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Under the operation of Poynings' law, the Bills to be introduced into the Irish House of Commons must have been first certified by the Privy Council in Ireland to the Council in England. A great question was raised—Did this include Money Bills? The House of Commons, at various periods, contended that Money Bills, at least, should originate in their House, although all other Bills must have been certified and ticketed beforehand by their superiors in the Privy Councils.
Here we have an infallible test whereby to ascertain the real nature of our Irish Parliamentary Constitution.
We might suppose that, whatever bad practices prevailed before the Revolution, after that glorious event the fundamental principle of Money Bills originating in the Commons would have been extended to Ireland. This could easily have been managed by not parading them before the country under the fiat of the Privy Council, but allowing such bills to be brought in quietly while the House of Commons was sitting, under the statute of Philip and Mary, expounding Poynings' law, and rendering it applicable to such case.
A spurt of public spirit was made in the Irish House of Commons immediately after the Revolution, October, 1692, (the first Parliament called). It appears that two Money Bills were originated by the Privy Council, and certified to Parliament. The Irish House of Commons passed one, on account of pressing emergencies, but followed it with a resolution that their proceedings should not be drawn into precedent. They rejected the second Money Bill, because it had not taken its rise in that House, and passed a resolution, " That it was, and is, the undoubted right of the Commons of Ireland, in Parliament assembled, to prepare and resolve the ways and means of raising money.” The brave Parliament, immediately after this escapade, was prorogued, and soon after dissolved. The Lord Lieutenant (Lord Sydney),
before he dismissed them, rated the Commons soundly for their presumptuous behaviour in drawing up such unanswerable reasons for rejecting a Money Bill; and in order to punish these sticklers for constitutional privilege, and to warn all others in like case offending, bade them begone about their business, and not presume to look his Excellency in the face again.
In vain were the logic and patriotism of Molyneux, when opposed to superior power in England; but his weighty reasonings, and the stirring appeals of Swift, produced ultimately great results in Ireland. All that had been previously written on constitutional subjects operated by degrees on the public mind. Ireland was changed from its unsettled, weak, and depopulated condition at the time of the Revolution, and no sensible man would advise a like policy to be pursued on this delicate subject of originating Money Bills as formerly. Accordingly, when a Parliament was about being summoned, in 1760, these considerations seriously affected the minds of the Lords Justices, and induced them to draw up for the absent Lord Lieutenant a State Paper, worthy of the best days of English statesmanship, setting before the Duke of Bedford, in logical form and in solemn words, their reasons for declining to certify a Money Bill from the Privy Council, and for leaving to the Irish House of Commons the exercise of the privilege of originating Money Bills themselves. A motto was prefixed to this remarkable publication, being words spoken by Wentworth before he was created Lord Strafford :- “ This hath not been done by the King, but by the projectors, who have extended his prerogative beyond its just bounds. They have introduced a Privy Council, ravishing at once the spheres of all antient government.”
The remonstrance produced no effect; which I have observed to occur frequently when an unanswerable case is brought before reluctant minds. The Money Bill was certified by the Privy Council; the Lords Justices manfully resigned; and we have, reported by himself, the speech spoken in defence of the Government by the Secretary to the Duke of Bedford, called “Single-speech Hamilton,” in 1761. This speech is very able and very instructive. He puts his argument thus :-"As to the analogy between this and the British House of Commons, every argument must be inconclusive which means to assimilate things which are in their very form and origin—in their very first concoction—not only different, but opposite. The two constitutions were once indeed upon the
The plan of Poynings' Act was to remove the Irish Constitution from the ground on which it stood—to change the model of it, and to make it not only different, but in some respects the very reverse of the English House of Commons.” He then relies on the opinions given by the Judges to William III., the positive words of the Statute, and the practice of three hundred years.
He states the result of the division; 37 patriots voted for a fundamental privilege, dispossessed of which a House of Commons is powerless; 147 steady hacks voted for the Money Bill which did not originate in the House of Commons, and they could only have voted upon the safe ground taken by Hamilton, that the constitution of the Irish House of Commons was in some important respects the very reverse of the English House of Commons."
Thanks to "Single-speech Hamilton” for his clear and candid exposition of the matter. This gentleman had Edmund Burke for his Secretary, by whom he was afterwards cordially hated. He held a seat in the English and Irish Parliaments; and I believe he seldom, if at all, spoke in the English Senate, whence it was reported, I think erroneously, that his single speech was written by Burke.
The 6th George I. furnishes a decisive proof that, whether the Tudor, or the Stuart, or the Guelph, reigned, it was equally the policy of England not to permit the existence of an independent Parliament in Ireland. We cannot be blind to this great fact. It was long perceived ; and at various periods the idea of a legislative Union was discussed as the remedy for the evils-political, if not social-under which Ireland groaned.
Some persons thought England would not consent to such a measure; others, that the terms which might be imposed would be too severe upon Ireland The precedent of the Union with Scotland was mnch referred to and discussed. Hardy, in his Biography of Lord Charlemont, recounts a remarkable conversation between the celebrated Montesquieu and Lord Charlemont, then on his travels in France. The passage is significant -66 Were I an Irishman," said the great author, "I should certainly wish for a union with England, and as a general lover of liberty I sincerely desire it; and for this plain reason—that an inferior country connected with one much her superior in force, can never be certain of the permanent enjoyment of constitutional freedom, unless she has, by her representatives, a proportional share in the legislature of the superior kingdom.” This was uttered in June, 1754, and came from one of the profoundest political philosophers the world ever produced. In 1756 a rumour prevailed, was generally credited, and created much discontent, that a legislative Union of both kingdoms was in contemplation.
In a book called “Baratariana,” being a political satire consisting of a series of letters resembling those published by Junius, a despatch is feigned as having been addressed by the then Lord Lieutenant, Townshend, to the then Prime Minister of England, in which is the following passage, anticipatory of an Union, and showing how the Viceroy laboured to produce it :
“ The characteristics of this country are gaiety, dissipation, and expense. I have done my utmost to encourage them, to render the gentry more necessitous, and, of course, the more dependent; by these means, my Lord, you must candidly confess I have done a great deal. I have disunited families hitherto thought impregnable to seduction. I have provided for the most worthless, to show that the single criterion of merit is an implicit obedience to Government. Have I not, my Lord, contracted such a debt, in enlarging the military establishment, increasing the salaries of office, and creating new ones, that the payment, even of the interest, will necessarily reduce the nation to a state of absolute poverty and dependence? And is it not thereby fitted for Union upon our
own terms, or a land-tax at worst, either of which fully answers the purposes
The labours of the House of Lords in this august assembly, at this period, are described thus by one who was not a lover of irony. The record runs—
-“Prayers—Ordered that the Judges be covered—Adjourned.”
What was the inner life of the House of Commons a century ago, prior to the outburst in 1782, and before debates were printed? We have a witness to give evidence upon the subject, and cannot refuse him our belief. In the winter of 1763, a military officer (his name was Caldwell) was quartered in Dublin ; he had abilities, a strong memory, and an invincible curiosity. He attended the House of Commons daily, and listened to the debates of our forefathers with the deepest interest: he was enchanted. " After I left the House" (be declares) “the voice of the speaker was still in my ears, and the sentiments I had heard excluded all others from my mind. I was impelled, as it were, by an irresistible impulse to commit to paper what was then forcibly retained by my