Page images


further restoration of rights to their fellow subjects. In general it was received with a chastened and meek submission; but those who had most signalized themselves by their effusions of

protestant zeal, could not so easily subject themselves to the charge of tergiversation. The lord Chancellor and Dr. Duige

nan, as if speaking by concert, each in the house of which he was a member, in the debate on the address, accused the catholics of having deceived the king by a tissue of the grossest falsehoods and misrepresentations in their petition, and pledged themselves to prove this assertion at the proper period. The chancellor in particular said there were no such legal disabilities as stated in the petition; the laws relating to them having expired or been repealed. These assertions by the highest judicial character in the country, were very unceremoniously contradicted by the catholic sub-committee, which was appointed to act during the adjournment of the general committee. In two days after the assertion was made, they published a second edition of their petition with notes specifying the different statutes, sections and clauses, on which the alledged falsehoods and misrepre

sentations were grounded, and this they caused to be distributed

to every member of either house of parliament. His lordship never thought fit to confute their falsehoods or correct their misrepresentations. Four days after the opening of parliament, the house of commons, on the motion of Mr. Grattan, amended by Mr. Corry, (a supporter of administration) unanimously agreed to a committee for enquiring into the state of the representation; and the staunchest courtiers appeared eager to promote the great work of parliamentary reform. The two objects of the United Irishmen seemed now on the point of being peaceably accom

plished, and hope took possession of every mind.

Parliament having been understood to sanction the discussion of those two heretofore proscribed subjects, an aggregate meeting - * H - ef

of the citizens of Dublin was convened on the 24th of January
to take them into consideration and instruct their representatives.
In the resolutions adopted by this meeting the house of com-
mons was said not to be freely chosen by the people: and that
house, as then influenced by places of emolument and pensions,
it was alledged, did not speak the sense of the people. These
resolutions having appeared in the Hibernian Journal, the prin-
ter was ordered to attend at the bar of that house on the 29th
of January, for a breach of privilege. When questioned as to
his defence, he said the resolutions were sent to him authenti-
cated under the signature of Henry Hutton, one of the high
sheriffs of the city; and that the sheriff authorised him to say
he had signed them, as chairman of the meeting, and was ready
to avow the fact if called upon. After a long debate, the
printer was ordered into custody, where he was kept for a few
days and then discharged; but no notice was taken of the
sheriff, who was attending, dressed in the insignia of his office,
and ready to justify his conduct.
On the 27th of the same month, when the Goldsmith's
corps of volunteers was marching to exercise, as it had been in
the habit of doing every week, it was informed by a civil magis-
trate that its meeting was contrary to the proclamation of the
8th December, and that he had orders to disperse it, but would -
not call in the military except in case of refusal, Unprepared
and surprised at this totally unexpected application of the pro-
clamation, it declined committing the country,
This proclamation was taken into consideration by the house
of commons on the 31st of that month, and it was there stated
by Mr. Secretary Hobart, that the Goldsmith's company was o
dispersed, because it was one of those which had, on the antece-
dent 15th of December, thanked the United Irishmen; and also
because it had sometime in the November before issued a sum-

mons entitled “Citizen Soldiers,” and dated “last year, would - 44 to

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“to God it' were the last hour of slavery.” Which summons, reciting that the delegates of the corps were to assemble to ce. lebrate the retreat of the Duke of Brunswick, and the French victories in the low countries, called upon the members of that body to attend. An address of thanks was unanimously voted to the lord lieutenant for the proclamation; but Lord Edward Fitzgerald intending to oppose it, began thus: “I give my “most hearty disapprobation to that address, for I do think “ that the lord lieutenant and the majority of this house are the “worst subjects the king has.” His words were instantly taken down, and he was ordered to the bar. On his explaining, it was unanimously resolved that his excuse was unsatisfactory and insufficient. The next day, however, an apology that was rumoured to be an aggravation of the insult, was received by a great majority. . .

