« PreviousContinue »
plained of did not proceed from them, but gave him to understand, that they were set on by persons enemies to the measure in question.
The great outcry of the opposition against Lord Northing* ton's administration was, for acts instead of professions of economy. Mr. Flood was their leader, and they were joined by many persons of great personal talent, influence, and property. They differed also from the generality of the ministerialists upon the subject of the volunteers : government considered the armed associations of the volunteers to have performed their mission, and that they then ought to disarm and disband. Opposition looked to the attainment of further rights or liberties, and considered the influence of the volunteers as necessary to procure the future, as they had been instrumental in acquiring the former.* The next popular question, which they urged “can be obtained in any other way. For my part, though I hold an office “ under government, I never will object to this petition for the style; there " is no fault in the style; here is a select body of men, called the chamber of “ commerce; the use of names is to know, who the persons petitioning are, “ in case of any impropriety we may call them before us. To this petition we “ have the name of an honourable member of this bouse, he is answerable for “it; it is acknowledged to be a matter of importance, and shall we for mere " matter of form reject an important petition so well authenticated ? No, “ though I am on this side of the house, and will support government in every “honourable measure, and in none but honourable measures, I will receive “this petition; no power on earth shall prevent me." (Here a loud clapping of hands taking place, the gallery was ordered to be cleared. As soon as that order was complied with, and the house was cleared,)
Mr. Fitzgibbon warmly censured the indecent conduct of the gallery, and moved, that the house should enter into a resolution, “ That a gross and inde. “ cent outrage, by clapping of lands, having been committed this night by the “ strangers admitted to the gallery, resolved that the gerjeant at arms do “ from time to time take into his custody any stranger or strangers, that he “ shall see or be informed of to be in the house, while any committee of the “ whole house, or the committee of privileges is sitting, and that this order “ should be strictly enforced." The motion was supported by a great number of the treasury side, and opposed by the other part of the house as stre nuously,
Mr. Flood, who came in late, was an able advocate for the admission of constitúents to hear their debates, and declared, that if gentlemen were not ashamed of their conduct, they had nothing to fear from its being known, and that it was unreasonable and unjust to preclude all from the galleries for the intemperate conduct of a few. The motion was then carried,
157 · Noes
. 72 • The opposition stuck fast to the retrenchment of the military, disdaining the petty savings that were to be made in the civil establishment. Mr, MOlyneux had indeed on the 22l of November (as he said himself upon his own free motion) moved for and carried a vote of the House of Commons for an additional salary of 4000!. per ann. to the lord lieutenant: there were 77 for and 54 against it. Mr. Grattan found himself called upon by the principles of, ceconomy, which he hade:er maintained, to take some active step towards forr. warding that necessary system, especially after he had opposed Mr. Flood and his friends frequent motions for military retrenchment. On the 26th of the
was a reform in the representation of the people. In consequence of the resolutions of the Dungannon meeting, on the 8th of September, 1783, delegates were appointed to form a grand national convention, which assembled at Dublin on the 10th of November, when the Earl of Charlemont was nominated their chairman. They proceeded to enquire into the most eligible system of parliamentary reform, and having entered into a variety of resolutions expressive of their sentiments on that subject, they requested, that Mr. Flood would introduce a bill for that purpose into the House of Commons. It has been said, that the government was at first seriously alarmed at this meet. ing of the vational convention, and that a privy council was summoned to determine on the propriety of arresting both the chairman and secretary of the meeting; but the measure having been considered as hazardous, another expedient was adopted; It was artfully contrived to divide the opinion of the assembly respecting the extension of certain privileges to Roman Catholics; and the common interest and sentiment of the people in general being thus disunited, the efforts of the convention be. came less formidable, and all means were devised to oppose and decry them in parliament.
