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1795)

TONE LEAVES IRELAND

231

cession was replaced by a policy of coercion. But the work of revolution was not stopped. On the contrary, it grew apace under the new régime. Camden began his reign by a state prosecution. On the 23d of April

, the Rev. William Jackson, a Protestant clergyman, who had been sent in 1794 by the French government on a mission to the United Irishmen, was put on his trial for high treason. There was a clear case against him, and he anticipated the sentence of the law, dying in the dock by his own hand. On May 1oth the United Irish Society became a distinctly rebellious organisation. Soon afterwards Tone, who had been in direct communication with Jackson, and was under the surveillance of the authorities, resolved to leave for America. Before departing, he explained his plans to the United Irish leaders—Thomas Addis Emmet, Thomas Russell, Neilson, Simms, M‘Cracken, and to the Catholic leader, John Keogh. In Dublin he saw Emmet and Russell. "I told them that my intention was, immediately on my arrival in Philadelphia, to wait on the French minister, to detail to him fully the situation of affairs in Ireland, to endeavour to obtain a recommendation to the French government; and, if I succeeded so far, to leave my family in America and set off instantly for Paris, and apply, in the name of my country, for the assistance of France, to enable us to assert our independence.'

A few days later, on the summit of

our

M'Ard's Fort, near Belfast, he, Neilson, Simms, M'Cracken and Russell, took a solemn obligation never to desist in efforts until we had subverted the authority of England over our CO try, and asserted our independence.'

On June 13th, Tone sailed from Belfast for America. He was true to the duty he had undertaken, and, after a short stay in the United States, set out for France. Arriving at Havre in January 1796, he immediately placed himself in communication with the French government, established close relations with De La Croix, Carnot, General Clarke and Hoche, and finally persuaded the Directory to send an expedition to Ireland.

On December 16th 1796, the expedition, consisting of forty-three sail, with an army of 15,000 men, under the command of Hoche and Grouchy, left Brest. Tone, who now held the rank of adjutant-general in the French service, was on board the Indomptable. In the night the ships were scattered. The Fraternité, with Hoche on board, never reached Ireland. But Grouchy, with thirty-five sail, including the Indomptable, made Bantry Bay on the evening of December 21st. Tone was in favour of landing immediately, but Grouchy hesitated, standing off and on the coast, until at length the elements warred for England, and swept the French fleet from the Irish shore. It is sad,' says Tone, after having forced my way thus far, to be obliged to turn back; but it is my fate, and I must

1797)

BANTRY BAY

233

submit. Notwithstanding all our blunders, it is the dreadful stormy weather and easterly winds, which have been blowing furiously since we made Bantry Bay, that have ruined us. Well, England has not had such an escape since the Spanish Armada, and that expedition, like ours, was defeated by the weather; the elements fight against us, and courage here is of no avail.' Buoyant under misfortune, Tone did not relax his efforts. He urged the French government to despatch another expedition. He was supported in his appeal by delegates from Ireland, and backed by the great influence of Hoche. Another expedition was prepared by the Dutch Republic in union with France.

But the Dutch fleet, under De Winter, was destroyed by the English fleet, under Duncan, at Camperdown, on October 11th 1797. A month before the battle, Hoche, in whom Tone had kindled a real interest for Ireland, died.

Tone's cup of disappointment was filled to the brim, but he did not despair. He applied himself with fresh vigour to persuade the French government to make one last attempt in the cause of Irish freedom. Meanwhile events had been moving rapidly in Ireland. The policy of coercion had borne fruit. Martial law, 'half - hangings,' indiscriminate torture, and wholesale oppression and cruelty had done their work. The United Irish leaders found their ranks filled by a harassed and a desperate peasantry. North joined hands with south; Catholic combined with Protestant. The timid and the fearful for very safety sought refuge in revolution.

The people were dragooned into treason. 'Every crime, every cruelty that could be committed by Cossacks or Calmucks, has been transacted here.' So wrote Sir Ralph Abercrombie when he took over the command of the troops early in 1798. Shortly afterwards he was forced to resign. His humanity was too great a strain upon the endurance of the ascendency faction.

Grattan and the constitutional party begged the government at least to temper coercion with concession. But a stern 'non possumus' was the only reply. “We have offered you our measure' [Catholic Emancipation), Grattan said to the ministers in the House of Commons in 1797 ; ‘you will reject it. Having no hope left to persuade or dissuade, and having discharged our duty, we shall trouble you no more, and from this day we shall not attend the House of Commons.'

As the doors of the constitution closed, the path of revolution opened. In 1796, the United Irish Society had become a military organisation. Before the spring of 1797 a supreme executive had been established in Dublin, and provincial directories were formed in Ulster and in Leinster. A competent military chief had taken command. Lord Edward Fitzgerald had joined the rebels. Arrangements were pushed forward for an insurrection. The Ulster Directory proposed the end of 1797 for the rising ; the Leinster

1798]

INSURRECTION

235

Directory the beginning of 1798. The last date was fixed

upon. But the government struck suddenly, and struck hard. Before the end of March 1798, all the leaders in Ireland, except Lord Edward Fitzgerald and M'Cracken, were seized and imprisoned. But Fitzgerald and M'Cracken resolved to take the field. May 23d was the day appointed for the commencement of hostilities; but on May 19th Fitzgerald's place of hiding was discovered, and, after a desperate resistance, he was dragged to jail, surrounded by a troop of dragoons. The insurrection, nevertheless, broke out on May 24th.

Left without leaders, the insurgents fought wildly and desperately, sometimes rushing into excesses, which were, however, exceeded by the forces of the king. The rebels overran the county of Kildare, and the bordering parts of Meath and Carlow. They seized Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin and Prosperous, and took possession of Rathangan, Kildare, Ballymore, Narragh

But the troops made a stand at Naas and Carlow, drove back their assailants, and re-occupied the captured towns. The rebels rallied on the hill of Tara, but were once more routed and dispersed. On June 7th, M'Cracken, with a strong force, attacked the town of Antrim. Successful in the first onset, he was ultimately repulsed after a fierce battle, and some days later, arrested, tried by court-martial, and hanged. But the rebels of County Wex

more.

· He died of his wounds in June 1798.

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