Did I know any other person willing and able to give a more circumstantial account of what has fatally happened in the county of Wexford (which is the only part of Ireland I at present undertake to treat of) I would cheerfully resign my documents into his hands; but as I have been most peculiarly circumstanced, as an eye-witness of many remarkable transactons, the information cannot be so well handed over - and might not be produced with such good effect at second-hand. I conceive it therefore necessary to give some account of myself, as most of my readers could not possibly otherwise he sensible of the many opportunities I had of being perfectly informed of the state of the country, which certainly did not fall to the lot of many other persons.
My family have been established in Ireland since the reign of Henry the second, as my ancestor came over with Strongbow, and was allotted a knights share of [ii] lands in the southern part of the county of Wexford, which his descendants possessed until the revolution in Ireland about the middle of the seventeenth century, when there was but one estate in the whole county lest unalienated by Cromwell. My ancestor had nor the good fortune to be the person undisturbed; but he acquired a property in another part of the county, where his descendants have ever since resided. Born of catholic parents, and being reared in the principles of that religion, occasioned my banishment at an early age, for some years from my native country, as my parents wished to procure me a collegiate education in a foreign land, to which the rank and respectability of my family entitled me, but which the laws of my country denied me at home. After having pursued a course of study for several years in France and Germany, I returned to my native foil, sully sensible of my civil degradation as a catholic, and I therefore sought all the legal and constitutional means in my power in the pursuit of catholic emancipation. The liberality of the times contributed much to the relaxation of the penal laws, passed from time to time against the catholics of Ireland; and they were at length induced to lay their grievances at the foot of the throne, as the most effectual source of redress. They were in part relieved, but many oppressive causes of complaint still remained, and many modes of procuring their abolition were resorted to. A various train of circumstances occurred to produce the circular letter of the sub-committee of the catholics of Ireland in 1792, and pursuant to its tenor, delegates for all the counties and principal towns were chosen to represent them in the general committee. I had the honour of being elected a, delegate for the county of Wexford, and I exerted myself in that situation with all the energy and ability in [iii] my power. The declaration adopted by the catholic committee in March 1792, was subscribed by a multitude of signatures, and those of the county of Wexford I was instrumental in procuring. I attended my duty in the general committee of the catholics of Ireland, where a petition to his majesty was framed and signed, in November 1792; and a vindication of the cause of the catholics of Ireland, containing an exposition of their objects and motives, was adopted; and afterward published and authenticated. In consequence of royal interposition, by the kings gracious recommendation, the parliament of Ireland, (which almost unanimously rejected a petition of the catholics in 1792) was induced considerably to extend their privileges in 1793. I attended a subsequent meeting of the general committee, at which an address of gratitude, for his gracious interposition, was voted to his majesty, and a similar one to the lord lieutenant, expressive of the earnest loyalty of the catholics, and requesting the former to be transmitted, was drawn up, approved of, and presented by deputation to lord Westmoreland.
Along with the repeal of the most odious of the penal laws, a new oath to be taken by the catholics to avow their loyalty, was framed by parliament. All the delegates and a great number of other catholic gentlemen, anxious to avail themselves of the earliest opportunity of displaying their gratitude for the newly-acquired privileges, and eager to satisfy the public mind as well as to set an example to the whole nation, attended in the court of kings-bench, on Saturday the 19th of April, 1793, where they took the oath and subscribed the special declaration prescribed to them; and this, was by the appointment of lord chies justice Clonmel, on whom a deputation from the general committee had previously waited for that purpose. [iv]
The magic of royalty, in earnestly recommending i>the union of all descriptions of subjects , having lately proved so effectual in altering the conduct of parliament to the catholics, the erection of a statue of the king was voted as a monument of catholic gratitude; hut this along with other honourable engagements adopted by the general committee, was superseded by illiberal and calumnious outcries raised against the conduct and intentions of the catholic body, so as to preclude the possibility of carrying into effect the plan of subscription formed for these purposes. I was however determined to proceed in the county of Wexford, but was at length obliged to give up the object, in consequence of the baleful operation of party prejudice; and thus did the enemies of the catholics, under the mask of loyalty, defeat the execution of a project that would exhibit the conduct of the catholics in a point of view too meritorious for their wishes.
Very serious disturbances took place in a part of the county of Wexford, in the month of June 1793; but they were soon suppressed by the exertions of the country gentlemen, who formed an association for preservation of the peace. I constantly attended their meetings, and I believe it will be allowed, that my conduct and endeavours proved as effectual as that of any other to restore public tranquillity [See Mr. Richards certificate in appendix, No. 3].
In January 1795, while Lord Fitz-William was viceroy, I procured a great number of signatures, to a petition to parliament, from the catholics of the county of Wexford, and in the same month I was one of those that presented an address from them to his excellency. When his lordships recall was announced from the government of Ireland, a meeting of the freeholders [v] and other inhabitants of the county of Wexford Was convened on the 23d of March of the same year, when a petition to his majesty was unanimously agreed to, and I was appointed one of the delegates to present it to the king. I had been as far as Dublin to take ship for England, when it was thought advisable to have the petition subscribed by as many persons as possible, and while my brother delegates proceeded to London, I returned to the county of Wexford, and confidering that I was the chosen delegate of protestants as well as of catholics, I took the precaution of consulting the principal protestant gentlemen of the county first, to prevent the possibility of misrepresentation, or of denominating my pursuit the business of party; and I was so successful as to procure in the space of one week, twenty-two thousand two hundred and fifty-one signatures to the petition, with which I then proceeded to London, and had the honour to present it, along with my brother delegates, to his majesty, at a public levee at St. Jamess, on the 22d of April 1795; and we met a most gracious reception. [See appendix, No. 6.]
I think it necessary to mention that I was invited in the most earnest and flattering manner, to become a member of political societies, both in England and Ireland; but these invitations I declined, in consequence of a resolution which I had formed of never becoming a member of any political society whatsoever; and to this I have ever since most scrupulously adhered. I proposed a plan for the enumeration of the inhabitants of Ireland, to lord Fitz-William, which met with his strongest approbation, and but for his recall he would have patronized the undertaking, and done every thing in his power to facilitate its execution. I had this plan long in agitation, and was induced to [vi] enter on the business particularly from a consideration that by the current statements the population of Ireland was vastly under-rated. Some years ago the established clergy had made returns of the population of their several parishes, by order of government, and I had the curiosity to enquire into the returns made of the population of the parishes in my own neighbourhood, and these I found really correct, according to the general mode of calculation, but as my curiosity led me to number every individual, I sound them very defective as to the actual state of the population, both in the total and comparative numbers.
