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case they, the Catholics, persisted in the demand of their just rights. All this being so, is it wonderful that moneyed men, being naturally timid and anxious, and seeing three millions of peremptory Catholics on one side drawn up, and, on the other, so many corporations and grand juries, every man with his life and fortune in his hand, and ready to squander both with the most profligate valor, headed too, by such great and respectable characters, to whose robes and long wigs they had been accustomed to look with reverence—is it wonderful, I say, if they began to be somewhat uneasy and unwilling to part with their money so fluently as formerly? As to the fall of public credit, therefore, I again agree with the writer of this suppositious speech, but I attribute that fall to the intemperate language and foolish bluster of the grand juries and their prompters, enemies to Catholic liberty, and, by no means, to the National Guards and the society of United Irishmen. And as to the evidence, on oath, which the aforesaid writer alleges was laid before the Privy Council, I do not, in the least, regard it; because, in the first place, I have no great respect for men swearing to what is merely matter of opinion; and, in the next place, because I, or any man in the community, is as good a judge, in a case of this kind, as the persons so sworn, or the persons who procured them to swear.
But further, the National Guards, as they were called, did not appear until Christmas, (I mean the two or three individuals who did appear at all.) The stoppage of public credit is stated by the author of this speech to have taken place in November. Now, though I think moneyed men may be very wise men, I do not take them to be absolute conjurers, and, consequently, I say it is much more reasonable to attribute the suspension of confidence to the furious and desperate valor held forth in the manifestoes of the grand juries, (one of which, at least, I could, from internal evidence, trace to its author,) and to the alarm which such foolish and violent measures created, than to the appearance of a corps not then in existence, and which was not even thought of till two months afterwards.
But, in God's name, what was the cause of the downfall of public credit in England, where the ruin and destruction has been ten times as extensive as here? I lope the National Guards did not send over a detachment to seize the Bank of England,
nor have I yet heard that a committee of United Irishmen was despatched to fraternize with the citizens of London, to send the Royal family to the Tower, and create a republic upon the model of France. Yet I declare I have seen such monstrous and incredible lies swallowed without inquiry, that I should not be surprized if such reports were firmly believed. The cant of the day is here “ the United Irishmen; in England, the Insurrection.” And I remember I saw in London, last January, with a mixed sensation of sorrow and contempt, the strange infatuation of the people there ; that great city in an agony of fear and terror of they knew not what, until at last they were relieved from their anxiety by the provident care of the Minister, who sunk half a dozen rum puncheons to the bunghole opposite the Tower stairs, and ran a screen of slit deal along the parapet, behind which they were told the King and Constitution were quite safe from the attacks of the French, the Devil, and Tom Paine, and they believed it, and were satisfied.
With us it was not much better. Half a dozen men appeared last Christmas in green jackets. Immediately the alarm was given. The Gauls were in the capital. All parties ran to oppose the common enemy. Government and Opposition flew into each other's arms; they swore an everlasting friendship, and the United Irishmen were immolated as the symbol of their union. The House of Commons presented a most delightful and edifying scene of harmony and affection. Business went on upon carpet ground, for when those gentlemen do agree, as Puff says, their unanimity is wonderful. The gunpowder bill was passed; the volunteers were disarmed; the people of Belfast were dragooned. What matters all this? It was all to punish the United Irishmen, a race of men who have been much more serviceable to their enemies than to their friends. Now we have a convention bill, still to vex the United Irishmen. Unluckily, however, these acts operate upon the nation at large, full as much as upon this obnoxious society; and, if the liberty of Ireland were crushed and lying at the mercy of an arbitrary Minister to-morrow, the United Irishmen would not be one jot more enslaved than any other men in the community.
See now what comes of all this. In England, the cry of Republicans and Levellers is set on foot by the Ministers, backed with a most alarming insurrection. Where is it? Where is it?
Do you ask, says one Minister, do you ask us to reveal the situation of the country to the enemy? If we were to mention where, it might have the most ruinous consequences. It is a secret. What, says another Minister, do you ask us to tell what all the world knows? Can any man shut his eyes upon it? It is, alas! but too notorious. There was no standing such authentic and consistent information. All England poured in with their lives and fortunes, and what have they got? A war, the first year of which, indeed the first six months, has produced seven hundred bankruptcies, and the probable end of which no man can foresee.
