Secret Service Under Pitt



Although the spy did not confide to Lord Downshire until October 1797 his name and secrets, there is reason to believe that he had furnished information previously. To enhance his importance he probably said nothing of this. As Mr. Froude observes, he painted his own conduct in the colours he thought best. This man had long played fast and loose. So early as May 1797 Turner was viewed with suspicion. The Castlereagh Papers contain a bundle of intercepted letters addressed by Reinhard, the French Minister at Hamburg, to De la Croix, head of the Foreign Office, Paris, of whom Tone often speaks with affection.[140] These letters, as already stated, mention Turner under the name of Furnes, which we learn from the Castlereagh Papers was an alias of Turner.[141] He is praised for his zeal and patriotism; but in one letter Reinhard is found struggling with a painful misgiving. The suspicion is so dark that he does not like to write even the name of Furnes, but makes dots to tally with the letters composing it, and no name was better known to De la Croix. At last Reinhard tries to banish the thought as an unworthy suspicion; and a subsequent letter of his reinstates Turner in full prestige.

The letter which expresses suspicion bears date May 31, but is confusingly assigned, in the Castlereagh Papers, to the year 1798. Its reference to Hoche, however, shows that it was written during the previous year–his death having occurred on September 15, 1797.

You must have heard [writes Reinhard to De la Croix] of the apprehension of two committees of United Irishmen at Belfast, and the publication of the papers seized, made by the secret committee of the Parliament of Ireland.[142] Among these papers is a letter from the provincial committee, informing those of Belfast that the executive committee having conducted itself in an improper manner, the provincial committee thought fit to dissolve it, retaining however, two-thirds of the former members. This letter has been printed in London in the True Briton, a ministerial paper. It is very remarkable that …… should never have mentioned that circumstance to me. Supposing, which is very probable, that this reorganisation of the executive took place before the departure of …… [from Ireland], it is natural enough to suppose that …… should find himself among the excluded members. The opinion that I have formed of him …… [adds Reinhard in words worthy of a true diplomat] is, that he is a man of haughty and violent character, without, on that account, stooping to dissimulation and deceit; so, in order to revenge himself on his countrymen, he may have betrayed his cause to Mr. Pitt. [Reinhard goes on to say that] It was letters of Lord Edward Fitzgerald which certified that this man who called upon me was the person sent to me by Lady Fitzgerald on his arrival.[143]

It seems needless to point out that this must be the ‘person’ whom Mr. Froude describes as being introduced by Lady Edward Fitzgerald, and having the ear of Reinhard at Hamburg; and there is hardly less doubt that the man thus noticed was the same who, having got into debt with his friends, addressed himself to Pelham as early as 1796. His secret letter to Pelham will be seen presently. Meanwhile the same sensitive pride and the same revengeful spirit when that pride was once wounded is also traceable in the details revealed to Lord Downshire next year. Judging from the slippery and impulsive character of the man, I cannot doubt that previous to his mission to London in October 1797, for the purpose of making a final bargain with Pitt, he had coquetted with Dublin Castle.

Lewins and Turner were rival envoys–Lewins represented the Leinster Directory; Turner claimed to speak for Ulster. Of Lewins, who stands above all suspicion, Reinhard writes to De la Croix in 1797:–‘I think L….. incapable of treachery, but capable of imprudence. I should not answer thus concerning the other. What seems further to concur in the support of my hypothesis is, that Mr. L. before his departure made it a point of great importance to ascertain whether there was any other envoy from Ireland, who addressed himself to me, and that he begged me not to give my confidence to any other than to him alone. I refrained from giving these tidings to General Hoche, not only because my means of corresponding with him are uncertain, but because all the letters from Frankfort announce his departure for Paris.’

It may not have struck Mr. Froude, as it certainly strikes me, that the man he describes[144] as visiting Lord Downshire, and at the last moment offering to betray, was the same person whom the historian, one hundred pages previously, notices as an informer, ‘in the closest confidence of the Northern Leaders, but whose name is still a mystery.’

It will be seen that Pelham’s correspondent of 1796 had fallen into debt and difficulties. This at first seems not consistent with the statement of Mr. Froude that Downshire’s visitor was the son of a gentleman of good fortune in the North. But it is easy to see that the son himself had got into pecuniary straits. He tells Downshire of the expenses he is under, and asks Pitt for a ‘cool 500l.‘[145] to begin with.

