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of communicating my sentiments than this public one, even to many of those materially interested to know them.
It was on the 19th, of February, 1798, that lord Moira took his seat in the Irish parliament, and made his celebrated motion for conciliatory measures. I had before that been admitted into the society of the countess dowager of Moira and Huntingdon, a lady distinguished by advantages greater than her high birth, those of a cultivated and solid mind, stored with the richest treasures of erudition. I was also very well received by her daughters, lady Granard and lady Charlotte Rawdon, persons of whose acquaintance the proudest man might be ambitious. My brother had been long acquainted with lord Moira, and had a great respect and attachment for him. Among the persecuted Catholics of Armagh, were many tenants of his lordship, who had made choice of me for their advocate. And so violent was the government party against him, that the peep of day boys had committed outrages in his town of Ballynahinch, and one of the ladies pointed out to me a house of a principal inhabitant, perforated with musket shot which they had fired into the windows in the night. Besides this it was said and believed, that general Lake had declared that some town must be burned in the north, and the best to begin with was lord Moira’s. And so great were his lordship's apprehensions that he transmitted to England his family library, one of the most precious to be found in the possession of any individual. On lord Moira's arrival also, I had instituted a society, of which were men undoubtedly the most distinguished in Ireland; such as Grattan, the Ponsonbys, Curran, Flecher, the brave old Montgomery, with some others of the patriotic members of parliament, and uncorrupted lawyers, and
certain of the influential Catholics and merchants, whose credit and correspondence was necessary to the object in view, which was to collect true and authenticated facts to be opposed as a bulwark to falsehood and national calumny, and possibly by their great enormity to appal those immediately responsible; or if there was any wisdom or justice beyond them to force conviction there. By this society I was named historiographer, and my brother corresponding secretary. We had proceeded for some time in despite of the reigning terror with effect: and never were more tragical stories wrested from oblivion.
At this time it is impossible to say to what particular degree each man in the community was tainted with rebellion. Every good man was in some degree rebellious: some more, some less; each according to the warmth of his heart, the firmness of his mind, his compassion, his honesty, perhaps his ambition or his interest. But he who felt no tendency to rebel against such crimes had, I think, but little cause to glorify himself. It is only for him who searches all hearts, to know the pangs which a conscientious man in such a state of things must feel, particularly one whose connections, intimacies, youthful habits, and ties of blood, Įie on the one side; whilst the voice of reason and humanity and the instinctive horror of oppression and cruelty calls him to the other. How many ties must then be rent asunder! The love of country, the love of his fellow-creature, the love and fear of his God, prompt him to rebel against crimes forbidden by the laws of God and man. The tender affections of the heart, the scruples which a humane mind must ever have to surmount before it can engage in the dreadful conflict of a civil war. Such were the considerations which often occupied my
private thoughts. I was convinced of the monstrous abuses committed against the Irish people, of the misery and degradation in which they were held by inhuman policy and a barbarous code, of the insolence of their plunderers, and the corruption and cruelty of their masters,
The strong remonstrances in which not only the United Irishmen, but all the unhired and many even of the hired, had made at various times: for there is scarcely a name of any uncorrupted in: dividual of the slightest degree of importance, that is not somewhere to be found annexed to resolution, petition or remonstrance, 'at' one time or other, complaining of these evils. I therefore however convinced of the truths propagated by the United Irishmen, was long in acting upon that conviction. And although for some time previous to this period I had determined and declared, in case of civil war that I should not be against the people, unless the measures of the government should become such as that without sacrificing my conscience I could support it: still I tried if possible to find some middle course by which the most good could be effected and the most evil prevented, I had always seen that the hard hearted tax-masters of my country had never relented but through fear. I therefore, whenever I wrote or spoke of public matters, endeavored to state their danger with the firm tone of true conviction; whilst on the other hand I labored to soften the too just indignation of the popular party, and often lost the popularity which courageous and upright dealing had acquired to me, by hankering after that conciliation which bolder politicians affirmed to be impossible, and reform which they foresaw never would be conceded; and perhaps by too much attachment to individuals who have not returned that attachment as generously as they ought. Some, to use Mr. Tone's words, had long meditated upon the subject and were convinced that separation was the only remedy. I was very late in taking any part in politics, and had yielded unwillingly and against my interest and my predilections to too much conviction. I persevered with all my might to bring about a co-operation between the popular leaders and the parliamentary opposition, in order that unanimity of talents and influence might if possible prevail, and succeeded so far as to persuade the whole to make one final effort for reform through the parliament. I had drawn several of those petitions which were presented to the king with the same intention from towns and counties, in defiance of the insurrection act, particularly that of Downe, (See Appendix No. VII.) which was passed without any alteration by the freeholders of that county.
When I acted as chairman at the Belfast town meeting (See Appendix No. VIII) I did not know that the French had been invited, nor for a long time afterwards: but as that important event seemed a fair warning to the English, who felt that they owed their danger to the weakness and vice of their government in Ireland and 'their safety to the elements alone, I still hoped that something might be done through their fears, though nothing could be effected through their justice. I know that in this I passed for a weak and unexperienced politician in the eyes of many: yet had any conciliation or any thing like redress of griefs been held out by government (for the parliament was but an instrument) it might have been possible to have obtained for Ireland solid advantages, and consequent advantage and security to England. I have high authority now to say that I was not mistaken, and that the sentiments expressed in contradiction of this opinion were
more from the certainty that their efforts would be to every good purpose unavailing, and would produce nothing but à division in the public mind.
Did I aspire to a high rank as a politician I should not mention all these scruples which may rather class me amongst the lesser geniuses: but I write for truth and not for vanity. I write to let my friends perceive that I never have deceived them, and to let my oppressors feel the weight of my iniquity.
Lord Moira lived at his mother's residence in Dublin, I was presented to him; and if I had received attentions from the ladies, I experienced still more flattering ones from him. He once called me into his cabinet, and after apologizing by anticipation, with all that suavity and nobleness of manner which he possesses, and after I had assured him that I knew him incapable of speaking any thing that ought to offend, he proposed to me to go over and live with him in England; that he saw a storm gathering l'ound me; that he knew how I was threatened; that what ever loss it might be, he would endeavor to counterbalance it, and that to whatever amount I chose, he would be my banker, and make my fortune his particular care. I did not immediately recover from the emotion this proceeding excited in me; but when I did, I answered that had this of fer been made a short time before I might perhaps have accepted of it; that I felt the value of it as much as if I did; that however agreeable such a retreat under the auspices of his lordship might be, I could not consent to it. at present, as several hundreds of my oppressed countrymen looked to me for their vindication. And having in such a crisis undertaken the defence of the wretched, I found it as impossible to abandon my duty to them as it