While in England on my delegation, this plan for estimating the population of Ireland was seen at lord Fitz-Williams, by the right hon. Edmund Burke, who was thereby induced to do me the honour of soliciting my acquaintance; and after a minute investigation of its nature and extent, he earnestly encouraged me to proceed, as he considered it would be productive of the greatest possible benefit to Ireland. Backed by the authority and flattering opinion of so much genius, and sanctioned also by the countenance of lord Fitz-William and a great number of other enlightened men in England, I was induced on my return to Ireland to use every exertion to put it forward, and met such encouragement from dignity and distinction, that I submitted my plan to the inspection of the royal Irish academy, who were much pleased with it as an essential branch of a statistical enquiry which they had then in contemplation to promote. This produced the pleasing consequence to me of being proposed to the academy by the present president, and I had the honour of being unanimously admitted a member of that learned and respectable body. Certainly had not the misfortune of the times [vii] prevented my success, this must have been considered as honourable and remarkable an undertaking as any individual could have accomplished, and the nature of the encouragement I met with, induced me to print & great number of copies of the plan, and to procure a sufficiency of ruled paper for writing out the returns from every part of Ireland; as in appendix. I am thus led to publish the whole plan, on the present occasion, to shew the falsity of the prejudiced arguments adduced by reserence to a part; especially as I conceive that if wants only to be known to shew the futility of such arguments. — But I have by no means dropped the idea of bringing this scheme to perfection, Nor do I think that my labours, even as far as I have proceeded, are not likely to be useful to my country; for although I have not been able to go to the extent proposed, yet the returns which have been made to me, are sufficient to give a much more certain account of the population of Ireland, than can be collected from any other statement that has appeared, I have been favoured with authentic copies of all the documents on which the late Mr. Bushe grounded his return of the inhabitants of this country, which has gained him so much credit, and lean positively affirm that he was not in any degree possessed of such various and detailed accounts, as those, which on my plan, have been returned to me; and I shall be highly obliged to any person, who according to this scheme, shall make me a return of one or more parishes, through the country at large, or of a street or streets in any town or city, together with any remarks tending to shew the encrease or decrease of population since the year 1795. I shall also feel extremely thankful to any person, who at that period proceeded in any degree on this plan, for letting me have the result of- that enquiry, [viii] whether whether returned to me formerly or not; as I can the more readily compare the former and present accounts, on getting them together, than by the trouble of searching out the original returns. If it can be established beyond a possibility of doubt, that there are vastly more inhabitants in Ireland than they are at present supposed to be, (and this I have good reason to believe is the case) surely the national consequence must be enhanced, and our importance in the scale of nations raised in proportion; and as I already feel a well-founded expectation that I shall be enabled to perfect this desirable object, I hope it will induce every real lover of his country to make me those returns, which the simplicity of the plan will enable any person to execute in his own neighbourhood; and I trust I have already given such prooss of the sincerity of my intentions, as to entitle me to this information from any friend to the country, as it is self-evident, that this plan does not in any degree partake of party-spirit, but is merely concerned with general information. How can the wants of a nation be properly supplied if the extent of its population be not accurately known? Or how can the redundancy of one nation be applied to the benefit of another, where this important fact is not ascertained ? —For examples sake, the crops of Ireland, in the year 1801, were supposed to be better able to supply the wants of its inhabitants than those of Great Britain were to supply her own at that period. How was it possible to ascertain this but from surmise ? In England it was a measure of parliamentary enquiry to ascertain the state of the population exactly: Why should not the like policy obtain with respect to Ireland ?—Surely, since the union of both nations has been formed, Ireland is entitled to the same advantages with England. In short, a knowledge of the real [ix] state of any country is of such material importance to any one wishing to promote its welfare, as to be evident on first contemplation, since without it conjecture must supply the place of certainty, and so perhaps occasion material error and consusion. As this object is of such national consequence, I hope my countrymen will be kind enough to furnish the means to render me able, as I am willing, to make them acquainted with their real importance; and in proportion to the extent of documents will be the accuracy of the result; but I esteem even a partial return of such moment, that I earnestly request no person inclined to promote so desirable an object may withhold his particular information; for such communication may in time occasion the entires plan to be brought to perfection; and as I mentioned before, it is astonishing how a few returns from different parts of Ireland, according to this model, will contribute to asecitain its true state better than it has been ever hitherto accomplished.
I also insert in my Appendix the statistical enquiry proposed by the Royal Irish Academy, in 1795, in hopes that it may produce me information from some parish or parishes, district, tract of country or town; and I might further suggest the elucidation, improvement or amendment of any particulars contained in the statistical surveys of the different counties already published under the patronage of the Dublin Society, as it would be a considerable improvement in the compilation of my intended work, which according to the information I receive, so I shall be enabled to enhance the real importance of my country.
In order to prevent all disappointment, and to secure the safe, arrival and delivery of such documents as I [x] may be favoured with, I beg leave to submit an expedient, which I think necessary to carry this, Into effect in the best possible manner. I would recommend to the person or persons concerned, to perfect two document completely alike, and of these one should be sent to me, and should any accident occasion it to miscarry, the remaining duplicate would supply its place, without further trouble. From the various disappointments I met with on the former occasion, I am led to request also that every one may take the safest mode of conveyance in his power, to my printer, No. 62, Abbey-street, Dublin, where my address may be known, or to some friend of his own in Dublin, who may be pleased to convey it thither; and this will not only secure, as much as possible, the safe arrival of the statement, but abridge the labour considerably of such an arduous undertaking. If no account of delivery should be made in the first instance, then more caution may be used to conveying the counterpart.
Different motives of private concern induced me to resolve to quit Ireland, in the year 1797, and to go to reside in America, and this I purposed to do as soon as the regulation of my affairs would permit me. I was mostly in the county of Wexford in the latter-end of 1797, and beginning of 1798; but my attendance in Dublin was sometimes necessary upon law business, which I at length flattered myself I had finally got rid of by compromise. In the latter end of April therefore I took leave of my friends, as my proposed short stay in Ireland would mot allow me the opportunity of seeing them again; as I had determined to go immediately to England, and from thence to America. In this project I was most unhappily disappointed, as a part of the compromise, which was, that my furniture [xi] should be taken at a valuation, was not complied with; and, I was therefore reluctantly obliged to remain in the country, until I could, as I thought, dispose of them by auction, which I advertised would take place on Monday the 28th of May. I am thus particular, to counteract the malevolent insinuations of my enemies, and as it was this disappointment that occasioned my detention in the county of Wexford until the commencement of the disturbances; by which 1 lost all my furniture, and all else that could be taken from me, except what I had on my back, and about my person. Had I any possible intimation of the calamities that ensued, I molt undoubtedly would have preserred settling my property even at a loss, and securing the value, to waiting to be detained against my will in that unfortunate country; and I would thus have escaped enduring those sufferings and persecutions that afterward fell to my lot. The particulars of the situation I was in previous to and at the breaking out of the insurrection comes more properly in my general account, until the 28th of May I got onboard a ship in Wexford harbour, and did all in my power to induce the captain to sail for England; and on its being objected that there was not a sufficiency of provisions on board the Adventure , which was the name of the ship, just then arrived with a cargo of coals, I proposed we should shift on board another vessel belonging to the same proprietor, which had cleared out off the custom-house-quay laden with oats, which I represented would, in case of necessity, supply our wants during the passage; but the low state of the ebbing tide and contrary winds prevented either of these ships, both being heavily laden, from possibly crossing the bar of Wexford harbour, which they could not do but at high tide. [xii]
