An address to the thinking independent part of the community

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An address to the thinking independent part of the community: on the present alarming state of public affairs  (1797) 
by John Pratt Winter








On the present alarming State of Public Affairs.



Quò, quó seelesli ruitis?





AT a time so pregnant with calamity as the present, any attempt, however feeble, to avert the impending danger, can scarcely need an apology. At such a time, it is the duty of every good citizen to use his best exertions to save his country; and it is not to weak effort, but to careless and desponding inactivity, that blame justly attaches.

It may indeed be thought by some, that argument and exhortation come now too late; that the idea of tranquillizing this country by such means, is a vain expectation; that the last resource, the appeal to arms, must now be tried; and that it is but waste of time to write, when all parties are preparing for the combat. If this be the real state of the general sentiment, I am sorry for it. I will not however hastily adopt the opinion. I am a sincere and ardent lover of peace: I abhor all violent contests between countrymen: and I will still indulge the flattering hope, that our unfortunate dissentions may be terminated without the aid of any weapon more formidable than the pen.

When I see this country in danger of being plunged into all the countless miseries of civil war—a war, in which, whatever be the blue, the blood of its best inhabitants mull probably flow, I cannot help pausing a while, and seriously asking this important question—Who are the parties in this ruinous contest, and what is the source of their quarrel? It is material to ascertain, whether the Irish people, the moderate, independent, valuable part of the Irish people, be really interested in the success of the one side or the other: Whether die principles and views of both parties are not alike adverse to the general interest: and whether there may not yet be found a party in the country, more respectable than either, and able, if it be willing, to control both.

Who are the parties in this contest?—To me they appear to be these following:

On one side we see the English Minister, and his deputies in this country, determined to uphold, by all means, even the moil desperate, that insidious influence, which they have substituted instead of the open, undisguised authority which they were compelled reluctantly to relinquish. With them are leagued all those, their natural allies in this country, who support, because they are supported by, their power. Proprietors of boroughs, whose opprobrious traffick of the national representation can exit only with the sacrifice of national independence. Their long train of dependents: the needy and obsequious followers of every minister. All who suck in, thro' its remotest or minutest channels, the foul stream of corruption—These are all ranged on one side. They are making ready for battle. They willingly appeal to the sword, because they would be defeated in an appeal to reason.—But are these the Irish people?—Is the cause of such men their cause?

Opposed to these, speaking merely with relation to the present contest, are principally the Society of United Irishmen. The name is an honourable one:—It ought to be an universal one:—But it is said to have been made the bond of a base and traitorous union,—Having no other means of informing myself concerning the constitution or the object of this Society, I must take the description given of it by administration. That description certainly cannot be considered as too favourable, which is drawn by their enemies. It is said then to be a combination of restless, ungovernable spirits in this country, who aim at the entire subversion of social order and happiness, and the introduction of a system of violence, confusion and rapine; who meditate the pillage of property, and the massacre of its owners, as the means of accomplishing their deigns; and who avail themselves of certain popular pretexts, to cover their real purposes, and to attract adherents. These, too, if their numbers be sufficient to inspire confidence, may be keen for the work of (laughter, and willing to try the issue of battle; for such means are suited to the intemperance of their projects—but neither in these can we discern the Irish people; the humane, the just, the generous body of the people.

Such seem to me to be the real parties in a contest, the source and progress of which are next to be considered.

In examining what have been the provocations which have given birth to the spirit of resistance and insurrection now prevailing in many parts of the country, candour, I think, requires, that we should lay out of the case, as not fairly applicable to this point, the rigorous measures adopted by government, which for some time past have succeeded each other in a long and dismal train—the insurrection bill, the suspension bill, the proclamations, and others of a like nature. These cannot properly be numbered among the sources of discontent, which are in truth the barriers erected by government to restrain its progress. And however ill calculated they may have been to answer the proposed end; however inconsistent with the once-loved principles of the British constitution; or however strange it may appear, that such measures could possibly be thought expedient in a country calling itself free; it would still be unfair to represent them as the causes of those evils, which certainly existed, and had risen to a very alarming height, before they were recurred to. But when these concessions have been made to administration, will no ground for deserved reproach be discernible in their conduct? Will there not, on the contrary, be still enough imputable to them, to raise disgust in the minds of the most moderate? Enough to justify loud complaint, and every legal, peaceable exertion on the part of the people?

