Billeder på siden

neral call made on the government for justice. This was the last effort of Ireland, and it was blasted. Lord Fitzwilliam was suddenly called from his government, leaving an abused people without one ray of hope to gild the darkness of their despondency. What must have been the deep sorrow of the Reformers and Roman Catholics-in seeing him removed from the lieutenancy, may be conjectured from the character given of him by the most bigoted and credulous chronicler of the times * :-“ From the respectability and amiableness of his character, no person could doubt the rectitude of his intentions; or that he had any other object at heart than the interest of the empire-but it is believed that his lordship was unacquainted with the real state of the kingdom."

The hopes of the Roman Catholics had been raised to the pinnacle of expectation, and on the destruction of their high prospects, they gave way to anger and despair. A deputation from the catholic board hastened to St. James's; but their remonstrance was coldly received by the king, and the Duke of Portland referred the

* Musgrave, page 161.

prayer of their petition to “ those dreadful guardians” who had succeeded Earl Fitzwilliam-" that combination” (to use the words of the lamented Grattan) “ which galled the country with its tyranny-insulted her by its. manners-exhausted her by its rapacity, and slandered her by its malice.” The new government instantly proceeded to visit the malecontents with cruel and unjustifiable severity: under the plea of security, the metropolis was rendered intolerable to all but the minions of the administration; while, with the pretence of restoring social order, Lord Carhampton repaired to the midland and western counties, and alleging that the laws were inoperative in them, “ resolved to restore their energy by” what Sir Richard calls ".a salutary system of severity.” He assembled the principal Orangemen of each county, and having in concert with them, examined the charges against the leaders of this banditti, who were in prison, but defied justice, (anglicè, persons against whom no shadow of evidence could be produced to warrant their conviction,) he, with the concurrence of these gentlemen, sent the most nefari

Vol. I.

ons of them on board a tender stationed at Sligo. By this bold measure, founded on obvious principles of political necessity, he completely restored peace in the disturbed districts. This unparalleled outrage on Irish liberty elicited universal deprecation; and, arbitrary as the government was, it soon found itself unequal to shelter the engine of its tyranny against the numerous civil actions which were in progress against him, till, by the unprecedented measure of resorting to a bill of indemnity, the unhappy sufferers had their wrongs and hopes of redress equally silenced for ever. This infamous bill passed, after a furious opposition, early in 1796. Fitzstephen in his place in the Commons, and O'Hara at a county meeting, delivered their opinions of these unconstitutional proceedings with a freedom of deprecation which gave mortal offence to the Irish court. At this period, January, 1796, we resume our private memoir.

It is probable that O'Hara's resolution of passing some time in the Irish capital was confirmed by the advice of Lord Edward. The friends who had associated at Castle Carra

were once more assembled in Clare-street. The character of the times was now taking an imposing aspect—discontent was too loud and too determined not to bring on a speedy crisis. The organization of United Irishmen, from the moment of its birth, had become truly formidable, and the government at last saw their danger. Had they gone too far to conciliate Could not the storm, which had been so long gathering, and whose explosion was no longer to be reckoned an uncertainty, be mitigated by gentle measures, and its violence dispersed by those whose mal-administration had first raised it? This question was not deemed worthy of consideration, or if it was, an opposite conclusion was the result. With the personages more than the politics of these days our business lies, and in a short summary we shall comprise the history of these unhappy times. From the period of 1792, the lower classes of the Reformers were in commotion, and the higher dissatisfied. French politics gained ground apace; mobs of great numerical force frequently assembled, and were

only dispersed by military interference and mutual loss of lives. The discontent of the lower Irish was further augmented by the passing of the Militia Bill: the disaffection of the higher confirmed by espionage, arrests, and ex officio prosecutions. A clergyman of the establishment, to avoid the ignominy of a public execution, perished by poison at the bar; while many of the leading malecontents saved their lives by a voluntary expatriation. Military license and tyranny became intolerable-suspected persons were seized, and sent on board the royal navy, without even the mockery of investigation-houses were searched for arms, and should the inmates be absent, they were denounced as rebels, and their property consigned to the flames. In their marches, the soldiery overloaded and injured the horses and carriages of the peasantry, or committed shameless exactions on the most flimsy pretexts. Bills of indemnity were passed—the habeas corpus act suspended_multitudes of Roman Catholic families driven from their homes in Ulster to seek refuge in the wilds of Connaught, while an armed and bigoted yeomanry were loosed upon the country; and the troops, sent from

« ForrigeFortsæt »