Frustrated in every wish to leave the country, before and after the insurrection broke out, what could I do but submit to my evil fate, and remain in a place delivered up, and abandoned, by those who should have been its natural protectors, to the mercy of an uncontroulable [sic] multitude? My popularity in the country, and my intimacy with the greater number of its gentlemanly inhabitants, of whom many remained in Wexford, placed me in a very unenviable situation. It made my friends imagine that I possessed a plenitude of power, and induced them to apply to me for protection from popular sury, either personally or through some one of their family. I never hesitated, on these occasions, to risque my own life to preserve that of others, and never heard or saw of any one in danger that I did not use every effort for their preservation. If greater expectations were formed of me than what I could effect, I have to regret the limitation of my power. I most solemnly declare, that during the insurrection, I never omitted a single opportunity of being as serviceable as in my power, by administering comfort to the afflicted and distressed, or every assistance I could to those in danger. Some are found grateful enough to acknowledge the fact. There were three gentlemen apprehensive I might resent former conduct, but when misfortune intervened I threw away resentment. One of them had, upon previous occasion, treated me so ill, that I had determined to chastise him to the utmost of my power; but they all now acknowledge that, forgetful of personal injury, I risqued my life for the preservation of theirs. My conduct during the insurrection, as far as it is necessary to be known, properly belongs to the history of the times; and so I shall proceed to a relation of roy persecution and sufferings. [xiii]
Lord Kingsborough and his officers conceived themselves under such obligations to me, that at their entreaty I lived in the same house with them, from the surrender of the town until the 29th of June, when they departed for Waterford. Being well aware of malice and obloquy, I constantly expressed a desire, during their stay, to be brought to trial, for any allegation that might be framed against me; and I am now confident, that had it been possible to procure any proof against me, it would by no means be neglected; but this being impracticable, even in such crazy times, other means of deep malignity were resorted to, and these, as well as I am hitherto acquainted with them, I shall endeavour to describe. My former intention of going to America, was by no means lessened but augmented, by the scenes of which I had so recently been witness to in my native country. I accordingly persisted in my resolution, and was determined to get out of the country as speedily as possible. The committee that had been appointed by lieutenant general Lake, to act as a kind of council to general Hunter, then in command in Wesson), and to grant passes, now began to practise their malicious arts against me, which they avoided before, being apprehensive, if not well aware, that their schemes would be counteracted and defeated, if attempted to be put in execution, while the officers, who were acquainted with my conduct, remained in Wexford. I received a note from the chairman of this committee, (and it was delivered to me by one of the body, whom I then considered as my friend) desiring I would write to him, stating what I would wish to be done, and that my request would be taken into immediate consideration. This induced me to write to them, intimating the desire, I had so often expressed, of going to Americ, adding, that I wished to set off the next [xiv] day in order to sail in a ship then in the harbour of Dublin; and this determination I would, in all probability, have since put in execution, but that I considered it might have given freer sanction to the calumnies so industriously raised against me. This consideration has [sic] detained me in Ireland, as here I was the better enabled to vindicate my honour, and this, indeed, my persecutors have completely effected, quite in contradiction to their inclinations and wishes. The immediate consideration of the committee was, in consequence of premeditation to send back the gentleman who brought me the note and took my answer, to arrest me. This he did at my lodgings, where I was publicly known to be since the insurrection, and two yeomen were there placed as a guard over me. This whole conduct, from several circumstances of which I have since come to the knowledge, was certainly preconcerted . Had I been sent to gaol, it would have been productive of a trial by court-martial, and this was a benefit which they did not wish to allow me, as they were well aware of the sentiments of the officers, whom I would have summoned back to Wexford; besides some individuals among them were most ungratesully induced to forward the vile proceedings against me, ai they were apprehensive I might call on them as witnesses, when their loyalty may have been called in question, were they to do justice to my conduct; and It may also have been manifested, that whatever honour some of them now possess, is owing to their taking my advice in prescience to their own; as if they escaped piking on the one side, they may have been hanged on the other, and with much more justice than several who have forfeited their lives on the occasion. To transport me without further enquiry, was therefore considered move adviseable. Several, who had [xv] been tried and sentenced to transportation, were taken on the 3d of July from the gaol and put on board a sloop which had been twice condemned during the insurrection, and which had sunk within a foot of her deck, and was only pumped out that morning. Afterward a guard was sent to my lodgings, and I was marched down to the custom-house-quay, in the most conspicuous manner, and put on board this horrid hulk, without any trial or further investigation!!!
Two sloops had been prepared as prison-ships during the insurrection; one of them, however, was immediately condemned as unfit for that service, and afterward, on the occasion of Lord Kingsborough and his officers being put on board for a few hours, she was again, on the inspection of the butchers of Wexford, pronounced unfit for the reception of a pig . After this second condemnation the Lovely Kitty , (for so this infernal vessel was called) was hauled to one side of the harbour, where from her leaky state she sunk within a foot of her deck, and so escaped firing when the other sloop which had been used as a prison ship was burned. This was the vessel the Wexford committee ordered to be their prison-ship; and accordingly, on the 3d of July, she was hauled into the channel, a little dry straw was shaken over that which had remained in her hold for a month before, and the prisoners then were sent on board. Our walking on the fresh litter soon made it as wet as the dung underneath, so that it was impossible to sit or lie without imbibing the moisture; nor indeed could we have the comfort of resting against her sides, as the planks were water-soaked, and the effervescence of putrid malt, accumulated between her timbers, was so strong as even to turn silver black in our pockets in the course of a few hours. The stench was besides [xvi] insupportable, and there was such an infestation. of rats that some of the prisoners were bitten by them. The weather at the time was mostly warm, and this raised such an exhalation, that small as the vessel was, we could scarcely see each other from either end of the hold. If it rained, the deck was so open, that it was impossible, in any part of the ship, to avoid being wetted; and contrary to the usual state of leaky vessels, (where the bilge water is not offensive) we were nearly suffocated while she was pumping. In our own desence we were obliged to be continually at the pump, to prevent our being overflowed; and though our last occupation at night, we were always summoned to the same task early every morning; the water, by this time, having got above the double flooring, a cautionary plan always used in vessels employed in the transportation of malt.
Among the twenty-one doomed to this dreadful and loathsome confinement, (which I believe net to be paralleled by any dungeon in the world) there were desperate villains and scums of the earth; a circumstance more degrading and offensive to a liberal mind than any other punishment, when unable to avoid such intercourse, and this was the case aboard the Lovely Kitty , whose burden was but about fifty tons. This aggravation was verily and avowedly intended by the merciless persecutors; for when one of them was told, on his coming on board, of our desperate situation, I heard him assert, that we had no reason to complain, since the vessel had been fitted out by the rebels she was good enough for us! Our guards were at first seven yeomen of the Shilmalier infantry, afterward called Ogles Loyal Blues . These were relieved every twenty-four hours, and indeed they were apparently humane. One of
[xvii] them was an apprentice to a carpenter who used to work at my fathers, and offered to be particularly kind to me. He promised to bring me my bed, and represented it would not become wet through in the course of the night, but that he would continue to dry it in the day-time, in which he hoped to be assisted by another young man, his fellow-apprentice; and proposed to arrange it so as that they would every day mount guard alternately. He, however said, that he could not act without the permission of his captain, the Right Hon. GEORGE OGLE. With this gentleman I formerly kept company, as our families were neighbours, and visited each other. I therefore thought, as well as from the favourable opinion, which he before constantly expressed of me, that his prejudice or bigotry could not make him forget good manners so far as not to answer a letter from me on such an occasion. I did of course address him one, but certainly not in the strain of a prisoner, which I knew I ought not to be, but, as one gentleman would write to another, givingan account of my distressing and unmerited situation. This letter, the Right Hon. GEORGE OGLE laid before the Wexford committee, and declared, that he would not permit any of his corps to go on such an errand. Of this I was informed of a letter from the secretary of the committee, which I preserve for the inspection of the curious. It was intimated that, if I wanted my bed, the committee would grant a pass to any other messenger I could procure, to bring it to me; but this was impossible at the time, as military law existed in such rigour, and it was a great while afterwards before I could procure a bed to be brought to me. The goodnatured yeoman who offered me his kind service, was checked by his captain for demeaning himself by speaking to the prisoners, and he soon after quitted the [xviii] corps in disgust, and enrolled himself with a captain more congenial to his disposition and feelings.