Scarce had the recognition of national independence been conceded to the firm demand of an armed nation, when it became obvious that the people gained little by their victory, so long as their sentiments, owing to the defective state of representation in the House of Commons, possessed hardly any weight in the legislature. They had compelled British power to renounce the open exercise of its assumed dominion; but the fame power, returning in a disgusted and evasive form. Aided into all the departments of government, and secretly influencing all its operations, left to the people nothing but the proud name of independence. This influence, the influence of the English minister, was supported by means, no less often five and unconstitutional, than the influence itself; by the most open and widespread corruption, and the vilest traffick of places and dignities; accompanied too by the shameless and daring avowal, that these were the acknowledged, ordinary and justifiable means of Irish government. This influence became at last so firmly established, that it scorned no longer concealment, and seemed to glory in opportunities of displaying its full enormity, when we saw measures demanded by the eager voice of the people, scornfully rejected by the legislature, and soon after adopted on the recommendation of the minister.

It was not to be expected that the people would tamely acquiesce in being thus deluded. Their expectations had been great, and their disappointment consequently was severe. They had been told by thole, who yielded to their demand of independence, that they had made « a great and glorious acquisition; and in proportion to the value which they had been taught to set on the gift, was their indignation at finding themselves treacherously and surreptitiously bereaved of it. Great and general discontent was the necessary consequence: And the measures taken to eradicate that discontent, made it strike its roots the deeper, and grow more menacing and dangerous. Numerous attempts had been made to procure in a peaceable manner, the redress of what were justly considered grievances. Meetings of delegates from the various parts of the kingdom, called conventions or congresses, were held to procure parliamentary Reform. The Catholic body, labouring under peculiar restrictions, alike injurious and disgraceful to them and the whole nation, adopted similar means to procure their emancipation. Though these meetings were in general attended with but little success, yet that little was sufficient to alarm the monopolizers of the constitution, who foresaw in the union and co-operation of the whole people, the inevitable, though perhaps flow, decay of their power and influence. Terrified into severity, but not warned into Reform, administration seemed to place their chief security in the prevention of national union. They had, with this view, tampered and played successively with the feelings and passions of the various religious sects in the country; and when this could no longer be practised with any success—finally appeared the convention bill, that famous project for dividing the popular strength, when it was no longer possible to divide the popular sentiment. Alas! how miserably has the expedient disappointed its projectors! Union was not dissolved by it, but spread and cemented in a form ten-fold more dangerous. The people, prevented from combining openly, have conspired secretly, and have organized a system in the dark, which they had never imagined, had they been allowed to concert their measures in the open light of day. For a time, a calm and fallen silence ensued; but it lasted not long. Frequent flight eruptions soon gave signs of internal heat and agitation.—The fears of administration increase. New expedients are resorted to, but of a similar nature, and attended with similar success. Endeavouring to Another the bursting flame, they have heaped on it materials which have served only to feed its fury.

It is far from my intention in what I have said, to intimate, that the abuses in our government, great as they may well be thought, are yet great enough to justify an attempt on the part of the people to correct them by force. It is as repugnant to my disposition, as I am fore it is inconsistent with the happiness of mankind, to recur to that last desperate remedy of an oppressed people, 'till the condition of society become far more deplorable and hopeless, than it can possibly appear to be in this country. I think there are few fixations so intolerable, in which a good man will not prefer the patient progress of reason, which if it move slowly to its end, hazards nothing in the attainment of it, to the rash efforts of force, which, while it hurries precipitately to its object, at the fame time hazards every thing. But I think it very unwise in government to persist in irritating the people when pursuing a reasonable object, 'till the duty of submission may become a question of nice and subtle casuistry. When the moral feelings are at variance on this important question, men of honest hearts will come to different conclusions, according to their particular habits or natural temperament. Treason ought never to be equivocal in its nature. Its enormity ought to be clear to every understanding. Frightful,p surely must he the state of a country, when it becomes doubtful whether to consider it a virtue or a crime!

