The memorials on the state of Ireland, delivered by Wolfe Tone to the French Government, in February, 1796.
The genius of the English nation, their manners, their prejudices, and their Government, are so diametrically opposite to those of the French Republic, in all respects, that it is unnecessary to dwell upon this subject. I assume it as an axiom that there is an irreconcilable opposition of interests between the two nations. Since the French Revolution there is one still more irreconcilable between the Governments, so that neither can be said to be in security while the other is in existence.
The war hitherto, however glorious to France, has not been unprofitable to England; her fleets were never more formidable, and, in the true spirit of trade, she will console herself for the disgrace of her arms by land, in the acquisition of wealth, and commerce, and power by sea; but these very acquisitions render it, if possible, incumbent, not merely on France, but on all Europe, to endeavour to reduce her within due limits, and to prevent that enormous accumulation of wealth which the undisturbed possession of the commerce of the whole world would give her; and this reduction of her power can be alone, as I presume, accomplished, with certainty and effect, by separating Ireland from Great Britain.
The French Government cannot but be well informed of the immense resources, especially in a military point of view, which England draws from Ireland. It is with the beef and the pork, the butter, the tallow, the hides, and various other articles of the first necessity, which Ireland supplies, that she victuals and equips her navy, and, in a great degree, supports her people and garrisons in the West Indies. It is with the poor and hardy natives of Ireland that she mans her fleets and fills the ranks of her army. From the commencement of the present war to the month of June, 1795, not less than 200,000 men were raised in Ireland, of whom 80,000 were for the navy alone. It is a fact undeniable, though carefully concealed in England, that TWO-THIRDS of the British, navy are manned by Irishmen — a circumstance which, if it stood alone, should be sufficient to determine the French Government to wrest, if possible, so powerful a weapon from the hands of her implacable enemy. I shall not dwell longer on the necessity of the measure which I shall propose, but will endeavour to show how it may best be executed, and on what grounds it is that I rest my confidence of success, if the attempt be but once made.
For the better elucidation of the plan it is necessary to take a review of the actual state of Ireland. I shall condense the facts as much as possible, as I trust the French Government is already in possession of those which are most material.
The people of Ireland consist of about four million five hundred thousand persons, distributed under three different religious sects, of whom the Protestants, whose religion is the dominant one, and established by law, constitute four hundred and fifty thousand, or one-tenth of the whole; the Dissenters, or Presbyterians, about nine hundred thousand, or one-fifth; the Catholics form the remaining three million one hundred and fifty thousand. They may also be considered with regard to property, which is necessary, in some degree, to explain the political situation of the country.
The Protestants, who are almost entirely the descendants of Englishmen, forming so very small a minority as they do of the whole people, have yet almost the whole landed property of the country in their hands; this property has been acquired by the most unjust means, by plunder and confiscation during repeated wars, and by the operation of laws framed to degrade and destroy the Catholics, the natives of the country. In 1650 the people of three entire provinces were driven by Cromwell into the fourth, and their property divided amongst his officers and soldiers, whose descendants enjoy it at this day. In 1688, when James II. was finally defeated in Ireland, the spirit of the Irish people was completely broken, and the last remnant of their property torn from them and divided amongst the conquerors. By these means the proprietors of estates in Ireland, feeling the weakness of their titles to property thus acquired, and seeing themselves, as it were, a colony of strangers, forming not above one-tenth part of the population, have always looked to England for protection and support; they have, therefore, been ever ready to sacrifice the interests of their country to her ambition and avarice, and to their own security. England, in return, has rewarded them for this sacrifice by distributing among them all the offices and appointments in the church, the army, the law, the revenue, and every department of the state, to the utter exclusion of the two other sects, and more especially of the Catholics. By these means the Protestants, who constitute the aristocracy of Ireland, have in their hands all the force of the Government; they have at least five-sixths of the landed property; they are devoted implicitly to the connection with England, which they consider as essential to the secure possession of their estates; they dread and abhor the principles of the French Revolution, and, in case of any attempt to emancipate Ireland, I should calculate on all the opposition which it might be in their power to give.
But it is very different with regard to the Dissenters, who occupy the province of Ulster, of which they form at present the majority. They have among them but few great landed proprietors; they are mostly engaged in trade and manufactures, especially the linen, which is the staple commodity of Ireland, and is almost exclusively in their hands. From their first establishment, in 1620, until very lately, there existed a continual animosity between them and the Catholic natives of the country, grounded on the natural dislike between the old inhabitants and strangers, and fortified still more by the irreconcilable difference between the genius of the religions of Calvinism and Popery, and diligently cultivated and fomented by the Protestant aristocracy, the partisans of England, who saw in the feuds and dissensions of the other two great sects their own protection and security.
Among the innumerable blessings procured to mankind by the French Revolution, arose the circumstance which I am about to mention, and to which I do most earnestly entreat the particular attention of the French Government, as it is, in fact, the point on which the emancipation of Ireland may eventually turn.
