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Chapter XXVIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2


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A body so peculiarly privileged ought to be careful not to assume an attitude of antagonism against the bulk of the nation. Still, the outrageous attacks of Mr. O'Connell gave much offence, and when, on his return to Dublin after his crusade, he was invited to dinner by the lord-lieutenant, a violent storm was raised against the government.

The tory party sustained serious damage in consequence of an inquiry on the subject of Orange lodges in the army, which was granted in May, on the motion of Mr. Finn, an Irish member. Very startling disclosures were made by this committee during Sir Robert Peel's brief administration. Various addresses had been presented from Orange societies, which led to pertinacious questioning of the ministers. It was asked whether the addresses in question purported to be from Orange societies; whether the king ought to receive addresses from illegal associations; and whether it was true, as the newspapers stated, that such addresses had been graciously received by his majesty. There was a peculiar significance given to these inquiries by an impression that began to prevail that there had been on foot for some years a conspiracy to prevent the princess Victoria from ascending the throne, and to secure the sovereignty for the eldest brother of the king, the duke of Cumberland, the avowed head of the tory party, and also the head of the Orange society, through whose instrumentality the revolution was to be effected, in furtherance of which Orange lodges had been extensively organised in the army. The report of the committee was presented in September, and from this report it appeared that Orange lodges were first held in England under Irish warrants; but that in 1808 a lodge was founded in Manchester, and warrants were issued for the holding of lodges under English authority. On the death of the grand master in that town, 1821, the lodge was removed to London, where the meetings were held in the house of lord Kenyon, deputy grand master. The duke of York had been prevented from assuming the office of grand master, because the law-officers of the crown were of opinion that the society was illegal. The act against political associations in Ireland having expired in 1828, the Orange lodges started forth in vigorous and active existence, under the direction of the duke of Cumberland as grand master. The passing of the Emancipation Act seems to have had the effect of driving the leaders of the society into a conspiracy to counteract its operation, or to bring about a counter-revolution by means of this treasonable organisation; though, perhaps, they did not consider it treasonable, as their object was to place upon the throne the brother of the king, whom they thought to be alone capable of preserving the constitution, and of excluding from it a very young princess, who would be during her minority in the hands of whigs and radicals, whom they believed to be leagued together to destroy it. Considering the frenzy of party spirit at this time, and the conditional loyalty openly professed by the men who annually celebrated the battle of the Boyne and the glorious revolution of 1688, there is nothing very surprising in the course adopted by the Orange societies, though the English public were astounded when they learned for the first time, in 1835, that there were 140,000 members of this secret society in England, of whom 40,000 were in London; and that the army was to a large extent tainted.

In 1828, when the duke of Cumberland became grand master, he issued a commission to his " trusty, well- beloved, and right worshipful brother, lieutenant-colonel Fairman," whom he had chosen from a knowledge of his experience and a confidence in his integrity. This commission was signed as follows: "Given under my seal at St. James's, this 13th day of August, 1828. Ernest G. M." In the fulfilment of his commission, colonel Fairman went to Dublin, in order to bring the Irish and English lodges into one uniform system of secret signs and passwords. He also made two extensive tours in England and Scotland, for the purpose of extending the system through the large towns and populous districts. Colonel Fairman seems to have had unbounded confidence in the success of his mission. In a letter to Sir James Cockburn he gives a glowing account of the numbers and discipline of the Orange societies, and speaks of grovelling worms who dared to vie with the omnipotence of heaven. One of these " worms," it appears, was the duke of Wellington, whom this crazy conspirator accused of a design of seizing upon the throne, saying: "One, moreover, of whom it might ill become me to speak but in terms of reverence, has, nevertheless, been weak enough to ape the coarseness of a Cromwell, thus recalling the recollection to what would have been far better left in oblivion. His seizure of the diadem, with his planting Ğit upon his brow, was a precocious sort of self-inauguration." The following letter was written by Fairman, on the 6th of April, 1830, during the last illness of George IV., and was addressed to the editor of the Morning Herald: -

"Dear Sir, - From those who may be supposed to know 'the secrets of the castle,' the king is stated to be by no manner in so alarming a state as many folks would have it imagined. His majesty is likewise said to dictate the bulletins of his own state of health. Some whisperings have also gone abroad that, in the event of the demise of the crown, a regency would probably be established, for reasons which occasioned the removal of the next in succession from the office of high admiral. That a maritime government might not prove consonant to the views of a military chieftain of the most unbounded ambition, may admit of easy belief; and as the second heir-presumptive is not alone a female, but a minor, in addition to the argument which might be applied to the present case, that, in the ordinary course of nature, it was not to be expected that his reign would be of long duration, in these disjointed times, it is by no means unlikely a vicarious form of government may be attempted. The effort would be a bold one; but, after the measures we have seen, what new violation would surprise us? Besides, the popular plea of economy and expedience might be urged as a pretext, while aggrandisement and usurpation might be the latent sole motive. It would only be necessary to make out a plausible case, which, from the facts on record, there could be no difficulty in doing, to the satisfaction of a pliable and obsequious set of ministers, as also to the success of such an experiment. Most truly yours, "W. B. F."

