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One of the chief anti-unionists was Mr. Foster, a politician of distinguished abilities, who had strenuously promoted the commercial settlement of the year 1785. As he had at that time contended for an union of interests, it was surprising that he should so warmly oppose a legislative coalition; but, if he was not influenced by pride and ambition, he perhaps conceived that Ireland would flourish more under the care of a parliament intimately acquainted with her wants and wishes, than under the authority of a legislature in which her representatives would be so out-numbered as to sink into insignificance. He publicly professed, among his constituents in the shire of Louth, his decided repugnance to the new project; and the majority of the freeholders of that county threw their weight into the same scale.
The King's Recommendation of an Improvement of the Connexion between Ireland and Britain—Debates of the Irish Peers—Success of the Anti-Unionists in the House of Commons.
AMIDST the clamor which was excited by the idea of union, while the general voice seemed to reject it with indignation, and language of the boldest kind, even bordering on defiance and sedition, was poured forth in almost every company, the parliament of the
realm assembled. In the speech with which the lord-lieutenant opened the session, he observed that a spirit of disaffection still prevailed, which * required the exercise of extraordinary powers to check its malignant effects.” But nothing, he thought, could more effectually heal the disorders of the realm than an union with Great-Britain. “ The more (he said) I have reflected on the situation and circumstances of this kingdom, considering on the one hand the strength and stability of Great-Britain, and on the other those divisions which have shaken Ireland to its foundation, the more anxious I am for some permanent adjustment which may extend the advantages enjoyed by our sister kingdom to every part of this island. The unremitting industry with which our enemies persevere in their avowed design of endeavouring to effect a separation of this kingdom from GreatBritain, must have engaged your particular attention ; and his majesty commands me to express his anxious hope, hope, that this consideration, joined to the sentiment of mutual affection and common interest, may dispose the parliaments in both kingdoms to provide the most effectual means of maintaining and improving a connexion essential to their common security, and of consolidating as far as possible, into one firm and lasting fabric, the strength, the power, and the resources of the British empire.” The conclusion of the vice-roy's speech gave rise to debates in both houses. That which occurred among the peers, however, was less animated and interesting than that of the commons. When a responsive address was proposed, the viscount Powerscourt professed himself an enemy to that species of connexion which involved a legislative union, as he was convinced that it would be injurious to Ireland. He therefore moved an amendment, which, while it expressed the wish of the house for a continuance of connexion with GreatBritain, and a strong desire of improving it consistently with the freedom and independence of Ireland, intimated a doubt of the competence of parliament for the completion of an incorporative union. The earl of BELLAMont spoke in favor of the amendment, except that part which called in question parliamentary competence, and which he requested the mover to withdraw. The viscount was willing to give up this part of the motion; but those who were unfriendly to the whole would not suffer him to subtract any part of it. On this point a division ensued; and it was determined by 46 votes against 19, that the dis- . puted paragraph should not be withdrawn. The question was then put on the whole amendment; and the house decreed its rejection. The earl of Bellamont, omitting the point of competence, proposed another amendment
amendment adverse to an union; but it was opposed by the chancellor, the archbishop of Armagh, loid Yelverton, and other speakers; and only 17 peers voted for it, while 35 gave their suffrages for the unaltered address. When an address of thanks had been moved in the house of commons, sir Joh N PARNELL rose, to reprobate the ministerial scheme while it was yet in embryo. A copious account of the debate which arose on that occasion would fill a large volume: but, as it was general and preliminary, and as the result was deemed equivalent to a refusal of discussion, the reader will probably be content with a summary view of the proceedings of the assembly. The baronet declared that he was extremely unwilling to object to an address expressive of the attachment of the house to the sovereign or to British connexion; but that, as it alluded to a momentous and hazardous change in the constitution of the realm, he could not refrain from intimating his early disapprobation. It contained a proposition which, though veiled under the captivating appearance of merely adding strength and security to the empire, represented the annihilation of the Irish parliament as expedient for the general interest. He would not tamely allow such an idea to receive the approbation of parliament by a side wind. As far as he could judge of the scheme from what he already knew of it, he believed it to be adverse to the permanent interest of Ireland, and inconsistent with the rights of the people—rights which, having been delegated to the patriotic care of the parliament, ought not to be resigned or surrendered by a representative body. It would affect the constitution,
the trade, the property of the country , and perhaps D the the general happiness of mankind might be involved in its consequences. No one, he thought, could doubt that a legislative union would effect a change in the constitution. Could it be doubted, when, instead of an addition to the amount of members, correspondent with the increase of population, the proportion was to be diminished, and thus an anti-reform measure was to be substituted for that change in the representation which so many persons deemed necessary for preserving the spirit of the constitution? Could it be doubted, when the legislature of Ireland was to be merged in that of Great-Britain, and the concerns of the former country were to be intrusted to the care of men who would not be its representatives, who would have different interests, and would be too prejudiced and too remote to conduct its affairs with strict justice or propriety What would an Englishman say, if Ireland should propose to him the suppression of one half of the number of the representatives of his country, and the substitution of Irishmen for them? Would he be satisfied with an intimation, that his country would be as well represented by Irish as by English members Yet even this would be a much fairer proposal than that which was now made to Ireland. The peace of Europe had already been disturbed by the dispute relative to the proportion between the number of constituents and representatives: it therefore might be thought imprudent to set that question now afloat among the people of Ireland. Indeed, he would not have referred to it if it had not been forced upon him by the speech and the address ; but, as it was thus obtruded, it might be less dangerous to agitate it in parliament than to suffer the public to discuss it without authority or assistance.