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of the cause. If the volunteers and the parliament shall ever be committed, (which God Almighty forbid) no great thanks will be due to those men, who represent the volunteers as endeavouring to dragoon parliament. Men who endeavour to exasperate them, and if their moderation were not greater than the wisdom of their accusers, great and miserable would be the confusion indeed; but they have too much wisdom not to despise their accusers; though I will tell the man, who accuses them, that there was a time, when he was proud to join in their ranks, and share the glory of their conduct.
I am called on for an explanation of my plan of reform, in order that exceptions may be taken to it; but I am ready to explain it, and to refute all exceptions on the ground of reason and argument. As in this house votes go by tale, and not by weight; and as the vote of the meanest wretch that ever disgraced the walls of parliament, though representing the most venal borough, tells for as much as the most illustrious character, representing the first county in the kingdom ; the people wish to correct the ill-effects of this, by opening the boroughs, and giving them an opportunity of being virtuous. This is the voice of the people, and it is opposed because it is the demand of the volunteers; but the volunteers and the people are the same; they have been made constitutional by every act, but that of being placed on your establishment, which they despise. Does any man say, that there is not a positive act of parliament, directing every Protestant to bear arms? And will you say, that because one man fulfils more of his duty', as a citizen, than another, that he should less enjoy a citizen's privilege? Or will any man say, that because the volunteers, in obedience to the laws, bear arms, therefore that obedience should strip them of their franchise.
But who will deny, that the representation of cities and boroughs demand reform? And are plans of reform to be rejected, because agreeable to the volunteers? If so, how came the Duke of Portland to send volunteer delegates to the throne with letters to deliver into the sacred hand of majesty? And if the Duke of Portland acted thus, will any man say, that the volunteers have since done any thing to transform them into the Gorgons and hydras they have been represented ? No, they are not changed, they are seen through the medium of borough interest; it is this, that has given them this terrible aspect; it is the sordid interest of a prostituted government to say they have strength, though it be the strength of borough-mongers; but it is the strength of a virtuous government to be supported by the public good opinion; and it is no credit to any government to depend rather on a venal parliament, than on the honest voice of an ingenuous nation. The bill sets at defiance all objection; for
is there a man who will say, however political declamation may attempt to mislead, that the constitution wants no reform? Will any man say, that that constitution is perfect, when he knows that the honour of the peerage may be obtained by any ruffian, who possesses borough interest!
Mr. Flood then proceeded to trace the general outline of the plan of reform agreed to at the convention, and concluded with saying: I shall neither endeavour to intimidate nor overawe the house : but, on the contrary, I shall most humbly hope, that in the infancy of your liberty, whilst a body of freemen and citizens, who are determined to treat with respect that constitution, which they have recovered by fortitude, bear arms for their country's service, you will not go to fish for objections, until these people shall do something derogatory from that authority, which they have established; no body of men can make me affirm to be right what I know to be wrong; neither will I be so absurd as to deny that, which I know to be right, because other men think so too.
Scarcely a member, who had ever opened his mouth in the house, was silent on this important occasion: the debate lasted till past three o'clock on the Sunday morning. Several of the members, who admitted the necessity of the reform, voted against it under the circumstance of the sitting of a national convention of delegates, who had previously agitated the ques. tion, and were waiting the result of its discussion in parliament. This was the first blow given to the credit and power of the volunteers. Several also of the minority gave the express instructions of their constituents as their reason for voting for the bill. Towards the close of the debate, Mr. Grattan spoke for a short time, declaring himself decidedly the friend of a parliamentary reform. It has always been, said he, my favourite object, to increase by those means the power of the people. He was glad to investigate that subject, let it come from what quarter it might; it did not come before in a quesa tionable shape ; neither did he see any thing to justify an opposition to his favourite scheme. He loved to blend the idea of parliament and volunteers; they had hitherto concurred in establishing their constitution in the last parliament, and he hoped they would do it in the present. He recommended, therefore, an union between parliament and the illustrious body of volunteers, which union it should be the study of his life to preserve. The question having been loudly called for, when the Speaker was rising to put it, Mr. Flood said, “ I have very often found, when a question cannot be controverted by fair argument, it is thrown out by a majority calling for the ques
tion; but it is impossible for the mind of man to bend to mere matter, or to be satisfied with such conduct. I am asked, is not this bill the order of some other assembly? I never received any order. I have examined with men of all ranks upon this subject, and approve it; but what appearance of hostility or control is there in the present application ? Have the volunteers lined the streets, or drawn up before your house? No; they have given their opinion with all humbleness and deference to yours, and beg you will take it up. How could they more prostrate themselves at the feet of parliament? This bill was moved a year ago, when there was no convention sitting; and will you now reject it, because men, who sometimes wear swords, and sometimes wear none, approve it? The volunteers of Ireland are a peculiar body of men, they are citizens as well as soldiers; nor does their skill and discipline, as soldiers, destroy their franchise as citizens."
Mr. Daly confessed he was ashamed, that the gentleman who had made this motion, should not only evade giving an answer to the enquiry, “whether it were the result of deliberations in “ the conventions?” but almost to deny it.
Mr. Flood. I said, they were my own sentiments.
