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jamin Pemberton Binns, brother of John Binns, of the Corresponding Society.*
It was from this Society the Rev. James Coigley had carried communications of great political importance, in 1796, to the French government. It was of this society that an agent, B. P. Binns, had distributed a number of addresses among the United Irishmen, in 1797, which are spoken of in the evidence of John Hughes. There were persons said to be members of that society; of respectability, and subsequently of high standing in society, and of influence in reform politics. It had an executive Committee—the members of which were unknown, except to three or four of the other members like that of the United Irishmen, but more fortunate than the latter ; its members, though suspected, never were discovered, or denounced on such evidence as could lead to their conviction. It has been denied by some of the state prisoners, that there was any correspondence or connection between the London Corresponding Society, or any other similar association in England, and the society of United Irishmen in Ireland. So far as regards the Corresponding Society, such may be the fact ; but with respect to the Secret Committee of England, though there might be no official communication between its executive and that of the United Irishmen, there most assuredly was a great deal of communication between the leading men of both societies, and a great deal of it was carried on through the agency of Benjamin Pemberton Binns, and the Rev. James Coigley.
Arthur O'Connor states, that Despard's attempt was wholly foreign to the affairs in Ireland. Until it can be shown that
* Benjamin Pemberton Binns was born in Dublin in 1771. He served his time to a plumber in the same city, and went to England in 1794, when he became a member of the Secret Committee. In 1797 he was sent as delegate to the Irish Directory to present the address of - The United Britons to the United Irishmen," and also, he says, “other very important verbal communications, which never have oozed out, and never shall.”. On hearing of the arrest of his brother, John Binns, and of Coigley, in London, he returned there, and ten days after his arrival was arrested. During his imprisonment which lasted for three years he was treated with great severity; kept in solitary confinement, and deprived of the use of books or writing materials. Being liberated in 1802, he shortly afterwards returned to Dublin, where he remained for some years. In 1817 he embarked for America, and finally settled in Philadelphia.
the objects of the Secret Committee of England, composed of delegates from England, Ireland, and Scotland, were wholly foreign to the affairs of Ireland, I, for one, cannot be persuaded but that Colonel Despard's supposed connection with the secret society in England, was well known to the leaders of the United Irishmen, and that a popular movement, not an atrocious act of assassination, was expected, and looked for with anxiety, as affording employment for the troops in England, which would leave a better prospect for their efforts in Ireland.
The following particulars, of the early history and military career of Colonel Despard, are taken from a “Memoir of the late Colonel Edward Marcus Despard. By James Bannantine, his Secretary, when Superintendent of his Majesty's affairs at Honduras." Published in “Walker's Hibernian Magazine," March, 1803, page 129 :“ He was born in 1750 1751, and descended from
very ancient and respectable family in the Queen's county, in Ireland. He is the youngest of six brothers, all of whom, except the eldest, have served either in the army or navy. In 1766, he entered the army as an ensign, in the 50th regiment. In the same regiment he served as a lieutenant; and in the 79th, he served successively as lieutenant, quarter master, captain, lieutenant, and captain. From his superior officers he received many marks of approbation, particularly from General Calcraft, of the 50th, General Meadows, and the Duke of Northumberland. He has been for the last twenty years detached from any particular corps, and entrusted with important offices. In 1799 he was appointed chief engineer to the St. Juan expedition, and conducted himself so as to obtain distinguished attention and praise from Captain Polson, who commanded on that occasion. He also received the thanks of the council and assembly of the island of Jamaica, for the construction of public works there ; and was, in consequence of these services, appointed by the governor of Jamaica, to be commander-in-chief of the island of Ruatan and its dependencies, and of the troops there, and to rank as lieutenant-colonel and field engineer, and commanded as such on the Spanish main, in Ruatan, and on the Musquito Shore, and the Bay of Honduras.
“ After this, at Cape Gracias de Dios, he put himself at the head of the inhabitants, who voluntarily solicited him to take the command, and re-took from the Spaniards, Black-river,
the principal settlement of the coasts. For this service, ne received the thanks of the governor, council, and assembly of Jamaica, and of the king himself. In 1783, he was promoted to the rank of colonel ; in 1784, he was appointed first commissioner for settling and receiving the territory ceded to Britain, by the sixth article of the definitive treaty of peace with Spain, in 1783. He, as a colonel, so well discharged his duty, that he was appointed superintendent of his Majesty's affairs on the coast of Honduras, which office he held, much to the advantage of the crown of England ; for he obtained from that of Spain, some very important privileges. The clashing interests, however, of the inhabitants of this coast, produced much discontent, and the colonel was, by a party of them, accused of various misdemeanors to his Majesty's ministers. He now came home, and demanded that his conduct should be investigated ; but was, after two years' constant attendance on all the departments of government, at last told by ministers, that there was no charge against him worthy of investigation ; that his Majesty had thought proper to abolish the office of superintendent at Honduras, otherwise he should have been reinstated in it; assured that his services should not be forgotten, but in due time meet their reward.
