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observe, that the day after the publication abovementioned, when I attended near the House of Commons in expectation of being called before them to answer for what I had done, and had requested my friend, Sir Laurence Parsons, to give me notice in order that I might present myself, the House tdok fire by accident, and was burnt to the ground.
* The Society of United Irishmen beginning to attract the public notice considerably in consequence of the event I have mentioned, and it being pretty generally known that I was principally instrumental in its formation, I was one day surprised by a visit from the barrister, who had about two years before spoken to me on the part of the Whig leaders, a business of which I had long since discharged my memory. He told me he was sorry to see the new line I was adopting in politics ; the more so, as I might rely upon it that the principles I now held would never be generally adopted, and consequently I was devoting myself without advancing any beneficial purpose. He also iestified some surprise at my conduct, and insinuated pretty directly, though with great civility, that I had not kept faith with the Whigs, with whom he professed to understand I had connected myself, and whom in consequence I vught to have consulted before I took so decided a line of conduct as I had lately done. I did not like the latter part of his discourse at all: however I answered him with great civility on my part, that as to the principles he mentioned, I had not adopted them without examination that as to the pamphlet I had written in the Catholic cause, I had not advanced a syllable I did not conscientiously believe, and consequently I was neither inclined to repent nor retract. As to my supposed connexion with the Whigs, I re. minded him that I had not sought them : on the contrary, they had sought me. If they had on reflection not thought me worth cultivating, that was no fault of 'mine. I observed also that Mr. George Ponsonby, whom I looked upon as principal in the business, had never spoken to me above a dozen times in my life, and then merely on ordinary topics: that I was too proud to be treated in that manner: and if I was supposed capable of rendering service to the party, it could only be by confiding in and communicating with me, that I could be really serviceable, and on that footing only would Y consent to be treated; that probably Mr. Ponsonby would think that rather a lofty declaration, but it was my determination, the more so, as I knew he was rather a proud man: finally, I observed, he had my permission to report all this, and that I looked upon myself as under no tie of obligation whatsoever; that i had written a pamphlet, unsolicited, in favour of the party; that I had consequently been employed in a business professionally, which produced me eighty gaineas; that I looked on myself as sufficiently rewarded, but I also considered the money as fully earned ; that I had at present taken my party; that my prin. ciples were known; and I was not at all inclined to retract them. What I had done, I had done, and I was determined to abide by it.-My friend then said, he was sorry to see me so obstinate, and protesting that his principal object was to serve me, in which I believed him, he took his leave, and this put an end completely to the idea of a connexion with the Whigs. I spoke rather haughtily in this affair, because I was somewhat provoked at the insinuation of duplicity, and besides I wished to have a blow at Mr. G. Ponsonby, who seemed desirous to retain me as a kind of pamphleteer in his service, at the same time that he avoided industriously any thing like communication with me; a situation to which I was neither so weak nor so inean as to suffer myself to be reduced ; and as I well knew he was one of the proudest men in Ireland, I took care to speak on a footing of the most independent equality. After this discussion 1 for the second time dismissed all'idea of Ponsonby and the Whigs, but I had good reason a long time after to believe that he had not so readily forgot the business as I had; and indeed he was very near having his full revenge upon me, as I shall mention in its place.
“I have already observed that the first attempts of the Catholic Committee, after the secession of their aristocracy, were totally unsuccessful. In 1790 they could not even find a inember of parliament who would condescendio
present their petition. In 1791, Richard Burke, then their agent, had prepared on their behalf a very well written philippick, but which certainly was no petition, which after considerable difficulties, resulting in a great degree from his want of temper and discretion, was, after being offered to and accepted by different members, at length finally refused, a circumstance which by disgusting him extremely with all parties, I believe determined him to quit Ireland.