The Dissenters are, from the genius of their religion, and the spirit of inquiry which it produces, sincere and enlightened republicans; they have ever, in a degree, opposed the usurpations of England, whose protection, as well from their numbers and spirit as the nature of their property, they did not, like the Protestant aristocracy, feel necessary for their existence. Still, however, in all the civil wars of Ireland they ranged themselves under the standard of England, and were the most formidable enemies to the Catholic natives, whom they detested as Papists, and despised as slaves. These bad feelings were, for obvious reasons, diligently fomented by the Protestant and English party. At length, in the year 1790, the French Revolution produced a powerful revulsion in the minds of the most enlightened men amongst them. They saw that, whilst they thought they were the masters of the Catholics, they were, in fact, but their jailers, and that, instead of enjoying liberty in their own country, they served but as a garrison to keep it in subjection to England; the establishment of unbounded liberty of conscience in France had mitigated their horror of Popery; one hundred and ten years of peace had worn away very much of the old animosity which former wars had raised and fomented. Eager to emulate the glorious example of France, they saw at once that the only guide to liberty was justice, and that they neither deserved nor could obtain independence, whilst their Catholic brethren, as they then, for the first time, called them, remained in slavery and oppression. Impressed with these sentiments of liberality and wisdom, they sought out the leaders of the Catholics, whose cause and whose suffering were, in a manner, forgotten. The Catholics caught with eagerness at the slightest appearance of alliance and support from a quarter whose opposition they had ever experienced to be so formidable, and once more, after lying prostrate for above one hundred years, appeared on the political theatre of their country. Nothing could exceed the alarm, the terror, and confusion which this most unexpected coalition produced in the breasts of the English Government, and their partisans, the Protestant aristocracy of Ireland. Every art, every stratagem, was used to break the new alliance, and revive the ancient animosities and feuds between the Dissenters and Catholics. Happily such abominable attempts proved fruitless. The leaders on both sides saw that as they had but one common country, they had but one common interest; that while they were mutually contending and ready to sacrifice each other, England profited of their folly to enslave both, and that it was only by a cordial union and affectionate co-operation that they could assert their common liberty, and establish the independence of Ireland. They therefore resisted and overcame every effort to disunite them, and in this manner has a spirit of union and regard succeeded to 250 years of civil discord — a revolution in the political morality of the nation of the most extreme importance, and from which, under the powerful auspices of the French Republic, I hope and trust her independence and liberty will arise.
I beg leave again to call the attention of the French Government to this fact of the national union, which, from my knowledge of the situation of Ireland, I affirm to be of importance, equal to all the rest. Catholics and Dissenters, the two great sects whose mutual animosities have been the radical weakness of their country, are at length reconciled, and the arms which have been so often imbrued in the blood of each other are ready for the first time to be turned in concert against the common enemy.
I come now to the third party in Ireland, the Catholics, who are the Irish, properly so called, and who form almost the entire body of the peasanty of the country. The various confiscations, produced by the wars of five centuries, and the silent operation of the laws for 150 years, have stripped the Catholics of almost all property in land: the great bulk of them are in the lowest degree of misery and want, hewers of wood and drawers of water; bread they seldom taste, meat never, save once in the year; they live in wretched hovels, they labour incessantly, and their landlords, the Protestant aristocracy, have so calculated, that the utmost they can gain by this continual toil will barely suffice to pay the rent, at which these petty despots assess their wretched habitations; their food the whole year round is potatoes; their drink, sometimes milk, more frequently water; those of them who attempt to cultivate a spot of ground as farmers are forced, in addition to a heavy rent, to pay tithes to the priests of the Protestant religion, which they neither profess nor believe; their own priests fleece them. Such is the condition of the peasantry of Ireland, above 3,000,000 of people. But though there be little property in land, there is a considerable share of the commerce of Ireland in the hands of the Catholic body; their merchants are highly respectable and well informed; they are perfectly sensible, as well of their own situation as that of their country. It is of these men, with a few of the Catholic gentry, whose property escaped the fangs of the English invaders, that their General Committee, of which I shall have occasion to speak by and by, is composed, and it is with their leaders that the union with the Dissenters, so infinitely important to Ireland, and, if rightly understood, to France also, has been formed.
I have now stated the respective situation, strength, and views of the parties of Ireland; that is to say:
First. The Protestants, 450.000, comprising the great body of the aristocracy, which supports and is supported by England. Their strength is entirely artificial, composed of the power and influence which the patronage of Government gives them. They have in their hands all appointments in every department, in the church, the army, the revenue, the navy, the law, and a great proportion of the landed property of the country, acquired and maintained as has been stated; but it cannot escape the penetration of the French Government that all their apparent power is purely fictitious; the strength they derive from Government results solely from opinion; the instant that prop is withdrawn, the edifice tumbles into ruins; the strength of property acquired like theirs by the sword continues no longer than the sword can defend it, and, numerically, the Protestants are but one-tenth of the people.
Second. The Dissenters, 900,000, who form a large and respectable portion of the middle ranks of the community. These are the class of men best informed in Ireland; they constituted the bulk of what we called the Volunteer army in 1782, during the last war, which extorted large concessions from England, and would have completely established their liberty had they been then, as they are now, united with their Catholic brethren. They are all, to a man, sincere Republicans, and devoted with enthusiasm to the cause of liberty and France; they would make perhaps the best soldiers in Ireland, and are already in a considerable degree trained to arms.
