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bishop of Dublin, King, (then Bishop of Derry,) preserved in the Library of our University, I found, by the kind assistance of my friend Dr. Dixon, a letter from the Archbishop, dated 14th Nov., 1699, to Sir K. Southwell, who was Secretary of State for Ireland at the time. The letter is curious, and I select one passage relevant to this matter. It is highly probable that there was a copious correspondence upon the same subject amongst the statesmen of the time.
“ The Bishop of Derry to Sir Robert Southwell.
“ L. Derry, Nov. 14, 1699. “ Rt. HONBLE,—
“ As to the business of an union, I have thou't much on it, and believe it is the interest of England much more than of Ireland. Our business is to keep immediately and solely under the King for many good reasons, particularly those given by Malvezzion, Jactus, and by Sir Walter Raleigh, b. V., ch. 2, sec. 2. And God forbid it should ever be otherwise. But if it must be, that Ireland must be subject to a Parliament in England, certainly we ought to have some that may speak for us and represent our case, when there is occasion. This ought to be done by mutual consent, and not by force; and in order to it, the first thing to be agreed on ought to be, what immunities Ireland should enjoy. And these ou’t to be fundamental. And the next, what proportion of tax it shou'd bear. I suppose that merchandize ought to bear the same in both ; and as to land taxes, a certain rate ou't to be fixed, and not be altered, otherwise one Act may ruin all the estates of Ireland. If these be setled as irmutable, the number of representatives need not make any great dispute ; for it is not so much for their votes that they must sit there, as for their being necessary to giving an account of affairs relating to Ireland, on which head they always expect to be favourably heard, as every member is when he speaks about his shire or burrow. His Majesty and Ireland must both be losers by such an union ; but considering how our laws and priviledges are crampt, and how unable we are to obtain or pass our laws that are really for our good, I believe many in Ireland would readily hearken to such a proposal.
66 W, D. “To Sir Robert Southwell, London.”
We must ever feel grateful to William, precisely on the ground taken by Plunket, “ that he conquered Ireland into freedom and happiness.” We must also acknowledge that several useful English statutes were, during his reign, adopted by the Irish Parliament, and one or two useful original measures carried, peculiar to this country.
But it would not be true to assert, that the legislation of King William's government was favourable to the commercial or manufacturing interests of Ireland. On the contrary, it was highly prejudicial to those interests. Nor is it a sufficient excuse for intolerant and mischievous legislation, that the science of political economy was not understood in those days—that a Whately had not arisen. The laws I refer to were plainly passed to depress the manufacturing interests of Ireland, in the hope of promoting those of England. Nor did the ministers of William evince the least desire to enlarge the powers of our Parliament, or render it influential. On the contrary, they summoned our Parliament as seldom as possible, took the subsidy, repressed its feeble attempts to assert privilege, and dismissed it when no longer required. The idea seems to have been to provincialize Ireland thoroughly, and the opportunity was favourable.
Men's thoughts were occupied with their late deliverance. Indifferent poets composed songs in praise of William, when
they should rather have asserted their country's rights, and checked legislation—arbitrary and mischievous. The House of Commons had not sufficient spirit to oppose the will of a Lord Deputy, and the depressed nation had to look elsewhere for their deliverance.
To comprehend the real condition of Ireland from the Revolution to the middle of the last century—of her Church and her Government—her independent Parliament, and its influence on her fortunes-we must look into the writings and the conduct of others than her Parliament men. The legislation consequent upon the Revolution, whether from ignorance of political economy or from prejudice, was highly unfavourable to the commercial and manufacturing interests of Ireland. Torn by civil dissensions, and ravaged by war, Ireland lay prostrate at the feet of England. A light dawned on the land when Jonathan Swift was obliged to accept the Deanery of St. Patrick's. Had three men like Swift appeared in succession amongst us, the whole system of local misgovernment must have ceased. England and Ireland, with mutual respect, would have been linked together by the strong bonds of interest and affection. Swift wrote politics; but where had he learned the rare and difficult art ? Why was he so successful—why so powerful—why so popular in Irelandfor he was without money, or lands, or rich preferment? Swift, by his original genius and admirable tact—by his clear style of composition by his unequalled sarcasm—and by his irony irresistible--covered the enemies of Ireland with confusion and dismay. He was neither to be frightened nor corrupted. He had been secretary to Sir W. Temple, an accomplished scholar and distinguished statesman. He had conversed with all the wits of his age—sat in the same club with Pope, Gay, Arbuthnot. Tickell and Addison had been his friends. The brilliant Bolingbroke loved him—the
sagacious Walpole admired and feared him-Lord Oxford felt towards him all the fervour of affection.
Swift had sat in closest conference with men who ruled the kingdom—had dined with William III.—discovered how the Dutchman eat asparagus—tried to convince his Majesty that a bill for triennial Parliaments should be carried; and I rejoice, for the memory of William, failed, but failed gloriously; for William offered to make him a captain of dragoons on the spot. Had he accepted, he would not have been Dean of St. Patrick's, but'might have been a second Cromwell. Acquainted thoroughly with politics, skilled in composition, respected by all the distinguished men of his time, Swift found himself, against his inclination, doomed to be Dean of St. Patrick's, while many a quiet blockhead was elevated to the episcopal bench.
When Swift arrived in Dublin he perceived the public spirit of the nation quenched, the Parliament impotent, the people prostrate and wretched, and Ireland ruled by a clique called a Privy Council, which overruled alike the proposals of the Parliament, and the wishes of the people. What says Sir W. Scott, a high monarchy man, of the political condition of Ireland at that gloomy time?
“Within the last thirty years, repeated and oppressive steps had been taken to reduce this ancient kingdom, though still retaining the outward insignia of national legislation and sovereignty, into the condition of a conquered province, bound by the Acts of the British Parliament, where she had neither friend, patron, nor representative. The aphorism that Ireland was, and ought to be, dependent on Britain in this servile sense, had not only been loudly pronounced with a denunciation of vengeance against those who should dare to deny it, but it had been already acted upon. Ireland was subject to a commercial slavery, which left neither her credit, her commodities, nor her havens, at her own disposal; and how long the civil and domestic freedom of her people might be spared, was a question which seemed to depend on the moderation of those who usurped the right of being her legislators. Such was the condition of the kingdom when Wood's Scheme was brought forward-a measure, therefore, of far less importance in its real merit, than as it necessarily involved the grand question of the servitude or independence of Ireland.”
I agree in every word written by Scott. I thank him for his honesty. Of course, in the Dublin clique there was no match to be found for Swift in the great art of political writing; he speedily found and seized his opportunity of addressing and awakening the sense and spirit of his slumbering countrymen. A patent had been granted to one Wood, a brazier in England, to coin copper money to be introduced into Ireland. This was managed without any reference to the Parliament or authorities in Ireland, or without any regard to the interests of the people. Swift published a . series of letters, under the signature of the “Drapier," in which he attacked, with merciless ability, the patent of Wood, and exhorted every man, woman, and child in the kingdom to refuse Wood's halfpence. They did as the caustic Dean desired. A flame of agitation was raised throughout the city and kingdom, which the publication of each successive letter increased and diffused. In vain the ministers declared that the copper coin was good; in vain they prosecuted the printer and threatened Swift; the national spirit was roused, and it was irresistible.
The clique to whom the government of Ireland was intrusted, headed by Primate Boulter, were furious, but impotent.
The fourth letter, with amazing tact, changed the contro