Page:A Compendium of Irish Biography.djvu/556

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TON
TON
 

expedition to Ireland. Indeed twenty sail, carrying 15,000 troops, with arms and supplies in proportion, were already assembled; and his friend Lewines, of Dublin, had arrived as accredited agent of the Leinster Directory of United Irishmen with the French government. Bonaparte's Italian policy (his suppression of liberty and evident personal ambition) gave Tone much uneasiness. He told Hoche plainly that such doings would never answer in Ireland; as it was an ally, not another master, the country desired. On 8th July Tone went aboard the Vryhead, a fine vessel of seventy-four guns, lying in the Texel, and was presented to Admiral De Winter, who was to command the proposed expedition. As before the Bantry expedition, his time was fully occupied conferring with the commanders, arranging plans for landing, and drawing up proclamations. On 14th July he notes the "glorious prospect" of the Dutch fleet, ready to weigh anchor — fifteen sail of the line, ten frigates, ten sloops, twenty-seven transports. The instructions of the Dutch government, as shown to him by General Daendels, commander of the troops, were most satisfactory; the object of the expedition was not conquest, but to aid the Irish people in establishing their liberty and independence. But again he was doomed to disappointment. Delays, unaccountable to him, occurred. Hoche, whom he regarded as his best friend, and who had always entered heartily into his plans, died in September; and on nth October, Admiral Duncan almost annihilated the Dutch fleet in an engagement off Camperdown. Still Tone did not despair. He had several interviews with Bonaparte. "His manner is cold, and he speaks very little; it is not, however, so dry as that of Hoche, and seems rather to proceed from languor than anything else." One of his last notes in 1797 is: "It is a droll thing that I should become acquainted with Bonaparte. This time twelve months I arrived in Brest from my expedition to Bantry Bay. "Well, the third time, they say, is the charm." The early part of 1798 was spent in Paris, urging on ministers the organization of another expedition, and conferring with the numerous Irish refugees now beginning to come over. He was agonized at the fate of his friends at home, unsupported in their attempted insurrection, and torn with mortification that he could not be present with a French contingent to aid at such a critical juncture. Hope almost deserts him on 26th May 1798, when he offers to go out to India in the service of the French government. "My blood is cooling fast; 'my May of life is falling to the sear, the yellow leaf.' " His journal ends with the 30th June—"If the Irish can hold out till winter, I have every reason to hope that the French will assist them effectually. All I dread is, that they may be overpowered before that time." In the middle of August Humbert forced the precipitate sailing of the desperate Killala expedition. Three Irishmen accompanied it—Tone's brother Matthew, Teeling, and Sullivan. About the same time a small party commanded by Napper Tandy landed at Eathlin, spread some proclamations, and, hearing of Humbert's defeat at Ballinamuck, escaped to Norway. Tone did not sail with either of these expeditions, as he still cherished the hope of being able to influence the despatch of one more likely to be effective. In September preparations were made for another expedition. The Hoche, 74, eight frigates, and the Biche, despatch schooner, were collected at the Baye de Camaret. Tone was now in the deepest despondency as to Irish affairs, and was hopeless of success. But he had all along said that while an army of 20,000 men was desirable, and 5,000 necessary, he would accompany even a corporal's guard. His death in case of failure was all but certain. Such had been the indiscretion of the French government, that his name in full was allowed to appear in the Parisian papers as having embarked on the Hoche. We have no particulars of the parting with his wife, further than that he assured her, in case of capture, he would never suffer death by the halter. The fleet sailed about the 20th September, under Admiral Bompart. Again the good genius of England was in the ascendant. Contrary winds scattered the fleet, and on 10th October only the Hoche, Loire, Resolue, and Biche arrived off Lough Swilly. At daybreak next morning, before they could effect a landing, a superior British fleet, under Sir John Borlase Warren, appeared on the horizon. Bompart determined to fight the Hoche to the last, but signalled the frigates and schooner to retreat through the shallow water. A boat came from the Biche for last orders, when the French officers entreated Tone to escape on board of her—"Our contest is hopeless, we shall be prisoners of war, but what will become of you?" "Shall it be said," he indignantly replied, "that I fled, whilst the French were fighting the battles of my country?" For six hours the Hoche engaged five sail of Admiral Warren's fleet, Tone commanding one of the batteries with the