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THE CROPPY” was written by Abel O'Hara, the stay-at-home member of the family, and now the Editor of the tale for Mr. Duffy's edition.
I found it difficult when I made preparation for the story, to obtain from any then extant book, a reliable history of the rebellion of 1798. Sir Richard Musgrave's publication, I could not regard in any other light than as an untruthful narrative of the period ;—which it is now generally pronounced to be by all parties. A book by a person named Taylor came into my hands; professedly a statement of the occurrences of the County Wexford insurrection : this I found to be altogether a one-sided production ; facts misstated; the outrages of one party exaggerated. The provocative outrages of the other, either entirely unnoticed, or justified. The book, in fact, not to be counted on as an au. thority.
The best book I could find referring to the Wexford outbreak was one published by the Rev, Mr. Gordon, a Protestant Clergyman. This I consulted with confidence, anxious as I was to form a true conception of the time I had undertaken to treat of. Many books are now avail. able not then in existence; and the historical truth I wished to find, I had to searca for in the ephemeral publications of the years preceding and inclusive of the year 1798. The lengthened notes I then made, I still possess, and I may occasionally quote from.
The historical introductory chapter to the Croppy was much more diffuse, when I sent the tale to my brother, than it is at present; too lengthened, in fact, for the place it was to hold. Of this I was consci. ous myself, and I requested Barnes O'Hara to use his pruning-knife at discretion. With this request of mine he complied quite to my satisfaction. On re-reading, I am inclined to think it is even yet too long. Some such introduction was, however, necessary, and my conscience tells me, that the chapter is historically accurate.
THE CROP PY;
A TALE OF 1798.
INTRODUCTORY and historical, and not comprising a word of the Tale to which it leads, so that some readers will probably pass it by. Yet we intreat all who wish really to understand even the more fictitious parts of our story, to give it an indulgent and careful perusal.
Few can forget that, in the year 1798, a wide-spread conspiracy, which partially exploded, existed amongst Irishmen of every rank and sect. Which conspiracy had in view a separation from England, and the establishing, upon the ruins of British dominion, an Irish Republic.
The name adopted by the conspirators was that of United Irishmen. But as this name was inherited by them, the necessary task of explaining its nature and import cannot be accomplished without tracing it from its source.
In 1777, Britain was engaged in the war with her Colonies. France, entering into alliance with America, had sent the soldiers of her despotic monarchy to fight for republicanism. England, in want of troops, withdrew her garrisons from Ireland, in order to transport them over the Atlantic. Ireland then remained without an army to protect her against a threatened French invasion. She demanded succour from England, and understood that she must defund herself.
The Irish flew to arms. In a short time, a great national force, self-raised, self armed, self-equipped, and well-disciplined, stood forward to meet the expected foe. None appeared; but had the contrary been the case, such was the steady, thorough chivalrous spirit of military ardour possessing the country from north to south, that, in any struggle with an invading enemy, Ireland must have
triumphed. The Irish Volunteers were acknowledged by the legislature as “the saviours of their country.”
In order to become a Volunteer, certain outlays, requiring considerable means, were to be incurred. Hence, the Volunteer ranks were composed of those classes who, by habits or education, are raised above the mere headlong zeal of the multitude. They were reflecting citizens, as well as chivalrous soldiers.
Church of England Protestants, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics, stood side by side in this national band. Under the old penal code, then in almost full force, persons of the last-mentioned persuasion could not, indeed, legally bear arms: in some instances in the North, their offers of service were coldly or offensively repulsed. But this disrelish to fight for country or home by their side, was by no means general. The terrors of the Statute-book did not damp their own ardour. Forgetting the clank of their chains in the rattling of arms, they appeared members of almost every corps in the kingdom.
Having scared away from their shores England's most formidable enemy, the Volunteers continued to be the only army of their country. In the absence of opportunity for the exercise of their military character, they began to contemplate, as politicians, the position of that country. Her legislature and her trade first fixed their attention. The one they found destitute of the power of real enactment; the other they found grievously restricted. They petitioned for the emancipation of both. England, still without troops to support a refusal, acceded to their demands. In 1782, Ireland owed to her armed citizens of every sect, an independent Parliament and a free trade. The steady union of her children made her a nation.
The independence of their legislature thus secured, the Volunteers turned their eyes to the construction of that legislature itself.
Presbyterian Ulster had set the example of uniting the deliberative and military characters. The first imposing assemblage, in which the soldier, leaning on his musket, debated the politics of his country, consisted exclusively of Volunteer delegates from that province. It was followed up, in Dublin, by a meeting of represent. atives of all the corps of Ireland, who, in imitation of the American Assembly, called themselves a congress. From this body emanated a petition for reform in Parliament.
But England could now more safely refuse. Her transatlantic warfare was ended ; she had troops at command. The prayer of the Irish “ Congress” was promptly and disdainfully rejected.
The Reformers, boasting of their physical power to enforce com