Having thus endeavoured to ascertain who the parties are, by the violence of whose contention this island is Shaken to its foundation, and what is the real cause and {late of the contest; I look around to try, if at this perilous moment, some hope of safety may not present itself, in the wife, firm and dignified conduct of the rest of the nation. How much now depends on the timely exertions of the great and respectable body of the Irish people! Why come you not forward, all you virtuous and independent citizens, who feel for the honour, peace and liberty of your country?

All persons of property, of whatsoever description, proprietors of land, rich merchants, honest and industrious men in every profession and walk of life, will you remain silent and inactive, when your dearest interests are at flake? Will you be the thoughtless, patient, unresisting victims of two enraged parties, who while they are bent on the pursuit of their own desperate purposes, would sacrifice you in their deadly strife? Or will you interpose with that manly spirit which becomes you, and that weight which your situation gives you, to check them in their intemperate and blind career, and save yourselves, and save your country?

I would ask all you whom I am addressing, whether you are not convinced that the calamities which seem fast approaching, might yet be averted, and the disorders of the country healed, without any very violent remedy, if our government, moderating that tone of obstinate haughtiness, which will hear of no compromise, would condescend to make those concessions to the people, which the acknowledged abuses of the confutation justify them in demanding? Can any unbiassed man, acquainted with the general sentiments of the nation, entertain a doubt, that the immediate adoption of a wife, temperate and liberal plan of reform, together with the entire repeal of the laws affecting the Roman Catholics, would not occasion almost universal contentment, and attach the great mass of the community to the defence of the government and constitution? In vain it is urged by men, who, because they hate these measures, would willingly lessen their importance, that they would produce but little satisfaction, and that the objects of the disaffected are widely different. I do not deny that there may be in the country some hot-headed speculators, who probably set little value on temperate, constitutional reform; but I am fully convinced that such a reform would leave them very few adherents, and reduce them to a party, weak, insignificant, and incapable of any dangerous enterprize. Look to the sentiments of administration themselves, as given in the report of the Secret Committee. They allow that Catholic emancipation and Parliamentary Reform were the ostensible objects held forth by the authors of the society of United Irishmen, at its original formation, to avoid alarming: the feelings of those who were not prepared to go to the full extent of their dangerous and traitorous deigns. They further admit a belief that the degrees of criminality in the individuals who compose the conspiracy, are very different, as it appears to be a principle with the authors of this institution to cloak their real design under false colours. Can we desire a stronger proof of the warm attachment of the people to these measures, than that the leaders of a wicked conspiracy, such as that disclosed in the report, have been enabled by holding them forth as their ostensible objects, to organize a force so formidable, as almost to brave the strength of the established government? And when we are informed likewise, that the leaders of this conspiracy cloak their real design under false colours, and that the degrees of criminality in the individuals who compote it are very different, are we not led to infer, that, as the people in general are ardently desirous of those measures, so are they averse to any more violent: And thus we may collect with tolerable certainty the real state of the public sentiment.—Some intemperate men there may be, who look with scorn on conciliatory and moderate measures; but the great majority of the people look to these with eagerness, and look to nothing beyond them.

If then no more be necessary to restore peace to the country, than such a prudent, mild and truly constitutional reform, shall it be withheld on such wretched pretences, as the inconvenience of the time, or the dignity of parliament? If it be—I again ask my independent countrymen, is this quarrel theirs? Is it to preserve any thing dear and valuable to them? Is it for their honour, their interest?—Is it to guard their ancient and sacred rights that the sword is now to be drawn? Or is it indeed to protect, secure from rude innovation, those abuses from which a few among us derive their power and their profit? Has the House of Commons, as it is now constituted, shewn itself so faithful a representative of the Irish nation, that we are to be driven into an odious contest, rather than admit of any alteration in its form or mode of election? What are its extraordinary merits? It may boast, perhaps, of some measures gratifying to the general wish, which within these few years past have had the form of its sanction. But is it to the public spirit of that House? Is it not rather to the alarm of the English government, awed into concession by the frowns of an indignant people, that we owe any such measures? Seldom has the voice of the nation spoken in the resolutions of the House of Commons, 'till it has made its way there circuitously through the fears of the minister. In all countries, whatever be their form of government, the natural strength of the great mass of the people must induce their rulers to pay some attention to their remonstrates, when they become loud and threatening: And little does it avail a nation to have the name of a representative legislature, unless care be taken that it become not the servile expensive instrument of the Executive Power.

