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Notwithstanding the disastrous state of the country, the parliament ceased not to sit from time to time as the exigencies of circumstances required. On the 17th of July, Lord Castlereagh presented to the House of Commons the following message from his excellency.
"I HAVE the king's commands to acquaint the House of "Commons, that his majesty notwithstanding his just abhorrence "of the unnatural and unprovoked rebellion, which has broken "out in this kingdom, yet being ever disposed to exert as far as possible his royal prerogative of mercy, and to receive again "under his royal protection, those who by the arts of wicked "and designing men have been seduced from their allegiance, "has signified his gracious intention of granting his general and "free pardon for all offences committed on or before a certain "day, upon such conditions, and with such exceptions as may "be compatible with the public safety; for carrying which "benevolent purpose into execution, his majesty has signified "his gracious intention of sanctioning, in the usual form, by his "royal signature, a bill for that purpose, previous to its being "submitted for the concurrence of parliament.
"His majesty has also directed me to lay before you several "important papers, which may assist you in unfolding the "nature and extent of the conspiracy, which has long prevailed "in this kingdom; not doubting, that whilst your endeavours "are directed to give effect to the gracious intentions of his "majesty, you will feel it your indispensable duty to consider "of and adopt such measures of salutary precaution, as may "tend to secure the state hereafter, against the machinations of "the disaffected.
"In your deliberations, the sufferings of his majesty's loyal "subjects will naturally receive your attention, and recommend "to you the framing of effectual measures for ascertaining their "losses, and bringing their claims under the consideration of "parliament.
"The numerous and continued advantages of his majesty's "forces over the rebels, afford me just ground to believe, that "as their hopes of success must have failed, so the obstinacy of "their resistance will speedily cease. The generals under my "command have received, and shall continue to receive, the "most positive orders to proceed against them with unceasing "activity and vigour; and I shall not suffer their exertions to "relax, so long as any body of them whatever shall remain in "arms against his majesty's peace.'
This message was ordered to be entered on the journals, and to be referred to a secret committee, which was to consist of thir
teen members, inclusive of the speaker and the law officers of the crown in that house, to be chosen on the morrow by ballot in the usual form; and that the papers mentioned in the message, and which his lordship presented to the house sealed up in a box, be referred to the committee.
On the next day (18th of July) after the ballot for the committee, Lord Castlereagh, according to the order of the day for taking into consideration his excellency's message, moved, that an address be presented to the lord lieutenant, requesting his excellency would lay before his majesty the sincere acknowledgments of his faithful commons for the gracious communication made to that house; the motion was seconded by the chancellor of the exchequer, and passed unanimously without debate, though Lord Castlereagh ushered it in with a very long speech upon the general topic of the rebellion; extolling the liberality of his majesty in granting an amnesty and recommending a provision for the indemnification of the suffering loyalists. The attorney general on the 27th of the month brought forward a bill for the attainder of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Cornelius Grogan, and Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, deceased: for which purpose several witnesses were examined at the bar. Similar proceedings were also had in the House of Lords. This measure was considered by some persons rather as an act of imprudent severity, 'or sort of supplementary vengeance upon the unoffending widow and orphan, rather as the base posthumous issue of the late, than the genuine offspring of the present administration. To compensate, however, for this solitary instance of severity, a bill of general amnesty was passed in the course of the session, with the exception only of Mr. Napper Tandy, and about thirty others, chiefly fugitives in France. A bill was also passed for granting compensation to such of his majesty's loyal subjects as had sustained losses in their property, in consequence of the late rebellion, and commissioners were named for carrying the same into effect.
The system of moderation and mercy pursued by Lord Cornwallis appeared peculiarly seasonable at this crisis, and was apparently attended with the happiest effects. The system of military law and military execution was relaxed throughout most parts of the kingdom where the flames of rebellion appeared to be extinguished. In one intsance, indeed, his lordship gave some offence to the more violent partisans of the ancient regime.
In the county of Wexford the introduction of the system of conciliation and mildness met with more resistance than in any part of the kingdom, and in none was it so supereminently requisite. General Hunter was indefatigable in his exertions to
appease the minds of the people, and to restore confidence and tranquillity to that distracted country. In this he was very materially assisted by the address and exertions of Captain Fitzgerald, who by the special appointment of the British government, was attached as a proper person to attend the general as brigade major on the service in Ireland; and to this station, besides his acknowledged military talents, a recent display of courage, independent of his knowledge of the country, certainly recommended him. He was even invested with the extraordinary privilege of recommending such as he thought deserving of the protection and mercy of government.
