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bring about a reform in the representation of the people in Eng
Committees of correspondence to this effect were instituted with the most forward and zealous advocates for reform in England, and the letters received from them were circulated with avidity throughout Ireland.t
On the 1st of July, 1783, at a meeting of the delegates from forty-five companies of the province of Ulster, assembled at Lisburne in pursuance of a public requisition (Lieutenant Colonel Sharman in the chair), it was resolved unanimously, That a general meeting of the volunteer delegates of the province of Ulster, on the subject of a more equal representation of the people in parliament, is hereby earnestly intreated, to be held at Dungannon, on Monday the 8th day of September next.
Resolved unanimously, that the following gentlemen (seven to be a quorum) be appointed a committee
of correspondence for communicating with the other corps of the province, for taking preparatory steps to forward the intentions of this meeting, and for collecting the best authorities and informations on the subject of a parliamentary reform, viz.
Lieutenant Colonel Sharman, Colonel Rowley,
Major John Crawford,
Lieutenant Colonel Banks, Major Burden,
Mr. Robert Thompson, Captain Wad. Cunningham, Captain Thomas Prentice, Rev. Mr. Craig,
Lieutenant Tomb. Dr. Samuel Moore,
Resolved unanimously, That the following address be published in the public prints :
To the VOLUNTEER ARMY of the Province of ULSTER. « FELLOW CITIZENS,
“ In common with every class of Irishmen, you “ are sensible, that this kingdom for many centuries might have " continued to bear its chains in ignoble and indigent obscurity, “ had not an army of its citizens, by a great effort, dared to cast " them off.
The debate continued till near two o'clock, without any novelty of reason. ing or diversification of argument. The number of petitioners this year had decreased. Only fourteen counties appeared, and most of the petitions had a very inconsiderable number of names subscribed. The whole amount was said not to reach 20,000. Amongst the converts to the question, appeared Mr. Thomas Pitt and the Lord Advocate of Scotland. The former of these gentlemen made the house an offer of the voluntary surrender of his borough of Old Sarum. The house divided on the order of the day, ayes 293, noes 149.
+ These letters were from the Duke of Richmond, Dr. Price, Mr. Wyvil, Dr. John Jebb, Lord Effingham, Mr. Cartwright, and others.
“ That the dignified conduct of that army lately restored to “the imperial crown of Ireland its original splendour, to nobi“ lity its ancient privileges, and to the nation at large its inhe
rent rights as a sovereign independent state ; that by incul
cating the glorious spirit of toleration, it has united the once “ distracted inhabitants of this country into an indissoluble
mass, and promoted the most exalted reverence for the laws, “ are facts that will exhibit a splendid and interesting figure in “ the annals of the age.
“ From a military institution, so singular in its nature as to
comprehend the several gradations of nobles, commons, mer. "chants, yeomen, and mechanics, every substantial good will “ be expected by wise and virtuous men.
“ They will with honest pride behold in the state an unparal“ leled combination of the military with the civil character, ex
isting only for the general interests of the community, and “ prepared, on the purest principles of the constitution, to give “ efficacy to the wishes of three millions of people.
“ The idea of a well-digested parliamentary reform, has ever “ experienced a favourable reception in the uncorrupted breasts " of Irishmen and of Britons. It has been uniformly looked up
to as the true source of public virtue and of political salvation, “ by the first characters these kingdoms have produced. In “ this age we have seen it warmly supported by that consum
mate statesman, the late Earl of Chatham; and revived by " the heir to his abilities and name, the present William Pitt. “ It has received the sanction of the most eminent and honest
men in both houses of the British parliament, of a great num“ber of the most respectable shires in England, and the volun“teer delegates of the province of Munster, and within these “ few days, of the unanimous vote of thirty-eight corps, re66 viewed at Belfast.
Among the many glorious effects of which a more equal representation of the people of Ireland would be productive, “ the following are obvious : “ The destruction of that party spirit, whose baneful influ
has at all times been injurious to the public weal; a re“ vival of the native dignity of the crown, by imparting to each “ branch of the legislature its distinct and proportional weight; “ and the abolition of that train of courtly mercenaries, who “must ever continue to prey on the vitals of public virtue, till, " the balance of the constitution being restored, the necessity “ for governing by regular systems of seduction, shall no longer
“ Then would the constituent body regain its constitutional “ control over its trustees, and venal majorities would not be “ found to support the most dishonourable and pernicious mea
5 sures, in opposition to the sense of the unpolluted part of the
legislature, as well as contrary to the universal wishes of the “ public, as to the true intent of the institution of parliaments.
* With due deference for the august body, which we have presumed to address, we therefore beg leave to express our 5 wishes, that the volunteer delegates of Ulster would assemble “ with the same spirit of loyalty, patriotism, and firmness, which “ actuated them on the memorable 15th of February, 1782: to “ deliberate on the most constitutional means of procuring a
more equal representation of the people in the parliament of “ Ireland, as the only measure, which can give permanency to “ the late renovation of our constitution, or restore that virtue " to the representative body, without which, though the mere w forms of a free government may be preserved, its spirit must “ inevitably perish.
" Signed by order of the meeting,
W. M. SHARMAN, Chairman.” On the same day was made, published, and sent to the Dun. gannon delegates the following report of a committee of correspondence, appointed by forty-five corps, assembled by public advertisement at Lisburne on the first of July last, for the purpose of obtaining information on the important subject of a more equal representation of the people in the parliament of Ireland.