Whence then does it happen, that all that numerous class of persons who have the peace and prosperity of themselves and their country sincerely at heart, do not step forward at this critical moment, and loudly and urgently call for the adoption of a measure on which the continuance of both depends? Their backwardness, I should suppose, is owing to the very excess of their anxiety—to that scrupulous and trembling caution, which in times like the present, when difficulties appear on every side, deters many good men from adopting a vigorous and decisive conduct, left it might possibly lead to consequences different from their intentions. They dread left they might inflame, where their with was to tranquillize. This sentiment seems to have its principal weight among country gentlemen, who, from their situation, are most exposed to popular outrage: For this reason, also, I can easily foresee, that should this publication meet with any notice, it will incur the heavy censure of many, whose approbation, next to that of my own confidence, I moil value. Satisfied, however, with the purity of my motives, though this fear may mortify, it mull not deter me.—My own nearest and dearest friends are at this moment exposed to the attacks of the licentious populace, and surely I feel too melancholy a sense of their danger, not to look with horror on the barbarous rage which threatens them. I can with the truest sincerity aver, that if in the black host of calamities which gathers round us, there be one, which above all the rest confirms me in the sentiments I advance, it is the alarming and truly shocking situation of the respectable inhabitants in many of the country parts of this kingdom. It is because there appears to me too sufficient evidence, that their peace, their safety, their lives, are of less importance in the eyes of administration, than the smallest portion of power and influence, that I would persuade them to shake off the guidance of that administration. When our present ministers triumphed in removing a popular Lord Lieutenant, and in mocking the high-raised hopes of the community, they were warned in the House of Commons, by some of its mod distinguished members, of the fatal consequences that would ensue from their conduct: Warnings, however, had no effect on them. They persisted; and the consequences predicted have followed.—I am, therefore, convinced that the greatest danger of the country gentlemen arises from their support of these ministers, and that their safety will best be ensured by an immediate abandonment of them, and the system they are pursuing. Whence is it, I ask, that the peaceable inhabitants of the country are left a prey to violence and rapine? Why do we daily hear of riots, massacres, and other atrocities committed without number? And why is it so difficult to repress these offences, and to punish the guilty? It is, I would answer, because the abuses in the constitution have estranged from it the affections of the people; because the laws have lost their firmed support—that general attachment which bed guards them from violation, and while they are hated by the multitude, are languidly enforced by the few and finally, because that class of men, which, from its rank in the community, ought to be the foremost to encounter and correct abuses in the government, seems, if not to approve of and defend them, at least indolently to acquiesce in them. Hence it is, that while the influence of the laws is relaxed and weakened, the most shocking crimes are committed with impunity, or checked only by such means as are scarcely less shocking. Let the gentlemen of the country then, if they regard their dignity or their security, separate their cause from that of administration. Let them maintain with a becoming firmness, their own commanding station, repelling, on each hand, the enemy of the public tranquillity, and save the nation, as well from the obstinacy of its rulers, as the violence of the multitude. Let them take the rights of the people under their protection. Let them shew that they prefer Irish constitution to British influence; the wishes of the Irish people, to those of the English minister. It is because they to whom the honourable trust of right belongs, have ceased to be the faithful, zealous guardians of constitutional freedom, that others have intruded themselves who arc little qualified for the office; men who cannot distinguish liberty from outrage; the reform of abuse, from the overthrow of society. If the gentlemen of property in the country do not abandon their own strong position, and that conduct which must ever insure to them respect and influence, it is not to be imagined that they can want power to repress the disorders of the lower classes. Mr. Burke defines jacobinism to be the revolt of the enterprising talents of a country against its property: And great surely muff be the defeat of talents, energy and virtue, where they ought principally to abound, if the property of a date be unable to controul and guide its population.

