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They had given considerable offence to Government by the boldness of their views and the violence of their manifestoes and speeches. It was through their means that the public mind had undergone so beneficial a change relative to the Catholic claims, and it was by the example and advice of the United Irishmen of Dublin that the Catholics themselves had assumed that bold attitude to which the concessions of 1793 were mainly attributable. These were faults which it appears even patriotism could not forgive, and which drew down the vengeance of power upon the Society. On the 4th of May, 1794, their ordinary place of meeting, the Tailors' Hall, in Back-lane, was attacked by the police, their meeting dispersed, and their papers
seized. The forcible suppression of the Dublin Society primarily led to the change from open discussion and constitutional propagandism to secret plotting and conspiracy; the effects of which became so fatal to public peace after the recal of Lord Fitzwilliam. When he was sent over here, Government might, most probably, have saved the country all the horrors which followed. - The Parisian massacres of September, 1792, had an immense effect in Ireland; men who were moderate republicans feared to accept freedom accompanied by such horrors; the Catholic aristocracy, always a timid and selfish body, offered to support Government in withholding their own privileges; the Catholic clergy separated in a body from the reformers, and denounced the atheism of France from their altars; if the Government had only united conciliation with coercion, the tranquillity of Ireland would have been ensured. Such was the policy the English ministers first resolved to adopt. Earl Fitzwilliam was sent to Ireland; measures were introduced which at that crisis would have been received with enthusiastic gratitude; but unfortunately the intrigues of party interfered, and to all the causes of discord, which had been accumulating for centuries, were added unexpected triumph in the party of the few, and unexpected disappointment in the party of the many."! Lord Fitzwilliam was sent over with full powers to remove Catholic disabilities, and to crush the faction by which this
* The French Republic was every where triumphant in March, 1793, the date of the introduction of the Relief Bill into the House of Commons.
† Madd. U. I., Ist vol. 1 s. 143.
country was misgoverned; but the impediments he met with disappointed his expectations, and baffled his mission of peace—he looked to the English cabinet for support and received none—the Beresfords triumphed, the Catholics were sacrificed, and he abandoned the Government with mortification and disgust. It has been constantly asserted, that the appointment and the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam were portions of a plan of deep policy on the part of Mr. Pitt, and that his design was to disappoint and disgust all parties, in order that irritated hopes and baffled faction might become the ripeners of rebellion. This is susceptible of argument, and is generally enough believed ;* but it appears too keen and subtle, too full of an impossible foresight, too Machiavellian even for him to whom it is attributed. It is more probable that the minister adopted a plan of concession when the temper of the times seemed to demand it, and that he relinquished it the moment he found himself to be, or imagined that he was, able to rule the country without its aid, and by the assistance of the oligarchic faction which Lord Fitzwilliam sought to destroy. However this may be, and it appears immaterial whether Mr. Pitt's policy was guided by the infamous sagacity thus attributed to it, or that the change of measures arose from the facility of resuming coercion, the result of Lord Fitzwilliam's recall promoted the views of the republican section of the United Irishmen. Gentle measures would have rendered them innocuous; coercion, producing disappointment and irritation, was the apt agent of their wildest views.
The expectations of the Catholics were immoderately high ; their despondency was proportionately great. They could have been made loyal without difficulty. Loyalty with them was a prompt, not to say a slavish, virtue. The distinguished servility of Lords Kenmare and Gormanstown might not, indeed, have been easily equalled amongst the most ignorant of the democratic portion of their body; but yet they were open to the seduction of ministerial promise, and would have given a vast deal of practical gratitude for very little practical good.
These loyal and servile tendencies received a rough shock from the recall of the popular viceroy, and in the revulsion of disappointed hope the Catholics caught a new fire from the United
* Plowden distinctly assumes it as an uncontrovertible proposition.
Irishmen. From this period both of these bodies, not hitherto much animated by common impulses, began to look to identical means in the prosecution of their objects, and these objects gradually began to define themselves, and assume the form of republicanism and religious equality. Were any thing wanted to drive the Catholics into the ranks of the Union, it was supplied by the crimes of the Orangemen, committed against the unfortunate and proscribed members of that religion. They were made the victims “ of a persecution conceived in the bitterness of bigotry, carried on with the most ferocious barbarity, by a banditti, who, being of the religion of the state, had committed with the greater audacity and confidence the most horrid murders, and had proceeded from robbery and massacre to extermination.