The author of this letter was in confidential communication with the duke of Cumberland, and had long conversations with him at Kew in the winter of 1831-32. On the 19 th of April in the latter year colonel Fairman was elected to the office of deputy grand secretary, the duke of Buckingham being secretary. He was nominated by the duke of Cumberland, seconded by lord Kenyon, and supported by the duke of Gordon. In June following he was sent forth among the lodges by the grand master as a sort of plenipotentiary. Previously the duke had written to the marquis of Londonderry on the affairs of the society, in consequence of which Fairman wrote with more explicitness, urging the formation of Orange lodges among the pitmen on the estates of the marquis. "Thus," he said, "by a rapid augmentation of our physical force, we might be able to assume a boldness of attitude which should command the respect of our Jacobinical rulers," by which he meant "the Popish cabinet and democratical ministry." He proceeds: "If we prove not too strong for such a government as the present is, such a government will prove too strong for us. Some arbitrary step would be taken in this case to stop our meetings; hence the necessity for our laying aside that non-resistance, that passive obedience, which has hitherto been religiously enforced to our own discomfiture." In another letter he wrote: "We have the military with us as far as they are at liberty to avow their principles and sentiments; but since the lamented death of the duke of York, every impediment has been thrown in the way of holding a lodge."

In reference to the pitmen, the marquis of Londonderry endeavoured, through lord Kenyon, to convince the duke of Cumberland that "the moment had not arrived; " but he stated that he would lose no opportunity of embracing any opening that might arise. From letters written by colonel Fairman at various dates, we gather that he hoped to strike the foe with awe by assuming an attitude of boldness; that they had inculcated the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, "too religiously by far;" that lords Kenyon, Londonderry, Longford, and Cole had written about their prospects in the highest spirits; that in the opinion of lord Wynford, the tories had not been sufficiently grateful to the duke of Cumberland; that if the duke would make a tour in the country, for which Fair- man had prepared the way, he would He idolised; that lord Kenyon had in two years spent nearer £20,000 than £10,000 on behalf of the good cause; that lord Roden wrote to him about "our cause; " that they wanted another "sound paper" as well as the Morning Post to advocate the cause - the cause, as they professed, of all the friends of Christianity who devoutly cherished the hope of the arrival of a day of reckoning, when certain "hellhounds would be called upon to pay the full penalty of their cold-blooded tergiversations " It was found that of 381 lodges existing in Great Britain, of were in the army, and that lodges had been established among the troops at Bermuda, Gibraltar, Malta, Corfu, New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land, and our North American colonies. Lord Kenyon wrote to the colonel - "His royal highness promises being in England in a fortnight before parliament assembles. To him privately you had better address yourself about your military proposition, which to me appears very judicious. The statement you made to me before, and respecting which I have now before me particulars from Portsmouth, should be referred to his royal highness as military matters of great delicacy; at the same time, private intimation, I submit, should be made to the military correspondents, letting them know how highly we esteem them as brethren. If you hear anything further from the military districts, let his royal highness know all particulars fit to be communicated." It was in the face of these proofs that the duke of Cumberland and lord Kenyon positively denied all knowledge of the existence of any Orange lodges in the army. But there were still more direct proofs. There were military lodges entered in the books, and noticed by the circular reports of the meetings where the duke of Cumberland presided; and in the laws regulating the lodges there were inducements held out to soldiers by the remission of fees on their behalf, which laws were declared to have been examined and approved by his royal highness. No wonder that the committee remarked in their report that "they found it most difficult to reconcile statements in evidence before them with ignorance of these proceedings on the part of lord Kenyon and his royal highness the duke of Cumberland." The bishop of Salisbury was lord prelate and grand chaplain of the order, and there were a number of clergymen of the church chaplains. No dissenter in England belonged to the body, though it included many presbyterians in Ireland, where the members amounted to 175,000, who were ready at any time to take the field.

