Page:A Compendium of Irish Biography.djvu/553

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TON
TON
 

Thomas Russell, an ensign in the army. Their sentiments coincided, and they soon became most intimate. "Writing a few years afterwards, he says: "I frame no system of happiness for my future life in which the enjoyment of his society does not constitute a most distinguishing feature, and if I am ever inclined to murmur at the difficulties wherewith I have so long struggled, I think on the inestimable treasure I possess in the affections of my wife and the friendship of Russell, and I acknowledge that all my labours and sufferings are overpaid." He describes delightful days spent at a simple cottage he had taken for his wife at Irishtown, in company with Russell, his father and brother, and his own brother William. Mrs. Tone was the centre and soul of the party. They talked politics and loitered by the sea, and each bore a part in the housekeeping. He depicts Russell, in his laced uniform, helping to cook a dinner. The South Sea project again came up, was again brought before Government, and was this time civilly considered, but came to nothing. Soon Irish affairs took the foremost place in his thoughts, and he formed those decided opinions that influenced all his future life: "I made speedily what was to me a great discovery, though I might have found it in Swift and Molyneux, that the influence of England was the radical vice of our Government, and consequently that Ireland would never be either free, prosperous, or happy, until she was independent, and that independence was unattainable whilst the connexion with England existed. … This theory … has ever since unvaryingly directed my political conduct." In the winter of 1790 he and his friends John Stack, William Drennan, Joseph Pollock, Peter Burrowes, William Johnson, Whitley Stokes, and Thomas Russell, formed themselves into a club for the discussion of political and literary subjects. Russell removed to Belfast, and stirred up their friends there into sympathy with the efforts the Catholics were making to secure a measure of political equality. In September 1791 Tone published An Argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland. This work brought him into intimate relation with the principal Catholic leaders, who induced him to accept the office for which Richard Burke had proved himself unsuitable—that of paid Secretary of the Catholic Committee. The Society of United Irishmen, for securing Catholic Emancipation and Reform, was inaugurated about the same period. The progress of the French Revolution vivified the whole political atmosphere. Tone's papers abound with sketches of the principal men with whom he was brought into contact, and give a particular account of the proceedings of the Catholic Committee, the Catholic Convocation of 1792, and the deputations and discussions in Parliament that led to the large measure of relief embodied in 33 George III. c. 21—followed as it was by cap. 29, the Convention Act, which rendered effective political action difficult, and tended to make the United Irishmen a secret society. [See Keogh, John, p. 273.] When war was declared against France, efforts were made by Government to suppress the French principles that so largely prevailed in Ireland. The Volunteers were discouraged, and ultimately broken up. The Catholics saw no hope of securing full political rights, and Tone and many of his friends engaged eagerly in the secret designs of the revolutionists. In April 1794, the Rev. William Jackson, who had come over on a mission from France to ascertain to what extent the Irish people were ready to support a French invasion, was betrayed by his associate Cockayne, and arrested on a charge of high treason. Tone had had many conferences with Jackson, and had warned him against Cockayne, who, he declared, must, as an Englishman, be a traitor either to his country or to his friends . After Jackson's arrest. Tone's position was known to be precarious. Some of his friends entered into negotiations with Government, it is said without his knowledge, and it was finally arranged that if he left the country no proceedings should be taken against him. If the statement in his memoirs is correct, he did not in any way bind himself as to his future course. Before leaving Ireland he communicated to his friends Russell and Thomas Addis Emmet his determination, upon his arrival in Philadelphia, to seek an interview with the French Minister there, with a view to interest him in the affairs of Ireland, and point out the deadly blow that through her could be struck at English prestige. Tone was presented by the Catholic Committee with a sum of £300 in recognition of his services. He paid his debts, settled with everybody, and, on 20th May 1795, with his wife, sister, and three children, left Dublin to take shipping at Belfast. Apart from clothes and books, his whole property consisted of about £700. His friends detained him nearly a month in Belfast; and there, on Cave Hill, on the summit of McArt's fort, Russell, Neilson, McCracken, and Tone took a solemn obligation never to desist in their efforts until they had secured the in-

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