Secret Service Under Pitt



Dr. Madden, in a well-known work of considerable authority, singles out three divines as examples of noble qualities: i.e. ‘the Right Rev. Dr. Doyle, the Rev. Arthur O’Leary, and Archbishop Murray.'[522]

Several years ago an influential journalist posted at Melbourne the following letter. He was the mouthpiece of many. It is rather late to answer his question publicly; but, in truth, the subject was not an inviting one to touch, especially as, not having studied it, I felt unable to reply in a way which would be deemed satisfactory by the querist. On the other hand, the application having come from the antipodes, I am encouraged to think that the subject possesses an interest not confined to a hemisphere. ‘No one was more generally loved and revered than Father O’Leary,’ writes Charles Butler. Yelverton, speaking in the Irish Parliament, said: ‘Unattached to this world’s affairs, Father O’Leary can have none but the purest motives of rendering service to the cause of morality and his country.’ He was the subject of a grand panegyric from the pulpit. Two biographies of him have been written by anointed hands. Idolised while living, his memory was cherished by thousands. His name wore a halo! Now, according to recent commentators, it seems not free from that light which floats over unhealthy places. Let it not be denied that at different times O’Leary did good work for his creed and country. As a religionist he continued true to the end; but if we accept the high testimony of Froude and Lecky, the same cannot be said of him as a patriot and a gentleman.

38, William Street, Melbourne, December 1, 1875.

Sir,–Knowing you from your published writings to be intimately acquainted with the secret political history of Ireland at the close of the last century, I venture to trespass on your courtesy, with a query relative to a celebrated character of those times, whose name, long gratefully and affectionately remembered by his countrymen, must in future, if the statements of a recent historian are deserving of any credit, be associated only with the names of the wretches whom, in the pages of ‘The Sham Squire’ and ‘Ireland before the Union,’ you have held up to the scorn of posterity!

I allude to the famous ‘Father O’Leary,’ who, according to Mr. Froude, was a spy of Pitt’s, systematically employed in betraying the secrets which his sacred calling and influence as a trusted patriot enabled him to become possessed of; and, with unparalleled audacity and baseness, publicly receiving the encomiums of his most distinguished contemporaries, such men as Grattan and Curran, for virtues which he only assumed, and for talents which he so basely prostituted! Is it possible that this man could have played such an odious part? Do you consider, sir, that the evidence produced by Mr. Froude in support of so terrible an accusation is sufficiently conclusive; or, has that sensational writer in this, as perhaps in other instances, accommodated his facts to his theories?[523] With tantalising reticence Mr. Froude gives only a few meagre lines from the correspondence in which he claims to have found the proofs of O’Leary’s guilt. The subject has been much discussed in Australia, as no doubt it has in every country in which Irishmen are to be found. You have yourself, in one of your …[524] volumes, referred to a mysterious connection between O’Leary and William Pitt. Was it an honourable, or an infamous one?

May I ask you to favour me with your opinion upon it, judged by the light of Mr. Froude’s revelations? By kindly complying with my request, you will oblige many anxious inquirers at the ‘Antipodes.’

I am, Sir, etc., MORGAN MCMAHON.

W. J. Fitzpatrick, Esq.

I may at once say that, although evidence exists of O’Leary’s frailty, it is not sufficient to warrant, in all details, the very sensational picture drawn by Mr. McMahon.

People always knew that O’Leary became entitled to a pension, though how he acquired it was not so clear. Perhaps it is only fair to give him the benefit of the version which his intimate friend, Francis Plowden, placed on record eighty years ago.[525] His information was, doubtless, derived from O’Leary himself; but O’Leary seems to have told him no more than it was convenient to reveal:–