“ After his departure another petition was prepared and presented by — but no unfortunate paper was ever so maltreated. The Committee in general, and its most active and ostensible members in particular, were vilified and abused in the grossest manner. They were called a rabble of obscure porter drinking mechanics, without property, pretension, or influence, who met in holes and corners, and fancied themselves the representatives of the Catholic body, who disavowed and despised them. The independence and respectability of the sixty-eight renegadoes who had set their hands so infamously to their act of apostacy, were extolled to the skies, while the lowest and most clumsy personalities were heaped upon the leaders of the Committee, particularly Edward Byrne and John Keogh, who had the honour to be selected froin their brethren and exposed as butts for the small wit of the prostitutes of the Government. Finally, the petition of the Catholics, three millions of people, was by special motion of David La Touche, taken off the table of the House of Commons, where it had been suffered to remain for three days and rejected. Never was an address to a legislative body more unpitifully used. The people of Belfast, rapidly advancing in the career of wisdom and liberality, had presented a petition on behalf of the Catholics, much more pointed than that which they presented for themselves; for their petition was extremely well guarded, asking only the right of elective franchise and equal admission to grand juries, whereas that of Belfast prayed the entire admission to all the rights of citizens. This petition was also, on motion of the same member, taken off the table, and rejected, and the two papers sent forth together to wander as they might.
“ There seems from this time a special providence to have watched over Ireland, and to have turned to her profit and advantage the deepest-laid and most artful schemes of her enemies. Every measure adopted, and skilfully adopted, to thwart the expectations of the Catholics, and io crush the rising spirit of union between them and the Dissenters, has, without exception, tended to confirm and fortify both; and the fact I am about to mention, is, for one, a striking proof of the assertion. The principal charge raised in the House of Commons, in the general outcry against the General Committee, was, that they were a self-appointed body, not nominated by the Catholics of the nation, and consequently not authorized to speak on their behalf. This argument, which in fact was the truth, was triumphantly dwelt upon by the enemies of the Catholics ; but in the end, it would, perhaps, have been more fortunate for their wishes if they had not laid such a stress upon the circumstance, and drawn the line of separation so strongly between the General Committee and the body at large; for the Catholics through Ireland, who had hitherto been indolent spectators of the business, seeing their brethren of Dublin, and especially the General Committee, insulted and abused for their exertions in pursuit of that liberty, which, if attained, inust be a common blessing to all, came forward as one man from every quarter of the nation. with addresses and resolutions adopting the measures of the General Committee as their own, declaring that body the only organ competent to speak for the Catholics of Ireland, and condemning, in terms of the most marked disapprobation and contempt, the conduct of the sixty-eight apostates who were so triumphantly held up by the hirelings of Government as the respectable part of the Catholic community. The question was now plainly decided ; the aristocracy shrunk back in disgrace and obscurity, leaving the field open to the democracy, and that body neither wanted talent nor spirit to profit of the advantage of their present situation.
“ The Catholics of Dublin were at this period to the Catholics of Ireland, what Paris at the commencement of the French revolution was to the Departments. Their sentiment was that of the nation, and whatever political measure they adopted was sure to be obeyed. Still, however, there was wanting a personal communication between the General Commiitee and their constituents in the country; and as the Catholic Question had now grown to considerable magnitude, so much, indeed, as to absorb all other political discussion, it became the first care of the leader of the Committee to frame a plan of organization for that purpose. It is to the sagacity of M-Rof K-brook, in the county of Leitrim, that his country is indebted for the system in which the General Committee was to be framed in a manner that should render it impossible to bring it again in doubt whether the body were, or not, the organ of the Catholic will. His plan was to associate to the Committee, as then constituted, two members from each county and great city, actual residents of the place which they represented; who were, however, only to be summoned upon extraordinary occasions, leaving the common routine business to the original members, who, I have already related, were all residents of Dublin. The Committee thus constituted, would consist of half town and half country members, and the election for the latter, he proposed, should be held by means of primary and electoral assemblies; held,' the first in each parish, the second in each county and great lown. He likewise proposed that the town members should be held to correspond regularly with their county associates, these with their immediate electors, and these again with the primary assemblies. A more simple, and at the same time a more comprehensive organization, could not be devised : by this means the General Committee became the centre of a circle embracing the whole nation and pushing its rays instantaneously to the remotest parts of the circumference.