Third. The Catholics, 3,150,000. These are the Irish, properly so called, trained from their infancy in an hereditary hatred and abhorrence of the English name, which conveys to them no ideas but those of blood and pillage and persecution. This class is strong in numbers and in misery, which makes men bold; they are used to every species of hardship; they can live on little; they are easily clothed; they are bold and active; they are prepared for any change, for they feel that no change can make their situation worse. For these five years they have fixed their eyes most earnestly on France, whom they look upon, with great justice, as fighting their battles, as well as those of all mankind who are oppressed. Of this class, I will stake my head, there are five hundred thousand men, who would fly to the standard of the Republic if they saw it once displayed in the cause of liberty and their country.
From what I have said it appears that all the artificial strength of Ireland is implicitly devoted to England, and decidedly adverse to France; that all the natural strength is equally devoted to France, and adverse to England: for this plain reason, that in the one they look for a deliverer, in the other they see a tyrant. It is now necessary to state the organisation of the people of Ireland; and here I must be allowed to observe, that even if there were no previous organisation the measures which I shall submit would not be the less advisable and practicable. Organisation, like machinery, may be necessary to enable a small force to raise a great weight; but a whole people can act by their natural strength. The Republic may rely with confidence to meet support from the Dissenters, actuated by reason and reflection, from the Catholics, impelled by misery and inflamed by detestation of the English name. These are the actual force of Ireland, and, in addition to their strength, they are organised also.
In the year 1791 the Dissenters of Belfast, which is the principal city in Ulster, and, as it were, the metropolis of that great body, formed the first club of United Irishmen, so called, because in that club, for the first time in Ireland, Dissenters and Catholics were seen together in harmony and union. A similar club was immediately formed in Dublin, which became speedily famous for its publications and the sufferings of its members, many of whom were thrown into prison by the Government, whose terror at this rising spirit of union amongst the people may be estimated from the severity with which they persecuted those who were most active in promoting it. This persecution, however, far from quelling the spirit, only served to make the people more cautious and guarded in their measures. Means have been adopted to spread similar clubs throughout Ulster, the seat of the Dissenting power, the object of which is to subvert the tyranny of England, to establish the independence of Ireland, and to frame a free republic on the broad basis of liberty and equality. These clubs were rapidly filled, and extended, in June last, over about two-thirds of that province. I am satisfied that, by this time, they embrace the whole of it, and comprise the activity and energy of the Dissenters of Ireland, including also numbers of the most spirited and intelligent of the Catholic body. The members are all bound by an oath of secrecy, and could, on a proper occasion, I have not the smallest doubt, raise the entire force of the province of Ulster, the most populous, the most warlike, and the most informed quarter of the nation.
For the Catholics, from what has been said of their situation, it will appear that little previous arrangement would be necessary to ensure their unanimous support of any measure which held out to them a chance of bettering their condition; yet they also have an organisation, commencing about the same time with the clubs last mentioned, but composing Catholics only. Until within these few months this organisation baffled the most active vigilance of the Irish Government, unsuccessfully employed to discover its principles, and to this hour they are, I believe, unapprised of its extent. The fact is that in June last it embraced the whole peasantry of the provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Connaught — three-fourths of the nation; and I have little doubt but it has since extended into Munster, the remaining province. These men, who are called Defenders, are completely organised on a military plan, divided according to their respective districts, and officered by men chosen by themselves. The principle of their union is implicit obedience to the orders of those whom they have elected for their generals, and whose object is the emancipation of their country, the subversion of English usurpation, and the bettering the condition of the wretched peasantry of Ireland. The eyes of this whole body, which may be said, almost without a figure, to be the people of Ireland, are turned, with the most anxious expectation, to France, for assistance and support. The oath of their union recites, “That they will be faithful to the united nations of France and Ireland,” and several of them have already sealed it with their blood. I suppose there is no instance of a conspiracy, if a whole people can be said to conspire, which has continued for so many years as this has done, where the secret has been so religiously kept, and where, in so vast a number, so few traitors have been found.
This organisation of the Defenders embraces the whole peasantry of Ireland, being Catholics. There is also a further organisation of the Catholics, which is called the General Committee, and to which I have already alluded. This was a representative body, chosen by the Catholics at large, and consisting of the principal merchants and traders, the members of professions, and a few of the remaining Catholic gentry of Ireland. This body, which has sat repeatedly in the capital, at the same time with the Parliament, and has twice within four years sent ambassadors to the King of England, possesses a very great influence on the minds of the Catholics throughout the nation, and especially decides the movements of the city of Dublin — a circumstance whose importance, when well directed, it is unnecessary to suggest to men so enlightened as those who compose the Government of France. It is true that, by a late act of the Irish Legislature, this body is prevented from meeting in a representative capacity, but the individuals who compose it still exist, and this act, without diminishing their power or influence, has still more alienated their minds from the British Government in Ireland, against which they were already sufficiently, and with great reason, exasperated. It is but justice to the General Committee, in whose service I had the honour to be, during the whole of their activity, and whose confidence I had the good fortune to acquire and retain, to say that there is nowhere to be found men of purer patriotism, more sincerely attached to the principles of liberty, or who would be more likely in an arduous crisis to conduct themselves with ability and firmness. I can add, from my personal knowledge, that a great majority of those able and honest men who compose it are sincere republicans, warmly attached to the cause of France, and, as Irishmen and as Catholics, doubly bound to detest the tyranny and domination of England, which has so often deluged their country with their best blood.