In this state of affairs, so promising to the friends of revolution, the change of the United system took place. The Report of the Secret Committee says, “ For the first three years
their attention was entirely directed to the engaging in their society persons of activity and talent, in every quarter in the kingdom ; and in preparing the public mind for their future purposes by the circulation of the most seditious publications, particularly the works of Thomas Paine. At this time, however, the leaders were rather cautious of alarming minds not sufficiently ripe for the adoption of their principles by the too open disclosure of the real objects they had in view. In 1795 the test of the society underwent a striking revision; the words in the amended test stand a full representation of all the people,' omitting the words ' in the Commons House of parliament, and the reason for which has been admitted by the members of the executive, examined before your committee, to be the better to reconcile reformers and republicans in a common exertion to overthrow the state." I
The three gentlemen referred to, Messrs. Emmet, Macnevin, and O'Connor, in their memoir, seem to contradict the latter part of this statement, and one would probably attach more importance to their account than to a document like this state paper,
Grattan. † These works were circulated largely by the Whig party in England, under the sanction of Fox and Erskine, and the other eminent leaders.
| Report, p. 5.
drawn up and prepared as it is with profound skill and commensurate falsehood. Even at this period, when the Union had commenced to be a private association, meeting under the sanction of an oath, and with a test amended in the way that it has been mentioned, the great body of them, so far from contemplating revolution as their favored alternative, would gladly have accepted a reform in parliament, and the removal of Catholic disabilities as the fulfilment of their highest expectations ; such is at least the evidence of three of their ablest and most trusted leaders. After having stated that the suppression of the Dublin society of United Irishmen, and the other stringent measures had led to the formation of new bodies, preserving the popular name of United Irishmen, but differing in their plan and with an amended test, the memoir proceeds, “ the first of these societies was, as we best recollect, in the year 1795.
In order to secure co-operation and uniformity of action, they organized a system of committees, baronial, county, provincial, and even national ; but it was long before the skeleton of this organization was filled up. While the formation of these societies was in agitation, the friends of liberty were gradually, but with a timid step, advancing towards republicanism ; they began to be convinced that it would be as easy to obtain a revolution as a reform, so obstinately was the latter resisted, and as this conviction impressed itself on their minds they were inclined not to give up the struggle, but to extend their views; it was for this reason that in their test the words are an equal representation of all the people of Ireland,' without inserting the word “parliament.' The test embraced both the republican and the reformer, and left to future circumstances to decide to which the common strength should be directed; but still the whole body we are convinced would stop at reform." It is not necessary for me to give the details of the change in the civil organization which took place in the Union, and which was completed on 10th May, 1795. The reader will find them in the evidence of Thomas Reynolds, upon the trials of M‘Cann, Byrne, and Bond. In addition to the change of the test already alluded to, an oath of secrecy was added; and after the meeting of the executive directory of the society, May, 1796,
Macnevin's Pieces of Irish History, 176. And see the cross-examination of Reynolds on Bond's trial.
† See post.
in which it was resolved to seek for foreign aid, the military organization grew out of the civil system. *
The existence of the military organization was well known to Government, from April 14th, 1797, by means of Nicholas Maguan, a traitor, who was colonel in the military system. Dr. Macnevin says the organization commenced to be military in the latter end of 1796, and we find this Maguan communicating the details of the Provincial meeting of Ulster, with the returns of arms and ammunition, of the date of the 14th April, 1797, , and thenceforward until the 31st May, 1798. This Maguan's secret information is thus prefaced in the Appendix of the Secret Committee of the Commons:- “ The information contained in this number of the Appendix was received from Nicholas Maguan, of Saintfield, in the county of Down, who was himself a member of the Provincial and County Committees, and also a Colonel in the military system of United Irishmen.t He
Dr. Macnevin gives the following account of the system, in his examination before the Secret Committee of the House of Lords, on the 7th August, 1798:
Q. When did you become an United Irishman? A. About September or October, 1796, I became a member of the close society of United Irishmen; it consisted of societies, at first, composed of thirty-six members, afterwards these societies were reduced to twelve members ; each society of twelve chose a secretary, and generally a treasurer.
Q. What was the next higher society? A. The Secretaries of five societies formed a lower Baronial Committee; out of each of the lower Baronial Committees one person was chosen to be a member of the upper Baronial, each of the upper Baronials consisted of ten members thus chosen. The next superior committees were, in populous towns, District Committees; and County Committees, in counties; these were composed of one member elected from each Baronial. The next superior Committees were the Provincial Committees, composed of two members, sometimes three, elected from each County Committee.
Q. How was the Executive chosen ? A. Each Provincial Committee elected five persons by ballot, the secretary examined the ballots, and reported to the persons elected their appointment ; but made no report of the election to the Provincial, who were thus kept in ignorance of the persons who composed the Executive. The Executive had the command of the whole body thus organized.
Q. What was the organization originally? A. At first it was purely a civil organization; but I believe it was military in Ulster, about the latter end of 1796.
Q. What was the nature of the military organization ? A. The Secretary of the society of twelve was the petty officer, that is, Serjeant or Corporal; the Delegate of five societies to a lower Baronial was usually the Captain, and thus had sixty men under his command; and the Delegate of ten lower Baronials to the Upper or District Committee was usually the Colonel, and thus a battalion was composed of six hundred. The Colonels of each county sent in the names of three persons to the Executive, one of whom was appointed by the Executive Adjutant-General of the county, his duty was to receive and communicate all military orders from the Executive. (App. to Report of the Commons' Committee, xxxi.)
† Dr. Madden gives an account of this informer which would lead us to suppose that the representation of his being a colonel in the military system was falsehood. “ This Magin, (for such was his name) of Saintfield, in the county of