O’Leary’s writings on toleration had removed from the minds of many Catholics the difficulties which up to that time prevented them from swearing allegiance to the House of Hanover, and abjuring the House of Stuart. That Rev. Divine so happily blended a vein of liberality and original humour with orthodox instruction, that his writings became popular even with Protestants, and induced so much toleration and cordiality between them and the Catholics, that created a serious alarm in those who studied to perpetuate their division and consequent weakness. With much art they endeavoured to stop the progress of this terrifying liberality and harmony among Irishmen of different religious professions. The Rev. Arthur O’Leary was thanked by the British minister for the services he had rendered to the State, by frightening away the bugbear of Jacobitism, and securing the allegiance of the whole Catholic body to the House of Hanover. A pension of 200l. was granted to him for his life in the name of a trustee, but upon the secret condition that he should for the future withhold his pen, and reside no more in Ireland,–in such dread was holden an evangeliser of tolerance and brotherhood in that country. Two or three payments of this hush-money were made. Afterwards an arbitrary refusal for many years threw the Rev. Pensioner upon the voluntary support of his friends for subsistence. After a lapse of many years, by importunity and solicitation, and repeated proofs of his having complied with the secret conditions, he received a large arrear; and, in order to make himself independent for the rest of his days, he purchased with it an annuity for his life from a public office, and died before the first quarter became due.

It was, in fact, entirely by Plowden’s intervention that the arrear was paid. So we learn on the authority of the Rev. Thomas England, who in 1822 brought out a life of O’Leary. Plowden was a friend of Pitt’s, and undertook to write a History of Ireland under the auspices of that statesman. He had previously published in defence of the British Constitution, and received in acknowledgment the D.C.L. of Oxford. When writing eighty years ago of so popular and respected a priest as O’Leary, Plowden–himself a Catholic–made his revelation cautiously. It would now seem that some greater service was rendered than the public service to which Plowden refers. It will be shown on high contemporary authority that the object of the Castle in 1784 was to divide the two great parties. This policy later on was boldly avowed as Divide et impera.[526] The service, therefore, for which O’Leary accepted secret pay cannot have been for promoting cordial co-operation between Catholics and Protestants.

Mr. Lecky, in the sixth volume of his ‘History of England,’ has brought to light a letter, going far to establish the fact that in 1784 O’Leary ‘consented, for money, to discharge an ignominious office for a Government which despised and distrusted him.'[527]

On studying O’Leary’s public life there seems no doubt that the secret pension of 100l. a year, which in 1784 he agreed to accept, was merely supplemental to a larger subsidy previously enjoyed. How he earned the first pension is now to be shown.

A volume, ‘Sketches of Irish Political Characters,’ was published in 1799. The writer, Henry McDougall, commanded sources of information which gave his book value. Speaking of O’Leary, he says (p. 264):–

During the most awful period of the American War, he addressed his Catholic countrymen, upon the subject of what ought to be their political conduct, in a manner that merited the thanks of every good citizen, and for which, it has been said, Government rewarded him with a pension; if so, never was a pension more deservedly applied.

McDougall doubtless refers to a publication of O’Leary’s, largely circulated and often reprinted, i.e. ‘An Address to the Common People of Ireland on occasion of an apprehended Invasion by the French and Spaniards in July 1779,[528] when the united Fleets of Bourbon appeared in the Channel.’ On April 12, 1779, Spain had concluded an alliance with France and America, whereupon Vergennes, the French Premier, divulged to the Spanish minister, Blanca, that an invasion of Ireland was meditated. To promote this design, an American agent was instructed to foster the interests of the allies amongst the Presbyterians of Ulster; while the task of winning over the Irish Catholics was to be entrusted to Spanish agents.

America was all but lost at this time, and England found herself in a position of great difficulty. Ireland was drained of its garrison; the people much discontented; the Catholic middle classes, grown rich by commercial success, had established branches of their houses in France and Spain. A letter of warning, which alarmed the Cabinet, and probably led them to ask O’Leary’s help, still exists. At the same time, hurriedly and with a bad grace, they conceded a measure of Catholic Relief. Lord Amherst, writing to Lord North from Geneva on June 19, 1778, says:–

I have acquired a piece of information here, concerning a plot for a revolt in the West of Ireland among the Roman Catholics, with a view to overturn the present Government, by the aid of the French and Spaniards, and to establish such an one as prevails in this country, I mean the Cantons, by granting toleration to the Protestants.[529] You may depend on its authenticity.

And again:–

My intelligence comes from Rome, and I am pretty certain these Acts have been brought in from the ministry receiving the same intelligence, which I know they have been in possession of for some time; as the measures for preventing the mischief proposed by the person who gives the information are exactly those that have been adopted.