I have now stated the three modes of organisation which exist in Ireland: —
1st. The Dissenters, with some of the most spirited and enlightened of the Catholics, under the name of United Irishmen, whose central point is Belfast, the capital of Ulster.
2nd. The Defenders, forming the great body of the Catholic peasantry, amounting to 3,000,000 of people, and who cover the entire face of the country.
3rd. The General Committee of the Catholics, representing the talents and property of that body, possessing a very great influence everywhere in Ireland, and especially deciding the movements of the capital.
I hazard nothing in asserting that these three bodies are alike animated with an ardent desire for the independence of Ireland, an abhorrence of British tyranny, and a sincere attachment to the cause of the French Republic; and, what is of very great consequence, they have a perfect good understanding and communication with each other (that is to say, their leaders), so that, on any great emergency, there would be no possible doubt of their mutual co-operation. Many of the most active members of the General Committee, for example, are also in the clubs of the United Irishmen; many of the officers of the Defenders, particularly those at the head of their affairs, are also either members of those clubs, or in unreserved confidence and communication with those who regulate and guide them. The central point of all this is undoubtedly Belfast, which influences, and which deserves to influence, the measures of all the others, and what I consider as extremely singular, the leaders of the Defenders in Ulster, who are all Catholics, are in more regular habits of communication, and are more determined by the Dissenters of Belfast, than by their Catholic brethren of Dublin, with whom they hold much less intercourse.
I shall add a few words on the military force of Ireland, and on the navy, and then I shall conclude this memorial, which, in spite of all my efforts to condense it, I feel growing under my hands.
In the month of June, 1795, when I left Ireland, the army, as I believe, amounted to about 30,000 men, of which 12,000 were troops of the line, or fencibles, and 18,000 were militia; a great proportion of the former, viz., the cavalry and artillery, and all the latter, being Irish. I believe a considerable number have been since detached to the West Indies and elsewhere; if so, the relative proportion of Irish must be increased, as the militia cannot be ordered on foreign service. For the cavalry and artillery, which, taken together, may make 3,000 men, or upwards, I cannot speak with certainty; but my belief is, that if they saw any prospect of permanent support they would not act against their country. For the remaining 9,000 men of the troops of the line and fencibles, they are a wretched assemblage of old men and boys incapable of the duties of active service; any resistance they could make, if they were inclined to resist, could be but trifling, and I have reason to believe they would not be so inclined, several of the fencible regiments being Scotch, and already more than half disaffected to the Government. For the militia, they consisted, at the time I mention, of about 18,000 men, as fine troops as any in Europe. Of these at least 16,000 were Catholics, and of those a very great portion were actually sworn Defenders, who were compelled to enter the service to avoid prosecution. I learn that, since my departure from Ireland, Defenderism has spread rapidly among them, and that numbers have been imprisoned on that account. I have not a shadow of doubt on my mind but that the militia would, in case of emergency, to a man, join their countrymen in throwing off the yoke of England, provided proper measures were taken, and that they saw a reasonable prospect of success.
For the navy, I have already said that Ireland has furnished no less than 80,000 seamen, and that two-thirds of the English fleet ‘are manned by Irishmen. I will here state the grounds of my assertion. First, I have myself heard several British officers, and among them some of very distinguished reputation, say so. Secondly, I know that when the Catholic delegates, whom I had the honour to attend, were at St. James’s, in January, 1793, in the course of the discussion with Henry Dundas, principal Secretary of State, they asserted the fact to be as I have mentioned, and Mr. Dundas admitted it, which he would most certainly not have done if he could have denied it. And, lastly, on my voyage to America, our vessel was boarded by a British frigate, whose crew consisted of 220 men, of whom no less than 210 were Irish, as I found by inquiry. I submit the importance of this fact to the particular notice of the French Government.
From all which has been said I trust it will appear that it is the interest of France to separate Ireland from England; and that it is morally certain that the attempt, if made, would succeed, for the following reasons:
1st. That all the Dissenters are disaffected to England, attached to France, and sufficiently organised.
2nd. That the whole Catholic peasantry of Ireland, above 3,000,000 of people, are, to a man, eager to throw off the English yoke; that they also are organised, and that part of the fundamental oath, by which they are bound as Defenders, is to be true as well to France as to Ireland.
3rd. That there is a certainty of a perfect harmony and co-operation between these two great bodies, which constitute nine-tenths of the population of Ireland.
