Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

militia and the Downshire, which last regiment had a great share in the honour of the day.

After a resistance of about twenty minutes, the rebels began. to fly in all directions, and were pursued by the Roxburgh cavalry into the town in full cry. This was not agreeable to military practice, according to which it is usual to commit the assault of a town to the infantry; but here the general wisely. reversed the mode, in order to prevent the rebels, by a rapid pursuit, from taking shelter in the houses of the townsfolk, a circumstance which was likely to provoke indiscriminate slaughter and pillage. The measure was attended with the desired success. A considerable number was cut down in the streets, and of the remainder, but a few were able to escape into the houses, being either pushed through the town till they fell in with the Kerry from Crosmalina, or obliged to take the shore, where it winds round a promontory, forming one of the horns of the bay of Killala. And here too the fugitives were swept away by scores, a cannon being placed on the opposite side of the bay, which did great execu

tion.

Some of the defeated rebels, however, did force their way into houses, and by consequence brought mischief upon the innocent inhabitants, without benefit to themselves."

The town of Killala, thus recovered by his majesty's forces, had been thirty-two days in the possession of the French and rebels. Of the transactions, which occurred there during that period, the bishop's candid narrative is a most valuable and authentic historical document, extremely honourable to the writer, since it evinces a genuine goodness of heart, and a mind so eultivated, so candid, so elevated above vulgar prejudices, and the servile fear of party, as to discern and publicly acknowledge the virtues of an enemy.

The unbiassed writer thus describes the little army of inva ders....Intelligence, activity, temperance, patience, to a surprising degree, appeared to be combined in the soldiery that came over with Humbert, together with the exactest obedience to discipline: yet, if you except the grenadiers they had nothing to catch the eye. Their stature, for the most part, was low, their complexion pale and sallow, their clothes much the worse for the wear to a superficial observer, they would have appeared incapable of enduring almost any hardship. These were the men, however, of whom it was presently observed that they could be well content to live on bread or potatoes, to drink water, to make the stones of the street their bed, and to sleep in their clothes, with no cover but the canopy of heaven. One half of their number had served in Italy under Buonaparte ;

the rest were of the army of the Rhine, where they had suffered distresses, that well accounted for their persons and wan looks.

The rebels, who had joined the French, were with great difficulty restrained by the French from plundering and abusing the loyalists.* "Indeed," says the right reverend narrator, "the contrast with regard to religious sentiments, between the "French and their Irish allies, was extremely curious. The "atheist despised and affronted the bigot; but the wonder was, "how the zealous papist should come to any terms of agree"ment with a set of men, who boasted openly in our hearing, "that they had just driven Mr. Pope out of Italy, and did not 66 expect to find him again so suddenly in Ireland. It aston"ished the French officers to hear the recruits, when they of "fered their services, declare, that they were come to take "arms for France and the Blessed Virgin." The conduct of the several priests, who engaged in the same treasonable enterprise, was yet more surprising than that of their people. No set of men could be treated with more apparent marks of dislike, and even contempt, than these were by the French, though against the plainest suggestions of policy, which recommended attention to them, both as having an influence over their flocks, and as useful interpreters, most of them (from their foreign education) being able to speak a little French. Yet the commandant would not trust to their interpretation: if he wanted to know the truth, he waited till he could see the bishop.

It was at one time strongly agitated, whether arms should not be put into the hands of all the Protestant inhabitants of Killala, in order to enable them to defend themselves against depreda tion and insult: and several had actually obtained them." However," after an hour's struggle several of the Protestants, intimidated by the menaces of the others, returned the arms they had received, and said they would trust themselves to the protection of the patrole, which put an end for that time to the disturbance,

"It was renewed, however, the two following days with unabating violence, till at length the Protestants, harassed by domiciliary visits of armed rebels in search of concealed weapons, agreed in a petition to the commandant, that he would call in by proclamation what he had given out, and forbid in future any person's appearing in arms, except recruits for the French service. The terror of being thus stripped of the means of defence was exaggerated by the alarming accounts of depredations on every side of Killala, to the distance of several miles. Not a night passed but some house was rifled; scarce

* Narr. p. 96. † Narr, p. 52,

an hour in the day elapsed, in which the bishop was not importuned to lay some lamentation before the commandant, or to send out some guard for protection.

"But if it were doubtful, whether arms might safely be committed to every inhabitant of Killala, it admitted no dispute at all, that the town could not exist without some form of civil government. Depredators crouded in hourly from the country, to the equal annoyance and terror of every body that had property, whether Catholic or Protestant. The French, it was said, had divided the town and neighbourhood of Castlebar into districts, appointing over each a municipal officer with a guard at his command, properly armed for the public defence; and the scheme there had the desired success. A proclamation was therefore issued for establishing a similar form through the canton, over which Charost presided. The country was thrown into departments; a magistrate, to be elected by his neighbours, was to take charge of each, with the help of a guard of sixteen or twenty men; arms and ammunition were to be distributed to these, under an express stipulation, that neither officers nor men should be marched out of their respective departments, nor employed against their sovereign, nor in any service except that of keeping the peace. The town of Killala was committed to the protection of one hundred and fifty men, in three bodies, all to be observant of the orders of Mr. James Devitt, the civil magistrate, unanimously chosen by the people, because he was a substantial tradesman, a Roman Catholic, and a man of sense and moderation. He had under him two assistants, of his own religion. The benefits of this regulation were felt immediately in the establishment of tolerable order and quiet, at least in and about the town; and without doubt they would have been felt to a greater extent, if the French power had been firmer.