Some principal gentlemen of the county, and others besides, attempted to interpose their authority to supersede the tenor of the general pardon held out by proclamation, pursuing the same line of arbitrary conduct, which they had practised previous to the insurrection. They even proceeded to the length of presuming to tear some of the protections, which the country people had obtained; but this coming to the general's knowledge, he soon quieted them by threatening to have them tied to a cart's tail and whipped. Others had been rash enough to levy arbitrary contributions for the losses they had sustained during the insurrection, but were glad upon discovery, and refunding what they had received, to escape punishment. A curate was induced to wait on the general with an account of the intended massacre of the Protestants, which he detailed with the appearance of the utmost alarm, and was patiently heard out by the general: who then addressed him with this marked appellation and strong language:-" Mr. Massacre, if you do not prove to me "the circumstances you have related, I shall get you punished "in the most exemplary manner, for raising false alarms, which "have already proved so destructive to this unfortunate country." The curate's alarm instantly changed its direction and became personal; and on allowing that his fears had been excited by vague report to make this representation, his piteous supplication, and apparent contrition, procured him forgive
The various outrages that were committed in the country, prevented numbers from coming into the quarters of the several commanding officers to obtain protections, as many of the yeomen and their supplementaries continued the system of conflagration and shooting such of the peasantry as they met and this necessarily deterred many from exposing themselves to their view, and prevented of course, the humane and benevolent intentions of the present government from having their due effect. The melancholy consequence of such a system of terror, persecution, and alarm, had very nearly brought on the extermination of an extensive and populous tract of the county of
Wexford, called the Macomores; the horrid perpetration of the plan was providentially prevented by the timely and happy intervention of Brigade Major Fitzgerald, under the direction and orders of General Hunter. Incessant applications and remonstrances had been made, by different magistrates in Gorey and its vicinity, to government, complaining that this range of country was infested with constant meetings of rebels, who com.mitted every species of outrage, and these reports were confirmed by affidavits; they were credited by government, to whom they were handed in, under the specious, imposing, and solemn appearances of facts, by a magistracy presumed to be deliberate, grave, and respectable; the viceroy was rendered justly indignant at these reiterated complaints of the abuse of his clemency; and orders were sent to the different generals and other commanding officers, contiguous to the devoted tract, to form a line along its extent on the western border, and at both ends, north and south, on the land side, so as to leave no resource to the wretched inhabitants, who were to be slaughtered by the soldiery, or to be driven into the sea, as it is bounded by the Channel on the eastward. Even women and children were to be included in this horrid plan of terrific example. The execution of this severe and exemplary measure was entrusted, to the discretion of General Hunter, who, through the honest exertions and bold scrutiny of Major Fitzgerald, fortunately discovered, in time, the inhuman tendency of the misrepresentation, that had produced those terrific orders. The devoted victims found an opportunity to implore protection from the incursions of the black mob (they thus denominated the supplementaries to the different corps of yeomanry), who wreaked their vengeance even upon those who had received protection from General Needham at Gorey; as different parties of the soldiery and yeomanry waited their return in ambush, and slaughtered every one they could overtake.
This prevented many from coming in for protections. Afterwards these sanguinary banditti made incursions into the coun try, fired into the houses, thus killing and wounding many unof fending peasants. Several houses after being plundered, were burned, and the booty was brought into Gorey. By the frequency of these horrible excesses and depredations, such houses as remained unburned were of course crowded with several families; and this multiplied the number of victims at each suc ceeding incursion. At last most of the inhabitants from necessity took refuge on the hills, and armed themselves with every offensive weapon they could procure. This harassed peasantry received ptotection from the General against the military depredators and murderers, and no subjects could be more loyal and subordinate.
The false alarmists were not depressed or intimidated at these discomfitures: for although Generl Hunter reported the country to be in a perfect state of tranquillity, they again returned to the charge, and renewed their misrepresentations. Mr. Hawtrey White, captain of the Ballaghkeen cavalry, and a justice of the peace for the county, sent several informations to government of the alarming state of the country; and the commanding officer at Gorey was so far persuaded of the intention of a general rising, that he quitted the town, and encamped on the hill above it. These representations, made under the semblance of loyalty, and by a person bearing the appearance and authority of a gentleman, had not, however, the wished-for weight with the government. General Hunter was ordered to enquire into the information of Mr. Hawtrey White, and Major Fitzgerald was again sent out, and the result of his discriminating enquiry was, that the information was unfounded. Upon this the General ordered Mr. Hawtrey White to be brought to Wexford, and he was accordingly conducted thither, and put under arrest: and on his still persisting in his false representations, he was conducted to the island, where he asserted the rebels were encamped, and, lo! no island appeared above the water. Mr. Hawtrey White was conducted back to Wexford, and General Hunter determined to bring him to a court-martial. Many gentlemen and ladies, however, interfered in the most earnest manner, to prevent this investigation, representing that Mr. White's great age might have subjected him to the imposition of fabricated information; and the firmness of the general relaxed at the instance of so many respectable persons!! It is to be regretted that Ireland should have suffered so much by the tales of adventurers in these infernal practices.
A court-martial, of which Lord Ancram was president, was instituted at Wexford for the trial of persons accused of treason; and, contrary to the expectation and wishes of the committee for procuring evidence, many were acquitted. Lord Ancram, however, soon left the town, to the regret of the people; but his lieutenant-colonel, Sir James Fowlis, succeeded him as president of the court-martial, in which situation he acquitted himself with honour and integrity, which inspired so much confidence throughout the country, as to induce many who were conscious of their integrity, to submit to trial, which they would not otherwise have dared to do, from a well-founded opinion of the rancour of their accusers, who in too many instances elsewhere prevailed by the grossest perjuries against truth and justice. One notorious instance will, it is hoped, supersede the pain