4th. That the British Government cannot reckon on any firm support from the army, above two-thirds of which are Irishmen, and of that number nearly 10,000 being, as I am informed and believe, actually sworn Defenders.
5th. That it is at least possible that, by proper measures to be adopted relative to the Irishmen now serving in the navy of England, her power at sea might receive such a shock as it has never yet experienced; and 6th, and lastly, that if these facts be as I have here stated them, it would be impossible for the Protestant aristocracy in Ireland to make any stand whatsoever, even for an hour, in defence of the connection with England.
Having now submitted the actual situation of Ireland to the notice of the French Government, I shall offer, in a second memorial, the plan which I conceive most likely to effectuate the separation of that country from Great Britain.
Having stated, in a former memorial, the actual situation and circumstances of Ireland, I shall now submit those means which, in my judgment, will be most likely to effectuate the great object of separating that country from England, and establishing her as an independent Republic, in strict alliance with France. I shall first mention those measures whose execution depend on the French Republic, and next those which will be to be executed by the people of Ireland.
In the first place, I beg leave to lay it down as indispensable that a body of French troops should be landed in Ireland, with a General at their head, of established reputation, whose name should be known in that country — a circumstance of considerable importance; and I must be permitted to observe here, that, if humbling the pride and reducing the power of England be an object with the French Republic, I know no place where the very best General in their service could be employed, either with more reputation to himself, or benefit to the public cause.
With regard to the strength of this army, it is my duty to speak with candour to the Government. It ought, if possible, to be of 20,000 men, at least 15,000 of which should land as near the capital as circumstances would admit, and 5,000 in the North of Ireland, near Belfast. If an imposing force, such as I have mentioned, could be sent in the first instance, it would save a vast effusion of blood and treasure. By having possession of the capital we should, in fact, have possession of the whole country. The Government in existence there would fall to pieces, without a possibility of effort. We should have in our hands at once the Treasury, the Post Office, the Banks, the Custom-House, the seat of the Legislature, and particularly, what is even of more consequence, we should have the reputation which would result from such a commencement. If we could begin by the capital, I should hope we should obtain possession of the entire country without striking a blow, as in fact there would, in that case, be no organised force to make resistance; but for this, 20,000 men would be necessary. If, however, the other indispensable arrangements of the French Republic would render it impossible to send such a force, I offer it as my opinion, and I entreat it may be remembered that 5,000 is the very lowest number with which the attempt could be made with anything like certainty of success, in which case the landing should be effectuated in the North of Ireland, where the people are in the greatest forwardness as to military preparation. It is unnecessary to observe here that, commencing our operations at 100 miles distance from the capital, of which the enemy would be in full possession, would give them very great advantages over us at first; they would still have, in a degree, the law of opinion in their favour, and they would, at least for some time, retain the Treasury, the Post Office, and all the other advantages which an established organisation would naturally give them. Nevertheless, with 5,000 men, an able General, and the measures which I shall hereafter mention, I should have no doubt of our ultimate success; but then we should have to fight hard for our liberties, and we should lose many great advantages which a sufficient force in the commencement would give us, particularly that of disorganising at once the existing Government of Ireland.
Supposing the number to be 5,000, a large proportion should be artillerists, of which we are quite unprovided. They should be the very best troops that France could furnish, men who had actually seen hard service, and who would be capable of training and disciplining the Irish army. The necessity of this is too obvious to need any further comment. I do not go here into any military detail on the conduct of the war; if the measure be adopted, I shall hope to be admitted to a conference with the General, who may be appointed to the command, and then, with the map of the country before us, I will submit, with great deference, my ideas on that head.
Before I quit the subject of the force necessary, I wish to observe that, in my first memorial, I have always said that the army, and especially the militia, would, I was satisfied, declare for their country, “if they saw a reasonable prospect of support,” by which I would be understood to mean an imposing force in the first instance. I cannot commit myself as to what might be their conduct in case 5,000 men only were landed. I hope, and I believe, but I cannot positively affirm, that they would join the standard of their country; but, even if they were, contrary to my expectations, to adhere to the British Government, the only difference would be, that, in that event, we should have a civil war, which I would most earnestly wish, if possible, to avoid. As to the people at large, I am perfectly satisfied that, whether there were 20,000 or 10,000 or even 5,000 men landed, it would, as to them, make no manner of difference. I know they would flock to the Republican standard in such numbers as to embarrass the General-in-Chief. It would be just as easy in a month’s time to have an army in Ireland of 200,000 men as of 10,000, and therefore it is that, reckoning on this disposition of the people, I say, and repeat, that I would not have a shadow of doubt of our ultimate success, provided we had a body of even 5,000 disciplined troops to commence with; a smaller number would, I apprehend, be hardly able to maintain themselves until they could be joined by the people, as the Government of Ireland would be able instantly to turn against them such a body of troops (who in that case would, I fear, adhere to them) as would swallow them up, the consequence of which would be, besides the loss to France of the men and money, the bringing Ireland, even more than she is at present, under the yoke of British tyranny, the breaking for ever the hopes and spirits of her people, and the rendering all prospect of her emancipation, at any future period, utterly impracticable and desperate.