Having thus taken on themselves the assertion of the public claims, and by their firm and united remonstrance, convinced government of the necessity of timely and just concession, with how commanding a voice, and how powerful an effect might the gentlemen of the country then call on the discontents of the people to cease. You have no longer any pretence, might they say, to disturb the public peace and outrage the laws. Whatever fair and reasonable object you could have proposed to obtain by violence, our interference has accomplished without bloodshed or injustice of any kind. The abuses you complained of have been corrected; the grievances you laboured under have been redressed. The conscientious avowal of certain religious opinions is no longer stigmatised by political degradation. Two-thirds of the Irish people are no longer excluded from the constitution, or, admitted to its entrance, with a jealous and distrustful caution kept back from its feats of honour. The peaceable expression of he national will through its legal, and constitutional organ, has been provided for by a reform of the House of Commons, on broad, liberal and impartial principles. If you still have any complaints to make, lay them before your representatives; who will attend to them, investigate them, and satisfy them, if they be reasonable. What then remains, but that, by a quiet and orderly demeanour, you should shew yourselves worthy of the blessings you enjoy; and by supporting the laws, which equally protect the life, liberty, industry and property of all, vindicate your character from the stain of being associated in a league of plunder, riot, and every foul crime.—Could they, sustained by such arguments, and with such claims on the public gratitude, find any difficulty in restoring tranquillity? Their exertions would be aided by every honest man in the community: They would have none to Encounter but the moll: vile and profligate.

Every man who complains of the overbearing influence that controuls the councils of this country, or, indeed, whoever objects to the defective slate of representation in the House of Commons, is charged with a wish to break the connection with England. For my own part, I entertain no such wish. Were the ties which unite the two countries at this moment dissolved, I think their relative situation to each other and to Europe, and the support which they are so well calculated mutually to afford, would make it their interest to enter again into a close and intimate alliance. The similarity which exists between them, in all the most Arising national features, in manners, in language, in laws and constitution, must considerably encrease this attractive tendency. But I think the great events which have lately taken place in this part of the world, evince, above all other considerations, the importance of our union. France, at all times, perhaps, the most powerful country in Europe, is now, by her unexampled exertions in this disastrous war, infinitely more formidable than the has been at any former period. And as it is contrary to the interest of mankind, that any one country should feel itself able to dictate laws to its neighbours, or insult them with impunity, and as we have yet no reason to be convinced that a republican form of government affords greater security against this danger than a monarchical, the cordial and animated co-operation of every part of the British empire seems more than ever necessary, to keep under some check the ambitious projects which a power so vast naturally gives birth to. Such a co-operation could probably in no way be better obtained, than by our present union, under a common sovereign, concentrating in himself the force of all his dominions, with distinct, independent legislatures, watchful over their separate interests, and by guarding against encroachments on either side, excluding every ground of jealousy. In such a union, these countries might not merely acquiesce from necessity. It would be their strength and their boast, and the hope and guardian of Europe. It is not became we have a British sovereign, but because we have not our constitutional protection, our independent, national, legislature, that discontent prevails: And it is only the mischievous policy of those who would represent the continuance of abuse, as essential to the continuance of the connection, which exposes that connection to danger. They are not its enemies who would detach from it every: needless incumbrance, and fix it on the foundation of its real substantial utility,—but they who would expose it to reproach without occasion, they who would convert the bend of union into a yoke of slavery, oppressive and disgraceful to this country.

Another charge connected with the last, and urged with as little justice against the advocates of reform, is that of wishing to subvert the monarchy, and introduce a republican government. I think there is much reason to retort this charge also, and accuse the uniform opposers of reform, of entertaining such a with. The exiting circumstances may, perhaps, reasonably create an alarm for the safety of the monarchy, but whether the present plan of defence be the best calculated for its protections seems very questionable.