In addition to a judgment debt of 1,500l. which Jacob Turner in his will forgives his son Samuel,[146] I find, on examining the records of the three Law Courts, that another judgment debt of 800l. was marked against Samuel Turner on January 26, 1793.[147]

Speaking of informers, Mr. Froude writes under date 1796:–

One of these especially, whose name is still a mystery, was in the closest confidence of the Belfast leaders. He had been among the most enthusiastic of the original members of Tone’s society, but he had fallen into debt to others of the confederates and had been expelled. In revenge he sold himself to the Government, satisfied his creditors with money which he received from Pelham, and was at once taken back into confidence. Among others, he became an intimate associate of William Orr, a Belfast tradesman, afterwards executed for treason, who at this time was a member of the Head Northern Committee.

Orr told him that everything was ready. Dublin, Cork, Limerick, were waiting only for orders to rise, and when the word was given the movement was to be universal and simultaneous. They had 200,000 men already officered in regiments; they had pikes and muskets for 150,000, and more were on the way.

The militia were almost to a man United Irishmen, and in fact, according to Orr, they would have risen in the autumn but for some differences among themselves. For himself, the informer thought that nothing would be attempted till the arrival of the French.

The Belfast men, Neilson, Orr, the two Simms, the party who had taken the oath with Wolfe Tone on Cave Hill,[148] he described ‘as wealthy, wily, avaricious, tenacious of their property, distrustful of one another, and if afraid of nothing else, desperately afraid of the Orangemen, who were five times stronger than people in general believed.[149] They had authentic news that Hoche might be expected in the fall of the year, and then undoubtedly an effort would be made. If Hoche came, they were perfectly confident that Ireland would be a republic before Christmas. The instant that the signal was given the whole Orange party were to be assassinated….

The Informer concludes with these words:–

Be assured that what I have told you is true. The original agitators have been kept concealed even from the knowledge of the common people. The medium of dissemination has been the priests, and they have concealed from their congregations, on whom they have so effectively wrought, the names of those who have set them on, merely saying that there were men of influence, fortune, and power ready to come forward. The motive of the original agitators–and I mean by them the members of the Catholic Committee that sat in Dublin, and many of the Convention that were not on the Committee–was to carry the Catholic Bill through Parliament by the influence of terrorism.[150]

So much for the informer who sought the ear of the Irish Secretary in 1796. His close connection with the Northern leaders, his air of mystery, his hatred of the priests and the Catholic Committee, even his style and tone, the reference to Hoche, the prediction that the Protestants would suffer if the rebels won–all point to him as the same person who made overtures to Pitt, through Downshire, in October 1797. The alleged disaffection of the militia and the danger which menaced the estates of the aristocracy again crop up in Turner’s letter to Talleyrand.[151] In both cases the same stipulation is made that he should not be called upon to give evidence publicly–the same nervous temperament is revealed. Downshire’s visitor expressed mortal terror lest his life should pay the forfeit of his startling whisper. The same fear–and I believe I may add, presentiment–pervades the letter to Pelham in 1796. ‘Don’t name it,’ he writes; ‘if it get out they will know whence it came, and my life will be the certain forfeit.'[152] The ‘secret’ which the informer of ’96 told Pelham was what Mr. Fronde describes as ‘a curious story.’ ‘To show you that they tell me their secrets,’ writes the informer to Pelham, ‘here is the account told me of the death of Mr. McMurdoch of Lurgan.'[153] From searches made in the Registry of Deeds Office, Dublin, I find that Samuel Turner was closely connected with Lurgan, and in a way which gave double facilities for acquiring its secrets.[154]