"The example of Killala was presently copied in the other departments. Magistrates were elected, always Roman Catholics, but commonly of the better sort among them; persons who had no desire to take arms against the British government. Some of these applied to the bishop for his opinion, whether they should incur the penalties of treason by acting under a foreign power, merely for the common safety, and under the conditions stated above. His answer was, that he was no lawyer; but always having found the law of England to be consonant to reason, he would take upon him to say, there could be no law forbidding to do under these circumstances what was absolutely enjoined by the great law of self-preservation. It is reported, that when the rebellion was over, several persons muttered against this doctrine: it might be conceded, they said, to the existing terror, but it was not sound, because it might be employed as an excuse for a tame and prompt submission to any

invaders. To such tranquil declaimers on the merit of casting away life and property, in preference to bowing the head to a storm, it is obvious to reply, that had they changed situations with those, who actually felt the distress, it is more than probable they would have seen good reason to adopt the very conduct, which in the fulness of security they took upon them to condemn. To submit to a king de facto, and even to act by a commission from such a one, to preserve the peace of the community, provided by so doing you do not preclude yourself from returning under the government of a king de jure, is a practice sanctioned by the authority of our most equitable law."

The court-martial began the day after the battle, and sat in the house of Mr. Morrison. Their proceedings at first appeared extremely slow, considering the multitudes they had to try, not less than seventy-five prisoners at Killala, and a hundred and ten at Ballina, besides those, who might be brought in daily. The two first persons tried at this tribunal were General Bellew and Mr. Richard Bourke. The trial of these two criminals was short. They were found guilty on Monday evening, and hanged the next morning in the park behind the castle. Contemptible for drunkenness and vulgar manners, they fell without exciting a sentiment of compassion.

Roger Macguire was found guilty but remanded to prison, and after a long confinement, he was transmitted to Castlebar, where at last he received sentence to be transported to Botany Bav. His father, the brewer, was hanged; some others were executed.

Thus ended the rebellion, or, more properly speaking, the various insurgencies in Ireland in the year 1798. Little reliance is to be placed on the official accounts of the killed, wounded, and missing, in the several engagements and rencounters. According to the most probable accounts to be had from the War-Office, the number of the army lost in this rebellion amounts in the whole to 19,700 men; and according to the general government accounts of the total loss of the rebels, it exceeded 50,000.

CHAPTER VII.

OF THE UNION OF GREAT BRITAIN WITH IRELAND.

OUR remaining task is to trace the consequences and effects of this unfortunate rebellion, and mark the progress to that great political event, the incorporate Union of the two kingdoms, which so closely followed it. Whatever differences

of opinion upon this subject may have existed in either kingdom, previous to the completion of that work, there can now but be one disposition and one sentiment of every loyal subject upon it: an ardent desire, coupled with efficient exertion, to render it preventative of future evils, and accumulative of future blessings, improvements, and permanent prosperity to Ire land and the whole British empire, now politically consolidated for those desirable ends.

Fierce as was the contest during this unfortunate warfare, and widely as the mild and firm control of the law was deviated from, yet did the whole transaction form a singular exception to the adage, inter arma silent leges. The parliament continued to sit and legislate during the whole time of the rebellion. In the months of August and September the examination of the chiefs of the rebels went forward before the secret committees of both houses, and their reports, which have been so often referred to, were then published. It appears, that government were anxious, that the reports of these committees should gain universal credit with the nation; and the more so, as an advertisement had appeared in some of the more popular prints cautioning the public against giving them credit. On the 6th,

Mr. Arthur O'Connor in his letter to Lord Castlereagh gives the following account of this misunderstanding about the publication of their evidence given before the secret committees. (P. 11.) "Pursuant to this agreement, at the instance of government, Emmett, M'Nevin, and I drew up a memoir "containing thirty six pages, giving an account of the origin, principles, con"duct, and views of the union, which we signed and delivered to you on the "4th of August last. On the 6th, Mr. Cook came to our prison, and after "acknowledging, that the memoir was a perfect performance of our agree"ment, he told us that Lord Cornwallis had read it, but, as it was a vindica"tion of the union, and a condemnation of the ministers, the government, and "legislature of Ireland, he could not receive it, and therefore he wished we "would alter it; we declared we would not change one letter, it was all true, "and it was the truth we stood pledged to deliver. He then asked us if go"vernment should publish such parts only as might suit them, whether we "would refrain from publishing the memoir entire; we answered, that having "stipulated for the liberty of publication, we would use that right when, and

« AnteriorContinua »