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The Story Of Ireland by Emily Lawless

Part 5 out of 6

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In 1775 he entered Parliament--sixteen years, therefore, later than
Flood--being brought in by his friend Lord Charlemont. The struggle with
America was then beginning, and all Grattan's sympathies went with those
colonists who were battling for their own independence. His eloquence
from the moment it was first heard produced an extraordinary effect, and
when the volunteer movement broke out he threw himself heartily into it,
and availed himself of it to press in the Irish Parliament for those
measures of free trade and self-government upon which his heart was set
When the first of these measures was carried, he brought forward the
famous Declaration of Rights, embodying the demand for independence, a
demand which, in the first instance, he had to defend almost
single-handed. Many of his best friends hung back, believing the time to
be not yet ripe for such a proposal. Even Edmund Burke--the life-long
and passionate friend of Ireland--cried out in alarm "Will no one speak
to that madman? Will no one stop that madman Grattan?" The madman,
however, went on undismayed. His words flew like wild-fire over the
country. He was supported in his motion by eighteen counties, by
addresses from the grand juries, and by resolutions from the volunteers.
By 1782, the impulse had grown so strong that it could no longer be
resisted. An address in favour of Grattan's Declaration of Rights was
carried enthusiastically in April by the Irish Parliament, and so
impressed was the Government by the determined attitude of the country
that, by the 27th of May the Viceroy was empowered to announce the
concurrence of the English legislature. The Declaratory Act of George I.
was then repealed by the English Parliament. Bills were immediately
afterwards passed by the Irish one embodying the Declaration of Rights,
also a biennial Mutiny Act, and an Act validating the marriage of
Dissenters, while, above all, Poynings' Act, which had so long fettered
its free action, was once for all repealed.

This was the happiest moment of Grattan's life. The country, with a
burst of spontaneous gratitude, voted him a grant of L100,000. This sum
he declined, but in the end was persuaded, with some reluctance, to take
half. A period of brief, but while it lasted unquestionable prosperity
spread over the country. In Dublin, public buildings sprang up in all
directions; a bright little society flourished and enjoyed itself; trade
too prospered to a degree never hitherto known. Between England and
Ireland, however, the commercial restrictions were still in force. The
condition of the Irish Catholics, though latterly to some degree
alleviated, was still one of all but unendurable oppression. Reform,
too, was as far off as ever, and corruption had increased rather than
diminished, owing to the greatly increased importance of the Parliament.
In 1789 an unfortunate quarrel sprang up between the two legislatures
over the appointment of a Regent, rendered necessary by the temporary
insanity of George III., and this difference was afterwards used as an
argument in favour of a legislative Union. In 1793 a measure of
half-emancipation was granted, Roman Catholics being admitted to vote,
though not to sit in Parliament, an anomalous distinction giving power
to the ignorant, yet still keeping the fittest men out of public life.
Upon the arrival of Lord Fitzwilliam as Viceroy in 1795, it was
fervently believed that full emancipation was at last about to be
granted, and Grattan brought in a Bill to that effect. These hopes, as
will presently be seen, were destined to be bitterly disappointed. Lord
Fitzwilliam was recalled, and from that moment Grattan was doomed to
stand helplessly by and watch the destruction of that edifice which he
had spent his whole life to erect and strengthen. The country grew more
and more restless, and it was plain to all who could read the signs of
the times that, unless discontent was in some way allayed, a rebellion
was sure to break out. In 1798 this long foreseen calamity occurred, but
before it did so, Grattan had retired heart-broken and despairing into
private life.

He re-emerged to plead, vehemently but fruitlessly, against the Union
which was passed the following spring. As will be seen, when we reach
that period the fashion in which that act was carried made it difficult
for an honourable man, however loyal--and no man, it must be repeated,
was more steadily loyal than Henry Grattan--to give it his support. He
believed too firmly that Ireland could work out its own destiny best by
the aid of a separate Parliament, and to this opinion he throughout his
life clung. In his own words, "The two countries from their size must
stand together--united _quoad_ nature--distinct _quoad_ legislation."

In 1805 he became a member of the English Parliament, where unlike
Flood, his eloquence had almost as much effect as in Ireland, and where
he was regarded by all parties with the deepest respect and regard. His
heart, however, remained firmly anchored to its old home, and all his
recollections in his old age centred around these earlier struggles. He
died in 1820, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. One more quotation
from Sydney Smith sums up the man for us in a few words: "The highest
attainments of human genius were within his reach, but he thought the
noblest occupation of a man was to make other men happy and free, and in
that straight line he kept for fifty years, without one side-look, one
yielding thought, one motive in his heart which might not have laid open
to the view of God or man." A generation which produced two such men as
Henry Grattan and Edmund Burke might well be looked back to by any
country in the world as the flower and crown of its national life. There
have not been many greater or better in the whole chequered history of
the human race.



The revolt of the English Colonies in America, although it evoked no
disloyalty, had a strong and unforeseen influence upon the equally
English colony in Ireland. It would have been strange had it not done
so. The circumstances of the two colonies--looking at Ireland merely in
that light--were in many respects all but identical. If England could
tax America without the consent of its representatives, then, equally it
could tax Ireland, in which case the long struggles lately waged by
Flood, Grattan, and others in the Irish Parliament over Money Bills
would be definitely decided against it. Compared to Ireland, America
indeed had little to complain of. The restrictions which held back Irish
commerce still existed in almost all their pristine force. The woollen
trade, save for some very trifling home consumption, was practically
dead; even the linen trade, which had been promised encouragement, had
hitherto hardly received any. Bounties had been offered, on the
contrary, to English woollen manufacturers, and duties levied on Irish
sail-cloth, which had effectually put a stop to that important branch of
the trade. Another cause had also affected commerce seriously. The
manufacturers of the north, were almost to a man Presbyterian, and the
laws against Presbyterians had been pressed with almost as much severity
as against Catholics. Under the rule of Archbishops Boulter, Hoadly, and
Stone, who had in succession governed the country, the Test Act had been
employed with a suicidal severity, which had driven thousands of
industrious men to join their brethren in America, where they could
worship in peace, and where their presence was before long destined to
produce a formidable effect upon the impending struggle.

The whole condition of the country was miserable in the extreme.
Agriculture was at the lowest possible ebb. The Irish farmers, excluded
from the English and all foreign markets, were reduced to destitution.
Land was offered at fourteen and twelve years' purchase, and even at
those prices found no buyers. Many of the principal landowners were
absentees, and though the rents themselves do not seem as a rule to have
been high, the middlemen, by whom the land was commonly taken, ground
the wretched peasants under them to powder with their exactions. While
everything else was thus steadily shrinking, the pension list was
swelling until it stood not far short of L100,000. The additional troops
recently raised in Ireland had been sent to America, and their absence
had left the country all but defenceless. In 1779, an attempt was made
to carry out a levy of militia, in which Prostestants only were to be
enrolled, and an Act passed for the purpose. It failed utterly, for so
miserably bankrupt was the condition of the Irish Government, that it
was found impossible to collect money to pay the men, and the scheme in
consequence had to be given up.

It proved, however, to be the parent of a really successful one. In the
same year a volunteer movement sprang into sudden existence. Belfast had
been left empty of troops, and was hourly in fear of a French descent,
added to which it was harassed by the dread of a famous pirate of the
period, called Paul Jones. Under these circumstances its citizens
resolved to enrol themselves for their own defence. The idea, once
started, flew through the country like wild-fire. The old fighting
spirit sprang to sudden life at the cry to arms. After three-quarters of
a century of torpor all was stir and animation. In every direction the
gentry were enrolling their tenants, the sons of the great houses
officering the corps and drilling their own retainers. Merchants, peers,
members of Parliament all vied with one another, and in a few months'
time nearly 60,000 men had been enrolled.

Although a good deal alarmed at the rapidity of this movement, the
Government could not very well refuse to let the country arm in its own
defence, and 16,000 stand of arms, which had been brought over for the
projected militia, were after a while distributed. The greatest pride
was felt in the completeness and perfection of the equipments. Reviews
were held, and, for once, national sentiment and loyalty seemed to have
struck hands.

IRISH VOLUNTEERS. (_From an etching after a picture by Hogarth_.)]

Hardly, too, were the volunteers enrolled before it began to be felt
what a power was thus conferred upon that party which had so long
pleaded in vain for the relief of Ireland from those commercial
disabilities under which it still laboured. Although the whole tone of
the volunteers was loyal, and although their principal leader, Lord
Charlemont, was a man of the utmost tact and moderation, it was none the
less clear that an appeal backed by 60,000 men in arms acquired a weight
and momentum which no previous Irish appeal had ever even approached.

In October of the same year Parliament met, and an amendment to the
address was moved by Grattan, demanding a right of free export and
import. Then Flood rose in his place, still holding office, and proposed
that the more comprehensive words Free Trade should be adopted. It was
at once agreed to and carried unanimously. Next day the whole House of
Commons went in a body to present the address to the Lord-Lieutenant,
the volunteers lining the streets and presenting arms as they went by.

The Government were startled. Lord Buckinghamshire, the Lord-Lieutenant,
wrote to England to say that the trade restrictions must be repealed, or
he would not answer for the consequences. Lord North, the Prime
Minister, yielded, and a Bill of repeal were brought in, allowing
Ireland free export and import to foreign countries and to the English
Colonies. When the news reached Dublin, the utmost delight and
excitement prevailed. Bonfires were lit, houses in Dublin illuminated,
the volunteers fired salvoes of rejoicing, and addresses of gratitude
were forthwith forwarded to England.

The next step in the upward progress has been already partially
described in the chapter dealing with Grattan. At the meeting of
Parliament in 1782, the Declaration of Rights proposed by him was
passed, and urgently pressed upon the consideration of the Government.
The moment was exceptionally favourable. Lord North's Ministry had by
this time fallen, after probably the most disastrous tenure of office
that had ever befallen any English administration. America had achieved
her independence, and England was in no mood for embarking upon fresh
struggle with another of her dependencies. In Ireland the Ulster
volunteers had lately met at Dungannon, and passed unanimous resolutions
in favour of Grattan's proposal, and their example had been speedily
followed all over Ireland. The Whig Ministry, now in power, was known to
be not unfavourable to the cause which the Irish patriots had at heart.
A Bill was brought forward and carried, revoking the recent Declaratory
Acts which bound the Irish Parliament, and giving it the right to
legislate for itself. Poynings' Act was thereupon repealed, and a number
of independent Acts, as already stated, passed by the now emancipated
Irish Parliament. The legislative independence was an accomplished fact.

The objects of the volunteers' existence was now over. The American war
was at an end, the independence of the Parliament assured, and it was
felt therefore, by all moderate men, that it was now time for them to
disband. Flood, who had now again joined the patriotic party, was
strongly opposed to this. He pressed forward his motion for "simple
repeal," and was supported by Lord Bristol, the Bishop of Derry, a
scatter-brained prelate, who had been bitten by a passion for military
glory, and would have been perfectly willing to see the whole country
plunged into bloodshed. A better and more reasonable plea on Flood's
part was that reform was the crying necessity of the hour, and ought to
be carried while the volunteers were still enrolled, and the effect
already produced by their presence was still undiminished. Grattan also
desired reform, but held that the time for carrying it was not yet ripe.
A vehement debate ensued, and bitter recriminations were exchanged. A
convention of volunteers was at the moment being held in Dublin, and
Flood endeavoured to make use of their presence there to get his Reform
Bill passed. This the House regarded as a menace, and after a violent
debate his Bill was thrown out. There was a moment during which it
seemed as if the volunteers were about to try the question by force of
arms. More prudent counsels, however, prevailed, and, greatly to their
credit, they consented a week later to lay down their arms, and retire
peaceably to their own homes.



