Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ The conduct of parliament has had its just influence, their de. “ liberate spirit and approved attention at all times to the public “ welfare has inspired the people with full confidence in the le

gislature, and will teach them to consider their true interests " with calmness and discretion.

“ The noblest object to which I can direct my attention, and “ which will ever constitute the happiness and pride of my life, “ is the establishment of the prosperity of Ireland, by extending “ and securing her commerce, and by cementing and perpetuat. ing her connection with Great Britain. And I trust you

will “continually cherish this sentiment in the national mind, that “the stability and strength of the empire can alone be ultimate

ly insured by uniting the interests and objects of both king“ doms in a general and equitable system of reciprocal' and com“ mon advantage."

It is not to be supposed, that an object of so much importance, which fully occupied the attention of both legislatures for seven months, should fall under the consideration of the Irish people out of parliament, without producing a considerable sensation upon the public mind. We have occasionally adverted to the agitation of political questions by the armed bodies of associated volunteers. We have noticed the division of these associations upon certain points, and we have reflected upon the consequent decline of their influence and power upon the nation. The differences, which actually procreated the dissent of Lord Charle. mont from the general disposition of the original volunteers to embrace their Catholic brethren in the system of parliamentary reform, were by the artful manæuvres of government rendered ancillary to the debilitation of that armed union of sentiment, which bad defiance to their most rigorous exertions of power. But these dissensions hitherto were confined to Catholic indul. gence and parliamentary reform. The projected propositions touched neither of these questions: and as far as they could be or were understood by the different corps, which undertook to consider them, there appears to have been but one opinion for their rejection. The people was disposed or taught to believe, that the propositions were detrimental to the interests of Ireland, and that government wished and intended to force them upon Ireland by the influence of the British cabinet. No wonder then, that the popularity of the Duke of Rutland fell in the proportionate degree, as these convictions gained ground, and every exertion of rigour, whether by attachment or undoubted legal process, infused into the popular mind a degree of venom and asperity against their governor, whom they really considered counteracting the interests of their country. The city of Dublin, the grand centre of public and private negociation, continued during the whole course of the summer of 1785, to be a scene

of tumult and disorder. No sooner had parliament risen, than the expedient of non-importation agreements was again resorted to with greater zeal than ever. These engagements spread themselves into every quarter of the kingdom: they received the sanction of several grand juries, and the merchants of the trading ports found themselves compelled to subscribe to them. The enforcing of these prohibitory compacts naturally devolved upon the lowest class of the people, and they proceeded in the execution of that function according to the usual modes of popular discipline: to keep these excesses within some bounds, the military were posted in such parts of the city, as were the most subject to tumult; sentinels were placed to prevent or give notice of the first appearance of riot, and the garrison was kept in constant readiness for action,

This untemporizing disposition in government drew on the lord lieutenant, whose manners were in other respects peculiarly adapted to command the favour of the Irish, an unusual share of popular odium. His excellency once was received at the theatre by the performance of a piece of music, called the volunteer's march. A general uproar ensued; the entertainments of the evening were stopped; and it was said he narrowly escaped the personal outrage of the mob.

When the Duke of Rutland met the parliament, according to adjournment, on the 19th of January, 1786, it appears from the speech from the throne, that it was his wish, that the consideration of the commercial intercourse should be revived; he considered, that the national solicitude of the Irish parliament for the welfare of that kingdom would point out to them the line of conduct, which would be most conducive to the public advantage, and to that last connection between the sister kingdom, so essential to the prosperity of both. In addressiog himself to the commons, he particularly adverted to the principle, which they had so wisely established, of preventing the accumulation of the national debt, which he hoped had already appeared to them

m to have proved successful; and he doubted not but they would persevere in the wisdom of those measures, which in their operation promoted such beneficial effects. And, in order to smooth the way for a favourite object of gorernment, he recommended a systematic improvement of the police, and took that occasion to call the attention of both houses to the frequent outyages, that had been committed in some parts of the kingdom. Addresses both to his majesty and the lord lieutenant were, as usual, voted and passed unanimously, though not without some severe questions and animadversions upon them by Mr. Flood and some other gentlemen of the opposition.*

* In the course of these debates Mr. Forbes alluded to the industry of govern. ment since the recess in their endeavours to reconcile the people to the com.