O’Leary by his address aroused not only Catholic loyalty, but awakened the apathy of many Protestants on whom the report of invasion had previously made no impression. The Volunteers sprang into vitality, and though they at first numbered merely 8,000, the force swelled ere the year was out to 42,000 armed men, and without the cost of one shilling to the Crown. Years after, the Government dreading, like Frankenstein, the heaving mass it had helped to create, sought to suppress the Irish Volunteers; but in 1778 their feeling was very different, when O’Leary’s inspiring address fanned the spirit of volunteering, and conduced to preserve the country. It was then that Lord Buckinghamshire officially declared that Ireland was prepared to offer a determined resistance to invasion.

A link or two of the heavy penal chain had now been struck from Papist limbs. The relaxation, however, was hampered with a new test oath, drawn up in terms even more subtle than that which, when handed to O’Connell fifty years later in Parliament, he withdrew rather than take. Dr. Carpenter[530] ruled the R. C. see of Dublin at this time. His flock embraced a considerable number who, from timidity of conscience, expressed doubts as to the propriety of taking the oath. Dr. Carpenter, though himself no great friend to the temporal power of the Pope, felt that to deny on oath a power already claimed by some famous theologians would seem rash and arrogant. Bishop de Burgo, author of the ‘Hibernia Dominicana,’ opposed the oath in terms still stronger; lay orators described as a poisoned cup the proffered measure of Catholic relief. Again O’Leary came to the front. A pamphlet of eighty-six pages was thrown on the country, entitled, ‘Loyalty asserted, or a Vindication of the new Test Oath of Allegiance, with an impartial inquiry into the Pope’s Temporal Power [a strong attack upon it] and the claims of the Stewarts to the English Throne: proving that both are equally groundless.’ O’Leary examined the oath sentence by sentence, and with logical precision showed its conformity to Catholic teaching. ‘The work was widely circulated,’ writes Father England, the first biographer of O’Leary, and called forth as well the acknowledgments of the friends of the Government as the warm gratitude of his Catholic fellow-countrymen. In November 1778 we read that the Catholic Archbishop Carpenter, at the head of seventy of his clergy, and several hundred Catholic laymen, attended at the Court of King’s Bench in Dublin and took the oath prescribed.[531]

The dreaded invasion never took place; but O’Leary’s address was scattered broadcast, and during subsequent years it reappeared again and again. It reads more like the argument of a paid advocate than the disinterested appeal of a poor Franciscan.

All this–not to speak of O’Leary’s tracts on Toleration, and his exertions, written and oral, to deter the Whiteboys from their conspiracies–furnishes sufficient claim to a pension, without assuming that it must have been earned in the dark field of espionage. However, we now approach the time when overtures to discharge an ignominious task were undoubtedly made to him.

On August 26, 1784, the Viceroy, Rutland, addressed a ‘most secret‘ letter to Pitt’s brother-in-law, Lord Sydney:–

I have discovered a channel by which I hope to get to the bottom of all the plots and machinations which are contriving in this metropolis. As I always expected, the disturbances which have been agitated have all derived their source from French influence. There is a meeting in which two men named Napper Tandy and John Binney, together with others who style themselves free citizens, assemble. They drink the French King on their knees, and their declared purpose is a separation from England and the establishment of the Roman Catholic religion. At their meetings an avowed French agent constantly attends, who is no other than the person in whose favour the French ambassador desired Lord Caermarthen to write to me a formal introduction….[532] One of this meeting, alarmed at the dangerous extent of their schemes, has confessed, and has engaged to discover to me the whole intentions of this profligate and unprincipled combination.[533]

This is a glowing picture, one more than realising the beautiful vision of Davis:–

The mess tent is full, and the glasses are set,
And the gallant Count Thomond is president yet.
The vet’ran arose, like an uplifted lance,
Crying: ‘Comrades a health to the monarch of France!’
With bumpers and cheers they have done as he bade,
For King Louis is loved by the Irish Brigade.

The first mention of O’Leary’s name in the State Papers is under date September 4, 1784, when Sydney writes to the Lord-Lieutenant:–‘O’Leary has been talked to by Mr. Nepean, and he is willing to undertake what is wished for 100l. a year, which has been granted him.’