The reader might glance once more at Mr. Froude’s account of the visit to Lord Downshire on that dark October night in 1797. The betrayer’s disguise and stealthy nervous gait as though some avenging power were on his track, are things worth noting. Why was he in such dread of assassination before he unfolded his story to Downshire? Surely he must have been conscious of having earned, for a long time before, the penalty of ‘Ormond steel.'[155] This, according to Dr. Conlan’s sworn testimony, was a specially familiar dogma with Teeling and Turner when organising treason in Ulster. The visit to Downshire was clearly prompted by greed. This peer had got the name of having secret service money at his disposal. ‘Bank notes were offered to me,’ observes James Hope, the working weaver of Belfast, ‘if I would implicate Will Tennant, Robert Simms and others, and it was admitted that the money came from Lord Downshire.’ This was probably among the efforts which were made to induce minor conspirators to give evidence publicly against their leaders, of whose treason the Crown had private knowledge through Turner.[156] McDougall’s ‘Sketches of Irish Political Characters,’ published in 1799, says of Lord Downshire (p. 20): ‘His political conduct agrees very well with his motto, Ne tentes, aut perfice; he supports administration with all his might.’ Downshire’s visitor knew, therefore, that this peer, if he liked, could make good terms with Pitt. Much of the melodramatic character of the scene appears to have been designed to move Downshire. ‘He saw Mr. Pitt’ says Froude, ‘who consented that “the person’s” services should be accepted.’

The Cabinet, we are told, was kept in ignorance of his name. But Pelham, the Irish Secretary previous to Castlereagh, seems to have known something of him already, for, as we learn, ‘Pelham, when in London, made large offers to Lord Downshire’s friend.'[157] That information had been given by Downshire’s visitor prior to the interview of October 1797, I cannot doubt.[158] Mr. Froude, describing Lord Edward’s visit to Hoche on the Swiss frontier,[159] writes: ‘Hoche himself had not revealed it even to Tone, but Lord Edward was known to be intimate with Macnevin. He had been watched in London, and traced to the lodgings of a suspected agent of the French Directory.’ Downshire’s visitor, it will be remembered, had interviews with Lord Edward in London.

When the betrayer threw back his disguise, Downshire, we are told, recognised him at once. This, I suspect, was not the first time that a communication reached Downshire from the same source. Dr. Madden quotes from the ‘Northern Star’ of September 16, 1796, a sensational account of the arrest at Belfast of Russell, Neilson, Sampson, and many others, and how the whole garrison, with its artillery, took part in the stirring scene, and it appears that Downshire helped to direct the proceedings. That day Neilson and Russell surrendered to his lordship, and Tone in his ‘Diary’ deplores the arrest as the heaviest blow which could fall on their cause.[160]

The name of the French agent in London is not mentioned by Mr. Froude. It is M. Jägerhorn, described by Reinhard, the French Minister at Hamburg, as ‘that estimable Swede;’ and concerning whom there is a mass of matter, often purposely misleading, in the Castlereagh Correspondence. Macnevin’s memorial to the French Directory was betrayed to England in the summer of 1797. M. Jägerhorn was sent by France to treat with the Irish Directory. His mission, however, transpired, and means were taken to prevent him going farther than London, whereupon Lord Edward Fitzgerald was deputed to cross to England, and there confer with Jägerhorn.

Turner’s fracas with the terrorist commander-in-chief, Carhampton, was supposed to have caused his retirement to Hamburg. But that scene, with its dialogue, may have been purely theatrical.[161]

In June 1797 Turner attends several meetings of the Ulster delegates in Dublin.[162] There it was that the ‘prudence or the cowardice’ of the Papist leaders in Dublin, as he says, disgusted him.[163] Why should the notorious Turner be allowed to go on to Dublin, and Jägerhorn be refused?

Samuel Turner saw a good deal of Lord Edward and Jägerhorn in London. We find traces of this knowledge in Mr. Froude’s notes of ‘the person’s’ interview with Downshire–how he called Lord Edward ‘Fitz’ and had confidential talk with him in Harley Street. The spy tells Downshire soon after that Reinhard begged him to stay at Hamburg, ‘as the only mode in which I could serve my country and the republic. I instantly acquiesced, and told him I had arranged matters with Lord Edward Fitzgerald in London for that purpose.’

Turner played his cards so well, and personated an ardent patriot so completely, that the suspicions of his fidelity which Reinhard[164] expressed on May 31 are found removed soon after. Dr. Macnevin, of Dublin, a chief in the Executive Directory, was now coming to Paris to ask French aid. Reinhard reports progress to De la Croix:–

Hamburg: 25 Messidor [July 12].