“ The committee in discharge of the trust invested in them, immediately opened a correspondence with a number of the most eminent and well informed characters in Great Britain and Ire. land, and received answers fraught with most valuable information on the subject.
“ Such of them as enter minutely into the business will be submitted to the provincial assembly if thought eligible, considering the length of their detail, and the great delay which their disclosure will unavoidably occasion. If it be more agrecable to the meeting, for the general diffusal of a body of knowledge on so great a political subject, the principal letters will be published by the committee's secretary ; by which means the dispatch necessary to so great an assembly will be greatly promoted.
“ The Yorkshire Association, so celebrated for its spirit and numbers, meet about the close of the present month, in order previously to receive the decisions of this province,
" The society for constitutional knowledge in London, in which are enrolled the names of the first characters in England (strenuous labourers in the glorious business of reform in our sister kingdom), have ordered the addresses of the Ulster regiment, and of the forty-five corps, convening the provincial meets ing of Ulster, to be entered in their books, published in the
prints, and circulated gratis through the kingdom, in order that the exertions of Ireland may give a spur to the spirit of the British nation.
“ The committee is rejoiced to observe, that the English letters are full of expressions of a high sense of the wisdom, spirit, and unanimity, that have characterized the volunteer army of Ireland: and that they all concur in conceiving the present to be the very moment, in which a radical parliamentary reform can best be effected. They universally agree in the idea, that the delegates at Dungannon should enter into a very comprehensive view of the matter, so as the principles of reform may be strongly marked in their resolves: receiving the sanction and concurrence of a general convention of delegates from the four provinces, a coincidence of sentiment in which they hold to be certainty of success.
“ Founded on much deliberation, assisted by the best information they could procure, the committee have ventured to prepare resolutions, comprehending a general system of ideas on the subject, which they will take the liberty', through their chairman, Lieutenant Colonel Sharman, with much humility, to move in the august body of representatives of the volunteer army of Ulster.
“ The committee of correspondence have now only to apologise for their inability to so weighty a charge: happy if their labours shall meet the approbation of their fellow citizens, or tend in the most remote degree to any valuable purpose. They trust, that the spirit of firmness and integrity, which has already restored this ancient kingdom to her rank in the nations, will crown the 8th of September, 1783, as a day which is to form the groundwork of internal emancipation, on a basis as great as that on which our rights as an independent nation, have been with such rapid success already established.”
The eve of a dissolution, the speculations upon the new elections, and the successful efforts of the patriots in the people's cause, had worked up the elated minds of the volunteers to an enthusiasm for parliamentary reform little short of that, which they had before evinced for free trade and legislative independence. The state and constitution of their House of Commons was fully and fairly set before their eyes even by the most moderate of their leaders. It consisted of three hundred mem. bers; sixty-four of them were sent by the counties, the remainder by cities and boroughs. The sixty-four from counties were in some measure, in the option of the people, and about as many more from the cities and boroughs might, by extraordinary exertions of the people, be freely chosen. Upon that calculation, the people by possibility might send one hundred and twenty-eight members to parliament. The other boroughs, which were close or snug, sent the remainder one hundred and seventy-two. These were the property of some few lords and commoners, and being the majority, the House of Commons consequently as it stood was the representative of an aristocracy. It was to that point that government had been long tending. It was their constant object to keep up by means of this aristocratic influence in the commons that oligarchy or monopoly of power in that kingdom, which it was found nothing but an incorporate union possibly could dissolve, and which whilst it lasted was the fatal bane and calamity of that kingdom.
The next public act towards the attaining of this object, was a circular letter for England, composed and agreed upon by the committee of correspondence, and dated from Belfast on the 19th of July, 1783. It was also immediately published throughout Ireland; and as it contains the feelings and sentiments of the armed bodies of Ireland, and they had been allowed in both parliaments to speak the genuine sense of the people of Ireland, the historian cannot more faithfully transmit them to posterity than in their own words.
Ordered, That the following circular letter, signed by the secretary in the name of this committee, be forwarded to.......... inclosing a copy of the resolutions of the provincial meeting of volunteers of Munster, and of the proceedings of the forty-five volunteer delegates assembled at Lisburn on the first inst. respecting a parliamentary reform. To, &c.
Belfast, 19th July, 1783. “ Your attachment to the rights of the people, and to the general prosperity of the British empire, induce us to ad“ dress you on the present great and momentous occasion.
“The spirit of freedom, which pervades all ranks of people “ in Ireland, with the just and wise policy of the British nation, “having for ever removed all possible cause of jealousy between “ the sister kingdoms, and united us to Britain on the basis of “cqual liberty and similar constitution; it becomes the duty,
as it is the interest of each kingdom, to assist the other in their " endeavours to restore to its ancient purity and vigour, a de" cayed, enfeebled, and sickly constitution.
“ In both nations, it is now generally acknowledged, that this “ great object can be obtained by no other means but by a reform “ of the representation in parliament. In England, the measure " has for the present miscarried, though supported by so many
wise, honest, great, and independent men. We trust, however, it has miscarried only for a season, and that the next
attempt will prove successful. Ireland has now taken up the " idea, and if we shall be so happy as to see success crown our “ efforts, we think considerable weight will be thereby added