Page images
PDF
EPUB

union with the patriots in parliament, demanded the restoration of Ireland's rights. The minister yielded. The conduct of England, the placed and the pensioned now loudly condemned. Free trade was granted, legislative independence acknowledged, and Ireland obtained a rank among the nations of the earth. To retain these important advantages, reform of parliament alone was wanting. This the Volunteers attempted. Intolerance frustrated it. The Earl of Charlemont, and many of the Volunteers, would not admit of Catholic emancipation. Absurdly, they desired to possess the plenitude of freedom, surrounded by slaves. Unsupported by the majority of the nation, they attempted to dislodge the British minister from his strongest hold, the corruptibility of the Irish parliament. The Dublin Volunteer Convention Address for Reform was disregarded. Peace was concluded. No longer formidable, the Volunteers were slighted. Pitt became premier, and large majorities obeyed his commands. Scarcely did he guide the helm of the state, until he endeavoured to regain the legislative supremacy, so lately wrested. Commercial propositions, stated to be for the advantage of both countries, insidiously conveying the so-much desired controul over the commerce of Ireland, were submitted to the respective parliaments. The attempt was premature. Petitions, on the table of the House of Commons, expressed the general abhorrence entertained in Ireland of them. But the manufacturers of England had not entered into the views of the minister; they

feared the possibility of the trifling manufactures of Ireland interfering with their interests; their petitions, against the propositions, appeared before the Commons of England, and the measure was abandoned. Notwithstanding the able exposure of the insidiousness of this measure,* Ireland had the mortification to behold a majority marshalled for their enactment, in open defiance of the public voice. But Pitt was digging the grave of Ireland's independence. Every effort was used to separate the parliament and the people. The nightly guard of Dublin, the constitutional watch, under the controul of the parishioners, was removed; and the silent, surly policeman, accoutred a la. miiitaire, under the direct controul of the government, substituted, at an enormous expence. Now the plans of Mr. Pitt met with a temporary derangement, the health of the sovereign was attacked, the minister's situation was considered precarious, the landed interest coalesced, and parliament and people for the last time were identified. But the stability of the British minister being again certain, the placed and the pensioned forsook the patriotic ranks. Measures of influence were adopted: places formed, peers created, resumable offices re-granted, the pension list increased, and many of those, who held place or pension at pleasure, displaced. Among the new appointments was that of John Fitzgibbon, then attorneygeneral, to the lord-chancellorship of Ireland.

[ocr errors]

This bold, disgusting, willing instrument of Mr. Pitt's ambition, in the Irish house of commons, hesitated not to threaten his native country with a severe fine, for the insubserviency of its parliament to the mandates of the British minister. The threat, and its consequences, the masterly eloquence of Mr. Grattan thus records.* "'Half a million, or more, was expended some years ago to break an opposition; the same, or a greater sum, maybe necessary now:' so said the principal servant of the crown. The house heard him: I heard him: he said it, standing on his legs, to an astonished and an indignant nation; and he said it in the most extensive sense of bribery and corruption. The threat was proceeded on; the peerage was sold; the caitiffs of corruption were every where; in the lobby, in the street, on the steps, and at the door of every parliamentary leader, whose thresholds were worn by the members of the then administration, offering titles to some, amnesty to others, and corruption to all." Thus was the independence of the Irish parliament sapped.

All further attempts to controul the proceedings of the minister were ineffectual. A bill, rendering revenue-officers incapable of voting for members of parliament, as in England, was rejected. The inhabitants of the city of Dublin had petitioned for the abolition of the new police establishment; complaining of its expence and insecurity, and praying for the re-establishment

* In his Answer to lord Clare's speech, Dub. 1800.

of the constitutional guard, under the controul of the parishioners, founded upon the act of the 17th and 18th of his present majesty. The committee appointed to consider the police accounts, reported, that the police establishment had been attended with unnecessary expence, and ought to be changed. Their report was rejected. And a bill for the appointment of commissioners to inquire into the state of the tithes, was presented, but parliament was prorogued on the 25th of May. In June, the lord chancellor and the speaker of the house of commons were appointed lords-justices, and the marquis of Buckingham deemed it prudent to take his departure secretly.

No chief governor more disappointed the expectations of the people of Ireland. He entered into the capital, " trampling on the hearse of the duke of Rutland, and seated in a triumphal car, drawn by public credulity; on one side fallacious hope, and on the other many-mouthed profession; a figure with two faces, one turned to the treasury, and the other presented to the people; and, with a double tongue, speaking contradictory languages.

"This minister alights; justice looks up to him with empty hopes, and peculation faints with idle alarms; he finds the city a prey to an unconstitutional police; he continues it; he finds the country overburthened with a shameful pension list; he increases it; he finds the house of commons swarming with placemen; he multiplies them; he finds the salary of the secretary increased to prevent a pension; be grants a pension; he finds the kingdom drained by absentee employments, and by compensations to buy them home; he gives the best reversion in the country to an absentee, his brother! He finds the government, at different times, had disgraced itself by creating sinecures, to gratify corrupt affection; he makes two commissioners of the rolls, and gives one of them to another brother; he finds the second council to the commissioners put down, because useless; he revives it; he finds the boards of accounts and stamps annexed by public compact; he divides them; he finds the boards of custom and excise united by public compact; he divides them; he finds three resolutions, declaring, that seven commissioners are sufficient; he makes nine; he finds the country has suffered by some peculations in the ordnance; he increases the salaries of offices, and gives the places to members, to members of parliament!" Such was his entrance, and such his conduct, delineated by Mr. Grattan, in the next session.

The parliamentary opposition endeavoured by union and energy to supply their numerical deficiency. Imitating the conduct of the opposition in the British parliament, they associated under the name of the Whig Club, adopted a uniform, and had their public dinners, at which the parliamentary campaign was regulated. To insure the support of the nation, some of the most popular characters were admitted, and their resolutions and toasts regularly published. Several associations for similar political purposes, the redress of grievances, were soon after established

« PreviousContinue »