*On the 29th of November, 1783, Mr. Flood moved for leave to bring in a bill for the more equal representation of the people in parliament. This was immediately opposed by the attorney general. “I do not mean (said he) to go into the discussion
of the bill, but I would wish the honourable member would “ now state the necessity there is for bringing it in at all, and “ also, who those persons are, who are discontented with the
present constitution, and with whom it originates: for I will “ say, if it originate with an armed body, it is inconsistent with “ the freedom of debate for this house to receive it. We sit
not here to register the edicts of another assembly, or to re"ceive propositions at the point of the bayonet; I admire the “ volunteers, so long as they confine themselves to their first " line of conduct; it was their glory to preserve the domestic "peace of their country, and to render it formidable to foreign " enemies: it was their glory to aid the civil magistrate, and " to support their parliament; but when they turn aside from " this honourable conduct; when they form themselves into a " debating society, and with that rude instrument the bayonet,
probe and explore a constitution, which requires the nicest “ hand to touch, I own my respect and reneration for them is “ destroyed. If it shall be avowed, that this bill originated with " them, I will reject it at once, because I consider that it decides “ the question, whether this house, or the convention, are the
month, when Mr. Grattan moved to take into consideration all praciical retrenchments in the collecting of the revenue, he said he should strenuously have opposed Mr. Molyneur's motion haci he been in the house. It is to be observed, that Lord Northington declinet accepting of the addition.
* 2 Parl. Deb.p. 205.
representatives of the people, and whether parliament, or the “ volunteers, be to be obeyed. I consider it as a question in“ volving the existence of the constitution; and it is in vain, “ whatever may be avowed or pretended, to shut our ears and
eyes, to what every one has seen and heard, armed men walk. “ ing bareheaded through the streets under a military escort,
courting the smiles and applauses of the multitude, and meet
ing in the pantheon of divinities, the rotunda, for we are told “it is blasphemy to utter a word against them; forming com“ mittees and sub-committees; receiving reports and petitions, “ and going through all the mockery of parliament. It is in “ vain then to pretend, that this bill is not their mandate ; and " can any man, who has the least regard for that constitution, “ which our ancestors purchased with their blood, bear to see
government forced from its centre by these reformers? I I think the time is now arrived, things are come to such a crisis, “ that even our self-preservation, as a parliament, depends on " the vote we shall now give. This is the spot to make our “stand, here we must draw our line ; for we have retired step
by step, as they have advanced : we are now on a precipice; " and to recede one step more, plunges us into inevitable ruin.
“ Sir, I lament, for the honour of my countrymen, that they " should have chosen this period for introducing innovation, or “ exciting discontent. What is the occasion, that calls forth “their displeasure against the constitution, and what is our pre
sent situation ? Blessed with a free trade and a free constitu“ tion, our peers restored to their rights and to their lawful au“thority, our judges rendered independent, the manacles fallen “ from our commons, all foreign control abolished, we take our “ rank among nations, as a free state ; and is this a time to alter " that constitution, which has endured so many storms, and “risen superior to all oppressions? Will the armed associations, “ wise as they may be, be able to form a better, though they re
ject this? Before they have for a single session entered into “the enjoyment of it, like children, they throw away the bauble, “ for which with all the eagerness of an infantine caprice, they “ have struggled; or like spendthrifts, they would make away “ with their inheritance, before they enter into possession of it. “ But I will say to the volunteers, you shall not throw from you “the blessings you may possess under your happy constitution, “ cultivate your own prosperity, and enjoy the fruits of your “ virtue, beat your swords into ploughshares, return to your “ different occupations, leave the business of legislation in those “ hands, where the laws have placed it, and where you have “ had ample proof it will be used for the advantage of the
country. Bat; Sir, it is in vain on the part of the convention, “ to disclaim their intent of overawing the parliament ; nay, “I am told their session is not yet prorogued, and perhaps " they may meet on Monday to reverse the opinion, which “ this house ma give this night. Sir, I call upon the house
to exert their spirit, and vindicate their rights; I shall call upon them in the words of a great man...." Expergiscinini aliquando et capessite rem.' “I appeal to the candour of gentlemen: are they sure they
come into parliament to deliver their sentiments as freely as “they would do, if they were not members of the convention? " or will gentlemen who are not, vote as free? Is it decent, “ while the convention are watching to control our actions, to
enter into any subject that they óan propose? I have the high" est respect for the volunteers as men, and for their former " actions ; but if the question appear to the house, as it does “ to me, the result of any resolution formed at that meeting, it “ is our duty to reject it with in lignation.”
