« PreviousContinue »
with wine, and scorning sectarian distinctions and sectarian privileges, she will with her universal people, join the shout that calls for liberty and the constitution. Yes, even in this remote county, the voice of liberty would be heard, and Col. Crosbie and his supporters may rely on it, that even here, the people cannot any longer be treated with contempt, or excluded with impunity
The only privilege which the people have left, is the elective franchise, and even this it seems, they have not the spirit to exercise. After this, what right has Ireland to complain, if either on the window-tax question, or any other question, our representatives will not even give themselves the trouble of crossing the Channel. If you be contented to submit to this degradation, it is not for me to murmur, capable as I am by my own conduct of redeeming myself individually; as I hear, however, that some of your news-room wiseacres have taken offence at an expression which I made use of in another place, and as every man who puts himself politically forward, should be able to give a reason for “ the faith that is in him," you shall have mine freely and fearlessly. The declaration was, “that if the next Parliament be like the last, we may write the epitaph of the British Constitution.” I repeat it now, and I further add, that it is quite impossible things can go on, unless there be some change either in the members we return to that House, or in the constitution of that House itself. Are you aware, that of what is called the House of Commons, 82 Peers nominate 300, and !23 Com
ners nominate 187, and thus you have out of 658 members, 487 actually nominated by 205 constituents, and this they call the Representation of the People.* If this continues, is there any use in elections ? Is there any use in petitioning, when hired majorities can stifle them and a borough-mongering influence can defeat the other ? Does any man propose a reformation of the system ? He is immediately denounced as a visionary, or worse. So it was in England, with Fox and Sheridan, and the consequence was, she lost America. So it was amongst yourselves, with Grattan and with Flood, and the consequence was, that those who bought you, sold you. We were bartered into a province, and but the other day, in the Imperial Parliament, upon a vital question, 75 of your members left you at the mercy of a puppet majority, who not only rivetted your chains, but rebuked you for clanking them. This is the way in which I wish to meet the question, not by empty declamation, but by stubborn facts, facts which are now recorded to our shame upon the adamants of history. Look to the conduct of the very last Parliament, in almost every instance the echo of the minister, and the justification of the malcontent; conduct, which I will demonstrate has done more to disgrace us abroad, and to enslave us at home, than mere unequivocal, unblashing despotism ever could have effected. Look to that conduct after a protracted war, unparalleled in its duration, and unprovoked in its origin, during which money enough was spent to purchase, and blood enough to insulate the continent; during which we alternately fought and subsidized every faithless despot; now libelling the worthless, now lauding the magnanimous Alexander; to-day in the field with temporizing Austria ; to-morrow bribing the convenient Prussia; now smiling upon Poland's plunder ; now establishing the Spanish Inquisition; now at Amiens acknowledging the French Consul; now at Waterloo, cheering the blood-cry of legitimacy. After this base abandonment of public principle, this barbarous gambling with the nation's happiness, we found ourselves at last consistent in nothing but inconsistencies, seated in the legitimate Congress of Vienna, between the northern Autocrat and a serjeant of Napoleon, and secretly laughed at by both; was not this a rare, a natural consummation, well worthy the fraudful leagues and bloody infractions which had diversified the contest, well worthy the orphanage and widowhood, which had shadowed England with woe, and the frantic expenditure which has almost beggared her with debt. This has been the consequence, and what do you remember, was the motive to the aggression ? Was it the establishment of human liberty ? Was it the advance of human morals? Was it the vindication of national character? Was it even any high toned and heroic impulse which flung a factitious glory over the warrior's progress, and gave the battle horrors a visionary justification? Far from it. It was the most unjustifiable motive that ever unsheathed the British sword; the most unconstitutional, that ever stained the British annals. It was a bare faced interference with a foreign country in the choice of its own government; a direct infraction of the very principle upon which England founded her glorious revolution. It was a legislative denunciation of the doctrines acted on in 1688, proclaiming James a martyr, and William an usurper, and the people no better than rebellious regicides. The war, however, had its pretences. Its first was the French Republic, driven from this, its next was, peace and retribution. Indemnity for the past, and security for the future, were the Premier's war-whoop, and what has been our indemnity ?—the massacre of our population, the debasement of our character, the accumulation of our debt beyond all spendthrift precedent, famine in our streets, and fever in our houses ; the establishment in Europe of a military despotism, which leaves the very name of Freedom a moekery; the payment of war taxes in time of peace, scarcely leaving it doubtful whether the burdens were imposed to support the war, or the war commenced to justify the taxes; and finally, the suspension of our Constitution, if we offer to remonstrate. This has been our dear-bought indemnity. And what is our security ? A Holy Alliance, forsooth! a league of kings, unhallowed and mysterious, bound by a compact, which must not be known, and fenced by bayonets, which cannot be resisted; this is our security ;-the breath of Princes, the caprice of an hydra, now fatigued over the recent banquet, and only waiting for its hungry hour again to glisten in ungorged rapacity. Alas! what tenure have we even of such an alliance? Is there a member of that punic horde, who has not been in turn the foe of his ally, and the ally of bis foe, and do you expect they will preserve that faith towards us, which they have not been able to preserve towards one another?
