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would be ruinous to the trade of the latter, when Ire- c "vni iand was weft known to be, by positive law, in ac-r v—-y~' tual possession of this very privilege, and so far from being able to avail herself of it, that she was in great part furnished with these articles from Britain. Yet such influence had these representations on the majority of the members, that they ultimately negatived the bills founded on their own previous resolutions, and made only some trivial concessions uuworthy of notice, to this kingdom.
When proposals were made in the British house of indulgence
„ /• T • i . ■ to catholics.
commons in favour of Irisli commerce, a relaxation 1778. of the penal statutes against the catholics of Ireland was also proposed. The idea was approved, as a conciliatory measure, by the ministry, when the contagion of revolt might be apprehended to extend from America to this kingdom. A bill for the relief of British catholics passed through the British parliament without opposition; and a bill of a similar complexion, in favour of the catholics of Ireland, was iu the May of the same year, 1778, introduced by Mr. Gardiner in the Irish house of commons. By a law enacted in 1774, in the viceroyalty of earl Harcourt, all his Majesty's subjects in Ireland, of whatever persuasion, had been declared entitled to testify their allegiance, which was considered as a formal' acknowledgment that the catholics constituted a part of the body politic, and as a step introdu6tory to the attainment of advantages more substantial. By the bill now introduced, which, after violent opposition, was confirmed into a law, catholics, on their taking
s 4 and
Chap, and subscribing of an oath of allegiance and declara*
l^^—J—> tion prescribed, were enabled to acquire full property in land, so far as a lease of nine hundred and ninetynine years; and were freed in future from a vexatious law, by which a son might force a settlement from his father by conforming to protestantism.
National The refusal of the British legislature to relax, to
17J9. any effective purpose, the restrictions on Irish trade, increased the discontents of the people of this kingdom, the chief cause of whose poverty was evident, when the sums remitted hence to Great-Britain for rents, interest of money, pensions, salaries, and profits of offices, were found to amount, for a series of years, to twice as much as the total aggregate of the gains accruing to Ireland from all her commerce with all the countries with which she had any intercourse. From the failure of the public revenue the laws for the raising of a militia could not be executed, and his Majesty's ministers were obliged not only to pay the Irish troops, on service abroad, from the British exchequer, but also hence to remit fifty thousand pounds to Ireland to complete the sum necessary for the payment of the few troops who had been left in this kingdom. The nar tional grievances were stated to the public in several treatises from the press, particularly in a volume of letters on the commercial restrictions of Ireland, in language at once most forcible and temperate, by the right honourable John Hely Hutchinson, provost of Dublin college, and afterwards secretary of state, a man of splendid abilities, and though a placeman
of cf government, a real friend to his country. Assem- Chap.
. - XXXVIII
blies held in Dublin and Waterford entered into re- v^-v^y solutions, which were afterwards generally adopted throughout the kingdom, not to import from Britain any articles of merchandize which could be produced by industry at home, until the unreasonable restrictions of Irish commerce should have been removed. Thus was employment given to manufacturers, of whom between twenty and thirty thousand had been, from a want of demand for the produces of their workmanship, maintained by public charity; and some evidence was displayed to the British people of bad consequences which might result from their pertinacity in unjust conduct toward this kingdom. But an argument of a still more cogent nature was advanced by volunteer associations, which soon after assumed a formidable aspect.
. As the coasts of Ireland had been insulted, and voinntrtn. her trading vessels captured, within sight of her ports, by American privateers, an invasion was justly apprehended, when the formidable power of France became openly leagued with the American states in 1778, in a vigorously-conducted war against GreatBritain, The few forces left in this kingdom were Utterly inadequate to its defence, and his Majesty's ministers avowed their inability to afford protection. To a memorial to the viceroy from the mayor of Belfast, requesting a garrison, the answer was, that half a troop of dismounted horse and half a company of invalids was all the force which could be flowed. Abandoned thus to their own resources,
Chap, some townsmen of Belfast entered into armed asso**XJ_ Vriations for defence against the foreign enemy. A few small bands of volunteers had been formed in the county of Wexford to suppress the White-boys, whose nocturnal violences had in 1775 extended into this part of Leinster. On this model the spirit of volunteering was diffused when danger from abroad became alarming. In various places arose companies of this kind of soldiery, wha elected their officers, purchased their arms and uniforms, and were assisted by subscriptions for extraordinary expences. FVom its manifest expediency, the measure was at first countenanced by government, by whose command sixteen thousand muskets were delivered to the volunteers for the defence of their country. When Spam in 1779 acceded to the hostile confederacy, and in the August of that year a combined fleet of sixtyfive ships of the line, French and Spanish, with a multitude of smaller vessels, under the count d'Orvilliers, entered the British channel, insulted unopposed the English coasts, and might, if its condition had been known, have destroyed, without difficulty, the port of Plymouth, such additional activity was excited in the military system of spontaneous array, that the number of volunteers amounted in a short time to forty-two thousand. Great and incalculable were the benefits resulting from the diffusion of this warlike spirit, by which the short period, from their first formidable appearance to the end of the American war, was rendered far the most honourable of ali in the annals of Ireland. Not only was prevented an
invasion invasion of the foreign foe, and a consequent devas- Chap. tation of this kingdom, if not its total separation\^-mj from, and the eventual ruiu of, the British empire; but also was all internal disquietude so suppressed, that never at any other time were the laws so strictly enforced and obeyed.
The general voice of the nation, supported hyPar)jamenU the volunteer companies, in which men were arrayed,3^'TM""'1" of all ranks in society, had a powerful influence on 1779, the proceedings of the Irish parliament, which met in 1779, on the twelfth of October. On the motion of the prime-serjeant, Hussey Burgh, the commons unanimously resolved, that in their address to the king these words should be inserted: "We beg leave, however, humbly to represent to your Majesty, that it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade alone, that this nation is now to be saved from impending ruin." This address was carried by the speaker to the viceroy, amid the thundering acclamations of the populace, between two lines of Dublin volunteers, commanded by the duke of Leinster, in arms and uniforms, which extended the whole way from the parliament-house to the castle. Unanimously in the commons, and with only one dissenting voice, that of lord Lifford, the lord-chancellor, in the lords, the thanks of both houses of parliament were voted to the several volunteer companies, for their spirited exertions, at this time so necessary, in defence of their country. Determined on the redress of commercial grievances, the commons voted their bills of supply for the short term of only six months;