Mr. Flood said, he had not mentioned the bill as being the bilt of any set of men, or any body of men whatsoever. He was as free to enter into the discussion of that bill as any gentieman in the house, and with as little prepossession in favour of wliat he should propose. He preferred it to the house, as the bill of his right honourable friend who seconded him. Would the house receive it from thema?: In the last parliament it was ordered, that leave be given to bring in a bill for the more equal representation of tho people in parliament. This was in the Duke of Portland's administration; an administration which the right honourable gentleman professed to admire, and which he would not suspect of overturning the constitution. Armed with the authority of that precedent, he little thought any one would be so desperate as to give such a violent opposition to the simple introduction of a bill. He then rose for the first time, to speak upon the subject, and called upon every man, auditor, or spectator, in the house, or in the galleries, to remember this truth: that if the volunteers were introduced into this debate, it was not he who had done it.
The right honourable gentleman says, if the volunteers have approved, he trill oppose it: but I say, I bring it in as a member of this house, supportert with the powerful aid of the right honourable gentleman, who sits behind me, (Mr. Brownlow): we bring it in as members of parliainent, never mentioning the volunteers." I as's you, will you receive it from us, from us your members, neither intending by any thing within doors, or without, to intimidate dr overawe you? I ask, will you receive it as our billy or will you conjure up a military phantom of
interposition to affright yourselves ? I have not introduced the volunteers; but if the volunteers are aspersed, I will defend their conduct against all the world. By whom were the commerce and constitution of this country recovered ? By the volunteers. Why did not the right honourable gentleman make a declamation against them, when they lined our streets; when parliament passed through ranks of those virtuous armed citizens, to demand the rights of an insulted nation? Are they different men at this day; or is the right honourable gentleman different? He was then one of their body; he is now their accuser. He who saw the streets lined, who rejoiced, who partook in their glory, is now their accuser. What has changed them since that time? Are they less wise, less brave, less ardent in their country's cause? Or has their admirable conduct made him their enemy? May they not say, we have not changed, but you have changed ? He cannot now bear to hear of volunteers : but I will ask kim, (and I will have a starling taught to halloo it in his ear,) Who got you: the free trade; who got you the constitution? Who made you a nation? The volunteers. If they were the men you now describe them, why did you accept of their service? Why did you not then accuse them? If they were so dangerous, why did you pass through their ranks, with your speaker at your head, to demand a constitution? Why did you not then fear the ills you now apprehend? Have your lordlieutenants refused the servic: of those men? Look back to their offers in Lord Carlisle’s administration. Have not such of them as could obtain that honour, been proud to be escorted by them to sea! And has not parliament returned repeated thanks to this body of men, who are now so degnerated, that rectitude becomes depravity in them? Were not resolutions sought from them to give a sanction to the inadequate security of simple repeal? When betrayed into wrong, they were cherished; now, when right, they are opposed.
What do some of the greatest men in England say, (speaking of the volunteers) “ That the history of mankind, the annals " of the world do not furnish such another glorious example of “patriotism and moderation ?" And now will any man condemn thein, if they wish to crownthemselves with never fading glory, and finish their labours by rendering perfect that constitution, which their labours have acquired? Should you comply, it would for ever render unnecessary the interference of such bodies of men as they are. I am conscious, that I have not done justice to that much honoured, and much injured body of men; but be it remembered, that it was not I who introduced their name; it was not I who wished to infame your passions, when I had not arguments to support me: it was not I who wished to debauch them on the side of fear: such a proceeding shews the rottenness