As the two grand objects, which government appeared the most anxious to carry in this session,

were the revival or some modification of the commercial propositions, and the passing of a police bill, so was his majesty's answer to the *address of the commons immediately calculated to give countenance and support to both those measures. Pains had also been taken to exaggerate some rumours of disturbance and abuses in the country parts, which had worked so strongly upon the nerves of Mr. Ogle, that he declared in the House of Commons on the 6th of February, 1786, that he saw the utter ruin of the Protestant ascendancy in the affair of Mr. O'Connor and ten thousand other instances. This Mr. O'Connor was generally considered a madman. He pretended to be a descendant from the ancient kings of Connaught ; he had lately taken it into his head to possess himself of the estates and demesnes, which his ancestors had enjoyed. For this purpose he had assembled a nummercial propositions, hy pamphlets and other publications in favour of the measure. With reference to Mr. Orde's own pamphlet, he in reply gave the following account of it. He said, he hoped it would never be deemed derogato. ry to any man to account for his parliamentary conduct to his constituents : for himself, he had great pleasure in reflecting, that for twenty-five years he had maintained the most friendly correspondence with the city he had the honour to represent; and though when he had formed an opinion upon the full conviction of his own mind, he never would relinquish it for any man, yet he held it but right for a representative to assign his reason to his constituents, when he had the misfortune of differing from them, and if he could not persuade them to become of his opinion, at least to shew them, that he acted upon principle, and in a full belief, ihat he was doing rigtit. Consonant to this rule, after the address of the Cork grand jury had been presented to him, he expressed his difference of opinion explicitly and decidedly. Complaints were made, that he had treated his constituents with disrespect, by not explaining his reasons ; he felt the force of the observation, and thought himself called upon to assign his reasons. He did so in a letter to one of the magistrates, which the honourable gentleman had been pleased to dignify with the title of a pamphlet. 6 Parl. Deb. p. 12. * 12 Com. Journ. p. 35. “ GEORGE R.

“ His majesty thanks his faithful commons for their loyal and “ dutiful adılress, and receives with pleasure their professions of attachment “ to his person, family, and government.

“ The House of Commons may depend upon his majesty's warmest con.

currence and support in all the great and important objecis of their delibe. " rations, and that he will be always ready to co-operate with them in any " measures tending to strengthen that lasting connection between the two “ kingdoms, so essentially necessary to the prosperity and happiness of all “his majesty's subjects.

“ His majesty observes, with much satisfaction, their design of attending to “ regulations for the improvement of the credit, agriculture, and manufactures “ of the kingilom, as well as to the security of public and private property, " and the protection of society; and agrees with them, that the encourage. “ ment of industry, and the improvement of the education and morals of his " people, are among the first ohjects worthy of the care and attention of the House of Commons of Ireland.

" G. R."

ber of armed men, and he himself resided in a place situate amongst bogs and fastnesses, where he had a cannon placed at his door, by the firing of which he assembled the mob of the country for many miles around. He had attempted to dispossess several persons of their lands, particularly a Mr. Bourke, of Ballydogan. In the last month he went to the lands of that gentleman, and made a formal entry, at the same time telling the hind, who had the care of the cattle, that if his master did not, before the 16th of February, send him a certain sum of money, he would carry his cattle away, where they should never be found.

The solicitor general, on Mr. Ogle's statement to the committee, informed them how far government had interfered in that business of Mr. O'Connor: they had not been inattentive to the information received of that gentleman's proceedings, but had applied to him and his colleague (the attorney general), in order to know how far they were warranted in employing an armed force to suppress him. They had returned their answer, that consistent with law and constitution, government was not warranted, until after due process the magistrates of the county should have reported, that the power of the county was insufficient. The magistrates, he said, were in a state of torpor ; nothing more had been done by them, than receiving information, which information went to shew, that Mr. O'Connor had dispossessed several persons of their lands; however, the law officers could not advise the taking repossession with a military force, until after due course of law. He concluded with thank, ing his right honourable friend, whose honest zeal for the Protestant interest of Ireland had given government an opportunity of explaining their conduct in that business.

