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“MURDER AND ATROCITY”
was to serve as a pretext for the Union; but the confusion had grown into a danger. Camden and the junto were unable to quell the storm they had raised, and Lord Cornwallis was despatched as viceroy and commanderin-chief to replace the former and control the latter. He arrived on June 20, but the warfare continued in Wexford until the end of the month, and a guerilla fight was kept up amongst the mountain-glens of that county, and of Wicklow still later. The junto struggled against control, exaggerated the danger, and their partisans so persecuted the peaceable that they were forced, Protestants as well as Catholics, to join the insurgents. Any man "in a brown coat," wrote Cornwallis," was butchered, though miles away from the field of action.” He issued a proclamation, on July 3, directing generals to give protection to rebels who surrendered and swore allegiance, and introduced an Act of Amnesty a fortnight later for all engaged in the rebellion, except leaders, or any who had committed homicide not in battle. That measure, however, evoked the worst passions, perjury, avarice, revenge, to the destruction of numbers. “No means of conviction were neglected," writes Gordon; "strange as it may seem, acts of humanity were considered as proofs of guilt. Whoever could be proved to have saved a loyalist from assassination, his house from burning, or his property from plunder, was pronounced to have had influence among the rebels, consequently a rebel commander."2 The most convincing testimony to the generous humanity of the insurgents was delivered at their trials, in order to hang them,-by those whom they had saved. “But even the horrors of martial law, carried out by passion and revenge, were trifling," wrote Cornwallis (July 24), "compared to the numberless murders committed by our people without any process of examination whatever."
1 Gordon gives several instances in Wexford. In Kildare, the Duke of Leinster's tenantry were particularly harried by the men whose policy he had opposed. They punished him by depriving him of his rents, owing to the ruin of his tenantry, who, driven to despair, joined the insurgents, saying, “ It's better to die with a pike in my hand than be shot like a dog at my work, or see my children faint for want of food before my eyes” (Lady Sarah Napier to the Duke of Richmond, June 27). Lord Cloncurry relates that men were left hanging along the elm avenue of Carton House.
2 Rev. Mr. Gordon, “History of Ireland,” p. 458.
The yeomanry, militia, and fencibles were all engaged "in murder and every kind of atrocity." Such were the men who, with the demoralised troops, fled like frightened sheep when Humbert landed with about eight hundred troops in the west at Killala, on August 24, and made a triumphant march of a hundred and fifty miles into the heart of the country, surrendering on September 8 to overwhelming forces. The undisciplined peasants held out to the end of the month; and, as the Protestant Bishop of Killala testified, during the entire period “not a drop of blood was shed by the Connaught rebels except in the field of war." A different result followed the courts-martial which ensued. The barbarities of Wexford were repeated, and for weeks the corpses of peasants dangled from trees along the roadsides.
LAST SESSIONS OF PARLIAMENT-THE UNION
In the summer of 1798, the Pitt-Portland Cabinet considered that the abolition of the Irish legislature might be attempted with success. Mr. Pitt has been credited with the best designs in abolishing the Irish Parliament. It was his aim, we sometimes hear, to incorporate the two islands by uniting the legislatures, emancipating the Catholics, and establishing equal laws all over the three kingdoms. If such were his aims, it must be confessed that the time, the instruments, and the means employed to carry them out were ill-chosen, unscrupulous, and vile. The country gentlemen had been made “sick of independence," and were held in hand by the sustained dread of what was represented as a Jacobin insurrection. To the division of classes was added the dissension of sects. Papist rebels and Orange yeomen now seemed to occupy the stage in deadly strife, where but a short time ago Catholics and Protestants lived in general harmony. The antagonism, in truth, was exaggerated as well as fomented by those who, through perversity or panic, cared to dwell rather on acts of outrage than on acts of benevolence. This had given an opportunity for drafting over British troops, who regarded all the Irish as rebellious; of Hessian troops still more ignorant and inimical. Ultimately Portland desired to send over Dutch and even
1 Whilst the Rev. Mr. Gordon, a Protestant clergyman, records, in his “ History of the Rebellion,” numerous cases where Catholic insurgents saved the lives of Protestants, the Rev. P. F. Kavanagh, a Catholic priest, takes pleasure in recording “a few of the many good deeds performed by the Orange body in favour of Catholics,” one being the (forcible) rescue of an innocent priest from a persecuting magistrate by an Orange yeoman named Thackaberry, in Wexford (“ History of the Insurrection,” p. 117. Dublin).
