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Close swaddled in the skin of mountain hare,
The song of prayer I pour into thine ear;
Do you see that ruined cottage on the opposite hill ? It is almos midway from the top; and the field in which it stands is neglected, and over-run with weeds. If you look more attentively, you will perceive that, extending from its sheltered gable, traces of the walls of an additional building are discernible. I remember that one of the prettiest bijoux in the entire neighbourhood, one of those pieces of elegant refinement which makes luxury more luxurious. The traces of walls indicate the spot where a drawing-room had been added by its last proprietor, when his fortune outgrew his house. It commands a sweeping view of the beautiful river beside us; and I recollect it filled with joyous groups of the young, the witty, the good-humoured, and the fair.
It was not however always so filled, and that was the cause of its destruction, and the ruin of its proprietor. James Mulvany was the owner. He was descended from one of those Milesian families which indulge themselves with the cheap vanity of thinking their unțitled rank, and even their occasionally plebeian
occupation superior, from the antiquity of their descent, to the proudest peerage conferred by monarchs, whose ancestors they consider less noble or regal than their own. It is one of those pieces of innocent pride
that serve to make people in good-humour with themselves under every mutation of fortune. Severe indeed had been the mutations to which Mulvany's family had been subjected, if they ever could have aspired to what their genealogists claimed for them. If his ancestors, a thousand years ago, had been sceptred chiefs in Tara's hall, or a thousands years before that knights of the Red Branch,-or, in still more remote antiquity, chieftains in Spain or kings in Scythia, his father was a petty tradesman, and the occupation of his grandfather was unknown. But the tradesman won his way to distinction among his fellow-citizens by a mode of proceeding more likely to attain such an object than all the heraldry of the sons of Heber or Heremon. By a long life, devoted to unsparing industry, and regulated by the most exact frugality, he made a handsome fortune; which, with a trade now swelling from the counter to the change, and exalting its professor from the grocer into the merchant, he left to his son.
In his hands, by judicious management, and the other regular advances of mercantile speculation, it speedily put him into the possession of immense wealth at least such was it considered in the provinces of Ireland.
He was still in the prime of life, under forty, when the impulse given to the European systems of government by the French Revolution had reached Ireland. History will tell how it was received there. A vast mass of discontent existed in the country, and the agents of revolution proceeded to work upon the so existent stock. Some of the leaders of the Roman Catholic party, a body, in 1793, very insignificant, caught at the hopes of their claims to power being recognised, -others wished to avail themselves of any opportunity of reforming the representative body, and purging the executive of corruption,—the views of others extended no farther than the redress of local grievances—while several of the revolutionary leaders secretly wished for a separation from England, and the establishment in the self-governed nation of Ireland of a republic, on the plan of such of the fleeting democracies of France as happened to please the various fancies of these sanguine speculators. The peasants, poor and oppressed, ignorant and fanatical, (I speak at present principally of the southern peasantry,) when they were consulted, had only undefinable longings after the suppression of tithes and rents, the overthrow of landlords and magistrates, the prostration of a heretical church, and the substitution in its place of that to which they had clung with such a savage fidelity.
Mulvany soon joined the ranks of the United Irishmen. At first, this was merely a political club for the furtherance of a parliamentary reform; but it speedily embarked in other projects. That he moved forward with what in the dialect of the times would be called the march of mind, and the progress of intellect in the eighteenth century, is not wonderful. His family, his creed, his politics, were hostile to the established order of things in England. His mind was naturally fervid, and he saw no obstacle to the success of his wishes. Gifted with considerable talents, and possessed of a glowing though irregular oratory, he soon obtained some influence among his associates. nization was clever. Five invisible directors, known only to each other and the eight or ten local heads of committees dispersed through Ireland, managed the concerns of the conspirators.
They gave the orders to the general board in the metropolis, from whom they emanated to the country. No one knew any body higher than those immediately above him, the same system being carried down to the minutest ramifications. Mulvany's wealth and respectable character, added to his abilities and his convivial talents, which were great, (and the possession of such talents is a circumstance which has never failed to recommend to the attention of any party in Ireland,) made him naturally the head of the local committee in the provincial town where he, lived,—this town where we now are; and, as the promiscuous crowd which his situation drew to him might, from their character and appearance induce suspicion, if the meetings took place at his town-house, he used to appoint them at that cottage; and his drawing-room, that now dilapidated waste of broken stones and straggling herbage, was the scene of many an anxious midnight deliberation on the means of carrying into effect the purposes of the United Irishmen.
