the French officers and privates
* "The Irish character was distinguished by a more than ordinary bias towards a submissive and superstitious spirit in religion. This spirit may justly be traced, in a great measure, to the virtues and piety of the early preachers of the Gospel in that country."—Hallam's Constitutional History, vol. iii.
in Ireland, under General Humbert, quite accorded with this language. They openly ridiculed the Irish for retaining either obedience to or reverence for their clergy, whom, from generation to generation, they had viewed in the same spirit, unmoved by all the great changes in European opinion since the introduction of Christianity among them.
The unpopularity of British Protestant rule had, of course, greatly contributed to preserve the religious influence of the Catholic clergy, and this reason was sufficiently obvious. Yet the French allies and liberators could not repress their scorn at what they considered contemptible and slavish obedience.
Had the "United Irish" leaders possessed real knowledge of the people they aspired to lead and pretended to represent, they might have prepared their allies for what they found in Ireland, and prevented the avowed contempt of the French, virtually destroying all real alliance with the Irish Catholic peasantry directly they met together. But these leaders, at least the chief ones, like Tone, the Emmets, &c, men of education and talent, yet apparently without either knowledge of Irish character or political foresight, seem to have lived in an Ireland of their own imaginations, strangely different from the reality.
When arrested, tried, and condemned, they spoke with brilliant eloquence, and suffered death or imprisonment with brave fortitude, yet, when they passed away, their peculiar opinions disappeared with them.
Hostility to British rule, indeed, continued unabated; but this sentiment had for centuries preceded the "United Irish" movement, and was totally independent of it. The grand object of its leaders, to unite the new French republican principles with the old national animosity against England, failed perhaps more from its utter unsuitableness to the Irish character than from the defeat of its nominal supporters in the field.
A "United Irish" republic, imitating and allied with a French Jacobin one, was, in fact, a moral as well as a political experiment utterly opposed to the religious principles of the Irish people. Its failure was, therefore, complete, and the idea vanished with those unfortunate young enthusiasts who aspired to be its promoters and died its victims.*
* "In 1798 the rebellion bore unmistakably what may be called the 'follow-my-leader' character. It is doubtful whether any formidable and organised movement might have been made but for the leadership of such men as Wolfe Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald."—Justin M'Carthy's History of Our Own Times, vol. iv. p. 53.
As might have been foreseen, the failure of this revolution left the Irish lower classes—Catholic and Protestant—more embittered against each other than ever since the civil war of 1691.
Again the alleged cruelties of Cromwell and King William, of O'Neill and Tyrconnel were remembered, exaggerated, and made subjects of insolent triumph and vindictive denunciation. Some writers believe that the British Government, taking advantage of these animosities, increased them, in the hope of strengthening its authority; while others, again, declare that its efforts were steadily directed to calm and restrain them.
Though the Government was certainly often mistaken in the result of political measures, it may well be doubted, by impartial thinkers,