The Volunteers

Justin McCarthy
Chapter IX | Start of Chapter

A movement suddenly began in Ireland for the formation of a Volunteer army to secure the island against invasion. This movement had a great success, and before long there were some 60,000 men under arms in Ireland, and yet not forming any part of the Sovereign's regular army. Mr. Lecky describes the formation of this Volunteer force as "one of those movements of enthusiasm that occur two or three times in the history of a nation." He tells us: "Beginning among the Protestants of the North, the movement soon spread, though in a less degree, to other parts of the island, and the war of religions and of castes that had so long divided the people vanished like a dream."

The Volunteer army was under the control of the celebrated Lord Charlemont, who had been chosen Commander-in-Chief of the force, and held that position during the whole of its existence. Charlemont was a man of great ability and highly cultivated mind. He had travelled much in his early days; had visited the Greek Islands, Constantinople, and Egypt. In Turin he formed an acquaintance with David Hume, which ripened into the warmest friendship. In France he came to know Montesquieu; in London, Burke, Johnson, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Hogarth, and other famous leaders of thought, letters, and art. Charlemont was a lover of justice and freedom and a sincere patriot. Grattan and Flood each took a prominent part in the formation of the Volunteer corps, and in the direction of the Volunteer movement towards national purposes other than the mere defence of the soil. The volunteers were a patriotic body, actuated by the spirit of Flood and Grattan.