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Nothing can be conceived more simple--nothing more perfect than such an arrangement. Examine it, and the constitutions of the most carefully devised systems of society seem beside it clumsy, inartificial contrivances—while this, the work of a few humble men, brooding over their real or imagined grievances or both, seems almost like the machinery of one of those philosophical romance-epics, perfect, because having no other existence than in some solitary dreamer's fancy. “Curiosity,” says Emmett,
will ask what manner of men they were that dared harbour such comprehensive and nearly visionary ideas ? They were almost invariably farmers, manufacturers, and shopkeepers, the representatives of men certainly not superior to themselves." The persons called the leaders would to a man have been contented with Parliamentary Reform, and between them and the oligarchy that ruled Ireland there was always room for a compromise. The evidence of all the state prisoners establishes this. The despair of obtaining this object drove them into the consideration of republicanism, which the examples of America and France naturally suggested, and which was debated among them as one, and but as one, of the substitutes for the existing order of things. No mistake can be greater than that a few restless spirits,—that a few men finding no sufficient employment in the ordinary occupations of professional life, were the creators of the fervid and pervading passions that at that period inflamed and frenzied the whole island. The passions were those of the people themselves, they did not require the fannings of idle rhetoric to force them into a blaze. It was not in the spirit of hopelessness and despair that these humble men acted; it was in the spirit of impatient and eager hope. It was not as in our day a miserable parody, in which vain men simulated feelings, and like the bulls in Borrowdale, were driven mad by the echo of their own bellowings. The Emmetts and Sheereses found the system formed. They were admitted into it doubtfully and late. The system began with the lower classes. 66 As the united Irish system ascended into the upper ranks, it engulfed into it numbers who afterwards appeared as leaders.
While the organization consisted but of individual societies, interconnected as we have described, and while there was no master spirit “to wield that fierce democracy,” they were yet bold enough to send a person to France to ascertain the possibility of obtaining aid from the giant republic. This led to an important addition to their original constitution. A provincial committee for Ulster had been organized, and some inconvenience was felt from the arrangement, that the provincial com
inittees were by the constitution of the Society to meet but once a month. This led to the formation of a body not originally contemplated-THE EXECUTIVE. The Executive in the intervals between the sittings of the Provincial Committee were to execute what had been ordered-to report its own proceedingsit was to be a watch on the Government, and to call extra meetings of the Provincial Committee when necessary. Its connexion was but with the committee that appointed it, and its members were wholly unknown to the general body of the Society. Of the Executive it was the habit never to have more than one of them to do business with any one—and if possible their transactions were but with one person. While the secrecy that was observed by so many persons under such strong temptations to betray their associates is certainly a wonderful thing, yet, in point of fact, the system was so skilfully contrived that till a military organization was engrafted on the original constitution of the Society, each of the ordinary members knew little more than the names of the persons who composed his own integral, a number seldom more than eighteen, never more than thirty-five.
We are weary of the miserable narrative of revolts, which at whatever period you examine the history of Ireland it presents. The Irish oligarchy, ruling in the name of England, sustained by England on the supposition of their being the sole security for the connexion between the two countries, while their whole effort was to prevent any large measure of policy which must have the effect of taking the country out of their hands, had rendered the name of England odious. The United Irishmen, with all their machinery, could have little chance of doing more than upsetting a constitution. The evils under which the country was undeniably suffering, were many of them of a kind which any rational combination of their strength with that of either of the great parties in the Legislature, might have vastly alleviated. To take Ireland out of the hands of the borough proprietors was the one thing most to be desired—most to be struggled for. This was to be best and most effectually done by the union with England. But the persons whose names were most prominent among the United Irishmen, were persons who seem to have had no fixed plans whatever for the future; and from their sheer inability to suggest, or to execute any plan of government, their country must, in the very moment of their success, have fallen into the hands of France, to be, no doubt, rendered to England on any cessation of hostilities between those nations. Thus an utter anarchy must have been its fate. The vision of a bloodless revolution which was before the minds of some of the best of those enthusiasts, was also before the minds of the Dantons and Robespierres. Tone expresses some such feeling in his journals; yet
though he was the cleverest and the best of them, it is plain that he was, from the first, dazzled with the military dress, and wasin his heart of hearts—a military coxcomb, returning in the character and garb of a French general to effect a bloodless revolution! Grattan's account of Addis Emmett is no doubt a picture of the individual; but the individual was the type ber, whose name is Legion.
“ He set up his own crude notions as settled rules ; and his plan was founded, not on practice, but on his own imagination. It was full of wildness. There were to be three hundred elections every year, all going on at the same time; and every man was to possess a right to vote. The whole country was thus to be placed in a state of tumult and agitation-all in conflagration--like three hundred windmills in motion all at once. This, too, in a country, one-third of whose population were so destitute that they were exempted from paying hearthmoney tax in consequence of their poverty. Emmett forgot that elections and representatives are a work of art--he considered them as one of the operations of nature.