The significant warnings uttered by Flood and others against the danger
of postponing reform until the excitement temporarily awakened upon the
subject had subsided and the volunteers disbanded, proved,
unfortunately, to be only too well justified. Where Flood, however, had
erred, had been in failing to see that a reform which left three-fourths
of the people of the country unrepresented, could never be more than a
reform in name. This error Grattan never made. During the next ten or
twelve years, his efforts were steadily and continually directed to
obtaining equal political power for all his fellow-countrymen alike.
Reform was indeed the necessity of the hour. The corruption of
Parliament was increasing rather than diminishing. From 130 to 140 of
its members were tied by indissoluble knots to the Government, and could
only vote as by it directed. Most of these were the nominees of the
borough-owners; many held places or enjoyed pensions terminable at the
pleasure of the king, and at the smallest sign of insubordination or
independence instant pressure was brought to bear upon them until they
returned to their obedience.

Although free now to import and export from the rest of the world no
change with regard to Ireland's commercial intercourse with Great
Britain had as yet taken place. In 1785, a number of propositions were
drawn up by the Dublin Parliament, to enable the importation of goods
through Great Britain into Ireland, or _vice versa_, without any
increase of duty. These propositions were agreed to by Pitt, then Prime
Minister, and were brought forward by him in the English House of
Commons. Again, however, commercial jealousy stepped in. A number of
English towns remonstrated vehemently; one petition despatched to the
House alone bearing the signature of 80,000 Lancashire manufacturers.
"Greater panic," it was said at the time, "could not have been expressed
had an invasion been in question." The result was, that a number of
modifications were made to the propositions, and when returned to
Ireland, so profoundly had they been altered, that the patriotic party
refused to accept them, and although when the division came on, the
Government obtained a majority it was so small that the Bill was allowed
to drop, and thus the whole scheme came to nothing.

Outside Parliament, meanwhile, the country was in a very disturbed
state. Long before this local riots and disturbances had broken out,
especially in the south. As early as 1762, secret societies, known under
the generic name of Whiteboys, had inspired terror throughout Munster,
especially in the counties of Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary. These
risings, as has been clearly proved by Mr. Lecky, had little, if any,
connection with either politics or religion. Their cause lay, as he
shows, on the very surface, in the all but unendurable misery in which
the great mass of the people were sunk.

[Illustration: RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. (_From an engraving by Jones
after Romney_.)]

Lord Chesterfield, one of the few Lord-Lieutenants who had really
attempted to understand Ireland, had years before spoken in
unmistakeable language on this point. Subletting was almost universal,
three or four persons standing often between the landowner and the
actual occupier, the result being that the condition of the latter was
one of chronic semi-starvation. So little was disloyalty at the root of
the matter, that in a contemporary letter, written by Robert Fitzgerald,
the Knight of Kerry, it is confidently asserted that, were a recruiting
officer to be sent to the district, the people would gladly flock to the
standard of the king, although, he significantly adds, "it seems to me
equally certain that if the enemy effects a landing within a hundred
miles of these people, they will most assuredly join them[16]."

The tithe system was another all but unendurable burden, and it was
against the tithe proctors that the worst of the Whiteboy outrages were
committed. That these outrages had little directly to say to religion
is, however, clear, from the fact that the tithe system was nearly as
much detested by the Protestant landowners as by their tenants. In the
north risings of a somewhat similar character had broken out chiefly
amongst Protestants of the lower classes, who gathered themselves into
bands under the name of "Oak boys" and "Steel boys." The grievances of
which they complained being, however, for the most part after a while
repealed, they gradually dispersed, and were heard of no more. In the
south it was otherwise, and the result has been that Whiteboy
conspiracies continued, under different names, to be a terror to the
country, and have so continued down to our own day.

[16] "History of England in the Eighteenth Century," vol. iv. p. 340.

As long as the volunteers remained embodied there was an all but
complete cessation of these local disturbances, but upon their
disbandment they broke out with renewed force. Many too of the
volunteers themselves, who, although disbanded, retained their arms,
began to fall under new influences, and to lose their earlier
reputation. "What had originally," in Grattan's words, "been the armed
property of Ireland, was becoming its armed beggary." A violent
sectarian spirit, too, was beginning to show itself afresh, although as
yet chiefly amongst the lowest and most ignorant classes. A furious
faction war had broken out in the North of Ireland, between Protestants
and Roman Catholics. The former had made an association known as the
"Peep-of-day boys," to which the latter had responded by one called the
"Defenders." In 1795 a regular battle was fought between the two, and
the "Defenders" were defeated with the loss of many lives. The same year
saw the institution of Orange Lodges spring into existence, and spread
rapidly over the north. Amongst the more educated classes a strongly
revolutionary feeling was beginning to spread, especially in Belfast.
The passionate sympathy of the Presbyterians for America had awakened a
vehemently republican spirit, and the rising tide of revolution in
France, found a loudly reverberating echo in Ireland, especially amongst
the younger men. In 1791 in Belfast, the well-known "Society of United
Irishmen" came into existence and its leaders were eager to combine this
democratic movement in the north with the recently reconstructed Roman
Catholic committee in Dublin. All these, it is plain, were elements of
danger which required careful watching. The one hope, the one necessity,
as all who were not blinded by passion or prejudice saw plainly, lay in
a reformed Parliament--one which would represent, no longer a section,
but the whole community. To combine to procure this, and to sink all
religious differences in the common weal, was the earnest desire of all
who genuinely cared for their country, whether within or without the
Parliament. Of this programme, the members even of the United Irishmen
were, in the first instance, ardent exponents, and their demands,
ostensibly at least, extended no further. In the words of the oath
administered to new members, they desired to forward "an identity of
interests, a communion of rights, and a union amongst Irishmen of all
religious persuasions, without which every reform in Parliament must be
partial, not national, inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes,
and insufficient for the freedom and happiness of the country."



The eagerness shown at this time by the principal Irish Protestants to
give full emancipation to their Roman Catholic countrymen is eminently
creditable to them, and stands in strong relief to the bitterness on
both sides, both in earlier and latter times. By 1792 there seems to
have been something almost like unanimity on the subject. What reads
strangest perhaps to our ears, 600 Belfast Protestant householders
warmly pressed the motion on the Government. In a work, published six
years earlier, Lord Sheffield, though himself opposed to emancipation,
puts this unanimity in unmistakable words. "It is curious," he says, "to
observe one-fifth or one-sixth of a nation in possession of all the
power and property of the country, eager to communicate that power to
the remaining four-fifths, which would, in effect, entirely transfer it
from themselves."

[Illustration: ("A man of importance.") THE EARL OF MOIRA. _By

The generation to which Flood, Lucas, and Lord Charlemont had belonged,
and who were almost to a man opposed to emancipation, was fast passing
away, and amongst the more independent men of the younger generation
there were few who had not been won over to Grattan's view of the
matter. In England, too, circumstances were beginning to push many, even
of those hitherto bitterly hostile to concession, in the same direction.
The growing terror of the French Revolution had loosened the bonds of
the party, and the hatred which existed between the Jacobins and the
Catholic clerical party, inclined the Government to extend the olive
branch to the latter in hopes of thereby securing their support. Pitt
was personally friendly to emancipation, and in December, 1792, a
deputation of five delegates from the Catholic convention in Dublin was
graciously received by the king himself, and returned under the
impression that all religious disabilities were forthwith to be
abolished. Next month, January, 1793, at the meeting of the Irish
Parliament, a Bill was brought in giving the right of voting to all
Catholic forty-shilling freeholders, and throwing open also to Catholics
the municipal franchise in the towns. Although vehemently opposed by the
Ascendency, this Bill, being supported by the Opposition, passed easily
and received the royal assent upon April 9th.

It was believed to be only an instalment of full and free emancipation
soon to follow. In 1794, several of the more moderate Whigs, including
Edmund Burke and Lord Fitzwilliam, left Fox, and joined Pitt. One of the
objects of the Whig members of this new coalition was the admission of
Irish Roman Catholics to equal rights with their Protestant
fellow-country men. To this Pitt at first demurred, but in the end
agreed to grant it subject to certain stipulations, and Lord Fitzwilliam
was accordingly appointed Lord-Lieutenant, and arrived in Ireland in
January, 1795.

His appointment awakened the most vehement and widely expressed delight.
He was known to be a warm supporter of emancipation. He was a personal
friend of Grattan's, and a man in whom all who had the interests of
their country at heart believed that they could confide. He had himself
declared emphatically that he would "never have taken office unless the
Roman Catholics were to be relieved from every disqualification." He was
received in Dublin with enthusiastic rejoicings. Loyal addresses from
Roman Catholics poured in from every part of Ireland. Large supplies
were joyfully voted by the Irish Parliament, and, although he reported
in a letter to the Duke of Portland that the disaffection amongst the
lower orders was very great, on the other hand the better educated of
the Roman Catholics were loyal to a man. For the moment the party of
disorder seemed indeed to have vanished. Grattan, though he refused to
take office, gave all the great weight of his support to the Government,
and obtained leave to bring in an Emancipation Bill with hardly a
dissentient voice. The extreme Jacobine party ceased apparently for the
moment to have any weight in the country. Revolution seemed to be
scotched, and the dangers into which Ireland had been seen awhile before
to be rapidly hastening, appeared to have passed away.

Suddenly all was changed. On February 12th, leave to bring in a Bill for
the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament was moved by Grattan. On
February 9th, a letter reached Lord Fitzwilliam from Pitt, which showed
that some changes had taken place in the intentions of the Government,
but no suspicion of the extent of those changes was as yet entertained.
On February 23rd, however, the Duke of Portland wrote, "by the king's
command," authorizing Lord Fitzwilliam to resign. The law officers and
other officials who had been displaced were thereupon restored to their
former places. Grattan's Bill was hopelessly lost, and all the elements
of rebellion and disaffection at once began to seethe and ferment again.

What strikes one most in studying these proceedings is the curious folly
of the whole affair! Why was a harbinger of peace sent if only to be
immediately recalled? Why were the hopes of the Roman Catholics, of the
whole country in fact, raised to the highest pitch of expectation, if
only that they might be dashed to the ground? Pitt no doubt had a very
difficult part to play. George III. was all his life vehemently opposed
to the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament. Two of the officials
whom Fitzwilliam had dismissed, Cooke, the Under Secretary of State, and
Beresford, the Chief Commissioner of Customs, were men of no little
influence, and Beresford, immediately upon his arrival in England had
had a personal interview with the king. That Pitt knew how critical was
the situation in Ireland is certain. He was not, however, prepared to
resign office, and short of that step it was impossible to bring
sufficient pressure to bear upon the king's obstinacy. His own
preference ran strongly towards a Union of the two countries, and with
this end in view, he is often accused of having been cynically
indifferent as to what disasters and horrors Ireland might be destined
to wade through to that consummation. This it is difficult to conceive;
nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the rising of four years later
dated from this decision, and was almost as directly due to it as if the
latter had been planned with that object.

From this point the stream runs darkly and steadily to the end. Lord
Fitzwilliam's departure was regarded by Protestants and Catholics alike
as a national calamity. In Dublin shops were shut; people put on
mourning, and his carriage was followed to the boat by lamenting crowds.
Grattan's Bill was of course lost, and the exasperation of the Catholics
rendered tenfold by the disappointment. "The demon of darkness," it was
said, "could not have done more mischief had he come from hell to throw
a fire-brand amongst the people."

Henceforward the Irish Parliament drops away into all but complete
insignificance. After two or three abortive efforts to again bring
forward reform, Grattan gave up the hopeless attempt, and retired
broken-hearted from public life. The "United Irishmen," in the first
instance an open political body, inaugurated and chiefly supported by
Protestants, now rapidly changed its character. Its leaders were now all
at heart republicans, and thoroughly impregnated with the leaven of the
French Revolution. It was suppressed and apparently broken up by the
Government in 1795, but was almost immediately afterwards reconstructed
and re-organized upon an immense scale. Every member was bound to take
an oath of secrecy, and its avowed object had become the erection by
force of a republican form of Government in Ireland. The rebellion was
bound to come now, and only accident could decide how soon.

