Page images
[ocr errors]

Westmeath. The cases in which there was such evidence procured as to justify legal proceedings were exceedingly few. In the others, there was little more than the statements of informers-generally one in each case—commonly not on oath, and given on the condition that the informer would not have to appear as a witness.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]





We have now seen something of the spirit which animated the Normanby ministers. On the one hand, they put down the Orangemen; on the other, they, to the best of their ability, hunted down the Ribandmen. They put down the Protestant processions—they suppressed the Catholic factions—they removed causes of breaches of the peace—they punished offenders with a certainty never before attained. Criminals no longer went unpunished through defects in the prosecuting agencies, to the disgrace of justice and the demoralisation of the people. Witnesses were protected before and after trials till they became publicly recognised as citizens who were doing their duty to society. By steadily following this vigorous and even course the Government did more in a few years than could have been supposed possible to instruct the people in the true function of law, and to convince them of its being a blessing and not a curse.

Emancipation-outside the bounds of the rotten cor

[ocr errors]

porations, and so far as it could be given effect to by the Executive—was no longer a mere name. Catholics were promoted to the highest legal offices, as they were admitted (to the disgust and affected terror of the Orangemen) to the lowest arm of the Executive—the constabulary. They were admitted to sit upon juries. On the other hand, the resolutions of the House of Commons regarding Orangeism were no dead letter, as similar resolutions had often before been allowed to become. Whoever in an office of public trust belonged to the mischievous society was promptly cashieredgreat man or small, sub-constable or lieutenant of a county.*

This want of respect of persons was shown in a case which greatly exasperated the Ascendancy. It occurred in August 1837, by which time Drummond and his coadjutors in the Irish Government had come to be known as “ The Apostles," on account of their devotion to the interests of the Irish.

Colonel Verner, Deputy-Lieutenant of the county of Tyrone, who represented the Orangemen of the Empire in the Commons during the investigation of the Fairman plot, gave, at an election dinner, as a party toast, “ The Battle of the Diamond.” To understand the significance of this toast, the reader should know that


* The following instances illustrate the disposition of the Government to extirpate the Orange Society : _"Mr Deane, a barrister, and most respectable gentleman, was elected Mayor of Cork; but on a memorial being addressed to the Lord Lieutenant, stating the Orangeism of Mr Deane, that gentleman was dismissed, and became an Orange martyr. So too Mr Smith, of Annesbroke, was refused a Deputy-Lieutenancy, to which he had been nominated by Lord Dunsamy. So also reputed Orangemen returned on the judge's list for the office of High Sheriff were passed over, and other names put in their places.”—“ Ireland and Its Rulers," part ii. p. 292.


a little hamlet, about five miles from Armagh, is said to be the birthplace of Orangeism ; and that what is called the Battle of the Diamond was a conflict which took place at that hamlet in 1795. After the battle a few yeomen and farmers joined together for mutual defence and the assertion of British rights, and formed what is said to have been the first Orange Lodge.

The elections being over, Colonel Verner and the other magistrates who attended the dinner were favoured with the following circular letter from Mr Drummond :

“Dublin CASTLE, August 22, 1837. "Sir,—It appearing in the Newry Telegraph of the 10th instant, that at an election dinner given by you on the 7th, one of the toasts was “The Battle of the Diamond,' I am desired by his Excellency, now that the elections are all terminated, to desire that you will inform him whether it can be possible that you were thus a party to the commemoration of a lawless and most disgraceful conflict, in which much of the blood of your fellow-subjects was spilt, and the immediate consequence of which was, as testified at the time by all the leading men and magistrates of your county, to place that part of the country at the mercy of an ungovernable mob?-I have the honour to be, your most obedient servant,


All the magistrates, except Colonel Verner, at once answered that they were not present when the toast was proposed. It was the 29th August before the colonel wrote in answer to the brusque note, which is as characteristic of Drummond as it is unlike “the most urbane minister of his age,” who directed it to be written. In his answer he parried the question put to him, and declined to reply to it. He said,

“ I have received a letter, dated August 22, bearing your signature, and inquiring of me, by the direction of His Excellency, “whether it can be possible that I was a party to the commemoration of a lawless and most disgraceful conflict, in which much of the blood of my fellow-subjects was spilt, and the immediate consequence of which was, as testified at the time by all the leading men and magistrates of the county, to place that part of the country at the mercy of an ungovernable mob ?'

“I am disposed to think that when you put a question in a form like this, you can hardly expect, on cool reflection, that I should condescend to answer it-at least, I would imagine you could expect no other answer than one which I hold superfluous, namely, that I am not capable of being a party to the commemoration of anything ‘lawless or disgraceful!' I would request, if I am ever again to be favoured by a question which you are directed to propose, that it may be expressed in terms better calculated to invite an answer, and more likely also to be understood. I must say your letter does not appear to me very intelligible.

“ His Excellency seems to assume that the appearance of a statement in a public newspaper authorises a call upon me to contradict or confirm it. I had the honour to entertain several of my friends at dinner on the day to which your letter refers. I am bold to affirm that at that entertainment nothing took place which loyal and honourable men would hesitate to own most frankly. But I speak, I am confident, the sentiments of my friends, and of every gentleman whose freedom is not restrained by official station, when I say that a question like this in your letter ought not to be proposed to me, and that I am bound to decline replying to it.”

The following passage which occurred in the letter was understood to imply that the writer did not know to what conflict the Under Secretary referred

* Upon the various misrepresentations, unintentional, I have no doubt, which your letter contains, I have no desire to comment. I feel it necessary only to assure you that, of all the conflicts which took place at any of the various places called by the name of 'Diamond' in the county of Arinagh, there

« PreviousContinue »