Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

NEW-YORK, 1807. YOUR flattering expressions, my dearest friend, and the interest you take in my fate, are reward enough for any trouble it can cost me, to give my opinion upon the topics you point out'; and to relate the sequel of my story. As in every work some method must be observed, I shall take the first that presents itself; and in adopting the order of your questions, make each the subject of a separate letter.

To speak of the terror in France, is, I must say, to begin with the most painful part of my

task. To defend or justify the enormities committed on that great theatre, could least of all be expected from one of my principles or feelings. He who has been devoted to the cause of liberty, and a martyr to the desire of promoting human happiness, must turn

with most natural abhorrence from the vices by which the idol of his heart has been profaned. But since the world has been made to resound with these crimes; since they have been celebrated through the universe by eloquence, so much beyond my pretentions, until every echo has been wearied with the repetition of them, it would be an idle affectation to go over a ground so beaten. I could however wish, that those who have been so zealous in proclaiming the sufferings of the victims to the French terror, had been themselves more innocent of them. That their machinations, intrigues, and interference, had not tended to promote them. And I could further wish, that if they were innocent of that terror, they had been also guiltless of one more cruel and more horrible: for too truly may the French terrorist reply to the English terrorist, mutato nomine de te fabula narratur ;" by altering the names of things, we do not change their nature: and what is tyranny in France, cannot be enobled in Ireland by the appellation of " loyalty,of “ royalty,or of “ vigour beyond the law !"

You express your wonder, that in a civilised country, either monsters should be found to plan 'such deeds, or instruments to execute them. But it is surely less wonderful that they should happen during the first convulsive throws of a nation bursting the bonds of ancient thraldom ; a people long used to abject submission, suddenly, and violently becoming masters; and where hostile interference of foreigners, malevolent intrigues, and ferocious threats, had ing, if

[ocr errors]

carried rage and despair into the hearts of the multitude, than that they should happen under a regular and settled government.

The state and parliamentary proceedings of England, and also to the proclamations of the duke of Brunswick, at the head of a foreign army,

before

any terror had been practised, threatened the people of France with fire and sword. The fate of such measures under general Burgoyne, and the others in America, was a sufficiently recent example to have served as a warning against that mode of dragoon

perverse men were capable of taking a lesson from experience, or measuring with a judicious eye, k the present and the past.

Then if we must wonder at mad 'cruelty, let it rather be, that such deeds could be perpetrated under a government vast and powerful; which had neither interest nor temptation to be any thing but just ! Of the terror in Ireland, my former correspondence may have given you some faint idea : some histories since published in more detail, may have fallen into your hands : and indeed the horror of those enormities, in spite of all the pains taken to suppress it, seems at length to have made its way to the hearts and understandings of the intelligent and virtuous in most parts of the civilised world. And perhaps it is now in England alone that they are least known or felt. I must observe, nevertheless, that every historian who has treated of them, seems more or less tinctured with the spirit of the times, and to crouch under the sentiment we deplore : so that whilst it is above all things

meritorious to blazen the crimes of the French revolutionists, it is held treasonable and desperate to speak of those of Ireland, as if the ancient proverb,

we are born to suffer," was intended for the edification of Irishmen alone!

For this reason I think it due to justice and to truth, to draw some lines of impartial comparison between these two parties.

First. In France the jacobin chiefs were not, as I ever could learn, avariciously interested; few of, them enriched themselves; and it was not until after the fall or decline of their system, that great fortymes were made in France out of the public spoil. Now in Ireland, murderers, denouncers, and traitors, wengi loaded with rewards. And he of the Irish who committed the most cruelties against his countrymen, was distinguished with most favor.

Secondly. In France, though death was wantonla inflicted in a way to make human nature shudder, yet the crime of corporal torture was not resorted to even where guilt was proved : in Ireland, torture of the innocent, merely to extort accusation, was the avowed system, and indemnified as “ loyalty and vigor beyond the law !”

Thirdly. In France, the Catholic clergy were banished : in Ireland, they were hanged. Many of the French have since returned, and live happy in their country: those hanged in Ireland, can never more return.

Fourthly. In France, it was a question which of two principles of government should prevail : in Ire

[ocr errors]

land, it was whether there should be a national or a foreign government. I cannot give much credit to the English ministers for their zeal in this controversy. For, as Mr. Sheridan once pointedly observed, England hadincurred a ruinous debt of six hundred millions of pounds sterlingone half of which was to pull down the Bourbons, and the other to set them up. No more consistent was it to send King George's troops to protect the person of the Pope in Rome, and then to tell him that his coronation-oath prevented him from giving relief to his Catholic subjects at home.

Fifthly. There was no instance in France of men being put to death for saving the lives of their persecutors. In Ireland it was done.

Sixthly. I never could hear that that most brutal: of all ferocity, the forcible violation of female chastity, had made part of the system of terror in France, that it did in Ireland, is too deplorably true.

There is a story related, and strongly attested to me, which it would be unjust to suppress :-Two young ladies, of the Orange or Government-faction, whose father, Mr. HG-, had rendered himself, by violent cruelty, peculiarly obnoxious--and who (shame of their sex) had performed with their own hands, many acts of torture and indignity, fell into the power of the rebels. Their consciences suggested that they ought to share the fate which the Irish women had suffered on similar occasions. They addressed themselves to certain young officers of the rebel-detachment, requesting their protection from the mob: but offering, as to them, to surrender their

« PreviousContinue »