Before the report of the committee was presented, Mr. Hume, on the 4th of August, moved eleven resolutions declaring the facts connected with Orangeism, proposing an address to the king, and calling his majesty's attention to the duke of Cumberland's share in those transactions. Lord John Russell, evidently regarding the business as being of extreme gravity, moved that the debate be adjourned to the 11th of August, plainly to allow the duke of Cumberland an opportunity of retiring from so dangerous a connection; but instead of doing so, he published a letter to the chairman of the committee, stating that he had signed blank warrants, and did not know that they were intended for the army. Lord John Russell expressed his disappointment at this illogical course. If what he stated was true, that his confidence was abused by the members of the society in such a flagrant manner, lie should have indignantly resigned his post of grand master, but he expressed no intention of doing so. Mr. Hume's last resolution, proposing an address to the king, was adopted, and his answer, which was read to the house, promised the utmost vigilance and vigour. On the 19th the house was informed that colonel Fairman had refused to produce to the committee a letter-book in his possession, and which was necessary to throw light on the subject of their inquiry. He was called before the house, where he repeated his refusal, though admonished by the speaker. The next day an order was given that he should be committed to Newgate for a breach of privilege, but it was then found that he had absconded.

It was now proposed that as the Orange leaders had violated the law as much as the Dorsetshire labourers, they should be dealt with in the same manner, and that if evidence could be obtained, the duke of Cumberland, lord Kenyon, the bishop of Salisbury, colonel Fairman, and the rest should be prosecuted in the Central Criminal Court. There was an Orangeman, named Hey wood, who had betrayed his confederates, and was about to be prosecuted by them for libel. The opponents of the Orangemen, believing his allegations to be borne out by the evidence given before the committee, resolved to have him defended by able counsel, retaining for the purpose Serjeant Wilde, Mr. Charles Austen, and Mr. Charles Buller. All the necessary preparations were made for the trial, when Hey wood suddenly died, having broken a blood-vessel through agitation of mind, and alarm lest he should somehow become the victim of an association so powerful, whose vengeance he had excited by what they denounced as treachery and calumny. The criminal proceedings, therefore, were abandoned. Almost immediately after the opening of parliament in February, 1836, Mr. Hume again made a statement in the house of commons of the whole case against the duke of Cumberland and the Orange society, and proposed a resolution which seemed but a just consequence of his terrible indictment. The resolution declared the abhorrence of parliament of all such secret political associations, and proposed an address to the king, requesting him to cause the dismissal of all Orangemen and members of any other secret political association from all offices civil and military, unless they ceased to be members of such societies within one month after the issuing of a proclamation to that effect. Lord John Russell proposed a middle course, and moved, as an amendment, an address to the king, praying that his majesty would take such measures as should be effectual for the suppression of the societies in question. Mr. Hume having withdrawn his resolution, the amendment-was adopted unanimously. The king expressed concurrence with the commons; a copy of his reply was sent to the duke of Cumberland, as grand master, by the home secretary. The duke immediately sent an intimation that before the last debate in the commons, he had recommended the dissolution of the Orange societies in Ireland, and that he would immediately proceed to dissolve all such societies elsewhere. " In a few days," a writer has remarked, " the thing was done, and Orangeism became a matter of history." So it was believed at the time, but Orangeism still lives and flourishes in Ireland, notwithstanding several subsequent enactments for its suppression, prosecutions for violations of those enactments, and a vain attempt made by lord chancellor Brady to deprive members of the society of a commission of the peace. For many years viscount Dungannon held the grand mastership, and he was succeeded, in the year 1868, by a brother of the marquis of Downshire. The same writer, however, remarks upon the quietness with which the tiling was done as one of the most striking features of the case. " The prudence of all parties now appears something unsurpassed in our history. It is the strongest possible evidence of the universal sense of danger in the leaders of all parties. The Orange chiefs had at last become aware of what they had subjected themselves to; yet their forces were so great, their physical force restrained by no principle, no knowledge, and no sense on the part of the chiefs, that it was not safe to drive them to resentment or despair; and the government had also to consider Ireland, and the supreme importance of leaving a fair field there for trial of their new policy of conciliation under lord Mulgrave and his coadjutors. The radical reformers in parliament felt this as strongly as the ministers. The great point of the dissolution of Orange societies was gained, and the chiefs of the radical reform party contented themselves with holding out emphatic warnings to the humbled conspirators, whom they held in their power. They let these revolutionary peers know that there were rumours afloat of the reconstitution of Orangeism under another name; that the Orangemen were watched; that the evidence against the leaders was held in readiness for use; that the law which had transported the Dorsetshire labourers could any day be brought to bear upon them; and that no mercy was to be expected if the public safety should require it to be put in operation."

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