The Rising of 1798

From The Historic Case for Irish Independence by Darrell Figgis

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30. That leader arose in Wolfe Tone, a Protestant. He wrote a searching analysis of the Parliament in Dublin, shewing by its constituents that it represented nothing. As for the Revolution of 1782, "it was," said he, "a Revolution which, while at one stroke it doubled the value of every borough-monger in the kingdom, left three-fourths of our countrymen slaves as it found them." His pamphlet sold widely. He established the Society of United Irishmen, which pronounced for the equal representation of all the people of Ireland, and recognised none of the religious distinctions by which the people had been divided. Large public meetings were organised, which found a ready ear; but in 1794 the Government arrested some of the leaders and sought to suppress the organisation. It became, therefore, a secret society, and enrolled members by a close and elaborate organisation covering the whole country. Its aim was now to assert the absolute and sovereign independence of the nation; and in that it voiced the national desire.

When Wolfe Tone was compelled to fly the country he went to America, thence to France, to solicit aid in furtherance of that aim. In the meantime the work in the country was continued by other leaders, foremost among whom was Lord Edward FitzGerald. Wolfe Tone succeeded in winning the French Government to his support, and twice French fleets set sail for Ireland with a considerable force, but were hindered by unfavourable weather from landing their armies. That latter of these fruitless expeditions was in 1798. In the meantime the Directory of the United Irishmen had been maturing its plans. In 1797 the whole country had been placed under Martial Law, and troops were moved into the country; nevertheless they made arrangements for a national rising for the following year.

The war of nation against nation was to be resumed, and resumed it was, in the first of a new series of risings that were to keep alive the soul of a sovereign nation; but all plans miscarried. French aid had failed, and by the help of spies the Government had sent into the Society, its leaders were arrested as they were about to meet to concert a general plan for the rising. Therefore, the country was left to rise as it might or would, without plan or central control. The Province of Leinster was the first to rise, and there the descendants of previous Planters rose shoulder by shoulder with the men of the ancient nation. Ulster was the next to rise; but there Martial Law had been executed with such severity that the rising was but partial. A portion of the second adventure of the French fleet landed in Connacht, and the French troops were joined by an untrained peasantry in a short and brilliant campaign. In Leinster the rising assumed serious proportions, and was suppressed with the brutality that England never failed to exercise in Ireland. General Abercrombie, commanding the troops in Ireland, reported: "Every crime, every cruelty, that could be committed by Cossacks or Calmucks have been transacted here." The rising failed; but it reopened the war between nation and nation, and it bequeathed a new tradition that was not to be suffered to perish.

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