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seminating the popular work of Thomas Payne intitled The Rights of Man, and other similar publications, and even began to assume without disguise, a decided revolutionary character. The declaration presented to each member for signature on his being radmitted into this society was “ I **** in the presence “ of God, do pledge myself to my country, that I will use all “ my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial 6 and adequate representation of the Irish nation in parliament; “and, as a means of absolute and immediate necessity in the 66 establishment of this chief good of Ireland, I will endeavour " as much as lies in my ability to forward a brotherhood of " affection, an identity of interests, a communion of rights, and “ a union of power, among Irishmen of all religious persuasions, 66 without which every reform of parliament must be partial not “ national'; inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes, 66 and insufficient for the freedom and happiness of this country.” In the new test, or oath of admission, which they now adopted, however, their .ultimate intentions were more openly avowed. “ In the awful presence of Almighty God, I **** do volunta6 rily declare that I will persevere in endeavouring to form a s brotherhood of affection among Irishmen of every religious o persuasion; and I will also persevere in my endeavours to o obtain an equal, full, and adequate representation” (the mention of a parliament is here carefully omitted) - of all the people *6 of Ireland. I do further declare that neither hopes, fears,
4 rewards, or punishments, shall ever induce me directly or | “indirectly, to inform on or give evidence against any member 66 or members of this or similar societies ; for any act or expres“ sion of theirs done or made collectively or individually, in or “.out of this society, in pursuance of the spirit of this obligation.” In their original declaration are the following words: “ In the « present great æra of reform, when unjust governments are « falling in every quarter of Europe ; when religious persecution “ is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience ; when the 6 rights of men are ascertained in theory, and that theory sub6 stanciated by practice; when antiquity can no longer defend - absurd and oppressive forms against the common sense and 6 common interests of mankind; when all government is ac& knowledged to originate from the people, and to be so far
r only obligatory, as it protects their rights and promotes their “ welfare, we think it our duty as Irishmen to come forward 6 and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what " we know to be its effectual remedy.
“We have no national government. We are ruled by English“ men and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the “ interest of another country; whose instrument is corruption; so whose strength is the weakness of Ireland ; and these men “ have the whole of the power and patronage of the country, as " means to seduce and subdue the honesty and the spirit of her “ representatives in the legislature. Such an extrinsic power, "acting with uniform force in a direction too frequently opposite “ to the true line of our obvious interests, can be resisted with “ effect solely by unanimity, decision, and spirit in the people ; " qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally, « and efficaciously, by that great measure essential to the pros"perity and freedom of Ireland an equal representation of all " the people in parliament.”
The following extract of á letter, addressed by Theobald Wolfe Tone, a lawyer of uncommon talents and energy, and one of the original framers of the institution, to his associates in Belfast, will evidently show, that the reform here professed was merely an ostensible object; held out for the purpose of uniting those who aimed only at a partial reform, with those who had in view a complete revolution :- The foregoing contain my true 6 and sincere opinion of the state of this country, so far as in the “present juncture it may be adviseable to publish it. They certain“ ly fall short of the truth ; but truth itself must sometimes conde“scend to temporise. My unalterable opinion is, that the bane “ of Irish prosperity is in the influence of England : I believe that “ influence will never be extended while the connection between " the two countries continues ; nevertheless, as I know that “ opinion is for the present too hardy, though a very little time " may establish it universally, I have not made it a part of the “ resolutions. I have only proposed to set up a reform of “ parliament, as a barrier against that mischief, which every “ honest man that will open his eyes must see in every instance “ overbears the interest of Ireland. I have not said one word 64 that looks like a wish for separation ; though I give it to you u and your friends, as my most decided opinion, that such an “ event would be a regeneration to this country.”