As to arms and ammunition, I can only say, that the more there is of both, the better. If the Republic can send to Ireland 100,000 stand of arms, there are double the number of hands ready to put them in. A large train of artillery, that is to say, field pieces, as we have no fortified places, is absolutely indispensable, together with a considerable proportion of experienced cannoneers; engineers, used to field practice, are also highly necessary. As to money, I am at a loss to determine the sum. If 20,000 men were sent, I should say that pay for 40,000 for three months would be amply sufficient, as, before that time was expired, we should have all the resources of Ireland in our hands. If but 5,000 be sent, I submit the quantum necessary to the wisdom and liberality of the French Government, observing only that we could not, in that case, calculate at once on the immediate possession of the funds, which, in the other instance, we could seize directly.
Very much would depend upon the manifesto, to be published on the first landing. I conceive the declaration of the object and intentions of the Republic should contain, among others, the following topics: —
1st. An absolute disavowal of all idea of conquest, and a statement that the French came as friends and brothers, with no other view than to assist the people in throwing off the yoke of England.
2nd. A declaration of perfect security and protection to the free exercise of all religions, without distinction or preference, and the perpetual abolition of all ascendency, or connection, between Church and State.
3rd. A declaration of perfect security and protection of persons and property, to all who should demean themselves as good citizens, and friends to the liberty of their country, with strong denunciations against those who should support or countenance the cause of British tyranny and usurpation.
4th. An invitation to the people to join the Republican standard, and a promise to recommend to the future Legislature of their country every individual who should distinguish himself by his courage, zeal, and ability.
5th. An invitation to the people immediately to organise themselves, and form a national convention, for the purpose of framing a Government, and of administering the affairs of Ireland, until such Government could be framed and put in activity.
Other topics will naturally suggest themselves; but these seem to me, from my knowledge of Ireland, to be among the most likely, as well to raise the people as to remove the fears and anxieties, especially on the great heads of property and religion, of many who might otherwise be neutral, or perhaps adverse, but who would gladly support the independence of their country, when satisfied as to these points. It is with the most sincere pleasure that I can assure the French Government that their singular moderation with regard to Holland, when that country lay at their mercy, had an inconceivable effect on the mind of every independent man in Ireland, and removed, almost entirely, the reluctance which many felt to put themselves to the hazard and uncertainty of a revolution.
To recapitulate: What I conceive would be indispensably necessary to be furnished, on the part of the French Republic, would be:
1st. An armed force, not exceeding 20,000 men, nor less than 5,000. If 20,000, to be landed as near Dublin as possible; if a smaller number, in the North of Ireland, near Belfast.
2nd. A General whose name and character should be well known in Ireland.
3rd. Arms and ammunition, as much as could be spared; a train of artillery, with an adequate number of experienced cannoneers and engineers.
4th. Such a sum of money as the French Government might feel necessary, and could grant, consistently with their other arrangements.
On the part of the people of Ireland, the measures which I conceive would be most immediately necessary, to ensure success and establish our independence, would be as follow: —
First, of course, to raise as many soldiers as we had arms to put into their hands, which would be the only limitation as to numbers.
Secondly, to call a national convention, for which a basis is laid in the General Committee of the Catholics, mentioned in my first memorial, who, when joined by Delegates from the Dissenters, would be actually the representatives of nine-tenths of the people. The first act of the Convention thus constituted should be, to declare themselves the representatives of the Irish people, free and independent, and in that capacity to form an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the French Republic; stipulating that neither party should make peace with England without the other, and until the two Republics were acknowledged, and also a treaty of commerce, on terms of mutual advantage. As the immediate formation of a national convention is of the last importance, I wish earnestly to press on the notice of the French Government the unspeakable advantage of having, if possible, an imposing force, in the first instance, for this reason: that the men of a certain rank in life and situation, as to property (for instance, the actual members of the Catholic Committee, who must be those who naturally would form the convention), would, in that case, at once declare themselves, and begin to act, which I cannot venture to ensure that they would do, at least for some time, if they saw but a small force landed. For the great body of the people, whom I have mentioned as being organised under the name of Defenders, and a great proportion of the Dissenters, the number to be landed is of little consequence as to them; for my firm belief is, that if but one thousand French were landed, it would be impossible to prevent the peasantry of Ireland from rising, as one man, to join them; but then we should lose the inestimable advantages which would result from the immediate organisation of a body which could call itself the Government of Ireland, and, as such, instantly assume the legislative and executive functions, raise money, grant commissions, and, especially, conclude the alliance with France, the éclat of which must naturally produce the most beneficial and important consequences. Without such an arrangement our commencement would have more the air of an insurrection than a Revolution; and though, I again repeat, I would have no doubt of the ultimate success of the attempt, yet the difficulties at first would be multiplied in proportion to the smallness of the force which might be landed. The measures which I am now about to mention, which can only be effectually executed by a body which can, with some appearance of justice, call itself the Irish Government, will show at once the indispensable necessity of a national convention being organised; that not an hour should be lost in framing it; and, of course, that every possible effort should be made to send such force as would ensure its formation in the first instance.
