Page images

tion; his questions went only to general measures. On the subjects of them, the gentleman upon whom he called, had frequently gone so far as to produce bills, and in a quarter of an hour preparation might he made to bring them forward. It would be consolitory to the people to know, before the supplies were granted, that a redress of grievances was to follow. These gentlemen he had heard say of the convention bill, "that it "struck at the root of every free constitution in the world." If that were true, and that it were such an enormity, it ought not to be continued an infection in ours. He concluded with repeating his respect for, and confidence in administration. Mr. prattan, after a considerable debate had taken place, during which he had ample time for reflecting within himself, and consulting his colleagues, answered those specific questions in these words. "To mention every particular bill is unusual—it "would be presumptious. Influence, however it may be pos"sessed, ought never to be avowed by a minister in the face of "parliament, What has fallen from the honorable baronet, "however, induces me to say, an,d I am authorised to mention "for the gentlemen with whom I have the honour to act, that "the same principles which we professed while in opposition, "continue to govern our conduct now, arid that we shall endea. "vour to the utmost of our power to give them effect." In a subsequent part of the debate, Mr. W. B. Ponsonby (who had introduced the reform bill the year before) said, "he held it "right to notice some expressions that had been thrown out in "the course of the night, in order to sound whether the gentle"men who possessed the confidence of administration, were de"termined to persevere in the same line of conduct which they "observed while out of office, and to endeavour for a redress of "grievances. For his own part he believed and trusted they »' would go as far as possible to reform abuses, to obviat? popular «' complaints, and he should only say, that if not convinced «' that they were of the same sentiments with himself, they should w never have his support."

[ocr errors][merged small]

These replies to specific questions, answering, by something more than implication, in the affirmative, had perhaps no influence on the conduct of a parliament, the members of which knew each other so intimately and thoroughly; but they contributed very much to give confidence in the Fitzwilliam administration out of that assembly, and to induce a patient acquiescence in the unprecedented grant of one million six hundred and twenty-eight thousand pounds, additional debt, and eighty thousand pounds, as estimated by the chancellor of the exchequer; but two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, as estimated by Sir Lawrence Parsons, of additional taxes.

When the Duke of Portland's letter of the 8th was not yet perhaps known to Mr. Grattan, he proceeded to carry into effect the conciliatory measures, for which he conceived that he and "his friends had stipulated with the British cabinet. Accordingly on the 12th of February, he obtained leave to bring in a bill for repealing the police laws, which were extremely obnoxious to the citizens of Dublin, and against which every parish in that city had recently petitioned. He then likewise obtained leave to bring in the catholic bill, which was only resisted by Colonel Blacquiere, Mr. Ogle, and Dr- Duigenan.—i On the same night, in pursuance of the same plan, it was announced by the chancellor of the exchequer, that a new arrangement would be made of the duties on beer and spirits, the object of which was, restraint in the abuse of spirituous liquors among the lower orders, and the substitute of a wholesome and nourishing beverage for a liquid poison. He also stated, that a now arrangement of the hearth tax would form part of the financial system. The session before, an attempt had been made to ease poor housekeepers of this burthensome tax; but such perplexing formalities had been established, that many people had continued to pay the tax, rather than take the necessary trouble for procuring the remission: this year, it was determined to exempt, absolutely and unconditionally, all houses having but one

hearth. hearth. The tax, however, upon leather was continued from the preceding session, although it was strongly resisted, as oppressive to the poor, by Mr. Duquery, who suggested in lieu of it, two shillings in the pound on all pensions, salaqes, fees, perquisites, &c. This conduct was pointedly reprobated both by Mr. peorge Ponsonby and Mr. Grattan; by the latter, with an irritation such as he has more than once manifested, during his short connections with the government. Mr. Duquery, however, continued his opposition, and on a subsequent night, proposed as a commutation, a tax on absentees, which was supported by Sir Lawrence Parsons, but rejected by th,e house.

