Page:A Compendium of Irish Biography.djvu/216

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


FIT

life in the colonies delighted him. He writes: "There are no devilish politics here;" and "every man here is exactly what he can make himself, and has made himself by his own industry." In Feb- iniary 1787 he expressed himself much disappointed, though not dispirited, at the turn aflFairs were taking in Ireland. On the 13th March, in a speech in Parlia- ment in support of a motion by Grattan, he said: "Tithes having for thirty years been considered as a hardship and matter of grievance, it became the wisdom of the House to inquire into them. While the people were quiet no inquiry was made; while they were outrageous no inquiry, perhaps, ought to be made ; but certainly it was not beneath the dignity of the House to say that an inquiry should be made when the people returned to peace and obedience again." Family considera- tions induced him for a time to consent not to vote against the Government ; but to show that he was not influenced by mercenary motives, he declined to accept promotion during that interval. In 1 790 he was oflPered by Pitt the command of an expedition against Cadiz ; but finding that acceptance might necessitate his voting against his convictions in Parliament, he was obliged to relinquish this chance of dis- tinguishing himself. The same year he was returned for the County of Kildare. In Octo- ber 1 792 he visited Paris, and he writes : " I lodge with my friend [Thomas] Paine ; we breakfast, dine, and sup together. The more I see of his interior, the more I like and respect him. I cannot express how kind he is to me; there is a sim- plicity of manner, a goodness of heart, and a strength of mind in him, that I never knew a man before possess." At a meeting of the British residents in Paris on the 19th November, he joined in drinking to the progress of liberty and the revo- lution. A mongst other toasts was : "The people ot Ireland, and may Government profit by the example of France, and reform prevent revolution." He and other young noblemen renounced their titles, actual or honorary; and for participation in these pro- ceedings he was dismissed from the army. On the 2 1st December, after a short ac- quaintance, he married Pamela, a lovely and fascinating girl of about eighteen years of age, a ward of Madame deGenlis — mostpro- bably her daughter by the Duke d'Orleans (Philip Egalite). Pamela had been pre- viously, while on a visit to England, engaged to Sheridan, then a widower. The nuptials took place at Tournay, and Louis Philippe, afterwards King of the French, was amongst the witnesses to the ceremony. The mar- 192

FIT

riage proved in every respect happy. In his place in Parliament, soon after his re- turn home with his wife, he denounced the Government for prohibiting a meeting of volunteers in Dublin. When called upon to apologize, he said : " I have spoken what has been taken down ; it is true, and I am sorry for it." In 1793 he voted and spoke against the Arms and Insurrection Bills, declaring: "The disturbances of the coun- try are not to be remedied by any coercive measures, however strong ; . . nothing can efiect this, and restore tranquillity to the country, but a serious, a candid endeavour of Government and of this House to redress the grievances of the people." No en- deavours in that direction were made, and many men like Lord Edward lost hope of all constitutional changes, and gradually drifted into revolution. He became in- timate with Arthur O'Connor, who occa- sionally resided with him at Frescati. About this period he formally joined the United Irishmen. In May 1796 he and his wife proceeded by Hamburg to Basle, for the purpose of communicating with the agents of the French Government relative to obtaining armed assistance in Ireland. It is now known that his pro- ceedings were carefully watched by spies, and information of all his negotiations conveyed to Pitt. In the spring of 1797 Edward J. Lewins was sent to France by the Leinster Directory of United Irish- men, and resided at Paris as accredited agent of " the Irish nation." In May of the same year Lord Edward again visited the Continent, and met an emissary of the French Government. Wolfe Tone was then, and had been for some time, work- ing within France, and the United Irish leaders were woi'king from without, in urging on the French expeditions that eventuated in the abortive Bantry attempt in December 1 796, the preparations at the Texel in July 1797, Humbert's landing at Killala in August 1798, and the engage- ment off" Lough Swilly in September 1 798, in which Tone was taken prisoner. At the election of 1797 Lord Edward addressed the electors of Kildare, and expressed his intention of not soliciting their votes, on the ground that nothing was to be hoped for from Parliament as then constituted. Grattan retired about the same time, and for the same reason. Lord Edward now assumed the military leadership of the United Irishmen, determined to assert by arms the independence of Ireland, a post for which he was in every way qua- lified both by training and disposition. It was decided that an insurrection should take place in March 1798. The union