I applied to geneial Hunter to be liberated under a general proclamation which he had published, and he asked the committee, by what authority I had been at all confined. He was there informed, contrary to all truth, that I had petitioned for transportation; and the answer I received from him in consequence of this misinformation was, that it exceeded his power to liberate me. I instantly memorialed the general a second time, stating, that I had never the most distant idea of petitioning for transportation, and solicited enlargement or trial. Upon this the general again applied to the committee, and they had the effrontery to repeat and insist on their former assertion, peisisting in falsehood to sanction their iniquitous proceeding. The general, not being as yet sensible of the extent of their persecuting spirit, and naturally conceiving that the principal gentlemen of the county, who composed the committee, would not assert a lie, was induced to give them. credence in preserence to a prisoner; but still, from the consideration of my statement, he advised me to address the lord lieutenant and that he would forward it with his strongest recommendation. I accordingly did so; but, as misrepresentation respecting me was practised in every quarter, to prevent a detection of the original villainy, I had no better success then with his excellency.
I cannot omit mentioning a fellow-prisoner of mine on this occasion.—MASTER JAMES LETT, thirteen years old, (but little for his age) a near relative of Mr. Bagnal Harvey, was a child of such undaunted spirit and courage, that he manifested a most heroical disposition at the battles of Ross and Fookss-mill, and was after the insurrection taken up and put to gaol. He was threatened to be hanged if he did not sign a petition for transportation presented to him as a great favour, and as a further inducement he was told, that he would be let go off with Mr. Hay, (this intimation was signified to master Lett before I was arrested, or had written to the chairman of the Wexford committee, which letter was their excuse for their premeditated scheme to entrap me). The little hero signed the paper required, and on my being dropped down into the hold of the Lovely Kitty , where he was before me, he clung to me and exclaimed, I dont care where I go, when I am to be with you ! If nothing else was attracting in the child, surely in this instance I could not be insensible to such pathetic feeling. Captain Keen, of the royal navy hearing of this wonderful boy, asked him, whether he would be glad to go with him? which he consented to, and in a day or two after he was conducted by the captain on board the Chapman , and where I understand he was intended for a midshipman. I rejoiced in the release of my little companion, but had the mortification of seeing him brought in a few days back to the infernal prison-ship!—His return is said to be occasioned by the representations of the committee to Captain Keen, That he had no right to release any prisoner, as they claimed the exclusive privilege of the management of their prisoners!!! On my removal to the gaol the child grieved immoderately, which being made known to general Hunter, he was ordered to be sent to me. Notwithstanding many applications had been made for his release, they were counteracted through the representations of the committee ; and to the eternal shame of those concerned,— persons of distinction were the promoters! [xx]
In January 1799, a writ of habeas corpus was obtained, and master Lett was brought by the sub-sheriff of the county of Wexford, from Wexford gaol to the court of kings-bench, in Dublin, and on enquiry for the prisoner he was held up on a mans arm, to the utter astonishment of Lord Kilwarden, and thus was prejudice scouted out of the court by his liberation. This, I believe, unexampled case, took place in the presence of a sull attendance of the gentlemen of the bar, who had crowded to see such a phenomenon, as from the childs appearance it was thought he wanted the superintendance of a nurse more than a gaoler.
After a few days the Wexford yeomen infantry were appointed to guard the prison-ship, and were restricted not to depart for twenty-four hours. Among them were gentlemen of my acquaintance, from whose society I experienced much comfort in my calamitous situation; but the loathsome station of duty soon deprived me of this alleviation of suffering. All those of the better sort rejected the hateful service and paid smartly for substitutes. The hirelings considered spirits as the only specific against contagion, and the use of them did not improve the manners of the lowest description of yeomen. Two of our guards died in consequence of sickness contracted in this service, but none of the prisoners, although some got dangerously ill.
In consequence of the opinion of a most eminent physician in Dublin, that it would be more humane to order me to be shot, than to leave me in such a situation, being made known to General Lake, through general (now Sir John) Craddock, he sent down orders to enquire more particularly into the state of my cafe; and General Hunter accordingly sent Doctor Jacob to visit me. The result was, that after five weeks confinement, in such a mansion of wretchedness, I was removed to the gaol; but my health had become so impaired, that I much fear it may never be perfectly re-established. Doctor Jacob paid me two visits: I paid him for his attendance and wished him to continue; but such was my lot, that however much I stood in need of it, could not procure medical assistance!— In my own conception this neglect was occasioned by a complaint of the hardship of my case to Doctor Jacob, upon which he promised to bring me a copy of what I had written to the committee, which they alleged to be a petition for transportation. He brought me an application of mine to General Hunter, which he said was the only paper that he could see or find relative to me; and he afterward avoided me, lest in visiting me he might let out any thing that should lead to a detection of the schemes of the committee I could not even afterward procure his attendance as a magistrate, on discovering in the gaol of Wexford, the murderer of Mr. Nowlan, of Greek-street in Dublin, whence he had sled, but was apprehended as a stranger not being able to give a good account of himself, and lodged in prison. Apprehensive that this man might he let out, I sent to Doctor Jacob, as mayor of Wexford, to state to him the reasons for his detention until I could get an answer of a letter I had written to Dublin, but Doctor Jacob did not attend, yet so right was I, that on my information, the man was ordered to Dublin, where he turned kings evidence against his accomplices, who were accordingly brought to trial, condemned and executed. The same reason, I do suppose, operated on the doctor, on this as well as former occasions; and had it not been for the gaoler, who prevailed [xxii] on the military commander to detain this fellow, who had been taken up only as a suspicious stranger, he might have escaped.
Brigade-Major Fitz-Gerald was sent to me from General Hunter, to enquire particularly into my situation, and I demonstrated it to him, from most authentic and convincing documents, in such a manner, that I cant convince the world of his conviction of the iniquitous practices of the committee against me, better than in his own words, in a letter written to me at a subsequent period, which is inserted in the Appendix, No. 11.
