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Origin of the volunteer system-Its singular
character and important services -Exertions made by Mr. Grattun to accomplish a free trade for Ireland-Proceedings upon that subject in the English parliament -Sentiments of For upon the Irish volunteers-Determination of the Irish commons to obtain a redress of commercial grievances --Success-Increase of the volunteer bands--Grattan's - speech in favour of the legislative independence of Ireland
Issue of the first effort. THE
years 1778 and 1779 present a singular but glorious era to the historian of Ireland. They furnish an instance of military patriotisın which it were perhaps vain to look for in the annals of any other country. It was during this period that . the volunteer system commenced; an institution
so peculiar, especially in its effects, that its origin deserves to be related with some minuteness.
About this time, and perhaps a year or so before the present period, some detached corps had been embodied in different parts of Ireland, particularly in the county of Wexford, by the public spirit of some gentlemen; but the volunteer army of Ireland is specifically indebted to a letter of Sir Richard Heron for its formation. These hosts of armed citizens, self-paid, self-commissioned, not only protected Ireland, but for many years shed a glory round her; and, while they astonished England, had, it is believed the power of checking the ambitious projects of France in her mad career. The south of: trejarid was languishing under the embargo by which its provision trade was, almost wholly änöähilated; while the north was equally suffering in its linen trade from the pressure of the American war. This falling off, necessarily inpaired the little revenue which the country provided, and while the reduction of the former produced a general discontent, the deficiency of the latter rendered it impossible to pay for the necessary defence of the kingdom. In this state of things the town of Belfast, which had been visited eighteen years before by invasion, and had reason to apprehend a similar calamity now, when the coasts of Ireland were insulted by American privateers, and vessels captured in sight of land, and when France was openly leagued with
America in her revolt from the mother country, applied to government for protection against the common enemy, who then menaced it with peculiar danger. Sir Robert Heron (secretary to the Earl of Buckinghamshire) returned a very plain and candid answer; government could afford it none.
Many idle suggestions have, at various periods, been thrown out against the illegality of the volunteer army; but surely the reply of Sir Robert Heron is an answer to all such opinions. Acertain portion of the people apply to government
; ment says, we can afford you none; what then becomes the instinctive duty of the applicants?
To provide for their own defence. The compact between the state and the people is dissolved so far as it'applies to that peculiar case; and it would be a frantic kind of loyalty and submis. sion if individuals, so circumstanced, should say, « Well, we will not take arms into our own hands; since it so happens that we cannot be defended by the government, we are too dutiful to act in our own defence; we will remain still, and quietly
Heu! nescia mens homini futuri! « Little did that ill-fated monarch know that he was forme ing the first causes of those disastrous events that were to end in the subversion of his throne, in the slaughter of his family, and the deluging his country with the blood of his people." Curran's speech in defence of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, Esq.
await the destruction that threatens us.” It may be doubted whether such heroism would find many admirers or any
imitators. Well then, thus abandoned to their own means of defence, their spirit soon supplied the defects and imbecillity of administration, Belfast, An trim, and the adjacent counties, poured forth their armed citizens. The town of Armagh raised a body of men, at the head of whom Lord Charlemont placed himself. Every day beheld the institution expand, a noble ardour was almost every
where diffused, and even where it was not felt perhaps, it was, at: lęæsti imitàted. Several who had at first stoad, aloof from motives of distrust as to the object of these associations, and their constitutional character, now joined them, and so general was the enthusiasm that no landlord could meet his tenants, nor any member of parliament his constituents, who was not willing to serve and act with the gallant band of his countrymen.
Government was astonished. It beheld, with unavailing regret, the effects of its own work, and saw enough to dismay them, though their prophetic eye could not take in all the future, nor their minds anticipate all that was destined to flow from this patriotic body of men. It was beyond their power to dissolve the cohorts that associated themselves for military glory and to save their country. Contending dangers agitated administration. An army acting without any authority from the crown was a subject of great alarm, but French 'invasion was a cause of alarm still more immediate ; and yet no other troops had ministers to oppose to invasion than this formidable volunteer army, with whom, or without whom, they now did not know how to live. America had drained both kingdoing of their forces, and, for the raising of a militia, government had no money and ihe volunteers no inclination. They looked around for succour, but they looked in vain *. In little more than a year their numbers amounted to 42,000 men. The Duke of Leinster, the Earl of Clanricarde, Lord. Charlemont, not to mention other nablemen and gentlemen of the highest stations, commanded them in different districts.
Having thus briefly related the origin of these celebrated associations, it will remain to be.de. veloped, in the regular progress of this history, what share they afterwards took in the political events that affected their country.; - After a long recess, the Earl of Buckinghamshire conyened the parliament on the 12th October, 1779. Mr. Grattan opposed the speech of the lord-lieutenant, as containing nothing explicit,
* The only expedient that was had recourse to, in order to divide the volunteers, was to propose to some of their officers in the south to get commissions from the crownı, or take them out at first, as för forni's sake merely; because, said they, in case of an invasion, and your being taken' prisoners, such commissions alone will entitle you to an exchange. At that very moment a noble English army was captive in Ame rica,