Page images

ness of a chief governor, which could not be accom- Chap.


plished without profuse donations of the public mo- LyiJ ney. The expences of Irish government had increased prodigiously in the duke of Rutland's administration, insomuch that the pensions now amounted to nearly a hundred thousand pounds a year, exclusively of those which were paid in the military department, charges under the head of incidents on the civil establishment, and additional salaries in sinecure offices, both of which were substantially pensions.

Notwithstanding an enormous expenditure for the Offer of the support of the viceroy's influence in parliament, athfprince case occurred in which it was overpowered. An° n%TM.' illness, which attacked the king in the summer of 1788, terminated in the beginning of November in a mental derangement, which rendered him totally incapable of performing the functions of sovereignty. Resolutions were taken in the British parliament, in the January of 1789, to constitute a regency during the monarch's indisposition, and to confer the office of regent, under humiliating restrictions, on the prince of Wales. Notwithstanding the dangerous limitations of the royal prerogative under which he was to a6i, where "to him were allotted all the invidious duties of the kingly station, without the means of softening them to the public by any one a6t of grace, favour, or benignity," the prince declared his resolution to accept the office, as "the evils, which might otherwise arise, outweighed in his mind every other consideration, and would der


Chap, termine him to undertake the painful trust imposed t ,npnn him by that melancholy necessity, which of

all the king's subjects he deplored the most." That the regent, appointed by the British parliament for Britain, should by that very act be recognized, with the same limitations, as regent of Ireland by the Irish parliament, was the plan of the British cabinet, which the viceroy exerted his utmost power to accomplish. But, as the appointment of a new British ministry, involving that of a new chief governor for Ireland-, was expected as a certain event, many placemen and pensioners considered a coalition with the party rising into power as more prudent than an adherence to those whose interest was expiring; whence they were ludicrously denominated rats by their opponents, as these animals are observed always to forsake a sinking vessel.

On the third of February 1789, two days before the meeting of the parliament, the members, in oppositionto the lord-lieutenant's plan, assembled at the carl, of Charlemont's house in Dublin, to concert their measures. On the eleventh of that month, after a most vigorous resistance made by Fitzgibbon, an address was voted by the commons to the prince of Wales, "requesting his royal highness to take upon him the government of this kingdom, during his Majesty's present indisposition, under the title of prince-regent of Ireland, with all regal prerogatives, belonging to the crown thereof." On the - nineteenth nineteenth both houses, as the lords had concurred, c H A ?.


waited on the viceroy with a request for the trans- u^J mission of their address to the prince. As this was refused, the two houses appointed five commissioners, among whom were the duke of Leinster and the earl of Charlemont, to attend the prince with their application. The unexpected convalescence of the king, who was declared perfectly recovered On the tenth of March, superseded the object of this commission, but the prince, in his reply to the commissioners, expressed his "gratitude and affection to the loyal and generous people of Ireland, which he felt indelibly imprinted on his heart." How for the British parliament, at the instigation of the ministry, was justifiable in framing so restricted a scheme of regency, I cannot pretend to judge; but the experiment might have been dangerous. "If the prince had refused the office under humiliating circumstances, the queen might have been constituted regent of Britain by the British parliament, and the prince by the Irish parliament regent of Ireland with the plenitude of royal prerogative; How then would be defined the connexion of the two kingdoms, or the dependence of Ireland on the executive government established in Britain?

On the re-establishment of affairs in Britain inParliammttheir former state by the king's recovery, most oftuf the placemen and pensioners, who had joined the opposition in the question of the regency, returned to their posts, on a promise of amnesty, and formed

Vet. II. X * majority

[ocr errors]

Chap, a majority for the court in every division of the house,

XXXIX. ° J . J

>—y-w/ Some were deprived of their places, and some promoted for their services. A promotion in some re

Fitegibbon.spe61s fortunate for the public was that of John Fitzgibbon, the attorney-general, to the place of lordchancellor, the first Irishman entrusted with that office by the English cabinet, and far superior, as a judge, to all his predecessors, insomuch that by his a6tivity, attention, and discernment, his conduct in that department, though not exempt from partialities of a very blamcable nature, was justly regarded as a national blessing. A multitude of law-suits, depending so many years as to seem interminable, were with indefatigable application brought to decision in his court, and none afterwards permitted to remain undecided longer than the time absolutely required from the necessity imposed by the forms of law. In the character of landlord, a character on which very materially depend the prosperity and peace of the kingdom, he was just and humane. As a statesman and senator he rested his merit on grounds more disputable; destitute of popularity, which he rather spurned than courted; an uniformly determined partizan of British influence; an adviser of all the •strong-measures adopted by government; a firm opposer of indulgence to catholics; and too apt to tarnish his powerful oratory by a mixture of sarcastic and arrogant expressions.

Proceed "gs As the marquis, whose administration had com


«ition. menced under favourable expectations, pursued with

perseverance the established system of governing by

.. .. .-. pecuniary pecuniary influence; and, for that purpose, beside Chap. the creation of new places, added thirteen thousand v^-y-w pounds a year to the list of pensions: a most vigorous, but unavailing opposition was unremittingly maintained by the patriots, among whom the chief speaker Henry Grattan, in one of his numerous orations against the ministry, alluded to the viceroy ,in the following words: "You remember his entry into the capital, trampling on the hearse of the duke of Rutland, and seated on a triumphal car drawn by public credulity; on one side fallacious hope, and on the other many-mouthed profession; a figure with two faces, one turned to the treasury, and the other presented to the people; and with a double tongue speaking contradictory languages." To support their parliamentary warfare systematically, in a manner most conducive to success, they formed an assembly termed the whig-club, similar to an institution of the same appellation in London. In their meetings were their plans arranged, and to each member was assigned his part in every successive attack on administration. By their publications also in the newspapers, calculated aswell to enflame the passions, as to convince the judgments, of the people, they kept alive in the nation a spirit of discontent against the measures pursued by government. Among the declared objects of their endeavours for the public benefit, which they brought before parliament successively and repeatedly as subjects of strenuous debate, were bills for a limitation of pensions and

x 2 places;

« PreviousContinue »