[Illustration: RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. _(From a sketch from life.)_]



It was not long delayed. The Society of United Irishmen had now grown to
be little more than a mere nest of Jacobinism, filled with all the
turbulent and disaffected elements afloat in the whole country. Of this
society Wolfe Tone was the creator, guide, and moving spirit. Any one
who wishes to understand the movement rather as it originally took shape
than in the form which it assumed when accident had deprived it of all
its leaders, should carefully study his autobiography. As he reads its
transparent pages, brimful of all the foolish, generous enthusiasms of
the day, he will find it not a little hard, I think, to avoid some
amount of sympathy with the man, however much he may, and probably will,
reprobate the cause which he had so at heart.

Amongst the other leaders of the rising were Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a
brother of the Duke of Leinster, Arthur O'Connor, a nephew of Lord
Longueville, Thomas Addis Emmett, elder brother of the better known
Robert Emmett--whose attempted rebellion in 1803, was a sort of
postscript to this earlier one--and the two Sheare brothers. Compared to
Wolfe Tone, however, all these were mere amateurs in insurrection, and
pale and shadowy dabblers in rebellion. Lord Edward was an amiable
warm-hearted visionary, high-minded and gallant, but without much
ballast, and to a great degree under the guidance of others. The
mainspring of the whole movement, as has been seen, was Protestant and
Northern, and now that all hope of constitutional reform was gone, it
was resolved to appeal openly to force and to call in the aid of the
enemies of England to assist in the coming struggle.

Insane as the idea appears, looked back at from this distance, it
evidently was not viewed in the same light by those at hand. England and
France, it must be remembered, were at fierce war, and a descent upon
the Irish coast was then, as afterwards by Napoleon, regarded as a
natural and obvious part of the aggressive policy of the latter. In the
summer of 1796 Lord Edward Fitzgerald went to Paris to open negotiations
with the French Directory, and there met Wolfe Tone, who had been
induced some time before to leave Ireland in order to avoid arrest. Lord
Edward's Orleanist connection proving a bar to his negotiations, he left
Paris, and the whole of the arrangements devolved into the latter's
hand. He so fired Carnot, one of the Directory, and still more General
Hoche, with a belief of the feasibility of his scheme of descent, that,
in December of the same year a French fleet of forty-three vessels
containing fifteen thousand troops were actually despatched under
Hoche's command, Wolfe Tone being on board of one of them, which
vessels, slipping past the English fleet in the Channel, bore down upon
the Irish coast, and suddenly appeared off Cape Clear.

[Illustration: THEOBALD WOLFE TONE. _(From a lithograph after a sketch
by Hullmandel_.)]

All Ireland was thrown into the wildest panic. There were only a small
body of troops in the south and not a war-ship upon the coast. The
peasantry of the district, it is true, showed no disposition to rise,
but for all that had the French landed, nothing could have hindered them
from marching upon the capital. But--"those ancient and unsubsidised
allies of England upon which English ministers depend as much for saving
kingdoms as washerwomen for drying clothes,"--the winds again stood true
to their ancient alliance. The vessel with Hoche on board got separated
from the rest of the fleet, and while the troops were waiting for him to
arrive a violent gale accompanied with snow suddenly sprang up. The
fleet moved on to Bear Island, and tried to anchor there, but the storm
increased, the shelter was insufficient, the vessels dragged their
anchors, were driven out to sea and forced to return to Brest. The ship
containing Hoche had before this been forced to put back to France, and
so ended the first and by far the most formidable of the perils which
threatened England under this new combination.

One very unfortunate result of the narrowness of this escape was that
the Irish Executive--stung by the sense of their own supineness, and
utterly scared by the recent peril--threw themselves into the most
violent and arbitrary measures of repression. The Habeas Corpus Act had
already been suspended, and now martial law was proclaimed in five of
the northern counties at once. The committee of the United Irishmen was
seized, the office of their organ _The Northern Star_ destroyed, and an
immense number of people hurried into gaol. What was much more serious
throughout the proclaimed districts, the soldiery and militia regiments
which had been brought over from England were kept under no discipline,
but were allowed to ill-use the population almost at their own
discretion. Gross excesses were committed, whole villages being in some
instances plundered and the people turned adrift, while half hangings,
floggings and picketings, were freely resorted to to extort confessions
of concealed arms.

Against these measures--so calculated to precipitate a rising, and by
which the innocent and well-disposed suffered no less than the
guilty--Grattan, Ponsonby, and other members of the Opposition protested
vehemently. They also drew up and laid before the House a Bill of reform
which, if passed, would, they pledged themselves, effectually allay the
agitation and content all but the most irreconcilable. Their efforts,
however, were utterly vain. Many of the members of the House of Commons
were themselves in a state of panic, and therefore impervious to
argument. The motion was defeated by an enormous majority, a general
election was close at hand, and feeling the fruitlessness of further
struggle Grattan, as already stated, refused to offer himself for
re-election, and retired despairingly from the scene.

The commander-in-chief, Lord Carhampton and his subordinate General Lake
were the two men directly responsible for the misconduct of the troops
in Ireland. So disgraceful had become the license allowed that loud
complaints were made in both the English Houses of Parliament, in
consequence of which Lord Carhampton was recalled and Sir Ralph
Abercromby sent in his place. He more than endorsed the worst of the
accounts which had been forwarded. "Every cruelty that could be
committed by Cossacks or Calmucks," he states, "has been committed
here." "The manner in which the troops have been employed would ruin,"
he adds, "the best in Europe." He at once set himself to change the
system, to keep the garrison in the principal towns, and to forbid the
troops acting except under the immediate direction of a magistrate. The
Irish Executive however was in no mood to submit to these prudent
restrictions. Angry disputes broke out. Lord Camden, the
Lord-Lieutenant, vacillated from side to side, and the end was that in
April, 1797, Sir Ralph Abercromby indignantly resigned the command,
which then fell into General Lake's hands, and matters again went on
as before.

Meanwhile the failure of the French descent under Hoche, and the defeat
of the Dutch fleet at the battle of Camperdown in the autumn of 1797,
had determined Lord Edward Fitzgerald and the other chiefs of the
executive committee to attempt an independent rising. Wolfe Tone was
still in France, eagerly endeavouring to bring about a fresh expedition,
so that their councils had not even the advantage of his guidance. The
Government had full information of all their proceedings, being kept
well informed by spies, several of whom were actually enrolled in the
association. In March, 1798, a sudden descent was made upon the
executive committee, which had met at the house of a man called Bond,
and a number of delegates and several leaders arrested. Lord Edward,
however, received warning and went into concealment, and it was while in
hiding that he hastily concerted a scheme for a general rising, which
was now definitely fixed to take place upon the 24th of May.

[Illustration: LORD EDWARD FITZGERALD. _(After a picture by Hamilton.)_]

Only a few days before this date his hiding-place was betrayed to the
Government by a man named Magan. A guard of soldiers was sent to arrest
him, and a desperate struggle took place, in the course of which the
captain of the guard was fatally stabbed, while Lord Edward himself
received a bullet on the shoulder from the effects of which he shortly
afterwards died in goal. Within a day or two of his arrest all the other
leaders in Dublin were also seized and thrown into prison.

The whole of the executive committee were thus removed at one blow, and
the conspiracy left without head. In estimating the hideous character
finally assumed by the rising this fact must never be forgotten. The
sickening deeds committed while it was at its height were committed by a
mass of ignorant men, maddened by months of oppression, and deprived of
their leaders at the very moment they most required their control.

In the meantime the 24th of May had come, and the rising had broken out.
The non-arrival of the daily mail-coaches was to be the signal, and
these were stopped and burnt by the insurgents in four different
directions at once. In Kildare and Meath scattered parties of soldiers
and yeomanry were attacked and killed, and at Prosperous the barracks
were set on fire, and the troops quartered in it all burnt or piked. In
Dublin prompt measures had been taken, and the more loyal citizens had
enrolled themselves for their own defence, so that no rising took place
there, the result being that the outlying insurgents found themselves
isolated. In the north especially, where the whole movement had taken
its rise, and where the revolutionists had long been organized, the
actual rising was thus of very trifling importance, and the whole thing
was easily stamped out within a week.

It was very different in Wexford. Here from the beginning the rising had
assumed a religious shape, and was conducted with indescribable
barbarity. Yeomanry corps and bodies of militia had been quartered in
the county for months, and many acts of tyranny had been committed.
These were now hideously avenged. Several thousand men and women, armed
chiefly with pikes and scythes, collected together on the hill of Oulart
under the guidance of a priest named Father John Murphy. They were
attacked by a small party of militia from Wexford, but defeating them,
burst into Ferns, where they burnt the bishop's palace, then hastened on
to Enniscorthy, which they took possession of, and a few days afterwards
appeared before the town of Wexford.

Here resistance was at first offered them by Colonel Maxwell, who was in
command of the militia regiments. Nearly all the Roman Catholics,
however under his orders deserted, the rest grew disorganized and fled,
and the end was that the militia departed and the rebels took possession
triumphantly of the town. It at once became the scene of horrible
outrages. Houses were plundered; many of the Protestant citizens
murdered; others dragged from their homes, and cruelly maltreated.
Bagenal Harvey, a United Irishman and a Protestant, who had been
imprisoned at Wexford by the Government, was released and elected
general of the rebels. He found himself, however, utterly unable to
control them. A camp had been formed upon Vinegar Hill, near.
Enniscorthy, and from it as a centre the whole district was overrun,
with the exception of New Ross, where most of the available troops had
been concentrated. The wretched Protestants, kept prisoners on Vinegar
Hill, were daily taken out in batches, and slaughtered in cold blood,
while at Scullabogue, after an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the
rebels to take New Ross, the most frightful episode of the whole rising
occurred; a barn containing over a hundred and eighty Protestant
loyalists collected from the country round being set on fire, and all of
them perishing in the flames.

In the meanwhile troops were rapidly arriving from Dublin. Arklow and
New Ross had defended themselves gallantly, and the rebels had fallen
back from them repulsed. Vinegar Hill was attacked upon June 21st by
General Lake, and after a struggle the rebels fled precipitately, and
were slaughtered in great numbers. The day before this Father Roche and
the rebels under him were met outside Wexford and also put to flight
after hard fighting. Inside the town a horrible butchery was the same
day perpetrated by a body of ruffians upon over ninety Protestant
prisoners, who were slaughtered with great cruelty upon the bridge
leading to New Ross, and only the passionate intervention of a priest
named Corrin hindered the deaths of many more.

With the recapture of Wexford and Vinegar Hill the struggle ended. Such
of the rebels as had escaped the infuriated soldiery fled to hide
themselves in Wicklow and elsewhere. Father Michael Murphy--believed by
his followers to be bullet proof--had been already killed during the
attack on Arklow. Father Roche was hung by Lake's order over the bridge
at Wexford, the scene of the late massacres. So also was the unfortunate
Bagenal Harvey, the victim rather than the accomplice of the crimes of
others. Father John Murphy was caught and hung at Tallow, as were also
other priests in different parts of the country. The rising had been
just long enough, and just formidable enough, to awaken the utmost
terror and the most furious thirst for vengeance, yet not formidable
enough to win respect for itself from a military point of view. As a
result the retribution exacted was terrible; the scenes of violence
which followed being upon a scale which went far to cause even the
excesses committed by the rebels themselves to pale into insignificance.

Two final incidents, either of which a few months earlier might have
produced formidable results, brings the dismal story to an end. In
August, just after the rising had been definitely stamped out, General
Humbert with a little over a thousand French troops under his command
landed at Killala, where he was joined, if hardly reinforced, by a wild
mob of unarmed peasants. From Killala he advanced to Ballina, defeated
General Lake, who was sent against him, and moved on to Sligo. Shortly
afterwards, however, he found himself, after crossing the Shannon,
confronted with an overwhelming force under Lord Cornwallis, who had
recently succeeded Lord Camden, and held double offices of
Lord-Lieutenant and Commander-in-chief. Yielding to the inevitable,
Humbert surrendered at discretion, and he and his men were received with
due courtesy as prisoners of war. The account given by the bishop of
Killala who was kept prisoner while that town was occupied by the
French, will be found to be extremely well worth reading.