The plan was laid in writing before the General Committee by M-K-; and after mature discussion, the first part, relating to the association and election of the county members, was adopted, but with some slight variation; the latter part,. relating to the constant communication with the mass of the people, was thought, under the circumstances, to be too hardy, and was accordingly dropped sub silentio.
“ About this time it was that the leaders of the Committee cast their eyes upon me to fill the station left vacant by Richard Burke. It was accordingly proposed by my friend John Keogh to appoint ine their agent, with the title of assistant secretary, and a salary of 2001. a year during my continuance in the service of the Committee. This was adopted unanimously : John Keogh and John Sweetman were ordered to wait on me with the proposal in writing, to which I acceded immediately by a respectful answer, and I was that very day introduced in form to the Sub-Committee, and entered upon the functions of my new office. was now placed in a very honourable, but
arduous situation. The Committee having taken so decided a step as that of proposing a general elec. tion of members to represent the Catholic body throughout Ireland, was wel aware that they would be exposed to attacks of all possible kinds, and they were not disappointed. They were prepared, however, to repel them, and the literary part of the warfare fell of course to my share. On reviewing the conduct of my predecessor Richard Burke, I saw the rock on which he split was an overweening opinion of his own talents and judgement, and a desire, which he had not art enough to conceal, of guiding at his pleasure the measures of the Committee. I therefore determined to model my conduct with the greatest caution in that respect. I seldom or never offered my opinion, unless is was called for, in the Sub-Committee, but contented myself with giving my sentiments without reserve in private to the two men I most esteemed, and who had in their respective capacities the greatest influence on the body-] mean John Keogh, and Richard M‘Cormick, secretary to the General Committee. My discretion in this respect was not unobserved, and I very soon acquired, and I may say without vanity I deserved, the entire confidence and
good opinion of the Catholics. The fact is, I was devoted most sincerely to their cause, and being now retained in their service, I would have sacrificed every thing to secure their success, and they knew it. I am satisfied they looked upon me as a faithful and zealons advocate, neither to be intimidated nor corrupted; and in that respect they rendered me but justice. My circumstances were at the time of my appointment extremely embarrassed, and of course the salary annexed to niy office was a considerable object to me; but though I had an increasing family totally unprovided for, I can safely say, that I would not have deserted my duty to the Catholics for the whole patronage of the Goveroinent, if it were consolidated into one office and offered me as the reward. In these sentiments I was enconraged and confirmed by the incomparable spirit of my wife, to whose patient suffering under adversity (for we had often been reduced and were now well accustomed to difficulties,) I know not how to render justice. Women in general, I am sorry to say it, are mercenary, and especially if they have children, they are ready to make all sacrifices to their establishment. But my dearest love had bolder and juster views. On every occasion of my life I consulted her. We had no secrets one from the other, and I invariably found her think and act with energy and courage, combined with the greatest prudence and discretion. If ever I succeed in life, or arrive at any thing like station or eminence, I shall consider it as due to her counsels and to her example. But to return. Another rule which I adopted for my conduct was, in all the papers I had occasion to write, to remember I was not speaking for inyself, but for the Catholic body, and consequently to be never wedded to ny own compositions, but to receive the objections of every one with respeci, and to change without reluctance, whatever the Committee thought proper to alter, even in cases where, perhaps, my own judgement was otherwise ; and trifling as the circumstance may seem, I am sure it recommended me considerably to the Committee, who had been on former occasions more than once embarrassed by the self-love of Richard Burke, and indeed even of some of their own body, men of considerable talents, who had written sorne excellent papers on their behalf, but who did not stand criticism as I did, without wincing. The fact is, I was so entirely devoted to their cause, that the idea of literary reputation, as to myself, never occurred to me; not that I am at all insensible on that score, but the feeling was totally absorbed in superior considerations ; and I think I can safely appeal to the Sub-Committee, whether ever on any occasion they found me for a moment set up my vanity or self-lore against their interests or even their pleasure. I am sure that by my discretion on the points I have mentioned, (which indeed was no more than my duty) I secured the esteem of the Committee, and consequently influence in their councils, which I should justly have forfeited had I seemed too eager to assume it; and it is to the credit of both parties that from the first moment of our connexion to the last; neither my zeal and anxiety to serve them, nor the kindness and favour with which they received my efforts, were ever for å single moment suspended. Almost the first business I had to transact was to conduct a correspondence with Richard Burke, who was very desirous to return to Ireland once inore and to resume his former station, which the Committee were determined he should not do. It was a matter of some difficulty to refuse without offending him, and I must say he pressed us rather forcibly; however, we parried him with as much address as we could, and after two or three long letters, to which the answers were very concise and civil, he found the business was desperate, and gave it up accordingly.
