THE UNITED IRISHMEN
The Declaration, Resolutions, and Constitution of the
Societies of United Irishmen
In the present era of reform, when unjust governments are
falling in every quarter of Europe, when religious persecution is compelled to
abjure her tyranny over conscience, when the rights of men are ascertained in
theory, and theory substantiated by practice, when antiquity can no longer
defend absurd and oppressive forms, against the common sense and common
interests of mankind, when all governments are acknowledged to originate from
the people, and to be so far only obligatory, as they protect their rights and
promote their welfare, we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward, and
state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its
effectual remedy. We have no national government, we are ruled by Englishmen,
and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the interest of another
country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of
Ireland; and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the
country, as means to seduce and subdue the honesty of her representatives in
the legislature. Such an extrinsic power, acting with uniform force, in a
direction too frequently opposite to the true line of our obvious interest, can
be resisted with effect solely by unanimity, decision, and spirit in the
people, qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally,
efficaciously, by the great measure, essential to the prosperity and freedom of
Ireland, an equal representation of all the people in parliament.
Impressed with these sentiments, we have agreed to form an
association, to be called the Society of United Irishmen, and we do pledge
ourselves to our country, and mutually to each other, that we will steadily
support, and endeavour by all due means to carry into effect the following
lst. Resolved, That the weight of English influence in the
government is so great, as to require a cordial union among all the people of
Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our
liberties, and extension of our commerce.
2nd. That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence
can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the
people in parliament.
3rd. That no reform is practicable, efficadous, or just, which
shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion.
Satisfied, as we are, that the intestine divisions among
Irishmen have too often given encouragement and impunity to profligate,
audacious, and corrupt administrations, in measures which, but for these
divisions, they durst not have attempted, we submit our resolutions to the
nation, a s the basis of our political faith. We have gone to what we conceived
to be the root of the evil. We have stated what we conceive to be remedy. With
a parliament thus formed, everything is easy - without it, nothing can be done
- and we do call on, and most earnestly exhort our countrymen in general to
follow our example, and to form similar societies in every quarter of the
kingdom, for the promotion of constitutional knowledge, the abolition of
bigotry in religion and politics, and the equal distribution of the rights of
man throughout all sects and denominations of Irishmen. The people, when thus
collected, will feel their own weight, and secure that the power which theory
has already admitted as their portion, and to which, if they be not aroused by
their present provocations to vindicate it, they deserve to forfeit their
pretensions for ever.
1st. This society is constituted for the purpose of forwarding a
brotherhood of affection, a community of rights, and a union of power among
Irishmen of every religious persuasion; and thereby to obtain a complete reform
in the leg islature, founded on the principles of civil, political, and
2nd. Every candidate for admission into this society shall be
proposed by one member and seconded by another, both of whom shall vouch for
his character hid principles. The candidate to be balloted for on the society's
subsequent meeting, and if one of the beans shall be black, he shall stand
3rd. Each society shall fix upon a weekly subscription suited to
the circumstances and convenience of its numbers, which they shall regularly
return to their baronial by the proper officer.
4th. The officers of this society shall be a secretary and
treasurer, who shall be appointed by ballot every three months: on every first
meeting in November, February, May, and August.
5th. A society shall consist of no more than twelve members, and
those as nearly as possible of the same street or neighbourhood, whereby they
may be all thoroughly known to each other, and their conduct be subject to the
censorial check of all.
6th. Every person elected a member of this society shall,
previous to his admission, take the following test. But in order to diminish
risk, it shall be taken in a separate apartment, in the presence of the persons
who proposed and seconded him only, after which the new member shall be brought
into the body of the society, and there vouched for by the same.
In the awful presence of God, 1, First Name Surname, do
voluntarily declare, that I will persevere in endeavouring to form a
brotherhood of affection among Irishmen of every religious persuasion, and that
I will also persevere in endeavours to obtain an equal, full, and adequate
representation of all the people of Ireland. I do further declare, that neither
hopes, fears, rewards, or punishments, shall ever induce me, directly or
indirectly, to inform on, or give evidence against, any member or members of
this or similar societies for an act or expression of theirs, done or made
collectively or individually in or out of this society, in pursuance of the
spirit of this obligation.
7th. No person, though he should have taken the test, will be
considered as an United Irishman until he has contributed to the funds of the
institution, or longer than he shall continue to pay such contribution.
8th. No communication relating to the business of the
institution shall be made to any United Irishman on any pretence whatever,
except in his own society or committee, or by some member of his own society or
9th When the society shall amount to the number of twelve
members, it shall be equally divided by lot (societies in country places to
divide as may best suit their local situation), that is, the names of all the
members shall be put into a hat or box, the secretary or treasurer shall draw
out six individually, which six shall be considered the senior society, and the
remaining six the junior, who shall apply to the baronial committee, through
the delegates of the senior society, for a number. This mode shall be pursued
until the whole neighbourhood is organized.
Order of Business at Meetings
1st. New members read declaration and test, during which
subscriptions to be collected.
2nd. Reports of committees received.
3rd. Communications called for.
4th. Candidates balloted for.
5th. Candidates proposed.
Constitution of Committees
1st. When any barony or other district shall contain from four
to ten societies, the secretaries of these shall constitute a lower baronial
committee, they should not exceed ten, and be numbered in the order of their
2nd. An upper baronial, to consist of ten secretaries from ten
3rd. Baronial committees shall receive delegates from societies
of a contiguous barony, provided said barony did not contain four baronial
1st. When any county shall contain four or more upper baronial
committees, their secretaries shall assemble and choose deputies to form a
2nd. County committees shall receive delegates from baronial
committees of adjacent counties, if said counties do not contain four baronial
1st. When two or more counties shall have county committees, two
persons shall be elected by. ballot from each to form a provincial committee
(for three months).
2nd. Delegates from county committees in other provinces will be
received, if such provinces do not contain two county committees.
That when two provincial committees are formed, they shall
elect five persons each by ballot to form a national committee.
Societies first meetings in November, February, May and August
to be on or before the 5th, baronial committees on or before the 8th, county
committees on or before the 25th of the above months.
Baronial, county, and provincial committees, shall meet at least
once in every month, and report to their constituents.
Names of committee men shall not be known by any person but by
those who elect them.
Test for Secretaries of Societies or
In the awful presence of God I, First Name Surname, do
voluntarily declare that as long as I shall hold the office of secretary to
this I will, to the utmost of my abilities faithfully discharge the duties
thereof. That all papers or documents received by me as secretary I will in
safety keep; I will not give any of them, or any copy or copies of them, to any
person or persons, members or others, but by a vote of this and that I will, at
the expiration of my secretaryship deliver up to this all such papers as may be
in my possession...
JOURNALS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS OF THE KINGDOM OF IRELAND,
1613 -1800 (1796 -1800),vol xvii,appendix, pages 888 - 889.
Extracted from Edmund Curtis and R B McDowell editors, Irish
Historical Documents 1172-1922 Methuen London 1943 pp238-242