Page images
PDF
EPUB

Chap, came in sight of the northern coast of Ireland at the xxxvn. ^nd of the fouling January, hut was prevented in his design of making a descent near Derry by tempestuous weather, by which also his fleet was reduced to three vessels, as the other two were driven into different courses. Pressed by famine, his officer* urged him to return to France; hut he declared his resolution to strike previously some Wow; and, having procured some refreshments at the Hebride island of Ila, he landed with six hundred men at Carrickfergus on the twenty-first of February.

Transmitting speedily to Belfast a body of French prisoners, confined in Carrickfergus, lieutenant-colonel Jennings, with four new-raised companies, defended the entrances of the town, destitute pf fortifications, till, from a failure of ammunition, he rer tired into the castle. The cojaduct of an individual in this attack was extremely honourable to the nation to which he belonged. A French soldier observing a child who had run playfully into one of the streets amid the fire of the contending parties, grounded his musket, carried the infant to a place of safety, and, returning to his comrades, resumed the eombat. The Irjefa troops, destitute of ammunition, repulsed widi atones and sticks an assault on the castle, even after the gates had been sforped open; but this fortress, in a state of ruin, was untenabte, and a capitulation necessary. The safety of the town, castle, and garrison, was granted toff tire French, on condition that Jfaeir ships .should he furnished, with provisioss, and sthast a numfeeir of

French French prisoners equal to that of the garrison sltoiild Ch A P.

• XXXVTI

be seat home from the British islands. Of the Irish,. WtiopSi on this occasion, only three were slain; of the French near a hundred, among whom were four officers; and among the wounded was brigadiergeneral Clobert, their commander.

Informed of the defeat' of Conflans, and of the approach of hostile troops, together with some thousands of peasants who flocked with ardour to Belfast to make a tender of their service, Thurot reimbarked his forces with some precipitation on the twenty-sixth of February; and prevented by adverse winds from taking a course round the north of Ireland through the Atlantic, he made the dangerous attempt of returning homeward through the Irish thannel. His fleet of three frigates, of which the largest, the Belleisle, carried forty cannon, was overtaken, on the twenty-eighth near the Isle of Man, by three English frigates, inferior in number of men and guns, but superior in condition, commanded by commodore Elliot, who had weighed from KinSale for this purpose. After a desperate cowflict of afthtfisr and a half, the three Preach vessels were captured, and brought into Ramsay bay m Man. Possessed of a generons humanity, which ^istin^uishes the courage of the hero from the ferocity of the savage, Tfatrrot, who fell in the aEtion, was fetilerited by his enemies. la killed and wounded the toss of'the English was forty; that of the French ifoove three hundred. The -destruction of'the-only armament, Whence a hostile 'force, for a-lung series

C Ha p. of years, had been debarked on the shores of Ireland,

\" Y YUT I

-*-,..-v ,, j "was a matter of joy. By the Irish house of commons thanks were voted to colonel Jennings; and the zeal of the inhabitants commended of the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, and the city of Deny. To Elliot, and the two captains under him, Clements and Logie, the freedom of the city of Cork was presented in silver boxes by the citizens. whitehoys. These alarms from abroad were succeeded in two «"'~" years after by local disturbances of a domestic nature. The distresses in the south, occasioned by the toss of the woollen manufacture, had been augmented beyond sufferance by the decline of tillage. The prices of beef, butter, and other produces of pasturage, had considerably risen, in consequence partly of a murrain, which, above twenty years before, extending from Holstein through Germany to England, had much diminished the number of cattle. This, with the exemption of grazing grounds from tythe, which operates as a bounty for the dereliction of agriculture, caused the conversion of great quantities of land from arable to pasture, and the consequent expulsion of great numbers of labouring peasants, destitute of any regular means of subsistence by any species of industry; while those, who remained uuexpelled, or procured small spots of ground, had no means of paying their exorbitant rents, even by labour, the pay of which was, from the sinallness of the demand, beyond all due propor• tion low. The misery of these cottagers was completed, when they were, by inclosures, deprived of

commonage. CbmmOnage, which to many had at first been al- Chap. lowed. Numbers of these wretches, assembling in v J

the night, vented their fury on objects ignorantly conceived to be causes of their misery. From demolishing the fences of commons, whence they were at first named levellers, they proceeded to ham-string cattle, and to commit a6is of cruelty on persons considered as obnoxious> particularly the appraisers and managers of tythes; for peasants have mostly been deceived into the opinion that tythe was their greatest grievance; yet every landlord knows that the land, which he sets to a tenant, is as absolutely subject to the rent-charge of tythe, as it is to his own rent; and that, if he makes not a due allowance for the former, his bargain is unjust. When, in associations more regularly formed, they were bound one to another by mutual oaths, they wore, as a uniform, a shirt or white frock outside their other clothes, whence they acquired the name of Whiteboys,

Beside other atrocities, these misguided people placed men quite naked on horseback, on saddles covered with skins of hedgehogs, and drove them before them in excruciating pain; or left them standing many hours, buried to the chin, in holes in the ground, with branches of thorns trodden closely round their bodies. Their violences were alarming; and suspicions, without any proof, were entertained, that these insurgents, whose operations were merely nocturnal, were acting in consequence of a popish plot for the subversion of the British

Vol. II. R government

Chap, government in Ireland, and the massacre of all the plti" vt!^2!/ testanta; and that they were leagued with the French and Spanish courts then at war with Great-Britain. Doubtless, if they had remained unchecked, and attained to formidable force, they would naturally have been led into such a plan by the artifices of men who would avail themselves of the opportunity; but the royal troops were employed effectually for their suppression, and many were executed by sentence of the law. Many more would have fallen victims to real or presumed participation in the guilt of these illegal and outrageous proceedings, if judges had not been very scruputous in the weighing of evidence. Thus Sir Edward Aston, lord chief justice of the common pleas, behaved in such a manner at Clonmel, where he tried great numbers on a special commission, that he found the road lined on both sides, on his return, with multitudes of both sexes, who were supplicating Heaven in his favour for his impartiality. That a motion in parliament for a full report, after an inquiry into the cause of the commotions was negatived, and that no such report was ever made, is a lamentable circumstance; since an explanation of the real cause, might have tended to the remedy of these disorders, which, though repressed by force, were frequently renewed, and were never otherwise completely quelled than by the system of volunteering, which took place in Ireland some years after. Horn of Very different were the cause, duration, and con°ai763. duct of an insurrection in Ulster, where the insur

2 gent*

« PreviousContinue »