Cruelty and Humanity

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IX | Start of Chapter

We need not enter here into the painful questions raised as to the severities and even cruelties practised by the royal troops in the suppression of the rebellion. The King's forces were largely made up of hireling regiments from German principalities and of the loyal yeomanry from Ulster and other parts of Ireland, who were invariably Orangemen filled with hatred for the Catholics and for the national movement which championed their claims to religious emancipation. Under these conditions, cruelties were practised towards the defeated insurgents which would not have been committed if the victorious troops had been Englishmen called upon to discharge a military duty. Lord Cornwallis himself has left on record many expressions of the detestation with which he regarded the conduct of some of the civilians as well as soldiers who took a leading part in the suppression of the insurrection and the punishment of the insurgents.

Lord Cornwallis showed much humanity in his dealings with the conquered rebels, and acted as mercifully as the laws of the time would allow him. His own writings prove how severe was the struggle between his own generous sentiments and the enforcement of the system which he was compelled to maintain to a certain extent. He has bequeathed to history the most frank expression of his abhorrence of the spirit and the utterances of many of those around him, who were incessant in advocacy of the most cruel measures against all who were believed to have taken part in the rebellion, and the exultation with which they welcomed every account of savage reprisals.