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on the war itself cast a gleam of delusion on eyes willing to be deluded, while unequivocal symptoms of ruin affected all the permanent branches of trade, and bankruptcies thickened in every quarter. France continued to temporize, and, while she in every underhand manner abetted the Americans, still held out the language of pacific intention. A play of remonstrances and illusory compliances continued for some time to be carried on till May, when France having gained all the objects of procrastination, declared a treaty of commerce with America, in which the colonies were considered as independent, and concluded with a very intelligible intimation of preparations to act in concert with America for the maintenance of their treaty. And never did anıbition and political bad faith more surely lay the fatal train which was to eventuate in a dreadful retribution, than the French court, when it thus cast its weight and sanction into this commencement of a great revolution, in the vortex of which it was in a few years more to occupy the bloody centre. In this critical moment, “ when transatlantic liberty arose,”
“ Not in the sunshine and the smile of heaven,
But wrapt in whirlwinds and begirt with woes," duplicity, and rashness, extravagance, financial blundering, and despotism, singularly combined with the admission and encouragement of political and philosophical charlatanism, and the normal school of sedition, that sent out its emissaries into all the surrounding countries, made France the depository of collecting woes and crimes for the evil day that was ere long to rise for her chastisement.
Ireland, to which, from time immemorial, the enemies of England had directed the artifices and resources of secret intrigue, had not in the beginning of the great strife been overlooked by either America or France. But here the spirit of the people had widely changed, and there was a general sense entertained, that a more fair and liberal disposition towards the country had already begun to grow in England. The motions which had recently been made in the British house of commons, in favour of Irish interests, though frustrated by local opposition, had yet plainly manifested the friendly disposition of the higher authorities and the better classes-liberal concessions too, had actually been made, and a general sentiment was awakened of hopeful expectation; with this there was a gloomy recollection that rebellion had only woven and rivetted chains, and laid waste the very sources of renovation. The addresses of America had excited temporary heat; but the better and then more influential portion of the Irish people reciprocated the maxims and precepts of patriotism and of freedom, neither in the hostile temper of America, nor in the fanatic, mystical, and rationalizing temper of the volatile Parisians, but after their own peculiar spirit with a religious frame of heart, and bent of opinion, on which, infidelity, the great relaxer of all principles, could not tell with any wide effect,-a native shrewdness not easy to be fooled by new delusions, though not proof against as strong a tendency to old prejudices,-a natural though mixed and variously tempered loyalty, and a rising hope of better times. These saner influences operated at the moment with some conditions of a differ
ent kind, among which we shall now only delay to notice one that the large class of Irish among whom the seeds of internal disorgani. zation might with most apparent probability be looked for, were then, neither in strength nor intelligence, in the least degree formidable.
Such was the general state of affairs when a moment of great and nearly unexampled alarm arose and prevailed both in England and Ireland, and the fear of invasion by a French fleet became universal. The combined French and American fleet rode freely through the channel, and the harbour of Dublin was fortified for the first time. The great commercial city of the north, Belfast, applied for protection to the government: the secretary replied by an acknowledgment of weakness, and they were offered half a troop of dismounted cavalry and half a corps of invalids. This acknowledgment of helplessness was tantamount to a free commission of self-defence, and prompt and effective was the conduct with which it was answered. The city immediately formed a volunteer corps, to which they elected officers, and which was armed, clothed, and maintained, at its own expense. The example ran through all the northern towns. The town of Armagh raised the corps which was immediately commanded by lord Charlemont.
As the rise and growth of the volunteers were prompt, sudden, and rapid, so the effects were immediate, extensive, and various. The government was alarmed; the enemy was disconcerted; and a deep and pervading sense became universal, though cautiously as well as generously suppressed, that without any one act of disloyalty or disaffection, but with the sanction of the most honourable and righteous occasions, Ireland, for the first time, held her own fortune in her hands.
