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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENT.
What are the charters ? ---what are the statutes ?--what are the laws we have been considering? Lifeless things? They'record, it is true, the wisdom of the senator—the triumphs of the patriot—but it was by 'public spirit they were won, and it is by public spirit they can be preserved.
Parliaments may live or die. Without virtue, no honied 'words-no cunning phrases-no eloquent tongue-no artful schemes, could save them from their fall. Public spirit is the breath of their life; withdraw it, and they perish.
When corruption grew, when public spirit fled, Cicero could not save the Senate,
“Quid leges sine moribus
Therefore, young men, be admonished by the Church; by your conscience; by Holy Writ—to spurn the vices, the corruptions, the temptations, which may beset you—to cultivate the virtues which strengthen the character of the individual, and to cherish the public spirit which alone can elevate your country.
THE LIFE AND DEATH
THE IRISH PARLIAMENT.
ACCESSION of House of Hanover-The Dispute touching Money Bills not originating in the Irish House-Declaratory Act of George I No independent power in the Irish Parliament - Single-speech Hamilton-Montesquieu's View of an Union —“Baratariana” — Inner Life of House of Commons in 1762, as described by a Mili. tary Reporter-Heads of Bills, not Bills, discussed-Examples of Debates a century ago—The Family of “ Job.” The curtain rises—a new scene of the great political drama opens—and we behold the House of Hanover seated on the throne of these realms. The triumphs of Elizabeth, the glories of Queen Anne, will be eclipsed, we may well believe, by the superior lustre of Victoria's reign. Thus are we taught the profound truth, that women were born to rule, and men to obey. We have passed in the review of our parliamentary progress through many awful trials, and have reached a platform of order and peace. Let us survey our political position ere we advance further. We got a Parliament fettered by laws, which made it impossible for it to use independent action, whilst it might have managed local matters safely and wisely. It was a Parliament oddly constructed, for it was composed of members who might sit all their lives without considering or facing their constituents, neither the Triennial nor the Septennial Bill touching Ireland. The lucky member, once chosen, had a life estate in his seat, subject only to a dissolution on the demise of the Crown. The members might be affected by conscience, but were wholly uninfluenced by popular control. Sometimes a Parliament was not called in Ireland for twenty years. Of course, there was no publication of debates—there was no Place Bill, no budgets, and no ministerial responsibility to the Irish Parliament. It was strongly insisted that a Money Bill need not take its rise in the Irish House of Commons; and it was even asked, and only refused by a single vote—and that through a prodigious effort on the part of Colonel Tottenham (commonly called Tottenham in his Boots)—that the supplies should be granted, not biennially, but for twenty-one years at a time, so as to save trouble to all parties. When we add to these startling anomalies the fact, that one Parliament would last sometimes for a whole reign-it might be for thirty years, without dissolution or change, save by the death of an individual member-we are constrained to confess, that if the Parliament of Ireland was an image of the Parliament of England, the image was but faint and indistinct. An amusing, yet conclusive, example of the imbecility of our Senate, is furnished by the result of the memorable dispute between the Irish House of Commons and Primate Stone, another intriguing English Prelate, then a Minister, and representing the Irish Executive, as to the disposal of an unexpected surplus of £200,000 in the Irish Treasury, after all charges on the public funds had been paid. The Irish House of Commons insisted they had the right to appropriate the money they had granted. The local Executive replied that such doctrine had never before been heard of in Ireland. The dispute waxed hot; meanwhile, the money was drawn out by a King's letter, and disposed of according to the pleasure of the Crown, leaving the disputants to quarrel about the shell when the oyster was gone. This fact throws ridicule upon the Parliamentary constitution of Ireland, inasmuch as the arbitrary conduct of the Crown was neither resisted nor resented.
We have arrived at an epoch in our constitutional history; and it becomes necessary to state briefly the circumstances under which the Act of Parliament next to be referred to was passed. In 1698, a petition was presented to the English House of Lords, by the Governor and Company of the new Plantation in Ulster, against a judgment given by the Lords in Ireland, on the appeal of the Bishop of Derry against the said Society. Whereupon a Committee was appointed to examine precedents, and on their report, it was adjudged and decreed, by the House of Lords in England, that the cause heard before the Irish House of Lords was coram non judice, and all proceedings thereupon NULL AND VOID.
Reasons against the foregoing order were drawn up by the celebrated Molyneux, member for our University. They were unanswerable, on his assumption that the Parliamentary constitution of England was introduced into Ireland. He relied on the modus tenendi Parliamentum in terminis—the same with that of England—and on all the charters and statutes already noticed. The Irish Lords protested manfully against the extinction of their greatest privilege, and checked the aggression, which in 1717 was renewed. The Irish House of Lords then drew up, with great ability, a representation to the King, well fortified by precedents and arguments, asserting, “ That if the power of the judicature may, by a vote of the British House of Lords, be taken away from the Parliament of Ireland, no reason can be given why the same may not, in like manner, deprive us of the benefits of our whole constitution.” A reasonable proposition.
The answer to all these appeals, remonstrances, and representations, is to be found in “The Declaratory Act of George I.,” which was passed in consequence of these appeals. The statute expressly enacts and declares :
“ That the kingdom of Ireland hath been, is, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto and dependent upon the imperial crown of Great Britain, as being inseparably united and annexed thereunto; and that the King, with the consent of the Lords and Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, hath power to make laws of sufficient force to bind the kingdom and people of Ireland.
“And that the House of Lords of Ireland have not, nor ought of right to have, any jurisdiction to judge of, affirm, or reverse any judgment or decree made in any court within the said kingdom ; and that all proceedings before the said House of Lords, upon any such judgment or decree, are void.'”
This statute was a complete assertion of authority over the Legislature and kingdom of Ireland, and a practical denial of its parliamentary independence.
If the Lords were stripped of their supreme appellate jurisdiction, what were the powers of the Irish House of Commons on the all-important point of originating Money Bills? The jealousy of the House of Commons in England at all periods, in asserting the right to originate all grants of money and Money Bills, and to pass them unaltered by the Lords or Crown, is proverbial; it has been carried to a ridiculous extreme. The upshot of the business is, that the pursestrings of the nation are pulled and opened by the House of Commons. Some say, unfeelingly, that the purse is the emblem of love: all admit it to be the emblem of power!