The last scene of the drama brings Wolfe Tone appropriately back upon
the gloomy stage. When General Humbert sailed for Killala a much larger
French force under General Hardi had remained behind at Brest. In
September this second detachment sailed, Wolfe Tone being on board the
principal vessel called the _Hoche_. Outside Lough Swilly they were
overtaken by an English squadron, and a desperate struggle ensued. The
smaller French vessels escaped, but the _Hoche_ was so riddled with shot
and shell as to be forced to surrender, and was towed by the victors
into Lough Swilly. Here the French officers including Wolfe Tone were
hospitably entertained at dinner by Lord Cavan. While at table Tone was
recognized by an old school friend, and was at once arrested and sent
prisoner to Dublin. A court martial followed, and despite his own plea
to be regarded as a French officer, and therefore, if condemned shot, he
was sentenced to be hung. In despair he tried to kill himself in prison,
but the wound though fatal, was not immediately so, and the sentence
would have been carried rigorously out but for the intervention of
Curran, who moved for a writ of Habeas Corpus on the plea that as the
courts of law were then sitting in Dublin, a court martial had no
jurisdiction. The plea was a mere technicality, but it produced the
required delay, and Wolfe Tone died quietly in prison.



By the month of August the last sparks of the rebellion of '98 had been
quenched. Martial law prevailed everywhere. The terror which the rising
had awakened was finding its vent in violent actions and still more
violent language, and Lord Cornwallis, the Lord-Lieutenant, was one of
the few who ventured to say that enough blood had been shed, and that
the hour for mercy had struck. The ferocity with which the end of the
contest had been waged by the rebels had aroused a feeling of
corresponding, or more than corresponding ferocity on the other side.
That men who a few months before had trembled to see all whom they loved
best exposed to the savagery of such a mob as had set fire to the barn
at Scullabogue, or murdered the prisoners at Rossbridge, should have
been filled with a fury which carried them far beyond the necessities of
the case is hardly perhaps surprising, but the result was to hurry them
in many instances into cruelties fully as great as those which they
intended to avenge.

It was at this moment, while the country was still racked and bleeding
at every pore from the effects of the recent struggle, that Pitt
resolved to carry out his long projected plan of a legislative Union.
Public opinion in Ireland may be said for the moment to have been dead.
The mass of the people were lying crushed and exhausted by their own
violence. Fresh from a contest waged with gun and pike and torch, a mere
constitutional struggle had probably little or no interest for them. The
popular enthusiasm which the earlier triumphs of the Irish Parliament
had awakened had all but utterly died away in a fratricidal struggle. To
the leaders of the late rebellion it was an object of open contempt, if
not indeed of actual aversion. Wolfe Tone, the ablest man by far on the
revolutionary side, had never weaned of pouring contempt upon it. In his
eyes it was the great opponent of progress, the venal slave which had
not only destroyed the chances of a successful outbreak, and whose
endeavour had been to keep Ireland under the heel of her tyrant. To him
the opposition as little deserved the name of patriot as the veriest
place-men. Grattan, throughout his long and noble career had been as
steadily loyal, and as steadily averse to any appeal to force as any
paid creature of the Government. To men who only wanted to break loose
from England altogether, to found an Irish republic as closely as
possible upon the model then offered for their imitation in France,
anything like mere constitutional opposition seemed not contemptible
merely, but ridiculous.

UNION, 1800.]

This explains how it was that no great burst of public feeling--such as
a few years before would have made the project of a Union all but
impossible--was now to be feared. Pitt had for a long time firmly fixed
his mind upon it as the object to be attained. He honestly believed the
existing state of things to be fraught with peril for England, and to
have in it formidable elements of latent danger, which a war or any
other sudden emergency might bring to the front. He knew too,
undoubtedly, that no opportunity equally favourable for carrying his
point was ever likely to recur again.

He accordingly now proceeded to take his measures for securing it with
the utmost care, and the most anxious selection of agents. Two opposite
sets of inducements were to be brought to bear upon the two contending
factions. To the Protestants, fresh from their terrible struggle, the
thought of a closer union with England seemed to promise greater
protection in case of any similar outbreak. Irish churchmen too had been
always haunted with a dread sooner or later of the disestablishment of
their Church, and a union, it was argued, with a country where
Protestants constituted the vast majority of the population, would
render that peril for ever impossible, and it was agreed that a special
clause to that effect should be incorporated in the Act of Union. To the
Roman Catholics a totally different set of inducements were brought
forward. The great bait was Emancipation, which they were privately
assured would never be carried as long as the Irish Parliament existed,
but might safely be conceded once it had ceased to exist. No actual
pledge was made to that effect, but there was unquestionably an
understanding, and Lord Castlereagh, the Chief Secretary, was untiring
in his efforts to lull them into security upon this point.

So much discrepancy of statement still prevails upon the whole subject
that it is extremely difficult to ascertain what really was the
prevailing sentiment in Ireland at this time for and against the project
of a Union. In Ulster the proposal seems certainly to have been all but
unanimously condemned, and in Dublin, too, the opposition to it was
vehement and unhesitating, but in other parts of the country it seems to
have met with some support, especially in Galway and Tipperary. In
January, 1799, Parliament met, and the proposal was brought forward in a
speech from the throne, but encountered a violent opposition from all
the remaining members of the patriotic party. Grattan, who had returned
to Parliament for the express purpose, eloquently defended the rights of
the Irish legislature, and was supported by Sir John Parnell, by
Plunkett, and by all the more prominent members of the opposition. After
a debate which lasted nearly twenty-two hours, a division was called,
and the numbers were found to be equal; another fierce struggle, and
this time the Government were beaten by five; thus the proposal for the
time was lost.

Not for long though. Pitt had thoroughly made up his mind, and was bent
on carrying his point to a successful issue. Most of those who had voted
against the Union were dismissed from office, and after the prorogation
of Parliament, the Government set to work with a determination to secure
a majority before the next session. There was only one means of
effecting this, and that means was now employed. Eighty-five
boroughs--all of which were in the hands of private owners--would lose
their members if a Union were passed, and all these, accordingly, it was
resolved to compensate, and no less than a million and a quarter of
money was actually advanced for that purpose, while for owners less
easily reached by this means peerages, baronetcies, steps in the
peerage, and similar inducements, were understood to be forthcoming as
an equivalent.

It is precisely at this point that controversy grows hottest, and where
it becomes hardest, therefore, to see a clear way between contending
statements, which seem to meet and thrust one another, as it were at the
very sword's point. That the sale of parliamentary seats--so shocking to
our reformed eyes--was not regarded in the same light at the date of the
Irish Union is certain, and in questions of ethics contemporary judgment
is the first and most important point to be considered. The sale of a
borough carried with it no more necessary reprobation then than did the
sale of a man, say, in Jamaica or Virginia. Boroughs were bought and
sold in open market, and many of them had a recognized price, so much
for the current session, so much more if in perpetuity. We must try
clearly to realize this, in order to approach the matter fairly, and, as
far as possible, to put the ugly word "bribery" out of our thoughts, at
all events not allow it to carry them beyond the actual facts of the
case. Pitt, there is no question, had resolved to carry his point, but
we have no right to assume that he wished to carry it by corrupt means,
and the fact that those who opposed it were to be indemnified for their
seats no less than those who promoted it, makes so far strongly in
his favour.

On the other hand, the impression which any given transaction leaves
upon the generation which has actually witnessed it is rarely entirely
wrong, and that the impression produced by the carrying of the Irish
Union--almost equally upon its friends and its foes--was, to put it
mildly, unfavourable, few will be disposed to deny. Over and above this
general testimony, we have the actual letters of those who were mainly
instrumental in carrying it into effect, and it is difficult to read
those of Lord Cornwallis without perceiving that he at least regarded
the task as a repellent one, and one which as an honourable man he would
gladly have evaded had evasion been possible. It is true that Lord
Castlereagh, who was associated intimately with him in the enterprise,
shows no such reluctance, but then the relative characters of the two
men prevent that circumstance from having quite as much weight as it
otherwise might.

The fact is that the whole affair is still enveloped in such a hedge of
cross-statement and controversy, that in spite of having been
eighty-seven years before the world, it still needs careful elucidation,
and the last word upon it has certainly not yet been written. To attempt
anything of the sort here would be absurd, so we must be content with
simply following the actual course of events.

[Illustration: MARQUIS CORNWALLIS. (_Engraved by James Stow from an
original drawing by S.D. Koster_.)]

The whole of that memorable summer was spent carrying out the orders of
the Prime Minister. The Lord-Lieu tenant and the Chief Secretary
travelled in person round Ireland to assist in the canvass, and before
the Parliament met again the following January, they were able to report
that they had succeeded. Grattan had been suffering from a severe
illness, and was still almost too ill to appear. He came, however, and
his wonted eloquence rose to the occasion. He appealed in the most
moving and passionate terms against the destruction of the Parliament.
Even then there were some who hoped against hope that it might be saved.
At the division, however, the Government majority was found to be
overwhelming, only a hundred members voting against it. The assent of
the Upper House had already been secured, and was known all along to be
a mere formality. And so the Union was carried.

How far it was or was not desirable at the time; how far it was or was
not indispensable to the safety of both countries; to what extent Pitt
and in a less degree those who acted under him were or were not
blameworthy in the matter--are points which maybe almost indefinitely
discussed. They were not as blameworthy as they are often assumed to
have been, but it is difficult honestly to see how we are to exonerate
them from blame altogether. The theory that the end justifies the means
has never been a favourite with honourable men, and some at least of the
means by which the Union of Great Britain and Ireland was carried would
have left fatal stains upon the noblest cause that ever yet inspired the
breast of man. Early in the last century Ireland through her Parliament
had herself proposed a legislative union, and England had rejected her
appeal. Had it been accomplished then, or had it been brought about in
the same fashion as that which produced the Union between Scotland and
England, it might have been accepted as a boon instead of a curse, and
in any case could have left no such bitter and rankling memories behind
it. It is quite possible, and perfectly logical, for a man to hold that
a Union between the two countries was and is to the advantage of both,
and yet to desire that when it did come about it had been accomplished
in almost any other conceivable way.




Another century had now dawned, and, like the last, it was heralded in
with great changes in Ireland. More than change, however, is needed for
improvement. "_Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose_" has been said
of French politics, and is at least equally applicable to Irish ones.
The Union had not brought union, and the years which followed it were
certainly no great improvement on those that had preceded them. The
growth of political institution is not so naturally stable in Ireland
that the lopping down of one such institution tended to make the rest
stronger or more healthy. It was a tree that had undoubtedly serious
flaws, and whose growing had not been as perfect as it might have been,
but it had admittedly borne some good fruit, and might have borne better
had it been left alone. Anyhow it was gone, and the history of the next
twenty-nine years is a confused and distracting medley of petty
outbreaks--that in 1803 of which Robert Emmett was the leader being the
most important--and of recurrent acts of repression, out of the
monotonous welter of which one great figure presently rises like a
colossus, till it comes to dominate the whole scene.

[Illustration: ROBERT EMMET. (_From a stipple engraving by J. Heath_.)]

At a meeting of Catholic citizens in Dublin in 1800 to protest against
the Union, Daniel O'Connell, then a young barrister of twenty-six, made
his first public speech, and from that time forward his place as a
leader may be said to have been fixed. A Catholic Association had some
years earlier been formed, and of this he soon became the chief figure,
and his efforts were continually directed towards the relief of his
co-religionists. In 1815 a proposal had been made by the Government that
Catholic Emancipation should be granted, coupled with a power of veto in
the appointment of Catholic bishops, and to this compromise a
considerable Catholic party was favourable. Richard Lalor Sheil--next to
O'Connell by far the ablest and most eloquent advocate for
Emancipation--supported it; even the Pope, Pius VII., declared that he
felt "no hesitation in conceding it." O'Connell, however, opposed it
vehemently, and so worked up public opinion against it that in the end
he carried his point, and it was agreed that no proposal should be
accepted which permitted any external interference with the Catholic
Church of Ireland. This was his first decisive triumph.