On Sept. 8th [writes Mr. Lecky] Orde thanks Nepean for sending over a spy, or detective, named Parker, and adds: I am very glad also that you have settled matters with O’Leary, who can get at the bottom of all secrets in which the Catholics are concerned, and they are certainly the chief promoters of our present disquietude. He must, however, be cautiously trusted, for he is a Priest, and if not too much addicted to the general vice of his brethren here, he is at least well acquainted with the art of raising alarms for the purpose of claiming a merit in doing them away.[534]

Thus, as it would seem, O’Leary had already not been slow in claiming from the Government the merit, if not the wages, of allaying the causes of public alarm. Plowden and England admit that O’Leary had a pension of 200l. a year. He must have been in receipt of at least 100l. for his writings at the time that, for an extra hundred, it was proposed to him to undertake a base task. The promptitude and facility with which Sydney, in September 1784, made the proposition shows the close relations that had previously subsisted.

A curious letter from Weymouth, a previous Home Secretary, addressed to Dublin Castle, is printed in Grattan’s ‘Life’ (vol. i. p. 369). In great panic he expresses fear that the Catholic colleges of France and Flanders would despatch their alumni as secret agents to Ireland. These were among the reasons that made the Government anxious to secure O’Leary’s aid.

Dr. England–his earliest biographer–lived comparatively near the time, and heard from O’Leary’s publisher, Keating, a few interesting incidents which, to some extent, tally with the revelations of the State Papers. The biographer knows of an interview between O’Leary and Nepean on behalf of Sydney and Pitt, but England and his informant are deceived as to the conditions which accompanied the pension. Their memory is also at fault as regards the year. Instead of 1784, they set it down as ‘soon after O’Leary had fixed his residence permanently in London,’ which, of course, was in 1789. O’Leary had been a good deal in London previously, for, as Froude states, Orde in 1784 asked Sydney to send him over confidential agents, and in September 1784 he writes, ‘your experts have arrived safe.'[535]

Soon after he [O’Leary] had fixed his residence permanently in London [writes Dr. England], one day whilst dining with his attached and valued friend, Mr. Keating, the bookseller, he was informed that Lord Sydney’s secretary was in the adjoining parlour, and had a communication to make to him. He immediately left the table; and when, in a short time, he returned, he related the substance of the interview. The secretary stated to him that Government had observed with much satisfaction the good effects which Mr. O’Leary’s writings had produced in Ireland–peace, good order, and unanimity, amongst all classes of his countrymen, had been promoted and advanced by his exertions; and that, in consideration of the services thus rendered to the Empire, it was determined to manifest the approbation of such conduct by offering him a pension suitable to his circumstances, and worthy of his acceptance; that, with a delicacy arising from the ignorance of his means of subsistence, they had as yet hesitated fixing on any specific sum, choosing rather to learn from himself what would answer his expectations, than to determine on what might be insufficient for his claims. The secretary took the liberty of asking a question to which, at the same time, he did not insist on receiving an answer: whether, in the event of any popular commotion in Ireland, as it was dreaded would be the case from the diffusion of American republican notions, O’Leary would advocate, as formerly, principles of loyalty and allegiance? To this latter question an unhesitating reply was given, confirmatory of the known inflexibility of O’Leary’s political conduct; with regard to the pension, he never had sought for one, though, at a former period of his life, something of the kind had been hinted to him; in the present instance he was grateful to the Government for the recollection of him, and suggested that the utmost of his claims would be answered by 100l. a year. He was afterwards informed officially that his presence in Ireland was necessary for the purpose of having the pension placed on the list of that country. He repaired thither, and, after the necessary formalities were gone through, he became entitled to 200l. per annum; but England adds that, ‘for some unexplained cause, his pension, after one or two years, was arbitrarily withheld.'[536]

It will be seen that the point here made is not consistent with Plowden’s account (ante, p. 213). According to him, the pension was ‘hush-money:’ he was to write no more, and, above all, he was not to write in promotion of good feeling and toleration. England upholds that it was given in the hope that O’Leary would continue to write in the same tone that had already earned Governmental gratitude. Sydney settled terms with O’Leary in London, and, through his secretary, told him what to do.

‘Cedars have yielded,’ says St. Peter. It was a clever thought to plan the corruption of O’Leary for the performance of a part which his employers describe with gusto. Two years previously, on February 27, 1782, popular confidence in him had reached its height when Yelverton, Grattan, and Sir Lucius O’Brien praised him with enthusiasm.

