The British Armed Nation, 1793-1815

By J. E. Cookson | Go to book overview

6 Ireland's Fate

MUCH about the Anglo-Irish military relationship in the last third of the eighteenth century seems to counterpoise the increasing difficulties of the political relationship. Ireland's military expansion in this period paralleled Britain's, her military establishment and administration were progressively assimilated, and her forces freely applied to imperial purposes. From 1770 Britain kept about 15,000 troops on the Irish establishment, 4,000 of which were made available for overseas service. This army represented the kind of arrangement that the imperial government had wanted the American colonies to accept in the 1760s and it was most valuable for adding to the total forces kept up by Britain in peacetime on which any augmentation in the event of war had to be based. During 1775, for example, on the outbreak of war in America, seventeen infantry regiments in four reinforcements recruited up to strength and sailed from Ireland.1 In 1792 under a quarter of the British army was stationed in Ireland but a third (twelve cavalry and twentyone infantry) of the regiments. Except for five of the cavalry units, all of these regiments had left Ireland by June 1794, having doubled their strength to over 16,000 men.2 Furthermore, such increases were based to a significant degree on Catholic recruitment. This had begun sub rosa during the Seven Years War but was inhibited during the American War by the crown's sensitivity on the issue of employing Catholic Irish to subdue Protestant Americans.3 When the Revolutionary War began, Catholic recruitment became heavier than ever before and more open, partly under the influence of the Relief Act of 1793 which relaxed the prohibitions against the arming of Catholics and their appointment to military commissions.

Ireland, therefore, even Catholic Ireland, was being steadily drawn into an imperial military system in a period when the country's political subordination to Britain was increasingly resented and challenged. Catholic relief in 1778, as a

____________________
1
Burns, Ireland and British Military Preparations for War in America, 42-61.
2
Regiments stationed in Ireland and their departure can be traced in the paymaster-general's register, National Archives ( Ireland), M. 464. See also ' State of the Army in Ireland, 1 Nov. 1793, HO50/453; 'Army and Militia in Ireland', 24 Mar. 1794, Chatham MSS, PRO30/8/331, fo. 211; 'Demand on England for embarkations up to December 1794', Pelham MSS, BL Add. MS 33118, fos. 253-5; return of effectives in the British army, 1 Jan. 1793-1 Jan. 1806, WO1/903/33.
3
T. Bartlett, A Weapon of War Yet Untried": Irish Catholics and the Armed Forces of the Crown, 1760-1830, in T. G. Fraser and K. Jeffrey (eds.), Men, Women and War ( Dublin, 1993), 69- 71; James, Ireland in the Empire, 161, 168, 179-80. There was quite heavy recruitment of Irish for the East India Company from 1776. L. Cullen, The Irish Diaspora of the 17th and 18th Centuries, in Canny (ed.), Europeans on the Move, 141.

-153-

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The British Armed Nation, 1793-1815
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Addition of Mass 16
  • 2 - The French Encirclement 38
  • 3 - The Rise and Fall of the Volunteers 66
  • 4 - The Manpower Ceiling 95
  • 5 - Scotland's Fame 126
  • 6 - Ireland's Fate 153
  • 7 - The Problem of Order 182
  • 8 - Armed Nationalism 209
  • 9 - The Legacy of the Armed Nation 246
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 281
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