On the 23d. of February, the new administration brought forward their proposed regulations of the treasury board. Lord Milton obtained leave'to introduce a bill on that subject, founded on some resolutions proposed by Mr. Forbes, the scope of which was, to give to the Irish board an equally efficient controul with that possessed by the board of treasury in England; to compel the payment of balances hy public officers; to exclude the commissioners of the treasury from sitting in parliament; to establish in correspondent officersHhe mutual checks and controul with which the auditor, clerk of the rolls, and teller of the exchequer in England are vested; and that all money arising from the receipt of the revenues should be paid into the bank of Ireland. On the following day, Mr. Grattan suggested the propriety of revising the revenue laws, and bringing the whole code within the compass of ope consistent act.

But now the differences which had arisen between the English and Irish governments were made public. What was the motive for the change in the British councils, has given rise to various surmises. The ostensible reason was a difference of opinion respecting catholic affairs. Lord Fitzwilliam, however, has uniformly denied that they were the real motives for hj«

recall. recall. Mr. George Ponsonby too, in the house of commons, 'declared upon his honour as a gentleman, that in his opinion, the catholic question had no more to do with the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, than Lord Macartney's embassy to China. "Lord "Fitzwilliam was to be recalled," said he, " and this was con"sidered as the most popular pretext for the measure." Those who do not suspect from Mr. Pitt's cautious reserve, while the arrangements were under discussion, a preconcerted design to be executed as soon as the supplies Vere voted, and his lordship with his friends disgraced by having entered into the coalition— attribute the change to the successful representations of Mr. Beresford.

That gentleman, perceiving" the blow that was aimed against himself and his connexions, did not foolishly waste his time in ■ the anti-chamber of the castle, or on the opposition benches of. the house of commons. He repaired to London, and there, it is presumed, set before the highest authority, the ingratitude of . ministry, and the services of himself and family. They had been faithful servants for many years, during which time they could never be reproached with a murmur of disapprobation, or an expression of unwillingness, in undertaking any thing for the advantage of- England. They had adhered to their sovereign in the trying crisis of the regency, and had not turned, like some of his newly adopted friends, to worship the rising sun. The situation of Ireland too, and the temper of the times, Mr. Beresford perhaps alledged, were such as should make every kind of reform, and of course, his dismissal be resisted. The debate of the 9th of February, may likewise have afforded' ample room for awakening fears and exciting indignation: Mr. Grattan and Mr. Ponsonby appeared to have pledged themselves, at least by implication, to a reform in parliament, which it was the firm intention of the English ministers to, withstand, and to a repeal of the convention bill, which had enabled government to stifle all expressions of discontent in Ireland. The ca, tholie

tholic bill may, under this poiht of view, have had its influence: it may have been represented as creating disaffection in the protestant mind, as inconsistent with the connexion and contrary to the coronation oath. It is not improbable too, that in this interview, some suggestions may have proceeded from that gentleman, which gave rise to the discovery mentioned in Lord Fitzi William's letter, that deferring that measure would be the means of doing a greater service to the British empire, than it had been capable of receiving since the union with Scotland. Whether these surmises are just, it is scarcely possible to ascertain; but perhaps the disagreement between the two governments, ought to be ascribed to a coincidence of Mr. Beresford's exertions, with the deliberate resolutions of some of the British cabinet and the weakness of others. A favourable pretext for carrying the tonsequences of that coincidence into effect, was afforded by the equivocal conduct of Lord Fitzwilliam and his friends; for while the former appeared, in his correspondence, to wish it had been practicable to keep back the catholic claims, and thus abandoned whatever there was of positive stipulation, on his part, for their being settled the very first session, his friends were giving explicit assurances and effectual assistance to the catholics in bringing them forward.

When the disagreement and its probable consequences were known, grief and consternation seized all who had flattered themselves, that the measures of his excellency's administration were to redress the grievances, remove the discontents, and work the salvation of Ireland. The event was also a subject of regret to those who, though they knew and did not disapprove of the irresistible progress with which men's minds were advancing to ulterior objects, yet wished to pass the intermediate period of expectation under an ameliorated system. The active republicans and new United Irishmen, however, were not sorry that the fallacy of ill-founded political hopes had been so speedily exposed, and they rejoiced that the agitation and controversies which


« PreviousContinue »