A man of learning, a philosopher, a Franciscan [said Grattan] did the most eminent service to his country in the hour of its greatest danger. He brought out a publication that would do honour to the most celebrated name. The whole kingdom must bear witness to its effect by the reception they gave it. Poor in everything but genius and philosophy, he had no property at stake, no family to fear for; but descending from the contemplation of wisdom, and abandoning the ornaments of fancy, he humanely undertook the task of conveying duty and instruction to the lowest class of the people.[537]

How he qualified for these praises Mr. Froude may now be allowed to show. After O’Leary arrived in Dublin he saw Orde, and was told what the Government expected him to do. The following letter is dated September 23, 1784:–

Your experts have arrived safe [wrote the Secretary, reporting their appearance]. At this moment we are about to make trial of O’Leary’s sermons,[538] and Parker’s rhapsodies. They may be both in their different callings of very great use. The former, if we can depend on him, has it in his power to discover to us the real designs of the Catholics, from which quarter, after all, the real mischief is to spring. The other can scrape an acquaintance with the great leaders of sedition, particularly Napper Tandy, and perhaps by that means dive to the bottom of his secrets.[539]

Sir Richard Musgrave was one of the alarmists who loved to purvey sensational news for Dublin Castle. His ‘History of the Rebellion,’ published in 1801, embodies his impressions of events for twenty years before. No wonder that Dublin Castle was fluttered by his reports. Here is clearly one of them, and it serves to show why it was that the Government were so anxious in 1784 to secure O’Leary by a subsidy:–

A corps called the Irish Brigade was raised in Dublin, of which nineteen out of twenty were Roman Catholics, and they appointed Father O’Leary, an itinerant friar, their chaplain. I have been assured that they exceeded in number all the other Volunteer corps in the city.

And again:–

In the summer of the year 1783, the Irish Brigade, with the Dublin Independent Volunteers, commanded by James Napper Tandy and Matthew Dowling, formed an encampment between Roebuck and Dublin, under the pretext of studying tactics and learning camp duty, though it was well known that they were hatching revolutionary projects. It is to be observed that the war, the only pretext for their arming, was now at an end; yet many corps in different parts of the kingdom resolved not to lay down their arms but with their lives.[540]

Musgrave’s construction of the above, as in many other incidents, is not wholly correct; though in his estimate of Tandy and Dowling, both Protestants, he was accurate enough.

If O’Leary played the part assigned and attributed to him, never did face more belie internal baseness, or was more exquisitely fashioned to command the confidence of its dupes. The ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ for February 1802 contains a study of ‘Father Arthur’ from the pen of Mr. Pratt.

His manners [he says] were the most winning and artless, anticipating his goodwill and urbanity before he opened his lips; and when they were opened, his expressions did but ratify what those manners had before ensured. And you had a further earnest of this in the benign and ineffable smile of a countenance so little practised in guile that it at the same time invited to confidence, and denoted an impossibility of your being betrayed.

Curran, addressing the Irish House of Commons in 1787, revealed a trait highly honourable to the friar: ‘Mr. O’Leary was, to his knowledge, a man of the most innocent and amiable simplicity of manners in private life. The reflection of twenty years in a cloister had severely regulated his passions and deeply informed his understanding.'[541] Curran’s knowledge was partly derived from the fact that O’Leary belonged to ‘The Monks of the Screw,’ often regarded as a convivial club; but ‘whose more important object,’ writes Hardy, the biographer of Charlemont, ‘was a co-operation of men holding a general similarity of political principles resolved to maintain the rights and constitution of their country.’ Previously, O’Leary had dedicated his Miscellaneous Tracts ‘to the Dignitaries and Brethren of the Monks of St. Patrick,’ addressing them, with his wonted humour, as ‘Reverend Fathers and illustrious Brethren.’