I am sorry to be obliged to say what I am now going to add. He had been one of the best-intentioned and best-natured men in he world. His heart melt
His heart melted at every tale of sorrow, and his purse was ever open to relieve the wants of all who came within his sphere. In all the social relations of life he was kind. He was a firm friend, a dutiful son, a fond husband, ardent in his attachments, munificent in his patronage. But the bitter feelings of political hatred soon changed his nature altogether. Long brooding over wrongs, real or supposed, made him gloomy and malignant; the necessity of concealing his feelings against the objects of his political dislike, whom he continually met in casual company, rendered him scowling and hypocritical ; and his regular contact with the baser natures who play the atrocious parts in every faction gradually tinged him with their venom. He felt himself besides, from his rank among them, called to affect
a more eager and ardent zeal than the others; and this affectation ended as usual in creating the feeling which it simulated. The more he thought, the more certain did the benefits to be derived from the success of his friends appear, and the more diabolical the conduct of those who opposed their completion. Gradually, hatred to their principles began to be extended to their persons, and he considered them as beings whose existence was a blot upon the face of nature. I am not telling you the history of one man; I am telling you the history of the feelings of nine-tenths of the original leaders of this and every other conspiracy. As the crisis fixed on for insurrection approached, their party frenzy heightened all through the country. Such a spirit as that which I have painted as existing in Mulvany's bosom had spread very generally among men who would at first have shuddered at any approximation to it. Just then it was proposed, nobody ever knew by whom,-it was like the casual cry in a crowd urging on some deed of blood, and never traced to its author, who is perhaps himself unconscious of what he was calling into action,-it was proposed, I say, that an assassination committee should be added to the general and local committees of the club. The mention of it was sufficient. The sanguinary caught at it at once,—the malevolent hoped to gratify private spite under guise of the public cause,—the zealot justified it to himself by arguments drawn from the benefits certain to follow the extirpation of the unworthy,—and all these drove forward others of better feelings. The appetite for blood is wofully contagious. Many who disapproved of the project were obliged to assent to it, through dread of being themselves denounced under the new regime; and such is the fury of party, that lists have been found, drawn up by the more zealous rebel leaders, of those who were to be cut off for lukewarmness, as soon as the destruction of the English power had placed Ireland in the hands of the successful insurgents. These lists, compromising the lives of nearly half of the chief agents in the conspiracy, were found among their papers, when the suppression of the rebellion of 1798 had put an end to the existence of the club, and given up their interior secrets to the disposal of government.
But I am wearying you with talking politics. In short then, Mulvany, a man of the most upright intentions, and the most benevolent feelings, became a president of a committee, to which about three hundred of the most eminent of his fellow-citizens were marked out for the pike or bullet of the assassin ; and that opposite cottage, which, little more than a year before, had rang with the sounds of mirth and revelry, now echoed only the hoarse accents of the cold blooded calculators of the means of murder. This was, however, the overthrow of the plot. Some
of the members became horrified at what they heard ; the friends of others were selected among the victims; and nature cannot always be repressed by political hatred : at last, precise information of what they had long surmised was afforded to the local authorities, and they lost no time in acting upon it. They so well laid their plans, that a meeting was surprised in the very act of sitting, with all their books and papers. Resistance was out of the question : a short struggle was made against the police and soldiers; but eventually, after a five minutes' unequal contest, which answered no purpose save that of compelling the assailants to make a discharge of musketry, which shattered the room and cost the assailed a couple of lives and three or four wounds, the whole were, with one exception, taken into custody.
That one exception was Mulvany. Knowing the details of his house, and the by-paths about it, better than any of his company, he had contrived, by leaping from a window, to escape during the scuffle, and to conceal himself effectually from all chance of immediate seizure. His companions were, without delay, brought to trial before a military commission then sitting; and dealt with, with the rigour and promptitude of martial law, They were all doomed to death in about an hour after they had been taken ; and the morning following their midnight trial appointed as the last of their lives.
Among them was one young man, so young indeed as to render his title to the designation of “ man” questionable enough. He was little more than seventeen. He had been but lately enrolled into the club, and was by mere accident present in Mulvany's house, at the moment of the attack, not being yet admitted to the arcana. His connexions were highly respectable, and even the most violent of the opposite party pitied his tender years. Interest was immediately made for him with the sheriff of the city, who had in such times the power of staying executions, until the wiil of the lord-lieutenant was ascertained. Two of his friends, one of whom happened to be connected by. affinity to O'Reilly, the young convict, waited upon him, and urged such topics as most naturally occurred. They argued on his inexperience, his want of knowledge, the little weight he could be of, the slight assistance he could give, and the cruelty it would be to urge the extreme severity of the law against one so little deserving of any visitation of its deadly powers.
The sheriff heard them to the end. He was a hard-featured man, but not a hard-hearted one. Party had made him, however, particularly indignant against United Irishmen; and his feelings did not run any chance of being softened by the fact that his own name had been registered among the most prominent of those destined for death. “Why look ye, gentlemen,” said he,