O'Connell's buoyancy and indomitable energy imparted much of its own
impulse to a party more dead and dispirited than we who have only known
it in its resuscitated and decidedly dominant state can easily conceive.
In 1823 a new Irish Catholic Association was set on foot, of which he
was the visible life and soul. It is curious to note how little
enthusiasm its proceedings seem at first to have awakened, especially
amongst the priesthood. At a meeting on February 4, 1824, the necessary
quorum of ten members running short, it was only supplied by O'Connell
rushing downstairs to the book-shop over which the association met, and
actually forcing upstairs two priests whom he accidently found there,
and it was by the aid of these unwilling coadjutors that the famous
motion for establishing the "Catholic rent" was carried. No sooner was
this fund established, however, than it was largely subscribed for all
over the country, and in a wonderfully short time the whole priesthood
of Ireland were actively engaged in its service. The sums collected were
to be spent in parliamentary expenses, in the defence of Catholics, and
in the cost of meetings. In 1825 the association was suppressed by Act
of Parliament, but was hardly dead before O'Connell set about the
formation of another, and the defeat of the Beresfords at the election
for Waterford in 1826 was one of the first symptoms which showed where
the rising tide was mounting to.

It was followed two years later by a much more important victory.
Although Catholics were excluded from sitting in Parliament the law
which forbade their doing so did not preclude their being returned as
members, and it had long been thought that policy required the election
of some Catholic, if only that the whole anomaly of the situation might
be brought into the full light of day. An opportunity soon occurred. Mr.
Fitzgerald, the member for Clare, having accepted office as President of
the Board of Trade, he was obliged to appeal to his constituents for
re-election, and O'Connell caught at the suggestion made to him of
contesting the seat. His purpose had hardly been announced before it
created the wildest excitement all over Ireland. The Catholic
Association at once granted L5,000 towards the expenses, and L9,000 more
was easily raised within a week. In every parish in Clare the priests
addressed their parishioners from the altar, appealing to them to be
true to the representative of their faith. After a vehement contest,
victory declared itself unhesitatingly for O'Connell, who was found to
have polled more than a thousand votes over his antagonist.

The months which followed were months of the wildest and most feverish
excitement all over Ireland. O'Connell, though he used his "frank," did
not present himself at the House of Commons. He devoted his whole time
to organizing his co-religionists, who by this time may be said to have
formed one vast army under his direction. In every parish the priests
were his lieutenants. Monster meetings were held in all directions, and
it may without exaggeration be said that hardly a Catholic man escaped
the contagion. So universal a demonstration was felt to be irresistible.
A sudden perception of the necessity for full and unqualified
Emancipation sprang up in England. Even the Duke of Wellington bent his
head before the storm. In the king's speech of February, 1829, a
revision of the Catholic disabilities was advised. The following month
the Catholic Relief Bill was carried through the House of Commons by a
majority of 180, and received the royal assent on the 13th of April.

Thus the victory was won, and won too without a single shackling
condition. It was won, moreover, by the efforts of a single individual,
almost without support, nay, in several cases against the active
opposition of some who had hitherto been its warmest advocates, a fact
for which O'Connell's own violence was undoubtedly largely responsible.
This seems to be the place to attempt an analysis of this extraordinary
man, setting down the good and the evil each in their due proportion.
The task, however, would in truth be impossible. For good or ill his
figure is too massive, and would escape our half inch of canvas were we
to try and set it there. The best description of him compressible in a
few words is Balzac's--"He was the incarnation of an entire people."
Nothing can be truer. Not only was he Irish of the Irish, but Celt of
the Celts, every quality, every characteristic, good, bad, loveable, or
the reverse which belongs to the type being found in him, only on an
immense scale. To the average Irishman of his day he stands as Mont
Blanc might stand were it set down amongst the Magillicuddy Reeks. He
towers, that is to say, above his contemporaries not by inches, but by
the head and shoulders. His aims, hopes, enthusiasms were theirs, but
the effective, controlling power was his alone. He had a great cause,
and he availed himself greatly of it, and to this and to the magnetic
and all but magical influence of his personality, that extraordinary
influence which he for so many years wielded is no doubt due.

[Illustration: DANIEL O'CONNELL, M.P. (_From a pen-and-ink sketch by
Doyle, in the Department of Prints and Drawings, British Museum_.)]

Two points must be here set down, since both are of great importance to
the future of Ireland, and for both O'Connell is clearly
responsible--whether we regard them as amongst his merits or the
reverse. He first, and as it has been proved permanently, brought the
priest into politics, with the unavoidable result of accentuating the
religious side of the contest and bringing it into a focus. The
bitterness which three generations of the penal code had engendered
only, in fact, broke out then. The hour of comparative freedom is
often--certainly not alone in Ireland--the hour when the sense of past
oppression first reveals itself in all its intensity, and that biting
consciousness of being under a social ban which grew up in the last
century is hardly even yet extinct there, and certainly was not extinct
in O'Connell's time. Another, and an equally important effect, is also
due to him. He effectually, and as it has proved finally, snapped that
tie of feudal feeling which, if weakened, still undoubtedly existed, and
which was felt towards the landlord of English extraction little less
than towards the few remaining Celtic ones. The failings of the upper
classes of Ireland of his day, and long before his day, there is no need
to extenuate, but it must not in fairness be forgotten that what seems
to our soberer judgment the worst of those failings--their insane
extravagance, their exalted often ludicrously inflated notions of their
own relative importance; their indifference to, sometimes open hostility
to, the law--all were bonds of union and sources of pride to their
dependants rather than the other way. It needed a yet stronger
impulse--that of religious enthusiasm--to break so deeply rooted and
inherent a sentiment. When that spark was kindled every other fell away
before it.

As regards England, unfortunately, the concession of Emancipation was
spoilt not merely by the sense that it was granted to force rather than
to conviction, but even more to the intense bitterness and dislike with
which it was regarded by a large proportion of English Protestants. A
new religious life and a new sense of religious responsibility was
making itself widely felt there. The eighteenth century, with its
easy-going indifferentism, had passed away, and one of the effects of
this new revival was unhappily to reawaken in many conscientious breasts
much of the old and half-extinct horror of Popery, a horror which found
its voice in a language of intolerance and bigotry which at the present
time seems scarcely conceivable.

The years which followed were chiefly marked by a succession of efforts
upon O'Connell's part to procure Repeal. An association which had been
formed by him for this purpose was put down by the Government in 1830,
but the next year it was reformed under a new name, and at the general
election in 1831 forty members were returned pledged to support Repeal.
The condition of Ireland was meanwhile miserable in the extreme. A
furious tithe-war was raging, and many outrages had been committed,
especially against tithe proctors, the class of men who were engaged in
collecting the tax. Ribbon associations and other secret societies too
had been spreading rapidly underground. Of such societies O'Connell was
through life the implacable enemy. The events of 1798 and 1803 had left
an indelible impression on his mind. The "United Irishmen," in his own
words, "taught me that all work for Ireland must be done openly and
above board." The end of the tithe struggle, however, was happily
approaching. In 1838 an Irish Tithes Commutation Act was at last
carried, and a land tax in the form of a permanent rent charge

Repeal was now more than ever the question of the hour, and to Repeal
henceforward O'Connell devoted his entire energies. In 1840 the Loyal
National Repeal Association was founded, and a permanent place of
meeting known as Conciliation Hall established for it in Dublin. 1841,
O'Connell had early announced, would be known henceforward as the year
of Repeal, and accordingly he that year left England and went to
Ireland, and devoted himself there to the work of organization. A
succession of monster meetings were held all over the country, the
far-famed one on Tara Hill being, as is credibly asserted, attended by
no less than a quarter of a million of people. Over this vast multitude
gathered together around him the magic tones of the great orator's voice
swept triumphantly; awakening anger, grief, passion, delight, laughter,
tears, at its own pleasure. They were astonishing triumphs, but they
were dearly bought. The position was, in fact, an impossible one to
maintain long. O'Connell had carried the whole mass of the people with
him up to the very brink of the precipice, but how to bring them safely
and successfully down again was more than even he could accomplish.
Resistance he had always steadily denounced, yet every day his own words
seemed to be bringing the inevitable moment of collision nearer and
nearer. The crisis came on October the 5th. A meeting had been summoned
to meet at Clontarf, near Dublin, and on the afternoon of the 4th the
Government suddenly came to the resolution of issuing a proclamation
forbidding it to assemble. The risk was a formidable one for responsible
men to run. Many of the people were already on their way, and only
O'Connell's own rapid and vigorous measures in sending out in all
directions to intercept them hindered the actual shedding of blood.

His prosecution and that of some of his principal adherents was the next
important event. By a Dublin jury he was found guilty, sentenced to two
years imprisonment, and conveyed to prison, still earnestly entreating
the people to remain quiet, an order which they strictly obeyed. The
jury by which he had been condemned was known to be strongly biassed
against him, and an appeal had been forwarded against his sentence to
the House of Lords. So strong there, too, was the feeling against
O'Connell, that little expectation was entertained of its being
favourably received. Greatly to its honour, however, the sentence was
reversed and he was set free. His imprisonment had been of the lightest
and least onerous description conceivable; indeed was ironically
described by Mitchell shortly afterwards as that of a man--"addressed by
bishops, complimented by Americans, bored by deputations, serenaded by
bands, comforted by ladies, half smothered by roses, half drowned in
champagne." The enthusiasm shown at his release was frantic and
delirious. None the less those months in Richmond prison proved the
death-knell of his power. He was an old man by this time; he was already
weakened in health, and that buoyancy which had hitherto carried him
over any and every obstacle never again revived. The "Young Ireland"
party, the members of which had in the first instance been his allies
and lieutenants, had now formed a distinct section, and upon the vital
question of resistance were in fierce hostility to all his most
cherished principles. The state of the country, too, preyed visibly upon
his mind. By 1846 had begun that succession of disastrous seasons which,
by destroying the feeble barrier which stood between the peasant and a
cruel death, brought about a national tragedy, the most terrible perhaps
with which modern Europe has been confronted. This tragedy, though he
did not live to see the whole of it, O'Connell--himself the incarnation
of the people--felt acutely. Deep despondency took hold of him. He
retired, to a great degree, from public life, leaving the conduct of his
organization in the hands of others. Few more tragic positions have been
described or can be conceived than that of this old man--so loved, so
hated, so reverenced, so detested--who had been so audaciously,
triumphantly successful in his day, and round whom the shadows of night
were now gathering so blackly and so swiftly. Despair was tightening its
grip round the hearts of all Irishmen, and it found its strongest hold
upon the heart of the greatest Irishman of his age. Nothing speaks more
eloquently of the total change of situation than the pity and respectful
consideration extended at this time to O'Connell by men who only
recently had exhausted every possibility of vituperation in abuse of the
burly demagogue. In 1847 he resolved to leave Ireland, and to end his
days in Rome. His last public appearance was in the House of Commons,
where an attentive and deeply respectful audience hung upon the
faultering and barely articulate accents which fell from his lips. In a
few deeply moving words he appealed for aid and sympathy for his
suffering countrymen, and left the House; within a few months he had
died at Genoa. Such a bare summary leaves necessarily whole regions of
the subject unexplored, but, let the final verdict of history on
O'Connell be what it may, that he loved his country passionately, and
with an absolute disinterestedness no pen has ever been found to
question, nor can we doubt that whatever else may have hastened his end
it was the Famine killed him, almost as surely as it did the meanest of
its victims.



The camp and council chamber of the "Young Ireland" party was the
editor's room of _The Nation_ newspaper. There it found its inspiration,
and there its plans were matured--so far, that is, as they can be said
to have been ever matured. For an eminently readable and all things
considered a wonderfully impartial account of this movement, the reader
cannot do better than consult Sir Charles Gavan Duffy's "Four Years of
Irish History," which has the immense advantage of being history taken
at first hand, written that is by one who himself took a prominent part
in the scenes which he describes.