The government was dismayed because they at once saw the whole strength of the position thus obtained, while they were far from any. anticipation of the temperate spirit which was to govern the results. They had neither men nor money, and felt themselves compelled to choose between a French invasion, and an armed people; and they preferred the safer alternative. They could not, however, fail to be aware of the highly civilized character, and the loyal motives of the northern volunteers; and the rank, pretensions, and property of the body of gentlemen by whom they were officered, must have been felt to be a ground of security. This security, however, could only operate so far as respected the general peace and security of the country; for though the volunteers were adulterated by not even a mixture of the mere rabble which constitutes the force of rebellions, they were thus but more to be feared, as menacing danger to those unconstitutional abuses and mal-organizations to which the minds of such men as now led their country's defence, and were armed with her power, were inost likely to look upon with hostility. To meet this formidable apprehension, the only resource would have been as quickly as possible to neutralize their national character by investing them with that of regular troops under the pay, discipline, and orders of the castle. But for such a purpose there was no money to be had, nor would it probably have availed. It was attempted to persuade the officers to take out regular commissions,—this being, as they suggested, the only ground of safety in the case of being taken prisoners. But the motive was otherwise understood, and the refusal, perhaps, may be placed among the numerous indications that these gentlemen had from the first a full sense of their position of strength.
The enemy, on their part, saw the danger of encountering such a force--it was, doubtless, much exaggerated by report. It also convinced them of the inutility of relying on any aid to be derived from Irish disaffection,—the great motive of all the invasions ever directed to her coasts.
The further and more important events with the history of the volunteers demand a more extended and circumstantial narration. The prosperous operation of this great public movement may be referred to the character of its leaders, and to the general unanimity of the public mind as to the justice of its objects. And Mr Hardy has, we think, justly observed, that results so favourable could not have occurred if (as happened some years later) the principles of the French revolution had been instilled into the public mind. The justice of these reflections is, in truth, nearly self-evident.
The effects of any dissension between the ranks and orders of the state, are directly and immediately subversive of society; and of this the dissolution of the ancient Roman commonwealth is an example on a large, and that of France, on a small scale. But the event of the time of which we now write was a wholly different result from wholly different means. The objects then contended for were, unanimously and earnestly, the desire of every individual of every rank and creed, not actually in the pay of government. They were plain, universal, and evident rights, concerning which there was no uestion in point of principle,-free trade and a free parliament. The leaders of the contest were the noblest in rank, the ablest in understanding, and the most justly respected for private worth and public integrity. They were followed by the better part of the Irish people, placed by circumstances on a vantage-ground of influence not under ordinary circumstances to be attained by the public. The public which cannot directly interfere in the legislature unless by some movement of an antisocial nature, was imbodied in this instance, by a concurrence of incidents, wholly untinged with revolutionary excitement, to give effect to the purest and noblest portion of its virtue and intelligence. “Lord Charlemont," writes Mr Hardy—"and the great and good men who acted with him, took care to confine the public mind to two great principles,—the defence of the empire, and the restoration of the constitution. In their steps to the latter, they were peculiarly cautious to limit the national claim to such a point only as Ireland herself could not decide upon,--this was a grant of free trade.” In the same paragraph he observes the effect produced by the good conduct of the volunteers. “If the kingdom,” he writes, “was menaced from abroad, it was at home in a state of unexampled security. Private property, private peace, were everywhere watched over by the volunteers with a filial and pious care." They could not, he observes, be styled “a banditti,”-the term applied by ministers to the American associations.
When the propositions in favour of Irish trade which lord North had this year introduced into the British parliament, after being assented to by that body, were suppressed in compliance with the jealousy of several English manufacturing towns. There was (as we have already observed) a far greater hope communicated by the good intent thus manifested by the British government, than of discouragement from the narrow selfishness of the trading communities by which it was intercepted. But it was at the same time felt, that some public demonstration was necessary, both to counteract the effects, and expose the folly and injustice of such opposition. The nonimportation agreement, formerly recommended by Swift, was now zealously and generally adopted. The effects were immediate and beneficial; the demands of luxury and fashion which had hitherto contributed to the trade of England, now were turned to renew our own; and a wide-spread despondency was changed into gratitude and hope.
The volunteers, in the mean time, rapidly increased in spirit, discipline, and numbers; and lord Charlemont, whose inspiriting influence was felt in every rightly directed effort of the public mind, devoted all his exertion to their improvement in these respects.
