Page:A Compendium of Irish Biography.djvu/555

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TON
TON
 

pointing out the advantages they would gain from assisting Ireland: the reduction of English power could alone be accomplished by the separation of Ireland from Great Britain: Ireland was a rich recruiting field both for the army and navy: The Protestant aristocracy (450,000) of the country were but a small body: the Dissenters (900,000) were largely imbued with French principles: the Catholics (3,150,000), ground down by oppressive laws, were "trained from their infancy in an hereditary abhorrence of the English name." To a large extent, the old volunteers and the militia would be likely to join the invaders. All the waverers would soon go over to the new government. If possible, 20,000 men should be sent, of whom 15,000 should land near Dublin, and 5,000 near Belfast. These once landed, the Irish government would fall to pieces without the possibility of effort. Should it be impossible to send such a force, 5,000 was the very lowest number with whom the attempt could be made with anything like certainty of success, and they should be landed in the north of Ireland, where the people were in the greatest forwardness as to military preparation. But with only 5,000 there might be a civil war, which he "would most earnestly wish, if possible, to avoid." As to arms, 100,000 stand should be sent; as to money, pay for 40,000 men for three months would be amply sufficient, "as before that time was expired, we should have all the resources of Ireland in our hands." There should be an absolute disavowal of ideas of French conquest. The expedition should be commanded by a General whose name and character were well known in Ireland. The war should not be a rose-water war; every shilling of English property in the island should be confiscated. Such was the substance of his memorials. They concluded, as they commenced, with the assurance of " what a staggering blow the separation of Ireland would be to England in a commercial point of view, not to speak of the military, or, which is of far more consequence, the naval part of the question. … It is in Ireland, and in Ireland only, that she [England] is vulnerable." While, from Tone's point of view, and that of many of his countrymen, the proposed invasion was perfectly justifiable, the statements in his memorials as to the state of feeling in Ireland, and the importance of Ireland to England, went largely to justify the subsequent policy of Pitt and Castlereagh. In a few months an expedition was decided upon, and on the 12th of July Tone was introduced to Hoche as the probable commander-in-chief. He dined in state with Carnot, and his personal money troubles were put an end to by his appointment as chef-de-brigade. In the middle of September he left Paris for Brest, with the expectation of immediate embarkation. There were delays that almost broke his heart, and caused many a page of his Journal to be blotted with imprecations; but at length, on the 16th of December, he embarked in the Indomitable, 80, one of a fleet of forty-three vessels (seventeen sail of the line, thirteen frigates, seven corvettes, and six transports), carrying some 15,000 of the best French troops, under Hoche, one of the ablest of French Generals, the object of the armament being the separation of Ireland from Great Britain, and its erection into an independent republic under the ægis of France. The vessels encountered very bad weather; but escaped meeting any portion of the British fleet. On the 21st they were off Cape Clear, but thirty sail to be seen. The wind was dead ahead, and Tone was furious with impatience and vexation. He calculated, however, there were still in the vessels in company 41,160 stand of arms, and twenty field pieces, besides a large quantity of powder and other requisites. Further dispersions reduced the fleet still more. A descent in force at Bantry appeared impossible; but he urged upon the captain of his vessel the advisability of landing him and ever so small a force at Sligo, so as to make a desperate attempt to effect something. For days the fleet rode at anchor in Bantry Bay, in the midst of blinding snow storms, unable to communicate with the shore; and, at last, on 29th December, the seven sail to which the once proud expedition was reduced, were obliged to slip their anchors and make the best of their way back to Brest. " It was hard," says Tone, " after having forced my way thus far, to be obliged to turn back; but it is my fate, and I must submit. … Well, England has not had such an escape since the Spanish Armada; and that expedition, like ours, was defeated by the weather; the elements fight against us, and courage is of no avail." His wife and children had meanwhile arrived at Hamburg, and peaceful ideas of settling in France floated through his brain. He draws affecting pictures, in his letters to his wife and children, of how happy they would be in some small country place on his pay as chef-de-brigade. They met at Amsterdam in May; but Tone was soon hurried off to join Hoche and the Batavian army, as the way began to open for another

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