I presented in all thirteen or fourteen memorials to be liberated or tried, but the active malevolence of my persecutors prevented them from being attended to. In the month of January 1799, I made an application to be removed to Dublin. A writ of HABEAS CORPUS was accordingly issued from the court of kings bench, ordering the sheriff of the county to bring me up, and a notice was served on the attorney general to come forward if he had any charge against me. This was however superseded by a secretarys warrant being sent to general Grose, he detained me upon it, and, although I then became a state prisoner, I had none of the advantages or indulgences allowed people in that situation, and of which, from my state of health, I stood in utmost need. The suspension of the HABEAS CORPUS act obliged me to put up with my situation, and I must have remained a prisoner, God knows how long, had not my persecutors over-shot their mark, by endeavouring to smuggle me off in a manner contrary to every law known or enacted in this country; not resting content with having me a state prisoner, from [xxiii] ] which situation I could not have extricated myself, if not enabled by their iniquity.
The prisoners which had been first tried by courtmartial in Wexford, and sentenced to transportation, previous to the palling of the law that legalised trial by court-martial, were held over till the spring assizes of 1799. My name was returned in the crown book as under sentence of transportation, and I should have been sent off immediately after the assizes, along with all the rest of the proscribed, had I not made an application, by letter, to Judge Chamberlain, denying that I had ever been tried or petitioned for transportation; and that, as he himself had granted a writ of Habeas Corpus , to have me removed to Dublin, the January before, I considered myself under his protection, and that of the court of kings bench; and hoped that my situation, as unfortunate as unmerited, which I was ready to prove, would induce him not to sanction any sentence of transportation against me. My letter was delivered to him as he was going into court, and he held it in his hand, while he publicly declared from the bench, that, although he did not usually attend to private letters in his judicial capacity, yet he had received a letter from Mr. Hay, a prisoner then confined in the gaol of Wexford, and that, if the contents of it were true, his situation must be deplorable indeed; and he added, that if nothing appeared against him, he would liberate him next day. The letter at the request of the grand jury was delivered to them, and it was now found absolutely necessary, for my detention, to procure informations against me. Accordingly a magistrate came down to the gaol, and called for a noted informer , (since condemned to be hanged for murder, but whose sentence was commuted to transportation [xxiv] for his services,) brought him into the gaolers apartments, in an adjoining house, called the bridewell, over which I was confined, and the ceiling under me was so bad, that listening with attention, I could hear a great deal of what passed below stairs. In such. a situation, it is natural to suppose I availed myself of this advantage, and could distinctly hear the informer threatened to be hanged if he would not swear against me; and it was promised that his life should be spared, if he would. Conversation followed now and then in a higher tone, so that I was able to understand that the informer would not swear to the examinations first proposed and brought ready written, in the magistrates own hand-writing, and he now, out of fury and disappointment, tore them to pieces, threats however at last prevailed on the murderer to swear to other examinations framed in a more palatable form against me. The name of another gentleman I also heard mentioned; but the point of swearing against him was not insisted on. When the magistrate departed, I asked to be let out to walk, and accosted the informer on meeting him, to know how it was possible for him to swear any thing against me? He told me, that as he had heard me say I was not afraid of any thing that might be sworn against me, he thought it no harm, as it was to save his own life; and that certainly what he had sworn could not affect mine. After minutely relating the story of his being so obliged to swear, (and which perfectly coincided with what I was able to hear), he put me in the way of getting the scraps of the torn examinations, which I immediately set about arranging, and have them now pasted together in regular order, as an existing, incontrovertible proof of the subornation, and unravelling the whole of the nefarious plot formed against me, as well as exposing the atrocious [xxv] deed of the magistrate. This I meant to have proved on my trial, by producing the identical magistrate, and putting the document into his hand for avowal; but my lawyers would not suffer me to produce any evidence, when counsel for the crown gave up the prosecution; otherwise the public would have been in possession of several transactions in a far fuller manner than I can set forth at present.—I was nine months confined before any charge on oath was made against me; and this, it must be thought, was sufficient time to bring forth any human conception, and ought then to have naturally entitled me to a political delivery.
The grand jury now found bills of indictment against me for high treason. There were several ladies and gentlemen at tea with me and some of my fellow-prisoners, (who were afterward honourably acquitted) in the evening, when a gentleman came to visit me, as he hid done several times before, and in the presence of the whole company, he declared that he had been hooked in to prosecute me. He mentioned, that while listening to the trials in the court-house, he was summoned before the grand jury, where he was questioned ibout a conversation he had unguardedly held respecting me, which if was represented as his duty to swear to, and he was bound over to prosecute. He however imagined that what he had sworn could not injure me, and he then related to us many other circumstances that completely did away what he had said before the grand jury. Several others also came and informed me, that upon being summoned and sworn before this tribunal, they were asked if they knew any thing concerning me during the insurrection? and that they acknowledged they did with gratitude, as I had saved their lives or properties, or comforted them in one way or other [xxvi] in their afflictions. It was then put to them on their oaths whether I could do so without having great authority? But this they considered I had not, as they declared that it was for giving them information of their danger, and advising them how to act, they were indebted to me, and on stating that they knew nothing against me, they were dismissed. — I was brought down to the court-house to be arraigned, and when the indictment was read, I declared myself ready for trial upon getting a list of the witnesses to be produced against me. This Mr. Justice Chamberlain ordered to be given to me, but said I should not be tried those assizes, and would not listen to any argument I could urge, but instancy remanded me back so gaol. I have been informed, and have good reason to believe, that my persecutors represented they had not entertained an idea that I should not be transported, and were therefore totally unprepared to proceed against me; and that what made me so anxious to hurry on my trial was, that the evidence they had to produce against me was not in Wexford; but that, against the ensuing assizes, they hoped to be able to convict me!
Some time after this, in the summer of 1799, a distinguished gentleman of property, and constant grand juror of the county of Wexford, mentioned publicly in the canal passage boat on his way to Dublin, that Mr. Hay wanted several times to be tried by COURT MARTIAL, which was fortunately prevented, as a MILITARY TRIBUNAL would pay too much attention to LADIES and OFFICERS as witnesses for Mr. Hay; but that a WEXFORD JURY would not be so squeamish. It, was a providential circumstance that Mr. Hay had himself demanded a TRIAL BY JURY, as it would inevitably prove fatal to him, instead of the BOON OF TRANSPORTATION [xxvii] intended for him. This and many such declarations the assertors are since ashamed of.
On all occasions that I possibly can, I avoid mentioning names, as I consider several have been led into error, thrO PARTY PREJUDICE, which compliment I hope may secure the concurrence of many gentlemen in promoting UNION and HARMONY among all descriptions of their countrymen. I regret the character of an historian obliges me to mention some, however, on rny part, free from any intention of personality or offence, but a correct statement of facts from authorities I deemed undeniable; however, should I have been led into any involuntary error, and if any gentleman should think himself injured, I shall be proud to be undeceived, and shall be happy on a candid investigation to do ample justice to him, by declaring truth in the most conspicuous manner. On the other hand, the times have been such, that I have omitted many at their own. request, whole meritorious actions might be recorded to their honour, which, along with other unavoidable wants may, when prejudice is dissipated, be published at a future period.
