Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

that, and never would give me the advantage of a trial, nor even an examination, nor any mode of explanation whatever : and, as to imploring their mercy, I would an hundred times sooner have implored for death. Here then was an assertion by act of parliament; of a gross and scandalous lie: but a lie that nobody dared to contradict, for it was a lie by act of parliament; and parliament was omnipotent. And among the many scourges that this parliament had lately inflicted upon its bleeding country, was this: That they took upon them to imprison their fellow-citizens arbitrarily, for whatever they chose, in either house, to call a breach of privilege. So here, without law, or truth, or any sanction of justice, they had made assertions of the vilest malevolence, upon which were deliberately to be founded enactions of the most heinous terrorism, and there was not left to the victims of this treachery, of whom I was one, any possible means of defence. Vile men, which of you can say now, at the distance of four years, what treason I confessed, or whose mercy I implored? It is true this parliament of famous memory, soon after did justice on itself, and relieved the groaning country from its crimes ! It had long been corrupt and morbid: but, in its last convulsions, exceeded all imagination. Witness the frantic abominations that it vomited forth upon the people! If any future historian should collect those laws, and give them in their order, as a supplement to the former code of penal laws in Ireland, it would be a monument, at least of curiosity, perhaps of melancholy instruction. For, amongst these laws, there were some exciting directly to murder; others indemnifying it. There were laws to promote kidnapping, and laws to sanction it. Laws to raise rebellion, and laws to put it down. To-day a proclamation that all was peace and loyalty; to-morrow a report that all was war and treason. To-day, it was a few miscreants; tomorrow a general massacre. Sometimes it was atheism, sometimes delusion, and sometimes popery. In fact, every causė. was held out but the true ones oppression and misgovernment. So that, as their crude nostrums were encreased, the evil augmented. Every organ of complaint was choaked, and the nation became one general prison, and military power executed the decrees of individual malice. And those who had so often pledged their “lives and fortunes" against all innovations, at length threw off the mask ; and after astonishing each other by the measure of their own impudence, finished by an act of desperate suicide. And to crown this deed, Lord Castlereagh, who had pledged himself upon the Hustings, and sworn to his constituents of the county of Down, to persevere in supporting and reforming this parliament, and to promote such acts as were most for its independence, was the first to cry fie upon it, and to stab.--- See Appendix No. V.) Such was that man, who, by spurning at his own sacred engagements, and practising every art of political falsehood, first a demagogue, and then a tyrant, had raised himself, with slender talents, to the place of secretary of state, at a time when the suspension of the habeas corpus

[ocr errors]

had given to that office the right of arbitrary imprisonment over all the kingdom. Such was the man upon whose mandate I was torn from my family, for being “ suspected,as it was expressed, of treasonable practices.” Alas ! I may be suspected, but in his own case there is surely no question of suspicion. May the moment when I prove but the hundredth part so much a traitor, be the moment of my destruction. Is it not rank and foul, that the best men in any country should be at the mercy of those who make a public jest of truth and honor ? When the wise and the just are ground into the earth, and the puniest things that are, let them be but base and mischievous enough, are raised to power !

I was now about to leave my prison, and to leave behind me those fellow-sufferers with whom my acquaintance had began in bridewell, but in none of whom I could ever trace any disposition to crime of any kind. They, one and all, seemed to be animated by an ardent desire of sacrificing their lives in the deliverance of their country, from what they conceived, I am sure too justly, to be oppression and tyranny. And their actions seemed to proceed from a thorough conviction that they were right. At all events, if this was an error, the proceedings which I have mentioned, of house-burning, wrecking, ravishing, denial of justice, breaking of faith, half-hanging, and scourging ; dungeoning, kidnapping, and picketing, and other torture, to extort confessions ; free quarters, religious proscriptions, martial law, and all

G

the rest of the execrable measures ; of the horrors of which, no one who has not seen it, can have any idea. These proceedings surely were not calculated to cure them of their errors.

LETTER VIII.

Lovely Peggy-Lovely Mary-Shipwreck.

[ocr errors]

THERE was now a small vessel ready to sail for Lisbon, called the Lovely Peggy, captain Knight ; and it was stipulated that I should take my passage on board of her. On the same evening that I received the order to the gaoler to set me free, I lost not a moment in going to this captain, to make the necessary arrangements. And my faithful but unfortunate man, John Russell, followed after me, fearing perhaps some insult ; for which act of zeal he was once more to pay dear, as you will see.

It was on the night of the rejoicings for the victory of Lord Nelson ; and many of the yeomanry were in disorder through the streets. There was a groop squibbing off cartridges on the flaggs in Abbey-street, through which I was to pass ; and one of them taking offence, that we wore our hair short, called out, “ croppies," which was their word of attack ; and just as we passed, fired a blunt cartridge into John's

ز

shoulder. I paid no attention to the shot, not know. ing what had happened ; and I had now a fresh proof of the magnanimity of my unfortunate companion ; for he never disclosed what had happened until we were at a considerable distance, fearing, and justly, that my patience might not have been proof against such atrocity : but when at length he thought it time to discover the wound he had received, I went with him into a shop to examine it, and found that his clothes had been pierced through, and the point of the cartridge forced into the very bone. The contusion was attended with violent swelling, and the pain doubtless aggravated extremely, by the quantity of unburned gunpowder which was buried in his flesh. Such was the event of the first ten minutes of my liberty, after a seclusion of so many months. At least, it was well calculated to cure me of any regret I might have at leaving my native country, which I had loved but too well, and where I could boast certainly, that the esteem of my

fellow citizens was a great part of my crime. Having thus once more escaped assassination, a fate I have not been unfrequently threatened with, we returned to bridewell, where, with my wife, I spent the last evening in the society of my

fellow-ufferers. The following day, I had occasion to buy a number of things in the shops, and also to go to the custom-house for a paper called a Bill of Health ; but was no sooner returned to my lodgings, than my

brother came to tell me, that the castle was crouded with persons flocking there to complain of my being

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »