Page images
PDF
EPUB

AN

HISTORICAL REVIEW

OF THE

STATE OF IRELAND.

CHAPTER VI.

FROM THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE IRISH LEGIS.

LATIVE INDEPENDENCE IN THE YEAR 1782 TO
THE BREAKING OUT OF THE REBELLION IN THE
YEAR 1798.

WE have traced Ireland through centuries of calamity and oppression in all the variety of irritation, despondency, moderation, firmness, resentment, and submissiveness, at last settled in the enjoyment of a free and independent constitution, by the liberal, manly, and constitutional conduct of an administration, which though short-lived has left this country a practical lesson, that the principles, which have carried a minority into power are not always abandoned by them, when they have acquired it. To the Rockingham administration did Ireland owe her independence in 1782. It remains for us to consider the use made of it by that country. The appointment to the vice-regency of Ireland had been ever considered as a principal part of the support and strength of the British administration. Upon this ground was the Earl Temple appointed under the administration of Earl Shelburne. He had intermarried with the daughter of Earl Nugent, upon whom her father had on the marriage settled the bulk of his large domains in Ireland. Lord Nugent had on every occasion, both in public and private, proved himself a sincere and warm lover of his country: the relative gratitude of the Irish to his son-in-law, the character and accomplishments of the new viceroy, and the virtues of his amiable consort,

[blocks in formation]

had ensured him a most cordial welcome and an anticipated earnest of his zealous efforts for the happiness and prosperity of the Irish people. He succeeded the Duke of Portland on the 15th of September, 1782, and was received with public expressions of joy and satisfaction.

During the short period of Lord Temple's continuance in the government of that kingdom, his chief attention appears to have been directed to the establishment of a systein of economy throughout the different departments ; a reformation supereminently necessary. The short-lived administration of Lord Shel. burne, of which Lord Temple was no inconsiderable support, determined his vice-regency on the 3d of June, 1783. He was in power long enough to have brought upon himself much invidious opposition, from several secondary dependants upon the Castle, who dreaded nothing so much as a scrutiny into the system of their abuses; and not long enough for the nation to have felt the happy effects of so laudable an investigation. His lordship's indefatigable assiduity and perseverance in scrutinizing the accounts, minutiæ and details of office were wholly unprecedented. It was during the Rockingham administration, that the conclusion was properly put to the contest between . Great Britain and the American colonies; for in February, 1782, the British House of Commons came to the following resolution :

“ That an humble address be presented to his majesty, most “ humbly to represent to his majesty, that the further prose“cution of offensive war on the continent of North America, " for the purpose of reducing the revolted colonies to obedience " by force, will be the means of weakening the efforts of this

country against her European enemies; tends, under the pre“ sent circumstances, dangerously to increase the mutual enmi

ty so fatal to the interests both of Great Britain and America, " and, by preventing an happy reconciliation with that country, " to frustrate the earnest desire graciously expressed by his ma“ jesty to restore the blessings of public tranquillity.”

"* Measures having been accordingly adopted for terminating the unfortunate contest, the peace was concluded by Lord Shel* To which address his majesty returned this answer : “ GENTLEMEN OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

There are no objects nearer to my heart than the ease, “ happiness, and prosperity of my people.

You may be assured that, in pursuance to your advice, I shall take such measures as shall appear to me to be most conducive to the restoration of • harmony between Great Britain and the revolted colonies, so essential to the “ prosperity of both parties; and that my efforts shall be directed in the most “ effectual manner against our European enemies, till such peace can be ob" tained, as shall be consisient with the interests and permanent welfar'c of my

kingdoms."

burne's administration ; which could not fail to infuse joy into the Irish nation, and render them more reconciled to the sudden change of that administration, through which they had obtained their independence, in which Lord SRelburne bore a considera

ble part.

The parliament of Ireland was not then sitting: but it has been observed, that the questions of simple repeal and positive declaration or renunciation of rights was kept up by the armed bodies of the volunteers with a warmer spirit of difference, than they had been within the walls of parliament. And as these differences could not be concealed from the British parliament, it behoves us to consider, how they were induced to act upon them. On the 19th of December, 1782, in the British House of Commons, Colonel Fitzpatrick begged to call the attention of government to the circumstance, which has given seme alarm to the people of Ireland, the decision of an Irish cause in the court of King's Bench in England. He wished just to beg that ministers would, before the recess, give some intimation of what they intended to do in that question.

Mr. Secretary Townshend assured the honourable gentleman, that government had spent many hours in the business of Ireland, and they had the strongest dispositions to do every thing in their power to confirm the happy settlement, which had taken place last session. He explained the late decision to have arisen from a circumstance, which could not be provided against, viz. that the cause had been in the court for eighteen months, and the judges were bound to decide upon it.