Mr. Daly. I did not say they were not his own sentiments; but they were more notoriously the sentiments of the convention, whatever influence he might have had in forming them : and he said, that he brought them thither by order of that body. He protested, that while an armed assembly was sitting in the capital, their debate was not free. We are told of the great moderation manifested by the delegates, considering how powerfully they are supported; but, (said Mr. Daly,) as I did not oppose, or scorn the volunteers, when weak, as I never went to a county meeting, and with a contumelious aspect, asked if the country were arrayed, and when answered, no, never turned my back upon them; neither will I now, when they are strong and mighty, turn my back to them; but I will meet them as a friend, and will say to them, you are advancing to anarchy and destruction; I beseech you retreat while you may with honour; for there is a turbulent demagogue amongst you, that urges you to your own disgrace.
Ít has been the misfortune of this country, that parliament has, in too many instances, for a while withstood the wishes of the people, but lzas yielded in the end; the consequence is, that the people are told by the demagogue, persevere, and you will at last carry your point. But this is the time to draw a line, and I do rely upon it. I pledge myself for the consequence, that if parliament act with firmness, the people will be content in a short time they will despise the promoters of faction, and
all their boasted menaces will vanish in the air. But if parliament recede one step now, it will fall into a gulph of inevitable destruction. Upon a division, there appeared For receiving the bill
49 Against it
158 Then Mr. Attorney-General moved the following resolutions :
Resolved, That it is now become necessary to declare, that this house will maintain its just rights and privileges against all encroachments whatsoever. Ayes
68 And then Mr. Conolly made the following motion, which was carried unanimously.
Resolved, That an humble address be presented to his majesty, to declare the perfect satisfaction, which we feel in the many blessings we enjoy under his majesty's most auspicious government, and our present happy constitution ; and that at this time we find it peculiarly incumbent upon us to express our determin. ed resolution to support the same with our lives and fortunes.
Notwithstanding, Mr. Flood, the great leader of the opposition, immediately after this debate went over to England, several matters were brought before parliament by his adherents.
Mr. Molyneux introduced to the house once more the ques. tion of an absentee tax: he complained, that before the business wanted support, many were prominently forward in offering their assistance; now that it was before them, they excused themselves, saying, the time was improper. Thus, after a long debate, the motion was lost by a division of 184 against 22.
On the 9th of December, 1783, Mr. D. Browne prefaced a -motion for an address to the crown, with a most distressful picture of the kingdom at that period. He represented those, who lived on the spoils, like wasps, sucking their blood, and smiling at their ruin; he represented the farmer, ruined by the calamitous times, the lower order of people starving, and obliged to sell their provision to satisfy the landlord, who himself could barely get the means of existing from his lands! The avenues to the capital beset with starving manufacturers, and at the very doors of that house, begging of the members to avert, by a small donation, the miseries of impending famine: their necessities made them bold; they even ventured into the Castle yard : their complaints were heard, though but seldom heard before, and proper steps were taken to relieve them; the privy council were summoned, the doors were barred, and the guards of the city were doubled; the garrison ordered to hold themselves in readiness to massacre people already conquered by
hunger! Such is the situation of your country. Yet this was the time when you were to keep up an useless and expensive army, and minister to the useless pageantry of a court.
The hour of ripe iniquity had arrived; the hour of retribution would speedily follow. He then moved the following resolutions :
“ That an address be presented to his majesty, humbly to “ lay themselves at his majesty's feet, to assure his majesty of “ their inviolable attachment to his majesty's person and govern“ment, and of the grateful sense they felt of his majesty's pa“ ternal goodness and attention to his subjects of Ireland; and
to declare their readiness and zeal to support, in the most “ honourable manner, at all times, the necessary expences of “his majesty's government, and the dignity of his crown.
“That they thought it, however, incumbent on his faithful “commons, humbly to lay before his majesty, that for a series “ of years past, the expences of his majesty's government had “constantly far exceeded the net produce of the revenue, where“ by the nation had incurred a great and accumulating debt; “and in order to discharge the interest thereof, his majesty's “ faithiul commons had been under a necessity of diverting a “ considerable part of those revenues, which formerly served " towards defraying the current services of his majesty's government. “ That in the year 1773, his majesty's faithful commons did
grani several new duties, and had since, from time to time, "incredsed them.
“ That they were induced thereto, upon the faith of promises " made to his majesty's commons, by his majesty's minister, " that the expences of government should be retrenched, so " that the new grants of the people, and the promised retrench
ment by the minister, should concur in a system of equali"zation, and put an end to the ruinous practice of running in
“ That his majesty's faithful commons had fully performed “ their part of the engagement; but that their bounty had been
so far from being answered on the part of his ministers, that "in no period of time had the debt of the nation advanced with
so rapid a progress as since that period; insomuch, that his
Dajesty's commons then found themselves burthened with a “ debt enormously greater than it was at that period : vastly
greater than the nation was ever before loaded with, and still " accumulating; besides being also loaded with those new “ taxes, which were granted for the sole purpose of putting an " end to so ruinous a practice.
“ That his majesty's present ministers, finding themselves “ unable to support the charges of government without increas