Page images
PDF
EPUB

the protestant church and government. A dangerous rebellion broke out, which was not suppressed before the death of Charles I., to whom its origin was falsely imputed. The lands of the rebels and of the most active royalists were granted by the English republic to the opposers of the unfortunate monarch ; and, while a great number of the catholics were suffered to emigrate, the rest were confined to the western parts of the island. The country was, for a short time, annexed to England by a republican and legislative union; but, on the restoration of Charles II. the separate parliament was re-established. A new settlement of estates now took place, by which some portions were restored to the catholics. In this reign, the ill effects of the civil war were in a great degree removed by national industry, though much distress was occasioned by the prohibition of the export of cattle to England. About this time, an attentive consideration of the interests of the two countries induced sir William Petty to recommend the subjection of both to “one legislative power and parliament;' but his advice was disregarded by the negligence and impolicy of the government, though it was strengthened by the suggestions of the board of trade in Ireland. Under the sway of James II. the kingdom became less flourishing; and the war in which the papists engaged for the support of that weak prince, obstructed the retrieval of the affairs of the realm. The reign of William, by restrictions of the Irish trade, particularly in the woollen branch of manufacture, also injured the interests of the country. The conduct of the English parliament disgusted the patriots of Ireland; and Mr. Molyneux, a bold supporter of her le

gislative independence, entitled himself to their applause, though

though his efforts did not subdue the prejudices of the domineering nation, which was more intent on urging its claim of authority, than disposed to grant to its Irish neighbours a due share of constitutional and commercial benefits, by effecting (according to the advice of the same writer) an incorporation of the two parliaments. The frequency of misgovernment in Ireland, and the decay of trade, prompted the peers of that realm, in the second year of queen Anne, to propose a more close connexion than that which then existed between the kingdoms, and to represent, in particular, a legislative union as the object of their wishes. Both houses, some years afterward, in congratulating her majesty on the Scotish union, exhorted her to promote the extension of the same blessing to their country. Her ministers, however, satisfied with the consolidation of the two British realms, left the connexion with Ireland unimproved; and her reign was unfriendly to the promotion of internal concord among her Hibernian subjects, as it produced some severe laws against the catholics. During the rebellion against George I., the people of Ireland evinced a spirit of loyalty, rather than a desire of co-operating with the British mal-contents. Complaints of poverty and distress were renewed in this reign, notwithstanding the advancement of the linen manufacture. The parliament endeavoured, but with faint efforts and little success, to remove the grounds of complaint. The British legislature, at this time, asserted its claim of supremacy by a positive statute, declaring, that it had full power and authority to bind the Irish nation by its laws. While George II. reigned, Ireland was in general frce from dangerous turbulence; but its improvements In in arts and manufactures were not so considerable as its natural advantages might seem to promise. It was ruled by a junto of ambitious men, who attended more to their own aggrandisement than to the welfare of the people; who engaged, on condition of enjoying a monopoly of power and office, to procure a parliamentary majority for the support of the crown; who vigilantly guarded those entrenchments by which religious and political jealousy had fortified a part of the community. against the bulk of the nation; and who encouraged or suffered the worst members of the favored body to: harass and oppress the most respectable individuals of the obnoxious sect. The court did not always remain on terms of harmony with this aristocratic faction. Contests sometimes arose, by which the power of the phalanx was endangered; but, though its influence was weakened, it retained sufficient authority to continue its arbitrary career. From the decease of the late king to the present time, the history of Ireland has been unusually interesting and important. In the earlier part of this reign, disturbances originated from the misery and discontent of the peasants, who, under the denomination of White Boys, Steel Boys, &c. encroached on the property and security of their neighbours, and filled the provincial districts with alarm. These commotions, though they were sometimes apparently suppressed, were not long discontinued. Irregular and licentious acts, insults and outrages, were, and still are, more prevalent in that country than in any other part of the dominions of the crown. - During the administration of the viscount (now marquis) Townshend, the endeavours of the court were - renewed

renewed with vigor against the leaders of the aristocracy; and the effect was a considerable diminution of their credit and power. But the evil was not removed; and these conflicts gave strength to another party, more inclined to favor the people, yet not free from selfish ambition and rapacity. By the efforts of this body of men, a bill was procured for limiting to eight years the duration of the parliament; and some other advantages were obtained for the nation. But these were not sufficient: the state of the country required more substantial benefits. While the contest between Great-Britain and her colonies in North-America called the attention of writers to the nature of government, and to the forms and the interests of political establishments, the acute and intelligent Adam Smith, in his Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, delivered opinions highly favorable to an union with Ireland. That kingdom, he said, would not only derive a freedom of trade from an incorporation with Britain, but would acquire ‘other advantages, much more important, and which would much more than compensate any increase of taxes that might accompany that union.” The grand benefit, he added, would be the complete deliverance of the major part of the people from the yoke of an aristocracy founded on the odious distinctions of religious and political prejudices—distinctions which, more than any others, animated the insolence of the oppressors and the indignation of the oppressed. The authority of such a writer gave great weight to a similar proposal which Dr. Tucker, dean of Glocester, had long before addressed to the government and the public, not merely as his own suggestion, but as the wish of “every generous disinterested patriot of both both kingdoms.” The proposition, however, served as a topic of discourse rather than as a ground of immediate action, though the affairs of Ireland were not neglected. * The American war, while it checked the progress of commercial prosperity in Ireland, furnished an opportunity of asserting claims long cherished in the minds of aspiring individuals, but which had lain dormant for want of public encouragement. An army of volunteers started up not only for the purpose of repelling invasion, but with a view of enforcing, by firmness of countenance and resolution of mind, the grant of those rights which Britain ungenerously withheld. Amidst the increasing difficulties of the war, and the general danger of the empire, policy required an acquiescence in the demands of a spirited nation. The trade of Ireland was now freed from the restrictions by which it had been long shackled; and she received, as a favor, the allowance of a plenary commercial intercourse with the British settlements in America and Africa, on condition that her parliament should enact the same impositions and regulations which Great-Britain had ordained, or should decree in future, for her own trade with those colonies. These grants were followed by constitutional concessions. The volunteers and the public having loudly called for a recognition of independence, the offensive statute of the sixth year of George I. was abrogated; and it was the intention of the ministry to adjust a plan, not of legislative union, but of a solid connexion not incompatible with the existence of separate parliaments. All attempts for this purpose, however, were eluded by the ambition and jealousy of the leaders of

the Hibernian parliament; and the proposed negotia

« PreviousContinue »