“When he went to America he thought his political life at an end; but it was only just beginning. Had Government intended to have rendered him harmless they should have kept him at home, where he would have staid, a tarnished lawyer, with little business; but sent to America, he found means to annoy England, and do there what he never could have done in his own country.
The documents in Lord Londonderry's book prove, what however was known before, that the English Government were, from the first, acquainted with all the negotiations of the rebels for aid from France. When M Nevin was examined before the secret committees of the Lords and Commons, he found that they were not only in possession of all that he could communicate, but that a copy of his very memoir, which he had laid before the French Government as to the state of Ireland, was in the hands of the committee. Tone mentions, that when Hoche's expedition was leaving Brest, a proclamation was printed, to be distributed in Ireland on their landing. A large sum of money was offered to the printer for a copy. He communicated with Tone, who had copies printed with Portugal instead of Ireland, and the English were thus deceived. A more singular circumstance is, that the French having sent over a messenger to announce their coming, a second message, which was believed to be authentic, arrived, saying, that the intent of invasion was deferred to the following spring. The second message so entirely deceived the rebel leaders, that when the French came, no preparations were made for them. No explanation of the second message is suggested. In the Life of Curran by his son, we are told that the French
* Grattan's Life, vol. iv. P.
Tone's Reception at the Luxembourg.
Directory, when Tone was urging the invasion of Ireland, were greatly influenced to adopt the measure, by being told that twothirds of the sailors in the British service were Irish. He adds an anecdote which is strikingly well told :
“Soon after the question of an expedition to Ireland had been left to the decision of Carnot, Clarke, and Hoche, they named an evening to meet Tone at the palace of the Luxembourg. Tone arrived at the appointed hour, eight o'clock. He was ushered into a splendid apartment. Shortly after, the Director and the generals made their appearance. They bowed coldly, but civilly, to Tone, and almost immediately retired without apology or explanation through a door opposite to that by which they had entered. Tone was a good deal struck by so unexpected a reception; but his surprise increased when ten o'clock arrived without the appearance of a message of
kind from those on whom all his hopes seemed to depend. The clock struck eleven, twelve, one-all was still in the palace; the steps of the sentinels, on their posts without, alone interrupted the dead silence that prevailed within. Tone paced the room in considerable anxiety ; not even a servant had entered of whom to enquire his way out, or if the Director and the generals had retired. About two o'clock, the folding-doors were suddenly thrown open ; Carnot, Clarke, and Hoche entered; their countenances brightened ; and the coldness and reserve, so observable at eight o'clock, had vanished. Clarke advanced quickly to Tone, and taking him cordially by the hand, said: “Citizen! I congratulate you ; we go to Ireland. The others did the same; and having fixed the time to meet again, the persons engaged in this remarkable transaction separated."*
At some future time we hope to give some account of the circumstances of Irish society which led to the Rebellion of 1798. Its causes were, we think, more deeply seated than was felt by any of the prominent actors in the scene. At the moment there are difficulties in treating the subject, which will in all probability have passed away before we next have the opportunity of addressing the public. The solution which has been so often repeated that it has become almost an article of faith with some -that the Government fomented the rebellion to facilitate their carrying the Legislative Union, is a supposition too insulting to our common nature to be for a moment thought of, and the whole evidence of facts utterly and entirely disproves it.
Lord Londonderry ought to have accompanied some of the documents which he publishes with fuller explanations than we find. Several refer to enclosed papers, which are not printedare not probably in his possession, but the want of which leaves what he prints of about as much value as the envelope of a lost letter.
Is it worth while to state, that while looking through some of
* Curran's Life of Curran, vol. ii. p. 20.
the publications connected with the subject of Ireland during Lord Castlereagh's administration, we find writers of high reputation, in their anxiety to make out that kind of inconsistency which is most damaging to the reputation of a public man, between his professions at one period and his acts at another, confuse him with his father? Dr. Madden, and the author of the History of the Civil Wars in Ireland, published in Constable's Miscellany—an excellent summary of the Irish annals of some seven hundred years—have fallen into this mistake, and represent him as moving resolutions in conventions of Irish volunteers when he was but twelve or thirteen years of age. He is, we think, most unjustly accused of having violated faith with the state prisoners of 1798, by their detention in prison for some years after the rebellion was suppressed. They were in prison at the time of the treaty; and by express conditions with them the time of their removal was to be at the discretion of Government. That, surely, to all ordinary understanding, implies the right of continuing their imprisonment till such time as with safety to the state they could be discharged. The American representative had expressed anxiety that they should not be sent there, and there must have been, in a time of war, extreme difficulty as to their proper disposal.
There were those in Ireland at the time who would have made short work of the matter, and disposed of the prisoners on the principle acted on in the town of Tunis, in Africa the torrid, and recorded in the Anti-Jacobin Lyrics :
“No story half so shocking,
Was ever heard tell
As that which befell
He fled full soon,
On the first of June,
He translated the plan
Of Paine's Rights of Man
Among other things,
That the people are kings,