* The Reform Bill has in some measure reduced the number of nominees but there is still too much of the leaven of aristocracy mingled with the representation of the country, and we have good grounds to believe that it is rather on the increase than otherwise. Nothing but the ballot can destroy the bydra of aristocratical influence in the elections of this county.
Is there a man of them who did not bow to Napoleon, and confess his title, and court his confederation, and then denounce him as an illegitimate usurper? And was there amongst them afterwards a consistent renegade to deny the hand of fraternity to Bernadotte, raised from the very ranks of that Napoleon ? Perhaps this mutability of political principle may be counteracted by a personal attachment? Let Prussia answer it, when she looks at Alexander, and remembers the perfidious abandonment of Tilsit. Let Sweden answer it, when she thinks on Finland. Let Poland and Saxony acknowledge it to Prussia. Let Genoa speak. Let extinguished Venice proclaim it for Austria. Let Austria herself avouch it for France, and then turn to her immolated daughter, immolated with a worse than Jewish cruelty, not to the god of battles, but to the infernal moloch of self interest. I speak not now of that devoted France berding over her violated charter and with tears of blood, expiating the credulity that put its faith in princes. But I speak of England, of the parliament of England, coosenting to the plunder, smiling on the partition, squandering the resources of a generous and gallant people, fleets and armies and generations, and for what? To forward the fraud of the continental intriguer, to establish every species of despotism, for the restoration of those sanguinary frauds upon human freedom, against which our sages wrote, and our warriors fought and our revolution thundered ? Shades of Locke and of Milton, were these your doctrines? Blood of the Russells and Hampdens, has this been your legacy? People of England, is it for this that your orphans and your widows mourn in silent resignation, that your industry surrenders its hardly earned pittance, that your poorhouses are choked with a famishing population ? Let those
men answer it, who in the name of Parliament, ratified the treaties, voted the supplies, advanced the subsidies, and cheered the ministry, just reeking from that hopeful congress, where legitimacy, drunk with human blood, flung its sword into the scale against which the liberties of a world were balanced.
I have just touched upon their conduct as to our foreign relations. Has it been compensated by their domestic policy? As far as in them lay, they have virtually annihilated the British constitution, and paved the way for a military despotism. They levelled one by one every barrier, which the wisdom of ages raised around the liberties of the people. They suspended the Habeas Corpus Act. Fathers of families were dragged from their houses, loaded with irons, subjected to disease, stamped with ignominy, their helpless children turned adrift to beggary and prostitution, and then, as they had been imprisoned without a crime, so were they released without even the decency of accusation, They then passed the infamous gagging Act; public meetings were forbidden ; the power of discussion was withheld; the right of petition was, in fact, annihilated. It was a natural consequence of the former measure, when innocense is no exception from punishment; the privilege of complaint is but a mockery. They then countenanced Lord Sidmouth's circular. A magistracy, perhaps ignorant, perhaps corrupt, perhaps both, we at least can fancy such a magistracy, were invested with an arbitrary construction of the Act of Libel, upon which our most learned lawyers have differed in opinion. They then sanctioned the oppressive Alien Act, which flung back into the jaws of death the patriotic victims of despotic power, and wrested from England her imprescriptible privilege of giving refuge to virtuous destitution. They then scouted the repeal of the Septennial Act, an Act which they were never delegated the power to pass, and upon the principle of which they might as well make the representation a heir loom in their families. I will not further recapitulate this conduct, but I will remind you, that the situation of the captive, under these measures, was solitary imprisonment. Against all law or precedent, even magistrates were