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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE THIRD EDITION.
The demand within a short period for a third edition of this tract may perhaps be accepted as a proof that the proposal which it makes is one which has in some degree, at least, engaged the attention of the public.
Since the publication of the first edition, some of its statements and arguments have received singular confirmation. I allude particularly to the argument founded on the impossibility of Parliament, constituted as it is at present, giving adequate attention to the affairs of any part of the United Kingdom. The passages
in which I have endeavoured to point out the injurious effect of this upon English interests* will not be thought over-strained by any one who has read the recent speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Dundee. He felt himself bound to apologize to the Scotch representatives for the neglect of pressing Scotch interests during the last session. His apology was that English business of immediate' moment had been also set aside, and that both had been thrust out of the
consequence of the urgency of Irish affairs.
It requires some thought to appreciate the magnitude of this evil. Within the last thirty years great changes have been made in the manner in which
Pp. 78, 79.
business is conducted in the House of Commons. The direction of all these changes has been towards the abridgment of the freedom, or at least the fulness of debate, and the curtailment of the privileges of
private members," as those gentlemen are termed who occupy no official position. They have all been made with a view of enabling the ministers of the Crown to expedite Government business through the House. The subject is a large one, and not to be incidentally discussed. But certainly the necessity of “getting through” the work that has been cast upon them has induced the House of Commons to depart from many of its ancient traditions, and give up many of the most valuable privileges which were once considered essential protections of the independence of its own members and of the rights of the people. The most striking instance of this is, perhaps, the abandonment, after some struggles to retain it, of the immemorial usage of debating the subject of petitions presented to the House. But this is only one of many alterations which have really effected a great change in the character of Parliamentary discussions of public affairs.* The change has been
* The practice was finally abandoned in 1842, after an effort, persevered in for a few years, to devote morning sittings to the special purposes of receiving and discussing “the petitions of the people.” Lord Brougham deeply lamented the change, and observed that all the great questions of liberal progress in his day, including the abolition of slavery, Catholic emancipation, and even the reform bill, had been really carried by the incidental discussions on the presentation of petitions.
made gradually, but it has not been without its injurious effect upon the character of the popular branch of the legislature, and of the legislation and government of the country.
Mr. Lowe has abundantly confirmed the statement which these pages contain, as to the injurious effects of the Union upon English legislation. Of the description of the evil influence of the present system upon Irish-legislation, a still more remarkable confirmation is to be found in the letter addressed to me by Lord Clancarty, and which has been (with his consent) published in the newspapers. The pressing demand for a new edition will not permit me to enter on an examination of the difficulties which Lord Clancarty believes likely to impede, or at least retard, the restoration of a Parliament to Ireland. Some of these difficulties, I cannot help thinking, are met in the arguments of the tract. But while I myself believe that from the constituencies suggested in these pages (including those learned bodies which Lord Clancarty would desire to see represented)* we would obtain a House of Commons really and truly representing the intelligence, the energy, and the patriotism of the nation, I should be very sorry to be considered as binding anyone, even myself, to any of the details I have suggested. The suggestions
* “Thus, with representatives from the universities, and possibly from the colleges of physicians and surgeons, and some other bodies of that nature, we could easily form a constituency for a House of Commons fairly representing the Irish nation."- Page 56.
of this tract were thrown out as materials for discussion, not as presenting the precise form which the claim for a domestic Parliament is ultimately to assume.
I endeavoured to point out in these pages that it is both the interest and the duty of those who occupy the higher stations in Irish society to take their part with the people in seeking our own Parliament, and in moulding and determining the forms which the Federal Constitution is to assume. It is from the joint deliberations of all classes of Irishmen that we may most confidently hope to present a plan of a national legislature, in which the just influence of property, and education, and rank may be harmoniously combined with popular privileges and power, so as to make the legislature the real representative of the nation.
No testimony can be more decisive than the testimony which Lord Clancarty has borne to the failure of the Union arrangements, and the absolute necessity of domestic legislation, if we are ever to have good government for Ireland. That testimony should be preserved in a form that is, perhaps, a little more permanent than the fleeting columns of a newspaper, and it is added as an appendix to this edition of this tract.
If there were no other argument in favour of a separate Parliament for each of the three countries, the necessity of some such measure would be abundantly proved by the magnitude and multiplicity of business which the demands of the progress of our social system impose upon the assembly which now attempts to transact the business of them all business which would give ample employment to the energies of three separate legislatures.
The demand for a National Parliament rests, indeed, upon higher and more sacred grounds. Of one thing I am sure—that the desire for national independence will never be plucked or torn from the heart of the Irish nation. This tract was written, not to stimulate that desire—not even so much to show that it is reasonable—as to point out the means by which it is possible to realize that independence without breaking up the unity of the empire, interfering with the monarchy, or endangering the rights or liberties of any class of Irishmen.
Even at a time when popular thought has been occupied and popular feeling engaged by the mighty events which have swept by us with such wondrous rapidity on the continent, the proposal which I ventured to throw out has met with an amount of attention which I scarcely expected it would receive. In the present condition of European affairs, involving in uncertainty all the relations of English politics, the time is scarcely come for Irishmen to take any energetic or decided action in asking for the establishment of that “home government” upon which Ireland has determinedly set her heart.
No one can say how soon that time may come.
I will be content if in the interim I have contributed ever so slightly to direct the dispassionate and deliberate considera