While Mr. Lewins has suffered me to lose all traces of his journey, and Mr. Furnes[165] is gone to write to him, M. Jägerhorn has returned from London, and a new Irish deputation has called upon me. All the efforts of M. Jägerhorn having failed against the obstinacy with which the Duke of Portland refused him a passport for proceeding to Dublin, he determined to call Lord Fitzgerald to London. The latter came upon pretext of accommodating his sister. The authenticity of the mission of Mr. Lewins was verified; important details respecting the state of Ireland were given; it was ascertained that there was no derangement in the plan, and in the resources of the united patriots. It is unnecessary for me to give you a circumstantial account of the information brought by Mr. F., since he enters fully into that which Mr. Macnevin has just given. The latter came surrounded by all the motives for confidence, and he did not leave Dublin till the 27th of June: his intelligence is of the latest date, and from the very source. The reports of Mr. Macnevin, who goes here by the name of Williams, and who would wish to appear always under that name, as Mr. Lewins under that of Thompson, appear to me to throw great light upon all that the Government can have an interest to know. Mr. Macnevin has been secretary of the executive committee, and all that he says proves him to be a man thoroughly acquainted with the ensemble of facts and combinations. In annexing to this despatch the Memorial[166] which he delivered to me, I shall add what I have reason to think of importance in his conference.

My first care was to clear up what the papers seized at Belfast said concerning a change made by the provincial committee in the organisation of the executive committee. It results from the answers of Mr. Macnevin, conjointly with those of Mr. Furnes, that it was of dilatoriness and indecision that several members of the committee were accused; that the northern province, feeling its oppression and its strength, was impatient to break forth,[167] while the committee strove to defer any explosion till the arrival of the French, and declined giving a full explanation of its relations with France; that, nevertheless, after the change of the committee, meetings were held in Dublin and in the North, at which it was resolved to wait; that the clandestine visitation of several depôts of arms, where the powder was found damp and the muskets rusty, contributed a good deal to that resolution; and that the desire for the assistance of the French had in consequence become more general than ever. It was, however, decided that a rising should take place when the prisoners were set at liberty. Macnevin and Lord Fitzgerald are of the moderate party. Furnes is for a speedy explosion; and it is some imprudences into which his ardent character has hurried him, that have obliged him to leave the country[168]; whereas, the conduct of Mr. Macnevin has been so circumspect,[169] that there is nothing to oppose his return.

Reinhard’s despatch is continued at very great length, and those who care to read it should consult the ‘Castlereagh Papers’ (i. 282-6). He thus ends: ‘I have just received a memorial in which M. Jägerhorn gives me an account of his journey. I will send it to you by the next courier. That estimable Swede has again manifested great devotedness to the cause of liberty.’

By some marvellous sleight-of-hand Jägerhorn’s secret report found its way to Whitehall, instead of to Paris, and may be read in the memoirs of Lord Castlereagh.[170] Two years later, the Swede will again be found tracked from Hamburg to London, and arrested on Portland’s warrant.

Mr. Froude’s allusion to the facilities of command exercised by ‘the person’ over Lady Fitzgerald’s letter-bag, the hints he gave Downshire how secret letters from Hamburg were sealed and addressed, and how they might be intercepted, read, and then passed on,[171] are only those gleams of light that shine dimly in dark places, but enough, with present knowledge, to discern a good deal.

It will be remembered that Downshire’s visitor, in his list of men marked out for doom, gave prominence to Dr. Macnevin, ‘a Physician who had great weight with the Papists.’ ‘He (the betrayer) had discovered,’ writes Froude, ‘that the object of the Papists was the ruin and destruction of the country, and the establishment of a tyranny worse than that which was complained of.’

The famous memorial of Dr. Macnevin, embracing a full report on the state of Ireland, and appealing to France for help, was written at this time.[172] On arrival at Hamburg he entrusted it to Reinhard, the French minister there, by whom–as we learn from the ‘Cornwallis Papers’–it was translated and forwarded to Paris. Mr. Froude thinks its betrayal to the English Cabinet a very remarkable circumstance, and the more strange because ‘no suspicion has been suggested of Macnevin’s treachery.’ A hidden hand contrived to pass on to Pitt this document destined to become historic.[173]

Wickham, writing to Castlereagh on August 15, 1798, states that the rebel executive committee directed Dr. Macnevin to proceed to Paris by the way of Hamburg; that the principal objects of his journey were to give additional weight and credit to the mission of Lewins, and to confirm the information that had already been transmitted.[174] Again the reader may be reminded that Lewins and Turner were rival envoys. Each is found constantly trying to circumvent the other. Turner, therefore, had a special object in foiling and intercepting Macnevin’s memorial.

