« PreviousContinue »
for many years past, was a grievance which demanded redress ; that the granting pensions for a long term of years was an alienation of the revenues of Ireland, an improvident disposition of the revenue, and an injury to the crown and public. As drunkards themselves petition for a removal of the temptation which destroys them, the members who were themselves the recipients of those dishonouring gratuities, were compelled, by shame and the stream of opinion, to vote with the rest. The resolutions were passed unanimously, and the Viceroy was requested to name a day on which he would receive them, at the hands of the Speaker attended by the entire House.
The Duke of Bedford a well-meaning but proud and stupid man, accustomed to think of Ireland as a dependency, which had no rights beyond the registering of England's pleasure, was astonished and indignant. He summoned the Council. The resolutions, he said, were derogatory to the King's prerogative, indecent in expression, and so improper that, were he to promise to transmit them to England without expressing his disapproval, he would make himself participem criminis. He should, therefore, invite the House to reconsider its action. The Council answered, that the Duke might do as he pleased. The House, however, would not give way; and would resent such a message as an encroachment on its privileges. The Duke took, therefore, what he called a gentler method. He allowed the Speaker to present the resolutions, which were brought to him, with the solemnities adopted only on the most solemn occasions. But the matter which they contained,' he said, was of so high a nature that he could not sud
BOOK denly determine whether it would be proper for him
to transmit them or not.'1 1757 His moderation' had not the effect which he ex
pected.' The House refused to enter his answer in the Journals. He appealed to the Speaker, whom he hoped to find as malleable as his predecessors. He received only a hard and dry answer that, in a point of this sort, he had no influence ;' 3 and a vote was carried to suspend the supplies till the resolutions were sent over.
The lamentation which Bedford poured out to Pitt was a ludicrous confession of the nature of the influence on which the Castle had allowed itself to depend.
· Revenue officers,' he said, "officers in the army, even—which is more extraordinary—pensioners who have enjoyed his majesty's bounty, were so disgusted at the like marks of favour which the King has been pleased to bestow on others within these two years past, that they voted to obstruct his majesty's and the public service, till they should have assurance of a satisfactory answer to their injurious demands.' 4 He begged to be recalled, or, if not recalled, to be armed with powers to withdraw the pensions, and to cancel the appointments of the ungrateful recipients of the wages of corruption. By no other means
1 'Bedford to Pitt, November 17, very ill-judged intercession in his MSS. Record Office, 1757.' behalf, a singular mark of his
2 John Ponsonby, second son of majesty's favour, Colonel Cunningthe first Earl of Bessborough, who ham. He voted for postponing had succeeded Boyle, created Earl the Money Bill. I thought giving of Shannon.
him his rank, would confirm him 3 Ponsonby was found less hard, to his majesty's service, and would as will be seen at a late period. also have tied the Lord Primate, 4 'One person, I am ashamed to whose creature he is.'
—Bedford name,' the Duke goes on, as he to Pitt, November 17, 1757. MSS. received but the day before, through Record Office.
could 'faction be overawed,' and respect recovered CHAP. to the Government. He recommended a dissolution. No period was affixed by law to the duration of the 1757 Irish Parliament. The present House of Commons had been elected on the King's accession, and had every year grown more unmanageable.
Surprised probably, for the first time, into serious attention to the condition of Ireland, Pitt at once directed that the resolutions should be sent over. • The worst heat,' he observed, had been provoked by the refusal to lay the grievances of the country before the Crown; the irritation would be allayed, and there would be leisure to consider what else it might be necessary to do if the Duke could be more conciliatory. He desired Bedford's own sentiments, “ the amplest light,' 'a clear and full view,' as a means towards some prudent determination.'2
Had Pitt been on the spot, he might have done something considerable. Cromwell himself had not a keener loathing for dishonest maneuvres; and, by aiming at the real evils, he would have rallied the honest part of the House of Commons, and destroyed faction by removing its excuse. Bedford, trained in official routine, without original insight, and nourished upon constitutional commonplaces, was consciously helpless in an element so new to him. As *soon as the embarrassment had reached its height, he was assailed by the leaders of the various factions, who, on their own terms, offered to extricate him. Threequarters of the House of Commons were virtually nominees of the Peers. They were divided into three parties, of whom the Earl of Kildare, the Primate,
1 Bedford to Pitt, November 17, 1757.' MSS. Record Office. ? Pitt to Bedford, November, 1757' Ibid.
and the Speaker were respectively the chiefs. Kildare and Ponsonby were personal enemies, and each was eager to secure some advantage at the other's expense. The Primate, who resented his removal from the Council, was willing to forgive, if restored to a share of patronage and power. He had friends in the English Cabinet who furnished him with copies of Pitt's most secret despatches, and thus negotiated for himself at special advantage. The Duke could not bring himself to the humiliation of listening at once to either of these competitors. The point of the resolutions being conceded, supplies were voted. Parliament separated for the Christmas recess, and the Viceroy was able to compose himself to send Pitt the information which was desired. The problem, as it presented itself to Bedford, was not how to govern Ireland wisely and well; but rather 'how to preserve it in the proper subserviency which it owed to the mother-country'—an object in itself legitimate and essential, yet impossible to be obtained till the mother country recognized the conditions under which she had rights over Ireland at all.
· Faction and party,' the Duke said, “have spread through all orders of men. There are not twenty in the House of Commons, including the servants of the Crown, on whom I can depend, or who are not more attached to some particular interest than the service of the Crown. Two parties have taken in hand to distress the Government, or force themselves into it; while the other party, which alone can check them, will not risk its popularity unless I consent to throw all power into the hands of its leaders. One of the two parties is the Primate's, which, by unnatural conjunction with that of the Speaker, in opposition to
the administration of the late Lord-Lieutenant is equal, if not superior, in numbers to the Earl of Kildare's. I might have looked for help from the latter ; but many of them are so infatuated with a vain popularity, and as vain a notion of securing their elections at a future Parliament, that I cannot depend on their assistance in opposing questions that may
be proposed by their most bitter enemies. This is true; and the remedy is, that when I go to England I leave the sword in the hands of a deputy in whom I can confide—one who, by birth and attachment, shall be free from all Irish connexions. You cannot make a regency out of the heads of these factions, who would be equal in power, and equally solicitous of obtaining favour for those of their connexions. Should two join against the third, what mischief might we not look for? I adhere to my system. This kingdom ought not to be governed by parties. How long it has been so, and the ill effects arising from it all the world knows too well. Any point touching on the English prerogatives is eagerly caught at. They talk of taxes on absentees or pensioners, &c. It may be necessary to dissolve them; or prorogation may bring them to a better mind. Strong measures, however, lie visibly ahead.'1
Strong measures—but what or how ? No one knew better than Pitt that the sword, unless so tempered as to heal the wounds which it inflicts, exasperates the symptoms which it is employed to cure.
• The Duke,' he replied, "might have been more particular in explaining why parties in Ireland could not combine in measures for Ireland's good. The plan of leaving the power to Lords Justices free
1 'Bedford to Pitt (abridged), January 4, 1758.' MSS. Record Office.