"It appears, however, that no further notice was ever taken of his past honourable and praiseworthy conduct, which, no doubt, highly irritated the colonel's susceptible and feeling mind ;* and it is highly probable, that the designing and disaffected had taken advantage of his state of mind, to detach him from loyalty, and engage his superior understanding and abilities in that mistaken cause, for which his life has now paid the forfeit.
“Soon after the commencement of the French revolution, Colonel Despard was committed to prison without any cause being assigned ; but was liberated after some weeks confinement. On the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, he was again confined for a considerable time, still without any visible cause e ; but was at length set at liberty, on his own recogni
From this time he continued at large, till the 16th of Nov. last, when he was again taken into custody, at the Oak
* Lord Cloncurry is of opinion that he was insane, rendered so by official persecution.
ley Arms, Lambeth, with about thirty other persons. In consequence of the last apprehension, the colonel, and twelve of his associates, were brought to trial, ten of whom were found guilty of high treason.
The other unfortunate persons who were tried, and suffered along with Mr. Despard, were all men in humble situations of life, but of respectable characters. Broughton and Macnamara were carpenters; Graham was a master slater, and had a small yearly income from government; Wratten was a shoemaker ; Francis and Wood were soldiers."
The treaty of peace between Great Britain on the one hand, and France, and Spain, and Holland on the other, was signed at Amiens, the 27th of March, 1802. It was very evident from the beginning of the negotiation for peace, that there was no confidence on the part of either government, in the sincerity of the intention of the other to maintain it.
The ministry in England was pressed by public opinion, and its expression in parliament to affect to make overtures for peace, and eventually peace itself. Buonaparte was consolidating his plaus for his own aggrandizement, and required a breathing time to combine and to accomplish them. The destruction of the French fleet, moreover, rendered it necessary to make the requisite preparations to provide and to equip another. This required time; and none was certainly lost by Buonaparte : for, from the beginning of the peace, naval preparations of considerable magnitude were actively going on at Brest and other ports.
Similar naval preparations and military movements were on foot in England in the winter of 1802. In the spring of 1803, volunteering in England, and the raising of yeomanry corps in Ireland, were matters of public notoriety. In the “ London Chronicle,” of March 12, 1803, we find the following announcement : “Mr. J. C. Beresford, M. P. for Dublin,
set off on Tuesday, for Ireland. His sudden return is attributed to business of a public nature.” That business was officially glanced at, in a circular of the Irish secretary, a few days later.
** On the 26th of March, Mr. E. B. Littlehales, in pursuance to directions from the Lord Lieutenant, addressed a circular to the commanding officers of the respective corps of yeomanry, stating that in the present posture of affairs, it was particularly desirable the yeomanry of Ireland should be prepared for any emergency.
Several of the corps of yeomanry, however, were already embodied.
Mr Otto, the French minister at the court of London, in a note to Lord Hawkesbury, dated August 17, 1802, states that he had received especial orders, to solicit that the most effectual measures should be taken,
“ Ist. - To put a stop to obnoxious, seditious, and unbecoming publications.
“2nd.--That certain French emigrants shall be sent out of the island of Guernsey.
"3d.-- That certain bishops, emigrants in England, shall be
"4th.—That Georges and his adherents should be transporled to Canada.
"5th.--That the Bourbon princes should be recommended to repair to Warsaw.
'6th.--That French emigrants, wearing orders of the ancient regime, should be required to quit the British territory.
The example of the British Government, in times of public commotions, is referred to in justification of those demands. "Whatever," says Mr. Otto, "may be the protection which British laws afford to native writers, and to other subjects of his Majesty, the French Government knows that foreigners here do not enjoy the same protection, and the law, known by the title of the Alien Act, gives the ministry of His Britannic Majesty, an authority which it has often exercised against those whose residence was prejudicial to the interests of Great Britain. The first clause of the act states expressly, that any order in council, which requires a foreigner to quit the king. dom, shall be executed under pain of transportation. There exists, therefore, in the ministry a legal and sufficient power