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my question by saying, that it is not unlikely that, misled by the gravity of Saurin's argument-enchanted by the eloquence of Bushe-convinced by Plunket-inflamed by Grattan, and impressed by a reverential feeling for the edifice in which I stood, and a lingering desire to preserve the ancient Parliament of Ireland—that, mistaken or misguided, I would have been found in the same lobby with the honourable member for Enniskillen.
After sixty-three years' experience we can now review, patiently and calmly, the whole question; and I think that no man, who will investigate that question impartially or fairly, can come to any other conclusion than this, that it was impossible to avoid one or other of two alternativesseparation or incorporation. I think that a great mistake was committed by those who represented us in the Irish Parliament, in directing all their energies to stop the progress of a measure that was inevitable, and in not getting better terms for the country they represented. We have proof of this opinion from the lips of a king. Mr. Curran has reported a conversation that Bushe, when Solicitor-General, had with his Majesty King George IV., at Slane Castle, on the occasion of his visit to this country. During the conversation at dinner, the King was very condescending, and said, “I think you all committed a great mistake. Instead of direct opposi. tion, you should have made terms, as the Scotch did, and you would have got good terms.” . A very sensible observation from a king who was partial to the Irish; and very profitable for us to recollect, because it does not answer in great transactions of this kind to be always in a passion! A Parliament man may do the best he can to stop the progress of a measure brought forward unwisely or at the wrong period; but, at the same time, he ought to devote his talents, industry, and attention to get as much as he can for his country.
We read, with extraordinary interest, the words of the great orator, Grattan, in his concluding speech upon the Union in the Irish Parliament. Now an orator has a very wide range for his illustrations. All nature, art, history, and poetry may furnish him with analogies; but I venture to say that few persons could imagine where Grattan would find his illustration of the expiring Parliament of his country. There is not, in all Shakspeare's writings, a more exquisitely beautiful performance than that of Romeo and Juliet, nor did the surprising genius of the poet ever shine forth in brighter perfection, than when he wrote the imperishable poetry, in which he has enshrined that tale. You recollect, when Romeo descends into the tomb to search for the object of his love, he persists in believing that still she lives, and that, although prostrate in apparent death, she would be re-animated with the bloom of life. When Grattan uttered, in tones of touching eloquence, his last words against the Union, he said—“Yet, I do not give up my country. I see her in a swoon, but she is not dead. Although in her tomb she lies helpless and motionless, still there is on her lips a spirit of life, and on her cheek a glow of beauty
• Thou art not conquered; beauty's ensign still
And death's pale flag is not advanced there." I confess I am almost sorry that he did not conclude with that tender, expressive, and beautiful illustration; but, figurative and impassioned to the last, he finished, I must say, in the words of a patriot—“While a plank of the vessel sticks together, I will not leave her. Let the courtier present his flimsy
carry the light bark of his faith with every breeze; I will remain anchored here I will adhere with fidelity to the fortunes of my country, faithful to her freedom and faithful to her fall."
The lawyers, in the main, opposed the Union. The greatness of the Bar, as a profession, in this country, was in a measure that night extinguished. They felt it, and therefore Curran and Bushe, Saurin and Plunket, Ball and Burrowes, all spoke against the Union with indignant eloquence. The vindication of Grattan by his friend Burrowes is magnificent:
“I feel but little, any portion of the noble lord's* obloquy, which
may attach to me or my humble efforts; but I own I cannot repress my indignation at the audacious boldness of the calumny, which would asperse one of the most exalted characters which any nation ever produced, and that in a country which owes its liberties and its greatness to the energy of his exertions, and in the very House which has so often been the theatre of his glorious labours and splendid achievements. I remember that man being the theme of universal panegyric—the wonder and the boast of Ireland, for his genius and his virtue. His name silenced the sceptic upon the reality of genuine patriotism. To doubt the purity of his motives was a heresy which no tongue dared to utter envy was lost in admiration, and even they whose crimes he scourged, blended extorted praises with the murmurs of resentment. He covered our then unfledged constitution with the ample wings of his talents—as the eagle covers her young; like her he soared, and like her he could behold the rays, whether of royal favour or of royal anger, with undazzled, unintimidated eye. If, according to Demosthenes, to grow with the growth, and to decay with the decline of our .country, be the true criterion of a good citizen, how infinitely did this man, even in the moment of his lowest depression, surpass those upstart patriots, who only become visible when their country vanishes.
“Sir, there is something most singularly curious, and, according to my estimation of things, enviable, in the fate of
this great man; his character and his consequence are, as it were, vitally interwoven with the greatness of his country, the one cannot be high, and the other low—the one cannot stand, and the other perish. This was so well understood by those who have so long meditated to put down the constitution of Ireland, that, feeling that they could not seduce, they have incessantly laboured to calumniate her most vigilant sentinel and ablest champion—they appealed to every unguarded prejudice, to every assailable weakness of a generous but credulous people—they watched every favourable moment of irritation or of terror, to pour in the detested poison of calumny. Sir, it will be found, on a retrospect of Ireland since 1782, that her liberties never received a wound, that a corresponding stab was not levelled at his character; and when it was vainly hoped that his imperishable fame was laid in the dust, the times were deemed ripe for the extinction of our constitution. Sir, these impious labours cannot finally succeed, glory and liberty are not easily effacedGRATTAN and the constitution will survive the storm.”
It was absurd to talk of the Parliament not being competent to agree to a Union, because, after Scotland and England had agreed to a Union, and Scotland had prospered by that Union, it was absurd to argue that the same thing could not be done between England and Ireland. But the Irish Bar naturally remembered the fame and dignity which they enjoyed here, and which in a great degree would be eclipsed by the transfer of the Parliament to another country. But it has been said, by some cavillers, that these men were not qualified to excel in a higher sphere. ask what was the subsequent career of many of the members of the Irish Senate. What was the subsequent career of Lord Castlereagh, a statesman unjustly criticised ? He became afterwards Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and
disposed of kingdoms. He waged a gigantic war against Napoleon Bonaparte; he showed great courage, efficiency, and vigour of capacity; some of his state papers are as able and as comprehensive as any that were ever written by a statesman. What became of Plunket ? In his peculiar subjects he was excelled by none in the British Parliament. What became of Ponsonby? He led the Whigs in the English Parliament, having led them in the Irish. I need not ask what became of Wellesley, who filled the world with his fame. What became of his distinguished family ? All grew famous in the annals of English history; therefore the same individuals who were distinguished in their native country, were more distinguished when they were obliged to leave that country, and enter into competition with the foremost men of the age. Dublin suffered by that Union, and I am reminded that we were warned of what the fate of our city would be, in amusing verse, written by Ned Lysaght, while the Union was in progress. We had not only orators, but poets, and accordingly, the witty satirist admonished the citizens of Dublin, in rhyme, of what would be the consequence if the Union were carried. If I can remember the lines, I will recite them :
“How justly alarm'd is each Dublin cit,
That he'll soon be transform’d to a clown, Sir!
The country is coming to town, Sir!
“ Thro' Capel-street soon as you'll rurally range,
You'll scarce recognise it the same street;
Give Pitt, &c.