The inhabitants of Belfast, finding that the king's speech had opened a prospect of success to their catholic brethren, again petitioned the house of commons in their favour. Such was the progress of liberality, that this petition was signed by almost two-thirds of the adult male population of the town.— But as if to manifest the utmost extent of contempt towards the house, which they alledged had insulted the petitions of the people, and then crouched to a recommendation from the throne, their present was an exact transcript of that which had been re-. jected the year before. No attempt was made, however, to,

[ocr errors][merged small]

So far administration and its adherents seemed to fluctuate be-, tween concession and resistance. But on the 21st of January, Ilouis the 16th had suffered death, and his execution caused a great revulsion of public sentiment. On the 1st of February, war was declared between France and England, and the armies of the former were for months after, every where repulsed and driven within its territories. The affairs of that republic Were H 2. thought,


thought to be rapidly tumbling to ruin, by those who conceived the possibility and entertained the hopes of replacing a Bourbon on the throne. Perhaps these changes in the appearance of a revolution, the influence of which operated powerfully on Ireland, banished indecision from the councils of the castle. Perhaps, too, the hope occurred to men, who always regarded the union of sects in the combined pursuit of catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform, with hatred and dread, that by carefully keeping separate the two questions, an opportunity might arise of breaking the union, which rendered them irresistible ; and that by conceding enough to meet the actual necessities of

a considerable number of the catholics, such a temporary con

tent might be produced among them, as would destroy their energy in co-operating with the other sect, and would facilitate the subduing of both in detail,

That government did not wish to do more than meet the actual necessities of such a number of the catholics, and destroy their co-operation with the dissenters, seems probable from the following circumstances. While some of the delegates from the committee were yet in London, the sub-committee, apprehending from private circumstances, that it was adviseable to make the extent of their wishes fully known to the Irish administration, deputed some of their body to wait on Major Hobart, and acquaint him, that the object and expectations of the catholics were the entire repeal of the popery laws. This declaration the secretary received with perfect politeness: but without implicating his responsibility by an indiscreet reply. Some days after, a second interview on the same subject having been judged necessary, the sub-committee feeling that it was called upon to be precise and specific, desired its deputies to read to Mr. Hobart, on its part, the same declaration reduced to writing. When this was accordingly done, Mr. Hobart addressed himself to Mr. Keogh, one of the deputation, and asked, did he not think that if government went for the elective franchise, and


and the repeal of the catholic laws relating to juries, with some minor circumstances then stated, enough would be done—Mr. Keogh replied, that as one of the deputation he could only answer, that it would not content the catholics, and that there he had no right to deliver any private opinion. “But it is your private opinion, I request to know * rejoined the secretary.— “Why then,” said Mr. Keogh, “if I was to give my private opinion I should say, they are substantial benefits.” “It is not in government's power” directly answered the Minister, “to grant more.” Some vague discourse was then carried on with others of the deputation, as if it was possible to negociate on the footing of partial emancipation. When the conversation (in substance at least, the same as the foregoing,) was reported to the sub-committee, it was exceedingly irritated, and hoping to retrieve what was past, instantly sent a new deputation, consisting of different members to reiterate the declaration in stronger terms: but the secretary had taken his ground,

Accordingly on the 7th of February he obtained leave to bring in a bill, for giving to the catholics the elective franchise; the right of being grand and petty jurors in all cases, of endowing a college and schools 3 of carrying arms if possessed of a certain property qualification, of holding subordinate civil offices, and of being justices of the peace : it also repealed all the remaining penal laws respecting personal property. o

The progress of this bill through parliament was by no.

means rapid. It was violently opposed by the ascendency phalanx. They insisted that yielding to the catholic claims was incompatible with the constitution and connexion between the two countries, and a violation of the coronation oath. “They “ have done this, replied Mr. Grattan, when a new enthusiasm “has gone forth in the place of religion, much more adverse to “kings than popery, and infinitely more prevailing—the spirit “ of republicanism. At such a time they have chosen to make

“ the

« PreviousContinue »