The most interesting figure in the party had, however, died before those
memorable four years began. Thomas Davis, who was only thirty at the
time of his death in 1845, was a man of large gifts, nay, might fairly
be called a man of genius. His poetry is, perhaps, too national to be
appreciated out of Ireland, yet two, at least, of his ballads,
"Fontenoy" and "The Sack of Baltimore," may fairly claim to compare with
those of any contemporary poet. His prose writings, too, have much of
the same charm, and, if he had no time to become a master of any of the
subjects of which he treats, there is something infectious in the very
spontaneousness and, as it were, untaught boyish energy of his
Irish essays.

The whole movement in fact was, in the first instance, a literary quite
as much as a political one. Nearly all who took part in it--Gavan Duffy,
John Mitchell, Meagher, Dillon, Davis himself--were very young men, many
fresh from college, all filled with zeal for the cause of liberty and
nationality. The graver side of the movement only showed itself when the
struggle with O'Connell began. At first no idea of deposing, or even
seriously opposing the great leader seems to have been intended. The
attempt on O'Connell's part to carry a formal declaration against the
employment under any circumstances of physical force was the origin of
that division, and what the younger spirits considered "truckling to the
Whigs" helped to widen the breach. When, too, O'Connell had partially
retired into the background, his place was filled by his son, John
O'Connell, the "Head conciliator," between whom and the "Young
Irelanders" there waged a fierce war, which in the end led to the
indignant withdrawal of the latter from the Repeal council.

Before matters reached this point, the younger camp had been
strengthened by the adhesion of Smith O'Brien, who, though not a man of
much intellectual calibre, carried no little weight in Ireland. His
age--which compared to that of the other members of his party, was that
of a veteran--his rank and position as a county member, above all, his
vaunted descent from Brian Boroimhe, all made him an ally and a convert
to be proud of. Like the rest he had no idea at first of appealing to
physical force, however loudly an abstract resolution against it might
be denounced. Resistance was to be kept strictly within the
constitutional limits, indeed the very year of his junction with this
the extreme left of the Repeal party, Smith O'Brien's most violent
proceeding was to decline to sit upon a railway committee to which he
had been summoned, an act of contumacy for which he was ordered by the
House of Commons into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, and committed
to an extemporized prison, by some cruelly declared to be the coal-hole.
"An Irish leader in a coal-hole!" exclaims Sir Charles Gavan Duffy,
indignantly, can more unworthy statement be conceived? "Regullus in a
barrel, however," he adds, rather grandly, "was not quite the last one
heard of Rome and its affairs!"

In Ireland matters were certainly sad enough and serious enough without
any such serio-comic incidents. Famine was already stalking the country
with giant strides, and no palliative measures as yet proposed seemed to
be of the slightest avail. Early in January, 1847, O'Connell left on
that journey of his which was never completed, and by the middle of May
Ireland was suddenly startled by the news that her great leader
was dead.

The effect of his death was to produce a sudden and immense reaction. A
vast revulsion of love and reverence sprang up all over the country; an
immense sense of his incomparable services, and with it a vehement anger
against all who had opposed him. Upon the "Young Ireland" party, as was
inevitable, the weight of that anger fell chiefly, and from the moment
of O'Connell's death whatever claim they had to call themselves a
national party vanished utterly. The men "who killed the Liberator"
could never again hope to carry with them the suffrages of any number of
their countrymen.

This contumely, to a great degree undeserved, naturally reacted upon the
subjects of it. The taunt of treachery and ingratitude flung at them
wherever they went stung and nettled. In the general reaction of
gratitude and affection for O'Connell, his son John succeeded easily to
the position of leader. The older members of the Repeal Association
thereupon rallied about him, and the split between them and the younger
men grew deeper and wider.

A wild, impracticable visionary now came to play a part in the movement.
A deformed misanthrope, called James Lalor, endowed with a considerable
command of vague, passionate rhetoric, began to write incentives to
revolt in _The Nation_, These growing more and more violent were by the
editor at length prudently suppressed. The seed, however, had already
sown itself in another mind. John Mitchell is described by Mr. Justin
McCarthy as "the one formidable man amongst the rebels of '48; the one
man who distinctly knew what he wanted, and was prepared to run any risk
to get it." Even Mitchell, it is clear, would never have gone as far as
he did but for the impulse which he received from the crippled desperado
in the background. Lalor was, in fact, a monomaniac, but this Mitchell
seems to have failed to perceive. To him it was intolerable that any
human being should be willing to go further and to dare more in the
cause of Ireland than himself, and the result was that after awhile he
broke away from his connection with _The Nation_, and started a new
organ under the name of _The United Irishmen_, one definitely pledged
from the first to the policy of action.

From this point matters gathered speedily to a head. Mitchell's
newspaper proceeded to fling out challenge after challenge to the
Government, calling upon the people to gather and to "sweep this island
clear of the English name and nation." For some months these challenges
remained unanswered. It was now, however, "'48," and nearly all Europe
was in revolution. The necessity of taking some step began to be
evident, and a Bill making all written incitement of insurrection felony
was hurried through the House of Commons, and almost immediately after
Mitchell was arrested.

Even then he seems to have believed that the country would rise to
liberate him. The country, however, showed no disposition to do anything
of the sort. He was tried in Dublin, found guilty, sentenced to fourteen
years' transportation, and a few days afterwards put on board a vessel
in the harbour and conveyed to Spike Island, whence he was sent to
Bermuda, and the following April in a convict vessel to the Cape, and
finally to Tasmania.

The other "Young Irelanders," stung apparently by their own previous
inaction, thereupon rushed frantically into rebellion. The
leaders--Smith O'Brien, Meagher, Dillon, and others--went about the
country holding reviews of "Confederates," as they now called
themselves, a proceeding which caused the Government to suspend the
Habeas Corpus Act, and to issue a warrant for their arrest. A few more
gatherings took place in different parts of the country, a few more
ineffectual attempts were made to induce the people to rise, one very
small collision with the police occurred, and then the whole thing was
over. All the leaders in the course of a few days were arrested and
Smith O'Brien and Meagher were sentenced to death, a sentence which was
speedily changed into transportation. Gavan Duffy was arrested and
several times tried, but the jury always disagreed, and in the end his
prosecution was abandoned. The "Young Ireland" movement, however, was
dead, and never again revived.



All the time the earlier of the foregoing scenes were being enacted, the
famine had been drawing its python grasp tighter and tighter around the
unhappy island. The first symptoms of the dread potato disease showed
themselves in the autumn of 1845, and even that year there was much
suffering, though a trifle to what was to follow. Many remedies were
tried, both to stop the blight and save the crops, but all alike proved
unavailing. The next year the potatoes seemed to promise unusually well,
and the people, with characteristic hopefulness, believed that their
trouble was over. The summer, however, was very warm and wet, and with
August there came on a peculiarly dense white fog, which was believed by
all who were in Ireland at the time to have carried the blight with it
in its folds. Whether this was the case or not, there is no doubt that
in a single fatal night nearly the whole potato crop over the entire
country blackened, and perished utterly. Then, indeed, followed despair.
Stupor and a sort of moody indifference succeeded to the former buoyancy
and hopefulness. There was nothing to do; no other food was attainable.
The fatal dependence upon a single precarious crop had left the whole
mass of the people helpless before the enemy.

Soon the first signs of famine began to appear. People were to be seen
wandering about; seeking for stray turnips, for watercresses, for
anything that would allay the pangs of hunger. The workhouses, detested
though they were, were crammed until they could hold no single
additional inmate. Whole families perished; men, women, and children lay
down in their cabins and died, often without a sign. Others fell by the
roadside on their way to look for work or seek relief. Only last summer,
at Ballinahinch in Connemara, the present writer was told by an old man
that he remembered being sent by his master on a message to Clifden, the
nearest town, and seeing the people crawling along the road, and that,
returning the same way a few hours later, many of the same people were
lying dead under the walls or upon the grass at the roadside. That this
is no fancy picture is clear from local statistics. No part of Ireland
suffered worse than Galway and Mayo, both far more densely populated
then than at present. In this very region of Connemara an inspector has
left on record, having to give orders for the burying of over a hundred
and thirty bodies found along the roads within his own district.

Mr. W.E. Forster, who, above all other Englishmen deserved the gratitude
of Ireland for his efforts during this tragic time, has left terrible
descriptions of the scenes of which he was himself an eye-witness,
especially in the west. "The town of Westport," he tells us in one of
his reports, "was itself a strange and fearful sight, like what we read
of in beleaguered cities; its streets crowded with gaunt wanderers,
sauntering to and fro with hopeless air and hunger-struck look--a mob of
starved, almost naked women around the poor-house clamouring for
soup-tickets. Our inn, the head-quarters of the road engineer and pay
clerks, beset by a crowd of beggars for work." In another place "the
survivors," he says, "were like walking skeletons--the men gaunt and
haggard, stamped with the livid mark of hunger; the children crying with
pain; the women in some of the cabins too weak to stand. When there
before I had seen cows at almost every cabin, and there were besides
many sheep and pigs owned in the village. But now the sheep were all
gone--all the cows, all the poultry killed--only one pig left; the very
dogs which had barked at me before had disappeared--no potatoes;
no oats."

One more extract more piteous even than the rest: "As we went along our
wonder was not that the people died, but that they lived; and I have no
doubt whatever that in any other country the mortality would have been
far greater; that many lives have been prolonged, perhaps saved, by the
long apprenticeship to want in which the Irish peasant had been trained,
and by that lovely touching charity which prompts him to share his
scanty meal with his starving neighbour."

Of course all this time there was no lack of preventative measures.
Large sums had been voted from the Treasury; stores of Indian corn
introduced; great relief works set on foot. An unfortunate fatality
seemed, however, to clog nearly all these efforts. Either they proved
too late to save life, or in some way or other to be unsuitable to the
exigencies of the case. Individual charity, too, came out upon the most
magnificent scale. All Europe contributed, and English gold was poured
forth without stint or stay. Still the famine raged almost unchecked.
The relief works established by the Government, with the best intentions
possible, too often were devoted to the most curiously useless,
sometimes even to actually harmful, objects. To this day "Famine roads"
may be met with in the middle of snipe bogs, or skirting precipices
where no road was ever wanted or could possibly be used. By the time,
too, they were in full working order the people were, in many cases, too
enfeebled by want and disease to work. For close upon the heels of the
famine followed an epidemic hardly less fatal than itself. In the course
of the two years that it raged over two hundred thousand people are said
to have perished from this cause alone, and three times the number to
have been attacked and permanently enfeebled by it.

In 1849 a Relief Act was passed which established soup kitchens
throughout the unions, where food was to be had gratis by all who
required it. Long before this similar kitchens had been privately set on
foot, and men and women had devoted themselves to the work with untiring
energy and the most absolute self-devotedness. Of these self-appointed
and unpaid workers a large number shared the fate of those whom they
assisted. Indeed, it is one of the most singular features of the time
that not only old, or feeble, or specially sensitive people died, but
strong men, heads of houses--not regarded as by any means specially
soft-hearted--raised, too, by circumstances out of reach of actual
hunger, died--just as O'Connell had died--of sheer distress of mind, and
the effort to cope with what was beyond the power of any human being to
cope with. In the single county of Galway the records of the times
show--as may easily be verified--an extraordinary number of deaths of
this type, a fact which alone goes far to disprove those accusations of
heartlessness and indifference which have in some instances been too
lightly flung.