He had already written in denunciation of French designs on Ireland; and what more natural than that he should now be asked to track the movements of certain French emissaries which the Government heard had arrived in Dublin, and were conspiring with the Catholic leaders to throw off the British yoke.[542] This task O’Leary, as a staunch loyalist, may have satisfied his conscience in attempting, especially as he must have known that in 1784 the Catholics, as a body, had no treasonable designs, though, doubtless, some few exceptions might be found. In fact, his friend Edmund Burke, a member of the Ministry in 1783, declared, but later on, that ‘the Irish Roman Catholics were everywhere loyal, save at certain points where their loyalty had been impaired by contact with Protestants.’ Orde,[543] while using O’Leary, thought him a knave; yet feigned a readiness to believe his reports. The exhaustive correspondence of Count d’Adhémar, the French ambassador in London, with his Government, is now open to inquirers at the French Foreign Office; but, as it makes no allusion to any French agent in Ireland at this period, the story may be little better than one of the sensational myths so often found in the letters of informers to the Irish executive.[544] But, although no documental evidence exists of a French agent having been in Dublin in 1784, it is certain that five years later, i.e. in 1789, one Bancroft, an American by birth, was sent on a secret mission from France to Ireland.[545]

We hear of no important arrests during the troubled period that O’Leary is said to have been set in motion; but the Habeas Corpus Act had not been suspended since 1779, and was not until 1794 that Pitt renewed the suspension.

In analysing O’Leary’s life and judging his conduct, it is not fair to ignore any remark of his tending to exculpate; but, if panegyrics are desired, the reader should consult the memoirs by England, Buckley and some others. Almost O’Leary’s last public performance appeared in 1800: ‘An Address to the Lords of Parliament, with an account of Sir H. Mildmay’s Bill relative to Nuns.’

His loyalty was not [he said] the effect of necessity or timeserving policy, for in France, where the Penal Laws of England drove him for education, and where the Catholics of Ireland had Seminaries and Convents with full admission to all the degrees of her universities, I resisted every solicitation to enlist any of the subjects of these kingdoms in the French King’s service, though I had then every opportunity of being appointed to superintend prisons and hospitals during the wars. It was my interest to recommend myself to the favour of people in power, and consequently more my interest to become more a courtier than a moralist. St. Paul calls God to witness when he asserts the truth: I can do the same when I assert that conscience was the rule of my conduct.[546]

This is further useful in showing that O’Leary was no admirer of the French king, and now that he was a pensioner of England would hardly object to discover the reported French agents in Dublin, who, with Napper Tandy, are said to have ‘drank on their knees’ the toast of ‘Louis of France.’

The latter story–told by the Viceroy, Rutland, in his letter to Sydney–bears improbability on its face. It seems strange that Tandy and his party, who not long after were Red Republicans and the allies of Carnot and Hoche, would drink the health of Louis XVI. on their knees.[547] They were principally Protestants; and John O’Connell, in the Life of his father, says that Sheares shocked the future Liberator by exultantly displaying a handkerchief soaked in the French king’s blood.

I suspect that when O’Leary returned from making, in September 1784, the inquiries which he is assumed to have done, his report was something in the spirit of Canning’s knife-grinder: ‘Story! God bless you, I have none to tell, sir;’ and that Orde concluded O’Leary himself was in the plot. On October 17, Orde writes to Nepean, alluding to some rumour about our friar which is not stated. ‘Del Campo’s connection with O’Leary–or rather O’Leary’s with him–may have given rise to all the report; but, after all, I think it right to be very watchful over the priest, and wish you to be so over the Minister. They are all of them designing knaves.’

Thus it appears that in little more than a fortnight after O’Leary is supposed to have begun to spy, Orde was far from satisfied with him.


[522] United Irishmen, iii. p. vi.

[523] Mr. Froude, with the letter before him which he found, could adopt hardly any other impression. Mr. Macdonough, in Irish Graves in England, follows Froude, and speaks of O’Leary’s ‘traitorous conduct.’ He, however, errs in assigning 1811, instead of 1802, as the date of his death. See Evening Telegraph, February 6, 1888.

[524] The omitted matter is merely a compliment.

[525] Plowden’s Ireland since the Union, i. 6. (Dublin, 1811.)

[526] Mr. Lecky, who examined the State Papers, tells us that seven years later, i.e. 1791, ‘The chief members of the Irish Government made it their deliberate object to revive the religious animosities which had so greatly subsided, to raise the standard of Protestant ascendancy, and to organise through the country an opposition to concession.’

[527] Vol. vi. 369.

[528] Vide Lecky, iv. 491.

[529] ‘If 30,000 men under the denomination of French troops landed in Ireland,’ writes O’Leary, ‘15,000 Protestants from France, Germany, Switzerland, &c., would make up half the number. Neither are you to confide in their promises of protection.’–O’Leary’s Tract, p. 104.