There can be no doubt that an inclination for republican forms of government, is becoming very prevalent among a large portion of mankind: And should opinions and events proceed for any length of time in the fame train as at present, it is impossible to foresee what means may be sufficient to save any antient establishment from perishing by a fate which threatens them all in common. But whence is it that the minds of men have received this impression? The glaring abuses which existed without hope of remedy in mod of the European governments, and particularly the profuse and enormous expence at which they were supported, first gave rise to an opinion, that all the valuable ends of government might be obtained by means much less burdensome and oppressive. The American revolution pointed out the mode by which these ideas might be reduced to practice: And when the French revolution took place among a people long accustomed to lead the taste and opinions of the neighbouring nations, it seemed as a glorious light placed in the very centre of the civilized world, to dispel the last remains of Gothic darkness, and reveal to man the true principles of his social nature. The horrors which for a time obscured its brightness scarcely weakened this enthusiastic feeling. Finally, in the war which succeeded, the cause of monarchy and republicanism was put at once to issue, (infatuated surely they were who provoked the hazardous trial) and the triumph of republicanism has been complete. When I say its triumph, I do not mean that of its principles in the eye of sober judgment, but that triumph only which arises from the splendour of successful contest. I am very far from being convinced, that a pure, unmixed form of republican government, on the whole provides the best for the various wants of society. This is a conclusion which we are not warranted in forming from our experience of the paid, and which we must therefore leave to be decided by the experience of the future. The happiness of mankind is certainly not promoted by great military achievements; nor does it depend on the talents or institutions by which there are accomplished.

But while, from a variety of causes, this new system daily extends its influence, it appears to me to be less alarming in these than in any country where it has. been propagated, if its progress were guarded against by a prudent choice of measures. In other countries, if the existing structure of government become ruinous, the people have nothing at home on which their affections may rest.—No part of their antient domestic system presents a firm foundation for any future edifice. They will therefore natural!; r turn their eyes to that captivating model which is now the prevailing fashion. But we have a constitution which has long been an object of veneration to the people; it contains in it too all the valuable principles of a Republic, which require only to be unfolded and fully displayed, to appear in perfect vigour. And it seems impossible that this confutation should ever lose the affection of the people in general, unless the unchecked progress of corruption, vitiating its entire frame, should wholly obscure and deface its native beauties. If our government, instead of being feared by the name of Republicanism into harsh and restrictive measures, which serve but to rouse and irritate its sturdy spirit, were frankly to meet it half way, and go along with its wishes, so far as a regard to the essential principles of the constitution would admit, it would probably take the mod effectual means of damping that ardour, which it is very difficult to extinguish. The easiest and least hazardous method of securing the monarchy and guarding our sovereign's throne, would seem to consist in gratifying the temper of the times with a voluntary surrender of all that surplus of power and influence, which can be spared without wounding the vitals, or crippling any of the members of the constitution. If it be said, that when this has been done, there will still be no security for the remainder. I answer, that if the current of opinion continue to run long and violently in its present direction, it is true it may sweep away every trace of our antient system; but, I say, in such a case, it would not be pent up by obstructions, which only make it foam and swell and rush with increased impetuosity. If, on the contrary, as seems more likely, a calm and temperate state of the public mind should quickly be the result of these concessions, and time should demonstrate the charms which appeared so fascinating on the first view of the Republican form, to be no more than an unsubstantial glare—the component parts of the political body remaining unaltered, such of them as should appear to have been injuriously weakened, might again be repaired and strengthened; and the crown, if too much enfeebled to fulfil, with the requisite vigour,, the functions allotted to it, might readily draw back, with the entire approbation of the people, such a portion of its former weight as should be found necessary to restore the due balance of the constitution.

You then who regard your own safety and the public happiness, who wish to preserve the constitution and uphold the throne of your sovereign, are you not called upon by all these motives to come forward now, at this moment of doubtful fate, and exert yourselves to procure that timely and tranquil reform, which would be to your country the blessed harbinger of peace and concord?—Meet then speedily, if yet it be in your power to meet, and consider well the importance of your resolves. Already a movement of this kind has begun in the kingdom, and from tome parts of it the wishes of the people have been conveyed to the throne; but as yet it has been too partial and languid to be attended with any effect. If you would compel the obstinacy of your government to yield, a common sentiment, approaching to unanimity, must actuate you. You have now a point round which to collect your strength—Adopt the plan of reform proposed by Mr. Ponsonby.—What though it may not exactly accord with the opinion of this or that individual:—No plan of reform can possibly be adopted, if every objection to it must first be removed. That which has been submitted to parliament is the work of virtuous and able men, and must surely be well deserving your support.—Confider the exigency of the time. The present object is not so much to make your constitution perfect in its theory, as to restore to it the attachment of the people. When this great purpose has been effected, any modifications or alterations, which may be further requisite, can be digested at leisure. Reject then the idea that this is an improper season for reform:—and it you are convinced that it is a measure intrinsically good, think how much better still it must be when effects so important are depending on it—when it is called for to compose the distractions, and heal the wounds of the country.

