Page images
PDF
EPUB

facture may, perhaps, be sufficient for Ulster; but is Munster to droop in poverty? He entertained too high an opinion of the British ministers, to think they would yield to the folly of the manufacturers, or be thereby induced to postpone measures, which, they must be convinced, are for the common interest of the empire. When a commercial adjustment was in discussion in the year 1785, the British manufacturers only mentioned their doubts to the ministry, with respect to the manufactures of glass, pottery, and a few other trifling articles. He would be glad to know, what new circumstance had produced the present alleged irritation? The resolution proposed by the right hon. gentleman did not go to agitate any political question. It went only to procure the British duties to be lowered to the Irish tariff, which must be finally adjusted in the parliament of Great Britain: and he thought that, in voting the resolution, we were but doing our duty as the representatives of Ireland." The only instance where opposition seemed to assume any thing of its former tone, was, in the debate upon Mr. Ponsonby's reform bill, on the 4th of March; but even then that party was particularly careful to mark its abhorrence of democracy, of French principles, and universal suffrage. Sir Laurence Parsons, indeed, very strikingly pointed out what he called the imposture and mockery of the existing representation. ,f When the Americans were deliberating/' said be, " on their new constitution, if any one bad got up among them, and had proposed such an institution as our present borough representation, and bad said, there is a certain ruin in Virginia, let it send two representatives, to be named by any twelve persons Mr. Washington shall appoint; and there is a certain tree in Pennsylvania, let it send two representatives, to be named by any twelve persons Mr. Franklin shall appoint; and so on. Would not the man have been deemed mad, who made such a proposition? An institution, then, which any rational set of men upon earth would deem a man mad for having proposed, can it be sound sense in you to retain?" Mr. Grattan too, among other arguments in support of the plan before the house, asserted, that ninety, or, as he believed, about forty individuals, returned a vast majority in the house of commons. "Of property," said he, " it will be found, that those who return that majority, (it is, I believe, two-thirds,) have not an annual income of three hundred thousand pounds, while they give and grant above three millions; that is, the taxes they give are ten times, and the property they tax is infinitely greater than the property they represent." But bis speech was most particularly remarkable for a series of epigrammatic invectives against the society of United Irishmen of Dublin, their plan of reform,* and the principle of universal suffrage.

"Worse even than the abuses so defended," said he, " is a plan I have seen for their reformation, personal or individual representation.

* For this plan of reform, see p. 414, &c, of tbis volume.

"The principle of such a plan is a complete, avowed, and unqualified departure from the vital and fundamental article of the British constitution, in practice and in theory; and I must say, such an outset requires no small degree of mischievous and senseless temerity. With equal folly does this plan violate the dearest rights of man, for if there be one right of man entirely indisputable, it is that which gives to the individual in particular, and the community in general, the fruits of his and their industry; thus the passenger through your field, or the labourer on your farm, has no right to make rules for the management of the same, nor have the aggregate of labourers or of non-proprietors a right to make rules or ordinances for the land, farms, or trade of the community.

"This reasoning applies very strongly to the case of Ireland, because it appeared on the hearthmoney survey of the last year, that those who were to be exempted from the hearth-money for want of property were more than half of our inhabitants. It was, besides, insisted upon by the objectors to reform on the principle of property, that such a principle excluded the majority; it follows, that the plan, which gives votes to all the inhabitants, and gives away to that majority the fruits of the industry of the community, gives away the estate of the landholder, the farm of the freeholder, the lease of the leaseholder, and the trade of the citizen, to be ordered and disposed of by a majority, who are confessed to have neither estate, nor farm, nor lease, our

voL. iv. 3 T

trade. That is the plan that robs the individual and the community of the fruits of their industry, and destroys the representation of property. Under the pretence of establishing a representation of existence, it destroys a principle which is real and sacred, to establish a concert which is affected and nonsensical.

"But it is not merely to those who have neither farm, freehold, nor trade, that this plan extends the right of voting; it gives the return of members to serve in parliament to all the common soldiers, to the resident army, horse, foot and dragoons; to the police, to the scavenger. It goes farther, it gives that right to all hospitals, to almsmen, to Channel-row, and every beggarman in the kingdom of Ireland. It goes farther, it gives that right to every criminal, white-boys that break laws, and defenders who steal arms; and would thus present you with a representation of felony as well as of paupers. To such a monstrous constitution, whose frenzy, folly and wickedness must excite at once your scorn and horror, the objection is not merely that such persons would be represented, but the persons who have no property in land, lease, freehold, or trade, being confessedly the majority, it follows under such a plan, that such persons alone would be represented, and that the landholder, leaseholder, farmer and tradesman, confessedly the minority with their one vote only, this plan allows them no more, would not be represented at all; it follows, that those who have nothing in land, lease, farm, or trade, would return the parliament; that is, those who had nothing in the common stock would make the laws, and the men who receive alms would vote the taxes.

"To destroy the influence of landed property is the object of individual representation, but its immediate effect would be to extinguish the people. The rich might, for a time, make a struggle; they might, in some places, buy a mob, who by such a plan would be all electors; they might beset the hustings with their retainers, who by such a plan would be all electors, or they might purchase the votes of that great body of electors introduced by such a plan into the constitution, all the beggars in the neighbourhood. The minister too, for the short time such a plan suffered king or minister, could, in the corrupt confusion of such election, preserve some influence by the application of the treasury and the command of the army, he could have all the swords and votes of all the common soldiers. But the farmer and the citizen could have none of those advantages, and, indeed, what farmer or citizen would go to the hustings of a medley of offenders met on a plan, where bayonets, bludgeons and whiskey elected the house of commons? In the mean time, the respect which the landlord and candidate now pay to the farmer and to the citizen would be at an end, and instead of resorting to the farmer for his vote and interest, the squire would go to the farmer's dung-yard and canvas the boys of his lawn, who would have more votes, though neither farm nor freehold; the consequence of the citizen would be at an

« PreviousContinue »