Reinhard, in the betrayed despatch of July 12, 1797, tells De la Croix, at Paris, that every confidence might be reposed in Lewins. Lewins’ usual post was at Paris, just as Turner’s was at Hamburg, but both passed to and fro. Of Lewins, Reinhard takes care to say that Macnevin

not only attested that he possesses, and deserves, the utmost confidence, but that he is designated a minister at Paris in case of success. Mr. Macnevin wished much that his memorial should be communicated to him.[175]

If it was Turner’s interest to intercept Reinhard’s letter establishing confidence in Lewins, it was still more his interest to keep back from Lewins a document which, while vindicating his name, would protect it from further attack; and this the ‘Memorial’ of Macnevin was designed to do.

Camden had now ceased to be Viceroy and was succeeded by Cornwallis.[176] The latter co-operates with the Home Secretary in screening from publicity the name of their informer. The report of the Secret Committee was now in progress. Cornwallis, writing to Portland, says:–

The same reason may not operate against the production of Dr. Macnevin’s memoir, which might be supposed to have fallen into our hands by various other means, and which, from its being produced, without connection with the other papers, might not create any alarm in the quarter where it is so necessary that the most implicit confidence in our prudence and secrecy should be preserved.

Your Grace will of course be aware that no account will be given, even to the Secret Committee, of the means by which these papers came into the hands of Government.[177]

Portland duly acknowledged Lord Cornwallis’s despatch,

in which you represent the advantages which might result from laying before the Committees of Secrecy of the two Houses of Parliament in Ireland the whole, or at least a part, of the very secret and authentic documents relating to the conspiracy in that kingdom, which I had the King’s permission from time to time to transmit to the late Lord-Lieutenant [Lord Camden]. I lost no time in acquainting his Majesty’s confidential servants with your Excellency’s sentiments upon this very important and delicate question; and I am now to inform you that, after its having repeatedly undergone the most serious investigation and discussion, the result of our unanimous opinion is, that the communication of the whole of those papers cannot on any account, or in any situation of the country, be suffered to be made to a parliamentary committee, under whatever qualification or conditions it may be appointed, consistently with that secrecy which in certain cases the honour and safety of the State require to be observed.

We agree, however, for the reasons you have stated, that the same objection does not exist to the production of the greater part of Dr. Macnevin’s memoir, and I have therefore had an extract made of such parts of it as it appears to us may be laid before the public without inconvenience….

To prevent as much as possible any occasion being given which can tend to a discovery of the channels by which this intelligence has been obtained, I most earnestly recommend to your Excellency to do your utmost in procuring that the facts which are stated from it may not stand in the report of the committees in the exact order in which they are given here, but that they may be mixed with other information which has been derived from other sources.[178]

The precautions taken to screen the betrayer were certainly very complete. Castlereagh tells Wickham (July 30, 1798):–

His Excellency authorised me to read the correspondence and memorial once over to the committee of the Commons, with a strict injunction that no person should note a single fact; and I can truly state that the individuals on that committee are altogether in the dark as to the manner in which that intelligence was obtained, and, from the mode in which it was gone through, can only have a very general impression of its contents. The same precaution was used in the Lords; and, I trust, although the Duke of Portland’s despatch to his Excellency does not altogether sanction what has been done, yet that his Grace and the Ministers, who have so wisely enjoined the greatest precaution to be observed in the use to be made of that most interesting and important correspondence, will be of opinion that the guarded manner in which the Lord-Lieutenant made the communication to the committees, not authorising the smallest extracts to be made, or any of the facts to be relied on in their report, without being fully authorised by his Excellency, will preclude any danger to the State from this valuable channel of intelligence being in any degree brought into suspicion.[179]

In June 1798 Lord Edward was dead. The Sheares’s had been executed. Macnevin, O’Connor, T. Addis Emmet, and Sampson lay in prison in Dublin. Blood flowed on every side. The city was like a shambles. The State prisoners, on the understanding that executions should cease, and that they might be allowed to leave Ireland, consented to reveal, but without implicating individuals, the scheme of the United Irishmen. A prolonged secret inquisition by the Secret Committee took place. As soon as their evidence appeared, Macnevin and his fellow-prisoners complained, by a public advertisement, that the Crown officials who drew up the report of the Secret Committee had garbled the facts and distorted their evidence. Into all this it is not necessary now to go, but it may be observed that, while everything inconvenient was left out, an innuendo was made that the betrayal of Dr. Macnevin’s memoir may have been due to Reinhard, the French Minister. This–apart from M. Mignet’s testimony to the incorruptibility of Reinhard–serves to exculpate him, and narrows the spot on which suspicion now rests. Reinhard, in his letter to De la Croix, thinks it strange that Turner had never spoken to him about certain revelations made by ‘the Secret Committee of the Parliament of Ireland;'[180] but the reason now seems intelligible enough.

