In the north some disturbances had originated as early as 1775, amongst the Protestant weavers, who suffered severely from the general depression of trade, and the avariciousness of commercial speculators. Their association was called “Hearts of Steel.” The author of the United Irishman mentions one instance as a sample of many others, in which the ruling elder of a Presbyterian congregation had raised the rents on a number of small farms, and excited in consequence severe acts of retaliation from them. In 1784 two parties commenced agrarian outrages in Ulster, called respectively Peep-o’-Day Boys and Defenders. As the Catholics sided with one party, and the Protestants with another, it merged eventually into a religious feud. The former faction assumed the appellation of Protestant Boys, and at last became the Orange Society, whose atrocities, and the rancorous party-spirit which they so carefully fomented, was one of the principal causes of the rebellion of 1798. The Catholics had assumed the name of Defenders, from being obliged to band in self-defence; but when once a number of uneducated persons are leagued together, personal feeling and strong passions will lead to acts of violence, which the original associates would have shrunk from committing.
Pitt was again thwarted by the Irish Parliament on the Regency question, when the insanity of George III. required the appointment of his heir as governor of England. The Marquis of Buckingham, who was then Lord Lieutenant, refused to forward their address; but the members sent a deputation of their own. This nobleman was open and shameless in his acts of bribery, and added L13,000 a-year to the pension list, already so fatally oppressive to the country. In 1790 he was succeeded by the Earl of Westmoreland, and various clubs were formed; but the Catholics were still excluded from them all. Still the Catholics were an immense majority nationally; the French Revolution had manifested what the people could do; and the rulers of the land, with such terrible examples before their eyes, could not for their own sakes afford to ignore Catholic interests altogether. But the very cause which gave hope was itself the means of taking hope away. The action of the Irish Catholics was paralyzed