After the famine followed ruin--a ruin which swept high and low alike
into its net. When the poor rate rose to twenty and twenty-five
shillings in the pound it followed that the distinction between rich and
poor vanished, and there were plenty of instances of men, accounted well
off, who had subscribed liberally to others at the beginning of the
famine, who were themselves seeking relief before the end. The result
was a state of things which has left bitterer traces behind it than even
the famine itself. The smaller type of landowners, who for the most part
had kindly relations with their tenants, were swept away like leaves
before the great storm, their properties fell to their creditors, and
were sold by order of the newly established Encumbered Estates Courts.
No proposing purchaser would have anything to say to estates covered
with a crowd of pauper tenants, and the result was a wholesale
clearance, carried out usually by orders given by strangers at a
distance, and executed too often with a disregard of humanity that it is
frightful to read or to think of. Most of the people thus ejected in the
end emigrated, and that emigration was under the circumstances their
best hope few can reasonably doubt. Even here, however, misfortune
pursued them. Sanitary inspection of emigrant ships was at the time all
but unheard of, and statistics show that the densely crowded condition
of the vessels which took them away produced the most terrible mortality
amongst the already enfeebled people who crowded them, a full fifth of
the steerage passengers in many cases, it is said, dying upon the
voyage, and many more immediately after landing. The result of all this
has been that the inevitable horrors of the time have been deepened and
intensified by a sense of ill-usage, which has left a terrible legacy
behind--one which may prove to be a peril to generations still unborn.
Even where those who emigrated have prospered most, and where they or
their sons are now rich men, they cling with unhappy persistency to the
memory of that wretched past--a memory which the forty years which have
intervened, far from softening, seem, in many cases, to have only lashed
into a yet more passionate bitterness.

In Ireland itself the permanent effects of the disaster differed of
course in different places and with different people, but in one respect
it may be said to have been the same everywhere. Between the Ireland of
the past and the Ireland of the present the Famine lies like a black
stream, all but entirely blotting out and effacing the past. Whole
phases of life, whole types of character, whole modes of existence and
ways of thought passed away then and have never been renewed. The entire
fabric of the country was torn to pieces and has never reformed itself
upon the same lines again. After a while everyday life began again of
course, as it does everywhere all over the world, and in some respects
the struggle for existence has never since been quite so severe or so
prolonged. The lesson of those two terrible years has certainly not been
lost, but like all such lessons it has left deep scars which can never
be healed. Men and women, still alive who remember the famine, look back
across it as we all look back across some personal grief, some
catastrophe which has shattered our lives and made havoc of everything
we cared for. We, too, go on again after a while as if nothing had
happened, yet we know perfectly well all the while that matters are not
the least as they were before; that on the contrary they never can
or will be.



The story of the last forty years must be compressed into a nutshell.
The famine was over at last, but its effects remained. Nearly a million
of people had emigrated, yet the condition of life for those remaining
was far from satisfactory. The Encumbered Estates Act, which had
completed the ruin of many of the older proprietors, pressed, in some
respects, even more severely upon the tenants, a large number of whom
found themselves confronted with new purchasers, who, having invested in
Irish land merely as a speculation, had little other interest in it. In
1850 an attempt at a union of North and South was made, and a Tenant
League Conference assembled in Dublin. Of this league the remnants of
the "Young Ireland" party formed the nucleus, but were supplemented by
others with widely different aims and intentions. Of these others the
two Sadleirs, John and James, Mr. Edmund O'Flaherty, and Mr. William
Keogh, afterwards Judge Keogh, were the most prominent. These with their
adherents constituted the once famous "Brass Band" which for several
years filled Parliament with its noisy declamations, and which posed as
the specially appointed champion of Catholicism. In 1853 several of its
members took office under Lord Aberdeen, but their course was not a long
one. A bank kept in Ireland by the two Sadleirs broke, ruining an
enormous number of people, and on investigation was found to have been
fraudulently conducted from the very beginning. John Sadleir thereupon
killed himself; his brother James was expelled from the House of
Commons, and he and several others implicated in the swindle fled the
country and never reappeared, and so the "Brass Band" broke up, amid the
well-deserved contempt of men of every shade of political opinion.

After this succeeded a prolonged lull. Secret agitations, however, were
still working underground, and as early as 1850 one known as the Phoenix
organization began to collect recruits, although for a long time its
proceedings attracted little or no attention.

In 1859 several of its members were arrested, and it seemed then to die
down and disappear, but some years later it sprang up again with a new
name, and the years 1866 and 1867 were signalized by the Fenian rising,
or to put it with less dignity, the Fenian scare. With the close of the
American War a steady backward stream of Americanized Irishmen had set
in, and a belief that war between England and America was rapidly
approaching had become an article of fervent faith with a large majority
in Ireland. The Fenian plan of operation was a two-headed one. There was
to be a rising in Ireland, and there was to be a raid into Canada across
the American frontier. Little formidable as either project seems now, at
the time they looked serious enough, and had the strained relations then
existing between England and America turned out differently, no one can
say but what they might have become so. The Fenian organization, which
grew out of the earlier Phoenix one, was managed from centres, a man
called Stephens being the person who came most prominently before the
world in the capacity of Head centre. In 1865 Stephens was arrested in
Dublin, but managed to escape not long afterwards from Richmond prison
by the aid of two confederates within its walls. The following May,
1866, a small body of Fenians crossed the Niagara river, but the United
States authorities rigidly enforced the neutrality of the American
frontier, and so the attempt perished. The same spring a rising broke
out in Ireland, but it also was stamped with failure from its onset, and
the famous snowstorm of that year finished the discomfiture of its

Two other Fenian demonstrations, not to mention an abortive project to
seize Chester Castle, were shortly afterwards made in England. In 1867,
some Fenian prisoners were rescued in Manchester, while on their way to
gaol, and in the attempt to burst the lock of the van in which they were
being conveyed a police officer named Brett, who was in charge of it,
was accidentally shot. Five men were found guilty for this offence. One
Macquire was proved to have been arrested by mistake, another Conder had
the sentence commuted, but three--Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien--were hung.

Another Fenian exploit of a somewhat different character followed in
December, 1867, when an attempt was made by some desperados belonging to
the party to blow up the Clerkenwell House of Detention, in which two
Fenian prisoners were then confined. Luckily for them, as it turned out,
they were not in that part of the prison at the time, or the result of
their would-be liberators' efforts would have simply been to kill them.
As it was, twelve other people were either killed on the spot or died
from its effects, and over a hundred were more or less badly wounded.
For this crime six persons were put upon their trial, but only one was
convicted and actually executed.

The next Irish event of any moment stands upon a curiously different
platform, though there were not wanting suggestions that the two had an
indirect connection as cause and effect. In 1868 the Liberal party came
into power after the General Election with Mr. Gladstone as Prime
Minister, and the session of 1869 saw the introduction of a Bill for the
Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The controversies to which that
measure gave rise are already quite out of date, and there is no need
therefore to revive them. Few measures so vehemently opposed have
produced less startling effects in the end. It neither achieved those
great things hoped by its supporters, nor yet brought about the dire
disasters so freely threatened by its opponents. To the Roman Catholics
of Ireland the grievance of an alien State Church had, since the
settlement of the tithe question, lapsed into being little more than a
sentimental one, so that practically the measure affected them little.
As an institution, however, the position of the Irish State Church was
undoubtedly a difficult one to defend, the very same arguments which
tell most forcibly for the State Church of England telling most forcibly
against its numerically feeble Irish sister. Whatever the abstract
rights or wrongs of the case it is pretty clear now that the change must
have come sooner or later, and few therefore can seriously regret that
it came when it did. The struggle was protracted through the entire
session, but in the end passed both Houses of Parliament, and received
the royal assent on July 26, 1869.

It was followed early the following year by the Irish Land Act, which
was introduced into the House of Commons by Mr. Gladstone on February
15, 1870. This Act has been succinctly described as one obliging all
landlords to do what the best landlords did spontaneously, and this
perhaps may be accepted as a fairly accurate account of it. Owing to the
fact of land being practically the only commodity of value, there has
always been in Ireland a tendency to offer far more for it than could
reasonably be hoped to be got in the form of return, and this tendency
has led, especially in the poorest districts and with the smallest
holdings, to a rent being offered and accepted often quite out of
proportion to the actual value of the land, though in few instances do
the very highest rents attainable seem even in these cases to have been
exacted. The Act now proposed was to abolish one passed in 1860 which
had reduced all tenant and landlord transactions in Ireland to simple
matters of free contract, and to interpose the authority of the State
between the two. It legalized what were known as the "Ulster customs;"
awarded compensations for all improvements made by the tenant or his
predecessors, and in case of eviction for any cause except non-payment
of rent a further compensation was to be granted, which might amount to
a sum equal to seven years' rent; it also endeavoured to a partial
extent to establish peasant proprietorship. That it was a conscientious
attempt to deal with a very intricate and perplexing problem may fairly
be conceded, at the same time it has been its misfortune that it proved
satisfactory to neither of the two classes chiefly concerned, being
denounced by the one as the beginning of spoliation, by the other as a
mere worthless, and utterly contemptible attempt at dealing with the
necessities of the case.

A third measure--the Irish Education Act--was proposed the following
session, but as it resulted in failure, was popular with no party, and
failed to pass; it need not be entered into even briefly. 1874 saw a
dissolution of Parliament and a General Election, which resulted in the
defeat of the Liberals, and the return of the Conservatives to office.
Before this, a new Irish constitutional party pledged to the principle
of Home Government, had grown up in the House of Commons, at first under
the leadership of Mr. Butt, afterwards with new aims and widely
different tactics under that of Mr. Parnell. In 1879 an agrarian
movement was set on foot in Ireland, chiefly through the instrumentality
of Mr. Davitt, which has since become so widely known as the Land
League. It was almost immediately joined by the more extreme members of
the Irish Parliamentary party. Meetings were held in all directions, and
an amount of popular enthusiasm aroused which the more purely political
question had never succeeded in awakening. Subscriptions poured in from
America. A season of great scarcity, and in some districts of partial
famine, had produced an unusual amount of distress, and this and the
unsettled state of the Land Question all helped to foster the rising
excitement. The country grew more and more disturbed. Several murders
and a number of agrarian outrages were committed, and the necessity of
strengthening the hands of the executive began to be felt by both the
chief political parties alike.

In 1880 the Liberal party returned to power after the General Election,
and 1881 witnessed the passage through Parliament of two important Irish
measures. The first of these was a Protection of Life and Property Bill
brought in in January by Mr. Forster, then Chief Secretary of Ireland.
As was to be expected, this was vehemently opposed by the Nationalist
members, who retarded it by every means in their power, one famous
sitting of the House on this occasion lasting for forty-two hours, from
five o'clock on the Monday afternoon to nine o'clock on the Wednesday
following, and then only being brought to an end by the authority of the
Speaker. By March, however, the Bill passed, and in the following month,
April 7th, a new Irish Land Act was brought forward by Mr. Gladstone,
and was passed after much opposition the following autumn.

The full scope and purport of this Act it is far beyond the limits of
these few remaining pages to enter upon. Although, to some extent an
outcome of the Act of 1870, it cannot in strictness be called a mere
development or completion of it, being in many respects based upon
entirely new principles. The most salient of these are what are known as
the "three Fs," namely--Fixity of Tenure, Fair Rent, to be decided by a
Land Court, and Free Sale. As regards the last two, it has been pointed
out with some force that the one practically does away with the other,
the only person benefited being the immediate occupier, at whose
departure that fierce competitive desire for the land which is the real
root of the whole difficulty being allowed freer play than ever. With
regard to the first, its effect may be briefly stated as that of
reducing the owner to the position of a rent charger or annuitant upon
what had before been his own estate, thereby depriving him--even where
want of means did not effectually do so--of all desire to expend capital
upon what had henceforth ceased to be his property, and over the
management of which he had almost wholly lost control. That this is a
change of a very large and sweeping character it is needless to say.
Henceforward ownership of land in Ireland is no longer ownership in the
ordinary sense of the word. It is an ownership of two persons instead of
one, and a divided ownership, even where two people work together
harmoniously, is as most of us are aware, a very difficult relationship
to maintain, and is apt to be followed sooner or later by the
effacements of the rights of one or the other. How these diverging
rights are finally to be adjusted is at this moment the problem of
problems in Ireland, and still imperatively awaits solution.