The convention, being once formed, should proceed to publish, among others, the following proclamations; from every one of which, I have no shadow of doubt, would result the most powerful effects.
1st. One to the people at large, notifying their independence and their alliance with the French Republic, forbidding all adherence to the British Government, under the penalty of high treason; ordering all taxes and contributions to be paid only to such persons as should be appointed by the convention to receive them; and, in the meantime, making all collectors and public officers responsible, with life and property, for all moneys in their hands. This would at once set the law of opinion on their side, and give a spirit to every individual embarked in the cause. It would then be a war, not an insurrection; and even that circumstance, as operating on the minds of the soldiery, I consider as of great importance.
2nd. One to the militia of Ireland, recalling them to the standard of their country, paying the value of their arms, and granting an immediate discharge to all who should demand it; and ensuring a preference in all military promotion, and a provision in land, or otherwise, at the end of the war, according to the rank and services of each, to those who should enter into the service of their country. I am convinced, as I am of my existence, that this single proclamation would bring over the entire militia of Ireland, which is, in fact, the only formidable force in the country; but I must add, at the same time, that this proclamation can only be published, with effect, by a national Government.
3rd. One, addressed to all Irishmen now serving in the navy of England, recalling them directly from that service; reminding them that they are a majority, in the proportion of two to one, and therefore exhorting them to seize on the vessels, and bring them into the Irish ports; engaging the faith of the nation to purchase the ships at their value, as prizes, to give, as in the case of the militia, an immediate discharge to all who should desire it, ensuring promotion in preference to all who should remain in the service, stating the hardships to which they are subject in the British service, into which they have been forced, either by hunger or the press-gang, dwelling particularly on the unjust distribution of their prize-money, stating the enormous disproportion between the share of an admiral or a captain and that of a common seaman; ensuring them an equitable rate in that respect, to be established in the future Irish navy, and reminding them of the immense wealth to be made by captures on the prodigious expanse of the British commerce which now embraces that of the whole world. From such a proclamation issuing from an Irish Government I am sanguine enough to expect the most powerful effects. Let it never be forgotten that two-thirds of the British seamen, as they are called, are in fact Irishmen. I will not say that this proclamation would bring one ship into the Irish harbours, but this I say, that if human nature be human nature, it would raise such a spirit of jealousy and distrust in the naval service of Great Britain as must most materially serve the cause of the Republic. Will any English Admiral leave Portsmouth with confidence, with such a proclamation as that hanging over his head, against which, too, he has nothing to oppose but the mere force of discipline? How much will that discipline be necessarily relaxed from the fear lest, by enforcing it strictly, the majority of the crew should instantly mutiny and carry the ship where they would meet with protection and support amongst their friends and connections, their wives and children — in one word, in their native country? Will any English captain be found to tie up an Irish seaman for a trifling offence and flog him before the face of the crew two-thirds of whom are Irish, with the terror of such a proclamation before his eyes? And especially what weapon has the English Government to oppose in return? I supplicate the attention of the French Government to this point, which is, in my judgment, of the very highest importance. It would be in her navy that England would be then first found vulnerable. If there was no other object proposed but this single one, I affirm with confidence, it is of magnitude by itself sufficient to decide the French Government to make every effort to obtain it; which can only be effected through the medium of a national Government to be established in Ireland. It would be easy to add a thousand arguments on this topic, but I trust, knowing as I do the superior talents and information of those whom I address, that what I have said will be sufficient to open the subject, and I do again most earnestly entreat them to follow in their own minds the long chain of consequences which must flow, as to the naval power of England, from the measure which I have mentioned, supposing it to have that success which I cannot myself for a moment doubt but it must.
4th. A proclamation recalling, in general terms, all Irishmen from the dominions of Great Britain, whether in the land or sea service, or otherwise, within a certain period, under pain of being treated as emigrants. The effect of this measure will be seen when I come to speak of the actual and casual resources of Ireland.
5th. An address to the people of England and Scotland, as distinguished from the Government, stating the grounds of the conduct of the Irish nation, and declaring their earnest desire to avoid the effusion of blood; that they wish merely for the independence of their country, which at all hazards they are determined to maintain; warning the English people, by the examples of the American and French Revolutions, how impossible it is to conquer a whole people determined to be free, demonstrating, by calculation, the expense of the war, and applying to their interests as a commercial people, contrasted and opposed to the personal views of their King and Government; showing them how little they could gain in the most prosperous event, how much blood and treasure they must necessarily expend, and finally, pointing out the certain consequences to England if she should fail in the contest. If this proclamation were published, I apprehend, as its principles are just, it might embarrass the British Minister considerably in his operations, so as, perhaps, to render it impossible for him to continue the war. But, as I do not at all calculate on the good sense or spirit of the British people, who seem to me for some years to have totally renounced that share of both which they once possessed, I will submit that, if it totally failed in its object, and the English nation were so infatuated as to support the Minister in the war, this proclamation should be followed by the next.