Russian mercenaries.1 It must have appeared easy to terminate the life of a Parliament so dependent on the British ministry, so isolated and estranged in a country overrun with foreign troops, whilst all the agencies of terrorism were at work to alarm public opinion. No art of cajolery or corruption was left untried. In July the Cabinet had had many discussions on a change of system, and it was proposed to give small salaries to the priests.2 This, coming at a time when the priests were often in peril of life from the junto, was designated to alienate the Catholics from the Parliament. In the autumn the members of the junto, Lord Chancellor Clare (Fitzgibbon), J. Beresford, and the Speaker, Foster, were called over to London to assist in the deliberations; but, whilst the first two urged on the Union, the Speaker dissented, and in dissenting represented the popular opinion. When, in December, Cornwallis had to admit that hostility to the Union "increases daily," he ruefully confessed that he had been too sanguine about the Catholics. “Their dispositions are so completely alienated from the British Government,” he added, "that I believe they would even be tempted to join with their bitterest enemies, the Protestants of Ireland, if they thought that measure would lead to a total separation of the two countries." 3
Convened by the father of the Bar, the barristers met on Sunday, December 9. It was, said Saurin, peculiarly the duty of the Bar to speak when the legislature was
1 “Cornwallis Correspondence," vol. iii. pp. 137, 298.
? Lord Auckland to J. Beresford, August 1, 1798. Beresford assured his lordship that “the whole body of the lower order of Roman Catholics are totally inimical to the English Government; that they are under the influence of the lowest and worst class of their priesthood. . . . The Dissenters are another set of enemies to the British Government. They are greatly under the influence of their clergy also, and are taught from their cradles to be republicans” (“Beresford Correspondence,” August 1).
3 Cornwallis to Portland, December 12, 1798. Next day thirty-seven of the principal Catholics, nobles and merchants, met at Lord Fingall's, but gave Cornwallis no comfort. The “temperate and liberal sentiments" at first expressed by some were by no means adopted by the Catholics who met at Lord Fingall's, and professed speak for the party large” (Ibid., January 2, 1799). They agreed not to discuss the Union as Catholics, and adjourned sine die.
1798] PROTESTS AGAINST UNION PROJECT
173 threatened with destruction. Not until October had the people of Ireland been told they were unworthy to govern themselves, and should surrender a constitution under which they and their fathers had lived happily, had risen and were rising in enviable prosperity. After dealing with the merits of the question, he declared that it was not when "a foreign army of forty thousand men were in the country," that the people should be asked to give up their constitution and surrender their legislative power. He moved that the measure was an innovation, which it would be highly dangerous and improper to propose. Burrowes, Goold, Plunket, and others, declared that the measure was beyond the competence of Parliament; that it had revived the United Irishmen; and that, if passed, it would tend to total separation. The Castle party ventured only to ask for a postponement, but they were defeated by 168 to 32. Indignation meetings of the attorneys, of the various corporations of the capital, of the county and city of Dublin, of the Queen's and King's Counties, of Louth, Westmeath, Meath, Carlow, and Clare, followed in rapid succession before Parliament met, the high sheriffs presiding. One resolution, generally adopted, declared that their representatives had not been empowered to destroy the constitution, and that Parliament could not decree its own extinction.
When Lord Fitzwilliam had superseded a commissioner-placing him on full pay—because that functionary's rectitude was impeached, the viceroy was rebuked and recalled. The selfsame ministry now directed and pressed for the dismissal of commissioners and office-holders—without compensation because these were faithful to their country and its constitution.2 The viceroy was told to declare that the Government was resolved to press the measure "to the utmost," and (even though the legislature should decide against it) to renew it "on every occasion
1 Other counties met after the debate in Parliament, to express similar sentiments and give votes of thanks to the Opposition, namely, Monaghan, Limerick, Wicklow, Cavan, Tyrone ; also Clonmel and other corporations.
2 Portland to Castlereagh, January 11; Camden to same, January 15.