Six magistrates of the county afterwards formed themselves into an inquisitorial court, consisting of the Right Hon. GEORGE OGLE, JAMES BOYD, RICHARD NEWTON KING, EDWARD PERCEVAL, EBENEZER JACOB, M.D. and JOHN HENRY LYSTER, Esqrs. They assembled at the house of JAMES BOYD, and summoned hundreds before them, whom they swore to give such information as they could concerning the rebellion,. About fifty persons have informed me, that they were principally questioned concerning me; and upon their acknowledging that they were indebted to me for life, [xxviii] property, or consolation, as the case may have been, they were strictly questioned, evidently with a view to criminate me, whether I could have done so without great power or authority with the insurgents; but the consciences of these persons on their oaths did not warrant them to make such a deduction; and on being finally interrogated whether they knew any thing against me and their answering in the negative, they were dismissed. These persons also informed me, that they had heard several others too declare, that they had been questioned about me, and even some who had no personal knowledge of me whatsoever; so that I have strong reason to believe, that no means were left untried to criminate me. My conduct has certainly undergone stricter investigation than that of any other person in Ireland, and such, as I believe, that of the most unexceptionable of my persecutors would not pass through unblemished; while mine is irreproachable jn the utmost degree, having passed with unimpeached, honour the ordeal of the WEXFORD INQUISITION. We read of nothing that has gone such lengths in foreign countries.— Even the inquisitors are by duty and oath to seek out all evidence as well for as against their prisoners!
The summer assizes, in 1799, began in Wexford on Monday the 24th of July, and being brought up that day to be arraigned, I was asked, whether I was ready for trial. This question, I said, I would answer when surnished with a list of the witnesses to be produced against me. This Baron Smith, (now sir Michael Smith, Master of the Rolls) the sitting judge ordered to be delivered to me; and it was sent to me that evening by Mr. William Harvey, the agent for the crown. On receipt of this I sent off several witnesses, which I had [xxix] summoned, but fqr whose attendance I now considered myself to have no occasion. At last my long-wished for trial came forward, on Thursday the 27th of July, and although I was advised that I might have availed myself of the defectiveness of the indictment in point of form, and although I might also have protected myself by the amnesty act, if necessary, yet I disdained to adopt such subterfuges, and declared myself ready to meet the whole of the charges against me. Two only, out of the four witnesses, named to me, were brought forward; but their cross examination completely did away any thing injurious that could be inferred from their direct testimony. One of these was William Carty, the informer, who afterward pleaded guilty to an indictment for murder, and was condemned to death, which sentence, in consideration of his services was commuted for transportation to Botany-bay; and although half what he had sworn was false, and invented to criminate me, yet in the event it turned out so much to my honour, that my counsel thought it not necessary to impeach his credit, which I was well prepared to do, he being the principal evidence for the crown. Although it be obvious to infer, that furnishing me with a list of the witnesses, was a palpable consent to produce no others against me but those named therein, yet on the disappointment of the failure in the evidence of the two first, other witnesses, not named in the list, which I was furnished, were produced; and the most material of them was sworn of the jury then trying me; and to him I certainly would have objected, had I not been thrown off my guard by the trick practised for that purpose. I was therefore totally unprepared to rebut or explain any evidence he might offer, as, on receiving the list, I had sent off witnesses whose testimony would have particularly [xxx] borne upon any thing he could allege. I must however, excuse counsellor ODriscol, the leading counsel for the crown, from having any concern in this vile transaction, as he most honourably declared, that he was astonished I had not been furnished with this mans name, as the purport of his evidence was set forth in his brief, which he held up and pointed to; however he said duty obliged him to insist upon his being examined, for that although it was the privilege of prisoners accused of high treason in England, that no other witnesses but those named in the lists furnished, should be produced against them, yet the law did not entitle them to such an indulgence in Ireland. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, I was honourably acquitted. Baron Smith declared in his charge, that I had undergone the most virulent persecution, that my loyalty was unimpeachable, and that if the jury attempted to find me guilty, as some juries had acted contrary to law and justice [at] those assizes in Wexford, I might take advantage of the amnesty bill, by moving arrest of judgment, and that I should be instantly discharged, so that they might as well give me at once the acquittal I deserved.
I walked about the town publicly that evening, and on the ensuing days until the judges and lawyers left Wexford on the conclusion of the assizes. On Saturday evening, the 29th of July, however, general Grose arrested me in the street, and gave me in charge to the gaoler, then along with him. I remonstrated, but was informed by the genera], that it was represented to him, that he could not leave me at liberty until he knew the lord lieutenants pleasure, as the secretarys warrant, by which I was before detained, had been directed to him. I urged my honourable acquittal [xxxi], which the general acknowledged, but still he would not leave me at liberty. I then requested, that, if he considered it necessary to detain me, he would make the town my prison, and might consider, my honour as his best security; but that I would procure him any other security he would require. This request was not complied with, and 1 was conducted back to my former situation in the gaol, and lodged there without any kind of indulgence above any other prisoner. After a lapse of four days, however, the general permitted me to walk out, followed by a military serjeant. A near relation of mine, on my arrest, set off for Waterford, where the astonishment of all the gentlemen of the Leinster bar was excited, upon hearing of my apprehension, after such an acquittal as that of which they had been witnesses, particularly counsellor ODriscol, the leading counsel for the crown on my trial, who offered to prove and substantiate my honourable acquittal in any manner that my lawyers might suggest. A memorial to the lord lieutenant was now framed in my behalf, referring to Baron, (now sir Michael Smith, Master of the Rolls) and to Justice Chamberlain, for the truth of its contents; and praying that no reference should be made to the Wexford gentry, who had already alleged so many falsehoods against me, but to any liberal man, of independent mind, at all acquainted with the circumstances of my case. This memorial was presented to his Excellency Marquis Cornwall is, by the Earl of Donoughmore, at whose residence he was then on a visit. The consequence was, that orders were immediately sent to general Grose to liberate me; and I was then released from a confinement altogether of thirteen months. [xxxii]
I went to England in November 1799, and remained there until the month of February 1800. Four days after my arrival in Ireland, a forged letter was written in my name to doctor Jacob, in so ungentlemanly a stile as I hope I shall never be guilty of, against the measure of the UNION. This letter was also one of the dark contrivances of my persecutors, (who have never come forward against me in an open or manly manner,) and was evidently fabricated in order to get me confined, and this I fortunately discovered time enough to prevent its execution. A member of parliament, belonging to a strong party in favour of the UNION) luckily for me, drank a little more than ordinary, and declared that he understood I had spent some time in England, where I had paid visits to noblemen of the first distinction, and had concerted plans against the UNION. These sentiments of oppofition I had luckily discovered in a letter to doctor Jacob, but that I should be taken care of and secured; that certainly my talent for procuring signatures could not be denied, but that I should have no opportunity of exerting it, as I should be taken up to prevent the danger to be apprehended from my opposition in the county of Wexford. This plot I had the good fortune to discover, as the information was conveyed to me with all the anxiety of friendship, and I found it to be but too true. My object then was to wait on persons of distinction, well acquainted with my determination, as a catholic, not to interfere about the UNION , and I was promised their utmost interest and protection, should any sinister measure against me be attempted. Without this precaution, against an intended blow, of which my friend got intelligence by mere accident, I should have been taken up and confined without knowing why or wheresore; as it was touching government at the [xxxiii] time, in the tenderest point, and had the appearance of zeal for the UNION under the mask of the basest imposition. I now wrote to Doctor Jacob to send me the letter, that it might enable me to find out its author, but was not favoured with an answer, although I had learned that the doctor had declared, that I did not write the letter, which I believe he perfectly knew on receiving it. An officer, who was a friend of mine, was going down to the spring assizes of Wexford, in April, 1800, and I commissioned him to wait on the doctor, to let him know, that if he would not produce the letter, I should consider him as its author and treat him accordingly. In consequence of this, the doctor condescended to write to me, excusing himself for not having answered my letters sooner, not being able to find the forgery, which he then enclosed to me; the author I have not yet been able to discover.
