Mobocracy is a fearful spirit that is roused to action by a greater variety of elements than either of the unfortunate propensities of human nature. Based upon the boiling anger of those who put this ball in motion--reason is dethroned--reflection paralyzed--justice unheeded--mercy banished--the laws disregarded--power defied. It is the volcano of human society--the earthquake of social order--the whirlpool of brutality--the vortex of destruction. It is fanned by fell revenge--inflamed with burning fury--propelled by reckless impulse--delights in human gore--revels in demoniac confusion--rides on the tornado of faction--snuffs the whirlwind of discord and provokes the indignation of all peaceful citizens.
Occasions rarely occur to justify these sudden demonstrations of disorder and more rarely result in good. Deliberate action is usually the best to remedy evils that exist in fact--most certainly the best to cure those that are only imaginary. Thus reasoned the Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution and governed themselves accordingly. After petitions and entreaties for redress failed to remove the wrongs heaped upon them--a systematic and dignified mode of resistance was adopted--not mobocracy. They could then appeal to Heaven for the justice of their cause and elicited the admiration of gazing nations in the course they pursued.
Among those who put forth their noblest exertions to advance the interests of the cause of equal rights was William Irvine who was born near Enniskillen, Ireland, in 1742. His ancestors removed from the north of Scotland to the Emerald Isle. His grandfather was an officer in the corps of grenadiers that fought so desperately at the battle of the Boyne. The grandfather of General Wayne was a brave officer in the same service. The noble descendants of both were in the same corps in the glorious cause of American Independence.
After completing his school education Mr. Irvine became a student of the celebrated Dr. Cleghorn and proved to be an excellent surgeon and physician. On the completion of his studios he was appointed a surgeon on board a British man of war where he served for several years with great diligence and success. In 1763 he came to America and located at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His eminent talents--professional acquirements and large experience, soon gained for him a liberal practice and proud reputation. Having no innate love for mother Britain, he was prepared to meet the fearful crisis of the American Revolution. There were numerous powerful influences in Pennsylvania adverse to war with England. There was a large number of the Society of Friends opposed to war under all circumstances, although quick to seize the benefits resulting from it. The Proprietary interests were very extensive and in favor of the crown. To rouse the people to resistance was a herculean task. In this work Mr. Irvine was active and successful. He was a member of the several preliminary conventions in the colony and became extensively influential in preparing the people for action.
In January 1776 he was commissioned to raise and command a regiment which duty he performed promptly. On the 10th of the following June he joined Gen. Thompson's brigade with his troops near the village of Trois Rivieres. A disastrous attack was immediately made upon the vanguard of the British army stationed at that place. Gen. Thompson, Col. Irvine and near two hundred subordinate officers and privates were taken prisoners and sent to Quebec. An exchange was not effected until April 1778. On his return Gen. Irvine was put in command of the second Pennsylvania brigade and continued in that position until 1781. He was then transferred to Pittsburgh and assigned to the important and delicate duty of guarding the north-western frontier. It was important because difficult to obtain supplies and was menaced with British and Indians. It was delicate because there existed strong animosities between the first inhabitants of that region and those from Western Virginia who claimed the territory occupied. Under those circumstances the appointment was a high compliment from the sagacious Washington. The happy results were a strong eulogy upon the wisdom of both. Gen. Irvine succeeded in reconciling the two contending factions--brought order out of confusion and restored harmony and good feeling among those who had long been at variance. This augmented his strength against the enemy and increased the confidence of the people in that entire section of country. He was continued in that command until the war closed and the star spangled banner waved triumphantly over the United States of America.
In 1786 Gen. Irvine was elected to Congress and proved an efficient and valuable member. He was active and useful in the board to settle the accounts between the states and the general government. He was a member of the Pennsylvania convention that sanctioned the Federal Constitution. In 1796 he was one of the commissioners who were despatched to visit the whiskey boys and endeavor to bring them back to reason, duty and safety. When it became necessary to order out a military force to quell the insurrection Gen. Irvine was put in command of the Pennsylvania troops.
A short time after he rendered this last service in the tented field he removed to Philadelphia. He there received the appointment of Intendant of military stores which office was subsequently long and ably filled by his son Callender. He was also President of the Society of Cincinnati. Peacefully and calmly Gen. Irvine glided down the stream of time until the summer of 1804 when he closed his active and useful career and took his departure for "that country from whose bourne no traveller returns." He had lived highly respected--his death was deeply mourned. His public and private reputation were untarnished--he performed all the duties of life nobly and fulfilled the great design of his creation.