“ This was a memorable year in Ireland (1792). The publication of the plan for the new organizing of the General Committee, gave an instant alarm to all the supporters of the British government, and every effort was made to prevent the election of the country members; for it was sufficiently evident that if the representatives of three millions of oppressed people were once suffered to meet, it would not afterwards be safe, or indeed possible, to refuse their just demands. Accordingly, at the ensuing Assizes, the Grand
Juries universally throughout Ireland, published the most furious, I may say frantic resolutions against the plan and its authors, whom they charged with little short of high treason. Government likewise were but too successful in gaining the Catholic clergy, particularly the bishops, who gave the measure at first very serious opposition. The Committee, however, was not daunted, and satisfied of the justice of their cause, and of their own courage, they laboured, and with success, to inspire the same spirit in the breasts of their brethren throughout the nation. For this purpose their first step was an admirable one. By their order I drew up a state of the case, with the plan for the organization of the Committee annexed, which was laid before Simon Butler and Beresford Burston, two lawyers of greal eminence, and what was of consequence here, King's counsel, to know whether the Committee had in any respect contravened the law of the land, or whether by carrying the proposed plan into execution the parties concerned would subject themselves to pain or penalty. The answers of both the lawyers were completely in our favour, and we instantly printed them in the papers and dispersed them in handbills, letters, and all possible shapes. This blow was decisive as to the legality of the measure. For the bishops, whose opposition gave us great trouble, four or five different missions were undertaken by different members of the Sub-Committee into the provinces, at their own expense, in order to hold conferences with thein, in which, with much difficulty, they succeeded, so far as to secure the co-operation of some and the neutrality of the rest of the prelates. On these missions the most active members were John Keogh and T- -B, neither of whom spared purse or person, when the interests of the Catholic body were concerned.
“ I accompanied Mr. B- in his visit to Connaught, where he went to meet the gentry of that province at the great fair of Ballinasloe. As it was late in the evening when he left town, the postilion who drove us having given warning, lam satisfied, to some footpads, the carriage was stopped by four or five fellows at the gate of the Phænix-park. We had two case of pistols in the carriage, and we agreed not to be robbed. B, who was at this time about 65 years of age, and lame from a fall of his horse some years before, was as cool and intrepid as man could be: he took the command, and by his orders I let down all the glasses, and called out to the fellows to come on, if they were so inclined, for that we were ready, B-desiring me at the same time not to fire till I could touch the scoundrels.” This rather embarrassed them, and they did not venture to approach the carriage, but held a council of war at the horses heads. I then presented one of my pistols at the postilion, swearing horribly that I would put him instantly to death if he did not drive over them, and I made him feel the muzzle of the pistol against the back of his head. The fellows on this took to their heels and ran off, and we proceeded on our journey without farther interruption. When we arrived at the inn, B, whose goodness of heart is equal to his courage, and no inan is braver, began by abusing the postilion for his treachery, and ended by giving him half-a-crown. I wanted to break the rascal's bones, but he would not suffer me, and this was the end of our adventure.”