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82 - PIECES OF
senters, and liberal members of the establishment, who as yet had not turned their eyes towards republicanism and separation from England; or having done so, had not fixed their views so steadily, as not to permit them to be diverted by minor considerations. The determined republicans, however, and members of the new organization, while they favoured the demonstrations of pleasure, because some internal, temporary alleviations might be gained, regarded the appointment as a mere change of ephemeral politics, which would serve to agitate the ambitious, and interest the unthinking; but the importance of which was soon to vanish before the mightier objects; that were rising to occupy the Irish mind. These men also deemed the administration itself eminently suspicious; because it designed as they alledged, by the popularity of partial measures, to turn public attention from more real grievances, and to excite if possible, a general approbation of the war with France,
Lord Fitzwilliam had scarcely assumed the reins of govern. ment, when he perceived the irresistible propriety of conceding all the rights, peculiarly withheld from the catholics. He was waited upon by a very numerous and respectable assemblage of that body, with an address expressive of their satisfaction at hia excellency’s appointment, and at his taking to his councils men, who enjoyed the confidence of the nation, and hoping that, under his administration, an end would be put to all religious distinctions. An interview of congratulation was likewise had
recommended the most peaceable demeanour and good conduct to all ranks; but mentioned, that whatever steps the catholics meant to pursue, he trusted they were such as would meet the approbation and support of the whole body. On the very third day after his excellency's arrival, he wrote to the British secre. tary of state, declaring his sentiments on the subject of their claims; and his expressions are remarkable, because they clearly shew, not only his own urgency, but also an apprehension that
he might be thwarted in one of his favourite schemes, to the execution of which he seems conscious he had not gotten an unqualified or willing consent. He trembled, he said, about the catholic question; he stated, that he found it already in agitation, and concluded by gi&ng his own opinion of the absolute necessity of the concession, as a matter not only wise, but essential to the public tranquillity. That letter went by the same mail as one of the preceding day, relative to the removal of Messrs. Wolfe and Toler, the attorney and solicitor-general.— The duke of Portland, however, in his reply of the 13th, made an ominous selection of topics; he omitted saying a word on the catholic question, but informed his excellency that his majesty consented to Mr. Wolfe’s peerage. This letter was far from satisfactory : lord Fitzwilliam therefore, on the 15th, again urged the matter still more forcibly; he stated, that from the circumstances of the case, no time was to be lost, and added that if he received no peremptory instructions to the contrary, he would acquiesce. In that letter, he also mentioned the necessity of dismissing the Beresfords.
Before those peremptory instructions arrived, parliament met on the 22d of January. Mr. Grattan moved the address to his majesty, and his speech on that occasion developed enough of the new system of government, to confirm the suspicions of the republicans, and considerably to impair its popularity with the mass of the people. He declaimed against the French, with the utmost force of invective, and hurried by his zeal to hyperbole, almost to blasphemy, he said the objects at stake in the war, were the creature and his Creator, man and the Godhead; as if the Almighty were to be hurled from heaven,
and deprived of his omnipotence, by the success of the French Republic.
In one respect, however, his speech was admirably calculated isor its object. Supplies to an unprecedented amount were
wanting ; wanting; and they are voted by parliament, not by the people: it therefore dwelt on the topics that were most likely, by agitat. ing the passions, and exciting the fears of members of parliament, to open the purse-strings of the nation. “You know enough,” said he, “ of levels of Europe to foresee that that great ocean, “that inundation of barbarity, that desolation of infidelity, that ... “ dissolution of government, and that sea of arms, if it swells “over the continent, must visit our coast;” and again speaking of Great Britain, “vulnerable in Flanders, vulnerable in Hol. “land, she is mortal here (in Ireland)—Here will be the engines “ of war, the arsenal of the French artillery, the station of the “French navy, and through this wasted and disembowelled land, “will be poured the fiery contents of their artillery.”
Mr. Duquery proposed an amendment to the address, imploring his majesty to take the earliest opportunity of concluding a peace with France, and not let the form of government in that country, be any impediment to that great and desirable object. This was negatived, and the address agreed to with only three dissenting voices.
