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The majority of educated Irishmen being Protestant, most of the "United Irish" chiefs were the same; while the mass of the Irish lower classes being Catholic, the majority of the insurgents were therefore Catholic. But the revolutionary spirit was essentially political, and •equally opposed all religions.* In fact the total failure of the "United Irish" project among the Irish people was far more decisive than the defeat of its few half-armed supporters by welldisciplined troops. This result is not surprising, since its avowed principles, revealed by Tone and his French allies, were positively fatal to
kingdom, pursuing its object chiefly with Popish instruments, the heated bigotry of this sect being better suited to the purpose of the republican leaders than the cold, reasoning disaffection of the northern Presbyterians.' "— Alison's Life of Lord Castlereagh, vol. i. chap. i.
* "The words Papists and Priests are for ever in their [the loyalists] mouths, and in their warmth they lose sight of the real cause of the present mischief—of that deep-laid conspiracy to revolutionize Ireland on the principles of France, which was originally formed, and by wonderful assiduity brought nearly to maturity, by men who had no thought of religion but to destroy it."—Letter of the Viceroy, Lord Cornwallis' Correspondence, vol. ii. chap. six.
those deep religious feelings and influences which, from the earliest histories of Ireland, have always distinguished its inhabitants.*
* "Of all Catholic nations or countries in the world— the Tyrol alone excepted—Ireland is perhaps the most papal, the most Ultramontane! In Ireland religious conviction—what may be called active Catholicism—marks the population, enters into their daily life and thought and action; and devotion to the Pope, attachment to the Roman See, is probably more intense in Ireland than in any other part of the habitable globe."—Sullivan's New Ireland, vol ii. chap. ii.
Since '98 Irish disaffection seems to have found its chief external support in the United States of America, even to the present day.* The conduct of the French Republic, and afterwards of Napoleon, towards the Pope, prevented all subsequent alliance between Irish and French revolutionists. Previously the daring irreligion of a nominally Catholic nation, hitherto the proved and historical champion of the Papacy, was never known to or suspected by sincere
* "For the first time a base of operations had been established out of Ireland. While Dublin city was the head-quarters of the malcontents, their plans, their persons, their fate and fortunes, were any day within the grasp of the Crown. Not so when America became the base, and New York head-quarters."—Sullivan's New Ireland, vol. ii. chap. iv.
Irish Catholics.* From this time, therefore, the hopes of Irish revolutionists were apparently transferred from France, the ancient foe of England, to the rising Republic of America, owing to the increasing number of Irish there.
In that country Irish political refugees found a welcoming home. The Americans, indeed, never shared their hatred to England, but were yet naturally proud of their own successful revolt from British control. Their Republic became the next model for Irish imitation after the terrible failure of the French Revolution, which had associated both republicanism and Napoleon's empire with hostility and insult to the Papacy. For though Napoleon never avowed the irreligious principles of the republicans whom he supplanted, his rule was altogether opposed to the policy and wish of the
* "The French Revolution shook the belief of the whole of Europe, in France for eleven years suppressed it altogether. Not only was its hostility to the Christian faith the most direct that the world has seen since the days of Julian, but it possessed in itself that frightful energy which can only be likened to the propagation of a new religion."—Dean Stanley's Eastern Church, p. 51.
Pope, who steadily desired the restoration of the old French monarchy.
All these changes among Roman Catholics abroad had their political effect on the Irish Catholic priesthood, and through them on the mass of the Irish population, and should be remembered by all who study the Irish rebellion of '98. Professor Goldwin Smith,* writing many years after Plowden, Gordon, Madden, Harwood, Musgrave, Maxwell, Moore, and Sir Jonah Barrington, observes:—" No one has yet fairly undertaken the revolting, yet salutary task of writing a faithful and impartial history of that period "; and, perhaps, there never was a series of historical events more distorted by party feeling, and perverted for party purposes than the Irish Revolution of '98, and its tragic sequel in 1803. This last brief revolt was like its predecessor in miniature, Dublin alone being its theatre. A rash uprising of an excited mob, a wanton murder, an ignominious suppression by a few soldiers, ending with the execution of its enthusiastic
Irish History and Character, p. 176.