Colonel Fitzpatrick said, that he was only anxious, that satisfaction should be given to the Irish nation on this ground, and that they should learn, before the recess, that this country was well disposed to give every necessary satisfaction. This was particularly to be wished, because pains had been taken to spread ideas, that what had been done was not sufficient for the security of Ireland ; and on the score of this decision surmises had been thrown out against the friends of order and reason, who were convinced of the rectitude of the intentions of Britain. He understood, that there were several other causes in the court of King's Bench.

Mr. Secretary Townshend assured him there were not. Though there were two appeals before the House of Lords, which had also been there before the act of last session; but he understood, that they would be removed, and pains had been taken to prevent any more appeals from being brought to England.

The Attorney General explained the reason of the late deci. sion very clearly, and said it was impossible for the noble lord (Mansfield) at the head of that couri, who was the pride and

ornament of human nature, to prevent the decision. He said there were no more Irish causes, and it was now impossible, 'that there should be any more.

Mr. Fox declared, that the intentions of those ministers, who had sent the repeal of the declaratory law, were thereby to make a complete, absolute, and perpetual surrender of the British legislative and judicial supremacy uver Ireland. This was the intention of government; and it was the clear conviction both of ministers and of the gentlemen of Ireland, who interested themselves in the business, that the manner in which this was done was the best possible way, and the least liable to exception. Since that had been done, opinions had been propagated, that a renunciation was better than a repeal. A renunciation was then thought of; but it was the opinion of the gentlemen, that if Britain did it by a renunciation of the right, it would be offensive to Ireland, because thereby we should have declared, that we possessed the right. Again, a renunciation, stating it to be a right, which we never legally possessed, was what England would not be brought to agree to, and therefore that plan pursued was preferred to every other: it was clearly understood to be a complete surrender, and was received with cordiality by those gentlemen, whom he would pronounce to be the best and truest friends to Ireland.

*On the next day Mr. William Grenville (secretary to his brother, the lord lieutenant of Ireland) said, he lamented, that he had not been present at a conversation, which he understood had taken place the preceding night, relative to Ireland ; if he had been present, he would have informed the house, that the late decision in the King's Bench in England, which had occasioned much jealousy in Ireland, had been taken notice of immediately by the lord lieutenant, who had not lost a moment to remonstrate on that subject with his majesty's ministers, and to make known to them the effect it had produced in the minds of the people of Ireland ; and he must do ministers the justice to say, he had found them very well disposed to remove the ground of jealousy; it was necessary also, that he should do justice to the lord lieutenant, by declaring, that there was not a man in either kingdom, more decidedly of opinion than his excellency was, that the faith of England was pledged to Ireland for the truth of this proposition, that England had fully and completely renounced all legislative and judicial jurisdiction; and that nothing could be more conducive to the harmony and interests of both kingdoms, than that this national faith should be preserved inviolate. He said, he intended to move for a call of the house at an earlier day than the 22d of next month : how

? 9 Parl. Debates, p. 121.

ever, he hoped, that gentlemen would be in town before that day; in that hope he gave notice, that a motion would be made in the house relative to Ireland.

Mr. Secretary Townshend complained, that what he had said in the conversation last night on the subject of Ireland, had been grossly misrepresented in some publications; for though he had said, that great pains had been taken to prevent any more appeals being brought from Ireland,” yet he was represented to have said just the very contrary: it was not of much importance, he observed, what he, as an individual member of the house, might have said; but when it might be supposed, that he was speaking the sentiments of his majesty's ministers, it was of great consequence, that he should not be misrepresented.

Lord Beauchamp said, that as a friend of both kingdoms, his only object was to secure a lasting harmony between them ; if he should be able to root out every remains of jealousy, his great object would be accomplished, and he would sit down the happiest of men. As to the writs of error to England, he knew they could in future be of no effect; for as a law had passed in Ireland to prevent the judges of that kingdom to certify into England the record of the proceedings in any cause, so of course there was an end of appeais, as far as Ireland could put an end to them; but as an act of parliament of Ireland could not shut up a court of law in England, it was necessary that an English act should be passed for that purpose ; for, until such an act should pass, he should hold it to be sound law, that whatever person feels, or thinks himself aggrieved by a decision of a court of law in Ireland, may apply to the King's Bench in England, which court is bounden to entertain his cause, though it be at present impossible that the judges of that court could give redress in such a case, as every decision in England affecting a cause, that originated in and belonged to Ireland, made since the passing of the Irish act alluded to, must of course be null and void. He appealed then to the house, if it would not be proper to pass a law, which should direct the courts not to entertain Irish causes, their decisions on which must necessarily be ineffectual.

On the 22d of January, 1783,* Mr. Secretary Townshend brought forward the business of Ireland before the House of Commons, with an explicit avowal, that the principle, upon which the parliament had acted last session, was to give Ireland every satisfaction, that justice demanded, and that was consistent with the dignity of Great Britain. The mode, that had been adopted to convey that satisfaction, might not have been

* 9 Parl. Debates, p. 138.

« PreviousContinue »