From The United Irishmen: Their Life and Times by R.R. Madden, 1842.
Fort George, June 5, 1802.
MY DEAR FRIEND, – The gentleman who carries this, will go this evening, I must, therefore, be brief in what I say. My devoting my whole time to the cause of liberty, has left me without fortune. I am about to be sent to a place where I am unknown; I have, therefore, to beg, that you and McDonnell will try to let me have, as soon as you can, a credit on that place for twenty pounds. I cannot find words to express how much I am grieved at being obliged to make it; and if it is inconvenient to be complied with, I beg you will think no more of it. Suspecting that some such measures on the part of government would take place, I wrote to McDonnell to this effect, the 16th of last month; but, having received no answer to that, or former letters, either he is not in Belfast, or never received them, for I have no notion it is a want of friendship, whatever difference there may be in our political opinions. Uncertainty, as to where he is, and want of time, prevent my now writing to him; I wish you would express this, and beg of him to get me letters from Kirwan, or any such friend, as my present intention is Paris. Respecting my literary pursuits, I neither have, nor mean to neglect them; but of these I can write to you by the post.
I shall only say a few words of my political ones; you live among the people, among whom I principally acted. To the people of Ireland I am responsible for my actions; amidst the uncertainty of life, this may be my valedictory letter; what has occasioned the temporary miscarriage of the Cause, is useless to dwell on. Providence orders all for the best. I am sure the people will never abandon that cause, and I am equally sure it will succeed. But I fear that many were led so far astray, as to think favourably of the usurpation of Bonaparte, which tramples on liberty in France, suspends its progress in the world, and madly attempts its total destruction. If that predilection was extensive, it certainly was very fortunate that no revolution took place; for there would have been no change, but a change of masters, when such was the disposition of the people; the delusion is, I trust, done away with, and we shall never again act on the principle, that ‘we may do evil that good may come.’ To such as had the misfortune the cause of irreligion with that of liberty, I beg them attentively to consider France, for some years past, governed by professed atheists and deists, to see them introducing soundless profligacy by their marriage laws, sending others to the scaffold; and now a remnant of them, with detestable hypocrisy, trying to establish their power, endeavouring to bind the French, by other chains, to the feet of tyranny. I trust this delusion is likewise over, and that men will see the only true basis of liberty is morality, and the only stable basis of morality is religion. I trust that the error of supposing that the affairs of the world can be tranquilized in their present form, does not obtain amongst my friends – this is a most awful crisis – may they be found doing their duty, by exerting themselves to extend virtue and liberty.
I must now speak of myself. The situation must excuse the egotism; – so far from conceiving the cause of Ireland lost, or being weary of its pursuit, I am more than ever, if possible, inflexibly bent on it, for that, I stay (if I can stay) in Europe; all the faculties I possess shall be exercised for its advancement; for that, I wished to go to Ireland, not to reside, but to see how I shall be able to serve it, and that I can only know when at large. Every motive exists to stimulate the generous mind, – the widows and orphans of my friends, the memory of the heroes who fell, and the sufferings of the heroes who survive. My very soul is on fire; I can say no more.
Farewell, my dear friend, I beg to be affectionately remembered to your family; and believe me always to participate in whatever contributes to your happiness. Give my kindest and warmest regards to Miss Mary McCracken, and all the good family. Remember me, affectionately, to Bunting. I have a copy of his music with me, and will do all I can to introduce it to notice. You will best know to whom I would be remembered; assure them of my best regards. You will see, from the nature of my views, that I wish to be extensively recommended, and you will do what you can to forward it. Mr. Neilson’s son returns to Ireland. Now, I wish you to know the boy; he is a very extraordinary child; I am sure your acquaintance would improve him. I should add, that his father participates in my sentiments, and, indeed, all here who are known to you. They are almost universal among us.
Your affectionate and sincere friend,