Carry then your petitions to your sovereign. Entreat him to recommend to his parliament to pursue the advice of those few faithful representatives, who have hitherto struggled ineffectually to check the rashness of his ministers. Should you be disturbed in the exercise of this undoubted right, which from some recent acts may possibly be apprehended, then indeed it is hard to say what resource you have left. If the government, under pretence of putting down a secret conspiracy, should violate your lawful, open, peaceable societies;—if you are to be told, you shall not calmly deliberate on the means of saving yourselves from the evils which surround you;—if a military force is to scatter you like some lawless rabble—then is the state of the country fallen and low indeed. But if you be firm and temperate, surely a proceeding so outrageous cannot be attempted. It is difficult to suppose, that the mod sacred rights of society should be thus sacrilegiously trampled on, by the persons of all others mod bound to protect them.

But we hear the indignant exclamation—What! are we to concede to traitors in arms? Admitting it to be a concession to traitors, I doubt whether there be not found wisdom and true dignity in conceding a popular and just measure, which, while it is with-held by the legislature, may tempt the people to look with a too partial eye on the treason which promises it. But when they ask, are we to concede to traitors? I would say, no; but let them concede to you. Whatever traitors may lurk in the community, it is allowed that parliamentary reform is not their real object. To them a mild and temperate measure of that kind would not be grateful concession; it would be rather a disappointment: it would crush, probably for ever, their rash and visionary expectations. Let the concession then be to you, who form no secret plans of rebellion. You who have taken up arms, not to pull down, but to support the government, may surely with reason expect some attention to be paid to your wishes. When you are called on to fight the battles of that government, it is right you should know well, whether you are engaged in the cause of constitutional liberty, or aiding in its overthrow.

I confess I feel no little astonishment, when I observe how much zeal is exhibited in guarding against one danger, and how little in guarding against another equally imminent. When I see Irish gentlemen pressing into the service of an English minister, and forgetful of the service they owe to Ireland. That they should arm to defend their country from foreign invasion, is suitable to their gallant spirit:—That they should arm to protect its internal peace, is becoming good citizens:—But that they should overlook, in the agitation of a temporary alarm, the lasting interests and dearest rights of an independent nation:—That they should express no wish, speak not one word for the security of Irish liberty, while they range themselves under the standard of ministers, whose attachment to it may well be suspected, appears altogether lamentable and surprizing. Can they, while acting thus, experience those pure unmixed sensations of generous pride, which animate and exalt the freeman, when he enters the ranks of his countrymen to protect his country's rights? Do no gloomy apprehensions at times come across their view and damp their exertions? Do they never feel suspicious of their cause and dissatisfied with themselves? When they have been led on step by step, till they are involved in an unnatural and odious contest; when they have been made the instruments for subduing the strength and humbling the spirit of the people, what means will they have left of protecting themselves against that authority they will have raised above controul? Will their services then obtain from the gratitude of their rulers, those securities for their constitutional liberty, of which they are now so unmindful? Or may they not rather expect from ministers this answer to their feeble monstrances—You have made enemies of the people, and you must now be slaves to us?

It would assuredly be wife in us all to carry our thoughts beyond the difficulties of the present anxious moment; to take into our view the future prospects of this country, and endeavour to see how they may be affected by the events which are passing and approaching.

Should the strong measures to which government have resorted fail of success; should they by the irritation they cause, promote rather than counteract the secret plans of the disaffected; and should these, acquiring daily fresh numbers and confidence, at length dare in open combat the strength of government and succeed in subverting it, there is but little occasion to point to the consequences which would probably follow. Few of us seem blind to the effects of democratic fury; when maddened with opposition, it has burst thro' every restraint. Life, property, law, morality, would be swept before it; and the next age, perhaps, might see some fair edifice of liberty erected, but it would rise cut of the smoking ruins of the present.

