The first incident, Judge Fletcher refers to, was possibly the Battle of the Diamond, County Armagh, 21 September 1795 and its aftermath. Some of those who fled, ‘the emigrants’ mentioned, came southward to County Louth and settled in the Dundalk area.
The second incident is best known as The Burning of Wildgoose Lodge in Reaghstown, County Louth, on 30 October 1816.
JUDGE FLETCHTER'S CHARGE AT ARMAGH.
The observations which follow were made by Mr. Justice Fletcher (after the business at the Louth Assizes was finished) in his address to the Grand Jury of Armagh. As certain prints have taken lately to praising this unquestionably honest and able Judge, and publishing his speeches, we hope they will not overlook what they are now furnished with an opportunity of promulgating. If his Lordship's speech at Dundalk was "very important," and worthy of being "widely disseminated," his Lordship's speech at Armagh cannot be undeserving of attention:-
"Gentlemen, I find, with great pleasure, that the Calendar laid before me exhibits but that kind of catalogue of accusation which, perhaps, no state of society can be expected to be free from. I do not find in it any evidence of the existence of p[--]ty feuds. From personal inspection, I know nothing of your County, this being the first time I have borne his Majesty's Commission in it; but I cannot be supposed ignorant of the unhappy state of society which it presented at a period not remote. You, Gentlemen, must know, much better than I possibly can, the extent of the mischief locally: --
You must have witnessed the misery inflicted upon thousands of the King's unoffending subjects, by the ruthless persecution which drove a large portion of the population of this County from all the dear (however humble; still dear) delights, sympathies, and associations of home, to wander where they could; or, in the language of the Ruffian Faction, to wander ‘to Hell or Connaught!' But, Gentlemen, if you have had better opportunities of viewing the deserted, or destroyed habitation --the melancholy and desponding family bereft of its little all, and flying, with hasty and disordered steps from the spoiler, you have not had better opportunities than I have had, of tracing the fearful consequences of this persecution. The emigrants from this County carried into every district of the island, a fearful tale of the persecution they had fled from --they bore testimony of their sufferings, and of the cruel infliction of your Orangemen, or Break-of-day-men!. And artful persons availed themselves of a melancholy and frightful truth, to originate and spread an Association, which sought afterwards, in its maturity, to overthrow our Government, and destroy our Constitution. Thus, may the late rebellion, the atrocities, which marked its progress, the shocking tale of Scullabogue --all, all, be traced to the Armagh persecutions --wanton, as they were unprovoked. The cruel and pitiless, warfare of an infuriated populace waged against a defenceless people, while the Magistrates, who ought to have been their protectors, looked on, it is said, (you can best judge if truly) quiescent, if not approving.
It may not be mal-apropos that I should mention a circumstance related to me by a Gentleman, with whom I had the honor to have a considerable degree of intimacy --a Gentleman of great worth and intelligence, Mr. Hume, the Member for Wicklow. In the County of Wicklow, at least in two Baronies of that County, where he had great and well deserved influence, and in which his estates lay, he learned that for many nights the Roman Catholic Inhabitants had deserted their dwellings, and had lain in the fields, under the apprehension of being massacred by their Protestant neighbours. He found an artful Emissary of Rebellion had used the too true and too cruel story of Armagh persecutions, to work upon the fears of an industrious and simple Peasantry, with a view to bind them, while under the panic of expected suffering, in illegal associations. My friend was fortunate (thus we understood the Learned Judge, who spoke throughout in rather an under tone) to discover and trace this incendiary, and to bring him to justice and deserved punishment.
But you see, Gentlemen, in this anecdote, the train of mischief which flows from an encouragement of any faction Association naturally begets counter association. There is no knowing where the evil will end --no tracing its malignant ramifications --no saying to it in the language of Omnipotence, 'thus far shall thou go, and no farther.'
Gentlemen, I am happy to find Faction sleeps in your County --smother the Monster, I entreat you! Let him never resuscitate. I trust the people of this industrious and populous County will never again be deceived either by their own inflamed prejudices, or the artful instigators of any sordid and short-sighted politician, to conceive that any good can accrue to them from the persecution of their neighbours, who may believe a little more, or a little less, or who may worship God in a different temple, or with different observances. Let them never again be so deceived, as to their happiness, or their duties. For myself, I think it right to say to you, Gentlemen, that I regard all those associations as illegal. I care not what the badge, whether Green or Orange, nor what the pretence, nor what the profession --all are illegal; and when any indictment against either comes before me, so shall I charge the Jury. The law knows no difference, regards no distinction of colour or pretension, and it is the Judge's duty to administer the law.
"Gentlemen --I have come from a county, of whose politics I know as little personally as of yours. There, a most atrocious and abominable crime was perpetrated, for which a number of unhappy wretches have paid the forfeit of their lives. There, however, no Religious feud existed, the Sufferers and the Perpetrators were all of the same religion ---all were Roman Catholics. A brave man had defended his House successfully against the Assault of midnight ruffians, and he afterwards appealed to the laws of his country for their deserved punishment. Hence he became the object of a wide extended combination for vengeance, which was wreaked upon him, and upon all his family, under circumstances of horrible atrocity. There is no effect without a cause, and it were much to be wished, that we could trace the source of so foul a conspiracy against the peace and security of social order.”
(Source: The Freeman’s Journal, dated 18 March 1818, p.3),
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