Macnevin published his ‘Pieces of Irish History'[181] at New York in 1807, and notices the betrayal of the memorial which he had addressed to the French Government. Up to that time, and until his death in 1840, he does not seem to suspect Turner. Had any such doubt occurred to him, he would have been the first to avow it. At p. 146 of his book Macnevin inveighs against a ‘profligate informer,’ ‘a ruffian of the name of Reynolds;’ but Reynolds’ treachery was confined to the arrests at Bond’s in Dublin, and did not take place until March 1798. Ten pages further on Macnevin speaks of the ‘unparalleled fidelity of the United Irish Body.’ Dr. Macnevin was struck by the knowledge the Government had acquired of the ‘negotiations of the United Irishmen with foreign States,’ and, he adds, ‘at this time one of the deputies [i.e. himself] had personal evidence of its extent and accuracy. That knowledge was obtained from some person in the pay of England and in the confidence of France.’ And Dr. Macnevin then proceeds to point to REINHARD by name!

This is just what the officials of the Home Office wished for all along. Wickham, referring to the publication of Macnevin’s memorial by the Secret Committee of the House of Lords, writes: ‘It may fairly be presumed that the copy has been obtained at [the Foreign Office] Paris, or from R.’s [Reinhard’s] secretary at Hamburg. This conjecture will be at least as probable as the real one.‘[182]

One circumstance struck Macnevin as ‘confirmation strong’ of his dark suspicion. Reinhard, as he tells us, made difficulties about giving him a passport to Paris. A most important despatch from Reinhard to De la Croix thus concludes:–

What I must particularly urge, Citizen Minister, in regard to this business, is, at least, that you will have the goodness to direct me as to Mr. Macnevin. I will not give another passport without your order.[183]

This letter–possibly written at Lady Edward Fitzgerald’s house at Hamburg, and put into her post-bag–was treacherously betrayed to Pitt. When De la Croix remained ominously silent in response to the above appeal, is it surprising that Reinhard should have made difficulties and delays in giving Macnevin a passport?[184]

Macnevin’s groundless distrust of Reinhard naturally influenced the views of a most painstaking investigator. Dr. Madden, who, when he at last saw, in the ‘Castlereagh Papers,’ Reinhard’s letters to De la Croix, regarded the circumstance as damning proof of his treachery.[185] Subsequently Mignet, the great French historian and keeper of the ministerial archives at Paris, who had ample official means of knowing the character and acts of both Reinhard and De la Croix, assured Madden in writing that both men were incorruptible. This may be taken as conclusive, for, unlike Turner, there is not a line in any English State Paper tending to compromise Reinhard or De la Croix.[186]

For the act of betrayal we must therefore look to Samuel Turner, agent at Hamburg of the United Irish Brotherhood; the man who had access to the most secret papers in Lady Fitzgerald’s house, and who, we learn, ‘was admitted to close and secret conversations upon the prospect of French interference in Ireland with Reinhard.’ This, in fact, was the grand proof submitted by Downshire’s visitor to show that he was in a position to spy to advantage–a fact sufficient in itself to demonstrate that Reinhard was himself no spy.

Dr. Madden’s suspicion of Reinhard was doubtless strengthened by a passage which for a long time puzzled myself, and occurs in Wickham’s letter to Castlereagh of June 8, 1798. Wickham speaks of ‘information confirmed by a person at Hamburg, who must necessarily have derived his intelligence from a very different source, and who could not but be ignorant of that from which R. had procured all that he has communicated to us.’ The name thus masked is not Reinhard, but Richardson–an alias for Turner, as proved at p. 48 ante.