On the other hand, should the government, obstinately rejecting every conciliatory measure, succeed in establishing their authority by the mere force of military coercion; is the prospect much more consoling? The means made use of to compel submission now, must be continued to ensure it hereafter; and a government of force, of foreign force, must henceforth be the government of Ireland. Adieu then to respect and consequence abroad.—Adieu to confidence and union at home.—Adieu to national independence and national pride. We shall indeed escape the hurricane, but it will be only by shrinking into a mean obscurity. Divided among ourselves, and mutually hating one another, the upper ranks will sink as formerly, into a vile dependence on England, bearing every contumely, and scarcely daring to murmur, thro' fear of blowing again the smothered embers of popular fury. Endless discontents and rankling jealousies will corrode the whole social system; and the inward malady, bursting out on every opportunity into open tumult and sedition, will not permit us even the undisturbed enjoyment of an ignominious repose.—Unhappy country! whose citizens will regard each other as the worst of enemies. Thus wasting her internal strength, and torn by perpetual discord, a century may elapse before Ireland again shall lift her head, or be worthy the name of a people.

Between these two extremes, both equally alarming, the wife, fate and honourable path presents itself, opening to us a prospect, fair, gratifying and glorious. Here let the temperate and independent part of the community hold on their course, with deliberate and firm step, moderating the headlong violence of these who would rush on either danger. Let every honed: effort be made to flop the further effusion of blood. Let every thing reasonable be conceded to the wishes of the people, and let force only begin, where just concession ends. I will not say that a perfect unanimity of sentiment throughout the kingdom would be the result of such a wife, humane and dignified conduct. There never existed a numerous society, in which considerable difference of opinion did not prevail: But I am sure much the greater part of the people would embrace with sincere and grateful joy, the terms of reconciliation. Though many may have been allured by ideal forms, while the good that is slid and practicable has been withheld, yet, when they are possessed of the latter without a struggle, they will never seek to realize the former through a sanguinary, and probably hopeless, contest. A few more turbulent spirits might inwardly repine at the disappointment of their daring projects, but they would be forced to acquiesce silently in the general sentiment. Perhaps for a little time, some of the moil profligate of that unthinking multitude who have broke through the restraints of law, might continue a system of devastation and outrage; but the ordinary means of legal controul, aided by the vigilant exertions of all the intelligent part of the community,—would quickly re-establish peace and Security. Then would confidence, industry and happiness revive. Then would Irishmen be seen united, not again!—but in Support of the constitution.—The foundation of an dissembling, cordial attachment between the various classes of the people, a blessing long unknown to this country, would be firmly laid. At home we Should enjoy the fruits of a daily encreasing prosperity; abroad we Should be respected as a great and flourishing member of a still mighty empire. Mild and equal laws would allure to every man the undisturbed enjoyment of his rights. A tree and popular constitution would form the indissoluble knot of our Social union,—what could be desired more?

If we are led to these conclusions by a view only of our internal State, how are they Strengthened when we take into consideration the danger which threatens from without! Is this distracted country in a Situation to repel the invasion of an intrepid, powerful and active enemy? Is it not infatuation approaching to madness, at a time when union ought to be purchased almost at any price, to reject it when it can be had So cheaply? Look to what France has done elsewhere, and judge what she may do here. Do we imagine that the youthful vigour of a new-born people can be refilled by the nerveless exertions of a tottering government? For this purpose the braved and mod powerful armies are scarcely sufficient. Nothing short of a united people can afford us full security. The Republican energy of France, mud be met, if met successfully, by republican energy here. When I say, republican, I mean nothing disrespectful to our monarchy or sovereign. To acquire French enthusiasm, there is no occasion that we should adopt French plans of government. We have, as I mentioned before, in our own constitution, a true republican principle. It is languid, but not extinct. It will be easy to revive and give it full activity. The political frame is solid and well proportioned: it requires only to be invigorated and braced anew. We have no need of a revolution. Or if so great and auspicious a change might well be termed a revolution; it would be such as that of much injured Poland, described by Mr. Burke, a revolution in which "not one man incurred loss, or differed degradation. All from the King to the day labourer were improved in their condition. Every thing was kept in its place and order; but in that place and order every thing was bettered."

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.