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The power of binding Ireland by acts of a foreign legislature, is what nothing but a spirit of arrogance or oppression would insist upon, nothing but the most abject servility submit to; for we cannot suppose, that the appearance of a claim which irritates the whole body of the people, would be retained, unless there was an intention of enforcing this claim hereafter; we are therefore convinced, that an express declaration of rights, is the only measure upon which this country can build its legislative independence, and that a reluctance to assert the constitution of the land, may furnish Great Britain with a pretence for denying the justice of our requisition.
We do not think the present situation of Great Britain to be any objection against such a declaration, as we can never suppose that she could derive strength from our weakness, or any security to her liberties from the oppression of ours; and that time is undoubtedly to be preferred for the assertion of our rights, when the object is likely to be obtained with the least struggle.
The insecure attachment of Ireland to the crown of England at a former period, furnished a pretext for divesting the houses of parliament of their right to originate bills, unless previously certified into England under the great seal of this kingdom; now, as the loyalty of this country for several centuries past, so often tried, and so often acknowledged, has removed every cause of distrust, we conceive that this injurious and humiliating restriction should also cease.
vOL. iv. x
The dependance of the judges of Ireland on the will of the sovereign, may, in the hands of an aspiring monarch, prove a powerful instrument of oppression; now, holding ourselves entitled to every constitutional security which our sister kingdom possesses, we consider it necessary that the judges of this kingdom should be made equally independent with those of Great Britain.
But since every advantage which could result from these reformations must be precarious, as long as a perpetual mutiny bill exists, by which, force may be made to supercede right, and the soldiery of Ireland are subjected to trial and punishment by any future articles of war, which the king and privy council of Great Britain may think proper to adopt; we are persuaded, that every concession must be imperfect, unless accompanied by the repeal of so dangerous a law.
We therefore expect you will exert your most strenuous efforts, to obtain a declaration of the rights of Ireland; a repeal or satisfactory explanation of the law of Po) nings'; an act for making the tenure of the judges independent of the crown; and a repeal of the perpetual mutiny bill.
We declare, that these are our fixed and unalterable sentiments, and we are convinced that nothing short of the requisitions herein contained, can be, in any degree, satisfactory to the people of Ireland.
It is our wish to render the connexion between this country and Great Britain as close and permanent as possible, and we are persuaded that this is only to be accomplished by abolishing all usurped authority of the one over the other, and removing every invidious distinction between the constitutions of two countries, equally entitled to be free.
To this address the following answers were returned:
To the electors of the University. Gentlemen, when I reflect on my past parliamentary conduct, it affords me the highest satisfaction, to find that it entirely corresponds with the tenor of your instructions. Whenever the objects that you recommend have come into discussion, I have given them my uniform and decided support. My conduct has been founded upon principles, which no motives of interest or ambition have been able to shake, and in which I shall persevere unto the last hour of my life. I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, gentlemen, your most faithful humble servant, Walter Burgh.*
To the Electors of Trinity College. Gentlemen, I am just now honoured with your instructions, which have been forwarded to me by post. Be assured, that I shall always feel the utmost satisfaction in receiving the instructions of that very great and respectable body which I have the honour to represent, and that you shall ever find me ready, to the best of my ability, to vindicate your rights.
I have always been of opinion, that the claim of the British parliament to make laws for this * Afterwards lord chief baron of the court of exchequer
country, is a daring usurpation on the rights of a free people, and have uniformly asserted this opinion both in public and private. When a declaration of the legislative right was moved in the house of commons, I did oppose it, upon a decided conviction that it was a measure of a dangerous tendency, and withal inadequate to the purpose for which it was intended. However, I do, without hesitation, yield my own opinion upon this subject to yours, and will, whenever such a declaration shall be moved, give it my support.
With respect to an explanation of the law of Poyning, I confess, the more I consider the subject, the more difficult it appears to me. Allow me to remind you, that the University did, upon a very recent occasion, experience that this law, in its present form, may operate beneficially. A total repeal of it, will I hope, on consideration, appear to you to be not, by any means, a desirable object. You may rest assured, that the best attention which I can give to the subject shall be exerted; and I trust and doubt not, that upon a communication with you upon this topic, I shall be able to give you full satisfaction.
I agree with you most warmly, that any advantage which we may derive from reformation must be precarious, so long as the articles of war shall continue to be a permanent and established branch of municipal law, which they certainly are under the present act for regulating the king's army in Ireland. I have no doubt in my mind, that a perpetual mutiny law, lays the foundation of a military government in this country; upon this principle I did oppose it as strenuously as I could, from the first moment it was introduced into the house of commons, and upon this principle I will, whilst I live, make every effort within my power to procure a repeal of it. The administration of justice in this country is certainly an object of the first importance, and therefore I will, at all times, concur in any measure which can be proposed to make the judges of the land independent and respectable. I have the honour to be, gentlemen, with great respect, your most obedient, and very humble servant, John Fitzgibbon.*
The voice of the people, at length, was attended to; the British ministry, was changed, lord Carlisle recalled, and the duke of Portland appointed his successor.
On the 9th of April, 1782, Mr. Fox, communicated to the British house of commons, the following message from his majesty:
"George R. His majesty being concerned to find, that discontents and jealousies are prevailing among his loyal subjects in Ireland, upon matters of great weight and importance, earnestly recommends to this house, to take the same into their most serious consideration, in order to such a final adjustment as may give mutual satisfaction to both kingdoms. G. R."
On the 14th of April, the duke of Portland arrived in Dublin. Parliament met on the 16th. The Right Hon. Hely Hutchinson, secretary of
* Afterwards earl of Clare and lord chancellor of Ireland.