In October, 1779, the Irish parliament assembled. It opened with an incident amply illustrative of the foregoing statements. In the previous session, an amendment to the address, expressive of the sense of the public-spirited Opposition, had been in the usual manner negatived by the house. It nevertheless, according to Mr Hardy, “ left a strong impression on the house," and we can have no doubt, had, in the meantime, operated as a rallying point to public feeling. Mr Daly, who had been the mover, and the illustrious band of eminent men, of whom he was one, now determined to try it once more. On the present occasion the ministerial address moved by Sir Robert Deane, and simply echoing the speech from the throne, was supported by Mr R. H. Hutchinson, Sir H. Cavendish, and the attorney-general: the amendment moved by Mr Grattan was supported by Mr Ogle, Sir Edward Newenham, the provost of Trinity College—the honourable Henry Flood, and the prime sergeant. Mr Grattan censured the speech as inexplicit—and as an attempt to quiet the public mind, without any express declaration-he then dwelt strongly on the distresses of the kingdom, which he described as “the beggary of the people, and the bankruptcy of the state.” The first he attributed to commercial restrictions, the second to the boundless prodigality, and other crimes of administration. The amendment which he offered, injudiciously connected the object proposed with complaints very likely to excite division, but concluded by proposing “a free export trade," as the only remedy. Sir H. Cavendish replied by a dexterous proposal, that the object in view would be better effected, by appointing a committee for the purpose. Mr Ogle exposed the artifice of such a proposal, and pointedly reminded the commons of the old excuse of ministers, who were accustomed to plead the silence caused by their own artifices, “ that truly they did not know what the Irish wanted, as their parliament was silent on the head.” After some others had spoken with great strength, the leaders of the castle party saw the necessity of a change of direction: it seemed too obviously necessary to tack before the strong change of wind: a declaration was made from the administration benches, that they would not oppose the
amendment. As many of the leading members of the opposition objected to the terms of Mr Grattan's amendment, Mr Burgh now rose to move it in another equally decided, but less encumbered form. When he was about to move-Mr Flood whispered to him across the benches, “ state a free trade only." Burgh had so intended, or he took the hint, and moved, “ that it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade alone, that this nation is now to be saved from impending ruin."
This amendment was unanimously carried. When the house went up to present their address at the castle, the way between Collegegreen and Dame Street, was lined with the volunteers, with the duke of Leinster at their head.
This decisive stroke, not more influential as a declaration, than for its effect upon the body from whence it came, and indeed on every constituent portion of the nation, was followed up with a vigour and deci. sion hitherto unknown in the annals of Irish Oppositions. It was indeed a moment for the overflow of that national triumph, which followed and urged, as well as encouraged the whole course of these eventful proceedings. The presence of the national volunteers, imparted an influence, and propagated an impulse which diffused itself into every part of the kingdom and operated on every class; as yet animated only by the first loyal and constitutional sentiment which brought them together, and unaffected by that accumulating fever of self-confidence and self-assertion which is sure, sooner or later, to alter the direction and infatuate the progress of all such merely popular organizations, their presence had none but beneficial effects. They were, it is true, an unconstitutional force, but the whole state of things around them was also unconstitutional, and seemed to call for the presence of some power more quick and energetic than is afforded by the common system of civil order to give the sanatory impulse to its vital action. The forces of social order and progress, were feebly developed, conflicting among themselves and overpowered by the active proximity of British rule. The ruler and the ruled had not the reciprocal interest which commonly tempers and modifies their common relation:-it was the seeming interest of England to oppress the trade, and for this purpose to repress the strength of Ireland and the main instrument by which these objects were mainly effected, was internal division. It was essential for the dispersion of so fatal a union of forces, involving all the vital functions in a combination of disease, that some extra constitutional force should be applied, and such were the Irish volunteers. In the entire history of revolutions, there will not be found a case in which this force was so sanely and temperately used. Called up on a great and sudden emergency, with the sanction of government, and headed by the best talent and virtue in the Irish aristocracy, they were an extra legal but not lawless concentration of national strength with national intelligence and feeling: in availing themselves of the advantage of this position, they were rigidly within the limits of a sacred and imperative duty. Their demands went no further than the precise measure of this duty: and so far as the necessity of the occasion allowed, they gradually abstained from transgressing the lines of that constitution which it was their object to perfect