In Ireland, the cry is, « The United Irishmen," and the nation seems very wisely determined to surrender its liberties to spite that turbulent society. I confess, however, I, for one, cannot see the wisdom of such a procedure. If I were not a United Irishman, I think I would argue with myself, that though they were fools and madmen, that was no manner of reason why I should be a slave, and I would not give the least countenance to an arbitrary law restraining my own liberty, because it happened to affect theirs also. However, of that the nation is itself the best judge; and it has always been a principlt of mine, that if a people choose a bad Government they ought to have it, for I acknowledge no foundation of empire, but their choice.
I cannot help delighting myself sometimes with the brilliant prospects which lie before my country at this hour. I anticipate the halcyon days of rational liberty, when no United Irishmen shall dare to show his face but through the bars of Newgate; when the peaceful slumbers of our statesmen shall no more be broken in upon by the rattling of volunteer drums; when the people shall not meet in tumultuous assemblies, or at all, under color of petitioning; when the same delightful unanimity which has produced such gloriouseffects in this session, shall forever pervade our Senate; when no man shall learn the use of arms but the troops, appointed conservators of the liberty of Ireland; when the friends to the constitution, liberty, and peace, aving discharged their functions and brought back the public mind, are retired to their own place, and enjoy in silent satisfaction the consummation of their wise and patriotic labors; when no clamorous demagogue disturbs the land with obsolete
notions of what he calls liberty; when the newspapers are silent, all, save that over which you, Mr. Editor, so worthily preside; when protected by a force of 36,000 men, every placeman and pensioner sits under his own vine and his own fig tree, and takes his Burgundy in peace. Happy days! These will, indeed, be golden times for those who will enjoy them.
But, to be serious. I am very much afraid that that great statesman was right, who said, “ we were a people easily roused and easily appeased.” We are, indeed, appeased now with a vengeance. Whether we shall ever be roused again, God knows, but, in the mean time, we are tied pretty fast with parchment bonds. I will not, however, be guilty of the abominable sin of despairing of my country. I will hope that the genius of the land will yet rouse, like the strong man, and snap asunder the fetters with which the Philistines have bound him in his sleep. For, let it be remembered, that though Sampson had his eyes put out in his day, and was also brought out of his prison into the House of Lords to make them sport, yet they had no great reason to triumph in the event; for he prayed to the Lord and bowed himself with all his might, and their house fell upon the Lords and slew them, with all that were therein, to the great loss and dismay of the aristocracy of those times.
I have now done, Mr. Editor. There is a great variety of matter in other parts of this composition which I might observe upon, had I not determined to make my reply purely defensive. I know not what may be the issue of even what I have said, but, whatever it be, I must, perforce, endure it, and certainly if any man in power has a wish to wreak his vengeance in security, now is his time, when the public spirit is in a state of the most abject and contemptible prostration, and when it is a crime of sufficient magnitude to warrant any degree of punishment that the person accused is connected with the committee of the Catholics, or a friend to the citizens of Belfast, or, above all, a member of the Society of United Irishmen, three circumstances which I have the fortune to unite in my individual person.
THEOBALD WOLFE TONE.
I. Statement of the light in which the late act for the partial repeal
of the penal laws, is considered by the Catholics of Ireland.
In the statement I am about to make, I would be understood to give merely my opinion from appearances, as they strike me; I am not acquainted with any intentions of the Catholics, from authority ; I speak only from conjecture as to their future conduct; as to their present feelings, I collect it from such communication as I occasionally hold with members of their body.
The Catholics consider the late advantages which they obtained, as so much extorted from the necessities of Government, under a lucky combination of circumstances : of course all
gratitude is out of the question. Knowing, however, their own internal weakness, they are extremely anxious and irritable on the least appearance of attack; and certainly the line of conduct which has been uniformly followed, during and since the passing of their bill, does in nowise tend to lessen their jealousies and their fears.
The excluding them from the freedom of this city, is, in my humble judgment, n very unwise measure. The accession of strength to them, if they succeeded, would be nothing; but their pride is wounded, and, still more, their apprehensions are perpetuated, by the maintaining, in trifling objects, the principle of exclusion. They conclude that the animosity against them is as violent as ever, and only waits for a convenient opportunity to break out in perhaps a renewal of some of the old Popery laws. This circumstance, therefore, is one cause of the discontent which I know exists in their body.
But the late prosecutions have given them, as they consider, much more serious cause for alarm. They certainly, and, as I believe universally, consider them as a part of a system, the ultimate object of which is to reduce them to their former condition, perhaps to a worse one. They look on them as fabrications of their enemies, who do not themselves believe a syllable of the evidence adduced to support them; and the terror produced by these prosecutions appears to me to be general.