In October of the same year, 1881, Mr. Parnell, Mr. Davitt, and other
principal members of the Land League, were arrested by order of the
Government, and lodged in Kilmainhan gaol, an event announced the same
evening by Mr. Gladstone at the Guildhall banquet. The following May the
Liberal Government resolved however, rather suddenly, to reverse their
previous policy, and the Irish leaders were set at liberty. About the
same time Lord Cowper and Mr. Forster, the Lord-Lieutenant and Chief
Secretary, resigned, and were replaced by Lord Spencer and Lord
Frederick Cavendish, who arrived in Ireland avowedly upon a mission of

The day of their arrival--May 6, 1882--has been made only too memorable
to the whole world by the appalling tragedy which took place the same
evening in the Phoenix Park, where Lord Frederick and Mr. Burke, the
Under Secretary, while walking together in the clear dusk, were murdered
by a party of miscreants, who escaped before any suspicion of what had
occurred had been aroused, even in the minds of those who had actually
witnessed the struggle from a distance. For many months no clue to the
perpetrators of the deed was discoverable, and it seemed to be only too
likely to be added to the long list of crimes for which no retribution
has ever been exacted. Happily for Irish credit this was not the case,
and six months later, in the month of January, 1883, a series of
inquiries carried on in Dublin Castle led to the arrest of no less than
seventeen men, all of whom were lodged in prison and bail for them
refused. Amongst these was a man of somewhat higher social standing than
the rest, a tradesman, and member of the Dublin Council, the notorious
James Carey, who not long afterwards turned Queen's evidence, and it was
mainly through his evidence, supplemented by that of two others, that
the rest of the gang were convicted. At the trial it was proved that the
murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish had formed no part of the original
scheme, and had merely arisen accidentally out of the circumstance of
his having joined Mr. Burke, who, upon the resignation of Mr. Forster,
the Chief Secretary, had been selected by the Invincibles as their next
victim. Conviction was without difficulty obtained against all the
prisoners, and five were shortly afterwards hanged, the remainder
receiving sentence of penal servitude, either for life or long periods.

Carey's own end was a sufficiently dramatic one. He was kept in prison,
as the only way of ensuring his safety until means could be found to get
him out of the country, and was finally shipped some months later to the
Cape. On his way there he was shot dead by a man called O'Donnell, who
appears to have gone out with him for the purpose. His fate could
certainly awaken no pity in the most merciful breast. By his own
confession not only had he to a great degree planned the murder and
helped to draw the others into it, but had actually selected the very
weapon by which it was accomplished, so that of all the miscreants
engaged in the perpetration he was perhaps the deepest dyed and the
most guilty.

Since then, and indeed all along, the struggle in Ireland itself has
been almost wholly an agrarian one. The love of and desire for the land,
rather than for any particular political development, is what there
dominates the situation. A heavy fall of prices has led to a widespread
refusal to pay rent, save at a considerable abatement upon the already
reduced Government valuations. Where this has been refused a deadlock
has set in, rents in many cases have not been paid at all, and eviction
has in consequence been resorted to. Eviction, whether carried out in
West Ireland or East London, is a very ugly necessity, and one, too,
that is indelibly stamped with a taint of inhumanity. At the last
extremity, it is, however, the only one open to any owner, _qua_ owner,
let his political sympathies or proclivities be what they may, so that
it does not necessarily argue any double portion of original sin even on
the part of that well-laden pack-horse of politics--the Irish
landlord--to say that his wits have not so far been equal to the task of
dispensing with it.

Within the last two years only one question has risen to the surface of
politics which gravely affects the destinies of Ireland, but that one is
of so vast and all-important a character that it cannot be evaded. The
question I mean, of course, of Home Rule. Complicated as its issues are,
embittered as the controversy it has awakened, dark still as are its
destinies, its history as a piece of projected, and so far unsuccessful,
legislation has at least the merit of being short and easily stated. In
the month of December, 1885, just after the close of the general
election, it began to be rumoured as forming part of the coming
programme of the Liberal leader. On April 8, 1886, a Bill embodying it
was brought forward in the House of Commons by Mr. Gladstone; upon June
7th, it was rejected upon the second reading by a majority of thirty,
and at the general election which followed was condemned by a large
majority of the constituencies.

And afterwards? What follows? What is its future destined to be? Will it
vanish away, will it pass into new phases, or will some form of it
eventually receive the sanction of the nation? These are Sphinx
questions, which one may be excused from endeavouring to answer, seeing
that the strongest and most far-reaching heads are at this moment intent
upon them--not, so far as can be seen, with any strikingly successful
result. The Future is a deep mine, and we have not yet struck even a
spade into it.

In every controversy, no matter how fierce the waves, how thick the air
with contending assertions, there is almost always, however, some fact,
or some few facts, which seem to rise like rocks out of the turmoil, and
obstinately refuse to be washed or whittled away. The chief of these, in
this case, is the geographical position, or rather juxtaposition, of the
two islands. Set before a stranger to the whole Irish problem--if so
favoured an individual exists upon the habitable globe--a map of the
British islands, and ask him whether it seems to him inevitable that
they should remain for ever united, and we can scarcely doubt that his
reply would be in the affirmative. This being so, we have at least it
will be said one fact, one sea-rock high above the reach of waves or
spray. But Irishmen have been declared by a great and certainly not an
unfavourable critic--Mr. Matthew Arnold--to be "eternal rebels against
the despotism of fact." If this is so--and who upon the Irish side of
the channel can wholly and absolutely deny the assertion?--then our one
poor standing-point is plucked from under our feet, and we are all
abroad upon the waves again. Will Home Rule or would Home Rule, it has
been asked, recognize this fact as one of the immutable ones, or would
it sooner or later incline to think that with a little determination, a
little manipulation, the so-called fact would politely cease to be a
fact at all? It is difficult to say, and until an answer is definitely
received it does not perhaps argue any specially sloth-like clinging to
the known in preference to the unknown to admit that there is for
ordinary minds some slight craning at the fence, some not altogether
unnatural alarm as to the ground that is to be found on the other side
of it. "Well, how do you feel about Home Rule now that it seems to be
really coming?" some one inquired last spring, of an humble but
life-long Nationalist. "'Deed, sir, to tell the truth, I feel as if I'd
been calling for the moon all me life and was told it was coming down
this evening into me back garden!" was the answer. It is not until a
great change is actually on top of us, till the gulf yawns big and black
under our very eyes, that we fully realize what it means or what it may
come to mean. The old state of things, we then begin to say to
ourselves, was really very inconvenient, very trying to all our tempers
and patience, but at least we know the worst of it. Of the untravelled
future we know nothing. It fronts us, with hands folded, smiling
blankly. It may be a great deal better than we expect, but, on the other
hand, it may be worse, and in ways, too, which as yet we hardly foresee.
Whatever else Home Rule may, would, could, or should be, one thing
friends and foes alike may agree to admit, and that is that it will mark
an entirely new departure--a departure so new that no illustration drawn
from the last century, or from any other historical period, is of much
avail in enabling us to picture it to ourselves. It will be no
resumption, no mere continuation of anything that has gone before, but a
perfectly fresh beginning. A beginning, it may be asked, of what?



"Concluded not completed," is the verdict of Carlyle upon one of his
earlier studies, and "concluded not completed," conscience is certainly
apt to mutter at the close of so necessarily inadequate a summary as
this. Much of this inadequacy, it may fairly be confessed, is
individual, yet a certain amount is also inherent in the very nature of
the task itself. In no respect does this inadequacy press with a more
penitential weight than in the case of those heroes whose names spring
up at intervals along our pages, but which are hardly named before the
grim necessities of the case force us onwards, and the hero and his
doings are left behind.

Irish heroes, for one reason or another, have come off, it must be
owned, but poorly before the bar of history. Either their deeds having
been told by those in whose eyes they found a meagre kindness, or else
by others who, with the best intentions possible, have so inflated the
hero's bulk, so pared away his merely human frailties, that little
reality remains, and his bare name is as much as even a well-informed
reader pretends to be acquainted with. Comparing them with what are
certainly their nearest parallels--the heroes and semi-heroes of Scotch
history--the contrast strikes one in an instant, yet there is no reason
in the nature of things that this should be. Putting aside those whose
names have got somewhat obscured by the mists of the past, and putting
aside those nearer to us who stand upon what is still regarded as
debateable ground, there are no lack of Irish names which should be as
familiar to the ear as those of any Bruce or Douglas of them all. The
names of Tyrone, of James Fitzmaurice, of Owen Roe O'Neill, and of
Sarsfield, to take only a few and almost at random, are all those of
gallant men, struggling against dire odds, in causes which, whether they
happen to fit in with our particular sympathies or not, were to them
objects of the purest, most genuine enthusiasm. Yet which of these, with
the doubtful exception of the last, can be said to have yet received
anything like a fair meed of appreciation? To live again in the memory
of those who come after them may not be--let us sincerely hope that it
is not--essential to the happiness of those who are gone, but it is at
least a tribute which the living ought to be called upon to pay, and to
pay moreover ungrudgingly as they hope to have it paid to them in
their turn.

Glancing with this thought in our minds along that lengthened chronicle
here so hastily overrun, many names and many strangely-chequered
destinies rise up one by one before us; come as it were to judgment, to
where we, sitting in state as "Prince Posterity," survey the varied
field, and judge them as in our wisdom we think fit, assigning to this
one praise, to that one blame, to another a judicious admixture of
praise and blame combined. Not, however, it is to be hoped, forgetting
that our place in the same panorama waits for another audience, and that
the turn of this generation has still to come.


* * * * *

Adamnan, "Life of St. Columba" (_trans_.).

Arnold (Matthew), "On the Study of Celtic Literature."

Bagwell, "Ireland under the Tudors."

Barrington (Sir Jonah), "Personal Recollections," "Rise and Fall
of the Irish Nation."

Brewer, "Introduction to the Carew Calendar of State Papers."

Bright (Rt. Hon. J.), "Speeches."

Burke (Edmund), "Tracts on the Popery Laws," "Speeches and Letters."

Carlyle, "Letters and Speeches of Cromwell."

Carew, "Pacata Hibernia."

Cloncurry, "Life and Times of Lord Cloncurry."

Clogy, "Life and Times of Bishop Bedell."

Cornwallis Correspondence.

Croker (Rt. Hon. W.), "Irish, Past and Present."

Davis (Thomas), "Literary and Historical Essays."

Davies (Sir John), "A Discoverie of the True Causes why Ireland was
never Subdued."

Dennis, "Industrial Ireland."

Domenach (Abbe), "Larerte Erinn."

Dymock (John), "A Treatise on Ireland."

Duffy (Sir Charles Gavin), "Four Years of Irish History."

Essex, "Lives and Letters of the Devereux, Earls of."

Froude (J.A.), "History of England," "The English in Ireland."

Giraldus Cambrensis,
"Conquest of Ireland," Edited by J. Dimock,
Master of the Rolls Series, 1867;
"Topography of Ireland," Edited by J. Dimock,
Master of the Rolls Series, 1867.
Green, "History of the English People."
Grattan, "Life and Speeches of Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan."

Halliday, "Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin."
Hennessy (Sir Pope), "Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland."
Hardiman, "History of Galway."
Howth (Book of), from O'Flaherty's "Iar Connaught."

Joyce, "Celtic Romances."

Kildare (Marquis of), "The Earls of Kildare."

Lodge, "Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica."
Lecky, "History of England in the Eighteenth Century,"
and "Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland."
Leland, "History of Ireland."
Maine (Sir H.), "Early History of Institutions,"

"Village Communities, East and West."
Max Mueller's Lectures.
M'Gee (T. Darcy), "History of Ireland."
McGeoghegan, "History of Ireland."
Mitchell (John), "History of Ireland."
Montalembert, "Monks of the West."
Murphy (Rev. Denis), "Cromwell in Ireland."
Madden, "History of Irish Periodical Literature."
McCarthy (Justin), "History of Our Own Times."

O'Connor (T.P.), "The Parnell Movement."
O'Flaherty, "Iar Connaught."

Petty (Sir W.), "Political Anatomy of Ireland."
Petrie (Dr.), "Round Towers of Ireland."

Prendergast, "Tory War in Ulster,"
"The Cromwellian Settlements."

Richey (A.G.), "Lectures on the History of Ireland."

Smith (Goldwin), "Irish History and Irish Character."
Spenser (Edmund), "View of the State of Ireland."
Stokes (Miss), "Early Christian Architecture of Ireland."

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