One thing greatly complicated this puzzle as regards ‘R.’ Wickham, in a subsequent letter, dated July 25, 1798, speaks of ‘R.’–meaning not Richardson, but Reinhard, as the context shows.[187] But these blanks are due to the noble editor of the ‘Castlereagh Papers,’ the late Lord Londonderry; and in cloaking the name Richardson–it inadvertently peeps out in one place, like ‘Capel’ instead of ‘Catesby’ in ‘Lothair’–he doubtless thought that it was a real name.

On February 18, 1798, Lord Moira addressed the House of Lords in favour of Catholic Emancipation, which, he declared, must be granted, as well as Parliamentary Reform. ‘The greatest evil to be feared from it sinks to nothing compared to the mischief which is raging at present. The expression of a conciliatory desire on your part would suspend immediately the agitation of the public mind.’

Mr. Froude says that the members of Council knew more than Lord Moira–‘if he really believed his words;’ and he adds that they must have found it hard ‘to sit patient under his flatulent declamation.’ How much Turner’s tattle had excited the Cabinet, and aroused lasting prejudice against a statesman not less able than estimable, appears from the historian’s words: ‘At that moment the Council were weighing intelligence from the friend at Hamburg, so serious that they had all but resolved on an immediate arrest of the entire Revolutionary Committee.’

Reinhard tells De la Croix, on July 12, 1797, that while ‘Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Macnevin[188] were of the moderate party, Turner was for a speedy explosion.'[189] Turner was co-operating in a very base policy, one which unscrupulous statesmen are said to have planned. During the examination of Macnevin before the Secret Committee, Lord Castlereagh confessed that ‘means were taken to make the United Irish system explode.’ The policy of exciting a premature explosion before Ireland had been organised peeps forth in the Report of the Secret Committee of the Irish Parliament: ‘The rebellion [we are told] would not have broken out so soon as it did, had it not been for the well-timed measures adopted by Government.’

Turner’s policy changed according as the policy of his employers changed. In March 1798 the rebel Directory at Dublin were seized as they sat in council at Oliver Bond’s. Soon after, three out of thirty-two counties rose; and to crush that partial revolt cost England twenty-two millions of pounds and twenty thousand men.


[140] Castlereagh, i. 282-292.

[141] Ibid., General Index, iv. 504.

[142] Further on will be seen Portland’s caution to Castlereagh as to the means to be taken by the Secret Committee of the Irish Parliament in order to divert suspicion from their spy.

[143] The letter, of which this is an extract, appears in the Castlereagh Papers (i. 275-6). It was the interest of the spy that this letter should not be seen at the Foreign Office, Paris. It could do him no harm in the eyes of Pitt. A second intercepted letter from Reinhard states that consistently with his duties he sent Samuel Turner [of Hamburg] to General Hoche (see Castlereagh, i. 285). Tone mentions in his diary that Hoche one day ‘seemed struck when I mentioned Hamburg, and asked me again was I going hither. “Well then,” said he, “perhaps we may find something for you to do there. There is a person there whom perhaps you may see.”‘ Tone muses, ‘Who is my lover that I am to see at Hamburg, in God’s name?’ (Diary, ii. 341.) His diary is relinquished, however, just as he gets there, and his death in an Irish prison occurred soon after.

[144] English in Ireland, iii. 278.

[145] Ibid. iii. 284.

[146] Irish Record Office.

[147] Judgment Registry, Four Courts, Dublin, No. 302.

[148] Tone’s Life (i. 128) describes how, before leaving for America in 1795, he swore to his friends who surrounded him on Cave Hill never to desist from his efforts until Ireland was free.

[149] This is quite Turner’s style.

[150] Froude, iii. 176. The original objects of the Society of United Irishmen were parliamentary reform and Roman Catholic emancipation.

[151] Ante, p. 25.

[152] The Rev. Arthur McCartney, vicar of Belfast, stated that he had never heard of a Committee of Assassination existing in Belfast with the cognizance or sanction of the leaders of the United Irishmen.

[153] Froude’s English in Ireland, iii. 175.

[154] The following memorandum, though of no political import, is useful as an authentic record of facts:–

‘1791, February 13. Samuel Turner and Jacob Turner his father, both of Turner’s Hill, co. Armagh, Esquires, to John McVeagh of Lurgan. Conveyance of Premises in Lurgan.

‘1794, October 8. Samuel Turner of Newry, and Jane Turner, late of Lurgan, now of Newry, to Thompson and others. Premises in Lurgan.