The United Society were exceedingly active, and in many instances very successful, in seducing from their allegiance the military and attaching them to their own cause. They occasioned a mutiny in the 104th and 111th regiments quartered in Dublin, and endeavoured to procure their co-operation and assistance in an insurrection, which they meant should take place on the twenty-fourth of August. Many of the soldiers on that day deserted from their regiments, and joined the insurgents ; and a mob who met the castle guard on Essex-bridge, were so confident of being joined by the party, that one of their leaders made an attempt to wrench the colours from the officer who bore them, as a signal for a general insurrection. Another mounted on the bridge, and began in an inflammatory harangue, to exhort the populace to rise and take arms; but was silenced by a blow from the sword of a dragoon, which inflicted on him a most desperate wound. Another dragoon, however, who was dispatched with intelligence to the lord lieutenant, was seized and beaten, and narrowly escaped meeting with immediate death. This intemperate and premature zeal of the insurgents was attended with consequences highly injurious to their own cause; for, had they deferred the execution of their plot till night, it is probable that they would have acquired an absolute command of the city.
On the twenty-fifth of March, seventeen hundred and ninetyfive, the following paragraph appeared in the Northern Star; a newspaper apparently conducted by the master of no common pen, and admirably adapted to forward the views of the United Irishmen: at least so far as regarded constitutional reform : “ It “ cannot but be matter of proud exultation to the societies of “ United Irishmen, that the whole people of Ireland, with ex“ ceptions scarcely worth mentioning, are now of those very 6 opinions which they broached three years ago ; and which ““ were then considered by the wise, the constitutional, the mo“ derate, and the cautious, as symptoms, not only of madness, but " even of wickedness in the extreme.”
The association, meantime, extended in Dublin and the northern counties, with a rapidity equally astonishing and un. precedented. The ministerial measure of a war with France, a measure extremely unpopular in the British empire, and undertaken apparently contrary to the dictates of reason, sound policy, and even of right, added greatly to the number of malecontents in both islands, and particularly contributed to the successful acquisition of fresh members to the society. This predisposition to union was increased by the disorderly and rapacious conduct of the soldiers, an evil of great magnitude ; but which had most unwisely been suffered to proceed in a train of growing enormity, without one salutary attempt at restraint. During the march of troops, on change of quarters, they were suffered most unjustly to carry to unreasonable distance the horses of farmers and peasants, which they seized for the conveyance of baggage ; and also to abuse them without mercy, unless considerations in money were given by their owners to procure better treatment. Carts were frequently lost or destroyed, and various other inconveniencies incurred, to the great detriment of tillage. On a halt, the military spread themselves over the adjacent country, seizing every horse with which they met, not to supply their own necessities, but to enforce payment of money for their release. The practice of accommodating soldiers by billeting, was also attended with effects most grievous and distressing.
The militia bill was a further cause of much discontent. That the raising of a defensive army by ballot is an expedient attended by many salutary consequences, and that may in many instances be unavoidable, cannot be denied; but it is an expedient that ought as seldom as possible to be resorted to; and when it is, might surely be so ameliorated, as by provisions to make the involuntary soldier feel as lightly as possible the change in his situation. It is a melancholy consideration that many thousands of industrious, well disposed, and highly useful members of the community, thus compelled to enter into a sphere of life in which they are too apt to consider themselves as estranged from the rest of their countrymen, have, by this degrading consideration, by the consequent debasement of every sentiment of dignity, by the state of almost abject slavery to which, military men are reduced, and by the pernicious examples of others, been returned to society depraved in their morals, bereft
of all manly principles, habituated to indolence and inclined to debauchery, and ready to perpetrate any crime, however great, rather than endeavour to support themselves by that honest industry in which they had formerly spent their time. This bill enacted that each man ballotted to bear arms should be compelled to enlist for a term not exceeding four years, to find a substitute or to pay a fine. Many, unable to pay premiums for substitutes sustained the seizure and forfeiture of their goods. Others venting their indignation against a measure which they conceived to be most unjust and oppressive, in expressions rather intemperate, were committed to goal; and nearly all joined in execrating what at first view appeared to them to strike at the last root of the personal liberty of the subject.