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ampled for greatness in the annals of Europe, served Chap. chiefly to throw the absolute government of France i 'J Into the hands of a democratic junto, and, as had been foreseen by the most enlightened men, to exalt the French power to a pitch truly alarming to the independence of all the neighbouring countries. The subjugation of France, with the extirpation of its democrats, must in all probability have involved the extinction of British freedom, an event, which a wise and patriotic prince could never wish; for, as, on one hand.the wildness of unbridled democracy leaves neither safety of person, stability of government, nor permanent strength of union for national independence; so, on the other, unlimited submission to the will of a master so enervates the mental faculties, that a nation in such a predicament can neither preserve itself from the thraldom of superstition, nor maintain its independence against powerful neighbours. Only in a just medium between these extremes can consist that political excellence which gives individual protection inviolate, and stability of national power.
Still much more violently than in Britain was felt its infiuthe influence of the French revolution, of the in-t"ad°n flammatory writings of Burke and Paine, in Ireland, where popular discontents had been more prevalent, where notions of revolution were in consequence more extensively and seriously adopted, and where a system of coercion was gradually strained to a pitch truly horrible. So early as the year 1789, some .severities beyond the due limits of the law were ex
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ercised by men in power for the punishment of clamour against government or its ministers. Thus John Magee, publisher of the Dublin Evening Pos£ a popular newspaper, was arrested by fiats, warrants issued by judges, on charges of libels, and long confined in prison from the impossibility of his procuring sponsors for the excessive bail demanded, bail for sums twenty-fold the damages which could be awarded by a conscientious jury when the matter came to trial. By a great majority in parliament on the side of ministers was lord Clonmel, chief justice of the court of King's Bench, who had ordered these Warrants, screened from censure. By such a6ts the popular discontents were augmented on one side, while, on the other, government was alarmed by apparent symptoms of revolutionary disorder in the general mass of the people. Of this nature was the anniversary celebration of the French revolution, performed on the fourteenth of July in 1791, and the following year by the volunteers of Belfast, who displayed eblematical figures expressive of disaffection, and transmitted on the former occasion a most sympathetic address to the society of friends of the revolution at Bourdeaux, whence was returned a correspondent answer. But the two great questions by which the public mind was agitated, and the apprehensions of administration excited, were those of parliamentary reform and catholic emancipation. uniteJ "A plan of an association, under the name of "1791. United IrisJnnen, for the attainment of these ends',
was *vas printed in Belfast in the June of 1791; and in c H A P.
the following November was accordingly instituted ^-*+Jm*> ill Dublin this new society, with the immediate view of combining into one political phalanx as many as possible of their countrymen for the effectuating of a change in the government of Ireland, or, in the words of their own declaration, "for the purpose of forwarding a brotherhood of affection, a communion of rights, and a union of power, among Irishmen of every religious persuasion, and thereby to obtain a complete reform in the legislature founded on the principles of civil, political, and religious liberty." Conformably to this idea every person on his admission, as a member, pronounced and ^subscribed a test, solemnly promising in the awful presence of God to use his exertions for the promotion of that scheme. Whatever may have been the sentiments generally prevalent among the persons thus associated, projects of a most dangerous nature appear to have been entertained by some, not communicated to the rest, the total subversion of the existing government, and the erection of a democratical commouwealth in its place. To provide an > . armed force for this design an institution was formrg""d«ed in Dublin of national guards, whose uniform was distinguished with green, thus adopted as the national colour, and buttons engraved with a harp under a cap of liberty instead of a crown. Probably with a view of displaying their force, inspiring confidence into their friends, and gaining proselytes to their causp, the leaders of these bands appointed the
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Chap, ninth of December 1792, for a day of their" general v. ■ muster, and invited all the volunteer companies in Dublin to attend on the occasion, to celebrate the triumph of liberty in France.
The government, affecting.to apprehend an immediate attack on the city and commencement of rebellion, wisely determined to suppress in their commencement all armed associations unauthorized by the supreme authority of the state. On the day immediately preceding that of the intended muster, a proclamation was issued by the lord lieutenant and council, peremptorily interdicting all seditious as-< semblies, and commanding the magistrates to disperse them by military force, if admonition should prove ineffectual. Intimidated by this menace and the array^of the garrison, the national guards deferred their meeting, and the long-proposed muster never took place. But on the following fourteenth, a kind of manifesto, or counter-proclamation, was framed by the heads of the society, and afterwards published, exhorting the volunteers to resume their arms for the maintenance, as before, of tranquility against foreign and internal enemies, and advising the protestants of Ireland to choose deputies for provincial assemblies, preparatively to a general convention, which they declared necessary for the forming of a common cause with the catholics. For this publication Archibald Hamilton Rowan, the secretary on that occasion, of the United Irish Society, was prosecuted some time afterwards, a gentleman of a respectable family and fortune, of a 1 most Klost amiable character and warm philanthropy, but Chap: without sufficient clearness of judgment always to v XL' , discern the proper objects of his benevolence.
That the catholics should take measures to ameliorate their condition, while the minds of the people throughout the kingdom were strongly agitated by a spirit of political reform, might naturally be expecled. A secret committee, instituted for the management of the political concerns of the Irish catholics by Charles O'Connor, an antiquarian, Doctor Curry, a physician, and a Mr. Wyse of Waterford, had subsisted in Dublin since the year 1757, elected from the several dioceses of the kingdom and parishes of the metropolis. In meetings of this body in the February of 1791, a petition to parliament was prepared; but from fears of revolutionary designs on democratic principles, or from apprehension of being suspected of such by government, some respectable catholics declined to concur with the rest; and at length, sixty-four in number, including the lords Kenmare and Fingal, they formally seceded, and on the twenty-seventh of December presented an address to the lord lieutenant, expressive of the respectful submission of themselves and the catholic body to government, and of their resignation to its wisdom and humanity. The rest of the members persevered in their pursuit; and, that they might be enabled to lay before government the sense collectively of the whole catholic body, they devised the plan of a convention, composed of delegates from the several towns and counties, who
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