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Parliament was dissolved in April 1790, and the new assembly met in July for a fortnight. Notwithstanding their energy, the patriots had been unable to add much to their strength, returning with little over four score—all the menaced minions of the Castle having fought desper ately for their mess of corruption, backed by the entire influence of Government. When Parliament opened in January 1791, every motion for reform was resisted by the Government, and beaten by the brute force of its mercenary phalanx.
Outside the precincts of Parliament, other and greater forces were at work. It is calculated that the Episcopalian colonists, at this period, formed but one-tenth of the population, whilst possessing five-sixths of the land, and monopolising the Government. A small section only of these were Whigs. The Dissenting colonists, chiefly found in Ulster, were twice as numerous. Subject to various restrictions, less wealthy and more democratic, their aspirations went beyond the circle of aristocratic Whiggery. Outside the pale were seven-tenths of the population of Ireland, the elder natives who professed the Catholic faith. “The Catholics," wrote Thomas Addis Emmet, "loved Ireland with enthusiasm, not only as their country, but as the partner of their calamities. To the actual interference of England, or to its immediate influence, they ascribed their sufferings, civil or religious, with those of their forefathers. Hereditary hatred, therefore, and sense of injury had always conspired with national pride and patriotism to make them adverse to that country, and enemies to British connection."i Their peasants were racked and ground to the dust; but several, by excessive parsimony, had accumulated money, chiefly in cattledealing. Their fishermen were active, and some earned profits as "fair traders ;" whilst their merchants grew further declare that, as far as in us lies, we will endeavour to preserve to this country, in all time to come, a Parliament of her own, residing within this realm, and exclusively invested with all Parliamentary privileges and power” (“Memoir of Grattan,” vol. iii. p. 435, note).
1 MacNeven’s “ Pieces of Irish History,” Essay by T. A. Emmet, p. 12. Dornin. New York, 1807.
1790-2] COMPONENTS OF COMMUNITY
125 wealthy by their enterprise and superior knowledge of foreign countries, to which their sons were forced to go for education. Some nobles still remained amongst them, but they belonged chiefly to Anglo-Irish families, never very patriotic, and now subdued in soul.
The highspirited nobles and chiefs of the old nation could not brook the penal code, but sought the Continent, where, in Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, they rose to the highest positions as soldiers and statesmen to which subjects might attain. Nay, in the New World they gave viceroys to Chili, Peru, and Mexico; and, for a season, governors to the captured isles of Grenada, St. Eustatia, and St. Christopher. They gave the United States army its first quartermaster-general, and their navy its founder and first commodore.
Seven-tenths of the people though they were, they could not prevail on a single member to present a petition, however humble, to Parliament in 1790. Their committee, now a score of years old, with sturdy John Keogh at its head, resolved that, since neither Castle nor senate would deign to listen, they should turn their attention to the masters of both in London. Keogh returned from London with news that justified his action: Mr. Pitt's ministry would not object if the Irish Parliament should open to Irish Catholics the profession of the law, or render them eligible to be county magistrates, grand jurors, or sheriffs. Further, the general committeee, on January 14, 1792, struck Lord Kenmare off the list of the Parliamentary subcommittee. Lords Fingall, Gormanstown, and others, to
. the number of sixty-eight, were induced by the Castle to publish their resolutions (which had been negatived in committee); but the Catholics, in nearly all the towns and counties, rallied to the support of their committee. This caused a general discussion of the question at issue, and Protestant reformers saw, with surprise and pleasure, that the Catholics whom they had regarded as passive instruments in the hands of their superiors, were the first in the field of democratic action. 1
