« PreviousContinue »
their discontents, and were united in a desire to gratify every wish expressed in the late address to the throne: and that, in the mean time, his majesty was graciously disposed to give his royal assent to acts to prevent the suppressing of bills in the Irish privy council, and to limit the mutiny-bill to the term of two years.
The joy which now diffused itself all over the kingdom was extreme. The warmest addresses were presented not only to his majesty, but to the lord lieutenant. The commons instantly voted a hundred thousand pounds to his majesty, to enable him to raise twenty thousand men for the navy; and soon after, five thousand men were likewise voted from the Irish establishment. The volunteers became in a peculiar manner the objects of gratitude and universal praise; but none was placed in so conspicuous a light as Mr. Grattan. Addresses of thanks flowed in upon him from all quarters; and the commons addressed his majesty to give him fifty thousand pounds, as a recompense of his services; for which they promised to make provision.
This request was also complied with ; but still the jealousies of the Irish were not completely eradicated. As the intended repeal of the declaratory act was found to be simple, . without any clause expressly relinquishing the claim of right, several members of the house of commons were of opinion, that the liberties of Ireland were not yet thoroughly secured. The majority, however, were of opinion, that the simple repeal of the obnoxious act was sufficient; but many of the nation at large held different sentiments. Mr. Flood, a member of the house, and a zealous patriot, now took the lead in this matter; while Mr. Grattan lost much of his popularity by espousing the contrary opinion. The matter, however, was to appearance finally settled by the volunteers, who declared themselves on Mr. Grattan's side. Still some murmurings were heard ; and it must be owned, that even yet the conduct of Britain appeared equivocal. An English law was passed, permitting importation from one of the West-India islands to all his ma; jesty's dominions; and of course including Ireland, though the trade of the latter had been declared absolutely free. This was looked upon in a very unfavourable light. Great offence was
also taken at a member of the English house of lords, for a speech in parliament, in which he asserted, that Great Britain had a right to bind Ireland in matters of an external nature ; and proposed to bring in a bill for that purpose. The public discontent was also greatly inflamed by some circumstances relating to this bill, which were particularly obnoxious. Lord Beauchamp, in a spirited letter addressed to the first company of Belfast volunteers, was at much pains to show that the security of the legislative privileges obtained from the parliament of Britain was insuffcient. The lawyers corps of volunteers, in Dublin, who also took the question into consideration, were of the same opinion ; but the circumstance which gave the greatest offence was, that the chief justice in the English court of king'sbench gave judgment in an Irish cause, contrary to a law which had limited all such judgments to the first of June. All these reasons of discontent, however, were removed upon the death of the marquis of Rockingham, and the appointment of the new ministry who succeeded him. Lord Temple went over to Ireland, and his brother and secretary, Mr. Grenville, went to England, where he made such representations of the discontents which prevailed concerning the insufficiency of the declaratory act, that Mr. Townshend, one of the secretaries of state, moved in the house of commons for leave to bring in a bill to remove from the minds of the people of Ireland all doubts respecting their legislative and judicial privileges. This bill contained, in the fullest and most express terms, a relinquishment on the part of the British legislature, of all claims of a right to interfere with the judgment of the Irish courts, or to make laws to bind Ireland in time to come.
T'he short, but highly useful, administration of lord Temple, was followed by that of the earl of Northington, on the third of June, seventeen hundred and eighty-three. The expected dissolution of parliament (which immediately took place) had created an universal ferment in the minds of the people. The volunteers again showed themselves the worthy guardians of the liberties of their country. Delegates from forty-five companies in the province of Ulster, met at Lisburn on the first of July, to deli. berate on the most effectual means of bringing about a parliamentary reform; and, appointing a committee of correspondence
'with other associated corps, requested a general meeting of delegates of the province on the eighth of September. The representatives of two hundred and seventy-two companies accordingly assembled at Dungannon, on the day specified. Impressed with a high sense of their own strength, and animated with the love of liberty and independence, they published several resolutions concerning the parliamentary representation of the people ; and electing five persons to represent each county in a national convention, which they appointed to be held in Dublin in the month of November, they sent pressing solicitations to the other provinces to join in a measure, which they hoped would be attended with consequences so salutary. Their chief complaint was, that of three hundred members who composed the house of commons, only seventy-two were elected by the voice of the people! fifty-three peers having it in their power to nominate a hundred and twenty-four members, and to influence the election of ten ; and fifty-two commoners to nominate ninety-one, and influence the election of three !
In the new parliament (October) the thanks of both houses were voted to the volunteers, for their spirited support of the
execution of the laws; and resolutions were passed, “ That in • "the present state of the kingdom, it was expedient that there
"be a session of parliament held every year.” But when the delegates, in compliance with the invitation from Dungannon, met in a national convention in Dublin, and appointing a come mittee for the purpose, digested and presented a plan of parliamentary reform, by which every protestant freeholder, possessed of a freehold to the value of forty shillings, should be entitled to vote for the return of a member to parliament for any city or borough where he might reside ; by which any member of parliament who should accept a pension or a place from the crown for life, should be deprived of his seat; by which every member should make oath, that he had not, directly nor indirectly, given any consideration to procure the suffrage of an elector; and by which the duration of parliament should be limited to a term not more than two years ;---this very parliament rejected the proposition, by a majority of one hundred and fifty-eight to forty-nine; and presented an address to the king, in which they pledged themselves to defend the present constitution with their lives and fortunes.
The convention, on the second of December, voted an indefinite adjournment, after resolving to carry on individually such investigations as might be necessary to complete the plan of parliamentary reform ; and to address the king, expressing their duty and loyalty, and imploring his majesty, that their humble wish to have parliamentary abuses remedied by the legislature in a reasonable degree, might not be esteemed as proceeding from a spirit of innovation, but merely from the sincerest attach. ment to, and a desire to support the principles of the constitution, to secure the satisfaction and loyalty of their countrymen, and to render the cordial unanimity and co-operation of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland perpetual. Thus tamely concluding a business which appeared so formidable at its commencement, and surrendering all hopes of reaping any further benefits to their country by their exertions.
Among the various spirited modes of forwarding political innovations in these busy times, was the forming of popular clubs, which, under different appellations, were rapidly established in the metropolis and elsewhere. The principal of these, intitled the Whig Club, was distinguished by the acquisition of many persons high in rank, in talents, and in the estimation of their countrymen. It has been contended, that a majority of the members of this club, wished merely to bring about a reformation of the political system, and to obtain a more equal representation of the people in parliament. Many of them, however, appear to have aimed at the accomplishment of a greater object, a revolution ; which was to overturn the existing government, and to establish a democratical commonwealth in its place. These formed connections with the Whigs of the Capital, another revolutionary association, who were evidently bent on a total subversion of the government, and with several other clubs of a similar description ; till at length arose that extraordinary and highly formidable society, distinguished by the title of United Irishmen.