Mr. Conolly and some other gentlemen of great landed perty in the country, who had been much in the habit of supporting government, now appeared to have taken a decided part in the opposition to the Duke of Rutland's administration. On

day the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Parnell) moved, that the debt of the nation was 3,014,1671. ; on which Mr. Conolly observed, that the expences of government every year increased : that the minister came regularly to that house to complain of the deficiency in the revenue, and demanded a loan, which was granted on his promise of future economy: at last the revenue was raised by new taxes to equal the expence, and still the expence had increased : he (as also Mr. Grattan) insisted upon the necessity of making a stand against the growth of expence, or else their constitution and commerce were at an end. Accordingly, on the 9th of February, Mr. Conolly moved the following resolutions : 1°. That the house did in the last session grant certain new taxes, estimated at

pro

140,000l. per ann. for the purpose of putting an end to the accumulation of debt. 2o. That should the said taxes be conti. nued, it was absolutely necessary, that the expences of the nation should be confined to her annual income. After a very warm and long debate, there appeared upon a division 73 for Mr. Conolly's resolutions, and 149 against them.

In the course of this debate the gentlemen of the opposition were frequently and loudly called upon for their confidence in the government, which they indignantly disclaimed.* The grand attack which the patriots made on the treasury bench this session, was upon the pension list.

Mr. Forbes led the van on the attack, and on the 6th of March moved the house, after a very animated speech, that the present application and amount of pensions on the civil establishment, were a grievance to the nation, and demanded redress. The motion produced a very interesting debate ; but it shared the same fate as the bill he afterwards introduced to limit the amount of pensions, which was lost by a majority of 134 against 78. This bill was most strenuously opposed by Sir Hercules Langrishe, Mr. Mason, Mr. George Ponsonby, the attorney-general, and the most leading men on the treasury bench, as a direct and indecent invasion of the royal prerogative. The attorney-general asserted, that the principle of the bill went to the most dangerous extent of any bill that had ever come be

Upon this subject Mr. Grattan exclaimed (6 Parl. Debates, p. 119) “Who “ would rate imagined to have seen in the course of this debate, that faded " cockade of the Castle, confidence, advanced on the side of the court, confia "dence in the Irish minister, in the uncontrolled expenditure of Irish money, " What, after all your experience, to prefer confidence to this resolution, re. “ quires, in my opinion, a most robust conscience, and a most infirm under" standing. Desirous as we all are to pay every respect, and with every pre. “ dilection in favour of our present viceroy, a young man of a very noble un. “ suspicious nature, exposed perhaps too much to importunity, yet who can " answer for his continuance ? This confidence then must extend to all his “ successors, whoever they may be, of whatever cast, party, principle, or ca. “ pacity. But even that won't do. This confidence must extend to all the

secretaries of all the future lords lieutenants. In the last seven years we " had seven lord lieutenants and eight secretaries. The confidence must " then be extended to the lords and commons of Great Britain, or rather to “ the king's commission, on a pure and perfect persuasion that whom the king " shall appoint, the Lord illuminates; and where the purse is bestowed, there “ is the virtue, and there is the economy. This will not do; it is not sufficient " that viceroys should be gods.... Irishmen must be angels, and importunity " and solicitation cease; and in that event I submit to the force of the argu. “ ment of confidence, as something not according to reason, but above it."

In the flight of that great orator's imagination, he has left us the following picture of the nation's expence. (6 Parl. Debates, p. 153.)." See the chart * of your credit, an evanescent speck just rising above the plane of the hori. “ zon, and then it drops ; while your debt ascends like a pyramid, with an au“ dacious defalcation, and almost culminates in your meridian. Midway of “ this mountain of debt, you will discern a line marking your effort to put an “ end to the practice of running in debt.”

« PreviousContinue »