« PreviousContinue »
Chap, wise their delegates. The defects of which they
Cy-J complained in the national representation were that of three hundred members,, composing the house of commons, only seventy-two were returned by the free election of the people; since fifty-three peers nominated a hundred and twenty-four members, and influenced the choosing of ten; and fifty-two commoners nominated ninety^-one, and influenced the choice of three.
Meetingofa When the new parliament met on the fourteenth
mTu.par a of October, Edmund Sexton Perry was unanimously '' elected speaker by the commons; and the thanks of both houses were voted to the several volunteer companies for their spirited exertions in the due execution of the laws. Likewise, in a spirit of national freedom, resolutions were passed, "That in the present state of the kingdom, it was expedient that there should be a session of parliament held every year." But a momentous question soon occurred, in which parliament acted with decision in a manner much less popular, yet not unpleasing to many real friends of the country. .
National According to the invitation from Dungannon, the
convention. ° °
1783. delegates of the four provinces assembled in a national convention, on the tenth of November, in the Rotunda in Dublin; and, electing the earl of Charlemont their president, they appointed a committee to digest a plan of parliamentary reform. Among the articles recommended in the report of this committee were these; that every protestant, possessed of a freehold of forty shillings value, should be en»
titled to vote for the return of representatives of any Chap. city or borough where he should be resident: thatP**1^. every member of parliament, who should accept a pension for life, or place under the crown, should in consequence be deprived of his seat: that each member should subscribe an oath that he had neither directly nor indirectly given any consideration with a view of obtaining the suffrage of any eleclor: and that the duration of each parliament should not exceed the term of three years. When the report was finished, a motion was made, on the twenty-ninth of the same month, in the house of commons, by Henry Flood, for leave to introduce a bill for the more equal representation of the people in parliament. This was vehemently opposed by Barry YelVerton, the attorney general, who declared in his speech that "he admired the volunteers, so long as they confined themselves to their first line of conducl," but that to receive a bill, which originated with an armed body, was inconsistent with the dignity of the house, and the freedom of debate. After a \ery warm contest, which continued till near three o'clock on Sunday morning, the motion was rejected by a majority of a hundred and fiftyeight to forty-nine. A resolution was immediately after passed by the commons " that it was then necessary to declare that they would support the rights and privileges of parliament against all encroachments." They also voted an address to the king, in which the lords concurred, assuring his Majesty that they were determined to support the present constitution with their lives and fortunes.
Vol. II, U On
Chap. On the second of December the convention voted
v—y—i an indefinite adjournment, having passed a resolution "that they would carry on individually such investigations as might be necessary to complete the plan of parliamentary reform;" and having agreed to an address to the king in the name of the delegates of all the volunteers in Ireland, "expressive of their duty artd loyalty, claiming the merits of their past exertions, and imploring his Majesty that their humble wish, to have certain manifest perversions of the parliamentary representation of this kingdom remedied by the legislature in some reasonable degree, might not be attributed to any spirit of innovation, but to a sober and laudable desire to uphold the constitution, to confirm the satisfaction of their fellow subjects, and to perpetuate the cordial union of both kingdoms.*' The tame conclusion of a business, so formidable in its outset, had its causes in the well-grounded confidence of the government, and the diffidence of the democratic leaders, who probably had not expected so firm a determination to resist their demands. Men of reflexion among the volunteers were sensible that, when Great-Britain, fortunately disengaged from foreign wars, was enabled to direct all her force to one quarter, an attempt to obtain their object by compulsion must be hopeless without the co-operation of the catholics, and that in case of success by this assistance,, the protestant interest in Ireland would be annihilated. The reformists besides were far from possessing universally the confidence of the Irish protcslants, many of whom regarded the advantages of
the the constitution, under its present form, as of too great Chap. moment to admit the trying of experiments, whose v«-vW consequences no human sagacity could pretend to fathom; since, without an influence of the monarch in the house of commons, the republican part of the body politic would predominate, the executive power become inefficacious, and the state be distracted by contending factions. Ministers had also made successful exertions to weaken the volunteer system by raising fencible regiments, and detaching from th» common cause the commanders of volunteer companies by pecuniary inducements.
In consequence of a change of the British ministry, Misceiiai by which William Pitt, son of the late great earl of^ Chatham, attained the office of premier minister, 1784, Charles Manners, duke of Rutland, succeeded the earl of Northington in the lord lieutenancy of Ireland, at the end of February 1784. As Pitt had been a strenuous advocate for parliamentary reform in Britain, a motion was made on the thirteenth of March, by Henry Flood in the Irish house of commons, for leave to introduce a bill for that purpose in Ireland. As the subject was now brought forward in a constitutional manner, grounded on petitions from towns and counties, it was treated with reapect; but was opposed, beside other arguments, on the consideration that, a wide extension of the elective franchise to protestants exclusively, might cause the expulsion of catholics from their farms to make room for protestant freeholders; and, after a long debate, the bill was rejected, on the second reading,
G H A p. by a majority of a hundred and fifty-nine to eighty-*
«... . i five, on the twentieth of the same month. This mention of the catholics was artfully made to foment a disunion among the volunteers, some of whom loudly demanded the admission of that numerous body to the same rights with the protestants, while others dreaded the consequences of too sudden an emancipation. Thus the volunteer bands of Ulster, in an address to their general, the earl of CharleWont, expressed their " satisfaction at the decay of those prejudices which had so long involved the nation in feud and disunion; a disunion, which, by limiting the rights of suffrage, had in a great degree fostered the aristocratic tyranny, the source of every grievance." The earl, in his reply, professed himself " free from every illiberal prejudice against the catholics, but could not refrain from the most ardent entreaties to the armed associations to desist from a pursuit which would fatally impede the prosecution of their favourite purpose."
Outrages. Discontents on political and commercial subjects pervaded the nation, and riots became frequent, when the execution of the laws had ceased to be so great an object as formerly in the volunteer system. In consequence of quarrels between the mob of Dublin and the garrison, particularly one of a very serious nature at Island bridge, a savage custom, which had sometime before subsisted, of houghing soldiers who were found straggling, encreased to so alarming a pitch, that an act was passed for the levying of a maintenance, on the citizens of Dublin,