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Having stated his objections to the measure in a constitutional point of view, he adverted to its probable effects on commerce. By occasioning the absence of a great number of the nobility and gentry, it would diminish in a serious degree the consumption of the country; and, while it would lessen the import trade it would also affect the exportation of commodities, The advantages, which it promised to particular places would by no means compensate the general mischief which would result from a diminution of capital and consumption. The commerce of Ireland was rapidly advancing ; and, as its increase was one of the consequences of the established system, a change would be highly inexpedient,
How, he then asked, would the proposed union affect the peace or strength of the country Answering his own question, he affirmed that it would lay a foundation for discontent; and that, as the system would be permanent, its effect on the tranquillity of the country would be progressively prejudicial. In such a state, public strength would necessarily be impaired.
One argument which seemed to favor the scheme was, that a similar measure had proved advantageous to. Scotland. But that country, when she acceded to an union with England, was in circumstances very different from those in which Ireland now stood. Scotland was subjected to the alternative either of accepting the offer, or of exposing herself to a warmth of resentment which, weak as she was, might terminate in her ruin: Ireland was much less liable to injury from a refusal of compliance. As the Scots menaced England with a separation, an union was more necessary. for securing the two crowns to the same sovereign, than
it would be in the case of Ireland, whose crown was D 2 connected connected with that of Great-Britain by indissoluble ties. Having mentioned some other points of difference, he proceeded to obviate an argument drawn from the supposed distresses of Ireland. It had been said, that, as the country was in a bad state, and an union could hardly make it worse, the measure at least deserved a trial. To this he replied, that it would be rash to give a sick man a potion which might be fatal, merely because his case was already dangerous. The Irish parliament, it was said, had manifested a want of wisdom, and had shown itself to be subservient to sinister influence; but he observed that it would be very unjust, on such pretences, to destroy the constitution, and that the two houses had an opportunity of disproving the latter charge in particular by a rejection of the present proposal. That an union would secure the country against invasion, he denied; for a foreign enemy would not be deterred by an act of parliament; and the people, incensed at being forced into the measure, would be less eager to resist invaders. - After other remarks, he recommended the strict observance of an old declaration, substituting Ireland for England—Nolumus leges HIBERNIAE mutari; and exhorted his countrymen to maintain a friendly connexion with Great-Britain, without adopting an unconstitutional system, which seemed rather to portend mischief than to promise advantage. Mr. TIGHE, considering a part of the address as in some measure pledging the house to the support of an union, was unwilling to agree to it. But lord CAst LEREAGH assured him, that an acquiescence in the address did not involve an approbation of legislative union. It only promised, he said, that the house would deliberate on the best means of improving the connexion between the kingdoms, and augmenting the energy of the empire. That these desirable ends would be most effectually secured by an incorporation of the realms, he was fully persuaded; but the members who might vote for the address would not be bound to give their sanction to his opinion. Mr. GeoRGE Ponson BY, a barrister of high reputation, opposed in strong terms the idea of a legislative union, as a scheme that would injure the prosperity and destroy the liberties of Ireland. He denied the competency of the legislature to the adoption of a measure invasive of the rights of the people, and subversive of the constitution of the country. But, even if it had an undoubted right to exercise such power, it would, he contended, be the height of folly to make such a sacrifice to the pride of Britain, or trust to the liberality of a nation which had treated the Irish with glaring injustice. What influence, he asked, would loo representatives of Ireland have in an assembly in which were 558 British members ? Far from having any weight, they would be mere ciphers in the legislature, and would be constrained to submit on every occasion to the dictates of a haughty and powerful majority. He quoted various instances of the illiberal conduct of England toward the sister kingdom, and affirmed that for six centuries the Irish had been precluded, by a series of oppression, from the full enjoyment of those advantages with which nature had apparently blessed them. He deprecated the subjection of his country to the sway of a British parliament, and declared his strong wishes for the preservation of that legislative independence which had obviously promoted the prosperity of the realm. If he conceived that an incorD 3 poration poration of the parliaments would add strength to the empire, and render the whole state more flourishing, he was ready to give his assent to the coalition; but, as he thought it degrading and detrimental to Ireland, and more likely to disunite and weaken than to strengthen the two countries, he could not refrain from menacing it with his determined hostility. He also condemned the means that were used for its promotion, particularly alluding to the dismission of sir John Parnell; an example which would deter every possessor of office from a disclosure of his conscientious opinion, if it should happen to be adverse to the views of the court. He concluded with moving, as an amendment to the address, that the house should declare its resolution of maintaining the right of the people of Ireland to a “resident and independent legislature, as recognised by the British parliament in 1782, and finally settled at the adjustment of all differences between the two countries.” - Mr. Conolly dissented from this motion, for the reason which he had urged against the constitution of 1782; namely, the absurdity of having two independent legislatures in one empire, which he compared to two heads on one pair of shoulders. Many of the evils of Ireland, he was convinced, had arisen from this source ; yet the independence was not so substantial as it was said to be ; for there had been at one time, since the year above-mentioned, 116 placemen and pensioners in the house of commons. Mr. FitzGERALD thought himself bound to differ from those with whom he had lately acted, as his reason and conscience forbade him to vote away the constitution of his country, or the liberties and property of his countrymen. He thanked God that on this occasion * he he was free, not being one of the numerous body of placemen and pensioners who were expected to gratify the minister with a surrender of the birth-right and freedom of the Irish to the demands of Great-Britain. He then took a survey of the question in two points of view—the competency of parliament, and the expediency of the measure. Neither the peers nor the commons could abdicate their own rights; much less were they lawfully empowered to vote away the rights of the people. The Scots had been more fairly treated in this respect than the Irish would be, if an union should be formally proposed in this session; for the legislature of the northern realm had been convoked with public notice of the grand scheme which was in agitation, whereas that of Ireland was summoned without previous intimation of the intended project. To precipitate an union in this way would be to promote a dissolution of the government—it would indeed be a revolutionary measure of the most dangerous kind.—The expediency or eligibility of the scheme he was inclined to doubt; and he thought there was some foundation for the remark of Dr. Johnson, who, in conversation with an Irishman, said, “ Do not unite with us, sir; for, if you do, we shall rob you as we robbed the Scotch.” An union was not necessary to tranquillise the country; for the activity and courage of the loyal citizens and provincials had in a great measure effected that object, and would soon complete the work. It was not requisite for preventing a separation of the two crowns, as the law sufficiently guarded against that misfortune. An ulterior arrangement of some imperial concerns might perhaps be expedient; but this might be concerted without an incorporation, and without