6th. The immediate confiscation of every shilling of English property in Ireland, of every species, movable or fixed, and appropriating it to the national service, which would then be an act of strict justice, as the English people would have made themselves parties in the war. In this manner, I submit, one of two things must happen: either the English people would decidedly oppose the war — and, if so, peace, and the establishment of the independence of Ireland, would directly follow — or they would support the war; in which case they lose at once an immense property in Ireland, which is instantly transferred, and becomes a weapon against them, in the hands of their enemies; not to speak of the discontents which the loss of such a vast property in land, in money lent on mortgages, in goods, and in debts, must produce amongst all ranks, and more especially amongst the merchants and traders in England.
I will not trespass longer on the time of the French Government, but hasten to give a brief sketch of the actual and casual resources of Ireland, and then conclude.
First, her population — 4,500,000. It is necessary to state on what grounds I assert this. In 1788 there existed a tax on hearths in Ireland, by which means the number of houses was known with sufficient accuracy to those who administered the revenue. The number of people in Ireland, allowing six to a family, was in that year calculated by one of the commissioners — who, of course, had perfect information — at 4,100,000; and it was allowed to be under the truth, as well because some houses must necessarily have been omitted, as that the proportion of six to a family was less than what was usually found in Ireland, where the people are naturally prolific. I speak here from memory; but the calculation is to be found in the Transactions of the Royal Academy of Ireland, which may, perhaps, be in the National Library, and it will justify my assertion that the people of Ireland amount to 4,500,000. But, though Ireland is populous, she is poor! We are, thanks to the ruinous connection with England, almost without trade or manufactures; and while that connection holds we shall continue so, for this, among other reasons, that a wretched Irish peasant is tempted even by the scanty pay and subsistence of a foot soldier, from which a well-fed and well-clothed English artisan turns with contempt. The army of England is supported by the misery of Ireland.
Ireland would, however, in case of a revolution, possess, amongst others, the following resources:
1st. Her actual revenues, amounting at present to about £2,000,000 per annum, making 48,000,000 livres.
2nd. The church, college, and chapter lands, whose exact value I do not know, but which are of vast amount.
3rd. The property of absentees, who never visit the country at all, amounting at least to £1,000,000 sterling, or 24,000,000 livres.
4th. The casual property of emigrants, which would amount to a very great sum, but which, as depending on circumstances, cannot be reduced to calculation.
5th. The property of Englishmen in Ireland — whether vested in land, mortgages on land, trade, manufactures, bonds, bills, book debts, or otherwise — to be confiscated and applied to the discharge of the obligations incurred in the acquisition of the independence of Ireland; I cannot say what the amount of this might be, but it must be immense.
One English nobleman — Earl Mansfield, formerly Ambassador at Paris, under the name of Lord Stormont, and an implacable enemy of France — has £300,000 sterling, or 7,200,000 livres, lent on mortgages in Ireland; another English gentleman, Mr. Taylor, has £150,000 sterling, or 3,600,000 livres, lent in like manner. I mention these instances to point out to the French Government what unspeakable confusion the measure I propose would be likely to produce in England, and what a staggering blow the separation of Ireland would be in a commercial point of view, not to speak of the military, or, which is of far more consequence, the naval part of the question.
I have now done. I submit to the wisdom of the French Government that England is the implacable, inveterate, irreconcilable enemy of the Republic, which never can be in perfect security whilst that nation retains the dominion of the sea; that, in consequence, every possible effort should be made to humble her pride and to reduce her power; that it is in Ireland, and in Ireland only, that she is vulnerable — a fact of the truth of which the French Government cannot be too strongly impressed; that by establishing a free Republic in Ireland they attach to France a grateful ally whose cordial assistance, in peace and war, she might command, and who, from situation and produce, could most essentially serve her; that at the same time they cut off from England her most firm support, in losing which she is laid under insuperable difficulties in recruiting her army, and especially in equipping, victualling, and manning her navy, which, unless for the resources she drew from Ireland, she would be absolutely unable to do; that by these means — and, suffer me to add, by these means only — her arrogance can be effectually humbled, and her enormous and increasing power at sea reduced within due bounds — an object essential, not only to France, but to all Europe; that it is at least possible, by the measures mentioned, that not only her future resources, as to her navy, may be intercepted and cut off at the fountain head, but that a part of her fleet may be actually transferred to the Republic of Ireland; that the Irish people are united and prepared, and want but the means to begin; that, not to speak of the policy or the pleasure of revenge in humbling a haughty and implacable rival, it is in itself a great and splendid act of generosity and justice, worthy of the Republic, to rescue a whole nation from a slavery under which they have groaned for six hundred years; that it is for the glory of France, after emancipating Holland and receiving Belgium into her bosom, to establish one more free Republic in Europe; that it is for her interest to cut off for ever, as she now may do, one-half of the resources of England, and lay her under extreme difficulties in the employment of the other. For all these reasons, in the name of justice, of humanity, of liberty, of my own country, and of France herself, I supplicate the Directory to take into consideration the state of Ireland; and by granting her the powerful aid and protection of the Republic, to enable her at once to vindicate her liberty, to humble her tyrant, and to assume that independent station among the nations of the earth for which her soil, her productions and her position, her population and her spirit have designed her.