On the 24th of January, no peremptory instructions having yet arrived, Mr. Grattan presented a petition from the catholics of Dublin, praying to be restored to a full enjoyment of the blessings of the constitution, by a repeal of all the penal and restrictive laws affecting the catholics of Ireland. Petitions couched in the same terms, now poured in from every part of the kingdom; no serious opposition to the measure was expected.— Parliament seemed at length ready to render justice with an unsparing hand; the protestants no where raised a murmur of dissatisfaction, and a petition in favour of this expected libe
rality, was once more presented by the indefatigable town of Belfast.
Meanwhile, constant correspondences were going on between the governments of the two countries. Though Lord Fitzwilliam declared on the 15th of January, that he would acquiesce in complete catholic emancipation, unless he should receive peremptory instructions to the contrary, the subject was not even touched on, in either of the Duke of Portland's letters prior to the 2d of February: on that day, he received another, silent like those that preceded it, on that subject, and merely relating to the intended dismissal of Mr. Wolfe. Lord Milton, his excellency's secretary, also received one of the same date from Mr. Wyndham, mentioning Mr. Pitt's reluctance to the removal of Mr. Beresford, but nothing more. This last now appears to have grown into a subject of some importance; for on the 9th, Mr. Pitt himself wrote to Lord Fitzwilliam, expostulating on the intended dismissal of Mr. Beresford, but still silent on the less material catholic question: Mr. Pitt, however, concluded with an apology “for interrupting his lordships attention from the “many important considerations of a different nature, to which “ all their minds ought to be directed.”
The Duke of Portland, Lord Fitzwilliam's nearest and dearest joriend, was the person appointed to break the unwelcome intelligence, that notwithstanding the length to which the Irish government was pledged to the catholics, its steps must be retraced. In a letter of an earlier date by a day than Mr. Pitt’s, he brought that business “ for the first time into play, as a ques“tion of any doubt or difficulty with the British cabinet.” “Then,” says Lord Fitzwilliam, in his letter to Lord Carlisle, “ it appears to have been discovered that the defening it “would be not merely an expediency or thing to be desired for the present, but the means of doing a greater good to the Bri“tish empire, than it has been capable of receiving since the “revolution, or at least since the union.” His excellency in his reply to this unexpected communication, set forth the danger of retracting, and refused “to be the person to raise a flame, “ which nothing but the force of arms could keep down.”
The business of parliament, however, was still proceeding, and the budget opened on the 9th of February. Before entering on the preparatory statements, Sir Lawrence Parsons rose, and after expressi. the highest confidence in the noble lord at the head of the rovernment of the country, and in the administration, who aided his councils, wished on the part of the people, to be explicitly informed whether gentlemen now in power were determined “ to carry into effect those measures they so “ repeatedly and ably proposed when in opposition—whe“ther the repeal of the convention bill—whether the abolition “of sinecure places, which they had inveighed against—whe“ther the disqualifiation of place-men from sitting in parlia“ment; which they had branded with corruption—whether a “reform in parliament, which they had deemed indispensably “necessary, or an equalization of commercial benefits be“tween both kingdoms, which they had insisted to be just, “were meant to be mow carried into effect.” To these ques“ tions, Mr. Grattan replied in general terms. “The honour“ able member has asked whether the same principles which “were formerly professed by certain gentlemen, with whom I * have the Honour of acting, were to be the ruling principles at “ present in His majesty's councils? To that I answer, they | “ certainly are.” This answer not appearing sufficiently speci“fic, Sir Lawrence again asked, “whether it was their deter. “mination to carry a repeal of the convention bill —whether “ they meant to carry the reform bill?” He further desired to know “whether the places that had been created for corrupt “ purposes during the close of Lord Buckingham’s government, “were to cease?—whether the trade between Great Britain and “ Ireland was to continue on its old footing, or to be reduced to “ a system of justice and perfect equality?” These were plain questions he said, which were easily answered. He professed himself willing to co-operate in supporting the war in the most vigorous manner; but while parliament called upon the purse of the nation, he thought it their duty to remunerate people by constitutional benefits. He did not press for particular informa" - constitutional