This is a curious specimen of party-prejudice. Those who had influence could have any one for whom they entertained a personal dislike, taken upon the score of public justice; and too many instances of the kind occurred, suggested by private malice. The circumstance of my discovering this letter in time was rather fortunate, as it secured me powerful support in case of any future attempt. The times were such, however, that I considered it better to be peculiarly cautious and circumspect, to prevent the possibility of my actions being misrepresented; and I even thought [xxxiv] it prudent to overlook many things which I should have properly noticed at any other period; but as I had dreadful experience of the hardship of confinement, I was not willing to risque again being in the same predicament although I could defy the utmost malice of my enemies, if they would dare openly to avow themselves; but during the suspension of the habeas corpus act no man could be secure from the rancour of party-spirit, which I fear it will still take much time to allay, before numbers are brought back to their sober senses. I have had constant opportunities of observing the baleful effects of being led away by party.—I have known men, whom I believe to be naturally well inclined, if their dispositions were not warped by the virulence of such companions, as they think it necessary to associate with, lest their loyalty may be otherwise impeached, join in acts of outrage and excess; varying their conduct according to the temper of their associates, or the circumstances that may occur, and condescending, now and again, to speak only to individuals whom it was happy for them, to meet in the hour of misfortune, and to whom they owe any share of character they still retain; but so lost to all sense of gratitude, that the mere condescension of speaking is never exhibited in the presence of certain individuals, or where there may be any possibility of its being observed by such characters. As for myself I was so calumniated and reviled during my confinement, when I had not the power of counteraction, that evil rumour wrought so much on some of my former acquaintance as to occasion their assuming the appearance of not knowing me; but I was even with them in pitying their pusillanimity and littleness. I was well prepared for such occurrences, and I have made it an invariable rule with myself, not to appear to know [xxxv] any former acquaintances, until first known by them; considering that my misfortunes entitle me to the first compliment; and some have after a time returned to former civility, and excused themselves on being undeceived, as having been misled by false information. Indeed the spirit of MISTAKEN LOYALTY was so zealous, that it induced many to fabricate lies which required numberless others to support them; nay, the public mind was so led astray, that truth itself, by various misconstructions, was perverted into absolute falsehood. I remember on my first coming to Dublin after my acquittal, that several persons told me, how distressing it was to them to hear many falsehoods related of particular instances of which they had themselves been witnesses, but which their timidity prevented them from contradicting. On my mentioning that I would not act in a manner that might sanction falsehood, by remaining silent in the presence of its known assertors, I was entreated not to give them as authority.
I have afterward chanced to fall into company with these retailers of fabricated reports, and on my mentioning facts as they happened, but which I was informed they had previously misrepresented, they remained as silent as those who sometime before were overawed by their arrogance. Others of my acquaintance anxiously enquiring about the heroism and magnanimity of their friends, have been vastly disappointed at my not confirming the accounts they had before received, and my being in truth obliged to declare the contrary. Upon being informed that the facts were reported quite otherwise, I always answered by expressing a desire to be consronted with the narrators, where it would be easy to judge who told truth. So many and so [xxxvi] various have the impositions on the public been, that it is truly astonishing how such a compilation of falshoods could be fabricated and heaped together; and it would, indeed, be a Herculean task to attempt to answer them, as it would in general take ten times the extent of a false story to disprove and set it aside; so that it would be too tedious and tiresome for public perusal, and would prove an endless source of controversy and contradiction. I therefore do not enter the lists against any one, but endeavour to give a true statement of what has happened, without attempting to palliate or falsify; and I request the reader to consider that I have been an eye-witness of some of the principal events, and therefore could not readily be imposed upon. I have besides the corroboration of persons of all parties to support me in such a manner as to prove convincing to every one inclined to hearken to truth; and I am sure it must prove grateful to every benevolent mind to be convinced, that all the horrors perpetrated in the year 1798, were the consequence of party-prejudice, now generally supposed to have been urged forward from political motives to weaken the country, by setting the people by the ears. Troops. were at first employed, as it were to crush disturbances, in order to put down one party; and those on the other side were not aware of their situation until a power was established superior to all parties; and the bitterest complaints have been made by the opposers of the UNION, that they themselves contributed most without knowing it until it was too late, to carry that measure. A dissertation on the UNION is not my present object: I only want to make all ranks and degrees of my countrymen sensible that Union and Harmony among themselves will prevent the possibility of their being put down by any power on earth.
Every [xxxvii] point of view, in which this desirable object is put, must contribute to shew its heavenly principle, and I hope this may have due weight to cause sincere endeavours for its accomplishment.