1 MacNeven's “Pieces of Irish History," Essay by T. A. Emmet, p. 23.
The intimation from London was effective. Sir Hercules Langrishe, always an enemy to the penal code, and now a confidant of the Government, introduced a timid bill on February 4, which opened the bar, to the rank of king's counsel, and permitted intermarriage with Protestants if celebrated by a Protestant clergymen; but if a Protestant married a Catholic wife, he should still be disfranchised, and if a priest celebrated, he should still be subject to the penalty of death, and the marriage annulled. Catholics needed no longer to seek permission from the Protestant clergyman to teach a school, and might take apprentices. By the organ of their committee, however, the Catholics asserted their claims to better terms. Belfast petitioned in their favour; but Parliament contemptuously rejected both the petitions. During the debate, Colonel Hutchinson testified that Mr. Byrne paid £100,000 a year duty to the revenue, Mr. Egan that other signatories were among the foremost merchants of the city; and it has been estimated that the Catholic Committee represented at least one million of money. Langrishe's Bill was read a third time on February 24, 1792, and passed. It could not content a population desiring freedom. The Catholic committee, nothing daunted by the rejection of their petition, nor dismayed by the storm of abuse directed against them, by directions from the Castle oligarchy, through corporations and grand juries, on behalf of the Protestant Ascendency, pressed forward with courage. They spent money liberally, engaged the best talent to be had, having the good fortune to enrol as secretary, first Richard Burke, son of Edmund Burke, and then a briefless young barrister, named Wolfe Tone, subsequently made famous by his organising ability, literary genius, and advanced
| The possession of wealth by the Catholics had in previous days helped to liberalise the laws as regards land-letting. Just before 1769 exchange rose to ten per cent. ; merchants could not get their bills discounted. “Gentle. men of estates labour under great difficulties in raising of money upon landed security, insomuch that they began to think of relaxing some of the Popery laws, with respect to allowing Papists to take real or landed securities under certain restrictions, to induce them to bring money into the kingdom ” (“A List of Absentees,” etc., Faulkner, p. 40, note. 1783).
THE CATHOLIC CONVENTION
patriotism. They obtained declarations from the Catholic universities of the Continent, demonstrating the falsity of the doctrines imputed to Catholics by their foes. They published a digest of the Popery laws, drawn up in plain language by the Hon. Simon Butler, which rudely portrayed the rack on which the Catholics were still tortured, in every phase of life. Take the right of self-defence, for instance, the law forbade it to the Catholic. An Irish Catholic might rise abroad to be field-marshal (a rank which seven did attain in Austria): if he landed in Ireland, he could not wear a sword-a Protestant beggar might pluck it from him in the street; the house in which he lived might be searched by day or by night. His Catholic host or hostess might be summoned to inform on him; if they refused they were subject to £300 fine, or flogging and the pillory, if noble; if not noble, to £ 50 fine and a year's imprisonment, if not flogged. For a second offence they were outlawed, and their goods forfeited. Raids for arms were being continually made, in parts of the country, owing to the existence of this law, so that it was not obsolete.
The Catholics, in the midst of all the uproar, called a convention, voted at elections of delegates throughout the country, and held, for the first time since the Revolution, a public meeting, in a hall too small for their numbers, all larger ones being refused them. “All the speeches on that occasion,” observes Emmet, “but particularly the able and argumentative declamation of Mr. Keogh, the classic and cultivated eloquence of Dr. Ryan, filled their Ascendency opponents with mortification and surprise.”2 The convention concurred with their Ulster allies in adopting resolutions asking for complete repeal of the penal code, and it resolved to send to the King in London an address, which was signed by Archbishop Troy on behalf of the bishops, for the policy of the committee had triumphed. The committee appointed their own delegates. Tone, a Protestant, accompanied them as secretary.1
1 Hay, “ History of the Irish Rebellion.” 2 *Essay on Irish History,” p. 34.
The Catholic deputation, on their way to London, were induced to make a détour through Belfast, by the fervour of their northern sympathisers. There an occurrence took place marvellous to minds who know that town's later history of discord and bloodshed. The principal Protestants of Belfast called upon the Dublin delegates to welcome them, and as the Catholic deputies were departing, the Protestant populace took the horses from their carriages, and drew them through the streets amidst the most intense enthusiasm. The Catholics responded with deep delight, and pledged themselves to maintain that fraternal union which was the strength and honour of Ireland. Grattan was in London, working in their cause. He found that the Dublin oligarchs had written over to prejudice their case, by declaring that the Catholics were armed and in a state of rebellion in Ireland. However, he believed that, owing to the condition of Europe, the ministers would yield them their own terms. Hutchinson, Forbes, Curran, Doyle, and Lord Moira especially, gave welcome aid. The British ministers, instead of giving a rebuff, as the Castle wished, showed them favour, and the King himself received them most graciously. The former were probably not unwilling to appear to assume the role of protecting friends; and the latter hoped that the Catholics would, as in France, form a barrier to the revolutionary or Jacobinical spirit of the time.
When the Irish Parliament assembled in January 1793, the viceroy was obliged to state that he had it in particular command from his Majesty to recommend them to
1 Major Edward Sweetman, another Protestant, sat upon the committee as a delegate, elected by the Catholics of Wexford (Ibid., p. 40).
2 “Essay on Irish History,” p. 40.
4 The Catholic Committee, on the return of the deputation, voted £2000 for a statue to the king; £1500, with a gold medal value thirty guineas, to Wolfe Tone; £1500 to W. Todd Jones; £ 500 to Simon Butler for his Digest ; and a piece of plate, value one hundred guineas, to the Catholic delegates, who had refused to accept their expenses (Plowden, vol. ij. P. 393).