Page images




been obliged to do the drudgery of their protfession for forty, or at most for fifty pounds a year ;-without the means of being liberal, from their poverty; and without the hope of advancing themselves by their learning or their virtues-in a country where preferment was no. toriously not to be attained by either.

: "On this ground, I would vindicate the great body of the native acting clergy of Ireland from any imputation, because of the small progress which Protestantism had made among us; the pride of Episcopacy, and the low state to which our Ministers of the Gospel were reduced, abundantly accounted for it; their distresses and oppression were the real objects of Parliamentary consideration, and not the discovery of pew modes of torture, or the enactment of new statutes of blood.” *. No man is to be found, in the history of the Irish Parliament, more distinguished for his sensibility to the distresses and sufferings of his countrymen, of every religious persuasionhis fearless and manly assertion of their claims to the attention, the protection, and the justice of the Legislature, than Mr. Curran, (now Master of the Rolls.) il; It is impossible to read over the Parliamen. tary History of Ireland, for the last 30 years,

without making frequent pauses, to admire the steady, political virtue--the enlightened-liberal, and comprehensive views the unrivalled efforts of genius and of wit, of our greatly gifted countryman..

Few Irishmen ever attained so proud and so exalted a situation, as that which Mr. Curran now fills, with such inflexible independence of principle, or of demeanour, or so little humility to men in power and authority —He has risen, by the splendor of his talents, and the integ. rity of his views, to an almost unexampled degree of public confidence.He is one of the very few, whose constancy to his country has been rewarded by the possession of honors, and emoluments; and was it not for that happy interval, when the great and benevolent mind of Charles Fox commanded an ascendancy in the Councils of His Majesty, we should not now perhaps be able to congratulate our couutry. men, on the justice which has been done to the transcendant merits of their first advocate, and perhaps the first advocate in the British Empire.

When the politicians of the day, who, (with some exception) have risen in this country as they gave up its liberty and its honor, shall be mingled in the dust, with the hundreds whose example they have imitated—when no record will be found of their memory--nor no recollection of their names,mour illustrious Curran will be the theme of every Irish Seminary,--the bright and glowing example of political virtue, in an age of universal sycophancy, and national degradation.

The efforts of Mr. Curran, as well as the great and splendid struggles of Mr. Grattan, were in vain ;-laws of severity were preferred to measures of redress and conciliation.—The pride of the Legislature would not be seen to capitulate to a barbarous multitude, and a civil war was preferred, by the Administration of those days, to the healing balsam of parental considera. tion for the acknowledged sufferings and miseries of the poor. ... The Riot Act was the fruit of this magnanimous spirit, possessing all the violence of the English act --with scarcely a single provision of mercy or of humanity.

To this Act, Mr. GRATTAN spoke as follows:

6 Mr. SPEAKER, “ Sir, it is impossible to hear that bill read, or the question put on the committal of it, without animadversion. I agree that the South should be coerced. If the populace or peasantry 'of that district have thought proper to invade personal security, and lay the founda: tion of undermining their own liberties; if they have resorted to the exercise of torture,” as relief for poverty, I lament their savage infatuation, and I assent to their punishment. 'I assent to it with shame; I blush at the cast of lawlessness thrown on the country, and I la." ment the necessity of a strong measure-tho natural result of shabby mutiny and abortive rebellion.

“ This is not the first time I have had occasioni to express my concern at certain excesses of some part of our fellow subjects. See the fruit of those excesses--sec the glorious effect of their laboura Riot Act, aggravateda Riot Act, general and perpetual.--Evils which it was chance to foreseen it becomes vow my duty to mitigate.

“ I will agree to the strengthening of the civil magistrate within a certain limitation I would enable the magistrate to disperse such '..

meetings as are notoriously for illegal purposes ; and I will agree that it is proper not to admit persons to bail who had refused to disperse, as it could only furnish them with an opportunity of repeating their transgressions. I will agree that the persons who dug graves, provided gib. bets, and the like, should be punished capitally; for those who made torture their amusement, and practised such inexorable barbarity, I think merit death. I will also agree that there are several clauses in the Riot Act, which it may be proper to adopt. But in the very setting out of the bill, there is an evident departure from, and contradiction of, the Riot Act. The Riot Act stated, that if twelve or more persons, riotously, tumultuously, and unlawfully assembled, and refused to disperse, &c. ; but this Act stated, if persons, to the number of twelve or more, riotously, tumultuously, or unlawfully assembled. The former was copulative; the latter disjunctive ; and the difference was, that if coming within any one of the descriptions tumultuous, riotous, or unlawful, felody would ensue, though in Eng. land, to constitute the crime, each must be alleged. And when there is a deviation from the Riot Act, I am very sorry to find it is not one founded in mildness and mercy, but one founded in seve. rity. Another difference from the Riot Act is,

« PreviousContinue »