What I consider most lamentable in Ireland, is the dreadful prevalence of RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE and its baleful consequences. This is so inculcated even in insancy, that it is scarcely to be eradicated by any suture conviction or experience, however evident its mischies and absurdity. I shall endeavour to exemplify this by a comparison, of the aptness of which every one must be sensible. Among the many odious and lamentable impressions made on the tender minds of children, when in the care of ignorant and illiterate persons, none is so general as the terror of ghosts and hob-goblins, related to make them obedient. Although this all-powerful remedy may for the moment diminish the trouble of the keepers by making the children more subservient, yet it often prevents the parents from coping to the knowledge of any thing it may dictate. I believe it has come within the observation of every one, that there are persons of the most undoubted courage, who would be asraid to go up stairs in the dark, although they would face a cannon in the day-time; and of this weakness they cannot divest themselves, although they may be long convinced of the absurdity of such notions; for so deep a root do false ideas take in the insant mind, that mature good sense and conviction are unable to shake offtneir shackles. So it is with all EARLY IMPRESSIONS. How lamentable then is it to inculcate PREJUDICE in the tender mind of youth, so asto make them imbibe bigoted sentiments almost with their milk; enslaving their understanding in such a manner that it can scarcely ever become free from [xxxviii] their influence. I venture to hope that this admonition may have the effect of making parents endeavour to prevent their children from being led astray by such hateful impressions in early life, that they may be brought to maturity unbiassed by any prejudice, and thus may judge of things impartially of which they must be otherwise utterly incapable. Parents cannot be so selfish as not to wish their children as touch happiness as possible, or as they can at all procure them, and to this it materially contributes (and it is a duty incumbent on all who have the care of children) to prevent FALSE IMPRESSIONS. Should, this salutary precept be caresully attended to, we may hope to see the rising generation grow up free of those prejudices, which have, unfortunately for Ireland, produced such dreadful consequences. What a melancholy reflexion is it, that any person should be reared and educated with the belief that the great majority of his countrymen have vowed his destruction! Does not such a conception naturally inculcate all kind of distrust, blasting all confidence, and destroying the happiness that would result from harbouring more charitable opinions? Such notions it is not at all wonderful to find strongly rooted in vulgar minds, that have not had the benefit of a good education; but it is truly a national grievance, that men of the first rank and rearing should be brought up with such HORRID and ABSURD PREJUDICES. I have heard some of the most dignified and exalted personages in Ireland declare, that great pains had been taken, in the course of their education, to impress their minds with an inveterate dislike to roman catholics; and that so forcibly dictated were these bigoted precepts.- that they firmly believed them to be true, and that it was not without great exertion of mind they were afterwards able to [xxxix] bring themselves to keep company with people of that communion. The terrors, however, diminished by more frequent intercourse; and in proportion as this was cultivated, they became sensible of the inculcated error, and of the absurdity of the prejudice against their countrymen, and at length became the greatest supporters of the catholic cause. As for myself, although I now profess the roman catholic religion, I should not be of that communion one single hour, were the principles such as they are represented; but catholics, I know, abhor and detest the principles that prejudice has thought proper to attribute to them. Had those absurdities any other than a speculative existence in the minds of fanciful and designing men, wishing to bring public sentiment to second their views, would the parliament have voted a free exercise of their religion? If catholics did not reverence oaths, what could keep them from enjoying the honours of the state, since an oath would completely qualify them? Or, if they were as represented, would such monsters be suffered to exist, instead of being protected and cherished by King, Lords, and Commons? I will only observe that the greatest villains and hypocrites generally assume the mask of religion, as the robber does that of honesty, in order to cover sinister design; and they are both, for private advantage, adepts in the art of deception. History furnishes too many dreadful examples of the shocking effects of RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY; but it is the misapplication of religion, and not its essential principles, that urge inordinate fury. Of this we have had a striking example in our own days. The riots in London in 1780, when the mob was unquestionably composed of protestants and dissenters, forming an immense multitude, were excited for the avowed destruction of Pope and Popery. It was [xl] impossible that their views could be mistaken, as they proceeded not only in avowed enmity to the catholics themselves, by destroying their property, by burning their houses and places of worship, but they even demolished the houses of members of parliament, who had supported a bill previously passed for the relief of the catholics of England; and although the same spirit was manifested at Edinburgh, Bath, Bristol, and other parts of England, yet the parliament did not seem aware of the object of the rabble. The last riots in Birmingham are also of the same nature, and tend to prove that religion is only the pretext generally assumed to cover the greatest enormities; but it is not at all to be inferred, that the religion of any christian sect inculcates such principles as their adherents exhibit by their actions, otherwise it might be said with equal feasability, that the christian religion encourages sin, because christians commit sin but the parable of the good Samaritan, one would think, should do away all prejudice between all sorts of christians. Were I absurd enough to advance, that the protestant religion inculcated the destruction of catholics, and that-it could be clearly demonstrated from many examples, but particularly could to be deduced from the acts and avowals of the people of the capital of the church of England, as before stated, I think I should be more justifiable than those who venture to assert, (what is very astonishing that many are led to believe,) that catholics are vowed for the destruction of protestants. In the transactions even of the year 1798, in the county of Wexford, such a principle was not maintained, but the contrary manifested by every public avowal; but in different parts of England and Scotland, and in Ireland itself, in the countyof Armagh, in the year 1795, dreadful sentiments appeared against catholics. There are truly [xli] individual monsters of all parties, who would destroy every one not of their own way of thinking, were they not restrained in their evil inclinations by fear or force; and their principles are unfortunately too widely diffused, and encouraged by those, who, without actually committing murder themselves, frequently occasion its committal by subtle assertion and implication of principles too dreadful to be admitted among christians!
I shall not by any means pretend to excuse any bad action, let it originate from what cause it may; and although I maintain that the catholic religion inculcates the principles of charity and general morality as much as any other on earth, I shall condemn the bad actions of catholics as much if not more than those of any other religious persuasion. My whole object in giving this account to the public is to promote UNION and HARMONY, as much as it lies in my power, among all descriptions of my countrymen; and if I knew of any other and better mode to effect this desirable object, I certainly would adopt it. But I conceive it mainly necessary to give an account of what I think I am master of now, and for this reason it is that I confine myself for the present to the county of Wexford, where, quite contrary to my inclinations and wishes, I was so critically placed as to be an eye-witness of what passed; but this enables me now to be the better judge of hearsay evidence, let it come from what quarter it may; arid I hope my execution of this sketch will procure such satisfactory intelligence as will enable me to give a general history of Ireland, with the causes leading to elucidate the events of that unfortunate period of 1798. To accomplish this, I call on my countrymen in general, for assistance; and although [xlii] it would be impossible for me to relate every transaction that happened, it will however be necessary that I shall be in possession of many occurrences that niay tend to prove the leading features of a general account; for particular instances, though not recited, will hold their place essentially upon a general principle. I trust this will prove a sufficient apology to those who have favoured me with documents, which the limits of my present work would not permit me to give at full length; however their advantage and use in the compilation have been very great; so that what might, at first view, appear a trivial circumstance, I shall be glad to have an opportunity of perusing. I also hope, that the precaution I have already recommended, may be used; of sending it to a friend in Dublin, who may be good enough to apply to my printer, where my addrese may be known and forwarded to me without any disappointment, where, on delivery, he may get it inserted in a book, which is to be kept for that purpose, with his address as well as that of the writer; in order, that if any further explanation should be required, I may not be at a loss where to apply. All this precaution is easy to be taken by such as may be kind enough to transmit matter of information; and what would be little trouble to each individual, would save me immense labour in detail. I hope therefore I shall be excused for being so particular, as I wish to lose as little time as possible in contributing my mite for general information.
Had I not the conciliation of all my countrymen very much at heart, I should not venture on the arduous undertaking of giving a history of the present times. The various and contradictory materials produced by contending parties, have existed to that degree, [xliii] that the same occurrence is represented, as prejudice and interest operate in as opposite views as light and darkness. I cannot hope to please PARTIZANS OF ANY DESCRIPTION, nor shall I attempt it. The cool and dispassionate philanthropist I flatter myself will approve of my intentions, and lend his assistance in endeavouring to dissipate the cloud of prejudice that has overpowered the good sense of many of my countrymen; and through those sentiments I may obtain the indulgence of the public, which I stand so much in need of.
Now that peace is established, with all foreign powers, it behoves every well disposed-person to cultivate its blessings at home; I therefore hope this will induce many to step forward to promote my present undertaking. As for my own part, I confess, I considered it prudent not to lay my account before the public, until I was secure from the malevolence of those from whom I had good reason to apprehend danger; as my persecution might be renewed if I ventured to arraign the supposed justice and merits of my persecutors, before I could be certain of not being sacrificed to party-spirit; which, I presume I have sufficiently shewn to have been violently and unwarrantably exerted against me; and if the account of it shall in any wise contribute to promote the UNION and consequent HAPPINESS of my countrymen, I shall endeavour to forget my sufferings in the blessings which such an event must ensure to Ireland.
[End of Introduction]