The Teelings, with whom Turner claims to be intimate, came from Lurgan.’ See Webb’s Irish Biography.

[155] See Conlan’s sworn information, Appendix.

[156] James Hope to the late Mr. Hugh McCall, of Lisburn. See Webb’s Irish Biography for an appreciative notice of Hope.

[157] Froude’s English in Ireland, iii. 290.

[158] There were informers from the first, but not to the extent suggested; nor can it be fairly said that they were men ‘deepest in the secret.’ ‘This and similar information,’ writes Mr. Froude, ‘came in to them (the Government) from a hundred quarters’ (p. 177). ‘They had an army of informers’ (p. 174). The historian here writes of the year ’96, and rather overrates the extent of the treachery. Dr. Macnevin, writing in 1807, says that the secrets of the United Irishmen were kept with wonderful fidelity. Their society existed from 1791; it was not until 1798, when ropes were round their necks, that Reynolds and McGuckin proved false; and the same remark applies to most of the others.

[159] As regards Pelham’s correspondent in 1796, and Downshire’s in 1797, does Mr. Froude mistake, for two distinct betrayers, the one Informer? His striking scenes, his dramatic situations, his fine painting and accessories, remind me of a stage where the movements of a few men convey the idea of an advancing ‘army.’ That ‘Downshire’s friend’ had been previously known as an informer is proved by a letter from the Viceroy Camden to Portland, dated December 9, 1797.

[160] Lives and Times of the United Irishmen, iv. 22.

[161] Ante, p. 11.

[162] Appendix No. 1 to Report of the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, 1798.

[163] See ante, p. 2; Froude, iii. 279.

[164] The French minister at Hamburg.

[165] The noble editor of the Castlereagh Papers says that this name is an alias for Samuel Turner.

[166] Mr. Froude errs in stating (iii. 260) that Macnevin himself carried the Memorial to Paris.

[167] All this is exactly what Downshire’s visitor told him (see chap. i.).

[168] His challenge to the commander-in-chief, Lord Carhampton, was among the ‘imprudences.’

[169] Instead of the words ‘circumspect’ and ‘moderate,’ ‘prudence’ and ‘cowardice’ are applied to Macnevin’s party by Turner (vide chap. i.).

[170] Castlereagh Papers, i. 286-8.

[171] Among the letters headed ‘Secret Information from Hamburg,’ in the Castlereagh Papers, is one making allusion to the writer’s previous communications with Downshire, whom he mentions by name, and stating that certain letters to Charles Rankin, of Belfast, were ‘to be sealed with a particular seal I have for the purpose.’–Ibid. i. 234.

[172] Mr. Lecky says, what previous writers do not, that Macnevin wrote the memorial at Hamburg.

[173] Other intercepted letters addressed to the French Minister of War will appear later on. These unanswered appeals were well calculated to damp the ardour of the Irish refugees; but they tried to keep the machine of conspiracy moving–despite the subtle insertion of so many hidden obstacles tending to clog and destroy it.

[174] Castlereagh Papers, i. 271.

[175] Ibid. i. 284.

[176] How this appointment came about, see Appendix.

[177] Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 228.

[178] Ibid. i. 251.

[179] Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 246-7.

[180] Castlereagh Correspondence, i. 275-6.

[181] Allibone erroneously assigns (p. 558) the authorship of this book to Thomas Addis Emmet.

[182] Castlereagh Papers, i. 237.

[183] Castlereagh Papers, i. 281-6.

[184] Reinhard seems to have complained to the French Directory that his letters to De la Croix were not answered. The last intercepted letters are dated July 1797; and on the 15th of the same month Talleyrand was appointed to succeed De la Croix, who had been unjustly suspected. De la Croix survived until 1805, when he died at Bordeaux, mortified by the desertion of some old friends.

[185] Lives and Times of the United Irishmen, ii. 290.

[186] Arthur O’Connor, at all times distrustful, seems to have suspected the upright Macnevin. They were never quite cordial afterwards, and it is certain that in 1804, when both served in the Irish Legion, a duel very nearly took place between them.

[187] See Castlereagh Papers, i. 237.

[188] After 1798 Macnevin migrated to America, where he filled several important medical posts, and published numerous books. He survived until July 1841.

[189] Castlereagh, i. 283.

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