[530] Dean Lee, the grandnephew of Dr. Carpenter, tells me that a smart apostate priest had been deputed to frame the new oath.

[531] Annual Register, xxi. 208. See also a fine panegyric on O’Leary, published in the Irish Quarterly Review, vii. 686.

[532] This is, no doubt, M. Perrin, of whom some particulars will be found, infra, p. 246.

[533] Rutland to Sydney, most secret, Aug. 26, 1784.

[534] Rutland’s letter, to which this is an answer, seems to have been destroyed.

[535] My first idea was that, unless it were possible to trace some of the written reports in which Froude insinuates that O’Leary kept a daily record of espionage, his guilt as a spy must be doubted; but, judging by Sydney’s testimony, the guilt seems primâ facie proven, the absence of such letters notwithstanding. O’Leary was not much of a letter-writer: few of any sort appear in his memoirs. The biographers tell us that when producing the great essays by which he acquired fame, his practice was to dictate them while he paced his study.–W. J. F.

[536] Life of Rev. A. O’Leary, by Rev. T. R. England, 1822, pp. 234 et seq. In 1788, Orde himself received a pension of 1,700l. a year, charged on the Irish Establishment.

[537] Irish Parl. Debates, i. 293.

[538] From the word ‘sermons’ I thought, at one time, that O’Leary was summoned–on the re-appearance of the ‘Whiteboys’–to administer the dissuasives which, some years previously, had produced good effect. I have diligently searched newspaper files and contemporary pamphlets, and I can find no letter, or reported sermon, addressed by O’Leary to the Whiteboys in 1784. Two years later, he certainly tried to reason with them. The words ‘if we can depend on him,’ lead to the inference that O’Leary gave Orde some personal assurance as regards his willingness to make the inquiries desired.

[539] Froude’s English in Ireland, ii. 413.

[540] Musgrave’s Memoirs of the Rebellion, pp. 50-1. (Dublin, 1801.)

[541] In 1784, the very year that O’Leary consented, as we are told, ‘to dive to the bottom of secrets,’ a gold medal was presented to him by the Cork Amicable Society. ‘Father O’Leary is represented in the habit of his order,’ writes England, ‘crushing with his right foot the Hydra of religious persecution; with his right hand he opens the gates of the Temple of Concord; whilst with his left he beckons his countrymen (emblematically represented by the harp) to enter the sacred edifice, forgetful of their prejudices against each other. The genius of his country is represented with extended arms over his head, each bearing a crown–the one of Science, the other of Victory.’

[542] See Attorney-General Fitzgibbon’s account of this scare, infra, p. 245.

[543] The Chief Secretary for Ireland.

[544] State papers of the present century are a sealed book; but special leave was given to search for such papers as threw light on Shelley’s visit to Dublin in 1812. During this inquiry a sight was obtained of a correspondence between Dublin Castle and the Home Office, numbering many hundred sheets, and dealing entirely with the information furnished by a tipsy clerk of Mary’s Lane Chapel to the effect that a general massacre of all the Protestants in Ireland had been projected! Myths of this sort have periodically scared the executive. Passing on to 1830, we find, in the Sirr Papers, informations dated December 24 and 27, and disclosing another Popish plot. Among the men alleged to be deep in the conspiracy were the late saintly Bishop Blake, Brother Syrenus, a monk, Thomas Reynolds, afterwards city marshal, W. J. Battersby, and a number of other Catholic laymen. Twenty-three officers–i.e. young priests from Carlow and Maynooth–are alleged to be sent by different coaches to various parts of Ireland, and all charged with secret missions of a most formidable character!

[545] Lecky, Hist. of England, vi. 537.

[546] London, printed; Dublin, reprinted by H. Fitzpatrick, 1800. O’Leary seems to have had a pension when in France. ‘I resisted the solicitations,’ he adds, ‘and ran the risk of incurring the displeasure of a Minister of State, and losing my pension.’ ‘A small pension from the French Government he retained until the French Revolution,’ as we learn from a sketch of O’Leary, probably written by Plowden, in the Gentleman’s Magazine for January 1802.

[547] The obsolete custom of drinking healths on the knees is noticed in Brand’s Popular Antiquities, ii. 329; and Dekker’s Honest Whore, A.D. 1630.

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