Page images

be, of whatever may tend to shake its establishment,) and to the misrepresentations which have been transmitted to your Majesty, of your faithful subjects of Ireland, that we attribute many arbitrary and alarming proceedings in the last session of our parliament.

A bill for the more equal representation of the people (the desire of millions of your faithful subjects,) has been refused even a discussion in our parliament.

Protection has been denied to our infant trade and manufactures, which England thinks necessary to the maturity and vigour of hers.

A violent attack has been made on the liberty of the press, that supplement to the laws, and palladium of liberty; a terror only to tyrants and apostates.

Alarming restrictions on the commercial and friendly communications of your Majesty's subjects, have been imposed by the post-office act.

A general system of prodigality seems to have been adopted for the purpose of burdening our trade, and damping all spirit of industry; and emigrations consequently encouraged, and now increasing to an alarming degree.

A manifest infringement has been made on the ancient and sacred charters of the capital of this realm; and instead of the constitutional trial by jury, a novel tribunal instituted, from whose sentence there lies no appeal.

It is with infinite concern we are obliged to add, that your Majesty's ministers in this kingdom have assisted in all the measures of which we thus humbly complain; a circumstance the more extraordinary, as your Majesty has lately thought it necessary to appeal to the British electors at large, against the power of an aristocracy; and, as your Majesty's first minister in England has virtuously declared himself friendly to the principal measure which has been here rejected, we mean a more equal representation of the people, convinced that an overbearing aristocracy is not less hostile to the liberties of the subject than to the prerogative of the crown.

We further entreat your majesty's permission, to condemn that remnant of the penal code of laws, which still oppresses our Roman catholic fellow-subjects; laws, which tend to prohibit education and liberality, restrain certain privileges, and to proscribe industry, love of liberty, and patriotism.

Deeply affected by these national calamities, we, your majesty's faithful and loyal subjects, the citizens of Dublin, do therefore most humbly beg leave to supplicate your majesty, that you will be graciously pleased to exercise your royal inclination to adopt with decision and effect, whatever your majesty should collect to be the sense of the people.

That your majesty may enjoy every felicity through a long and glorious reign, over loyal and happy subjects, and that your descendants may inherit your several dominions till time shall be no more, is, and always will be, our sincere and fervent prayer. Signed by order, Alexander Kirkpatrick, Benjamin Smith.

'The high sheriffs presented this petition to the Duke of Rutland, lord lieutenant, with an address requesting its transmittal. To which his excellency answered.

"Gentlemen, at the same time that I comply with your request, in transmitting to his majesty a paper signed by you, entitled a petition of the freemen, freeholders, and inhabitants of the city of Dublin, I shall not fail to convey my entire disapprobation of it, as casting unjust reflections upon the laws and parliament of Ireland, and tending to weaken the authority of both."

These proceedings, though seconded by other parts of the kingdom, the interposition of government frustrated. Prosecutions were commenced against those who convened the aggregate meetings. Henry Steevens Reilly, Esq. high sheriff of the county of Dublin, was sentenced to fine and imprisonment, by the court of King's-bench. After a few days confinement, on acknowledging his error, and making a public apology in that court, he was liberated, and the fine reduced.

The attentive observer will readily perceive, for what reason parliamentary reform met that desperate resistance, which ultimately defeated all the endeavours of the patriots. A free trade, and free parliament, after a serious struggle, was conceded, with reluctance. Yet, as long as the parliament remained a corruptible body, there was a fair prospect of recovering these concessions, with compound interest. Moreover, parliamentary reform taking place in Ireland, it would be no easy task for a British minister, to resist the demands of England, for a similar reform in their own parliament; or preserve the darling instrument of power, commonly called influence.

The lord lieutenant's speech to the parliament, that met in 1785, at once soothing and insidious, is an evidence of this. After professing the utmost zeal for the prosperity of Ireland, and flattering the pride and prejudices of the commons, he notices unconstitutional proceedings, i. e. meetings, convened by the sheriffs, to consider of the propriety of petitioning for parliamentary reform.

"My lords and gentlemen, I have his majesty's commands to meet you in parliament, and to desire your advice and co-operation, upon those affairs of importance, which, in the present circumstances of the kingdom, require your most serious attention.

"Whilst I lament the lawless outrages and unconstitutional proceedings which had taken place since your last prorogation, I had the satisfaction to perceive that these excesses were confined to a few places, and even in these condemned: and I have now the pleasure to observe, that by the salutary interposition of the laws, the general tranquillity is re-established....

"I am to recommend in the king's name, to your earnest investigation those objects of trade and commerce between Great Britain and Ireland, which have not yet received their complete adjustment. In forming a plan, with a view to a final settlement, you will be sensible that the interest of Great Britain and Ireland ought to be for ever united and inseparable; and his majesty relies on your liberality and your wisdom for adopting such an equitable system, for the joint benefit of both countries, and the support of the common interest, as will secure mutual satisfaction and permanency.

"The encouragement and extension of agriculture and manufactures, and especially of the linen manufacture, will, I am persuaded, engage your constant concern. Let me likewise direct your attention, in a particular manner, to the fisheries on your coasts, from which you may reasonably hope for an improving source of industry and wealth to this kingdom, and of strength to the empire."...

"It is the province of your prudence and discretion to consider what new provisions may be necessary for securing the subjects from violence and outrage, for the regulation of the police, and the better execution of the laws, as well as for the general encouragement of peaceable subordination and honest industry. It will be a pleasing task to me to assist and promote your exertions for the tranquillity of the kingdom, for upholding the authority of the legislature, and supporting the true principles of our happy constitution, both in church and state."

On the 18th of February, the grand committee for the courts of justice, was ordered to sit on the next Thursday, to which was referred the charge, and the order for attachment, against H. S. Reilly, Esq. late high sheriff of the county of Dublin.

vOL. Iv. % v

« PreviousContinue »